We're hearing a lot of news about how artificial intelligence is changing business. Just this week, the White House announced it would launch a special committee dedicated to the subject.

The most common misconceptions about AI is that it's complicated and only for large companies. Both are wrong. I don't pretend to be an expert on the subject, but you don't need to be a data scientist to know how to leverage data just like you don't need to be a developer to create the concept behind an app. There are plenty of simple consumer-facing tools powered by AI that can help you run your small business or startup.

I recently started diving into simple AI applications to help streamline tasks to make my small agency run smoother, without requiring more man-hours. As Andrew Ng described it, if a person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, it can likely be automated using AI.

Here are 4 areas where you can use AI in your small business to gain freedom.


This might be one of the most common ways many small businesses are utilizing AI, easily picking out meeting times and more efficiently organizing a calendar. Scheduling apps like Mixmax have been a game changer, saving me and others precious time in what used to be a back-and-forth email chain. But with a little input, AI can do even more to solve some of the most annoying occurrences in office life.

If you've ever been in six meetings in one day then you know that getting to the point in some of them can be hard. AI could be given previous meeting notes and used to determine the exact right course of action in a meeting. Suddenly a 60-minute meeting becomes 10 and your company's productivity improves.

HR + Customer Service 

Chances are, you've used AI without even thinking about it. Chat bots are becoming standard for not only lead generation, but also for customer service.  Those tasks that AI can handle are becoming more and more frequent and reduce wait times for people looking to pay a bill or have a question answered online. 

"Every company in every industry is trying to make sense of AI and how it can improve their business," said Sjoerd Gehring, vice president of talent acquisition, Johnson & Johnson. "Through partnerships with Textio, HiredScore and Google, we are able to use AI to remove gender bias from job descriptions, match passive candidates with open jobs, and rethink how we serve jobs to job seekers on our website."

Even "smart cities" like my hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, uses bots for nearly every bill paying task. Now, residents like me can pay a bill in under 20 seconds from a phone and very little, if any, human interaction is required.

"The goal with AI is to make things easier and more efficient for customers and to do things that were previously impossible," says Jenny Yang, founder of AI-powered tech company Aida, which was recently acquired by Vision Critical to accelerate its current AI work.

Customer Data

Educational start-up Loopa uses simple AI to analyze customer data and identify which ones are a school or college, based on their email address. "Manually wading through all our buyers would take a really long time so this simple script does it for us without any human intervention," says Saj Devshi, Loopa founder.

AI allows them to segment based on B2B or B2C customers so they can send email marketing and promotions accordingly. This also prevents user-error sometimes associated with surveys or website forms.

Simplify Tasks

We use simple AI and voice recognition to transcribe videos into blog posts, a task that used to take an intern or associate hours to complete. A lot of businesses create a massive amount of data, especially when it comes to finances, inventory, and online traffic. AI can help streamline and make sense of the data, saving businesses hours of busy work so employees can focus on more human-centric aspects of the job.

While there are some concerns that AI can impact jobs in the long run, currently many businesses are leveraging AI to support employees, not diminish their positions. Ultimately, AI can make workers more efficient and to help minimize "busy work."  




Published on: May 11, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.