Daniel Cooper spent the best part of two decades reviving and reinventing businesses across the globe, one line of code at a time. He believes that the future of work is both human and machine working together to free employees from boring and manual responsibilities.
Our very fun conversation dives into both how the human and technology aspects of business operations can be improved, how to design for growth, and it’s also just a great discussion that you will thorooughly enjoy.
Check out Daniel on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-cooper-03422a42
Check out Lolly.co here: https://lolly.co
Transcript powered by Happy Scribe
Welcome to the show. My name is Eric Wright. I’m your host for the DiscoPosse Podcast.
And in this particular episode, which is a great conversation with Daniel Cooper.
Daniel is the founder of Lolly.Co. And they are solving problems that you have. You may not even realize that you’re sort of in the throes of facing around business automation and process automation, and they solve very human problems and very technical problems and merge them together. Super cool The Lightning Fast Path to Productivity and Automation in Business.
In fact, actually, Daniel is the author of a book called Upgrade. Which the tagline is, The Lightning Fast Path to Productivity and Automation in Business.
But more than anything, Daniel’s just a fantastic human. I really had a great time in this conversation.
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All right. This is Daniel Cooper. Enjoy.
This is Daniel Cooper from Lolly Co and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse Podcast.
It always sounds so much nicer with the Cambridge tones to the. I need to get you to voice over all my intros from now on, Daniel.
So thank you very much, Daniel. I’m excited because this is near and dear to me. It’s stuff that I work with both in my direct day to day work, and I do start up advisory and I help a lot of folks out. And I’ve been a long time fan of automating my day away whenever possible so that I could get to stuff as meaningful, really kind of push away the Monday and stuff and especially in the area that you do, which is a lot of like you automate a lot of things and you help to guide folks through that journey.
You are founder, you’re an author. You are prolific in your content creation and your activities. So for folks that are brand new to you, Daniel, if you want to give a quick introduction, a bio, we’ll talk about Lolly Co and we’ll talk about the book because I’m excited. You’ve got the book that’s coming out it’ll be, as the time this launches will be almost exactly the time. So we’ll have links, of course, to Upgrade, which is going to be fantastic. I’m looking forward to being clicking the buy button the moment it’s published.
Excellent. Well, welcome one and all again to the DiscoPosse Podcast. I’m very flattered, actually, that I can be here talking to everyone today. It’s fantastic. So I’m the founder of Lolly Co. We are BPA or a business process automation company. It’s a really boring term. I didn’t come up with it. Some really boring person, a big consultancy firm probably came up with it. But what we really do day in, day out is two things. We help companies understand their business processes and the holes, the air gaps, the inefficiencies.
We help them recraft those in a meaningful way where everybody is on board. And then what we do beyond that is actually then look to automate away the really boring, mundane day to day stuff that no one really likes to do. So I don’t think I could be more succinct than that. But as you said, I do have a book coming out, which is exciting. It feels like I’ve been doing it forever.
It’s always good when the podcast always forgets to turn off his ringer. There you go. I apologize for the background noise there kids.
Yeah. What you don’t know is I just rang Eric there just to throw him off. Okay, cool. So as I was saying, what was I saying? Oh, the book. Oh, yeah. Ironic thing. It’s taking me longer to edit the book than it did to write it. Because you get this, you finished it. We’re done it’s all done. And then you have a quick realization. You should edit it because you start to think what was at the beginning of the book and was it the same tone at the end and you start to worry.
Okay, I’ll do an edit and then it gets left to the bottom of the path. So the edit process seems to be much longer. So there is the book, of course, and you will hear me and see me on other wonderful podcasts. Not as wonderful as this one, but there are others. So that is a very quick overview.
I can speak from experience, even in doing middle sort of length books and short form, like 25 to 40 page publishing myself. Good golly. It is humbling. How much, like you think, I had one book that I did. It was about 55 pages, and I rage wrote it. I literally just spent a weekend and I just hammered out 55 pages of content. And then I spent, as you said, three weeks paring it down and overthinking every word and finding the right ways to fit it altogether. And anybody that tells you that they say, everybody says you’ve got a book in you.
Most people do. But what they can’t do is get it out of them. And what they most certainly can’t do is get it edited in a reasonable amount of time and get it to the market.
It’s funny how it works. I made the classic mistake from the very beginning, being an engineer where I said, well, how many words do I think I could write a day? And let’s be really conservative on that. And just back of an app, I can three months. I could do this whole thing in three months flat. And here we are, maybe 20 months later. But I’m looking forward to it. So I hope that the extra time that I’ve spent on it beyond the potentially naive three months that I first envisage it will mean it’s a better book. But we shall see.
The important thing of what the content of the book is in fact, that you’re pouring yourself into this and a lot of lived experience, a lot of work that you’ve done in the field solving this. It’s very certainly. This is why writing the book is often more difficult because you spend so much time and effort doing these things and getting people through this process to then go back and document it. Just like with anything with any systems process we have, documentation is the last bloody thing we do, right?
We kind of master the art of doing the thing and then you say, well, what if I had to hand this off to somebody? Then you go back and you sort of document the process. So it’s ironic I would say that in looking at business process automation and all of these things, it is really and truly humbling what happens when you have to write it down and actually assess what the process looks like to then automate it.
Yeah, absolutely. There’s a reason why when we’re going through education that they don’t just get used to do the thing and say, right, next thing. There’s a whole method to education, and it typically revolves around your reading, your writing. There’s a lot of repetition, and it’s the form of writing things down that seems to take quite easily with us. For most of us, I’d say, actually, when it comes to memory. I know for me I’ve always had a thing, for example. So I seem to do okay, because I have a really good way of memorizing stuff and studying, always had a method to study.
