3 Important Workflow Management Tips for Small Businesses

Date: Dec 18, 2014 8:34:00 AM

When people hear words like "workflow management," their brains often shut down, as if this phrase is the equivalent of other troubling phrases like "coffee machine broken" or "tax season again."

Here's the thing: workflow management is supposed to make our lives easier, especially for those of us in small business. While it might sound like jargon and seem overwhelming (at first), workflow management, when done right, can dramatically…

  • Increase efficiency

  • Decrease costs

  • Reduce redundancies 

That all sounds pretty good, right? So let's discuss three important workflow management tips that make sense for small businesses.

1. Automate as much as you can.

Automation is a small business's best friend. It can help streamline processes and eliminate the need for employees to perform tedious, mundane, or even time-sensitive tasks. Instead, employees can focus on doing things machines and software can't do, like being brilliantly creative or delighting customers with that human touch.

But what do we mean by "automate as much as you can"? Let's talk about something that we at Fanhub understand well: CRM (customer relationship management). The best kind of CRM software will be nimble, easy to customize, and built so you can automate specific tasks.

For example, you could set up your CRM so that every time a prospect closes and officially becomes a customer, the CRM "triggers" a bunch of actions, such as…

  • The billing department receives notification about the new customer so it can prepare an invoice.

  • The manager of new accounts receives word about the deal so that she can onboard the customer.

  • The marketing team is alerted to put the customer into marketing campaigns geared towards current customers, as opposed to prospects.

  • Even the president of the company could be notified so that he could personally reach out to the new customer and thank her for the business.

All of these tasks could be automated—no need to send emails or reminders. See how it can make life easier? 

And it's not just CRMs, either. When it comes to automation, consider every aspect of your business. You can automate prospect lead nurturing. You can automate the type of content your website shows—and to whom. You can automate payroll systems. You can automate purchases for your business. You can automate renewals (such as your domain name). You can even "automate" the answers to frequently asked questions by compiling approved answers to FAQs and having them in one document that everyone can access. Next time someone calls or emails with a question, the person only needs to pull up the answer and paste it in an email (or read it over the phone). You get the idea.

Suddenly workflow management sounds a lot better, even sexy, thanks to this awesome accessory known as automation, doesn't it?

2. Get cozy in the cloud.

More and more businesses are embracing and fostering collaborative work environments for many reasons: collaboration helps break down the "silo mentality," it encourages teamwork, and it's something younger generations, such as Millennials, expect to find in the workplace.

But collaboration requires access: access to fellow team members, to projects, to files, and so forth. And this is why it's important to take workflow management to the cloud.

By having everything—like your CRM and shared folders—living in the cloud, you ensure your people have access to what they need, when they need it. The same is true when it comes to engaging with team members: part of your workflow management plan should include how employees communicate with one another (this is especially important if you have virtual teams). IM, video chats, texting, social media—all of these things can play into how employees talk to one another and, ultimately, how people manage and complete their work.

3. Pay attention to apps for small businesses.

Apps aren't just fun things (like Candy Crush!) that we download to our phones and tablets. The best apps should also make our personal lives and work lives easier.

Going back to the CRM example, make sure the CRM you choose has a smartphone app so that employees can easily access the CRM when they're on the go or out of the office.

When it comes to apps, you should think beyond CRM as well. For example, maybe you have trouble managing all your receipts. Maybe you do a lot of travel and wish there was an easy way to view and manage itineraries. Maybe you conduct tons of transactions in the field and need some sort of portable credit/debit card reader. Well, guess what? Apps exist for ALL those things.

Wondering where to find all these awesome apps? Check out tech and business-related publications and blogs. Nerd Wallet Finance has a great article called "20 Apps for Small Business Owners." And Entrepreneur magazine serves up an informative article with its piece "14 Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs in 2014." And, of course, ask your colleagues and employees for recommendations as well.

What do you think? What other workflow management tips can you offer small businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments below or with us on twitter with #CRMTips.

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