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Our Chief Problem Solver, Kelly Goss recently joined Shelley and Jo on the Virtually Amazing podcast to talk about the advantage of automation and how it can help businesses.  They also discussed how automation skills can be used by VAs to broaden their service offerings, help clients and increase income. 

They started by talking about how Kelly got to where she is today, having run her own business and nearly burned out by the hats she was wearing and the hours she worked.  Zapier was a game-changer for Kelly and led to where she is now, helping other businesses save time and make more money.

 

Kelly is a certified Zapier expert

Kelly is rightly proud to be one of very few women on the Zapier Experts Directory.  To achieve this ‘expert’ status you have to undergo a series of tests to demonstrate your knowledge to be granted certification.  To be on the directory is a particularly great achievement since Zapier recently reduced the number of expert listings by 75%.  They have also introduced reviews so you can read about each expert and their feedback.

 

Should you outsource your automation?

Nobody knows your business processes as well as the people who actually do the job, so it makes sense to review and document them in-house.  Staff will know where the holes are in the workflow, and also which steps are repeated unnecessarily.  Just taking this step could identify improvements before even thinking about automation.

Once the processes are documented and streamlined you can think about automating them.  The great thing about tools like Zapier is that they are no-code solutions.  You don’t need to be a developer or programmer to build powerful integrations between the software tools you use on a daily basis.  Investing a little time in learning how to use Zapier is time well spent as it means you can automate your processes yourself.

However, using a Zapier Certified Expert like Kelly is ideal for some businesses as it means they can get help in doing the work.  Once she has reviewed the processes and set up automations, the business can take over and maintain them, and use their new knowledge to configure more zaps in the future.

 

Which processes are most frequently automated?

Businesses tend to address their biggest pain points first, which can vary depending on each individual company. 

You can use Zapier to automate EVERY process in your business if the software has a pre-built integration.  Most modern software tools do, and there are over 3000 apps that integrate with Zapier currently.  But even if you use applications that don’t, then you could engage someone who is familiar with webhooks to connect their API with Zapier. 

This includes processes in every part of your business, including Marketing, Sales, Operations, and Finance.

 

When is automating NOT the solution?

There are some tasks that need a human touch, whether it’s directly engaging with customers or maybe developing new business connections.  Although these tasks will never be replaced with automations, there are still aspects of these roles which would benefit from integrations.  Automatic email sequences can be set up to nurture relationships, whether it’s with new leads or customers, but this can’t replace the personal touchpoint of a telephone call.  SMS is a great way of reminding people about appointments, and although you can’t write social media content automatically, you can certainly schedule it using tools like Zapier. 

Will staff resist the idea of automation?

It’s important that your team embraces the introduction of automation to the business, and you should emphasise that it doesn’t mean they will lose their jobs.  Quite the opposite, as it will free up time to do the more interesting parts of their role without needing to think about the daily drudge of boring manual tasks.  This, in turn, helps enormously with staff retention and morale, as they are more likely to stick around if they are enjoying their job.  Less recruitment effort means that you’ll save time and money too!

 

What opportunities are there for VAs using automation?

Not only will automations streamline VA tasks, but there is a huge gap in the market for systems/ process improvement and automation expertise.  VAs could generate extra income by offering process streamlining and automation skills to their portfolio of services.

The VA is usually the first person a business owner will turn to when they need help, so if the VA provides the required service themselves then it’s extra income and a continuation of the relationship with their client.  They can clearly demonstrate how an upfront investment in the VA’s time will deliver specific results and ROI, in terms of time savings and a more streamlined business.

We strongly believe in continuous improvement and if the VA can be at the heart of that then it’s a win/win situation for them AND their client.

 

How does a VA learn about automation?

The best way for a VA to learn about automation is to do it in their own business first.  Take time to understand how your processes work and then make a list of your top 5 pain points, the most time-consuming workflows you have.  Then pick one and make sure you understand the process, which doesn’t necessarily have to be by mapping it out in fancy workflow diagrams or flowcharts.   You can simply write a checklist of the steps, or draw boxes on a whiteboard to represent each stage.  It’s important to get your whole team involved, if you work with other VAs, to ensure everyone’s view of the process is included.  It’s a great opportunity to standardise workflows too, to make sure everyone does things the same way.

Next, identify any steps which are unnecessary, to streamline the process.  Then identify the tools you’re using, particularly any which are duplicating things.  We often use tools for things that they aren’t designed for, which isn’t in itself an issue but this is an ideal time to take stock and audit the applications you use in your business.   Then identify which of the tools can be connected ‘natively’, without a third party like Zapier.  For example, Dubsado connects with Zoom and sets up video calls for new appointments without using Zapier.  Then, once you’ve addressed the native integrations, have a go at automating the rest using Zapier or a similar tool.

It’s really important to then go back and review your processes regularly, to adopt a continuous improvement mindset. 

 

Find out more

If this has inspired you to learn more about Zapier then we can help!  You can sign up for Zapier’s free version to get started, and then check out our FREE resources below:

Kelly has also written a new book where you can learn all about processes and automation using Zapier, which you can pre-order here.

And finally, if you’re really keen to understand the advantage of automation and get ahead of competitors then we will be offering a training course later in the year.  You can join the wait list below:

 

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

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