I suppose that’s where I am now, right where I have a method and a process for everything. But I think it’s a really important point, like you bring up. That is the funny thing. With all processes, as soon as you start writing down a standard operating procedure or if it’s going to be a flow chart for a process map and you start to expose it inefficiencies and things you hadn’t thought of and the what ifs and if else and all of the wonderful complications that is life.
I think this is the one when it comes to process automation, especially just like what even seems like a mundane thing. It’s so simple when you do it all the time, you very easily forget. Which is why automation is such an important part of being successful in just about anything, because it’s not just about the speed which you can do it with automation, people get confused. They think that that’s actually the outcome. The outcome is consistency of outcome and understanding the repeatability of the process. Right. I really find that the first thing people think of is that, well, I’m just going to make this thing go faster.
Well, you can make bad things go faster, too. It makes you stop and actually measure out because I used to do this all the time. I would like write server build documentation. So I’ve got to build servers and I would do probably two or three a week. So I get rather good at it. And I wrote the documentation, which I never read because I thought I knew better than the documentation. And then what would happen is because I’m human. The next time I would build it, I would have the document sitting on the table beside me.
I would skip five out of the 40 steps because I just thought I knew them already. And in the end, when we go and do a back check, you realize, like, oh, yeah, I forgot to do this thing. But then when I was forced to actually automate the process, it made me go, oh, good golly. I realized I was doing four steps that I didn’t even include in the documentation that I just get off the top of my head. And by forcing me to get rid of me, it really helps my growth of understanding that I am the bottleneck.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s the thing I think, especially with founders and leaders of companies. It isn’t just founders, and it isn’t just C-Suite. Everyone’s a mini founder, everyone’s a mini leader. Everyone has their own Kingdom within a company, no matter how small. But often you will be the bottleneck. And it can be a real problem. Absolutely.
And the thing is, companies that scale have repeatability and almost a quality assurance guarantee. So by that, what I mean is if you look at, let’s say pizza, right? Domino’s Pizza, Margherita pizza from Domino’s is the same no matter where you order it from. A Big Mac is a Big Mac. Whether you’re in Germany, the UK or Alabama, is exactly the same thing. And those companies are able to scale massively because of the processes involved. They can just chuck the book of someone and say, cool, here you go. Have at it.
And that’s the important part, right. But often we’re too busy being busy to bother process mapping or bother writing a standard operating procedure. But it slows us down. And your exact example is a really good one, because especially if you’re building a server, there’s a lot of complexity there. You have to install the OS. You have to install loads of stuff on top of it. You might require, I don’t know, it could be any type of stack, right? With a server, and it takes you to miss one thing and then to find the one thing, you have to do a load of console commands to find it, digging about trying to work out scratching your head.
And actually, you’ve just wasted a huge amount of time, probably twice as much in that one instance, if you’ve written the SOP and how many times have we all done that? I know I’ve done it. So it is important, but I think it can feel really frustrating when you are a super busy person. When you have to write these processes out, that it slows you down.
Yeah. The concept of slow down to speed up became something I didn’t learn until I was also, I’ll say intermediate or senior in my function at work. And maybe this is something I’d love to get your thoughts on, Daniel. Is is this a human behavior thing? Like how many 23 year olds really dig the idea of process automation versus they want to be the ones that are effectively carrying the baton. Like, is there a weird sense of ownership that changes as you evolve in your understanding of your impact at an office, at work or whatever?
Actually, it doesn’t really matter the age. I encounter these people quite a lot. What you’re seeing is resistance from people. Resistance is a funny emotion, and your brain can come of all types of reasons why you shouldn’t be doing something or why it shouldn’t be done this way. You hear it a lot with, we’ve always done it this way. It’s a really common one, and it can happen in any age that someone is. So you can find someone in mid 50s or someone early 20s. They’re all saying the same thing.
A lot of people find it difficult to let go, even if they’re completely stressed out and they’re completely overrun with work because that is their own mini system they don’t want to give it up because they feel that they’ll actually be almost a spare part and a spare wheel when it’s hard for people sometimes to actually let go of it and trust in their employer. They’re not just going to get automated and let go immediately. But this is a big misconception about what we do.
People presume the way they take their jobs. So it’s a really important part of what we do that we have to reassure people saying, look, we just want to take away the boring stuff so you can do more of the stuff you actually want to do, right? Do you really want to be typing that into a spreadsheet every single day? That’s quite boring, but it’s very common. It’s the short answer.
And this is, we’ll always have jobs because we’ll always have humans, right. In this process, it’s a strange dichotomy of the sense of control. The belief that by doing it by hand, that by touching the process, by being involved in it, that you are controlling it. But in fact, it’s the reverse.
Yeah. And humans are funny with this because we find it very difficult to project forwards or really backwards in time and understand the concept of change. So we’re very good at living in the present. Something for us to be very good at. A good example of this is, I don’t know if you have kids, but whenever my wife was pregnant, it seemed like it was a million miles away when she was going to have the baby and you turn around the baby is due next week, and then you have a mad panic trying to get all your stuff done really quick.
But it’s the same thing when it comes to trying to look at projecting time and saying, ‘Where am I going to be in the future, and what would technology be, and what’s going to happen? And you get really worried about being replaced. There is a lot of talk about people being replaced by technologies and people no longer having roles. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. This has happened number of times in history. Have you ever heard of the Luddites? There’s a term.
Yes. I love this term. For folks that are fresh to this, if you want to walk through the story of it as well. It’s important.
Yeah. So we use Luddite, as I suppose, like a negative term now when we say to people there.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a pejorative. It’s okay, though. I call myself a Luddite, too, so I figure I’m okay to say it.
