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How to Run a Startup on Autopilot?

As an entrepreneur who has built and exited several successful startups, I often get asked about the secrets to running a business on autopilot. The allure of a self-sustaining company that practically runs itself is a tantalizing prospect for any business owner.

While it’s a bit of a misnomer to say a business can truly run 100% on autopilot without any oversight, there are definitely strategies to systematize and streamline operations to minimize your involvement over time.

In this post, I’ll share insights from my entrepreneurial journey on how to build an autopilot business model. We’ll cover key topics like systemization, outsourcing, automation, passive income streams, and building a strong team and company culture.

So buckle up and get ready to learn how to transform your business into a finely-tuned machine that can cruise on autopilot (well, mostly!).

The foundation of any business that can run on autopilot is robust systems and processes. You need to document and systematize every core function of your company, from marketing and sales to operations and customer service.

By creating standardized workflows and training materials, you ensure consistent execution even when you’re not directly involved. This allows your team to handle most situations independently without constant guidance from you.

I’ve found that companies thrive when making the business model itself the product rather than the output of their services. For example, McDonald’s doesn’t sell just burgers; they sell a finely-tuned business system that allows consistent operations worldwide.

Key areas to systemize:

  • Marketing/lead generation processes
  • Sales scripts and processes
  • Customer onboarding/service processes
  • Inventory management
  • Hiring/training processes
  • Accounting/bookkeeping

Outsource Non-Core Tasks

As your business owner, your time is incredibly valuable. One of the biggest drains is spending too much time on peripheral tasks that don’t directly generate revenue or grow your business.

That’s why smart outsourcing is critical. Identify any repetitive tasks that can be handled by virtual assistants, freelancers, or outside agencies. Common tasks to outsource include customer service, data entry, bookkeeping, website updates, graphic design, and more.

The key is to double down on your unique strengths and highest revenue-generating activities while outsourcing everything else to skilled professionals.

According to Outsourcing Statistics 2022, 59% of companies outsource to cut costs. But beyond cost savings, outsourcing frees up your time to work on higher-level leadership tasks that move the needle.

Automate as Much as Possible

Technology is a beautiful thing, and there’s no shortage of tools to help automate various aspects of your business.

From email marketing sequences to social media scheduling to invoicing and payments, look for opportunities to use software to handle tasks automatically with little human intervention required.

For example, you can use CRM software like HubSpot to automate the entire sales funnel process and customer journey through marketing automation tools like email drip campaigns.

According to an EY study, many of the current tasks can be automated across all industries using current technologies. Embracing automation allows you to save time, increase output, and reduce human error.

Diversify With Passive Income Streams

One key strategy for building an autopilot business is diversifying your income streams to include passive revenue sources.

While your core business may be a service-based model that requires more hands-on work, look for opportunities to create passive income products like:

  • Online courses
  • Ebooks/audiobooks
  • Subscription services
  • Licensing deals
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Rental income (property or equipment)

These passive income channels allow you to monetize your expertise and generate revenue even while you sleep. Plus, they create valuable income diversification to reduce overreliance on billable hours.

The benefits of passive income are multi-fold:

  • Recurring revenue
  • Greater financial stability
  • Time freedom
  • Potential for scalability

According to a PassiveIncomeLists survey, the average person makes $918 per month from their passive income streams. With dedication, you can turn passive income into a substantial revenue driver.

Build a Rockstar Team

You’ve heard the saying: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Building a great team is paramount for creating a business that can run independently without your constant presence.

Identify your key roles and hire superstars who not only have the hard skills but also intrinsic motivation and ability to work autonomously. Invest in comprehensive training to empower them to make smart decisions.

As a leader, your role transitions from doing the work to coaching, mentoring, and providing the vision and high-level direction.

According to Gallup data, companies with engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. An inspired team will run your business seamlessly on autopilot.

Create a Self-Sustaining Company Culture

Beyond just building a great team, you need to cultivate a strong, self-sustaining company culture for long-term autopilot success.

Define and live by your core values. Foster a sense of ownership and accountability in your team. Promote continuous learning. Nurture an environment of open communication and trust.

I’ve found company traditions and rituals help ingrain the culture, from quarterly retreats to weekly team huddles. The culture you build is the backbone that enables your business to thrive when you’re not in the weeds day-to-day.

Research by the University of Virginia found that companies with a rich culture experienced a greater revenue increase over those without one. Culture is a powerful force multiplier.


To build and run a business on autopilot:

  • Systemize core operations
  • Outsource non-core tasks
  • Automate using modern tools
  • Diversify with passive income
  • Build an autonomous all-star team
  • Cultivate a strong company culture

It takes time and effort, but the payoff of an independently-running business that affords you time and freedom is immense.


Q: Isn’t running a business on autopilot risky?

A: Any hands-off approach has inherent risks. That’s why it’s important to have robust systems, highly capable teams, and financial reserves in place as safeguards. You’ll still need to be involved, just not in the daily execution.

Q: What if I want to eventually exit?

A: Creating an autopilot business makes it much more valuable and attractive to potential buyers or investors. It signals a well-oiled machine that can thrive without your constant presence.

Q: What’s a good industry for an autopilot model?

A: Lower overhead industries with higher margins and scalable revenue streams work best, like SaaS, information products, e-commerce, agencies, and consulting.


  1. A key benefit of outsourcing is: A) Reducing overhead costs B) Freeing up your time C) Accessing specialized skills D) All of the above
  2. Which is NOT a common task to automate? A) Social media scheduling B) Customer support C) Sales negotiations
    D) Email marketing sequences
  3. True or false: Passive income streams should replace your core business revenue. A) True B) False
  4. A strong company culture can lead to: A) Higher employee engagement B) Better customer service C) Increased revenue growth D) All of the above
  5. To build an autopilot business, you should: A) Hire an all-star team B) Systemize core operations
    C) Outsource and automate non-core tasks D) All of the above


  1. D) All of the above
  2. C) Sales negotiations
  3. B) False
  4. D) All of the above
  5. D) All of the above


5 correct: You’re an autopilot master! Implement these strategies to build a self-sustaining business.

3-4 correct: You have a solid grasp but could use some fine-tuning. Review the key principles.

0-2 correct: It’s a good thing you read this post! Apply these methods to get your business running independently.

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