How to Automate Repetitive Tasks as a Small Business Owner

In just about every type of business, you can find countless small, repetitive tasks. As a business owner, you do them yourself, at first. Later, as your business grows, you start delegating them to employees. You get to focus on more important things, while your workers handle the more mundane, repetitive tasks. This was the old way.

Today, with the advance in Artificial Intelligence, we have moved into the age where machine algorithms can go beyond our own capabilities in a broad range of tasks. Some repetitive tasks you can automate include:

  • Repetitive physical labor
  • Customer service
  • Payroll and purchase orders
  • Collecting and processing data

Nowadays, AI is able to perform these tasks faster, better, and at a more affordable price than humans. Machines can manipulate tools, extract data from files, send purchase requisitions for approval, automate your payroll management process, and allow business owners to have more of the most limited resource of all — their personal time. 

The more repetitive tasks you automate, the more time you’ll have for the important stuff, such as growing your business, handling key clients, planning, and strategizing for the future.

What Does the Research Say?

According to PwC and McKinsey’s research, we are able to automate around 20% of all business activities just with today’s tech. PwC predicts that the automation trend will continue to rise during the 2020s and it will even encompass 30% of all current positions by the mid-2030s. 

Based on McKinsey research, we are likely to automate around 18% of all tasks. This is based on an estimate that we can automate 30% of activities in around 60% of all jobs. Additionally, McKinsey projects that we will be able to automate around 5% of all jobs with today’s AI tech.  These include:

  • Graders, sewing machine operators, and sorters of agricultural products (they can be 100% automated).
  • Travel agents, watch repairers, and stock clerks (they can be 60-80% automated).
  • Web developers, chemical technicians, and nursing assistants (they can be 30-60% automated).

Three Main Phases of Automation

PwC predicts that we will have automated 20% of all occupations by the 2020s and 30% by the mid-2030s. They’ve divided this transformation of automation into three distinct phases:

  1. The algorithm wave which will last until the early 2020s.
  2. The augmentation wave which will last until the late 2020s.
  3. The autonomy wave which will continue until the mid-2030s.

Automating simple computational tasks and analyzing structured data is part of the algorithm wave we’re currently experiencing. In the second phase — the augmentation wave — we will automate lots of repetitive tasks and dynamic interactions. Moreover, semi-automated tasks like robots moving products in a warehouse are part of this wave.

Ultimately, we will experience the complete automation of physical labor — the autonomy wave. The main focus here will be on automating dynamic, real-world cases that need responsive actions., such as transportation and manufacturing. Although PwC predicts that automation tech will reach its full maturity on a nation-wide scale during the 2030s, 30% of all occupations in every sector will have been automated by then.

Currently, automation enables us to increase productivity growth by 0.8-1.4% yearly. This is because the existing AI-powered automation tools reduce mistakes, as well as increase speed and quality. They even achieve outcomes that go above human abilities in some situations. All of this means that if you’re looking to improve your productivity, automating tasks is the way.

Start Small with Automation

Before you decide to automate anything, you’ll first need to identify repetitive tasks in your business. To begin with, look for routine manual activities that use up a considerable amount of resources and time. The more repetitive the task, the more you will benefit if you automate it.

Next, you should start small. Large and complex tasks come with more challenges when you try to program them. This is why you should first begin with small, predictable tasks  before you try to completely automate all activities that are necessary for your company. You should also completely understand every part of the task you’re trying to automate. This allows you to easily break down the activity into smaller steps that are easier to program, implement, and optimize later on.

Ultimately, you should save your time for the tasks you do best.  This means that it’s better to automate tasks that aren’t directly tied up with the core competencies of your business. This way, you can allocate much of the workforce to profitable tasks. Moreover, this will enable you to focus more on how to make your business grow and plan to thrive in the market.

Don’t Automate Everything

This is where the majority of companies get off on the wrong foot with automation. It’s not the point to automate everything. Rather, you have to comprehend how automation works and what it can actually do. Even though you can automate most of your tasks, you’d better not.

