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To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

The idea of automating just about any task is an attractive one. You can save time, sometimes hours a day, for you and multiple members of your team.

But then, in the face of changing a routine, finding an automation tool and setting up a new system, you have to ask: is it worth it?

Knowing whether a task is worth automating first requires taking a look at the total time, energy and trouble going into completing it the way it’s done today. From there, you can explore what tools are available to address concerns.

I’m going to break down these three major factors so you can apply them to whatever tasks you’re thinking about automating. Any one of these alone can make it clear that it’s time to automate a process. If you aren’t compelled by one factor, look at the sum of all three. And if you still aren’t sure, apply the questions I’ve listed at the bottom of this article to fully assess your path forward.

Factor One: Total Time

This factor is easy to assess since is quantifiable. For any task you do on a regular basis, there’s usually an opportunity to automate all or part of it, especially since these tasks are almost always repetitive.

For anyone who owns a business, the more tasks you have that require daily or weekly attention, the harder it is to take that vacation you deserve or step back from the daily grind.

My two cents is that any task you’re doing daily can probably be automated to cut the time it takes in half, or eliminate the need for a daily recurrence all together. I’d say the same for many weekly tasks, too.

Here’s a table you can use when assessing how much time you’re really spending on a regular task. Look at the time you could save after migrating that task to an automated solution. Not every task will have an obvious automation solution, and many will depend on other factors like what software is easily available. At the very least this can start to put daily and weekly tasks into perspective of the total time invested.

Table to see how much time you really spend on a repetitive or regular task

Start by jotting down how much time you spend doing regular and repetitive tasks. Especially those that are stressful when you’re out of the office. Better yet, keep a time log for all of your regular tasks to identify room for automation. You might not even realize how many times you’ve performed a single task until you look back over the course of the month.

Expert tip: This concept is so important that it’s discussed in greater depth in the first module of our new online course, DuplicateU: Lay The Foundation. To get additional guidance on this step and what it can mean to you and your business, learn more about DuplicateU here.

Factor Two: Energy

This is where we get into the more open-ended assessments. The energy you spend doing a regular or repetitive task should be a major consideration when looking at automations—after all, you have a lot of responsibilities requiring energy throughout the day. And energy is a finite resource that must be managed with intentionality. If any recurring task is taking energy away from important business functions like strategy and planning, marketing and sales, or financial oversight, it might be worth looking at another solution.

A task can take little time and still be exhaustive mentally/emotionally. Take financial management tasks, for example. One question I answered recently is whether it’s time to upgrade from a bookkeeper to a CFO. If it’s not time to take that step yet, and you’re trying to do away with a few regular data entry tasks, a simple spreadsheet automation might save you energy spent entering sensitive information and validating data fields.

If you’re not sure how much energy a task really requires, ask yourself how you feel after the task is done. Are you able to jump right into something else, or do you need time to “recover” before tackling the next thing? If your answer is the former, it’s likely that task gives you energy. If your answer is the latter, it’s likely that task depletes your energy, and reducing the amount of mental/emotional energy it takes should be a priority.

Factor Three: Trouble (Frustration)

Frustrating tasks and how business owners can automate themThe frustration factor comes down to a little self-awareness. Do you complete certain tasks grudgingly? Are there recurring responsibilities that you put off and put off and put off until absolutely the last minute? Do you have to push yourself to get them done with several pep talks? If a regular task is causing you grief or if it feels like you’re “going to the trouble” to get it done every time, that’s a big flag to consider properly delegating or looking to an automation.

If you feel resentful toward a task, or even hateful of sitting down to do it, it’s probably time to get that task off your plate.

Expert tip: Remember that toxic tasks can weigh down your employees, too. While delegating can serve as a short-term solution, an automation is often the better way to go for repetitive tasks with a high frustration curve.

A final pointer regarding these three factors:

While any one of these factors can illustrate what tasks can be automated, sometimes it’s the sum of all three that point you in the right direction. Imagine an equation: Total Time plus Energy plus Trouble. Label each factor as “high,” “medium” or “low,” and you will feel that much more empowered to invest a little time upfront to move to an automation that will save you time and boost morale in the end.

