How To Work Less and Earn More By Leveraging The Synergy Between People And Technology

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Synergy Between People and TechnologySeveral years ago when I was managing BetterEdit, my proofreading company that I sold in 2007, I was knee deep learning from Rich Schefren, taking his Business Growth System course.

Rich launched that program on the back of his most successful report to date, the Internet Business Manifesto, which featured the now famous flow chart of what an Internet entrepreneur is supposed to do if he or she wants to succeed online. If you haven’t read the Manifesto, I strongly recommend you do so as soon as possible, it’s still one of the most crucial reports on Internet marketing as an entrepreneur ever written.

After reading the Manifesto it was clear I needed to make some changes, so I joined Rich’s coaching program and began going through it. The premise of what Rich teaches is the idea that no person can realistically ever get to the point where their business looks after them, rather than they look after their business, if you do everything by yourself. Rich took this idea a lot further than just outsourcing, and sees business as a machine that can be completely automated.

At that point in time BetterEdit was doing well and I did have Angela, my admin/customer service person looking after most of the day to day emailing for the business, which is the main workload to keep it going. This was great, but as a result of thinking so much about automation and studying Rich’s course, I was interested in possibly using technology to further systematize the operations and gain more leverage.

Using Software To Automate

BetterEdit has a very simple job flow process. A client submits a paper and makes payment, the admin person assigns the job and forwards the document to an editor. The editor completes the job and returns to the document to both the admin and the client. Various emails flow back and forth if there are problems, but generally that’s the basic process.

One of the key weaknesses of the system I had was no affiliate program. I saw huge potential if I could find a way to pay a commission out to websites that referred jobs to the business. Besides manually tracking things, which would be a nightmare, I just couldn’t do it.

The answer to the affiliate issue was to create some kind of software that would handle the job process, including payments, so we could automatically track affiliate referrals and credit commissions for jobs completed.

I had to be careful because between paying editors and admin, the margin on jobs wasn’t massive. This wasn’t like an information product where I could pay out 50% commissions, I’d have to be careful. This was another reason where I saw software as a help as it could reduce the amount of work admin did, meaning I could incentivize affiliates with a higher commission.

With a software system in place, including an affiliate program, I could get out there and recruit an army of websites to refer customers to my business. I liked this idea because by then I was getting pretty tired of heading out to campuses to put up posters to promote the service, although I was starting to outsource this job too (my mind was constantly thinking about how I could work less without reducing my income).

Realizing Your Concept Can Be Tough

It was clear that software could be the automation answer, so I scheduled a meeting with a local development firm and sat down with them to talk about my plan.

The idea was to have clients create user accounts by filling out a form, then when it comes time to submit a job they login, upload their paper, stipulate the time frame and word count, the system spits out the price, they make payment or choose a payment option and the job is submitted. When new jobs come in an email is sent to admin who then logs in, and assigns the job to an editor. The system then sends an email to the editor, who logs in, accepts the job and begins work. The editor would then log in to return the paper, which would trigger emails to both the admin and the client to let them know the edited document was ready for download.

The developers understood what I was trying to do, they seemed capable of creating my vision, so we agreed upon a basic plan of action and they started work on the first phase of the software.

It was about this time that things started to fall apart. The software firm had finished preliminary work on the project so I could see the basic user interface. I had emphasized the need for simplicity given my client base where not coming from a background of English as a first language (hence they needed my proofreading service for their papers). I looked at the interface and I could see all kinds of places where my customers would get lost, and that was only the first phase of the software.

I knew my business very well and I knew why it was successful. One of the keys, as for most businesses, is good customer service and clear communication. This was even more important when your clients are not great with English. What I was effectively going to do was replace a human being customer service person with a robot software program. It could be done, but I had a feeling the time and cost involved would quickly spiral out of control.

It was at that point I decided to stop the project. I paid the phase one fee and concluded that, at least with me as the owner, I wasn’t going to pursue this avenue.

