To Automate or Not to Automate When Starting a Business

starting a business

Entrepreneurs have a lot to consider while in start-up mode. Budget constraints, product development, sales and marketing strategy – these are just a few of the boldest bullet points that cause long workdays and sleepless nights when you’re starting a business.

Determining how to best facilitate and streamline business processes is perhaps one of the greatest points of contention for many entrepreneurs, as they’re attempting to balance the need for direct control with an inability to be everywhere at once.

Does automation make sense for a business that’s just starting out? Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is yes. Whether a mom-inspired bakery or a venture-backed tech firm, there’s a very strong likelihood that at least some portion of your activities can and should be automated.

Here are just a few things to consider before taking the plunge.

Can Your Processes be Automated?

The best processes to automate are those that have a consistent, structured progression that can be clearly defined. If you’re unable to distinctly identify the steps involved in completing a certain process because there are too many exceptions to the norm, advanced workflow automation might alleviate an already volatile activity.

That being said, it’s best to focus on those manual processes with less complexity, such as Accounts Payable processing, customer service support or compliance/quality assurance.  In such circumstances, the process can typically revolve around an “if x then y” rule that allows automation to eliminate the need for human facilitation and errors.

Is the Issue of Scalability Relevant?

If you’re starting a firm that is anticipated to be a high-growth venture, then scalability should be one of your greatest concerns. Don’t waste resources by relying on old-fashioned, human-based processing when there is technology available that can simplify and streamline your activities right from the get go.

Companies that don’t appropriately plan for high-growth can find themselves unable to meet demand when customer inquiries advance quickly.  One of the most condemning experiences for new businesses is their inability to give customers what they want, when they want it simply because they can’t process the requests.

What Processes Can You Automate for the Best ROI?

Everyone knows that one of the most significant benefits of automation is the potential cost-savings. The consequent reductions in time and errors resulting from human processing have been shown to save firms hundred of thousands annually.

That said, before converting every manual process to an automated alternative, start-ups should look at each process individually and consider the current cost for sustainability against the cost of managing an automation alternative. With often limited resources, it’s critical that start-ups identify and begin to automate processes that offer the best net return.

Start-up success is plausible because entrepreneurs gave themselves the opportunity to focus on the aspects of their business that required their individualized attention.  The redundant and structured processes that all organizations encounter are merely holes for consuming resources.

By leveraging business process automation effectively, entrepreneurs can develop strategies that are the very foundation for continued growth and success.

How do you automate processes in your business? Share with us in the comments!

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Jeff Frankel is Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at docStar, a B2B software firm specializing in cloud content management and business process automation. He has more than two decades experience in corporate business development, working with industry-leading firms including Authentidate Holding Corp, Med-Flash, Health Focus of NY, and Ernst & Young. Jeff offers innovative perspectives on streamlining business for improved efficiency and productivity. You can follow Jeff and the docStar team on Twitter, @docstarsoftware.


  1. Will Claxton on the 11th March

    Obviously as the Business Owner/Entrepreneur, you need as much automation as possible. However, automation doesn’t have to be technical at all. Simply put, if you write good enough Standard Operating Procedures, you can employ the use of Virtual Assistants. This would have the effect of ‘automation’ but can be consistently tweaked and improved. If you’re paying top dollar for a company to implement software to automate, it would take longer and cost more to improve. Plus business processes are always changing and you have to adapt quickly… a human can do this, a computer can’t.

    If you’re company is growing, get more staff…. that solves the problem of scalability too!

    Just my 2 cents…

    • Jeff Frankel on the 20th March

      Will, very valid points. That being said, if you carefully analyze your software investment, you’ll likely find the investment to be more cost effective longterm than hiring and training additional staff. Of course it does depend on the process. Our clients have found that routine workflow such as accounts payable processing and QA/Compliance drive greater efficiencies when technology is applied.

  2. Cubicle on the 15th March

    I liked the part on scalability especially. I think scalability has two factors: short and long term. And some of that unfortunately has to play out over time. One of the problems with creating systems right off the bat is that the realities of what you are doing might change or never reach what you have prepared for. Then again, it might surpass the system. So I think a big question with automated processes is can they be molded over time to fit new or changing needs.

    This is a great article to start that thinking process. I think it is all about seeing the big picture and then diving into the areas that need work.

    • Jeff Frankel on the 20th March

      We generally won’t recommend “boiling the ocean”. Focus on accounting, HR and compliance. Regardless of company size or specialty, these 3 area’s tend to be inefficient, paper intensive area’s. Your software investment should scale with the success of your biz.

  3. Paper cup machine on the 25th March

    Jeff…You are right. I myself own a business and stuck with how and why to automate when we are available anytime and every time at office. But later I came to know that automating the business is not to stay in office, it is to concentrate of various other segments to make your business better in all possible ways. Now..I have more than two businesses and they are really good and hence I’m happy to automate and also I strongly believe in the line – leader will create more leaders and I think i’m one of them. Thanks again Jeff.

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