Exactly. I do this all the time. You Luddites. But no, I don’t, really. But the point with the Luddites. There was a point in history where mills and especially wool and weaving, was like a big industry in the UK, throughout the north, in the middle of the country. And what ended up happening and farming as well as part of this Luddite rising. And what happened was they started to introduce machinery that would allow them to mass produce and people started. Some people started getting laid off and people’s hours and people became very worried. But bearing in mind at this point that type of employment would see people working for twelve or 14 hours a day and getting paid terrible wages and sleeping in awful conditions.
I want to put that in there for a prerequisite for this whole thing and what happened? They think he may actually have been a fantasy character called General, I think it was. I want to say Luddite, but I don’t know. Something along the lines. Anyway, General Luddite was his name and there was a whole mass uprising where they were burning factories and there were riots and in the end, they had to get the army involved and quell the whole uprising and it was really quite serious and it was causing mass disruption in the entirety of the country.
The ironic thing to the story is that when you turn around and look at two or three years later, there are more jobs than originally getting put away because they then needed people to actually be at the docks, loading the chips. They needed people in these factories actually working with these machines, bringing the wool in, bringing the textiles out. So actually it was very, very successful and led a whole other jobs you wouldn’t expect to see farm hands, 30 farm hands and a farm now would be extremely rare.
I would imagine that the US is just like the UK, where you might have a family who have a farm and they may have acres and acres and acres of land, but they have machines now that are handling this. But other jobs come up. The invisible hand of the economy comes in and creates new roles for us. Who would have thought that Eric Wright would be making and creating servers and worrying about has he or has he not installed Apache configurations correctly. Right?
That’s not something we worry about at the time. We were worried that the Wright family were being replaced by a weaving mill. So I would say to people who are worried about that type of thing, it’s not an instant thing. We’re not just going to suddenly be replaced tomorrow. And at the same time, new jobs will emerge.
So I shouldn’t have been smashing that loom out in my backyard then yesterday. It was probably a poor, poor choice. The trope, the sort of fear holds much stronger because it’s an emotional sense of some kind of perceived or potential loss. The idea that you’re automating your job away, it’s very difficult for people to see the potential for growth more than the potential for loss. And in fact, if you look at even the research work done by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky famously in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, it’s much easier to sell something if it’s based on averting loss than it is in providing gain.
Even if the gain was significantly greater, we, as humans were attached to the removal of risk more so then and then this is what happens that if I say I’m going to automate looming, whatever it is server building and you’re going to get a better job, there’s no understanding of it like there’s no perception of the real gain. And so we grasp onto this old thing. Meanwhile, as you said, what happens? The factories now have higher throughput as a result of that, that means they need more people on the line, more people in the office.
They’re actually now training people to be maintenance people for the new robots, et cetera. And it ultimately burns and spawns this brand new whole ecosystem that had never existed because all these people were doing 12 to 15 hours days.
In physical labor.
Yeah. Can we say now that our working lives on average are better than they were in the Victorian times? 100%. Right. We’re no longer living in, there’s no concept something called a workhouse.
That no longer exists. And luckily, our ten year olds don’t have to go and work in the factory and risk losing fingers because this type of work is no longer required and we don’t have to be so forceful on manual labor. So it’s a really important point, I think, though, really, what we all should be concentrating on like you say is how can we actually now move forward and move on to things that we prefer to do and then the things that are more creative?
The great thing about humans is we’re great generalists.
We might not be excellent or something. For instance, I might be able to play chess. I am unlikely to beat Deep Blue at chess. That’s just not going to happen. But the thing about it is I could teach someone else and they can pick up very quickly now to teach a brand new piece of machine learning how to play chess is actually really hard. As you know, we’ve got to get huge volumes of data to do this.
We’re great being generals was machine learning AI is terrible at being general. Absolutely awful. It just takes so much data and so much learning. Obviously, they are made to be more precise when they do this. But you can’t just take a machine that is capable of beating me in Super Mario Brothers and have it then instantly starts in translations from French to Germany. It just won’t work. It’s impossible. So that’s the advantage that we have. We’re able to move much quicker. So I think that there are many things that machines won’t get to for a very, very long time.
It brings up a really good point and we have been lucky enough to have a lot of folks in this area of both AI and as they call AGI. So artificial intelligence, which is generally viewed as like what we call narrow AI, where it’s very specific in that it’s task, like you said, even Tesla’s self driving, computing and the LiDAR and all that work. It could do all this fantastic stuff, but it wouldn’t be able to tell you what song to put on the radio next. There’s no understanding of that capability, and I’m pretty glad that it doesn’t.
I want it to be particularly good at the driving bit. I’ll put in another system to deal with my music textures that I want for my ride. And then there’s AGI, which is this when everybody says artificial general intelligence and robots replacing us immediately. The cover of the video from Irobot comes into your mind, and you think of some machine that’s going to eventually gun you down in the street.
But the use of individual specific tools that are very targeted that each in and of themselves can rid you of bottlenecks, or at least speed you to the next bottleneck. This is a fantastic time to be in the world of process automation, is it not?
Yeah, it is. We’re doing some great stuff in the entire industry when I say, not just us here at Lolly Co, but really, what’s happening with all of these very narrow focus piece of automation or AMI or machine learning is the equivalent of when the wheel was invented, did one specific thing, a wheel can’t do the washing up, it can only be a wheel. It can only do this one very specific thing. I’m certainly not claiming that the work we do is as important or as groundbreaking as inventing the wheel, certainly not.
