How I automated non-value adding crap in my business

If you want to grow your business, one of the key drivers is your ability to increase value-adding activities that you and your team spend time on while systematising and automating those that have no inherent value.

If it doesn’t increase revenue, decrease costs or amplify user experience (employee or customer) then it is not value adding.

At Buffalo, we do growth. It’s kind of our thing… So when we launched, I set out to automate as much of the non-value adding side of the business as possible.

Here are the principles I applied (and apply with our customers) and how you can start your own automation journey.

Log how you and the team are spending your time

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When’s the last time you looked at how you and the team are spending your time. No, not across the week. HOURLY. Sounds tedious, but this is where the gold lives; in the space between projects.

For us as a business growth consultancy, we wasted tons of time:

  • scheduling meetings
  • tracking projects
  • tracking customer interactions
  • trying to figure out how people were getting to us
  • assessing the value of the work we did

While these are all important, they were time consuming; resulting in more staff to track more things. That’s why I relentlessly sought to (and successfully) automated them.

Assess the value add of those activities

If you want to move the needle after mapping those items, you need to understand what aspect of each drives value. For example, having feedback on our consultants drives continuous improvement, Setting up evaluations, chasing clients for feedback and distributing feedback reports to consultants were all non-value adding aspects of the feedback.

When I sought to automate the non-value adding aspects, I was able to create a space for the team to do more valuable work. In the example above, that meant time previously spent on the non-value items was shifted to instead spending time on leveraging the feedback (rather than collecting it) to drive better customer experiences.

Review existing options (please don’t build your own)

Ah, if I had a dollar for every time a customer said “we should build an app to do that”, I’d be all set for retirement. You do not need to build your app. I’ll say that again:

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A good quality app that solves your problem and you build yourself is going to cost you time, money and wasted opportunity. If you’re company isn’t in that line of business, don’t do it. Instead, look for solutions that do it for you for a fraction of the cost.

When choosing an app, piece of software or low-tech solution:

  1. Be clear on what you really need
  2. Don’t fall in love with possible features that don’t solve the problem
  3. Check for integration with your current systems and workflows (reduce friction)

Test, test, test

Yes, test. TEST. TEST

Please do not roll an app into your workflow and out to customers without testing it. Test internally, then roll out to a small section of customers to test.

Once it works, monitor it.

This also ins’t a Ronco Oven so don’t “Set it and forget it”. You need to check on its performance and optimise regularly. It’ll still be less time than you spent manually and may yield some unexpected benefits.

Constantly look for a better tool

So you’ve scoped it, trialled it and tested it. Awesome.

Now keep your eye open for a better option. You don’t need to do this often, but be conscious of better options as they emerge. We swapped our evaluation tool three times (one I mentioned earlier) in three years and every time it added significantly more value (savings and customer satisfaction) than the previous one had. The upgrade also was done at the right time and wouldn’t have worked if done earlier (the tools weren’t available yet).

Don’t fall in love with the tool; always be on the lookout for something better.

Use the new time wisely

After I did this at Buffalo, it meant the team had more time to focus on the stuff that matters, not the stuff that gets in the way.

BUT, this has to be a conscious choice. It’s easy to fill free time with new non-value adding crap. Be conscious of what new activities you and the team take on and keep optimising where you can. Your business will be amazing for it.

You’ve got this, now make it happen.

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