Once you have cleaned things up and eliminated where it makes sense the next step is automation.
Our goal is to build a business with 1 employee, you. But to scale that business will need automation. We live in a time where there is an abundance of tools to help us automate a lot of our work. But a word to the wise, just because you can automate doesn’t mean you should.
Some aspects of your business will still need a human touch. It’s also easy to create a mess that’s hard to dig yourself out of if you automate too soon or don’t plan well.
2 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Automate Anything
How well do I understand this process in detail, including other aspects of my business or systems that this process interacts with?
Does this process need a human touch? If so, can the process be partially automated?
Before you automate anything, no matter how straightforward or simple a process is, document that process. You can document by creating a flowchart, diagram, or outline. It’s easier for most people to visualize the steps that way and see the big picture of what is going on.
Even simple processes are more involved than we think and may touch other systems in ways that aren’t obvious. By mapping out the process we have less chance of missing something important.
Many of the processes we automate will also involve moving data of some kind between or within systems. This is where things can get messy if you don’t plan well. It’s no fun to have to manually clean up data.
In some cases, a process can be automated but may still need a person to make a decision at certain points. Situations involving customer support, refunds, or unusual circumstances are common places where you may want a human touch.
In these cases, you can set up notifications (automated of course) so you know when to step in without needing to watch the process all the time.
Common Things To Automate
While every business will be different, here are a few things to consider automating in your 1-person business:
Newsletter Autoresponders: One of the most obvious things to automate but a bit of planning is still required. (See An Automation Example Below)
Support: In a 1-person business, providing support can be very time consuming. While there may become instances where you need to jump in to provide an extra level of support, many common support issues can be handled through proper documentation, videos, and even chat bots. The goal is to make it self-serve for your customers so it’s automated for you and more convenient for the. It will take an investment of time up-front on your part but the time saved down-the-road will pay off.
Reporting: Reporting is a great example of a place where you want to automate as soon as possible but not before you know what you want. Some basic reports might already exist in your CRM or bookkeeping software. But more customized reports will require you to plan them out. Often with reporting our needs evolve. I like to create simple reports that I manually update in a spreadsheet to begin with so I can learn what information I need before I automate.
WordPress Website Updates: Depending on your host you may be able to automatically update the WordPress core as well as your plugins. Hosts like Rocket.net give you the ability for automatic updates. Out-of-date software is the single biggest vector for hacked sites. Yet many if not most website owners rarely update their site software. This one is a no-brainer and the time savings and security alone are worth the price of a host that provides this ability.
Alerts & Notifications: Instead of hunting down news and information let it come to you. Services like Google Alerts can deliver all kinds of information to your inbox. Curating content? Get news alerts. Avid traveler? Get price alerts from Google flights? Spike in traffic on your website? New e-commerce sale? Alerts, alerts, alerts!
Scheduling Meetings: I see people complaining about booking calendars like Calendly but I don’t get why. Set fixed meeting times you’re available, rules about how much notice you need, and let your meetings set themselves. You can even go a step further and have it automatically set up your Zoom or other conference room for the meeting. Automating this process will save tons of back-and-forth emails.
Abandoned Shopping Cart Reminders: In e-commerce abandoned carts are a big deal and a big opportunity. If your business is e-Commerce the ability to send reminders to users who have abandoned carts can lead to extra sales without you having to do a thing.
CRM Updates/Changes: CRM’s like reporting are a great place to automate. But CRM’s hold a lot of data and automation can get messy if you don’t plan well. Allowing your CRM to track things like what products customers have purchased can provide insights into your business that might otherwise get overlooked. Once you understand what you need, automate CRM updates so you don’t have to think about it and the information is always at your fingertips.
An Automation Example
Earlier we discussed the importance of documenting your process before you automate it. Below is a simplified example of one possible automation for a newsletter/membership-driven site, including how it looks on the surface vs what’s going on behind the scenes.
While this flow is just an example, and a lot more could be added to the “How it Really Works” side of the diagram, you get the point. Even simple processes, when thought out, have more going on than might be obvious. This is why we plan!
As your business grows you’ll think of other things to automate, the list is endless. But there are some things that will not be easy to automate and will need human time and attention. But some of them are things you won’t want to do. Enter the world of the contractors and freelancers to whom you’ll delegate.
About the Author
Founder of Rogue Mogul, obsessing over 1-Person businesses.
Grow Your Business Faster
Tools, tips, resources, and secrets to speed up your growth and increase profitability.
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