For those who think they’ve automated their businesses fairly well and outsourced most other day-to-day tasks, I’d be willing to bet that they could go much further with custom automation.
I consider myself fairly tech-savvy; however, when I’ve run into a task that seems fairly easy to automate but did not have a publicly available solution, I’ve considered this a brick wall and moved to other parts of the business.
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For a year or longer, I’ve considered learning some programming on the side to assist with small data entry tasks we were doing manually. A couple months ago, I finally decided to learn some Python in my spare time. It’s been helpful, and I would suggest you to do the same.
By diving into this new world, I’ve discovered that I’m not a great programmer, but more importantly, that there are a lot of skilled web developers around the world. There are so many high-quality developers willing to do small projects on sites like Upwork and Fiverr for very reasonable prices.
I like to hire web developers in a similar manner as contractors in that I like to try a new person on small projects that are low stakes, see how they work (quality, communication, manage time, etc.), and give more projects to those who work well. The advantage of developers is that I can hire from anywhere, receive several bids quickly, and see each person’s body of work.
Here are some projects we’ve done over the past couple of months.
4 Projects I’ve Completed Through Outsourcing
1. Connected Appfolio to Slack
We use Appfolio to manage our properties and Slack to communicate among our team. We’ve built some integrations that automatically alert us in Slack when a new rental application, guest card, or maintenance request have been received and that text that person that we’ve received it. We also automatically text tenants a couple times per month when their balance is above a certain threshold.
2. Built Property List That Could Not Easily Be Purchased
As a mobile home and land investor, I haven’t seen a commercial list provider produce a list of just mobile home properties in a given county. We would buy something close to what we wanted, then spend a couple hundred dollars in manual data entry formatting the list.
By building a list ourselves, we spent way less money and got exactly what we wanted.
3. Chat Bot Integrated With Slack That Holds All of Our Team’s Knowledge
We built a question-and-answer Slack chat bot that uses machine learning to hold the questions and answers of our team. We have training guides and screencast videos, but there’s so many nuances of a business that it’s hard to include everything. By asking everyone, especially newer folks, to use this bot when they have general questions before asking someone else on the team, it saves everyone time (the person asking gets a quick answer, and nobody else is disrupted from their workflow to answer something that’s been answered previously).
4. Automate Google Drive
I’ve had scripts built that automatically put Google Drive files into folders based on the file name, give instant ownership of shared files and folders, and convert all Microsoft files into the Google equivalent (Word to Docs, for example). This saves time organizing files, it creates shared files that can’t be lost when an employee leaves, and it frees up storage.
My point of telling you this is that you should implement projects like these into your business. Figure out what you can automate, and then get it done. These projects have saved me and my business a lot of time already.
If you think that you don’t have the money to hire developers and you have an established business, you’re wrong. All of these projects cost me a few hundred dollars or less. Try to set aside $250 each month for automation projects and do at least one project a month. You’ll be amazed at the end of the year what you’ve automated.
One final point: Don’t try to automate everything. Use the 80:20 rule to automate tasks where you can see an immediate payback. The goal of automation is to free up you and your team’s time so that you can focus on spending more effort on truly growing the business (by buying more properties or finding more business capital) and having more time for family and friends.
What projects, if any, have you outsourced? What were your results?
Let me know with a comment!