But at the same time, I think the point stands that it is really narrow focused stuff. So the code that we write and the automation that we create can specifically do one thing, and it is absolutely determined in that direction and cannot escape the confines of that. It’s just too hard to do. I think when you look at, if we think about how we learn as children, it’s incredible when you see a two or three year old learning about animals and you could show them just images of a zebra on a screen and then show them a toy zebra, which is almost cartoon like, and they’ll instantly recognize it.
Even though it’s a completely different concept and that’s really clever. A machine would really struggle with that very much. So we just have a certain makeup in our minds, and I’m certainly not someone who, I don’t study the brain, so I can’t tell you the specifics ins and outs of it. But at the same time, I’m always amazed at the way children learn, and it’s very hard to replace that machine. But yes, there’s some really cool things happening in automation, and it’s a very exciting time.
On the subject of children’s learning, another thing is sort of relative comparisons that you don’t often put together. I have a two year old little girl. I’ve got four kids and my youngest is two, and she’s a blast because she says me the other day because she’s two and doesn’t have that many words yet that she puts together. And she says, quack quack tape. And I have no idea what she is talking about at this point. I’m like, Is it a cartoon? Is it a book?
Whatever she’s pointing up at a shell filled with 100 things and just quack, quack tape. It takes me a while to eventually, I keep moving my finger around until it points at a roll of tape, which I am like, Ah, tape, quack quack tape. And I look and this dark gray, ah duck tape. So she, in hearing, say duct tape, hears duck, quack quack and from that point forward. Right. It’s that associative capability. That’s a very human thing. And then as you now look again across a broad range of systems and tasks, that is also a thing that in the simplest possible form. A two year old can say tape I can look at, hey, I’m doing this stuff with prospecting that’s generating a spreadsheet, and I take the spreadsheet and I load it into the sales force.
And then the sales force, I’m exporting a report and that report then goes into some demand generation system. And I’m like, why didn’t we just avoid the route through sales force? When you start to look at the associate of work that happens to an object or to a process? This is where the beauty of humans in the automation and process mapping is where it’s like, critical, because if you just look at any single thing and said, here’s the thing to the left and the thing to the right. And here’s the thing I’m looking at.
You lose the totality of the system and the understanding of the human process. And in the end, you say, like, oh, it’s because my salesperson has an iPad and it only has this goofy mobile app, and that’s why we ship it over here. You’re like, oh. So we’ve been doing this thing manually for however long, just because my sales rep is in Iowa, and he only has an iPad.
Yeah, this is it. This is exactly why process mapping and working our way through these processes to find inefficiencies at some point, because we are generalists. Because each of those steps is going to kind of work, it’s going to get to the end result. But none of us have purely focused on each individual step, making sure it’s absolutely perfect. So this is the flaw that we have as humans being such generalist, is that they have the saying “taf” is an American saying or just parts in UK, “jack of all trades, master of none”.
That’s a great example of what we do at work every single day. No offense to anyone who’s been in their career for 40 or 50 years and they say, ‘Actually, I think you’re rather, I am the master of my trade.” But what I mean by it is the inefficiencies in what we do when we’re completing tasks, we know where the inputs are. We know what the outputs are. We don’t really ask many questions between that. We ask ourselves, for instance, have I got enough input? And often then they have a whole conversation, whoever is passing this input to anyone.
And yeah, we’ve had a big conversation. You don’t even think to actually document that. So they have the expectation of what they need to pass you next time. So we’d have to waste a whole conversation about it and then the output, we don’t really even ask the person passing output to, is that enough? We’re just happy to have further conversations. Their is a whole waste here going on. And you’d be amazed, some of the stuff I’ve seen. I’ve seen people in a financial firm have an invoice paid the lady from accounts receivable would then actually enter it into a spreadsheet.
She would then print it off or walk upstairs to a lady in another department and put it on her desk. Who would then take that and make a summary and email to send to the management every day. Why?
And they’d have a nice conversation while they were doing it. Great.
But this is the thing about being generalist is that business founders, C-Suite level, will be obsessed with finding the inefficiencies and shaving things off as they should be. Right. Because it’s money we’re just burning. We can just take money and set it on fire. But it has much better, much more fun rather than doing it this way. But people who are just generous day and day out. We don’t really think about these things all too much because, well, that’s how we’ve always done things, isn’t it?
And that’s the normalization deviance in jobs that none of us really pick up on for a very long time. Unless you’re a process nerd like me.
Yeah, I’ve often been the one, I used to always get in trouble because I’d be like so I got a quick question, why do we do it this way? And at one point, when I was young, I ended up working in a union shop, and I’m anti union for myself because I was never going to work in a mine or somewhere where my safety was at risk and the union was the only thing to save me from it. But it was funny that I would sort of think to myself, what if I could do this faster so that I could basically have 45 minutes of each hour free?
I only need to produce 150 parts. If I keep at this pace and cadence, then I can go and I can actually, what if I turn it to the right? And I started to always think about these things and someone would come along and go, okay, Eric, this is cute. But just do what you’re supposed to do. No more, no less.
In every part of our job process, especially when we are. There are so many people that are part of a machine. It’s a handoff of processes. There are people like you said, that person at one desk who is receiving a thing, typing into a spreadsheet, printing it out. They may not care as much, so they just don’t have the need to put attention to what if I just emailed this? What if I just scanned it and emailed it upstairs instead of trotting about up the elevator? They’re just thinking I’ve been told I need to do this every day and I’m going to do it.
Yes. Exactly. Right.
