Automate or Stagnate, Advice from Lindsey Head, CFOLC San Diego Chapter Co-Chair
Stagnation, the dreaded word that no founder wants to hear or experience. Imagine, you have poured your energy and life savings into launching a business. You’ve setup shop, the doors have opened, and you are feeling the excitement of growing sales and hiring employees. Then you face a month or two where there is a lull in sales or a few key clients or staff members have left. You are supposed to be overseeing the big picture and growing the business. However, you have been pulled into the details of running the business and are bogged down by the administrative tasks needed to keep operations moving forward. Your focus is pulled away from critical client interactions, to managing the day-to-day details.
According to Power (2015), “Every minute that you spend working on tasks that can be delegated is a minute that you are not planning, strategizing and building the best business possible” (para. 3).
Time is the common theme here. If founders can free up the time they spend running their business, they can focus their efforts on being the visionary and growing the business. This is where so many businesses fail. A business is a living, breathing entity that requires the ongoing analyses, tune-ups, and adjustments to keep things chugging along. The business must be accustomed to pivoting quickly and adopting new ways of doing things to allow for continued growth. This is where automation comes into play. According to Faryal (2017), “More than ever, businesses demand well thought strategies that minimizes human error, saves time as well as increases efficiency. Automation therefore is an essential tactic that businesses often overlook while looking for ways to get ahead of the competition” (para. 5).
A company may have an incredible product and a strong sales team, but if your staff members don’t have the time to do the job they were hired to do (because they are bogged down in the small details), the business could fail.
In the recent Small and Medium Business Trends Report produced by Salesforce, it reveals that small businesses automating their processes in some way are 1.6-times more like ly to be growing than those that don’t. According to Galarza (2016), “automation can save time, money and headaches — automation tools are more accessible than ever before — yet some companies have been slow to adopt the technology” (para. 2).
So, how do we automate business functions if we don’t have time? One way is to bring on a strong second in command or consulting partner who understands the big picture along with the vital functions of business operations, legal, HR, finance, and technology. This expert can come in to evaluate areas of opportunity and create an execution game plane. A good second in command or consulting partner will evaluate all the repeat processes taking place to assess how and where technology/systems and automation can be introduced to relieve the human efforts and increase efficiencies. For example, some areas to evaluate could be your contract preparation process, client onboarding, employee expense reporting process (a total time suck), accounts receivable, or internal/external scheduling. Consider introducing automation to your contract preparation process utilizing Wufoo and WebMerge. Maybe add automated scheduling systems like Calend.ly or Doodle to your current efforts. Improve accounts receivable by leveraging PivotPayables or Bill.com. Or, save your employees time using Concur for expense reporting. Want to string multiple processes together? Try using my ultimate workflow automation hack, Zapier. I always tell my team if you find yourself doing the same task in the same way more than once, it’s time to automate that task and take yourself out of it. Automating key business processes is designed to save small companies the time they desperately need, so employees can do the jobs they were hired to do. As a founder, your focus should be on how to free up time spent on mundane tasks by your employees, so they can grow and contribute their expertise and thoughts to improving and expanding your business.
As an experienced CFO, (handling many COO/CEO responsibilities), I’ve experienced the benefits of automation firsthand. I’ve helped to lead the growth of a company from $750,000/yr in revenue to $10million/yr in revenue, while increasing headcount from 7 to 70, with a lean operations/legal/finance/tech team of only three (including myself).
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Faryal, M. (2017, October 13). The Importance of Business Process Automation and Maturity. Retrieved from https://transdata.biz/business/the-importance-of-business-process-automationand-maturity/ (sample reference)
Galarza, M. (2016, November 17). How To Save Time And Money Through Automation. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2016/11/17/how-to-save-time-and-moneythrough-automation/
Power, Rhett. (2015, April 6). Work on Your Business, Not in Your Business. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://www.inc.com/rhett-power/work-on-your-business-not-in-yourbusiness.html
Salesforce Research. Second Annual Small & Medium Business Trends Report Retrieved on November 18, 2018, from https://a.sfdcstatic.com/content/dam/www/ocmsbackup/assets/pdf/smb/Small-Medium-Business-Trends_Salesforce-Research.pdf
Shumsky, T. (2018, May 14). The Morning Ledger: Automation Frees Up Workers For More Creative Tasks. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://blogs.wsj.com/cfo/2018/05/14/themorning-ledger-automation-frees-up-workers-for-more-creative-tasks/
Sophy, J. (2017, October 17). Automation Crucial to Growing Your Small Business. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/10/automation-crucial-to-growingyour-small-business.html.