Getting Your Business in Shape with Automation + Outsourcing
Running a business involves a lot of moving pieces. From high-level areas (like branding and strategic direction) to menial tasks (like responding to emails and posting to social media), a great business is multi-faceted But, that often leaves you with more work than you can handle.
But, the secret behind entrepreneurship is that you don’t have to do all those things! Yes, they have to get done — but your time doesn’t necessarily need to be spent on many of your routine processes.
As the big, bad CEO of your business, you should be dedicating your energy to strategic decisions that propel your company forward. But if your plate is filled with basic day-to-day operational tasks that are no doubt necessary, you’re going to struggle to move the needle and scale your business the way you want.
There are a finite number of hours in a day; if they’re filled up with low-level processes, you’ll never find the time to create a plan for growth and put it into action.
Fortunately, there are two key methods of reducing your load and delegating that work elsewhere: Automation and Outsourcing. Each of these techniques offers unique value, so let’s explore the pros and cons of each.
Automation is all about letting the computers do the work! We live in an age where technology can perform just about any routine task. You can’t ask it to set goals for your business, but you can certainly program it to track your expenses, send contracts, accept payments, and so on. If there is administrative work that you’ve been doing manually, there’s a good chance there is an automated solution to fill your needs.
There are a number of areas in which you can harness the power of automation. For example, you could set up an auto-responder for your inquiry form to streamline your sales funnel. In addition, you may have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that can generate and send a new contract with the click of a button.
Or perhaps you’d like to use a tool like Zapier to connect all of your programs — like generating a new lead entry in AirTable every time your inquiry form gets completed. Again, the possibilities with automation are only growing, so there’s a good chance that you can find a solution to anything you need.
Spend some time laying out all of the tasks that fill up your schedule. How does a day in the office look for you? When it’s all out on paper, you’ll start to see a natural divide between the tasks that need your active attention and those that do not.
If you’re in the position to hire an employee or contractor, outsourcing is the way to go. While it may not “automate” every little task, it effectively removes them from your plate to free up time in your schedule.
Outsourcing is great for those tasks that need a bit of human touch — writing blogs and social media content, filing taxes and other vital paperwork, managing the client experience, and so on. That’s why people tend to hire writers, accountants, attorneys, and other professionals whose specialties don’t quite translate to a fully automated system.
There are a few ways to outsource your work; the direction you choose will significantly depend on your current situation and the resources you have to allocate outwards. There are three main channels of seeking support:
Staff: This is the tried-and-true method of hiring people to work for you in-house. These are your part-time and full-time employees that are on your payroll. As a result, you get complete control over their work in your business, you set their hours, and you have more oversight on their processes.
However, this comes with a financial commitment. In addition to paying wages or salary, you may need to pay for full-time benefits as well (if that’s where you’re heading). If you plan to hire employees, you must prepare for the sizable overhead that comes with that kind of move.
Contractors: Contracting 1099 workers has become a popular way to fill in gaps within one’s business without the overhead of hiring a team. Since you don’t have to commit to an employment period or worry about benefits, you really only pay for what you get. You get control over what you request in terms of scope, but be mindful that you do not have any say over a contractor’s hours or processes.
Contractors are freelancers and business owners of their own regard. So, while hiring employees makes you their boss, working with a contractor is more collaborative. You lay out everything you need in terms of deliverables and expectations, and they’re responsible for getting it to you on time. You can negotiate on pay, timeline, and other details of the process, but you do not get full ownership of the agreement.
Interns: Establishing an internship program can be a great way to get some work done while also investing in the future workforce. Serving as a mentor to interns is fulfilling for many. However, the quality of work will likely be lower than that of an employee or professional contractor. Soften your expectations and be careful about what you delegate to an intern.
With that said, an internship program can be a powerful way to give back to your community and get your feet wet in the hiring arena. In addition, it’s a lower financial commitment, as they are often working for academic credit and perhaps a small stipend. However, be sure to research local and state laws to ensure you adhere to compensation laws.
Be mindful that neither automation nor outsourcing is entirely hands-free.
If you use automation, you will need to dedicate time to set it up correctly and keep tabs on how it’s operating. Technology isn’t perfect, and sometimes a hiccup in the system can disrupt your processes. Therefore, you must maintain your automation tools to ensure they are working as expected.
On the other hand, delegation involves oversight of people, which can run the gamut of experiences. For example, some folks are very self-driven, whereas others need a little hand-holding.
Whether you choose W-2 employees or 1099 contractors, expect to spend some time managing their workload and handling human resources matters, like time-tracking and payroll. However, keep in mind that the time you spend managing your team should not be greater than the time it takes to actually do those tasks. If it does, hire someone more efficient or consider automation as an alternative solution.
In this day and age, there is no reason to be bogged down in administrative tasks. You have all the power in your business to find new solutions to streamline your operations and reclaim control of your processes. Efficiency and productivity go hand in hand; ironically, you will find that you will be able to make a greater impact on your business and do more once you have less on your plate. Funny how that works, huh?
Need help sorting out what to delegate and where? Jen has a wealth of experience in both areas and is ready to help you figure out the right formula for a productive and efficient business structure — get in touch with her to get started!
Jennifer Taylor is the principal of Jen Taylor Consulting, a consulting firm that works with creative businesses of all sizes to implement streamlined workflows and organized systems to find more time and space for business growth and personal development.
System & Workflow Strategist
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