Questions to Ask if You’re Still not Sure

Automating tasks sounds great. But doing so often require time you feel you don’t have just to get a new system up and running!

If you’re thinking about a specific task and still aren’t sure, or need a few more reasons to justify the time or budget invested in making the switch, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If you delegated this task instead of automating it, would it be a headache for the person taking it on?
  2. Is the task prone to human error? (Great examples would be bookkeeping and setting appointments.)
  3. Could automating the task improve the quality of work?
  4. Do you know others who have implemented this kind of solution before?

(Expert tip: Making time for a single conversation with a peer or consultant can save you hours of googling, deciphering software features and price-comparing.)

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, that’s a strong indicator that automation could save you time, money and strife.

Looking Toward the Future

Instead of living with frustration or feeling the burnout bubble up, make a move now to automate recurring tasks in a way that is intentional and well planned. These moves will pay off not only in time and energy savings, but also in opening up opportunities to scale your operations. The sooner you have automations in place, the more seamless your ramp to growing your business will be.

Automations often require new software and subscriptions, so weigh these expenses with the benefits these solutions bring and move decisively. If there’s one epiphany that business owners come to time and time again, it’s that we can’t do it all.

Start a time log today to look for tasks begging for automation, or drop a comment here if you already have one on your mind. I’ll reply directly with tips and will be available to point you in the direction of solutions that can help you survive today and scale tomorrow, like the new self-paced online course DuplicateU that will start by working through this exercise. Learn about new automations today to set your business up for a self-sustaining future with lower stress and bigger returns.

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

As a business owner, one of the most important things you do is delegate. After hiring the right people and setting standards for each role, you’ll be faced with new opportunities on a daily basis to delegate tasks and projects, and help employees move to new heights in performance and skill.

It’s satisfying to see an employee grow. So how do you know when someone is ready to take on more responsibility?

One of the first signs that an employee is fully invested in your company (and ready to take more responsibility) is when his or her vocabulary shifts from “mine” and “yours” to “ours.” It’s not just about the employee’s success, and it’s not just about the success of the company. It’s about “our” success together.

This sounds great, especially with that goal in the back of your mind to get to a place where you can let go of the day-to-day and watch your business run itself. You want your hard work to pay off in a self-sustaining way. The specifics of “when” and “how” come down to human resources and recognizing when an employee’s growing skillset can mean bigger opportunity for your business.

Here, I’m going to break down how to identify when an employee is ready to take on more responsibility and carry your business forward.

When an Employee is Ready and Knows it

An employee who is ready for more responsibility and shows it

There are employees who are hungry for more responsibility and make it known to you and your team.

Naturally, any employee you’re considering handing new responsibilities off to will have excelled in meeting his or her current accountabilities. Take a look at any energetic or ambitious employee against the key performance indicators (KPIs) you have in place to ensure that existing tasks are being completed consistently and correctly.

Then look at the telltale signs below that signal an employee is ready to take on even more:

  • Ingenuity: If an employee actively looks for solutions to problems, this demonstrates a drive to exceed expectations, play to the success of the business and ultimately take on more responsibility.
  • Prioritization: Taking on new tasks requires excellent time management practices. In the face of new responsibilities, an employee has to know how to stay on top of current duties and work new ones in while keeping priorities clearly outlined.
  • Managing deadlines: Hand-in-hand with prioritization is the employee’s ability to watch deadlines and take charge of follow-up. Meeting deadlines, and proactivity communicating when a deadline may not be met, are key practices that become more essential when the employee’s plate is even fuller.

When an Employee is Ready and Doesn’t Know it—Yet

An employee who is ready for more responsibility but doesn't know it yet

Maybe you have an employee who’s showing signs that he or she is ready for more responsibility, but lacks the spark to ask for additional tasks proactively. In this case, get curious and speak with the employee about what’s going on. It’s possible he or she has a concern about biting off more and being successful, or simply isn’t aware that there are additional ways he or she could bring value to the organization.