I still believe the idea is sound and certainly finding a way to include an affiliate program is possibly the best way to grow the business, but I had to consider the clients first. The software could have ended up becoming a barrier for customers to submit jobs. This of course would have been a fundamental flaw, and with no jobs coming in because the clients couldn’t figure out how to use the software, they would have ended up emailing their job anyway – which was the current system – so I would have spent thousands on a software system that no one used.

Humans As Automation

I decided, in this instance with the editing service, the best form of automation was to continue to use a human being. My clients needed the understanding that only a real person at the end of an email account could provide.

I have no doubt somewhere out there a software script exists, possibly even at another proofreading company, that does what my idea planned to do, but for me, given the size of my business, I could have gone broke trying to create the program and I wasn’t convinced even then it would do the job.

This experience led me to always ask the question of whether a human is a better suited automation resource than a script or program when it came to methods of systematizing my business. There’s never a clear cut answer as to what is the best way to automate your business, but so far for me, beyond basic automation through email autoresponders like AWeber (by far the most powerful automation in my business – see Conversion Blogging for why), I’ve gone with very simple solutions backed up with human beings.

Don’t get my wrong, scripts are great and I expect I’m probably missing out on some very cost effective ways to gain more efficiency and leverage in my business (there’s always more you can systematize), but because of my experience with technology, often the cost of implementation outweighs the benefit I could gain.

Bear in mind I’m saying this from the mindset of running a business of a certain size and living a certain kind of lifestyle. I’m not looking to take on full time employees, get an office and grow to the point where I’m committed to certain things simply because the size of the machine has become more than I can handle.

I’m out to make as much money as I can, but keep operations small and fluid, so I can chase the projects I like without over committing myself. This tends to cap my overall capacity for growth, but if you can make one or two million dollars a year without ever committing to full time employees or relying on complex software solutions, that’s good enough for me! (and yes, that is a realistic goal, I expect to be there in about a couple of years, or whatever pace is comfortable).

If your ambition is grander then obviously you will need full time employees and paying thousands of dollars for computer programs that can deliver powerful automation and leverage, such as customer relations database programs (which often take a full time employee just to manage), is no doubt in your business plan. There’s no right or wrong direction here, it’s whatever you need given your goals and the speed at which you want to get there, that impacts your decision making.

Keep It Simple… Enough

Right now, in terms of technology, I use very few tools. WordPress of course, AWeber for sure, email through Gmail, forums with vBulletin, Twitter, Facebook, some servers with Knownhost and Dreamhost, domain registration with Dotster…and that’s about it.

There’s a few more odds and ends here and there of course and I make use of certain desktop applications to produce reports, video and audio, but my business relies on very little from a technology standpoint. Simplicity is beautiful (Apple understands this – that’s why their programs have so few options) and if you can create a business that relies on basic programs, that makes automation even easier.

From there, I rely on a few key people to use these basic technology resources and help manage my business. Customer service, technology implementation, graphics and copywriting, are handled by other people, more capable than myself at meeting these needs. That leaves me to do what I do best, which is teach and be creative by thinking and then communicating my ideas to you.

In the next few weeks I’m going to release a report on making money with membership sites. Inside the report in the technology chapter I relate my process of choosing the technology to run my membership sites and how despite certain advantages that some scripts can provide, I choose to forgo these options and instead build a very simple system. Again, keeping things as simple as possible and relying on human beings for the most critical tasks has proven very effective for me.

Paying People Is Expensive

It’s fairly clear that for most companies, paying people is the greatest cost.

I was looking over my accounting records for the last tax year and my number one expense was contractors, accounting for more than 25% of my margin. That cost is far above any other cost to my business (I operated that year at a little less than 70% profit margin), and that’s without any full time employees.

I was slow to initially bring on people to help me, precisely because I was so attached to keeping money in the bank, but eventually I saw the light and realized my mindset about outsourcing needed adjustment. I’ve written extensively about cash flow and outsourcing, and I’ll link to the articles at the end of this post so you have some references if you are still not comfortable with the idea of paying others to do work, especially when your cash flow is tight.

