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.