And I think a lot of time as well. If when people do have those ideas, they will try to report that to middle management and middle management would just say, ‘Get back to your job’, because the middle management is just too busy to deal with it. They are all so too busy. But this is the great irony. Middle management is so busy because they’ve got no processes either, and they’re just drowning in work. They’ve got no time to be dealing with this renegade who wants to potentially turn their machines at a 30 degree angle just to see if it’s going to be slightly better.
And I think that is an inherent problem. So when you’re talking about doing improving processes, we push for always, there’s a whole workshop around it. And we pull people into a whole workshop for days on end. It sounds terrific and really boring. We try not to make it that way because often people need permission from the very top to say, We’re going to change this. We’re changing the processes. We want you involved, which is another important point. You can’t just change the processes. It’s like doing a kidney transplant checking the donor is a match.
Bad idea. We’ll have employees with pitchforks and flaming torches outside the office the next day. So it’s important you get the match there and that they are willing to do it. But it’s important that everyone is involved. And it’s incredible, actually, where you find what I refer to as normalization deviance between a senior doing their role and a junior as well. There’s huge differences in the way they do things that people often don’t realize.
Now when it comes to your ideal, the person that comes to you or that should come to you and say, I need Lolly Co. What’s sort of an ideal persona and an organization that’s probably at the right stage where they need to come and get some help?
Sure. So I can tell you who we can’t help. First of all, we can’t help small startups people just start the business. And the reason for that is not we don’t want to. I’d have to help everyone. But the reason is because when you haven’t actually discovered what your process would possibly even look like, it’s actually just mental kind of a waste of time. You’re just doing it for fun. And that’s just a waste of your time. But also when companies get too big, actually, I think then the layers get so deep that if it’s not already inbuilt by then, I’m not sure there’s any way to really help them, because normalization deviances are so set in that it’s going to take some severe actions to deal with that.
So we deal with companies who are hitting a weird glass ceiling. So they’ve got a point and they’re probably doing a few million dollars, and every day they’re going to work and they’re just grinding and grinding and grinding and they’ve got no time to do anything else but from that. And then if their wife or husband says to them, hey, let’s go on a holiday. No way. There’s no time for that. And we need to hire some more people, but no time to interview people. So we’re just going to start hiring, just hire some people.
Let’s not worry about it, we’ll sort that out later, which is a horrific mistake. And this is the problem and they cannot seem to get escape velocity to the next stage, the next stage being probably beyond $10 million at this point. Those are the people that we help where it just feels so stressful just in their day to day running, and we help them completely break it all down. See the wood for the trees, because in their brain, it’s just so fuzzy. Right.
They’ve got all these processes they know they should be doing feels very foggy. They’re not quite sure how things should work. They probably got a couple of people working there. If they left, they would be in huge trouble.
Yes. And thank you as well for sort of setting the floor and the ceiling as well on the ideal client, because we often get hung in this problem where people say, oh, this is great process automation. I’m starting up a brand new email list and I’m putting together a Shopify store, and I want to see about optimizing the process. You’re like, what’s your average sales? We’re doing about three or four sales a week.
Just do that work. Don’t worry.
Just keep going.
Just earn the money. They’re like that until it becomes a problem, then start dealing with it, right?
Yeah, it is.
So we can often get into the analysis, paralysis and process planning of. I personally, I love to dig into the conceptual optimization because I do it as a day to day gig. I work in systems all the time, and I’ve always looked for that, but at the same time, it’s hard to remember. Sometimes I don’t need to worry about the specific location of my water bottles because of the speed at which I can navigate behind the dining room table into the credenza to get them.
Okay. This is not the place I should be spending my optimization efforts. How about on the thing why I keep forgetting to pay the credit card bill.
There’s an optimization I can solve.
Yeah, I think it’s all about, as well, trying to work out the symptoms. You might have many symptoms. You might have a broken arm, but you might as well have a paper cut. But let’s not worry about the paper cut for now. It might be easy to solve, but really not worry about that. You have a broken arm. Let’s deal with that one first. So one of the very first things we do when we meet founders and C-Suite level is we just say to them, tell us where it hurts right now, the first thing comes to your mind, what’s the problem?
And they’ll tell you straight away because they know where the fires are and it’s really quite painful. So when we process workshop stuff, we won’t really cover every single thing. It’s impossible. We’ll map a huge amount of processes at first, but we prioritize pain over everything else. What’s the most painful stuff? What are the processes that we hate to do? And we all vote on them silently. Everyone votes anonymously. So there can be no politicized agenda to anything. And we solve those problems first. When we come to do all this, it’s really important, because often things will go overlooked.
But then when you dive into it. We had someone the other day and they’re a great company. They produce content en masse. So if you need content right on your website, you go to this company and they use Google Drive in the background for all of their stuff. Well, the problem is they write four and a half million words a month, 3000 articles. Have my calculator ready just to calculate this. And we worked out that every time they produce an article, they need to file in the right place.
Now it sounds really simple. You just drag and drop it to the right folder. How long can that take? Right?
They have to set all the permissions up and add the writer, and they have to add the client, and then they have to move it from what they said was a production folder to the client folder, go into the client folder, find the ID, move it into there. Then they have to remove the writer, bring out the editor, then add the client and we’ve gone through the stages. So how long does each one take? And then they said in total it’s at eleven minutes. Eleven minutes for 3000 times a month? Are you kidding me?
That’s an important piece, right? It is the scaling of the minutes turn into months. If you’re at any kind of scale.
And the staff and the employees are saying, it’s just kind of an annoying thing to do. And then we went through it. I said, ‘Guys, this is 450 hours a month’. What’s the minimum wage in the States? Or are you in the state of New York?
New Jersey. I think it’s $15 an hour somewhere in that area.
Wow. $6,750 a month. Is that right? Yeah.
