Running a business is challenging. We can read ‘n’ number of posts on how someone quit their cushy job and took up entrepreneurship, aspiring to be the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. However in reality, they constantly face challenges at every level – Executional, Operational, Financial, and even Existential. But the good thing is, some of this can be very easily controlled!

One of the biggest plus-points when it comes to small businesses or Startups is that workflows and processes are a lot less complex and flexible. Nevertheless, the going gets tough as the company scales. It is this change of scale and the lack of ability to manage the various processes that many founding teams succumb to. This ‘chaos’ percolates to every function and ultimately hits the end-consumer.

This is why automation becomes necessary and unavoidable. A small business can reap many benefits if it incorporates automation in its business processes. Some of the benefits are: Faster growth, Greater staff productivity, Improved efficiency, Regular business evaluation, Better customer service, Competitive advantage and subsequently, Increased sales!

Keeping the above benefits in mind, here is a detailed explanation about the 7 areas where automation can help small businesses and startups. Read on to eliminate the queries and confusion in your mind about why automation is actually the need of the hour!

1) Employee Experience

Happy customers are key to any successful business. But, in order to make your customers happy, you need to first deliver happiness to your employees. Employees are most happy when they are free from chaos and their expectations are taken care of. Having automated processes for onboarding, Leave Management, Vacation Requests, Claims Processing etc. may sound like things a small business or Startup may not need.

However, when a company hits the 30-50 employees mark, problems related to lack of processes for managing employee activities will begin to slowly creep in. Keeping your employees motivated and taking care of their needs without any confusion or compromise is very essential in sustaining the overall morale in the organization. Using automation to manage these regular activities will help a great deal in shaping a great employee experience, and ultimately keep them happy and satisfied!

2) Partner Management

For any business to thrive successfully, there is a need to have a great partner ecosystem. While focusing on scale, many companies tend to ignore some basic elements of efficient partner relations which begins from onboarding. Having a set process with clearly defined stages for onboarding new partners is vital in aligning them to your business goals. It also helps in establishing clear channels of communication and business-related information exchange.

Automation of the process will facilitate easy ‘handshake’ with new partners and getting them on the ground as quickly as possible. With automation, one can overcome several hassles that arise out of a slow, manual process thereby making the pace of onboarding partners faster. It will also facilitate easy communication, easier flow of information & better coordination.

3) Vendor Management

Vendor relations are critical to the success of any business. Often, growing teams tend to overlook the advantages good vendor relationships can fetch them. Better rates and discounts can provide a considerable cost advantage that can directly impact profit margins. Timely supply of products/services can help in continuation of business dealings. However, leaving your vendor processes undocumented and unorganized can have the exact opposite effect.

Good procurement practices can help significantly reduce costs and pass on that benefits to the consumers. Having an automated process facilitates easy access to vendor analytics which helps baseline and measure their performance. A seamless, transparent and automated vendor ecosystem paves the way for better management practices, improved operational efficiency and elimination of avoidable expenses.

4) Purchase Order Management

A good procurement process is pivotal to a company’s operations since it is one of those processes that affect all its departments. But the process can be a nightmare for many companies that believe in handling purchase orders sporadically, because they think that a systematized process requires too much time and effort. Paper and email processes are sluggish and prone to inevitable blunders, but it’s scarier to imagine a company without a set purchase order process.

Automating purchase orders not only helps ease a company’s supply-demand chain management, but also helps maintain vendor relationships and intra-organization coherence. Setting up an automated purchase order workflow is undoubtedly less labor-intensive than a manual process. Also, such an arrangement will be capable of handling bigger purchase order volumes as your company size grows.

5) Facilities/IT Management

Whether it is booking a conference room or a requirement for a software tool or even a simple issue of inconvenient chairs, it needs to be addressed with urgency. Failing to have a process when you are small can have a detrimental effect on employees’ morale. Addressing them manually will result in a lot of chaos & backlogs. Having a system which small teams can build, run and monitor on their own is greatly helpful in eliminating infrastructure-related bottlenecks.

A simple use case is the IT team needing an asset request process to help employees access IT assets that they may need to perform their tasks. Be it a headset or a softphone or a tablet device, having an automated process for requesting and getting necessary approvals for the same can reduce the wait time. This will have a positive impact on the productivity and morale of the employees!

6) Refund Approvals

Returns and Refunds are as much a part of a company’s business as its sales. Many companies have refund policies that looks good on the paper but is very confusing to carry out. A messy refund process poses great risks to a company’s reputation and can antagonize loyal customers.

But small businesses can control the way they handle customer refunds by automating the process. Automation gives greater visibility about how well a refund process is progressing so that the process managers can take timely actions. With automation, the customers will be clear about the refund policies. The best thing is this ensures transparency and helps small businesses gain the trust of customers.

7) Complaints Redressal

The dynamics of a small business environment is very different from that of a large organization. Customers are sensitive to their concerns when they raise complaints and expect them to be treated with urgency. They get frustrated when the company helpline goes unanswered or when their emails gets no reply other than a bot to acknowledge their complaint tickets.

Here is where automation can come to the rescue. Imagine the level of accountability automation can bring to the process when customers submit their complaints and can see where it is lying in the pipeline. The customer support team can also benefit by prioritizing the grievances, communicating it with the relevant department, and formulating a personal response to each complaint that comes through.

Bottom Line:

While on one end, small businesses may consider automation a tad too premature for their size & scale of operations, they cannot ignore the imminent benefits it brings along with it. Automation will definitely help prevent a lot of operational issues and challenges they are bound to face as they grow. It will also help in putting a ‘method to madness’ during their rapid pace of growth! So if you are a Startup or a small business owner, don’t commit the mistake of ignoring automation of your business processes, as this can be fatal to your business itself!

What are the processes you struggle with in your Business? You could talk to us about it and we could possibly have a solution for you. That’s exactly what we do at KiSSFLOW, by taking the power of workflow automation to businesses of all sizes. 10,000+ users trust KiSSFLOW for their automation needs and are making their processes more efficient, simple & this helps them achieve better efficiency & profitability. Take your first step to building an efficient business NOW!