If you could save your startup 30+ hours of work each week, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity?
As a founder, your involvement probably feels crucial in all business activities — but it isn’t. That’s something we tackled in a previous blog post and we’re here to say it again. In fact, there’s a whole host of tasks and actions that not even your staff have to be involved in.
We’re talking about automation and the efficiency-boosting power it brings to your startup team.
Worried that automation will cost more in initial investment than it pays back? Don’t be. In this post, we're going to dive into this concern — looking at the real cost of investing in (and not investing in) business automation.
Automating my startup? Yikes, sounds expensive
Startup cash flow can be perilous, we know. That’s why if you’ve even somewhat seriously considered automating your startup, you’ll also have considered how doing so could cost you money.
Let’s see if any of the following scenarios have already played out in your mind:
- Building your own automation software and applications. Ready to jump straight in the deep end, are you? Building automation solutions from scratch may sound sensible if you’re cash-strapped and time-rich. But actually, the upfront costs of building your own automation software can be equally (if not more) high than seeking expert assistance. And then there’s the long, steep, and expensive learning curve you’ll have to navigate, too.
- Hiring an automation expert. You outsource your accounting to expert help — why not do the same for automation? Cost would be a good reason, as some automation experts charge thousands of dollars a year (if not thousands of dollars each month).
- Taking time away from critical work to create an automated solution. In addition to eating up your financial resources, investing your time in automation can take away from the time you have to invest in other aspects of your business. After all, there are only so many hours in a day — and you’re probably working them all already.
- The monthly fee of using an automation platform. Using an automation platform like n8n is perhaps the most cost-effective option on this list. However, that can still run you hundreds of dollars each year and take up a significant amount of your time. “Is there no easy (and affordable) way to get started with automation?”, you say through gritted teeth.
If you’ve had these thoughts before, then you’re not alone. It's natural — and essential — for startup leaders to consider their investments carefully, as a series of minor overspends can add up fast.
But while some of the above steps might be as expensive as you're imagining, most of them probably aren't.
Some won't cost you anything at all, other than a little time — while the cost of not using automation could turn out to be very damaging indeed...
The opportunity cost of not automating a business
Direct costs accounted for, let's take a minute to view the investment versus payback dilemma from a different perspective. Rather than asking whether you can afford automation, can you afford not to?
Prioritizing your (team’s) time is an important part of being a successful business leader or entrepreneur. You need to know which opportunities to chase down, how to resource your billable hours, and how to provide the most value for your customers or clients.
Automation can help maximize efficiency and squeeze more out of each day. As one Indie Hackers poster explains:
“If you are worth, let's say, 25$/h and if you automate a task that will save you just 1 hour per week of your own time, that's 100$ per month that you now saved with the 20$ that Zapier costs, and now you are free to do other important things with the time you saved.”
The cost of investing in automation is generally short-term, but the value it gives back keeps on delivering long after the initial outlay. Money saved can go towards marketing and growing your business, and your teams can focus on impressing existing, and potential, customers too.
The benefits of automation (and why you need them to succeed)
Hopefully, by now, you’re beginning to appreciate that while automation might seem costly on the surface it likely isn’t as much as you’ve projected. And if you’re only factoring in the costs, then you’re approaching automation from the wrong angle.
Automation provides you with several unique opportunities and benefits that can help your business reach new heights. And in 2021, many of these benefits are ones that you can’t do without, especially if you’re a startup.
Here are just a few of the unique benefits automation can provide you with over time.
1. You earn back at least as much as you put into automation
As we touched on before, automation provides you with some serious ROI. In fact, the ROI of automation is probably the primary reason it’s become as prolific as it has over the last decade.
There are three key ways that automation provides you with a substantial ROI. Nearly every automation workflow will provide a return on all three of these fronts in some way.
- Automation gives you more time. It completes tasks for you so that you can complete other tasks with that time instead, making you more productive while doing the same amount of work.
- Automation increases your revenue. Whether you use your new free time to raise revenue yourself or your workflows are passively generating more revenue for you, automation provides financial returns.
- Automation frees up your energy. It’s no secret that most of us are as stressed out and overwhelmed as we can handle. When you pass off tasks to a workflow, you reduce the number of things you need to do in a day, removing stress and pressure associated with work. Hello, 6.30pm finish time — how we’ve missed you!
2. Automation can make a small team a big hitter
Another crucial benefit of automation is how powerful it can make your team. And when you’re a startup, this is a benefit you’d be mad to miss out on.
Employed correctly, automation gives you more manpower without needing to hire more staff. If you’re new to your industry, this can be the difference between success and failure. It makes you more competitive, gives you more space to innovate, and reduces the chances of your small team burning out.
3. Your ability to handle growth will increase dramatically
Finally, investing in automation increases your ability to handle the scale of your business, even when it changes. A sudden surge in growth can cripple some businesses. They don’t have the staff, resources, or experience to handle the increase in scale, and end up crumbling under the pressure.
Automated workflows, however, don’t crumble when more pressure is put on them. They just keep automating. That means your business could theoretically triple in size — without missing a beat.
Increase revenue, loyalty, and growth with simple automation strategies
You don’t need to be a multi-million dollar corporation to make automation work for you.
In fact, small and scrappy startups are the perfect fit for automated workflows and streamlined operations. By implementing simple strategies and affordable platforms (like yours truly, n8n) you can start to grow your business at a rapid yet sustainable rate.
Is that something you can afford to pass up?
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