It Should Be Easy But It Isn’t: Automation (Part 2) 

April 24, 2024

You thought we were done didn’t you? Not quite, there is still a fair bit more to know on this one. 

In Part 1, we touched on what could be considered the ‘most obvious’ benefits of automation for small business owners. Now we will take a deeper look at some of the ones you may not have considered yet. 

Let’s start with another scenario… 

Imagine you run a small graphic design studio. Your team spends a chunk of their day on tasks like tracking time spent on projects, sending follow-up emails to clients, and scheduling meetings. These tasks, while important, are not the best use of the creative talent you hired them for. Here's where automation comes into play. 

Enhancing Employee Productivity - Think of workflow automation as your studio's behind-the-scenes manager. It can take care of those repetitive tasks—like sending automated reminders to clients for feedback or approvals, organizing project files on your server, and even tracking how much time each task takes. This is like giving your team a magic wand that instantly completes their least favourite tasks, allowing them to focus more on creating stunning designs. As a result, your team is happier because they're doing more of the work they love, boosting their morale and productivity. They now have more time to dive deep into creative challenges, leading to better work and personal growth. 

Improving Customer Experience - Now, let's talk about your clients. With automation smoothing out your internal workflows, projects move along faster because there's less waiting around for manual updates or processes to happen. For instance, once a design draft is ready, an automated system can notify the client, request feedback, and even remind them if they haven't responded in a few days. This keeps the project timeline on track. 

Better communication means your clients are always in the loop, creating a transparent and trusting relationship. They're impressed by how quickly and efficiently their projects are handled, leading to higher satisfaction. Happy clients are more likely to come back for more projects and even refer your services to others. 

In essence, by automating the mundane aspects of your studio's operation, you're not only making your team's life easier but also enhancing the experience for your clients. They get their designs faster and communicate more smoothly, while your team gets to focus on what they do best: being creative. It's a win-win situation. 

So how do you actually start making all this magic happen? 

Here is the roadmap to follow for taking on automation setups. 

1.Define Key Processes 

First, think about what tasks you do regularly—like sending out project updates to clients or checking for new emails. These are your routine tasks that, if automated, could save you a lot of time. 

TIP: There are strategic decisions to make when considering what to automate. In some cases, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Consider the trade-off of efficiency vs personal touch with different tasks, and what is most important to your company specifically in each instance. 

Implement automations gradually – don’t try to automate everything all at once. Get comfortable with one or two automations first, make sure they are fit for purpose and even iterate on them where needed. Learn from them before you add your next automations. 

2. Eliminate Unnecessary Steps 

Next, look at these tasks closely. Maybe you find that you're entering the same information into several different places or taking extra steps that don't really add value. By cutting these out, you streamline your work, making everything run smoother and quicker. 

3. Formalise Your Workflow 

Now, make a guide for these streamlined tasks. This is about creating a "this is how we do things" manual, so you don't have to keep the process in your head and can easily share it with your team. 

TIP: It might seem tedious to undergo a multi-step review for every task, but it’s an ironclad way to create workflows that stick. Get each person involved in reworking their team’s workflows to encourage them to evaluate their personal habits and even create their own workflows. 

4. Leverage Automation for Refinement 

Identify which of these streamlined tasks still take up too much of your time and see if there's an app or tool that can do them for you. Also, see if you're using too many different platforms that could be combined into one. 

If you’ve made it this far, here are the key takeaways 

Embracing automation isn't just about keeping up with the latest tech trends; it's about fundamentally enhancing the way your small business operates. By automating routine tasks, you're not only freeing yourself to focus on the strategic parts of your business but also improving your clients' experience with faster, more efficient service. It's about making the magic happen, where the real value of your business shines through you, not the time spent on mundane tasks. 

…PS – here are a few other examples of tasks you can automate across various business types that you may want to consider. 

Agency Workflows: Automatically sending a project brief to a client as soon as they sign your proposal. 

Consulting: Set up a system where your weekly status reports are generated automatically, pulling in data from your project management software. 

Accounting: Use software that automatically sends out invoices at the end of each month and follows up on unpaid ones. 

IT and Engineering: Have a system where project milestones automatically update clients on progress. 

Customer Service: Use chatbots on your website to answer common questions instantly, 24/7, improving client satisfaction. 

Lead Nurturing: Set up emails that automatically go out to potential clients who've shown interest, keeping them engaged with your studio's work. 

Sales and E-commerce: Use software that reminds clients when they've left an item in their cart in your online store, increasing chances of completing the sale. 

Event Registration and Promotion: For a workshop you're hosting, use a tool that handles sign-ups, sends out confirmation emails, and reminds registrants as the date approaches. 

Office Management: Automate routine office tasks like scheduling meetings, managing document approvals, and even collecting job applications

Financial Activities: Use software to track your expenses and income automatically, making tax time less of a headache. 

Hiring: Have a system where potential hires can submit their applications online, which are then automatically organized and flagged for your review. 

Social Media Management: Schedule your social media posts in advance using a tool that posts them for you. 

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