Once I got over the miser attitude, I started to experience the “dream” lifestyle that Rich talked about in the Manifesto and so many people strive for every day. True, I was spending more money and that had an impact on me short term, but I began to enjoy much more freedoms and my income eventually surpassed what it was, to the point that I could travel for most of 2008, spend $50,000+ during that time and still come home to more money in my bank account thanks to my business.

Thankfully, unlike the massive investment you might have to make upfront in a technology solution, when bringing on people you can tightly control how much you spend and how much you automate. You can start with very basic tasks, like have someone filter your email for you for an hour a day and then contract someone to install WordPress and make basic changes like adding an email opt-in form and custom header to the blog design. Most of these things cost very little, but you immediately begin to experience the effectiveness of having people do processes for your business.

Perhaps the greatest challenge once you embrace the assistance of other people, is finding good people in the first place. It’s not easy to locate people with the right skills, who are looking for the kind of work you have and who slot well into your work flow. Thankfully with more and more people looking to live the online lifestyle and the global nature of the Web, you have abundant choice, it’s only the filtering process that takes time.

Find Balance Between Technology and People

Today I barely do anything with technology. While in the past not a single day would go by without me spending hours FTP’ing up and down some files for some website that I’d been coding, today I do little of that, and it’s wonderful.

Technology of course still plays a major role in what I do, it’s just no longer something I personally deal with on my own. Instead of being a constraint (something that stopped me from succeeding), it’s now a tool I can leverage however I see fit.

The key here is to follow a learning curve that goes something like this -

  1. Establish a basic understanding of the general systems and processes that successful Internet businesses use online already (email marketing, seo, blogging, squeeze pages, copywriting, pay per click, etc)
  2. Pick a business model you want to follow
  3. Acquire the technology resources you will need to realize the model (web hosting, domain names, email autoresponder, etc)
  4. Find people to implement the technology and launch your business
  5. Use cash flow to reinvest in people who can handle the processes that you need to do now that you have a business (customer support and management, ongoing marketing and new product development, etc)
  6. Purchase more technology systems as you need them and hire more people to manage the systems

This is a very basic process and as you can see, both people and technology play a major role. As long as you are prepared to use both resources and understand the possible synergies between them, you can build a system that is effectively a money making machine that leaves you free to play whatever role in the business you want to.

People and technology are key topics when it comes to having true success online, in terms of experiencing both financial AND time freedom. Unfortunately most people who run businesses lack one or both of these elements. If you are motivated to change this, please continue your study by reading the following articles.

Further Reading

When you realize business success comes down to many components, most of which all tie back into the people you work with, the technology you use to deliver your product or service, and of course you and your role as the owner, you start to see the big picture and how everything is interrelated.

Just like energy management as a human being is critical to performance, resource management as an entrepreneur is vital to business profitability. Having awareness of of all the parts that make up your business – a complete holistic approach – combined with unique insight into a few key aspects (the unique value you bring to the equation) is the formula for success.

Yaro Starak
Holistic Entrepreneur

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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55 Comments

  • Great post. Automation and simplification are always top of mind thoughts for myself (and the inspiration behind one of my blogs). I’m hoping to have a developer from the UK work on something that’d completely automate something very important in my business (and other peoples businesses) which will surely take a load off of my mind. :)

  • Thanks Yaro,

    I’ve been following you for more then 2 months. You are one of the people I trust with advice and from your free reports I got enough information to start my own blog.

    I am the moment of getting blog going and I am well familiar with Rich’s work and understand the idea of having a business instead of just a website.

    So much information is available on the web that it is so easy to get lost
    I really like that you remind that we need to keep it simple, especially for people who started. When things gets good, it is definitely excellent idea to leverage technology and people.

    Thanks for pointing out in the direction of your new report :)

  • Wow! Weird to see a new post from you. Haven’t seen one in my reader for some time now.

    I guess the blog mastermind program has kept you busy.

    • I’m thinking your RSS reader is a bit broken Steven. I’ve been publishing some of the most in-depth posts to this blog ever about every three to five days for the last few months.