It’s your job to see the possibilities for this employee’s skillsets and strengths and match them with organizational needs.

These are some of the signs that an employee is ready for more responsibility, whether or not he or she knows it:

  • Excelling in existing responsibilities: This is the basic metric when thinking about handing off more assignments or tasks. If your employee is excelling in tasks on his or her plate now, it may be time to start building that employee up to bigger things.
  • Strong performance reviews: If your recent reviews of the employee outline strong adherence to KPIs, that’s one sign that he or she is ready for more. And if your reviews include any type of self-assessment where the employee has shown confidence in work done, that’s an even bigger push to start giving that employee more to do.
  • Acting as the go-to: If other teammates are reaching out to this employee for help with technical or theoretical questions, and he or she has the answers, this may signal that the employee is ready to take on more.

    Expert tip: If other employees are going to one person with questions, this also signals an opportunity in your training program. Make sure team members are cross-trained and have access to the information they need to do their job well.

Align Appropriate Rewards

When an employee takes on more responsibility, consider what type of recognition is most appropriate. If the employee is up for a promotion or raise, celebrate the hard work that went into it. And if you hadn’t thought about a promotion or a raise yet, ask yourself what that employee would need to demonstrate in order for a promotion or raise to be appropriate, and share the criteria with him or her to build up that employee’s momentum.

That said, a raise isn’t the only way to show an employee your appreciation. You can also recognize your employee (and encourage the same behaviors from the rest of your team) using one of several reward approaches. Handing more responsibility to an ambitious and resourceful employee will be good for you, good for the employee and good for your team if done right.

Once you do identify an employee who is ready for more responsibility, the art of delegating is another practice you’ll want to master. And coupled with the recognition and rewards that will keep employees motivated in their new tasks, you and your team will be on the path to bigger things.

Do you have a specific case to ask about? Or an employee who’s shown some of these signs, but not others? Leave me a comment below with your question, or reach out here.

5 Steps To Train Staff To Work To Your Standards

5 Steps To Train Staff To Work To Your Standards

When applying for a new job or considering a job offer, “opportunity for growth” is the second most important thing people look for—right after salary.

When looking at the millennial audience, in particular, a whopping 46% of survey respondents said they left their last job for growth potential.

The point here is that your employees actually want to work to your standards. They want to learn and grow. They want to be engaged, and they want to get more involved over time.

You would think that this hunger to grow means that each new hire will, thus, always be ready to work and work hard—and even up to your own standards.

And yet, there’s a disconnect somewhere along the way. New hires choose to work with you, having measured what room there is to grow. So, why aren’t they growing? How can you motivate staff to work consistently to your standards? Where’s that hunger gone?

The short answer is: training. You have to train your staff correctly in order to work to your standards, or that expectation will never be met.

The long answer brings us to these 5 essential steps.

1. Know Your Standards

A funny thing happens when we communicate. Whether it’s a conversation, an email, or a job description, we have a very clear idea in our heads of what it is we want to transmit.

But then the receiving side doesn’t always picture what we had in mind.

If you want your staff to work to your standards, you must explicitly outline those standards. Start with a little soul searching to find the words, and take notes: what standards do you hold yourself to? What inspires you to meet those standards?

This exercise is a necessary starting point. Anything we feel or expect in life that’s even a little abstract only takes form when we put words to it. It’s how we catalogue our world. So, take a few minutes, close the door to your office and write out what standards you have. Get specific, and include the “why” and other motivators behind each one.

2. Communicate Your Standards

Now, you’ve done the soul searching. You’ve spelled out your standards, where they come from, and what they mean to you.

Next, ensure you have the right language and channels in place to communicate those standards.

When it comes to training staff, you need to have role-by-role key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, communicated openly to each employee. Your KPIs, when clearly identified for each staff member, can help you quantify and qualify those standards you want to train staff to work to.

