Automate, automate, automate

tiny thoughts Jan 01, 2022

“If I did this two years ago, I’d probably save myself a month of work in total.” This is the kind of realisation that physically hurts, and it’s only marginally less painful for me to hear it.

This quote is not mine, but it could be. I’ve done this many times too. Manually doing something for hours because I couldn’t (or – let’s face it – wouldn’t) make time to figure out how to automate it, or at least do it more efficiently.

The thinking in these situations tends to take the following path: “this will take me two hours to do manually, but I don’t know how to automate it, or do it in a better way, so it may take even longer to figure out, and maybe I won’t figure it out at all, in which case I’ve just spent even more hours trying to figure it out, and now I still have to spend those two hours doing it manually, only now I am also pissed off and frustrated and feeling like an idiot… so I’d rather just do it manually right away.”

But then, of course, the task repeats itself, as they always do in business operations. Those little bastards. Invoices will need to be generated, again. You will need to figure out how much stock you have, again. You will need to let your warehouse know what to ship and who it’s going to, again. And again, and again and again.

Those two hours you spent on doing this manually? If it needs to be done every week, that’s 104 hours every year. If it needs to be done every day, that’s 730 hours, or one whole month (without weekends or sleeping). Spending the time learning how to automate something doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

You can even put a figure on this time wastage. If your employee Oliver currently does this 730 hours-per-year task manually and he costs the business £30K per year in salary and other things, then automating this task would save you about £12K per year. And it would allow Oliver to do other things that both add value to the company and are more fun, as let’s be honest, he probably hates doing this manual stuff anyway. (And no, the solution is not to fire Oliver.)

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to automate things that you do for an hour once a year. Always think total hours spent automating versus total hours spent doing the thing annually.

Sometimes, the automation will need to be sophisticated. Maybe you’ll need a new tech tool, in which case you need to consider the cost of that as well. In other cases, it could be nothing more than figuring out a fancy-ish Excel formula that recalculates your stock correctly whenever you refresh the data, as was actually the case of the founder quoted at the beginning.

Have a look at the tasks you and your team do regularly. How much time is currently spent annually on each of those tasks? What’s the cost of that time? Which of the most costly ones can be most easily automated? Start there.

Love and cash flow,


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