Easily Automate These 12 Areas of Your Business

August 10, 2017
Egg timer

What do you spend time on in your business that you don’t enjoy? Is it finances? task management? customer service? Is your to do list getting out of hand? Are you drowning in receipts? Click on your biggest pain points to find some easy ways to automate your business and get technology working for you.

For the more adventurous, maybe explore the world of app integrations with tools such as IFTTT (If This Then That) or Zapier.

 Get everything working smoothly

Accounting

Still doing your books with desktop versions of Quickbooks or Sage? Or worse, on a spreadsheet? Move your accounting online to a platform such as Quickbooks Online, Xero, Freshbooks or Wave.

Cloud based accounting will allow you to access your books from anywhere, keep an eye on your financials, check your bank balances, generate reports on the fly or just be able to review your books with board members without having to find a time to crowd around your desktop.

Take some time to make the most of the automation features available within your chosen platform – for example, most will allow you to setup recurring invoices. In some, such as Quickbooks Online, you can set up rules to automatically match transactions from your bank feed with the correct ledger account which makes reconciliation a breeze.

Automate with Quickbooks Online Rules

If quoting and invoicing is a strain on your time, make sure you are doing this within your online accounting program. In most cases, you can easily convert a quote to an invoice with one click. Use an accounting platform that allows your customers to pay their invoices online, so you don’t need to be involved in collecting payments.

In addition to letting automation help you with quotations and invoices, there is a lot of time to be saved with other mundane financial tasks such as claiming expenses. Try apps such as Expensify, ReceiptBank or Wave.

If you want an all-in-one system to communicate with your clients, sign contracts, invoice and receive payments, look at a system such as 17hats, Dubsado or Honeybook. If you just need to get contracts signed, look to something like DocuSign or eDocu.

Appointment Booking

Make sure your website (and/or bots) are doing as much work as possible for you. Your website should be able to automate appointment booking unless your customers have some out of the ordinary requirements that require the human touch. It should be able to answer FAQs and take orders.

Calendarly is a great option for helping schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails. It’s available via or email or your website. MixMax and Top Inbox are extensions which offer similar scheduling functionality for gmail.

If taking paid appointment bookings from clients is a big part of your business, consider implementing a plugin for your website such as Acuity Scheduling for a WordPress site where clients can book and pay for appointments.

Blogging

Use a platform such as WordPress to write all of your posts for a week or month, and then schedule the times and dates that you would like them to be published. Take a look at the Social Media section for tips on promoting your blog posts.

Contact Database (CRM)

As your business grows, it can be hard to keep track of your customers and suppliers. When you’ve outgrown a spreadsheet, you’ll need a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM). Some popular CRMs include Hubspot, Basecamp, Airtable, Salesforce, and Infusionsoft.

Customer Service

If you are B2C, look at streamlining your customer service with an app such as FreshDesk. There are also an array of bots out there to automate the more straightforward queries from customers. Check out John Brandon’s post on Customer Service Bots.

Email

If you’re using gmail, automate your email by harnessing the features of Canned responses or the MixMax or Top Inbox extensions where you can use templates for repetitive emails, scheduling your emails, and automating follow-ups.

If you’re finding that email is sucking up way too much of your time switch to a messaging app such as Slack or start doing messaging through a task management app such as Asana, Podio or Trello.

HR/Hiring

HR Stash provides a great list of HR resources to help you streamline your HR. Categories include onboarding, recruiting, benefits, payroll, employee records, and reviews.

We have tried many different recruitment options but keep coming back to Indeed. It offers very straightforward communication with both applicants and co-recruiters including interview scheduling.

Research

Any time you’re doing any research, Google Alerts can be very helpful for feeding you up to the minute information. Implementing alert can be a great way to keep up to date with industry research, competitors and mentions of your own company. LifeWire has written a helpful how-to guide for setting up Google Alerts.

Sales

If you’re not already using something to track your sales and leads, stop everything and do that now. Ideally, you want to implement a platform that will let you assess which jobs or types of work are your most profitable so you can use that data to identify where you should be putting your efforts.

Great platforms include SalesForce (which is arguably the best but often the most expensive), Hubspot Sales (which is well loved and offers a lot of functionality for free), SalesLoft, and SalesNow,

Social Media

For social media, make sure you are using a tool such as Buffer, or HootSuite to manage all your social media profiles in one place and automate finding and scheduling content ahead of time. Both offer a free version.