To measure staff properly on your key standards using KPIs, harken back to the goals and motivations behind those standards. KPIs have to be as objectively measurable as possible, or you risk opening the floodgates of inconsistency that can undo your “standards metrics” altogether.

For example, let’s say it’s your standard to “go the extra mile” for clients. What does that mean? How do you measure it? That could mean a KPI of client retention, or of clients contacted just to “check in” during a given week.

3. Streamline Training

What a buzzword—streamline. What does that mean, “streamline training?”

Streamlining anything means locking in a system to make it happen. This includes an outline of what the process needs to achieve, the steps to get there, and the accountabilities to make those steps easy to follow for all players involved.

In training your staff to work to your standards, your system starts with those same KPIs we just talked about. What training does an employee need to meet all those metrics?

Now, list that training out.

Next, ask yourself, how much time will that training take? Just like you need to schedule in when you check email during the day (and how much time you plan to reply to messages), you need to put real numbers on how much training can be done with your staff and in what frame of time.

Last, and equally important, you have to gather the resources you’ll need for each part of training. For example, if you’re training a client service rep, do you have all needed training documents and tools in one place? Lead sheets? Call scripts? CRM training docs?

This is where most companies’ training stops. If you really want your staff to work to your standards, let’s see what comes next.

4. Offer More Training And Ask For Feedback

One of the standards I’m willing to bet you hold dear is the hunger to continually learn and grow.If you want to support this standard for your staff, the key is offering them opportunities to learn with purpose.

Ongoing training serves two purposes:

  1. It builds staff knowledge and skills
  2. And it keeps staff engaged

Once an employee is trained in and technically knows how to do their job, if you’re at a loss for what other training to offer, there are a couple directions you can go.

First, you can consider adding new responsibilities to offer more training.

Second, you can check in with staff for feedback on what they want to learn. This gives employees a stake in the training they’re about to receive, and emboldens them to view the world through the lens of “what else can I do?”

Share this nugget with your staff, too: asking for advice or training actually makes you look smarter, according to a recent study from the Harvard Business Review. Encourage the company culture where team members know they can come to you (or go to the right person) and ask for more training in order to live up to the standards you’ve set—and even surpass them.

5. Reinforce With Company Culture

This brings us to the hardest part: promoting the same passion you have and getting your staff equally interested in what they’re doing. But how can you get employees to work to your standards, the owner of a business, when it’s not theirbusiness?

For one, make sure you share company successes along with individual successes. You can permit yourself to brag a little if it opens an opportunity to talk about how awesome your business is, along with each of the employees who work there.

Permit me a minute on my soap box. There’s a big difference between confidence and conceit, right? With confidence, you strut and say, “I’m awesome.” But with conceit, you puff your chest out and say, “I’m better than you, and you, and you…”

Most of the time, we want to be confident, but not conceited.

In business, and to create the company culture that will promote standards of excellence, however, a little conceit is a good thing. Tell your brand story and make sure your staff knows the character roles each of them play. If you believe your brand really is better than the competition, how do you back that up?

One of the biggest factors is almost always the team that makes the company up. So make sure your staff knows that.

The right company culture will pay off in many ways. And combined with these other steps, you’ll finally be able to zero-in on that age-old question of how to train staff to work to your standards. If you haven’t already, get out your pen and paper and start with step 1 right now.

Questions? Leave us a comment below!

3 Questions to Create the Future

3 Questions to Create the Future

People might think of running a business as a solo endeavor, but the truth is that none of us can do it alone. In order to make a big impact in or contribution to the world, we need to share our vision with others, inspiring and motivating them to join us. This is leadership: creating a shared future together and working to implement it. And all of that happens in communication.

After returning from the Institute for Generative Leadership’s Foundations Workshop, the essence of leadership has never been clearer to me. While the program is truly an immersive experience, and one that I highly recommend business owners and leadership teams attend, I had a few key takeaways that I want you to start benefiting from now. So here are my thoughts distilled into three key questions for your team to ask every day to create strong communication and therefore greater business success:

1. What do we care about?

What we care about as individuals shapes every aspect of our life and work. When we’re connected with what we care about, we have value, meaning and satisfaction in our lives. When we don’t, we feel unfulfilled, unsatisfied and unhappy.