A month, $6,750 a month. That’s a lot of money over the course of a year or two or three, and then it solves really simply, we’ll just dive into the API and we’ll just do it all automatically off the back of the client code. Job done. It seems insane when we turn around and say, well, look, actually, it’s costing $200,000 every three years. Why don’t we just spend whatever it is, 15, $20,000 to automate the entire thing? So they don’t have to look at anymore. For founders, they’re back flipping and, oh, my God, look at all this saving, and it’s right.
But it’s these types of details that we miss in our processes. So the company of any type of size, they’re going to be missing these things because they’re not looking at a granular level of processes. But also, we’re not even starting to say, how much time does this one task take here? It’s one small piece. And adding all those bits up, and it can be an absolute game changer.
The other thing that’s good, and that you’re approaching it via a workshop of everybody that’s involved in the process. It means that you can test because sometimes, not every optimization results in a positive result. Right?
They quite often we can believe we could say, oh, I’m going to shave eleven minutes off of this thing just to pull that minute duration example. But in the end, some things actually can be a negative result, or it ultimately can move to the next bottleneck. And it’s very interesting that if you don’t involve, like you said, everybody along the process flow, then the boss just says at the end of it, they’re going to get the support and say, excellent. I’ll have $200,000 off of my books in 18 months, and that’s all that they see.
And then the workers then ultimately, maybe they don’t actually free that time up. They spend it on other things. So you have to look and say, what do we do now with this time? Where do we apply? Do you actually get that time?
It’s a really good point. It’s a really good point. And it’s one that really people should focus on once they do save the time is where are they going to reapply this? Where they’re going to refocus it? My opinion is always back toward the customer. So how can we increase customer support? How can we make build those relationships in a better, more meaningful way with our clients and customers to make them really love what we do that’s only going to benefit everyone. What it shouldn’t be is more busy work.
That’s just a really bad move. But it can happen. Sure, in our workshops that in some processes you don’t find, because just to be clear, there’s two types of time that are involved when we’re looking at a process. And one is the individual steps. How long these take, this is the completion time. But there’s also what we call the cycle time. And the cycle time really means from the very input to the output. What was the time? It might be that we have an action point where we have to email something to a client and we have to wait for it to be returned.
It might take two or three days for the client to return it. So suddenly your cycle time might be four days. So improving that can also be a really big benefit. But actually you don’t gain anything financial off the back of that. That’s quite obvious to begin with. It can actually improve things much later on down the line because it helps your sales cycle, and it also helps your reputation and your net promoter scoring all this wonderful stuff which leads to further sales. But it’s a really important point that you bring up.
Sometimes we just make automated things for the sake of automating them because, oh, isn’t it cool that it now works like this and there was actually no real benefit. And it’s something that concerned us for a long time when we were doing these workshops. So we have to try and focus all of our internal staff here at Lolly Co into making those savings for a client, because really, it could end up being a bit of a pointless and fruitless endeavor.
So we have to on our side, do what we call the Lolly Co promise to our clients that if we do a process workshop for them and they pay whatever money is, let’s just say $10,000 that we make a ten X return on that for them via a planned automation. And if we don’t find the ten X in saving, then the whole thing is free. And if it’s free, then the consultants don’t. Their bonuses get affected. Right.
So suddenly, everyone’s really quite keen to make sure the client finds the savings, which is the best way to go.
Yeah. As you said, it’s an interesting thing of even when we look at the often savings is really revenue in disguise. Right.
So we looked at that example where we just, $6,750 a month that we’re saving and any good CFO could probably find a way to hide that in a good tax return. Right.
Like they could get rid of that and not really have it be meaningful. But what they couldn’t do by that means is take that 450 hours of labor and that’s a full time person, and I can put them. So basically, I’ve literally got ten weeks of human labor at an average startup work week. Let’s say 45 hours. I could start another startup with that person. Right. Like I could put them onto another task. I could have them doing other things. It is not simply of like free time do more things.
It’s do more effective things, which ultimately are revenue affecting, that’s the real goal of this. It’s not just to cut down the number of minutes I’m spending on this stuff and incrementally shave off dollars. It’s very much about doing meaningful things with the time and money that you’re getting back because of this process.
Yeah, absolutely. Otherwise it ends up like a private equity firm. Private equity firms have an awful reputation with business owners. It’s going to come in and they’re going to rip my business apart. They’re going to get rid of everybody and then we’re all going to hate them. The funny thing about it is that when you read between the lines of a joke, there’s some truth in there and not being nasty to anyone who has a private equity firm, but that’s their job right? Is to buy companies, repackage and sell them. And often that’s really finding cost saving measures.
And that’s not what we’re about. We’re not about. Whilst we want to find you the cost saving measures and improve your bottom line, the key to it is that I fundamentally believe that pushing all of this new time towards client and customer contact, you’re going to make so much more money and that’s the absolute secret to it. I always say, when was the last time, have you phoned your bank recently, Eric?
Mistakenly, I was stuck having to do it. It was a horrifying experience. Thanks for the PTSD.
That’s all right. So it’ll be the same reason in the UK. Imagine where dial one for this, two for this. It’s ridiculous and you can’t actually speak to someone and it’s all robotic. It’s not machine learning. It’s just recorded voices and horrible stuff and they’re always asking you in three words, describe what your problem is and you find yourself just shouting down the phone trying to describe it. But my example is, wouldn’t it be nice to phone the bank and speak to a human or even have a bank manager? Imagine that.
They don’t exist in the UK. I think it used to be that way. You’d have a local bank manager, whoever it was Sarah, Bob, Dave, whatever. And you could speak to that person and they would know you, your business, know your wife’s name, your husband’s name and you could have an actual relationship. And their purpose was to help you and win more business for the bank by having that relationship. And that’s just gone now. And I always question why, what is everyone doing at the bank?