If your focus is on Instagram and Pinterest, try Tailwind.

Task Management

Using a task management app is probably the best thing you can do to give your productivity a boost. As your team begins to grow, a place where everyone can look to organize tasks and projects becomes more essential by the day. The time and/or financial investment is always well worth it.

Project management apps such as Asana, Podio, Wunderlist or Trello are all great. Most have a good free option for a certain number of users or project. Compare features to figure out what is the best solution for you. For example, if you want to be notified when tasks are completed that are holding up your progress, you may want to invest in an Asana paid plan which includes dependency functionality.

Trello is a great platform for people who like to see things visually, and Podio is great for those who would rather remain text-based. Asana is somewhere in between; project task lists can be displayed in a Kanban-style board or just in a list.

We’ve found Asana to work well for most of our clients and in our own business, but we also know people who swear by Trello, Podio, or Wunderlist.

Time Tracking

Time tracking can be vital but can also be controversial. If you’re implementing time tracking for your employees for the first time, make sure you are clear about why tracking time will be useful for everyone and why it is so important.

Most time trackers give you flexibility on how closely you want to track employees (or yourself). Our favourite platforms are Time Doctor, and Harvest.

We have been using Time Doctor for our own business for several years and love it. We don’t tend to use the random screenshot functionality, but do appreciate it popping up to check we’re still working when we’ve wondered off down our Facebook feed or been looking at YouTube videos for too long!

Harvest is a little more expensive but has the added benefit of having some great integrations, including with Quickbooks Online.

Integrations

IFTTT (If this then that) is a great way to integrate your different platforms. For example:

  • Automate with IFTTT IntegrationsSave new email attachments in gmail to google drive
  • Tweet your instagrams as native photos in twitter
  • Email mailchimp newsletter performance data to your team
  • Integrate your buffer post schedule with your google calendar
  • Label an email as a receipt to have it sent directly to Wave Accounting

Zapier is another option for to automate and integrate your favourite platforms. They have a huge list of possible integrations. Head to their Explore page and type in the names of the platforms that you are already using to find zaps that might help you improve your workflow.

As you can see, there’s lots of scope for streamlining your business, and everyone has their favourites. If you decide you want to take the leap and start using one, or more, of these platforms, or would like to chat about the best options for you, contact Sheldrake & Ross.

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5 Unusual Ways to be More Productive When You Work from Home

June 21, 2017
rethink9to5 Productive at Home

Reading Time: 3 minutes

1. Bribery!

I owe a huge proportion of my productivity to bribery (a skill I honed while raising my 3 children!) For me, bribery usually looks like a cup of tea and/or a read of my social media feed after a period of concentration. Other times it could be an episode of a TV show for a morning’s hard work. Surprisingly, once that period of time is over, I’m often still really focused on whatever it was I was bribing myself to do. I used to stop and congratulate myself when the timer went off, but now, I really try to stay at it for as long as I’m engaged – to me this is when remote or flexible working is really at its best.

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Climbing Gym, Paris

Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

Being able to combine work and pleasure is one of the reasons why I enjoy being a digital nomad. I’ve authored more than thirty books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, and often find my inspiration in the activities I love most. Many of my books, for example, have something to do with horses; my favourite animal. It’s easier to get motivated about doing all that research when I’m excited about the subject matter!

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

After writing about the future of workspaces, I thought I’d follow up by taking a look at HOW we will be working in the future, especially with all the Gen Zs (born after 2000) about to arrive in the workforce, many of whom have been in education systems that have been reinventing the wheel.

So what changes can we expect to see in the next 5-10 years?

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How I Combat Loneliness When Working Remotely

May 4, 2017
Combating Loneliness
Reading Time: 3 minutes
One of the biggest challenges facing those who don’t work in a traditional office can be loneliness. Loneliness can impact you not just emotionally, but physically and before you know it your motivation and productivity have taken a dive. Your enthusiasm wanes, snack time and TV time go up and deadlines are suddenly passing you by.
Digital Nomads have a particularly hard time with this. In an online survey, a huge proportion answered that loneliness was their biggest challenge as a digital nomad. Jelte ten Holt wrote a great post “Lonely in Paradise” that has some great tips for handling loneliness while on the road.
What if you’re just working from home? Think about trying out some of these strategies which I’ve found to be helpful when working alone is getting to me:

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