top of page

Harnessing the Power of Automation for Your Business

How workflow automation and productivity tools work hand in hand to build a sustainable business model.

A conveyor belt

Did you know that only 20% of startups fail in their first year? It's not uncommon to see statistics that say 9 out of 10 startups fail. But that first year isn't too bad. However, by year 5, 50% of startups fail, and that increases to 70% by year 10. After a startup's initial years, a leading cause of its eventual downfall is its inability to scale. These emerging businesses fail to scale in large part because of a lack of business automation.

Trying to integrate an automated workflow into your business can be extremely difficult once the company is already established. That's why it's so crucial to implement those automated processes from the very start. Let's take a look at some of the productivity tools you can incorporate into your startup to ensure that once your business begins to bloom, you're ready for it.


Defining Business Automation

Despite the rapid rise of AI over the past few years, the truth is that many workplace tasks still require a human element to do a job right. As you begin on your startup journey, it's important to keep an eye on the future. You may handle customer service today, but will you have time to do that when you have tens of thousands of customers to satisfy?

In this sense, business automation and workflow automation are synonyms. What tasks can you delegate to an employee or contract worker? Continuing our example of customer service, once your company is big enough handling questions and complaints can require a lot of time. A wise entrepreneur would use their early business days keeping detailed notes of commonly asked questions with the appropriate response. Why? Because those notes become the training manual for the contract worker you will hire to handle customer service for you.

A group of people having a meeting

Business automation is largely about creating systems that can be easily adopted by someone other than yourself. Not only will outsourced help take some of the load off of your shoulders, but it also saves you time and money.

So first things first, let's identify where you will store your information.

Productivity & Organizational Tools That Don't Break the Bank

A simple search of 'top 10 productivity tools' on Google will blast you with repetitive lists of apps that cost way more than they're worth most of the time. As a small business owner, it's hard to justify spending $120 on a calendar app. In another article, we talk about making the most of the standard programs we have.

Finding a platform that can help to automate your workflow isn't hard. What is hard is getting that platform to work seamlessly with the rest of your system. Many popular organizational apps out there today try to offer an all-in-one approach. While the thought of it is nice, sometimes all of those features can become too much, and end up taking more time to figure out than it's worth.

Rows of filing cabinet drawers.

Instead, try going back to the basics. Almost everything in your business can be saved in places like Google Drive, which is completely free, or Microsoft Office360 (a lifetime license can cost as low as $30). Either of these systems allows for basic file management and integrates wonderfully with the email and calendars provided.

The key to successful business automation is that everything needs to go in one place. When you start a new job, nothing is worse than setting up all of the different programs used by your employer. Things get messy, and once your business starts to grow, even more things will inevitably be lost.

Automating Your Workflow by Design

Now you're probably thinking that it's a bit hypocritical to avoid all-in-one productivity apps only to turn to something like Google Drive or Office360. You may ask 'What's the difference?' There are three main things you must consider when selecting the productivity and organizational tools for your business.

  1. Does this system allow for effortless collaboration?

  2. Is there a major learning curve involved?

  3. How much will this cost as more accounts are added?

Let's break it down. Starting with number one, how accurate is collaboration? You want to find programs that allow multiple users to be working on the same document simultaneously. In a business's early days, time is one of the most valuable assets you have. Waiting for one team member to edit a spreadsheet or note so that you can add your thoughts as well can lose massive amounts of time.

A laptopn on a stand next to a monitor

Something to consider is barriers. Waiting for a team member to edit a document is a barrier. Likewise, if a program has a steep learning curve, that's another big barrier. When you select the platform that you would like to work on, ask yourself how long it will take a new hire to learn the system.

Take an app like Obsidian for example. Obsidian is an excellent app for a second brain or simple note-taking. Pushed to the extreme, Obsidian can be a collaborative workspace that syncs calendars, emails, and much more. The downside is, that many of those benefits are buried under complicated menus. Like many similar apps, Obsidian requires you the user to tinker around with it to realize its full potential.

As a small business owner, you don't have the time or money to pay a new employee to 'tinker around'. On day one, a new team member should be able to join your workflow and automatically begin working. As we mentioned above, business automation is largely based on your ability to easily delegate tasks to others without wasting time.

And speaking of money, apps like Obsidian can cost hundreds of dollars per user. The smart entrepreneur will cut unnecessary expenditures, especially if there are free ways of completing tasks.

Keeping a Current Dataroom

Project managers often keep something called a data room. Typically, a data room will be broken down by elements within a project. If you're designing a product, your data room might include folders labeled marketing, design, validation, and user experience.

Within each of these categories, there is a 'working' folder and an 'archive folder. Each rendition of a product model, for example, should be labeled with revisions 1, 2, and so on. When a new revision is made, the previous one is moved into the archive while the current one remains in the working folder. While it may be tedious, keeping a detailed record is extremely important.

Shelves filled with storage.

If you are working with an engineer to design your product, and that engineer decides to quit, what are you going to do? Without a data room, your business is not automated, it's at a standstill. Keeping a detailed data room will allow your next engineer to pick up where the last one left off. This will save weeks, and months for you.

When each team member keeps their folder up to date, you can enter meetings knowing ahead of time where everyone is at. You no longer need to take the first 20 minutes of a meeting just to get caught up. Automation is about saving time. Everything done within your startup should be well documented, to ensure that regardless of who is working, that work is always forward moving and not just spinning in circles.


We've covered three essential steps for automating your business:

  1. Create a system to easily outsource time-consuming tasks.

  2. Choose a cost-effective and easy-to-learn platform to collaborate on.

  3. Keep detailed records of any progress that is made, and use those records as a training tool for new employees.

One of the most challenging things about being an entrepreneur is the need to juggle so many aspects of your business. Automating your business is not a convenience, it becomes a necessity. You must learn how to identify your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. The cost of outsourcing pales in comparison to the cost of trying to juggle everything.

It's important to remember that your system won't form overnight. Focus Forge is meant to teach you how to organize yourself before you start your business. The true power of technology today is shown when you can flow from one task to the next without the need to stop and contemplate what that task is.


bottom of page