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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Can't afford a PA? Maybe technology can help



Whether you know it or not, Artificial Intelligence is already part of your life. Either you’re using it, or others are using it to gain insights about you. Consider how much time you spend doing repetitive daily tasks when you could be working on new ways to grow your business. A good rule to live by is this: if it’s repetitive, it should be automated.

Global giants like Facebook and Google automate almost every new feature they release, from targeted advertising to content alerts which match user search terms. Once they’ve tested and approved a solution, they let the bots take over so they can work on new ideas. Artificial Intelligence to automate business processes is no longer the exclusive privilege of tech companies; almost any business can make use of this technology to save time and do more.

1. Prioritize Your Tasks and Admin with a Virtual Personal Assistant
How many times have you thought about hiring a personal assistant? If it was an affordable option, you might have done so by now. If your workload never seems to shrink and you spend your nights thinking of all the things you didn’t get to during the workday, it might be time for a virtual personal assistant.

A South African company called VA Connect provides virtual assistants which work for entrepreneurs’ unique needs. You can pay per hour to have basic tasks done, starting at around R350 per hour, or you can opt for a retainer package which costs less than R10 000 per month. The VPA can take care of various tasks, including scheduling meetings and booking flights for business trips, reading and prioritizing emails, and even researching and some basic digital marketing.

2. Automate Your Time Sheets
Time sheets may be the most boring part of anyone’s day, but it is an essential part of business. If you’re a solo entrepreneur charging by the hour, time sheets help you keep track of the time spent on each client. If you’re in charge of a team of staff, you need to know how much time they spend on each task they’re assigned with.

Many of our weekly tasks are recurring; checking emails every morning, completing reports every Friday, scheduling status meetings every Monday etc. Tools like ClickTime make the process of completing a time sheet something that takes mere seconds. You can copy previous time sheets over to the new week, or use the predictive intelligence tool which pre-fills your new week with recently used tasks.

3. Pay your Bills with Central Park
If every month you’re paying the same suppliers, staff and other bills with the same amount at the same time, you’ll know how tedious this task can be. But it’s still important to pay the bills on time, every time.

Central Park is a tool which automates payments. Once you’ve added all the details including who, how much and when to pay, Central Park takes over every month to complete the task. When something financial changes, such as the amount to pay or the addition of a new staff member, you can make updates to the system manually. The tool works with most major banks in South Africa.

4. Communicate with Clients using MailChimp
The popular email tool is a smart one, and makes digital marketing easier for entrepreneurs who can’t afford to hire big agencies. Once you’ve spent a day filling in the details, you won’t have to worry about crafting mailers to new clients, old clients or clients who haven’t used your product or service in a while.

If you have an e-commerce website, MailChimp can send reminder emails to shoppers who have abandoned their digital carts. Personal touches go a long way but are often forgotten in a time-starved world. MailChimp can send happy birthday emails or thank you mails on your behalf, while you spend time on other tasks. Whether you want to retain customers, re-engage them or simply introduce yourself, the process can be completely automated.

5. Avoid Filling in Forms with Roboform
You might wake up ready to seize the day, convert those leads, book that flight to a networking event and so much more. And then a long and tedious digital form pops up on your screen before you can continue. How many times every week do you find yourself typing out your name, email address, telephone number etc? That process should be automated!

Roboform started out as a password manager, but today it fills in your details, wherever you require it. There is a free version available for personal use, as well as a very affordable business option which can give your team members access to the tool as well. If you aren’t already using it, try it the next time you need to fill in an online form.

#DigitalIdeas

The MTN Digital Entrepreneur Masterclass takes place on October 31.

-Content supplied by MTN 

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