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Every modern business needs to automate these important processes

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) If you’re still handling the majority of your business functions and processes manually, you’re missing out on a chance to grow.

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Automate your biz

We’re living in an era of tremendous innovation. But not only are business technologies rapidly advancing, they’re also extremely cost effective. If you’re still handling the majority of your business functions and processes manually, you’re missing out on a chance to grow.

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There’s something to be said for performing tasks manually, but if you’re attempting to do everything on your own, you probably have an issue with control. You’re worried about what will happen when you step away and aren’t quite sure of how your business will respond. Well, here’s a news flash: The most successful small businesses in the world are automating many different key activities, including the following:

1. Employee Scheduling

“If you’re still scheduling your employees using pen and paper and then calling them individually or making them come into work to learn when they are working, you are living in the past and need to modernize your process,” ShiftPlanning clearly explains.

It may seem like a basic business process, but employee scheduling is extremely important for many companies.

You need to ensure you have the right number of people working at every hour of the day, as well as the right mixture of talent and personalities.

Thankfully, you don’t have to handle this responsibility on your own. You can streamline and automate the entire process with employee scheduling software.

2. Social Media

For small businesses, social media is a big priority. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest allow you to put your brand in front of thousands – even millions of people with the click of the button. But if you’re like most businesses, you don’t have the time or resources to spend 40-plus hours per week working with social media.

Don’t fret, though. Automation is possible in this area as well. In fact, social media automation is a swiftly growing industry that features dozens of reputable tools that can take your business to the top. Here’s a look at a handful of the top ones.

3. Human Relations

Most people don’t realize that you actually automate many different HR tasks with relative ease. While it’s still a good idea to have an HR person on staff (or at least someone who has experience in the area), HR software can reduce much of the burden associated with maintaining a full-blown HR department.

With HR software like Zenefits, Justworks, or Algentis, you can automate tasks like compliance, benefits, insurance, taxes, and payroll – all things that otherwise take up hours of your day. This also lets you move towards a paperless system, saving money and space.

4. Backup and Recovery

If your business has ever experienced data loss, you know how significant and detrimental it can be. However, you’re also aware of how time-consuming it is to manually backup files. It’s easy to forget, space is at a premium, and you aren’t even sure you’re doing it the right way.

This is where automated backup and recovery comes into play.

An automated solution handles the process without any need for manual intervention and ensures your data is waiting for you in the event of a disaster.

How does that sound?

What are you waiting for?

If you aren’t currently automating business processes like these, you’re well behind the curve. Whether you realize it or not, you have access to tremendous tools that allow you to streamline these responsibilities with relative ease.

Take advantage of these opportunities and actively work to push your business forward. It’s the businesses that automate that will excel in the future.

This story was originally featured on November 11, 2016.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Entrepreneur

If you are prone to a ton of meetings and calls, you need Aloe

(ENTREPRENEUR) Aloe is a productivity tool for business people who spend incredible amounts of time in meetings or on calls.

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people who spend tons of time in meetings or on calls

If your average day is packed with calls and meetings, you’ve probably noticed that keeping all those conversations organized is tough, even for a pro like you.

barIf you manage to take detailed notes, it’s almost impossible to navigate them days or weeks later when you need to find a key point.

The dilemma

With all the time you spend in meetings, there’s not much left to actually prepare for any of them. And when critical customers or stakeholders are on the line, you can’t afford to slip up.

That’s where Aloe comes in, a work assistant that specializes in notes and tasks to make calls and meetings run smoother/

While you’re great at what you do, you are just human. Aloe isn’t, it has perfect recall: simply search for a person or company, and the assistant will offer up relevant notes or tasks, provide briefing materials, and locate any related plans confirmed by you or to you.

How it works

Aloe integrates with your Google, Office 365, or Microsoft exchange account and syncs with your email and calendar to learn who you who interact with and track the meetings you attend. When you start a call, just select it from your Aloe diary and start taking notes.

Since sometimes words alone can’t capture key information, Aloe lets you use a camera, microphone, or stylus.

Maybe you want to take photos of whiteboards, projected slides, or paper documents during the call or meeting. You can jump between media types with the click of a button to add richness and context to your notes.

You can then add follow-up tasks such as send a slide deck, setup a free demo account, or provide a price quote, so you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Notes can be sent to both Aloe users and non users straight from your dashboard.

