Small Business Owners Seek to Automate Everyday Office Tasks, Increase Productivity

Automate mundane tasks that can be a drag on your workday and concentrate on the revenue-generating work you love.

I recently glanced at the section of books in my local library devoted to the topic of running a small business. Two titles caught my eye. One offered advice on how to operate a small business without going crazy. Another equated running a small business with fighting a war. If, as the owner of a small business, you feel like you are going crazy or fighting a war, it may be time to get some new weapons. Consider how vital but mundane office tasks that constantly invade your workday and kill your time can be automated.

Automate Your Email

Email is a wonderful tool, but it is also a time sucker. People spend more time than they realize sorting through the volumes of emails they get every day. And while the obvious spam may be removed from your inbox for you, do you utilize other filtering capabilities?

Most commonly used email clients like Outlook and Gmail can be customized. Messages can be filtered by sender, subject, group or content. For example, informational emails like newsletters you subscribe to can be automatically forwarded to a special file to be read at your leisure. But you may want to make sure you see messages from certain large customers immediately. Those critical emails can be flagged, starred or forwarded to another email address.

Other messages that are not vitally important can be automatically marked as read and archived. For example, if you pay bills online and always get a follow-up “thank you for your payment” email, you want to keep those, but not necessarily stop everything you are doing to read them the minute they come in. You can also delete certain types of messages without having to read them and conversely make sure some messages are never accidentally deleted or sent to your spam filter.

Automatic email replies are also handy. People most often set them up when they are going to be out of the office for a few days of vacation, but you can set one up if you just need a few hours to work undisturbed. You can also use auto responders to send out emails in a prescribed sequence. For example, your can set it up so if someone signs up to be on your email list, that person will automatically get a new email from you each week. Any time a new person signs up, it starts at week one with the series of emails. This can expose new or potential customers to your marketing message for a set period of time with little effort on your part once the initial setup is complete.

Simplify Social Media

If you communicate through a blog, you don’t have to burden yourself with the task of writing posts at regular intervals. Sit down on a Saturday and write enough blog posts for several months and then set it up to post as frequently as you’d like … daily, weekly, etc. This option is available with WordPress and other blogging tools.

Social networking is a free marketing tool, but it can cost you dearly in time. You don’t have to limit the number of sites you post to in order to reclaim some of that time, however. Social media dashboards allow you to post and see posts on your Twitter, Facebook and other sites all in one place at the same time. HootSuite and TweetDeck are examples of apps that allow you to schedule posts to multiple social media platforms at the same time.

Hiring and Training

Hiring and training employees is essential, but takes lots of time. If you get a lot of resumes, software like Recruiterbox tracks, responds and manages them. As far as training, WordPress and other content management systems (CMS) allow you to create training materials and password protect them so only your staff can access them. You can even create separate sections in your training materials and make them available to different types of staff. You may have one for route drivers and another for office staff. You can also make training videos on YouTube and mark them as private so only your staff can access them.

Customer Service and Vendor Contracts

Contract management software can eliminate the need to print when creating and managing contracts. Just email a contract to a customer, have them sign it electronically and send it back all in a matter of seconds. The software can then incorporate the contract into your accounting software so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it’s time to send out an invoice.

Payroll and HR

Payroll programs offer check printing, direct deposit, electronic tax filing and the ability to run payroll from your smartphone. They can calculate overtime, bonuses and create payroll reports. There is probably payroll software that integrates with the accounting software you already use, or it can be purchased as a standalone product. 

Other Tasks to Automate

Technical tasks like data backups and virus scans are easy to automate. And something as simple as making sure everyone in the company uses the same automated calendar system can help make your business more efficient too. For example, if every calendar on every device is synced to the Cloud, a meeting can be scheduled with far fewer back-and-forth phone calls or emails and no one can honestly say they weren’t told about it.

Even business cards can be automated. If you waste time searching for paper business cards people hand you at trade shows or networking events and more time entering them into your contacts … there’s an app to automate that. You can scan a card and the information goes directly into your contacts. There’s even one such app that immediately sends the person whose card you scanned a LinkedIn invitation.



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