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7 Ways to Automate Your Entire Business Using Online Tools

7 Ways to Automate Your Entire Business Using Online Tools

Running a business can become hectic because of all the aspects that go into it. It can be time consuming; and time is money. And if you don’t want to become overwhelmed with the extra responsibilities, you would have to hire extra in-house employees, which will cost even more money.

You can alleviate some of that extra stress by automating your company so that you can focus on the most important task—revenue. Listed below are some ways that can help guide you into making your business more effective and efficient.

1. Setting Up Your Business

When automating your business, you should look at ways to make business functions more efficient. What practices would you like to improve on? What tasks are repetitive, and can be sped up by automating? Document how much time and money it actually takes to do these tasks without automating, versus with automating, in order to see how efficient your results are.

You can utilize batch processing—grouping activities together to do them all at once—which can save you time instead of having it spread out throughout the day. You can batch process emails, bill payments, social media interaction, and stock ordering.

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Having a positive mindset can also improve your business by working to see where improvements can be made instead of just settling for your current processes. You should always be trying to find ways to improve your company and ensure optimal efficiency.

2. Online Marketing

In this age, where technology and social media rules, you should find ways to utilize this in your company’s favor. You know that getting your company known is important, but also very time-consuming.

To do this efficiently, you can utilize batch processing along with other online tools. Popular email marketing tools include AWeber, Vision6, and Mail Chimp. Email marketing can keep people aware of your business activities, which you can automate by creating auto responders—a scheduled sequence of emails sent out automatically—this will keep your customers engaged for as long as you have set up.

Many businesses also use blogging and social media to engage customers and keep people aware of their activities. You are able to link both blog and social media profiles, and schedule posts to the exact dates and times that you want them published. You can link the accounts using Jetpack, and then use tools—such as Hootsuite—to automate your social media presence. With Hootsuite, you are able to access all social media accounts from one place.

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3. Admin and Office

A lot of tedious work can go into the administration and office, and this can really slow a company down. However, there are many online tools that can help automate these tasks. Evernote is a popular program that can help your business keep notes, task management, accounts, contact logs, etc., organized. There are also tools that can connect hundreds of web apps into one place—such as Herolocity; which can handle appointments, online orders, invoicing, phone systems, and everything that holds you back from driving revenue—for free. You can even automate data entry for your receipts.

With companies like Shoebox, you are able to send all of your receipts to them. Shoebox will scan all of the receipts and then send it to Evernote, and you won’t have to worry about having to do in-house data entry. There are also tools to help with file storage which allows you to back up, and even share files. Box and Dropbox can be used for free, but you can opt for more advanced features when your company needs expanding.

4. Customers and Contacts

Utilize tools like Contact Form 7 to allow people to contact your company through your website 24/7. You can even funnel responses so that they reach the appropriate person. You should also include a FAQ on your website to reduce the need for customers to contact you directly.

Assess the questions and problems that are frequently asked, and then have the answer posted onto your website, to reduce the number of queries sent. Along with a FAQ, a ticket system—such as Zen Desk—can be utilized which will allow you to organize and manage problems that your customer is having.

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You can also use software tools that can help with your customer relationship management. As your company expands, you will have more customers that need to be tended to. With CRMS, like Salesforce, you can provide your customers the attention they need, automate your sales funnel, and label hot leads automatically.

5. Tasks and Projects

Another helpful way to automate your business is by using task and project tools. There are websites—such as Trello—that can allow you to assign different users certain tasks, while also allowing you to label, attach files, and set deadlines.

Each task can be broken down into a checklist. You can also use management tools like Asana and Do, which will allow you to oversee your business projects.

6. Sales, Inventory, & Accounts

You can alleviate yourself from your in-house accounting tasks, by automating your business. Xero is a popular tool that allows you to easily log in and take care of invoicing and payroll, while allowing your accountant to log in to fix any errors you have made.

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The software is constantly being updated, and since it is on the cloud, you can access it from anywhere. Along with accounting tasks, you can also automate the money-making aspects of your company by having a shopping cart and online ordering. With websites—like woo commerce—customers can order whenever they want, and you can make money 24/7.

With all the money that will be going in and out of your company, you can also budget online as well. Softwares—such as You Need A Budget—lets you know exactly where your money is going so that you don’t mistakenly overspend, which can be a huge problem with small businesses.

7. Staff

Your employees add so much value to your business, but the hiring process can become time-consuming. To help with this, you can use software—like Recruiterbox—which can help track and respond to applicants, manage job openings, and allow you to assign users to different parts of the recruiting process.

After hiring new employees, you need to have them go through training. This takes extra time and money, but with today’s technology, you can provide training online—videos, audios, how-to guides—with password protection to ensure that only your employees have access to it.

Through your website, you can organize different training sections according to different types of staff. After hiring and training, you need to roster to keep track of all of your employees and the different shifts worked. A software that can help you manage this is FindMyShift which allows you to manage things like lunch breaks, holidays, and much more. This will lessen your stress and make managing your employees much easier.

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

How to Measure Your Team’s Productivity Effectively

How to Measure Your Team’s Productivity Effectively

Have you ever looked around your office and thought: my team is busy, but are they productive?

You can see how much time your team is putting into their work. They come in early, or work late. They fill their calendars with meetings, and respond to every email that comes their way. You know that your team has the best intentions. But what are they actually doing? And is it producing the results you need? You need an effective way to measure your team’s productivity.

Is there a way to know that all that time they spend devoted to their job is moving your company forward, and not simply spinning their wheels? Is there any productivity measurement you can make use of?

