27 Jun How AI and Bots can automate and scale your business
The adage “if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got” could have been written about small and medium enterprises looking to improve the scalability of their business.
The reality is, no matter how successful you are now, if you want to future proof and foster the growth of your business, you are going to have to change some of the ways that you are doing things today. And in this golden age of technology, where we are making leaps and bounds faster than we ever have before, a business’ success is often dictated by their ability to foresee and adapt before a wave of change occurs.
Whether you’re a small company looking for a way to start tendering for bigger contracts or a start-up looking to enter the next phase of trade, the decisions you make now will have a large impact on your future and how far you can grow your business.
Read on to find out five strategies that will help you move your business to the next level while continuing to operate successfully now.
Avoid Band Aid Solutions
It can be really tempting to solve big issues with quick or cheap solutions to ‘get by for now’ but it is important to keep the bigger picture goal in mind.
Any kind of change in a business is going to have an impact on your bottom line. You may think you don’t have the time or money to properly implement your ideal solution but often, you’ll end up spending more in the long run on a quick fix.
Many of the software solutions and applications available, such as Workflows, make doing business easy while also being flexible and scalable so you can start with the entry level product and add modules or features as you grow. Look to implement solutions that can grow with you now, because it can be expensive and labour intensive to have to overhaul everything later on when you outgrow your current systems and process.
Start Working on Your Business, Not in It
Most staff in small and medium enterprises – from the founder down to the receptionist – have a very operational and hands on role in the business. While this may be essential for day to day operations, particularly in lean workforces, it can be counterproductive to moving forward.
Often business operators and managers know that there are better ways to be doing things, but lack the time to properly research and implement the necessary time and cost saving initiatives.
You need to make the time. Try to set aside the same time block every week to start working on your business. Write it in your calendar like an appointment and stick to it. Brainstorm and prioritise where your attention needs to be directed and work to a plan. Delegate some tasks – for example, you can easily get your team to collate data for you or trial and report back on software applications you’re considering on implementing.
Even if you can only spare an hour or two each week to actively work on the systems and processes in your business, you will start to notice a big impact – both to the way you operate now and how you can grow and build the business in the future.
Manual, labour intensive processes are not viable long term. As you get bigger and busier, adding more frontline staff is not always the answer. You will find yourself spending a lot of money on operational staffing that can hinder future growth and expansion opportunities.
You may think you need another staff member to help with processing a certain part of your business operations, but finding a way to automate that process might be the better solution.
From your order processing to accounting and everything in between, there are bots and applications that will help your workforce work smarter not harder.
Even something as simple as training staff can be automated – with advances in smart phone technology producing and editing orientation videos is easy and cost effective and ensures consistent messaging and efficient delivery.
Think First, Hire Second
A bottleneck in a department or part of the operation doesn’t always mean you need to hire more people in that area.
Are your phones constantly ringing with people asking the same questions? Perhaps you’d be better off investing in a customer service bot to answer the initial, common enquiries before your team take over. It might also mean that you need to hire someone to overhaul your website so your audience can better find the information they need without tying up your frontline team members’ time.
This is where taking the time to work on your business and implement systems, that enable smarter more efficient work, like Workflows, pays off. Automating some of the communication and file management aspects of your business means that instead of hiring someone else in admin or customer service, you could direct your hard-earned revenue elsewhere such as expanding your operational or sales team.
Sometimes you do genuinely need more people to help you achieve your long-term business goals, but by having efficient, scalable systems in place, you will be able to ensure that you’re hiring and training the right people in the roles needed to help propel your business forward.
Run a Marathon, Not A Sprint
While there have been some literal overnight business success stories in recent years, often it takes time to take your business from a start-up or small operation to a large-scale enterprise.
Strategic planning and taking a holistic approach about utilising the latest tools and technology to help your business operate efficiently is crucial.
You need to set yourself realistic, measurable goals and have a plan in place for how you’re going to reach them. Track your progress, reflect and adjust the plan as necessary. Communicate with your team so everybody knows what you are working towards.
By keeping a focus on the future when making decisions now, you’ll be able to set up the proper systems and processes that encourage and enable growth, while still having a tangible impact on how you do business now.
Are you future proofing your business? How are you managing systems and processes currently? Let me know in the comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Himal is a serial technology and education entrepreneur, management consultant and founder of Workflows, an intelligent business operating system that allows you to map and automate your business processes from beginning-to-end; freeing up time, money and resources to scale business operations. Workflows is currently available on limited release. Businesses can sign up now to receive early-access at workflows.com.
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