Profits on the Rise: How a Small Business Succeeded by Adopting Workflow Automation
Damian Piwowar is the owner and Managing Director of Merserwis, an engineering company out of Poland that specializes in testing and measuring instruments, sales, and calibration.
During our conversation, Mr. Piwowar took me through a similar journey that many companies throughout the world go through, a journey that demands a technological turning point or risk dying out.
And, for him, the risk paid off.
By implementing automation processes, it helped contribute to a total income increase of 21% in both 2017 and 2018.
The story of Merserwis is no different than others. Companies of all sizes rely on a myriad of web services to help them accomplish their work.
The problem is that many companies spend too much valuable time managing their services individually or manually sharing information between them. Where instead, they could spend that time on more important transformational activities.
With the onset of workflow automation platforms, many of these problems have been solved helping businesses run more efficiently. All of which demonstrates that finding new ways to work faster and smarter is key to success.
Piwowar shares his insights on how automation can help. For him, it is not just about automating manual online tasks but is also about helping to grow his business.
"Our staff can now focus on key aspects of our business"
Jessica Herauf — Can you tell me a little bit more about what you do for a living?
Damian Piwowar — I am the owner of a small company, we have a team of 17 people in our office in Warsaw. I am the Managing Director of the company and basically, the company I work for is an engineering company. We do a lot of different things in relation to tests and measuring instruments. We have a lot of customers from different industries: energy, electricity, heating and ventilation, and air conditioning. And, what we do is provide two main products measuring instruments and complementary services (calibration, training, repairs).
JH — I want to know a little bit more about your use with us. So, when did you first realize that you need some sort of integration or automation tool for your work?
DP — I was involved when we decided to integrate, 5 or 6 years ago, the ERP system and other software that we use in our company. So, I had some knowledge of what kind of tasks we do in terms of the marketing background, sales, and administration (things like accounting, and so on). And since the work that surrounds us and technology develops very fast, we have many new software and services that we started to use to make our work easier. We use a different service for mail, marketing, sales, and accounting. At some point, I realized that we need to somehow connect all these islands and automate repetitive, manual tasks we do almost every day to focus on the most important thing. What we had was different data, spread across various software but in fact — they were all connected to the customer in the end. So, I was starting to think, what we can do to automate some of the tasks? And, how we can benefit from that?
I was aware that with our size of the company, if we want to somehow go further and grow, we need to do things better and smarter, quicker, and with less resources since the costs of labor increased significantly. So, I started looking for solutions of how we can integrate data and how we can automate some of the tasks.
So, I first started to work with Zapier, because Make, I don’t think was on the market or maybe at the very early stage. So that was the first service we started to use, for simple, single repetitive task like email follow-ups and automatic replies.
JH — Was there any single event that helped you realize that automation is a good direction to go in, that you would like to share?
Since I had some previous marketing experience, I knew that the number of returning customers for services in our lab was surprisingly low, it was around 10–13%, and I knew that they were satisfied with our work despite the low number. So I came across an idea that maybe our customers simply forget about us and we just need to remind them to come back to us. Of course, doing it manually by phone call or by email would require to hire a dedicated person for that, which for small business is always difficult. So with help of few tools like ERP, Google Calendar, Gmail we have created our first automated workflow that was doing this job for us automatically. Of course, at the beginning it was early stage, there were some errors and so on, but soon it started to bring us some clear benefits. And next year, our number of returning customers was twice bigger! Soon reaching 50%.
This was the moment when I said, ok let’s automate everything and within time, we were using automation for more and more tasks. But the more we wanted to integrate and automate the more I felt limited in what we can achieve with the current software or solution we were using.
So once again I had started to look for another, more flexible solution, and this is how I came across Make.
JH — Gathering all this information, today you are using Make across your business. That’s great to hear. How did it help you to do more than previously?
As I explained at some point I decide to integrate everything and automate as much as we can. In 2017, we had started to look for the right CRM software that was supposed to cover all our business areas. Soon after we started to work on implementation of new CRM into our company. But since I already knew the benefits of automation I wanted to have a CRM that would automatically gather data about emails, landline phone calls, mobile phone calls, invoices, payments, repairs, calibrations and not to force our team members to waste time on manually typing it.
It took me a while to understand how Make works, but as soon as I realized how flexible it is — and that you can basically connect anything with anything, we started integrating it with our other business processes and automate areas that we could automate.
Now all those pieces of information are integrated into our CRM system so we have full information from each department: from lab, from sales, from marketing, from accounting, what is the full history of the customer, what invoice did he receive, what is the tracking number for the logistics company and when it was sent, if he was late with the payments, who called the customer (by landline or mobile), when our customer was calling to us, when he did send last email… absolutely everything.
Thanks to Make we have really went on another level and we still find new areas in which it can help us with our work.
JH — What would you say would be the impact if you didn’t have a tool like Make, for your business?
DP — It may be difficult to measure very accurately. First of all, it’s worth to remember that a small company without such a tool like Make probably couldn’t afford to get to get such automation tool or software. Alternatively hiring a programmer to write such a software for you or buying such tailor-made IT product on a market would still cost you a fortune. Today, thanks to solutions like Make and a bit of learning, you can do a lot of what supposed to be advanced IT tasks in a smart, casual way in your office or home. Or you can hire someone to do it for you, this still will be way cheaper.
But to give you a brief example in numbers, since 2005 I was working here as a regular employee doing marketing and IT stuff, later in 2009 I become a part of the managing board and finally in 2016 I have bought all the shares. Since 2005, the maximum single growth I remember was around 5% but there were years we were struggling to survive. Over 2 years ago, after the management buyout, I decide that it is worth to invest some time and money to try if automation can bring us some real benefits as we need to grow and expand.
After two and a half years of doing such automation in different areas of our company, we were finally able to get a total year-to-year increase over 20% of income and we were able to double our profits. I can’t honestly say that ‘only automation’ was responsible for that since our hard-working team from marketing, sales, administration, and lab made it possible. But I believe roughly 30–50% of the results we did get, were thanks to automating a lot of stuff. And yes In total our sales in 2017 and 2018 increased over 20% but there were areas that thanks to automation increased overall 40%! Still, we had to hire more staff, but now they can at least focus on key aspects of our business rather than manual work and I hope it will help us grow even further.
Piwowar paints a picture of what companies of all sizes go through, searching for a way to connect their different services to concentrate on more high-level tasks.
They try different apps in isolation and different integration platforms, trying to find the best way possible to integrate their apps and automate their work.
But when a company finds that magical mix it can be quite beneficial!
By decreasing the time spent on tedious small tasks, businesses’ can redirect their efforts to the work that matters, or have the work that matters done faster.
Any way you slice it, automation has real dividends for the user — like the potential growth of a business.