Monday, October 15, 2012

Automate with Respect

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2012 by International Coach Federation

If you're a small business owner or the manager of a company, chances are that the thought of leaving the country or signing off for more than a week terrifies you. Without you at the helm, won't everything fall apart?

Although that used to be the case for many business owners, automation is an increasingly sought after goal, thanks to the popularity of books like "The Four-Hour Work Week." The more you can outsource your job, the more free time you have to enjoy the rest of life.

From utilizing cloud software for tasks like calculating payroll and invoicing to installing processes into your business's operating system, streamlining the way a company operates can reduce the number of work hours needed and free up time for travel and family.

Unfortunately, with most good things come side effects. Before establishing automated systems in your business, keep the following repercussions in mind:

1. Marginalized Employees
Workers generally grumble about new processes. If someone is used to passing a report to one person, requiring an additional level of approval can cause more work for everyone. Furthermore, adding process requirements can stifle and discourage creativity. Balance your desire for a consistent, productive structure with the ability for employees to remain flexible.

2. Reputation Control
Let's say you've just switched all of your bookkeeping over to a mostly automated system. There's no longer a need to keep your part-time bookkeeper, so you unfortunately have to let them go or reduce their hours. While that sort of small-scale layoff may have no effect on your business, replacing multiple workers at once with a more efficient machine can have lasting effects on your company's image amongst peers and the local community. Be careful with layoffs.

3. Diminished Quality
Any time you remove a human element from a task in favor of less time-consuming alternatives, you create standardization but risk compromising quality. There is a reason that 'handmade' carries value in products. People value the time it takes to create something, from a sweater given as a gift to a personalized service like social media marketing.

4. Fast Growth is Not Always Good Growth
Let's say you're a company that sells soccer balls. For years, you've always kept enough balls in stock to handle the orders that come in each week on the phone. Eventually, you decide to put an order form online, eliminating the need for someone to answer calls for orders all day. Your site quickly gains traction with people searching for soccer balls, and your orders triple in a month.

Unfortunately, you are unprepared to meet the demand, and you lose customers as quickly as they come in due to backorders.

Anita Brady
The lesson is this: before automating a process, make sure that you fully recognize the effects it will have on your business. Be prepared for both growth and backlash, and prepare your employees as well. With everything properly in place, it's possible to automate a business, maintain quality and free up time for everything else in life.

Anita Brady is the President of, one of the foremost suppliers of online business cards, and other office supply items for small businesses and individuals. Anita has overseen strategic marketing and other efforts for many different companies.


  1. Well said Anita. Managing change is a skill and needs to be planned and executed "properly" regardless of size. :)


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