Systems and automations go with business like peanut butter goes with chocolate. It’s hard to have one without the other!
Just scroll through Pinterest and you’ll find hundreds of articles dedicated to sharing tools and resources you can use to set up structure in your business, why you need to consider time management when growing your business, and fun tactics like batching and creating a CEO schedule.
And, if you’re anything like me, you want to know what other people have used in their business. Instead of taking time to vet things, I just want to know if they worked for someone else!
This is my no-frills guide to creating systems and automation in your business if you’re just starting out or if you want to fine-tune your current system. All of these things will help you find more time in your day, streamline your process, and make handing over tasks to team members a breeze.
Like I wrote in Three Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time, I didn’t always have a schedule or a streamlined way to perform my business tasks. I spent a lot of time wondering what I should be working on instead of doing something…anything!
I also spent a lot of time redoing things that were already fine to begin with. I’d tinker with copy for hours, only to scrap the entire document the next day and start again. Bottom line, I didn’t give myself time limits, so I’d fritter away entire days.
Then, I really felt the pinch of needing structure when I had to manage clients. I needed a place to store their details, create contracts, ask for feedback… All the things you do when you’re onboarding or offboarding clients and keeping them happy in the middle.
Taking care of my clients was the number one thing that extended the relationship and brought in new business, so I had no choice but to find better ways to support them.
Success Tip: If you serve clients, CRM (customer relationship management) will be the first system you should set up.
How many times have you thought to yourself, “I should reach out to Susie…” and then you became engrossed in another task and forgot about Susie until the next time the cable bill was due?
On the flip side, say Susie came to you, only to realize she had to go through quite a few steps to book a call with you. If your process for setting up a sales call is confusing to a prospect, they’ll likely give up or, if they’re mindful, realize that you run your entire business that way and opt not to do business with you.
With systems and automations, you’ll find consistency. Calling on prospects and nurturing them so they turn into new clients will start to become easy and elegant.
And let’s talk about how well you can serve current clients once you have a system that helps you stay efficient. They’ll think you’re magical because you remembered to send them a birthday gift (but really, you had it in your intake questionnaire and then it got ported to your task management system with a reminder and due date for your assistant.)
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Want to save time and energy? You need structures that support that goal.
Setting up an automation can be an exercise in patience and it’s worth it to do it well. Like I mentioned above, your clients will feel so special and you’ll be glad you figured out how to create the automation once and for all.
When you’re using a new tool, it’s easy to get frustrated and want to go back to the old way of doing things. Unfortunately, those old ways won’t help you scale your business!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when starting off with your first business systems and automations.
The adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know” is so true when it’s time to find a program for your business.
For me, simplicity is the way to go. Find a program you can use that has the features you need. There’s no need to complicate your life with something that has bells and whistles created for a car when you just need a little bike horn.
When I was first starting out, I didn’t have an assistant who understood the ins and outs of InfusionSoft (fondly known as ConfusionSoft). Fast forward to me wanting to tear my hair out when I had to create a contract for a client. It was to the point where I almost didn’t want to look for clients because I knew I’d have to use that infernal program.
Instead, I looked for a simple program that met my needs, so I started using HelloSign. I didn’t need a crazy contract system because I was only sending a few a month. It worked for me and I knew how to use it successfully.
Register for a free account that will address your needs. Often, the free accounts have been stripped down to basic features. Learn to use the core features of the program well. Should you need to branch out into other features and programs, take on one at a time.
Success Tip: I’d rather have an overly-simplified program that I can use well. Look for one that meets your needs and you can understand how to use it, especially if you don’t have a team member dedicated to running software programs for you.
Find programs that play nice together with integrations or set up a few zaps in Zapier. Don’t use something that’s so far out in left field, it doesn’t work with anything else. That’s just asking for a migraine and dinner of silence and ice cream.
One of the big time (and money) wasters is redundancies. When you’re starting out, you may piece things together using programs you understand well. And that’s okay.
As you grow, you’ll likely use additional programs. If you notice that one of those programs has a few solutions in one, consolidate your programs and learn to use those features.
For example: if you have two programs that are used for internal communication and you notice people are duplicating their efforts, it’s a sign you need to commit to one program and get rid of the other.
(Here are the communication apps we use as a team that keep us on task and reduce energy waste.)
Another area where you can eliminate redundancies is by setting up automations. My assistant, Sadie, set up a few through Dubsado, so my duct tape and bubble gum solution became obsolete. We eliminated redundancies (and saved time).
Now, when we add a new system, we get rid of an old one that doesn’t work. Streamlining systems saves so much time and money.
Finally, eliminate duplicated effort by batching your tasks. It’s one of my big time-saving secrets. Why open up your invoicing software three separate times in the week when you can schedule an admin time block and do it all at once. Group like tasks together in your programs and get tons of time back.
Unlike InfusionSoft, don’t make things harder than they need to be (yes, that’s what she said.)
Success Tip: Get rid systems and automations that are overcomplicated.
For example, Dubsado houses client contracts and invoices, but I don’t use it for scheduling client calls, even though I could (and it breaks my rule of eliminating redundant programs). In this instance, I chose to keep Acuity because I personally enjoy that tool better and it’s easier for clients to use.
When finding tools, think about what’s easy for you to use and also what’s easy for your clients to use. Simple tools set up well will help you make way more money.
The best part of systems and automations is how it supports your clients and prospects. If your clients feel supported, you’re serving them well. I firmly believe that systems and automations will ensure your clients have a great experience with you whether you’re just starting out or you have a thriving team. You’ll also have repeatable steps to share with your team so your level of quality and care is maintained no matter who is talking to a client or prospect.
Further, setting up systems and automations will keep you on task. You will no longer be wasting energy duplicating your efforts or wasting time by performing a task that software (or a team member!) could easily do.
If you want specialized support to figure out which tools and processes you should use, let’s set up an intensive to discuss your client and business needs and find programs that are supportive!