  • Jon

    Leveraging automated technology is a wonderful way to create opportunities without having to do anything… though I find programs like Twitter and other social media networks suck up more productivity than they provide.

    Jon
    http://WoodMarvels.com – Create Unique Memories

  • Great post Yaro

    We had a meeting just last week and one of the outcomes was “simplicity” we try to do so much and build systems but at the end of the day for people to utilise systems you have to keep them simple. One of our ideas is our website. we have clients(landlords) and customers(tenants) and have one website to handle 2 groups that are diametrically opposed, the best thing that we could come up was simplicity. I think we often over complicate things looking for the the perfect system.

  • I feel that when people know that everything you do is treated with individual approach by a real person it makes them more trusting. When they suspect that a program is going to do the work they’re not that happy about paying for it.

  • Thank you for three great lessons Yaro!

    1. Keep things simple
    2. Use Technology whenever possible to increase output while reducing effort
    3. For some things you just got to have a human!

    Can’t wait for the new report, loved the previous two I read!

  • Very good post. I always enjoy how you apply real-world examples to the concepts you teach.

    I’ve been guilty of being a “do everything myself” kind of guy, but as my own business grow, I’m finding that automation (through technology and people) is critical to both financial success and continued sanity. I’m slowly learning to loosen my grip on the wheel a bit.

    Looking forwaard to the membership site report.

    • There is no way to do everything yourself, I learned that the hard way, there are so many great tools that really can help your sanity.

  • Yaro,

    Elliot of GoodPlum had a great write up about you. Automation, when applicable, is key. Although we often don’t think of them in terms of efficiency, I take every opportunity to use keyboard shortcuts when possible.When I use a new program, the first thing I do is find the keyboard shortcut page.

    As far as referrals, check out our tool.

    best,

    Chris O.
    Referral Key
    “Your Trusted Referral Network”
    http://www.referralkey.com/small-business-blog/

  • Just downloaded the Manifesto, thanks for the link. I’ve noticed each time a read a new post by you, I actually get fantastic ideas that I try to set into motion. For some reason branding came into mind as I read this and even though it’s a bit off from what you were writing here, I’m thankful for the ideas I get :) Cheers.

  • As usual, spot on. Kiss it is indeed.

  • Another great read from you Yaro! Simplicity, and knowing when actual human beings serve useful over scripts are definitely keys to making life efficient.

  • A lot of really good stuff there Yaro. I can relate when you talk about resisting outsourcing. It’s tough, especially when you’re bootstrapping your business (as I am), to spend money paying for services that you are able to do on your own. On the other side of the coin, it’s also difficult to find the time to work on those projects or tasks you’d rather outsource if you’re working a full-time job (which I’m also currently doing).

    In response to what you wrote about how expensive it is to pay people, I agree that the time it frees up is great. In my opinion you may have a price that your time is worth when working, but that same time is worth much, much more when it is completely free to spend as you wish.

    Judging by the amount you travel, I assume you’ll agree ;)

  • Hi Yaro,

    This is a fantastic post! I’m relating to this right now as I’m trying to find the right people to handle my work and it’s a crossroads for me trying to juggle the finances and workload.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Great article Yaro. I have commented on a previous article of yours on my blog and now have become a regular reader.

    I just wanted to point out one thing. You have highlighted ‘finding good people’ in the article. I think this should be in bright red with emoticons running around it. This is probably the most difficult aspect that you will face as an business person and should never be underestimated.

    One thing I try to remember is that if I want people with the same work ethic and qualities as me, then they wouldn’t want to work for me. They would be my competition. Understand the mindset of people you hire and recognise that they cannot possibly think the way you do. Treat them with this knowledge in mind and it may make this part of entrepreneurial life just a little bit easier.

    Good stuff Yaro.

    William Bakhos

  • It is unusual to see a blog that has such large print. I didn’t need my glasses.

    With any business we are trying to minimize outflow and maximize inflow and we are all comfortable with a different balance.

    Hire someone to do the tedious work and do what you love.

    • “To Do what you love”

      And who is going to monitor the work, whether they are performing good enough or not.

