Automation Tools For Your Small Business

By Zachary Rimlinger Updated on August 9, 2018

The rapid pace at which both business and technology are developing means that there are a variety of tools for doing away with mundane tasks in order to focus on more integral work. Oftentimes, and especially for small companies, your business can lean on this kind of technology to keep operating costs low. 

Not only do automation tools eliminate repetitive work and enable you to keep a lean team, but incorporating such technology can also help you take care of your existing staff. For those team members who crave opportunities to engage in more challenging or soul-satisfying tasks, automation frees time from their schedules to do just that. There are few better methods with which to improve employee morale and job satisfaction, which will always circle back around to help your business thrive and evolve.

Here’s a quick list of six free or low-cost automation technologies that can help automate workflows for a range of your business operations.

One Stop Shop  

Zapier is workflow automation king. Amongst a variety of uses, it can help you automate the receiving of data, file management, and all sorts of notifications by integrating with your preferred apps. For example, if an email hits your work inbox, Zapier can send a backup to your Google Drive, or Dropbox and can alert you on Trello, Slack, or another project management app. Or if you’re in the e-commerce business and use an email service like MailChimp, you can set up a “Zap” to automatically add new customers as contacts in an email list. Browse these 222 Zap ideas and you’ll quickly see how Zapier can optimize some of your existing workflows.

Scheduling

Calendly removes all the back-and-forth of setting up meetings by automating the scheduling process. Calendly makes invitees aware of your availability and lets them choose their desired time slot. Calendly also syncs with apps such as Slack, MailChimp, and Stripe, so be sure to check out uses that would be beneficial to your specific business. Whether its scheduling prospect calls or one-on-one meetings with your team members, including a link to your Calendly in your emails or email footer will save you many unnecessary exchanges.

Online HR Services

Onboarding new employees and fulfilling payroll can be tedious are time-consuming processes, to say the least. Social security numbers, addresses, direct deposit accounts, taxes—there is the ever-present danger of human error that comes with manual entry. But with Gusto, simply invite employees to sign up after setting up your company’s policies. More than helping you fulfill payroll, Gusto is a low-cost solution for centralizing and managing HR function such as approving time off, enrolling in company benefits, sending monthly check-in surveys to your team, and even generating reports that can give you an overview of your business.  

Email Management

It’s called SaneBox for a reason: this automation tool organizes your email stream to preserve a little more of your sanity. SaneBox analyzes your mailbox and email history to identify unimportant emails, which are then filtered into a single folder for later review, keeping your inbox focused on the urgent and important. You also receive a daily SaneBox Digest to bulk-process unimportant emails in less time. 

Customer Support

Support service requests can be mind-numbingly repetitive. Luckily for your support staff, there is Workfusion Chatbots. Through artificial intelligence, Chatbots takes over repeat inquiries from your support personnel and engages with the customer in human-sounding conversation. Workfusion guarantees a 50% reduction in manual service effort, making Chatbot a powerful complement to customer service staff.

Social Media Marketing

Let’s say you also want to share curated content that would add real value to your followers’ lives.  DrumUp has you covered with the latest in social media optimization. Rather than spend your time scouring the web, Facebook, or Twitter feeds for articles to keep your audience engaged, DrumUp’s algorithm automates it for you across a wealth of social media platforms. You cut down the time it takes to manage your presence by up to 90% while barely making a dent in your budget.

Conclusion

The benefits of office automation software for your business are manifold. For starters, the use of automation increases your staff’s dexterity with tech tools, potentially reducing the onboarding time with software and applications you adopt as you grow your business. If you can get your employees plugged into new software sooner, they’ll be more receptive and more adept the next time.

If you’re ready to take the next step, read these tips for successfully pinpointing what areas of your business are ripe for automation and how to get your team to play along.  

Choosing a Virtual Mail Solution? Start With These Questions.

By Zachary Rimlinger on July 25, 2018 

Organizations of all sizes and industries are increasingly using technology and outsourcing to modernize their offices. Today, mail and document management looks a lot different than having clerical staff in-house.

We witness this digital transformation every day and have helped thousands of businesses increase their efficiency by automating their office mail. If you haven’t already, think about the time your company spends on clerical work, manual scanning, and mail management. Or perform a quick exercise by asking yourself: would valuable information survive if your building flooded or a fire broke out? If you’re panicking, it means you need a system to move your files into the cloud. 

