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To Automate or Not?

How and what you may want to hire out versus automate

As entrepreneurs, running an efficient business is key to smooth operations — especially when dealing with hundreds of customers.

While managing a pool business, there’s a number of tasks to be done, including inventory, marketing, scheduling and everything in between. Some days it may seem like nothing is getting done if you do it all yourself.

So how do you know when to hire staff or buy software to do certain tasks?

Part of it is mindset, and part of it is asking yourself the right questions, says Bill Ringle, founder of System Ringle, a company that helps customize business systems.

“My philosophy is the business owner doesn’t need to be an expert in everything,” he says. “But they need to know a little bit about all the aspects of the business.”

Delegation is huge for entrepreneurs looking to scale well and not run themselves ragged, Ringle says. Often that means hiring another person or adding software to make otherwise time-consuming tasks easier.

“For business to grow, owners need to learn to control processes and people and functions without doing it themselves,” he says.

Sometimes automation is the right move, he says, and recommends industry-specific software solutions that perform well.

That’s exactly what Ernie Civic did with his pool servicing business over the last year.

Civic, co-founder of Civic’s Pool Service in Tampa, Florida, has had nothing but success with automation.

His business uses automatic bill pay, automated pool service logs and a website chatbot. Some referrals have come as a direct result of the automatic service pool logs; his customers share details with others who love the idea of knowing when their pool is serviced. Then those referrals call Civic, too.

“The idea was to change how things were run in the pool service industry,” he says. “I saw a lot of people complain about these things. I decided to automate as much of our business as possible to be different and stand out. When we started, that was pretty much our goal. We wanted to bring value.”

After talking to others in the pool industry, Civic found many weren’t being paid on time. Bills left poolside blew away; customers made excuses — the list went on. With automated bill pay — and a system that captures a customer credit card — Civic now has 70 percent of his customers using the system.

“It makes it much easier,” Civic says of using Square for his business. “We’re paid on time; we’re happy and they’re happy.”

Ringle says anything with a lot of data can be automated. Whether it’s software for a person to do their job better (like accounting) or even an inventory organizational tool.

If there are certain things only you can do — like customer service responses — do it yourself or hire a trained professional to manage that business aspect, he says.

“There are some things a machine cannot figure out,” Ringle says.

Like how a customer is feeling, for example. Civic says in-person sales are one part of his business he doesn’t see himself automating.

“Meeting with them face to face, you can display your code of ethics and how we conduct ourselves,” Civic says. “I think that’s a key selling point. I don’t think I could ever replicate that. Ethics is a huge thing for us. I think by displaying that and trying to automate that somehow wouldn’t work very well.”

In a tech-driven world, Civic plans to use as much automation as possible for ease of business operations and customer satisfaction. He encourages other pool companies to do the same.

Even if it means purchasing a new software or incurring fees, Civic says he believes it’s a worthwhile business investment to grow and please customers via automated options.

“We are in the automated world now as a consumer of any product or service,” Civic says. “The whole idea was to bring value to our customers instead of just taking their money.”

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