      Who is going to delegate the work in a proper manner. There are lot things to do even after that … you cant relax mate.

  • nice report Yaro,

    this is my first comment on you blog and i got a lot of info from your article.

    thanx

  • Great post. Love your analogies.

  • In any business venture, I find that one of the most important questions to ask is “Should I do the work myself, pay someone else to do it, or automate it somehow”? Unfortunately, I tend to take on the “I’ll do it myself” mentality more often than not, mostly as a way to preserve capital. What I’m learning though, is that once you outsource and that individual breaks through the steepest part of the learning curve, I am often better off delegating the work to someone else. Lessons learned…

  • Great post Yaro,

    I recently taken this into consideration. I’ve recently started having someone edit my post since I’m not so good at. I personally feel this has added a much more professional touch to my blog since I’ve added this.

  • I always try to automate things I do casually. I even learned ruby to write scripts which do different stuff in internet. Laziness is the fuel of progress. =)

  • That was really a nice read … but don’t you think that you should divide it in two parts instead of that long one.

    In this way people will get time to think about it and can express more efficiently in your next post.

  • I believe it is really important to give context to your business decisions. This is extremely helpful to us as readers and followers. Thanks for more great insights. I agree that keeping it simple is key!
    Best,
    TAM

  • Yaro,

    Thanks for this very important post. A huge part of Work Less, Make More (http://www.worklessmakemore.com) is focusing on your Brilliance—your highest value activity. Doing so requires that you give up all non highest value activities.

    There are three ways to do this: elimante, delegate, and automate. Your post addresses delegation (human) and automation (technology). And you’re right, both are necessary. One challenge with technology is that computers can’t think. Real people are essential in businesses that have people as customers. This is where balancing the two comes into play.

    The other thing you can do is eliminate unnecessary activities. Checking email 20 times a day, surfing the internet (mindlessly), or watching television for hours a day are examples of activities that can be completely eliminated, or at least greatly reduced.

    Thanks for everything, Yaro!

    ~ Brian

    P.S. When are we going to do an interview for Success Circle?
    http://www.successcirclemonthly.com

  • You just giving good tips and advice weeks after weeks. Thanks

  • When it comes to machines and proofreading I’d rather have a person look it over because they can read something and realize the point of some things better than a machine would. business or informal. Having a machine do the job is a great time saver but you should always double check it to be sure the machine is doing what it is told to.

  • Great post! The thing I love about your blog is that you give ACTIONABLE strategies so that we can learn new stuff and then implement it. That’s why I keep coming back here!

  • Efficiency such as you are describing is what takes 1 million dollar companies to 100 million dollar companies.

  • Great article Yaro!

    I really like the fact that you delve into some real detail about how to get things done. It’s amazingly rare to find this these days. Thanks!

  • Hi Yaro,

    I agree with you in that we should use as few tools as possible. It’s important to automate but it’s also important to provide your own unique service. There’s always a “people” factor in any successful business. Too many times we become concerned with how many people we can reach instead of the impression that we make with our presentation.

    Personalize your campaign as much as possible by presenting yourself and you will achieve success.

    Thanks for sharing your insight :)

    Ryan

  • I have some theories as to why this happens, but I still can’t believe the magnitude of people I’ve met/talked to that are completely afraid of technology. It amazes me that most of them regard technology as something to be afraid of and evil.

    I’ve had far too many loooong conversations in the past with computer consulting clients, just trying to convince them to try something. I used to think there was a huge gap between generations that was to blame, but from what I’ve seen, it goes far beyond that.

    People shouldn’t look at technology in a bad way, but rather think of it as a tool that they can learn to control for their own benefit.

    • Yeah I know of some people that are like that as well and it amazies me as well. I guess that people are afraid of three reasons, 1 they don’t understand it and figure the have gone this far without it so why try it, 2 they think that the world is getting to dependent on it and if it goes so will society, 3 movies and images like the Matrix or the Terminator scare them.

  • Depending too much on automation is not a idea. I think you have nicely explained the balance between using human resource and automation for different tasks.