Similarly, every business owner gets into business to take care of something, to solve some need we identified in the world, and to do it our way. When we live and work in alignment with that care, things click and make sense, and we’re able to find flow. When we are surrounded by team members whose care is in line with ours and see them contributing to it, we flourish.

Yet so often, we’re distracted or cut off from our care. We bring team members into our organizations without clearly articulating our care or taking the time to understand theirs. Or we post our care on walls and in notebooks without living it day in and day out. The result is breakdown and burnout.

Define your care and keep it front and center every day. Don’t merely state it. Live it.

2. What shared language and understanding do we need?

Everyday we throw around words like “customer satisfaction,” “revenue” and “team.” Business conversations and meetings focus on the “how” around these ideas. How to increase customer satisfaction. How to bring in more revenue. How to build a team. But what if I have a different definition of what customer satisfaction is than you do? How can we possibly get on the same page when our language is not aligned?

We often make the unconscious assumption that others see the world how we do, because our history and our stories are so close to us. We fail to realize that there are other histories and other stories that shape the way those around us see the world — and the way they define words.

Generate a shared understanding of what words mean. Ask “what” before “how.”

3. What are our standards?

When standards are assumed and not spoken, it’s the same as asking other people to be mind readers. It’s simply unfair and unrealistic. When we assume that someone understands what we’ve never stated, we can bet that communication will break down. That in turn generates waste, dissatisfaction and distrust.

Our teams make many promises every day – to team members, promises to customers and vendors. In order for these promises to be trustworthy and shape the right action, we need to ensure that our standards mean the same thing to everyone on the team.

Clearly define and articulate your standards.

All of these questions manifest themselves in communication – the conversations we have, and the conversations that are missing. With alignment on care, a shared language to use in expressing that care, and commitment to standards, you have a “we” orientation from which to create the future together, one small step at a time.

Could your business use guidance in how to build better communication that drives success? Contact Kleriti Business Solutions today. We’ll help ensure that your team members have a shared understanding of future goals and how to reach them.

Make Q4 Count: 4 Plans to Jumpstart Your Company’s Year Ahead

Make Q4 Count: 4 Plans to Jumpstart Your Company’s Year Ahead

How was your year? Of course, we still have a few months left. But it’s important to start reviewing what worked, what didn’t work, and why not, so that you can hit the ground running once January arrives.

Q4 is the perfect time to plan. And no matter what stage your business is at, these four essential plans are key to achieving your business goals and growing in the year ahead.

Operations Plan

An operations plan covers all of the things that are necessary to the day-to-day life of your business. They’re so necessary, in fact, that they might seem obvious to you. But writing them down helps you plan in advance, making sure that you have what you need before you need it.

Questions to get you started:

  1. What do we need physically to get things done? (e.g., location, equipment)
  2. What goals aren’t we achieving? How can we achieve them every day?
  3. Which processes are inefficient or ineffective and need to be improved?
  4. What kind of budget do we need to implement our operations plan?

Personnel Plan

A business is only as good as its people. Having a personnel plan in place ensures that you assemble the best team for your business. And if you already have an amazing team in place, knowing how you will support their development in the coming year is invaluable.

Questions to get you started:

  1. What kind of team do we need to achieve our goals? What roles need to be filled and what do ideal employees bring to the company (education, background, skills, etc.)?
  2. How can we further develop our current talent?
  3. How do we recruit, onboard and train new employees? How can that be improved?
  4. What do employees need from us when they start?
  5. What kind of budget do we need to effectively recruit, onboard and retain star players?

Marketing/Sales Plan

We’ve talked a bit about sales in the past. Finding, qualifying and onboarding the right customers is just as important as finding, qualifying and onboarding the right employees. Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand, so it’s a good idea to plan for them together.

