Yes, I love weddings. But I also love running a business. Like, really love it.
I’m Leah, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events, an event planning company based in New York City. I started my business in 2013 with just a handful of clients, and have managed to grow and scale into a reputable events company with a cross-country reach. I did so (and kept my sanity!) by making some strategic business decisions—including systemizing and/or automating certain tasks.
Self-employment is different than owning a business. A business owner has a stake in the company, but delegates many day-to-day operations. Someone who is self-employed both owns the business and acts the primary or sole operator.
According to Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, “The most important thing to remember is that your business is not your life ... the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, while the purpose of your business is to serve your life. When you realize this, you can … begin working on it rather than in it.”
If you consider yourself a business owner, you should have systems and processes in place. Essentially, you should be able to give someone a handbook to run your business just as you would. The E-Myth pushed me to figure out what to implement to make my business a smooth running, scalable machine. I’ve grown passionate about the topic, and want to share my findings, as I believe this can save others incredible time and money, too. Here, I’ve outlined a few topics and frequently asked questions to help guide you through this process.
Should I Be Automating?
When deciding whether to automate, it’s important to realize there’s not one universal solution. Before making this decision, ask these questions:
- How much volume does my business do?
- How busy am I, both inside and outside of my business?
- How new is my business?
- What are my organizational skills like?
- Is my business high touch?
If your business does enough volume to elicit automation, then definitely do it. If you need more work/life balance, automate a few small tasks to have more time outside of the business. If organization isn’t your strength, save yourself a few headaches and invest in a tool. On the other hand, if your business is new or you consider it high touch, less automation (but still having systems and processes) may be better for you.
Which Tasks Should I Systematize or Automate?
To up your workflow and streamline processes, take a look at repetitive tasks. Tackling inquiries, tracking leads, client onboarding, and accounting are all easy to systematize and/or automate.
Incoming Inquiries + Initial Responses + Follow Up
- Direct and respond to all inquiries from a single platform, such as e-mail or a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
- For initial responses, try an auto-responder. If you don’t want to automate, but want to save time, create templates to customize responses.
- Follow up can be automated with a CRM tool, whether it’s a templated response or a ping to let a prospective client know that the proposal is expiring. If you don’t want to automate, at least systematize this process. (For me, that’s a Google calendar reminder every Monday morning at 9am to follow up on my open inquiries.)
- Use a CRM tool or manual application, such as Excel.
- Always have a snapshot of open inquiries, status of follow up, and how people are finding you. Additionally, know how many inquiries you’ve generated to date and why some leads aren’t converting.
- Use a CRM tool to add clients’ details and schedule certain tasks, such as their contract, sending invoices, and important dates (as to not double-book yourself).
Tracking Income and Expenses
- Try an accounting software, such as Go Daddy Bookkeeping, which can link all your business accounts and automatically add every transaction to your income and expense reports.
- Easily automate invoicing through a CRM tool or specific program. If you don’t plan to automate this task, definitely systematize your manual process.
- Set a reminder for a certain date after the wedding. (I have found that an automated request for a review can come off cold.) I recommend only asking for a review once, so automation doesn’t make as much sense here.
In many cases, automation feels like a (literal) no-brainer. Do what feels right for your business, follow your instincts, and remember that it’s a little bit of trial-and-error. If you’re looking to work smarter (not harder), grow and scale, and make sure nothing slips through the cracks, systemization and automation will help you to do just that.