I’m sure they’re all shuffling money in the background and dipping in and out of the market in the futures. And who knows what. But the point of it is the retail area of banking is just useless now and we don’t want our businesses to go that way. We should be talking to clients more. I know that my business is built that way.
Now, it’s actually a very apropos mention you had about the retail banking sector. I’ve noticed a sudden thing recently at my particular bank. Of course, let’s take the last 18 months with COVID. That kind of blew out anybody’s plans for how to do in person experiences. Well, for a while. But even at that, what I found was that when I go to the branch that actually, at least in the United States now, they’re open seven days a week. But let’s say, 10, 12 years ago, when ATMs became a thing or ABM, depending on what you call them.
The goal was to ultimately replace a teller with a machine like that was to move people over, and they would actually make it punitive to use the human. They would charge you a fee to go to the in branch and do a deposit. And they started by walking people to the machine and doing it at the machine, and it was seen punishing and punitive. And then we all thought as well. Well, that means that they’re going to close the branch, they’re going to get rid of people, whatever. And they did. They really and truly did do that for a long time.
But now on the other side of this, they’ve realized they’re now competing with digital, non brick banks, and they’re increasing the human experience again. But for non optimal stuff where you have to sign forms, deal with things that are longer term and sit down for loan applications. And they’re I think, rediscovering that there are very human processes that need to occur, and they can now do it because that person isn’t going sign sign, stamp stamp to put $100 into an account.
They just slide it into the machine and they say, great. Daniel, what about your mortgage? Right. What are the options you’ve got available? And they can now actually embrace very human experiences that are needed to give back. And then they realize the benefits of the automation at the same time.
Yeah, absolutely. I think the capitalism is great in that often what people would perceive as their strength is actually their competitor, seeing as their weakness, and they can pick up on it very quickly. And that’s certainly been the case with retail banking, where suddenly these new online banks have emerged where they don’t have any physical locations, so they don’t have the overheads. So they can accelerate faster and at the same time they can just out maneuver them every single turn. And it’s of no surprise. And also being a technology guy, I’m sure that you and I can. If we start thinking about what’s happening in the back room of the servers and the machines that banks have got, imagine the technical debt that they’ve got there, the horrors of that.
A lot of people sweating and nodding along right now.
Yeah. God, I would hate that. I know obviously there are, I’m trying to think. I don’t know why my mind’s gone blank. What’s the program language invented by the US Navy in the 60s? That a lot of the medical and banking industry is still using.
People just screaming into their phones.
Yeah, apologies to my mechanical keyboard. 1 second. Bear with me. This doesn’t normally happen on live show.
What I enjoy about this is just this experience, right? That when you want to think about the stuff that makes all this occur, it’s still incredible. The technical debt. At this point, it’s like credit default swaps on technical debt. We’ve got debt upon debt and selling insurance on the debt.
The lady’s name who came at the language is Grace Hopper. And it’s COBOL.
Yes. Okay. Yeah.
They’ve got old school tape machines running away in the background because they can’t pull it off of this because it’s so vital to the infrastructure, they’d have to turn everything off at some point and they’re terrified. I mean, imagine trying to explain to the head of HSBC. Okay. So we need to move away from COBOL. And they said, what’s COBOL? I’ll start from the beginning. This is the problem because as IT people, I don’t know about you. But if everyone’s ever got a printer problem, I’m the first one people ring.
And I just say to them, listen. I don’t know what’s wrong with your printer.
When I worked at an insurance company in tech, I would get people like, oh, hey, got a quick question for you. So I got this, like, weird tooth problem. I can’t help you. Like, is it covered? Can I get my kids braces counted as a bunch of filling visits? I can’t help you with that. I can tell you that what the system runs on and how many servers there are and what data center they’re in.
You got a feel for these engineers at these banks who are dealing with this. But this is what allows all the new banks to outmaneuver them. You get to start from a clean slate. You can hire a load of people who are ex banking engineers and developers and say, what would you do if there was a clean slate and have all its horrific technical debt and then give you all these wonderful ideas and spill all this information for they’ll be desperate to tell people wherever they were.
Not just HSBC. Should be mean about HSBC. It could be any company. But the point of it is that they’re excited and it’s new and they can outmaneuver everyone very quickly. I think they’ve done a really good job. We use a very modern online bank and we went to them for two reasons. One because they just make it really easy. If you want to open a new account, there you go. Instantly done. Or do you want a new card? There’s a virtual one. We can send a new physical one.
I don’t need a physical one. No need. So I can have as many virtual ones as I want. But the great thing is that I had a really good API as well. We could look into the API of the traditional banks. That is a mission. They really don’t want to give it to you as well. And the documentation is awful. So for us, that was a real game changer. And it’s just nice there to be able to in app or on platform. But I asked them for help, and they’re there and you have got phone support if you need it.
And I need to ask for a million and one robots to get to someone. So it’s great. And it’s a really smart way of setting it up. It’s just a really good example of, I hate to use the term, but digital transformation in an industry where people are just replaced overnight, and I don’t think actually, the retail banks, they saw it coming. I thought they thought it was just for kids, and nobody have banking license. That’s what they used to say.
Yeah. And there’s an interesting as they go through the switch. It’s a painful period of resistance on both sides until eventually. And it’s like, sort of like the crypto thing, right. Everybody’s, like, all the traditional banking sector, like, no crypto. Crypto is naughty, naughty. And they get very angry about it and they’re fighting and they’re going to their government, and they’re sort of petitioning to get it done until all of a sudden, that very same bank suddenly offers a crypto option. And suddenly they’re like, we’re the first in the industry of the major banks to be able to do this.