Easy searching

Yeah, creating folders within folders within folders might make you feel like you have your life together, but most of the time you’re just building yourself a labyrinth of labels that even Command F won’t be able to find. With Aloe, there’s no need for hundreds of different folders and file names.

Aloe automatically labels each note using the event invitee’s name from your calendar, then lets you edit the labels whenever you want.

As for those pesky unplanned calls, taking ad-hoc notes is easy–just be sure to include all relevant names in your new note label to make it as easy as possible for Aloe to find.

Aloe helps you stay connected to your network by finding people or companies you’ve previously interacted with, and providing information about new people you meet by scouring various data sources.

Aloe soothes your work schedule

Whether you’re struggling to manage all your meetings and calls or you’re still pretending you aren’t, Aloe can make your work day more chill and more productive.

The tool works on phones, tablets and desktops, because well, so do you.

With Aloe, you won’t spend mornings in the office scrambling to prepare before meetings — you’ll spend them in the kitchen, scrambling eggs and singing show tunes, knowing Aloe’s got your back.

#Aloe

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Business Entrepreneur

7 Facebook groups that all entrepreneurs should join

(ENTREPRENEUR) Building a business is hard to do, especially alone. Check out these seven Facebook communities to keep you encouraged and active.

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Entrepreneur-ing ain’t easy

Being entrepreneurs of any kind if hard. I don’t care if you are running your own esty shop or a start up that will soon take over the world. The only real way to make your little seed of a business grow is to network, ask questions, fail, try again and market the hell out of whatever you are trying to do.

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These are the groups that I found the most valuable with all of the key ingredients for being an entrepreneur. I’ve let you know what they say about their own groups and then I’ve added my thoughts as well.

Coffee With Dan

Theirs: “The nutshell version is that [Coffee With Dan] is a place for entrepreneurs who want to get shit done, have more fun, make more profit all while simply BEING THEMSELVES — without being pitched to left/right/centre, being fed crap about ‘the universe’ and understand the value of DOING THE WORK to GET SHIT DONE”

Mine:
Coffee with Dan has been mentioned on multiple sites for many years as one of the top groups to join if you are an entrepreneur. As you can see in their mission statement “The nutshell version is its a place for entrepreneurs who want to get shit done.” That the hustle is real and places are needed where entrepreneurs can share ideas, get social and get shit done!

Freedom Hackers Mastermind

Theirs: “I created [Freedom Hackers Mastermind] so like-minded entrepreneurs can help and support each other, ask questions, build relationships and celebrate each other’s win in business. Let’s help each other reach freedom!”

Mine:
Being a entrepreneur requires so much of one person that sometimes being one person is not enough. At Freedom Hackers Mastermind, you can tell building relationships is king!

Mastermind of Empowered Entrepreneurs

Theirs: “Join this elite Mastermind of Empowered Entrepreneurs. Together we can:
1. Share success strategies
2. Network
3. Create Joint alliances
4. Share marketing tips
5. Give referrals
It is often said that you only need an alliance of 4-6 people to create the synergy needed that will take your business to new levels. What can we do with focus, intention and a commitment to helping each other succeed? Please join if you want to help others create the life and business of their dreams.”

Mine: Sharing is caring right? Damn Straight! At Mastermind of Empowered Entrepreneurs, you share, you care, you become a billionaire (hopefully).

Straight Up Entrepreneurs

Theirs: “[Straight Up Entrepreneurs] is a community of like-minded entrepreneurs minus the fluff. Where real-talking, straight-shooting, no-bsing, tell- it-like-it-is, anti-flowery hustlers share insights, tips and strategy to go straight up^.”

Mine: No one likes bs. Especially when you’re an entrepreneur and time is money. Here you get straight answers to hard questions. No fuss, no muss.

SharkTankEntrepreneurs

Theirs: “Welcome to our little corner of the internet. Entrepreneurial Exchange is a group founded by Mark Burginger, who appeared on ABC Shark Tank in 2010 with Qubits. He created this FB space for entrepreneurs who own and operate their own business. As a group you can share business tips, comments and advice with each other in a professional and polite manner. Joining the group is easy and it is open to the public. Click to request membership and we will review your profile. Not every application is approved. We are interested in Entrepreneurs, Investors, Reporters, Bloggers and anyone with a passion for building a business from the ground up. Read the Rules of the forum as written by Julie Stortz Busha who appeared on Shark Tank with Slawsa.”