  • Internet Business Manifesto is very comprehensive. I feel that the thing was so successful because Rich took his time and did his research. And it’s true for almost anything. If you’re thourough and you pay attention to details you will succeed.

  • Being in the fortune cookie business I deal with this exact issue everyday. Technology taking over what humans can do.

  • In a well organized economy, people will always have new jobs created as the old ones gets taken over by techonology. However, they might need to acquire new skills or update their education.

    However, in an economy that is held to ransom by leaders who lacks vision, expertriates will be brought in from foreign lands to take up the new jobs created by technology.

    So the problem is not really technology but how it is applied as a tool. Nice post.

  • A clear example on how to make more with less on eBay and preferably, on your own e-commerce shop on the internet to make even more profits, is to raise your prices more and offer more immediate value to your target market. How exactly to do this? Most eBayers and auctioneers believe that value can only be presented by adding more and working more.

  • Another great read! I must say, when you said “is finding good people in the first place.” That is so true! No matter what business you are in, you really need to find good people in the first place. When my father owned a super market, he had his bad share of employees, who actually wound up hurting him in the long run, because of employees who would steal, and some were lazy and did not do their work properly.

    Till then,

    Jean

  • This was a very insightful article. I am looking for a business with both financial and time freedom. I agree with the steps you point out interms of peopel/tech balance- I reflect on previous experience in corporate world that supports your theories.

  • Yaro,

    What is the Plugin at the top of your home page that list Favorites, Popular and Review articles? is it a plug-in? I would much like it for my site! Thank you for all the great insights!

    Cheers
    Lace

  • Yaro,

    Time freedom is always a major criteria that’s all the bloggers crave for. Since Automation provides tad freedom… so its a major thing that the bloggers look out for. And you said truly that hiring people is expensive.

    A very informative piece of information.

    Thanks for it.

  • Amazing and valuable post, you have given absolute tips about balance between technology and people. I loved your every step.

  • Outsourcing is one of those things thats hard to start because you don’t realize how much YOUR time is actually worth. Should I be doing some basic admin work or should I pay someone $10. My hourly rate is much higher.

    I even use this conversion when deciding whether or not to go to the grocery store, or order online and pick up. Great post as always.

  • Go search for the tools you need online, and if they are not available develop them if you have the skills, otherwise farm out the development. Automation to as large as an extent as possible is key to getting the most out of your technology, and the people you employ, freeing up their time for less menial tasks.

  • Yaro – outsourcing – as a necessity – is becoming more important to me as I extend my reach across several different blogs where I guest post regularly and as I’m launching Aspiring FEMpreneur as a new membership program. Loads of fun, but so over-whelming. Listening to you and to Tyrone Shum is putting me in action to create systems to allow me to hand work over to others so I can keep up with all of the opportunities that are presenting themselves :D

  • A very interesting post. One of the great challenges I’ve experienced is people actually letting go. They feel the necessity to still remain hands on. I like the end of your post where you mention you have very little to do with technology now as your team are empowered to achieve on their own.

    The balance between people and technology and using your technology and people will be the difference global business success and failure.

    Good Post.

  • I think synergy is one of the most massive things not alot of internet marketers konw about or even businesses. Although Google is basically the biggest such example online.

  • When it comes to online marketing, it’s all about leverage. The only way to grow your business online is to leverage the power of technology. Internet for example, it allows you to connect with everyone instantly and efficiently.

    Also leveraging the brain power of smart people will also help grow your business because they are skilled professional and they can perform the task more efficiently.

  • Technology is doing effectively what humans can do.

    Thanks
    Misbah Mumtaz

  • I love automating business processes with software as well Yaro. It saves us a lot of time, money and effort. Companies who don’t use software to automate tasks are wasting an opportunity to grow at a faster rate. Software is always cheaper than hiring someone to do a job manually, always! I think business automation is an often overlooked strategy by many business owners, particularly online business owners.

  • Cara dan panduan lengkap atau tutorial that very aplicative. Yes that’s very important to cut inefficientcy in our company, or even a one man show small business.

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