Questions to get you started:

  1. Who is our target market?
  2. What is our unique selling proposition?
  3. What’s the current ROI on our marketing activities? How do we want that to change?
  4. Are our services and prices fair and meeting the needs of our target market? How are we communicating that?
  5. How can we generate qualified leads that result in sales?
  6. What kind of budget do we need to achieve our sales and marketing goals?

Financial Plan

You might have noticed that each of the above sections ends with identifying a budget. Finances are important, and if you identify your company’s financial needs early on, it will help you invest in and take action on each of the plans you’ve created.

Questions to get you started:

  1. What’s the profitability of our clients, service lines, etc.?
  2. What are our monthly financial projections, based on anticipated income and expenses?
  3. What’s the most optimistic financial scenario?
  4. What’s the most pessimistic financial scenario?
  5. What’s the most realistic financial scenario?
  6. What are our financing needs for the year and how can we work toward achieving them?

Does your business struggle to create actionable plans that your team will follow through on? Contact Kleriti Business Solutions today. We’ll help get you on your way to your most successful year yet!

Stop Spinning Your Wheels: Implement Your Strategy and See Real Change

Stop Spinning Your Wheels: Implement Your Strategy and See Real Change

There are two steps to achieve a goal: plan and execute. Yet so often, businesses get stuck in planning mode and never move into action.

This is exactly what happened for years with a new Kleriti client. During a recent strategic planning session with them, members of the leadership team told me how they never gain traction or make progress because they’re stuck spinning their wheels talking about what they should do. This lack of execution paralyzes them, holding them back from realizing success.

For your business to get where you want it to go, both parts of the goal-achievement equation must be in play. In fact, entrepreneur and author Tim Berry goes so far as to argue that, “Good business planning is nine parts execution for every one part strategy.” Without the action, the words — and planning — don’t count for much. They certainly won’t get you to increased profit, a powerhouse team or more efficient workflows.

Overcome this stall-out and translate your strategy into action to realize positive change with these 5 practices.

Determine The Decision-Making Process

Lack of clarity on who is empowered to make which decisions is a quick way to hit a wall when it comes to execution. Decide how decisions will be made up front and by whom, to save your team time, confusion and even contentious debates as you implement the plan. How you handle decision-making will be influenced by your company’s culture. For example, if you encourage employees to share their opinions, you may include them in a vote. If you hold decisions closer to the vest, your leadership may come to consensus and communicate decisions downward.

Establish Deadlines And Responsibility

As you outline who makes the decisions, also decide on other key aspects of each person’s role in the strategy’s implementation. Clearly communicate to every relevant party what you expect from them, and by when. Your team can best implement the strategy when they have complete clarity about what they’re responsible for.

Define 90-Day Milestones

Delaying tasks until it’s absolutely necessary to do them is human nature. Research shows that up to 20 percent of people are chronic procrastinators. So it stands to reason that team members will wait until the deadline is staring them in the face to complete a task. Break your plan into chunks with milestones every 90 days, and to dos every week. This allows you to focus on smaller, immediate steps and to feel the motivation and satisfaction of making continual progress.

Hold Regular Check-Ins

Keep your team (even the procrastinators!) on track with ongoing check-ins. We suggest structured weekly meetings — one for leadership and one for each team or work unit. This drives appropriate focus at all levels of the organization. Confirm whether the previous week’s to dos were completed or not, and allow team members to share the issues facing them. That way you can overcome challenges and continue moving forward.

Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

It’s easy to become distracted by a new idea or change in direction. Avoid this tendency like the plague, and keep your eye on the ball. Don’t allow anything else to come into the plan unless it passes the litmus test of aligning with your company’s vision and mission, and supporting the goals you’ve set. And if you do opt to add something, take something else out to help keep your team and the action they’re taking on track and manageable.

Does your company struggle to translate your strategy into action? Contact Kleriti Business Solutions to get you moving. Our consultants will partner with you to break the trend and realize execution momentum like never before.