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Balancing Automation in Business Operations

As an entrepreneur, I occasionally like to take a detour from discussing the benefits of our services and instead share my personal experiences and lessons learned along the way. Due to some changes recently in our accounting department, I stepped in temporarily to help bridge the gap.

My time knee-deep in the financial function of our business led me to a surprising realization: even in accounting, innovation plays a pivotal role. It's become clear to me that everyone, regardless of their role, can influence the work environment and streamline processes for the better.

This revelation stems from a feature we recently introduced. A few years back, we started offering different prefunding options. Initially, we only provided a pay-as-you-go model, but as we expanded and our clientele included larger companies, we discovered the need for alternative funding methods. We began by manually handling these non-standard requests, intending to learn from the experience and eventually integrate them into our system. This involved Monthly Funding (similar to the concept of Budgeted ASO), Quarterly Funding, Annual Funding, and a Float style (where clients deposit a float and top it up as it gets depleted).

Manually managing these options was labor-intensive, which is why we didn't immediately advertise them to everyone. However, after refining our processes, we transitioned everything to our system on July 1st this year – right around the time I took over the reins. I have a penchant for getting into the nitty-gritty details of our business, but I'm also the type to get annoyed if I dwell in the weeds for too long. This is when I turn to automation, and it's during these moments that I find the most room for learning and creativity.

Through this round of automation, I stumbled upon a valuable insight that I believe myHSA has excelled at so far, and it's something worth sharing with our entire team. There's a delicate balance between deciding when to automate and when not to. Sometimes, the manual process and personal touch provide added value, while in other cases, automation leads to happier customers. It's a fine line, and finding the right balance is a challenge.

For instance, we could offer prefunding options to companies of all sizes, but is it worthwhile? Automation, while incredibly efficient, often leaves room for a touch of manual handling, so we must carefully choose our candidates. Does a 2-person $500 HSA account really need a monthly funding model? In my opinion, no. They are better suited for a pay-as-you-go model. However, it's essential to go through the motions and offer monthly prefunding to small companies to understand why you might not want to automate it before making such a decision.

Being a technology-driven company, not every idea merits an immediate investment, especially when scalability is uncertain. To ensure we’re investing in the right projects, we prefer to manually manage the idea for a period, allowing us to gain a deep understanding of the user experience and make well-informed decisions regarding automation. In the case of prefunding, I've personally felt the challenges, which have informed my perspective on the feature and who should be offered these services.

Another key lesson I've learned is the importance of instilling a culture of innovation and automation within the company. Many employees get caught up in their day-to-day tasks without considering how to make them more efficient. It's a mindset shift, and it can be challenging, especially if there's a fear that automating tasks might lead to job loss. We've repeatedly emphasized that we hire intelligent individuals who will always have new opportunities to explore. Automating mundane tasks not only makes their lives easier but also enhances overall efficiency.

From my perspective, as someone who isn't from the accounting profession, the idea of manual invoicing seems antiquated and highly inefficient. Particularly with the concept of a “float”– why not automate it? The amount of manual work and emails involved in managing a client’s float can be overwhelming. I find myself advocating to company accountants about the benefits of automation in this regard, emphasizing that we've implemented checks and balances to ensure a rule-based approach. The level of automation we've achieved within our system is truly remarkable, and we're fine-tuning the final details as we transition everything to our platform.

In conclusion, I believe everyone should approach their role within an organization with a beginner's mindset. Embrace change, let technology assist you in performing tasks more efficiently, and remember that the ultimate goal is to reduce tedious, time-consuming tasks. By doing so, you'll have more time to focus on what truly matters. And on that note, rather than ask my Marketing team to edit this, I used ChatGPT.

Steve McEwan

COO & Co-Founder


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