Why Automation is Crucial for all Small Business Owners

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Most small business owners want to increase the value of their business, and they often do so over time by adjusting their marketing, coming up with new products or services or making what they do more convenient. Automation is another pathway to value that leaders often overlook because most large automation providers do not focus on selling to smaller accounts. Bringing these technologies into your small business can improve what the company is worth and, as a bonus, improve work-life balance.

Related: How to Use Automation (and Avoid the Pitfalls) as an Entrepreneur

Automation is available, but the need to repackage it for small businesses is high

Big technology companies have done an incredible job when it comes to delivering automation options, not just to the office but also to communities and homes. From invoicing to turning on the lights, automation can reduce repetitive work.

But big tech companies want to work with large, multinational or Fortune 10,000 companies. Even though winning a high-value contract takes effort, targeting enterprise businesses lets tech companies serve the smallest number of customers with the most return on investment. This leaves small businesses underserved. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have given them only pieces of what they need. Most of the time, automation solutions are out of small businesses’ price range, or the small business cannot customize the automation solution with the degree of flexibility that makes sense for how it works.

Small businesses account for 47.3% of the American workforce. That’s a big market to ignore. Tech companies could support smaller ventures by shrinkwrapping simplified versions of their technologies and making them available at a lower cost. This move is also highly strategic. By targeting the customers that can’t afford the highest tier, large tech companies can ensure that new competitors don’t steal market share based solely on price point.

Related: Automation Is Becoming a Business Imperative: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Your unique business functions shape your automation package

Small businesses are no different than any other company in that they have an extensive range of tasks to manage — marketing, administration, security or keeping the office clean. The difference is that the bandwidth is lower in a small business. There are few employees to cover what the company has to do, and money is often much more limited. So it is to the small business’ advantage to automate where they can because automation can reduce hiring needs, decrease human error and leave employees free to focus on what matters most.

One often successful model for integrating automation into small companies is to break the business down into the basic functions it needs to perform. These vary by industry — eg, a gas station and a restaurant will need different tools. Start by seeing what basic functions you can support with automation, like HR, finance, tax reporting or security. Then, as your small business develops, explore other automation options that make sense. Integrating automation early on will save money and help your team feel comfortable so that future automation integrations are easier to adapt to.

Related: 5 Technologies to Help You Stay Ahead of Market Changes and Automate Business Processes

How automation offers both growth and work-life balance

Automation is closely tied to the ability to scale for a small business because it provides flex capacity — ie, the ability to use automation to adjust your output. Suppose that without automation, you can do 100 transactions with one employee. With automation, however, you can do 250 transactions with one employee. One hundred of these new transactions may be a direct result of the technology, so those who are connected to the price of the software. But the remaining 50 are because the employee is freed from mundane work. Thus, you have increased your capacity for growth by 50% at no additional cost.

Growth also connects to work-life balance. One way to improve employee satisfaction is to ensure employees are not overworked. Automation can take over simpler, repetitive tasks so employees can spend more time with loved ones or doing other things they enjoy. Happy workers are usually more productive and stick around, which cuts what you would spend to find new people. Some or all of what you save can be reinvested into the business.

Most small businesses find that automation is advantageous for these reasons, with 88 percent of small businesses saying that automation helps them compete.

Related: How to Automate Technology to Help Run Your Businesses

If the needed solution isn’t available, build it

Large technology companies have focused on offering automation options to big businesses because large contracts make it easier to pay the huge operating expenses the technology companies have. Small businesses, however, have similar automation needs and are a large, virtually untapped market that should not be ignored.

Small businesses can use automation aligned with their unique operational functions to improve employee profitability, growth, and work-life balance. The flex capacity within the range of automation technologies provides a significant competitive advantage. If you cannot find the solutions you need with a larger provider, don’t be afraid to develop them yourself, as the investment will more than pay for itself over time.

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