If you’re reevaluating your current approach (or lack thereof) here are the questions you should be asking to choose an appropriate virtual mail solution:

  1. What addresses do you have? One of your first considerations will likely be the locations where you are able to set up a virtual address. But it is equally important to consider your business goals to determine the type of address to use. If you’re looking for a virtual address to redirect business mail, a PO box can suffice. If you’re wanting to expand your business’s market share to a certain region or city, consider using a more professional real street address. Or if you’re looking for an address to register your company, chances are you’ll need a real street address. Be sure to ask if your state has any specific requirements.
  2. How do you handle different mail volume needs? For organizations that receive high mail volumes or those with mail seasonality like in the tax and accounting industry, you’ll need a vendor with the infrastructure to process documents quickly and reliably. Be sure to research how long their business has been operating and inquire into their technology and service operations.
  3. What actions can I take on my mail? To get the most value for your investment, demo their interface to understand the scope of functionalities available to you. If that’s not possible, be sure to ask: 
    • In what format will I be receiving my mail?
    • How do you treat packages and checks? 
    • Can I easily export my information to other applications?
    • What are my options for organizing my information? 
    • Can I have multiple users in an account?
    • How can I search for my documents within the app?
  4. What network and physical security measures do you take? It’s vital that you ask vendors if they rely on partners (such as local postal shops) for mail intake, or whether they have independent operations. While local partnerships might increase available the addresses available to you, service times and security measures will differ greatly. Also ask about the technology and back-end security measures they take to keep your data safe.
  5. How quickly can I access my information? One of the major benefits of using digital mail and document solutions is accessing information quickly and in a more useful format. Ask how long it takes to see your mail contents from the moment you request an item to be scanned, or if there are options for automatically scanning all content. What about timing for mail forwarding? Depending on your needs, speed could be the deciding factor for which service you select.
  6. What is included in the pricing? Inquiring into pricing details can almost go without saying, but it’s important to note that most mail management solutions will require that you pay to scan your correspondence. But do they charge for mail received? If you’re a high-volume user or if you’re using an address strictly for business use, inquire about options and pricing for automatically scanning your contents. 

When choosing another business tool, assess how it will interact with your team, existing processes, and other solutions. The more you’re able to do with one tool, the better. 

Ready to put us to the test? Learn more here

Is Your Data Secure? A Cybersecurity Checklist for Accounting Firms

By Zachary Rimlinger on June 20, 2018 

As data moves from client to firm and vice versa, it needs to be protected in transit and on the devices being used to access it, whether it’s your employee’s laptop or smartphone. In addition, your firm’s employees may need to receive and access that data digitally. While sharing documents via the cloud can make it easier and faster for everyone involved, it does add an additional layer of risk in exposing client data.  Also, a frequently forgotten channel of communication that needs to be protected is mail. As a conduit for important documents, it also requires a unique set of security practices.

Protecting client data is an ongoing challenge especially due to the varied ways your clients wish to provide documentation and access to their data. Considering all of this, here’s a checklist to get you started on ensuring client data is safe and secure, no matter how it’s being shared or accessed.

  1. Conduct an annual cybersecurity audit and assessment.  Preferably, this should be done by an outside firm and done annually. Expect the firm to review things such as password policy, privacy policy, agreements with vendors and contractors, data backup, and disaster recovery plans and network security. 
  2. Review every phase of your business processes, whether it’s client onboarding or a standard service such as filing taxes on behalf of your clients.  Review which employees are involved in the various stages and ensure that you have security guidelines in place at every step. You’ll want to ask:
    • Has each employee been required to review and agree to your company’s policies for accessing and sharing company data?
    • If employees are aware of your BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy? (And if your BYOD policy is comprehensive.)
    • Does your IT require that passwords are changed regularly? 
  3. Review the security policies of any cloud-based apps or premise-based solutions your firm is using to ensure that:
    • Vendors and providers are PCI compliant
    • Each cloud-based provider you are using ensures business continuity whether there is an outage or disaster
  4. Protect data on premise. A network firewall should be installed, updated and tested annually. Firewalls prevent unauthorized users from accessing your network by filtering incoming and outgoing traffic and data based on a set of rules. They also provide an additional layer of security that can make it more challenging for hackers to make a malicious attack on your network.
  5. Mail can be at risk of a physical breach of your mailbox or run the risk of getting misplaced or damaged in your office. Once you’ve set up cloud security, consider moving your mail and important documents into the cloud as quickly as possible. When choosing document management providers, be sure to dig into their security policies. 

A final tip: if you’re still unsure of where to start, or want additional information, search for a reputable cybersecurity auditing firm in your local area. Ask for a list of customer references you can call to find out what their experience was with that firm or look for customer reviews or ratings on their Facebook page. This allows you to get more familiar with the different approaches that you can take to protect your business and client data. Three things to ask for are quotes and approaches around: cybersecurity audit, updated plan, and annual support.