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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

Transitioning from corporate life to freelance life

(ENTREPRENEUR) A look at what it takes to pivot your career from corporate cubicles to your couch at home.

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Freelancing is rad. I’ve gone into some depth on why I think that’s the case and even provided some thoughts and resources for my rush hour and necktie-averse kin.

Freelancing is also challenging, in many ways more so than office work. I’ve transitioned between the two, both ways, and while I’ve landed on the liberating, self-motivated (but insecure, complicated and confusing) freelance side rather than the dull, workaday cube farm side (with it benefits, job security and human interaction) I can obviously see arguments for both.

Here’s what I wish I’d known before I set out to navigate the minefield between corporate and freelance work. With any luck, it should help you do the same without hearing a click and having to offer a sad and final “oops.”

Have a plan.

This is where going corporate to freelance starts to differ from vice versa. Choosing a new corporate employer takes hard goals, but also flexibility: an ex-freelancer has to learn to accommodate other people’s plans, on account of, you know, working with other people now.

Entering the freelance world requires the opposite.

You don’t just need goals. You need a schedule.

You need deliverables, you need a budget, you need Plans B-Z inclusive for when you come in over or under, because you will.

In short, you need a boss in your head.

It is the best boss you’ll ever have: that cat (feel free to imagine it as an actual cat in a business suit; I certainly do) doesn’t care if you party til 2am on a Wednesday, or skive off for three hours in the middle of the day to catch “Fate of the Furious” at matinee prices. All your new boss cares about is hitting the numbers.

Have numbers. Hit them.

Go slowly.

This is the one that everyone screws up, by which I mean that I did. It is so tempting to stick your boss’ tie in the shredder, shot put your least favorite appliance out the window and burn a sweet donut in the parking lot before you drive off to your freelancer future. Every office drone’s dream, right?

Don’t do it. Do not.

On my last day before I went freelance, I wore a Metallica tee and sweats to my shirt-and-tie day job. Joked with my cube buddy, what were they gonna do, fire me?

Thing is? That was the first time I went freelance.

As you’ll recall from the intro, I’ve done that twice. Thankfully, when I did have to return to the realm of gridlock and beige, I was in a different time zone. But the whole reason I had to return to the corporate world in the first place was summed up in that I didn’t prepare. I did the dream, cut loose, and burned the bridges behind me. Unwise.

It’s standard wisdom that you should build up savings before starting a business. Real talk: for an awful lot of people, that’s fantasy. Even in my coziest corporate days, north of the 50th percentile, between rent and urban cost of living my only shot at meaningful savings was retailing organs.

Keep your kidneys. Instead, bank your time.

I’m a writer. You may have noticed. Most of my day jobs involved that skill. If you think every character I typed into Word in my cube days was corporate-approved, as opposed to projects or practice for my freelance adventures, there’s this great bridge I’d like to sell you.

So for the first few months, keep your day job and build your skills.

Take small projects on your own time, buoyed with that glorious cushion of salary.

Train your brains out. You may even be able to do that at work: plenty of employers, especially in fields like tech and medicine that a) value certification b) translate nicely to freelancing, will shell out to train you up. Wade into the shallow end while you’ve still got a roof and a health plan. It’s vital experience, but more importantly, it’s how you figure out freelance IT or consulting or Etsying artisanal dog sweaters is actually how you want to spend 80 hours a week.

Keep a schedule.

Wait. 80 hours? Fraid so, at least early on. It will take serious legwork to get those artisanal dog sweaters off the ground. No client list means permanent hustle. No infrastructure means weeks on end of pure trial and error, figuring out what works. No employees means every last bit of it is on you.

That’s not what I mean by scheduling. You have a job, and, being an American Genius reader, are by definition intelligent and insightful, not to mention good-looking and possessed of impeccable taste. We don’t let just anybody around here. You know you’ll need that stuff.

When you freelance, you need to schedule life.

That boss in your head? Still your boss, which is to say a sociopath who can and will take every minute you’re willing to offer. For better or worse, an office job does work-life balance for you: come in then, leave now, this is due whenever. The nastiest trap in entering freelance work, the last, biggest boom in the minefield, is that it can swallow you whole. If you let it, it will take over your life, and it’s better at that than the cube, because it’s something you want to do.

