Why automation is critical for all small business owners

by Ana Lopez

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

Most small business owners want to increase the value of their business, and they often do so over time by adjusting their marketing, inventing new products or services, or making what they do more convenient. Automation is another path to value that leaders often overlook because most major automation providers don’t focus on selling to smaller accounts. Introducing these technologies to your small business can improve the value of the business and, as a bonus, improve work-life balance.

Related: Using automation (and avoiding the pitfalls) as an businessupdates.org

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

Big tech companies have done a great job of delivering automation options not only in the office, but also in communities and homes. From billing to turning on the lights, automation can reduce repetitive work.

But big tech companies want to partner with large, multinational or Fortune 10,000 companies. Even though it takes effort to win a high-quality contract, targeting large enterprises allows technology companies to serve the smallest number of customers with the greatest return on investment. This leaves small businesses behind. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple have given them only bits and pieces of what they need. Usually automation solutions are outside the small business price rangeor the small business cannot customize the automation solution with the degree of flexibility that makes sense for how it operates.

Small businesses are responsible for 47.3% of the US workforce. That’s a big market to ignore. Technology companies could support smaller businesses by shrink-wrapping simplified versions of their technologies and making them available at a lower cost. This move is also very strategic. By targeting customers who can’t afford the highest tier, big tech companies can ensure that new competitors don’t steal market share based solely on price.

Related: Automation is becoming a business requirement: don’t wait until it’s too late

Your unique business functions shape your automation package

Small businesses are no different than any other business 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 company. There are few employees to cover what the company needs to do, and money is often much more limited. So it’s to the advantage of small businesses to automate where they can because automation can reduce the need for staff, reduce human error, and leave employees free to focus on what matters most.

An often successful model for integrating automation into small businesses is to break the business down into the basic functions it needs to perform. These vary by industry – a gas station and a restaurant, for example, require different tools. First, see what basic functions you can support with automation, such as HR, finance, tax filing, or security. Then, as your small business develops, explore other automation options that make sense. Integrating automation early saves you money and puts your team at ease, making it easier to adapt future automation integrations.

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 related to the ability to scale for a small business because it provides flexible capacity, i.e. the ability to use automation to adjust your output. Suppose you could do 100 transactions with one employee without automation. However, with automation you could do 250 transactions with one employee. One hundred of these new transactions could be a direct result of the technology, so they are linked to the price of the software. But the remaining 50 are because the employee is freed from everyday work. This way you increase your growth capacity by 50% at no extra cost.

Growth is also related to work-life balance. One way to improve employee satisfaction is to ensure that employees do not become overworked. Automation can take over simpler, repetitive tasks so employees can spend more time with loved ones or do other things they enjoy. Happy employees usually are too more productive and stick around, which helps you spend less on finding new people. Some or all of what you save can be reinvested in the business.

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

Related: Automating technology to help run your business

If the solution you need isn’t available, build it

Big tech companies have focused on offering automation options to big companies because big contracts make it easier to afford the huge operating costs of the tech companies. However, small businesses have similar automation needs and represent a large, virtually untapped market that should not be ignored.

Small businesses can use automation tailored to 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 can’t find the solutions you need from 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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