There are numerous tools for automating web design, translation and copywriting, but the majority of them can’t accomplish these tasks efficiently. For instance, translation tech can’t replicate the complex mental processes of human translators making it mostly useless for your business purposes. What you want to automate are the tasks that take time, that are repetitive, and easy for AI to handle with precision without your input: These include:

  • Manual labor
  • Sending invoices 
  • Collecting data
  • Processing data
  • Automating email responses for different lead scores
  • Chatting with customers

What you shouldn’t automate are the tasks that require lots of human input and creativity — copywriting, design, or problem-solving. For example, instead of importing spreadsheets between Google Sheets and Excel several times a day, you could automate this process. Once you get a hand of what automation can’t and can do, you can begin coming up with various ambitious strategies that not only save you cash and time but change your company entirely.

Set Your Automation Goals

You shouldn’t spend money on automation and invest in developing new workflows if they don’t increase the profitability of your company which means that before you develop any new workflow, you should ensure you have particular targets that you’ll utilize to measure success and optimize your processes.

In some situations, your objective could be to simply match the performance of your department and then utilize that time elsewhere. For instance, you can automate your social post scheduling so that your blog posts are automatically published on Twitter a couple of times a day weekly. If your employees are already doing this, automating it won’t improve results, but simply free up more time.

It’s also crucial that you know what you are going to do with all this free time. Since the objective of automation is to enable you to do something else, define this. Identify your objectives and ensure they’re measurable so you can observe the effects of even small automation and how they all add up.

This will happen naturally for some of your workflows. For instance, when you’re developing an automated lead generation process, you’ll select a target number of leads and various KPIs while your sales automation will place targets for closing more leads and retaining more clients. Be accurate, select targets for every quarter, and utilize these as milestones to measure success.

What Tasks Should You Automate?

Some tasks are better to be automated than others. For example, lots of small companies have inefficient procurement and purchase order processes. These businesses waste valuable time on repetitive tasks they could easily automate, regularly producing accidental task repetition. Why not streamline your procurement and purchase order tasks so you save time, increase productivity and avoid errors?

On the other hand, we all know how much time is wasted on managing the payroll of full-time employees. You have to consider a lot — state and federal laws, compliance, etc. This is where automating the payroll process can develop more effective systems.

Automation can also let you provide improved customer service. Small companies have a limited consumer base, which means that ineffective customer support can negatively impact their whole business. That’s why it’s key that you have the best level of customer support. How? Keep track of customer complaints and address them in a timely manner. 

This is where automation comes into play. It lets you set up ticketing systems for managing customer queries more effectively. Not to mention it helps you make pre-formatted replies for often asked questions, leading to faster responses. For instance, AI-enabled customer assistants can give your buyers information about their orders or where they can find the product they’re searching for based on keywords.

Predictable manual labor is also perfect for automation. This includes occupations like machine operators and assemblers. Machines perform predictable activities better than us since they don’t get tired or bored. However, unpredictable tasks that require the human level of agility in adapting tasks aren’t suited for automation.

Build an Automative Culture in Your Company

Once you get the hang of automation, you’ll see that it is a mindset as much as tech. You’ll see a task and ask —  could I automate this? What’s more, you’ll ask whether to improve your current automation. This is an important part of the automation culture you’ll want to create in your business. 

You’ll develop a mindset focused on efficiency, make full use of your resources, and improve the outcome with what you have. It’s essential that you inspire the same mindset in your employees as well so that every time they complete a task, they ask themselves — can we automate this?

You want your team to realize this when they’re doing the same task over and over. The tasks you can automate and free up more time for the ones you can’t. Ironically, this kind of mindset doesn’t develop automatically, so make sure you provide a constant reminder in your business and reward your teams for turning automation into better outcomes.


Every business is based on doing small, repetitive tasks. But that doesn’t mean that humans need to do every one of them. Some tasks, such as procurements, purchase orders, and customer service are perfectly suited for automation. Especially if you’re running a small business and trying to save every bit of money and time.

Whether you’re a small or large company, you should start small with automation. Identify which tasks repeat a lot, but aren’t your core competence. Then automate those. Also, you shouldn’t automate everything, but tasks that aren’t complex. Tasks such as:

  • Manual labor
  • Sending invoices 
  • Collecting data
  • Processing data

Don’t forget that for the perfect outcome, you’ll need to develop an automative culture in your company. And when it comes to automating tasks, the best outcome from it is that you will get more of the most finite resource you have — your time.

Delegating tasks to machines is here to stay.

If you aren’t sure where to begin with automating your tasks, feel free to contact us.

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