Integrate both ways.

So, not every day but now and again, put down your dog sweaters and catch Vin Diesel. See a concert on a weekday. Spend a whole evening playing with your kid.

Whatever you like, with a single rule: no work allowed.

Freelancing means your job is much more thoroughly integrated into your life.Click To Tweet

Make sure your life is integrated into your job.

And that, my friend, is how you transition from drone life to freelance life.

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Business Entrepreneur

Study abroad, but for adults – a work abroad program

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) While study abroad may be a thing of your past, work abroad options are possible for remote workers.

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As my collegiate career began to come to a close, I started having regrets about not taking the opportunity to study abroad. I worried that I wouldn’t have the chance to travel in the same regard once I entered the busy “real world.”

However, I quickly learned that there are always possibilities, you just have to know where to look. I recently began researching work abroad programs, such as Outsite and LiveWorkFit, and realized there is still an opportunity to learn and travel – even if you’re no longer a student.

One of the more recent work abroad programs to come about is ExploreThere. Their tagline is to “work remotely, explore, and socialize abroad.” Each month, ExploreThere takes a group of individuals to work remotely and check out a new destination.

They seek for those participating to banish the uncertainties of working remotely, and work to make a productive live/work environment feasible.

ExploreThere creates groups of like-minded individuals who participants travel with and work alongside.

The first destinations on tap for ExploreThere are Medellín, Columbia and Buenos Aires, Argentina. ExploreThere scouts locations, connects like-minded coworkers, books accommodations and airport pick-up, and provides local advice. Participants book their flight, bring their work, cover their own meals and drinks, and choose their own exploratory experiences.

“One of the great things about the world today is that we have the opportunity to do most of our work remotely. Armed with a laptop, wifi and plenty of coffee we can work anywhere,” says ExploreThere. “With the right group of people, proper planning and bravery to chart new waters, we find ourselves with nearly year round possibilities.”

The goal is to allow remote work to be accomplished in a new and immersive cultural setting. Click To Tweet

Groups range in size from between six and 25 participants and are divided into different houses based on living compatibilities.

While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, opportunities such as this allow remote workers to see the world and work/network. It also continues to obliterate myths regarding working remotely.

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Business Entrepreneur

Top 10 recent books for entrepreneurs

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Whether you’re a young entrepreneur looking for advice about how to start your first business, or a seasoned vet looking for new inspiration, these ten selections will get your gears turning!

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It’s no surprise that successful entrepreneurs are lifelong learners, although most will tell you that their continued learning bears little resemblance to traditional education experiences. Instead of sitting in a classroom or lecture hall, a combination of various forms of perpetual learning, or learning through experience, can be the most meaningful.

Stacklist released a list of their best books of the year for 2016 for entrepreneurs, and in addition to being a great source of entertainment, literature can provide a way to continue learning and discovering new ideas.

Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, has famously said that when he decided to move onto a 200-square foot sailboat, he kept only the necessities, which included books. “Books are different from other possessions—they’re more like friends,” he said.

Whether you’re a new entrepreneur looking for advice about how to start your first business, or a seasoned vet looking for new inspiration, these ten selections from Stacklist’s longer list will certainly get you thinking, learning, and moving forward.

1. The Art of Startup Fundraising by Alejandro Cremades

2. Payoff: The Hidden Logic that Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely

3. Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio Garcia Martinez

4. Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom

5. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

6. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

7. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

8. You Can’t be Everywhere: A Common Sense Approach to Digital Marketing For Any Business by Marie Wiese

9. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

10. The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

If you’re skeptical of books for entrepreneurs because you think that can be an echo chamber of the same stories and names, or just cliché advice meant to stroke ones ego, know that these selections steer clear of all these things. Their selection process put quality first, so go ahead and grab a few of these titles for yourself or as a holiday gift for an entrepreneur in your life.

Bonus points for buying from an independent bookseller or from the author’s website directly.

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