The most effective way to find out your team’s productivity is to answer the questions below:

1. Does Your Team Know Where You’re Going?

One of the best ways your team can improve its productivity is for everyone to understand where you’re going — to have well defined corporate goals, and to focus on only a few at a time. According to John Doerr in his book Measure What Matters:

In a survey of eleven thousand senior executives and managers, a majority couldn’t name their companies top priorities. Only half of the could name even one.

If your team doesn’t know the company’s direction, they will have no idea how to do the things that will add value. Bob the Senior Manager might talk to 10 key contacts per day, but he might not know that none of these contacts have bought something from your company in the past year. He doesn’t know that increased sales from your team is an important, which is a way for you to contribute to the company’s key goals.

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So the first way to measure your team’s productivity is to ask if they understand what is important.

2. Are You Committed to Your Specific Goals?

When I was CFO at a small startup, we worked hard to clarify a handful of important goals. The company was early stage, so our three goals were: fundraising, corporate partnerships, and pipeline product development.

But the CEO had Shiny Object Syndrome. Every time someone mentioned an interesting idea in the industry, he wanted to give it a try. We found ourselves assessing several product acquisition opportunities which would require a complicated debt agreement. As the CFO, I was dragged into days of work on these side projects.

As a result, our progress on fundraising and corporate partnerships stalled, which created a fire drill as time went on. We managed to raise funds in the nick of time, but missed our corporate partnership goals.

It was impossible to be productive as a team when we were running in so many different directions. We would pivot every time the CEO found something new and interesting.

The lesson is, while it’s critical to have defined goals, they won’t create a more productive team unless you commit to them.

3. Do You Have a Leading Indicator of Performance?

Once you’ve determined the few key goals for your company, you communicate them to your team, and commit to those goals (without chasing down every shiny object). The next step is to see if you have an indicator that measures your team’s performance.

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Many companies use a P&L (profit and loss) statement to measure performance. And that is an important piece of the puzzle. But by the time you look back on the month, quarter, or year, all the activities that went into the P&L already happened, and all you can do is respond to them. But as Geno Wickman writes in Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business:

According to an old business maxim, anything that is measured and watched is improved.

So instead of looking backward, think about what you can measure to look forward in your business.

Let’s revisit Bob the Senior Manager, who talks to 10 key contacts per day. Talking to contacts can be one lead indicator, but that’s not enough. Talking to those 10 contacts is not generating the sales, and everyone on your team now understands is a key goal. But if you track the steps in his process, you can determine what is working and what isn’t. And better optimize your team’s productivity.

So for Bob, he could track the number of inbound versus outbound calls, the number of in-person versus phone conversations, the number of times he needs to talk to a contact before they make a purchase, and then the number of sales per week/month/quarter.

Keeping track of each step will give a much better metric of what is working and where things are breaking down. It will also tell you the most productive step.

For example, after tracking all the steps, Bob could realize that he makes 3 times more sales after in-person meetings than he does after phone conversations. So the way to measure Bob’s productivity is to keep track of his percentage of in-person meetings.

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4. Does Everyone Know Who Owns What?

So your corporate goals are set. Everyone understands which direction the company needs to go, but that doesn’t meant that everyone on your team knows exactly what they are supposed to do. How they, individually, contribute.

Accountability is a key component to measure your team’s productivity. It is critical that everyone knows, understands, and owns their independent actions that contribute to the organization as a whole.

When everyone is held accountable for their contribution, your team is more productive. They know what other people seek in them. And when team members show both ownership and accountability, your team develops trust in each other.

Trust means less people checking or duplicating other team members’ work, or wasting time micromanaging; and a much more efficient workplace.

5. Is Your Team Making Decisions?

The ability to make decisions is an effective way to measure your team’s productivity. Decision making is difficult for almost everyone. People don’t want to commit, in case the idea is wrong or something better comes along, especially in a team environment.

But in Napoleon Hill’s classic book Think and Grow Rich, he mentioned a study that analyzed 25,000 people that had experienced failure. In that study, lack of decision-making, or procrastination, was one of the major causes of failure.

If you find that your team is spending a lot of time kicking a can down the road, instead of picking a direction, it’s likely that your team is not as productive as you might hope. Kicking that can take up a lot of time and energy, and can often take more time than simply picking a direction and then pivoting later.

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6. Is Your Team Focused on What Is Urgent, or What Is Important?

So you’ve set and communicated a few, clear goals. You have found your leading indicators, and your team has the power and ability to make decisions. But they still aren’t reaching their targets. You still feel like they are working hard, but their results are not reflective of their actions…

Take a deeper dive into what is slowing them down. Some productivity slowdowns come from a team culture that requires immediate responses to email and days filled with meetings. It’s easy to use these actions as a proxy for productivity. But they aren’t actually producing anything.

So take a look at the daily actions of your team. Find out what they are doing that isn’t directly related to the communicated goals.

Help them prioritize the important tasks versus the ones that feel urgent because they showed up out of the blue. Remind them that it’s okay to address unexpected tasks but, as David Allen recommends:

Do unexpected work as it shows up, not because it is the path of least resistance, but because it is the thing you need to do vis-a-vis all the rest.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of ways to measure and enhance your team’s productivity. But even if you find that your team is struggling with several of these issues at the same time, don’t change everything at once. Pick a few things that stand out the most. See what works in your unique workplace and what doesn’t.

Take a few mindful steps toward a more efficient environment and be consistent. Productivity is always intentional.

Remember, it doesn’t mean that everyone on your team has to perfectly managed every moment of every day. The goal is to focus on actions that create the results you want and minimize the ones that don’t.

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Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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