Work smarter, not harder
Outsourcing your business admin isn’t the only way to reduce your workload – automation of simple tasks is another way to free up a fair chunk of your time each week. There are a plethora of software options out there that have all been designed to reduce the amount of time you spend working on repetitive business tasks by automatically taking care of these for you.
Not only will automating some of these tasks free up your time, but it will also reduce the chance of data entry errors that are bound to occur when completing some of these tasks manually.
So, you like the sound of automating, where do you start? Here are a handful of suggestions that I’ve either implemented for Admin Army or our clients – I’ve seen the successful results first-hand.
Automate your Email List
I’m going to discuss this specifically from the point of view of using MailChimp, as that is what I use internally and also what 90% of our clients currently use. However, although their features will vary, the general principals of automating your email marketing are the same across most providers.
MailChimp announced in May 2017 that it was making it’s marketing automation features free for all MailChimp users, regardless of what plan they’re on, meaning you can sign up any time for a free account with 10 users and implement these automations.
This one will apply more to product-based businesses, rather than service-based businesses.
The average e-commerce shopping cart abandonment rate has been calculated at 69.23%, so it makes sense that you’d want to do everything you can to recapture those potential sales. By linking your Shopify or WooCommerce store to MailChimp and setting up an abandoned cart series – where an email is sent to customers who have left items in their online cart, you will have the opportunity to re-engage and convert potential sales, with little to no extra work.
One of the most hailed inclusions in MailChimp’s marketing automation features is its Welcome Series – the ability to connect with subscribers as soon as they join your mailing list. Once set up, you don’t have to do anything – MailChimp will automatically send each email in your series out at your desired intervals and you have the opportunity to introduce your new subscribers to yourself and your business.
This one is for the service-based businesses. You know it’s vital to have a contract in place, but it’s not always practical for your client to sign straight away, especially if you require them to print the contract, sign and then scan and return it to you. There are a tonne of great software options out there to automate this process. Effectively, you can load your contract and/or terms of service into the software package and enter your new client’s details. The software package will email these out to them, allow them to sign electronically and then provide both of you with an electronic copy of the executed contract.
Admin Army uses 2Shakes for our bookkeeping clients as they’ve taken their integration (and therefore the automation capacity) further, by integrating with the NZ Companies Office and also Inland Revenue (as well as ACC and insurance companies), meaning clients can provide us with authority to act with any or all of these organisations. Saving about 1000 trees worth of forms and heaps of time for both us and our clients.
Have you ever had an email chain that looks something like this?
Person A: Can you do 2pm on Tuesday?
Person B: No. How about 3pm?
Person A: No, that doesn’t work. How about anytime Thursday morning?
Person B: I’m away Thursday. What about sometime Friday afternoon?
And so on… you get the point…
There are two options for automating this process.
The first, Amy, is not so great. Well, at least she wasn’t when I had the unfortunate pleasure of interacting with her in the middle of last year. Amy is an AI Personal Assistant who will negotiate your meeting scheduling with your intended attendee on your behalf. I don’t use the term negotiate lightly here – she’s impersonal and while she may save you time, she will quite possibly drive your intended attendee up the wall. For example, I told Amy I could do any time on Tuesday except for between 2pm and 4pm – so she helpfully suggested 3pm. Great!
The other option is one that you may have seen implemented on the Admin Army website – Calendly. Generally, when I receive an enquiry through the website my first response is “Great! Let’s have a call to discuss.”
Calendly is linked to my Google calendar and now rather than having to go back and forth with potential clients to find a time that suits, I’ve automated this part of the process to allow potential clients to book a call from available times in my calendar. As well as removing a step from the process, this also means they’re not having to wait until the next time I check my emails to get something scheduled in – providing them with a better service from the outset.
Accounts Receivable Process
I’m not going to go too in-depth on how you can automate your accounts receivable process, as I have a blog coming soon on implementing an accounts receivable process to accompany our implementing an accounts payable process blog, which will explore this in more detail.
Set up Repeating Invoices
I outlined how to do this using Xero in my Xero Tips blog last year – it’s a great way to automate your invoicing if you provide regular services to clients. Even better, by setting these up as ‘approve and send’ it means you won’t even have to think about invoicing. They’ll just ‘magically’ send each month and you can focus your time on providing your clients with great service.
This is one of my favourite features of Xero when it comes to an accounts receivable process. Xero knows if an invoice has been paid or not – you shouldn’t waste time chasing an invoice as soon as it falls due. Also, if you are personally chasing an invoice through say a phone call, this can give your debtors the impression that you have cash flow issues. Whether or not you have cash flow issues is no one’s business, and people that owe you money should pay up. Automating invoice reminders means that you’re simply following your accounts receivable process, not chasing due to cash flow.
I’ve found that nine times out of ten, most people aren’t withholding payment. They simply miss the due date and forget to pay – receiving an email reminder prompts them to pay straight away. Not only does this mean you’re not stressing about invoices that aren’t paid, but you’re also providing a better client experience as they’re not embarrassed by having to explain to you why they haven’t paid.
Losing all of my computer files is worst nightmare material. It would bring everything to a grinding halt. I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with this type of scenario. I use G-Suite to manage all of Admin Army’s emails and documents, so it makes sense that I also back up all documents on my laptop using Google’s Back Up and Sync. All of my files ‘magically’ find their way to the Google Cloud as I create them and I don’t have to think about it until I [hopefully never] actually do. Dropbox offers a similar service.
I’ve recently taken my data backups to the next level by buying an external hard drive and setting my laptop to run a complete back up once a week. Better safe than sorry, right? I barely have to think about this as with the backups scheduled my laptop squawks at me whenever I need to plug my hard drive in so it can run. So, I would say this is half-automated.
And last, but not least…
In my ‘why I switched to Asana‘ blog last year, I shared my key reasons for using Asana to manage Admin Army’s client tasks. One of the other features that I’ve grown to love, is the ability to create repeating tasks. Most project management software tools have this feature, but I can only speak to my experience with Asana.
Say you have a task that repeats every month, for example, filing PAYE with Inland Revenue. You can set this up as a repeating task which is due on the same date (20th) of every month. Sure, you’re not automating the completion of the actual task (that would be pretty helpful). But you are automating your need to remember it. Your project management software will generate another task every month (or whatever interval you set) until you tell it to stop.
Technology hasn’t quite got to the point yet where we can automate absolutely everything in our businesses. Alongside this, with examples like Amy the Personal Assistant, we can see why having human interaction is still quite important. If you have some tasks on your to do list that you’d like to clear, but there isn’t the technology available yet to automate them, get in touch to have a chat about how the Admin Army team can help.