As you likely already know, heading a small business means you must squeeze the greatest possible level of productivity out of every second. Every passing moment has a direct impact on the success of your company, so you can’t rely on time-consuming, borderline archaic methods of doing business. This is particularly true when you work in the lawn care industry, as the vast majority of your day is spent tending the gardens of clients, leaving you with minimal time for desk work.
In this article, we’re going to be examining business process automation and why it may be able to give your lawn care business the last little push it needs for explosive business growth.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation (BPA) utilizes modern technology and software systems to standardize recurring tasks, thereby streamlining your operations. A properly applied BPA approach will record and manage data while reducing the amount of time you and your employees must spend on tasks that do not necessarily require constant human supervision. When you introduce BPA to the day-to-day running of your company, you will likely see a significant decrease in operational costs, which will allow you to either cut back on expenditure altogether or to reallocate funds to other areas of the business.
As well as saving you time and money, a business process automation plan will allow you to establish a uniform way of doing business so that you and your employees will be prepared to tackle each situation as it arises. With standard operating procedures governing most, if not all, daily tasks, members of your staff will always know how they are expected to perform and behave, whether they are tending to a flower bed in a client’s backyard or answering the company phone to greet a potential customer.
Formulating an all-encompassing game plan can be tedious, but once completed it may prove to be the difference between being the second most popular lawn care business in town and being the undisputed champion of your neighborhood’s gardening industry.
What areas of my lawn care business can be automated?
When researching the possibility of using business process automation to reshape your lawn care business, you should take some time to consider the various areas of your company and how each one is performing in its current state. Business process automation can be used to enhance the productivity of nearly all subsections of the average lawn care company, but some areas may have more to gain from it than others. Below, you will find some of the areas of your lawn care business that would most benefit from automation.
As a lawn care professional, you will spend much of your time out of the office and working in clients’ backyards, which means you won’t always be available to answer the phone to potential customers. For that reason, it is essential to establish some sort of system by which those who wish to make inquiries about your services can do so.
If you have the room in your budget, you can hire a secretary to work either part-time or full-time to make and take calls on your behalf. If you choose to go this route, it is important to remember that this person will be representing you and your company to the rest of the world, so you must take the time to prepare a detailed series of instructions for them to follow to ensure they interact with callers in a professional manner. We recommend creating a digital file of tips and guidelines for those working in your administration department that can be passed on from departing members of staff to incoming members of staff, thereby reducing the time you must spend training new employees.
If you want to take your administration department in a more minimalist direction, you could outsource your calls to an automated phone answering system or virtual receptionist. While this is similar to enlisting the help of a secretary, it won’t cost you quite as much money and the pressure of having to keep an extra employee happy and motivated won’t be there.
Be it a multi-billion dollar organization like McDonald’s or the local pizza place that caters almost exclusively to drunken revelers every Saturday night, a business is only as strong as its public relations department. In a time when almost every company has some sort of online presence, ensuring your customers are interacted with over social media is crucial to the growth of your lawn care business, so you should create some kind of system to help you stay on top of it.
Once you have created a Facebook page for your lawn care business, you can expect a significant percentage of your potential clients to contact you over the website’s messaging system. If you don’t have somebody to constantly monitor your page, you should craft an automated reply to be sent to every Facebook user who contacts you, informing them that you are currently away on a job and will respond to their message as soon as you are back in the office. Your automated message should also include your typical office hours, as well as an email address and phone number, so all potential clients know that there are multiple means of contacting you if the matter is urgent.
Conducting marketing campaigns and communications over Facebook, as opposed to more traditional platforms, will allow you to track the popularity of your lawn care business in real time. If you decide to pursue paid promotion through the site, you will receive constant updates as to how your advertisement is performing among particular demographics, which will allow you to make alterations mid-campaign at no extra cost. Similarly, Facebook’s page monitoring software will make available comprehensive graphs detailing page visitors, likes, and shares, eliminating the need for paid surveys and research to determine how your small business is being perceived by the public.