Mine: Everyone knows Shark Tank, but not everyone knows a VC or gets to be grilled by one. In Shark Tank Entrepreneurs, the group is filled with Shark Tank alum and others who are happy to answer questions for those who have yet to hit a VC.

creativescorner

Theirs: “This [creativescorner] community is all about providing creative support and guidance for the modern digital small business owner. Here, you can ask questions, get suggestions, make special announcements, reach out for guidance and meet new incredible people just like you making lists and taking names in the digital world of business and design.”

Mine:
Being creative is imperative to the success of any entrepreneur. You can’t just throw your hands up in the air when something doesn’t work, you gotta use all of those creative juices and find a new way. At Creatives Corner you can ask for guidance and get different perspectives that will get you back on track.

The Millennial Entrepreneur Community

Theirs: “The Millennial Entrepreneur Community is a place for aspiring, established, and rookie entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and share strategies and projects.
The group is brought to you by Arne Giske, host of The Millennial Entrepreneur Podcast. You can listen to the podcast at themillennialentrepreneur.com”

Mine:
Mixing OG entrepreneurs and rookies is like mixing rum and coke. It’s a good mix for everyone involved. At Millennial Entrepreneur Community, noobs can ask the vets for help and foster a sense of community.

#EntrepreneursOnFacebook

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Business Entrepreneur

How to avoid the sting of loneliness while solopreneuring

(ENTREPRENEUR) If you haven’t yet given up on humanity, check out these tips for avoiding loneliness while freelancing / solopreneuring.

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For all the aspects of freelancing that people romanticize, there’s one that they always leave out: the crushing existential loneliness of working by oneself.

If you’re tired of staring into the abyss (alone) every night as you wait for the 30 coffee cups’ worth of caffeine to exit your system, we’ve got your covered—here are a few ways to alleviate your loneliness (and couple of those voices in your head) throughout the day.

1. Stay in contact throughout the day

Simple, yet powerful. Plenty of freelancers I know put a block on their own Facebook and Twitter pages and turn off their phones for hours at a time. Not only does doing this shut out potential clients throughout the day, it also cuts you off from the one medium of conversation you can (kind of) passively pursue: instant messaging.

Keeping up an IM or text (hell, even Snapchat) conversation with friends and family throughout the day is an easy, perfectly acceptable way to ensure that your cats and your keyboard aren’t the only recipients of your one-liners.

The downside here is that you run the risk of killing your own productivity in favor of socializing. While this method may take some finessing, you’ll feel loads better after a day of semi-constant low-level communication than you do after none at all.

If this is absolutely out of the question for you, try listening to a podcast. Throw yourself a bone, here.

2. Arrange meetings over Skype instead of emailing

The convenience of email is pretty damn unbeatable, but staring at black words on a white background isn’t the most comforting of gestures.

Instead of communicating with your clients through a written medium, set up a video call—or, at the very least, a voice call.

In addition to helping you combat your building cabin fever, Skyping or calling your clients will help strengthen your relationship with them as well as make you stand out from the hundreds of emails they send and receive every day. It’s a twofer!

3. Phone a friend

What do the two previous tips look like when you combine them? Virtual co-working. This is a tough maneuver to pull off if you’re the only freelancer you know, but if you can finagle a work session with a friend or colleague even one or two times a week, it’ll pay dividends.

Co-working is a bit of a tired concept when it comes to staving off invariable pangs of loneliness, but in this case, it may actually be the solution to your problem.

4. Take a mid-day break to run errands

Taking an hour in the middle of your work day to go be around other people is remarkably refreshing, even if it’s just a trip to the local Fred Meyer (or, y’know, McDonalds).

You’ll also end up feeling better about the back half of your work day if you give yourself some time to decompress in the middle of it.

If this isn’t possible for you (I work a standard 9-5 rotation remotely), get up earlier than you need to and make your rounds or grab a cup of coffee then. Especially if you’re an introvert, you’ll get your fill of interaction by the time you clock in.

5. Learn to inherently loathe other people and adopt a hamster.

Shhhhh. Embrace the darkness. JK, ignore number five… even if it’s tempting…

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