Can you automate all the jobs you hate in your business?

Diane Hall

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Automation with little robots

Can you automate all the jobs you hate in your business?

Look to the public sector, namely supermarkets, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) evokes a lot of fear amongst their employees. ‘AI will eventually take my job!’ is a common fear that’s often voiced. Of course, that could never happen to a small business owner—after all, who would make decisions, represent the company or take advantage of opportunities…a robot?!


Automation is certainly not something to be feared in business. Most apps and digital tools exist to assist the person using them, in a bid to save them time, money or effort. As you will know, there are some boring and unfavourable tasks that come with running your own enterprise—tasks that need to be done, but which can sap your energy. Imagine: if easy-to-use software existed that could make these jobs easier or take them over altogether, the time you would gain would be better spent growing your business.


Here are some of the digital solutions we recommend you investigate if you haven’t already:


Project management apps

From Trello to Asana and more, project management apps act like a digital brain. You can store all relevant information in them, rather than hunting down scraps of paper or notes from various notebooks, as well as add project goals and timelines. Their best feature is that you can share this project info with members of your team, so that you’re all singing from the same hymn sheet. No one has to read a colleague’s mind or be confused about what their priorities are, they can simply log in at any time, from anywhere, and understand where the project stands and the tasks they’re responsible for.


Financial apps

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Financial App

Financial App

Digitalising your book-keeping not only saves you time on a day-to-day basis, it also saves time at the end of the year when you submit your tax return. It may seem like an extra hassle to scan receipts into the app rather than simply shoving them in a shoebox, but once you get into the habit, it really doesn’t take any extra time. Quickbooks is just one example of a good accounting app, and it has many more features than filing receipts.


Technology doesn’t just exist to save time. Handheld card readers from such as Square or iZettle allow businesspeople to take payments via customers’ debit and credit card wherever they are. This is great for market traders and people who don’t have a bricks-and-mortar store.


Inventory

There are a few apps, such as SOS Inventory, that help you keep on top of your stock levels, sales figures and timely reordering. Once linked up to your stock and till/scanner, they automatically keep track of your product sales. Some can even place automatic orders with your suppliers when items run low, or at least alert you when an order needs to be made. It saves business owners spending long days and nights stocktaking, i.e. where every single item in the stockroom or warehouse has to be counted.


Staff rotas

It can be a time-draining and energy-sapping task to organise staff rotas each week/month. Apps such as HotSchedules can help you manage staff shifts digitally and help you see at a glance when you may need cover because an employee’s holiday is on the horizon. In fast-paced businesses, this automation is worth its weight in gold when shifts can change at short notice due to absenteeism, and when juggling a lot of people and their individual commitments outside of work.


Communicating

Everyone’s heard of Zoom, being the digital hero of the pandemic. Allowing you to converse with your staff, suppliers, clients and those in your network wherever you all may be became a godsend when we were told to stay at home because of the virus. Even though things have opened back up again for physical get-togethers, the convenience and time-saving aspect of virtual meetings means they will be the communication method of choice for years to come for many entrepreneurs.


Skype was an early runner of this type of app, though I’m surprised people still use it when Zoom and Microsoft Teams do the job so efficiently in comparison.


CRM

CRM shown as drawn links in colour between people

CRM shown as drawn links in colour between people

How did we record potential leads before digital apps came along to help us? With the likes of Salesforce and Nimble, businesspeople can record the contact details of current, past and future clients. You can also assign tags to contacts, so that you can sort and filter them by specific opportunities, location, the product/service they were interested in, the event you met them at/how they heard about you, their readiness to buy…whichever filter or differentiation suits you. When juggling a lot of enquiries from different directions, a CRM is a must to help you keep track of sales and opportunities, and so that you can hone your marketing according to your most effective channels and messages.


Analytics

Hubspot and Google Analytics are just two of the apps available that measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, and which can help you identify possible gaps. Rather than sending your marketing messages out into the ether in all directions, willy-nilly, analytics can show you which are hitting the spot and prompting people to act. Once you’ve achieved this, you simply go forth and multiply.


These are just some of the common apps and tools that savvy business owners employ in their enterprises. Could you recommend more? Tweet us at @intheknowemag

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