Proper management of accounts is crucial to the survival of any organization and your lawn care business is no different. If you fail to stay on top of invoices, bills, and salaries, you’re going to drive your company into bankruptcy and leave both you and your employees without an income. Your accounts department will require some degree of human attention in order to keep everything running smoothly, but humans are just that and are prone to making mistakes, so you should try to incorporate BPA into all areas of the accounting process.
To lower the risk of miscalculations and unaccounted for earnings, we recommend introducing a financial management system to help modernize and simplify the bookkeeping side of your business. There are plenty of financial management systems to choose from, some covering the bare minimum and some promising to streamline all aspects of your accounting department.
Quality accounting software will keep track of all transactions between you and your customers while monitoring credit card activity and sending reminders to clients with outstanding fees. Of course, the best lawn care business software will offer accounting functions as part of the overall package along with many other useful elements. With a robust financial management system in place, you will be able to easily keep track of finances in real time and see if you are spending or saving each month, which will allow you to identify areas in which your business is underperforming so you can plan your next budget accordingly.
Internal communication is integral to the growth and development of any business. Most major organizations have some sort of tried and tested system in place to ensure clear and timely communication between employees. However, internal communication is an area in which small businesses tend to fall short of the mark. Having a small staff does make it easier for employees to communicate, share files, and seek advice, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to establish a standard method of interaction within your lawn care company.
Something as informal as a Facebook group chat can significantly reduce the hassle of contacting a colleague who is out of the office and could even cut the time spent waiting for a response in half. However, if you wish to employ a more sophisticated internal communications system, you can introduce a standard layout for documents and emails to ensure each member of staff knows exactly how to go about formulating a memo when important information must be shared. Employers with a larger workforce and office may also want to consider utilizing television screens to share important information with employees as they pass through the reception area.
The four phases of business process automation
The introduction of a business process automation project will likely turn your company and the way you conduct business on its head, so it demands a meticulous approach and careful research before any sort of plan is implemented. Below, we have outlined the four phases of business process automation to ensure your operations can continue relatively uninterrupted while your BPA plan is being formulated and introduced.
The first phase of the BPA process should be spent carefully examining each area of your lawn care business in order to determine which have the most to gain from the implementation of a BPA plan. During this period, you should research the various business process automation systems available to each portion of your company and consult with other small business owners who have used them to figure out which of the possible options, if any, are most suited to your needs and the needs of your employees. It may also be worth enlisting the help of a business planner during this phase as an expert eye will likely be able to provide some valuable insight and pinpoint flaws in your infrastructure that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Once you have identified which areas of your lawn care business would most benefit from the introduction of a business process automation plan, you can begin installing the new technology and eliminating or enhancing any current systems you have in place. Each time you introduce a new apparatus or approach, be sure to document it and share it with your staff. In order to keep your employees enthusiastic about the changes within the company, you should keep them in the loop throughout the implementation phase.
Remember, it’s never too early to start retraining them, as the sooner they master each new piece of technology introduced as part of the BPA project, the sooner normality can return to the office and regular, albeit it updated, business can resume.
Presuming you don’t substitute every system you have in place during the implementation of your business process automation plan, the next phase should see you syncing your new systems with your pre-existing ones to create communication between related programs and applications, thereby maximizing the efficiency of all BPA software.
The implementation and integration of your business process automation project is only half the battle. In order to ensure your systems continue to be effective and produce the desired results, you must constantly inspect them and update them when necessary. After three months or so of doing business as outlined in your new standard operating procedure, you should be able to identify any points that seemed like a good idea on paper but weren’t adequately executed during the initial installation process.
As a lawn care professional, you rely on chainsaws, lawn mowers and leaf blowers to provide your clients with a quality service, but modern technology can help you just as much in the office as it can in a customer’s backyard. When you implement a well-thought-out business process automation plan, you reduce the workload of each of your employees, which ultimately gives them extra time to focus on more important tasks that will grow your lawn care business rather than simply sustain it.
So, take the time to further study the concept of business process automation and research the various systems that could help streamline your business and increase your productivity; you owe it to yourself, your employees, and, most of all, your customers.