And they’re very proud of it. And like, twelve months ago, I saw you lobbying in front of Congress to regulate the stuff, and now that you do it, you’re super proud of it. And you’re looking to rapidly advance without regulation. Like, you don’t need regulation. We got this. We’ve got to figured. As we see those newcomers come to the industry with first principles approaches and just saying like, yeah, I don’t have the legacy. I don’t have anything. I’m just going to come at it. I’m going to solve the specific problem, and then the big machines, they play some catch up.
It’s actually a beautiful sort of dance. You see it when it does come to fruition to the side, it’s a painful period of transition. But, we get there.
Crypto is a funny one because I think I speak to people about crypto. And I think a lot of people still in their 30s and 40s are still saying, is it going to be a big thing? I’m trying to convince my dad about crypto. Good luck.
It’s never going to work this Dogecoin, no. Bitcoin, no. No one’s going to bother with that. That’s silly. But the thing about it is, is that actually, I fundamentally believe we are so early in this whole journey with cryptocurrency. And for those who aren’t really listening, the equivalent here is in the 90s or the late 90s, early noughties, if you could, noughties is such a British term. Apologies.
It’s actually perfect because we don’t have a term for it.
It’s awful. But anyway, in the early noughties, imagine if you got it better than Amazon. The money you’d have to put all your money into it. But the difference here with cryptocurrencies isn’t you’re buying the next Amazon. You’re not buying the next Tesla. What you’re buying is a protocol. So if you don’t know what protocol is http or https, this is an Internet protocol. You couldn’t have invested into that if you don’t wanted to. It was designed to be semi decentralized. You just can’t invest into that.
But the thing about it is, is here with this new protocol, you can. People are going to build some incredible and they are already building some incredible things on top of the Ethereum network. And I think that it is going to absolutely explode. I will bet my house on it. I’m not confident that we are seeing what will be the next massive, massive technological change that any of us have ever seen. I think it is the equivalent of it is bigger than the Internet.
The funny thing is, I’ll say the Luddites of the crypto world, right? People are saying like, no, don’t get involved in it. It’s volatile. And I’ll say just like any investing, especially that’s very speculative. You have to basically bet money you don’t want that you could lose. And so as a joke, when I was going to, I go to Las Vegas, usually for a lot of conferences. And every time I go, I’m going to take a little bit of money. And I’m going to just say that I can afford to lose this money.
And I’ll put it in some slot machines and just have some fun while I’m there for a few days and it goes up and down and I win. Sometimes I lose most of the time. I’m pretty sure I don’t average it out because I don’t want to know. But I didn’t go to one event, and I thought to myself, I had $400 a year Mark to throw away. Let me buy $400 in Bitcoin. And that at this point is worth about $6,000 because I said, why not?
I’ve literally done no other major investing in it. But it moved around and it went down to $100, then up to $1000, then down to $800. And everybody keeps saying, this is it. This is the peak or this is we’re heading to zero. And in the end, it is speculative. It is wild but.
This isn’t the thing we’re actually doing. The thing we’re doing is we’re setting the protocol for the future. It’s just that we’re attaching a value to it in the interim.
Yeah. I mean, look, I could be wrong. It’s heavily documented on this podcast, so I hope I’m not. There are too many people now who are contributing to the networks. I think for it to go backwards, I think it has passed a point of no return. That is for sure. But also when we look at how early we are on this. How hard is it at a moment to go into a local burger joint and buy a burger with Bitcoin? It’s not easy. It’s pretty hard, actually. How hard is it for you to transfer me, I don’t know, .1 of a Bitcoin right now?
Some people say, oh, it’s quite easy. Is it, though? Let’s be honest. Is it as easy as doing it in a bank account? No, it’s not. So I think once we hit that point and there’s mass adoption, I don’t think there’s much escaping it actually. It will just take over. And people are already now starting to countries where they’re seeing high inflation and runaway numbers are starting to switch to Bitcoin. Yet the actual take up we’re seeing for the amount of adults in the Western world who are using it is very low. We’re talking single digit percentile.
Yeah. How many people in the US use the US dollar? Everybody.
That’s right. Well, this is the funny thing as a North American. So I’m Canadian living in the United States, and I’m the first to point out the real arrogance that we have as North Americans and talking about the world meaning North America. Right.
And we talk about interact systems and all these different systems of transfer. And meanwhile, while we weren’t looking 30 years ago or 20 years ago, we’re fighting over trying to get some kind of in person system of something or other. There is a system called M-PESA. And this was a way that people in nations, it was predominantly in African nations, where they could literally through a text, could just say, here’s my M-PESA account, and they could transfer money. And you could buy a burner phone because they don’t have banks.
So there was this world of the unbanked, as they called them. And they, suddenly, all of these vendors in people who are in India and Pakistan and regions where they just didn’t have access to banks. They suddenly could sell some kind of thing to somebody through a mobile transaction without a bank. And it was amazing that this was broadly accepted and like hundreds of thousands, potentially to millions of users of the system. And meanwhile, in North America, they’re like, we’ll be the first to market with this something.
And you’re like, I think they’ve solved that problem over here.
Yeah. It’s incredible, isn’t it? It’s all about the belief in the currency. Right.
We all stop believing that the US dollar is worth anything. Suddenly it’s in big trouble. And that goes for any currency. But it’s quite interesting that the movements we’re seeing in cryptocurrency and the adoption of Bitcoin across many different countries. And it’s interesting to see as well now. I think if you’d have looked back five, seven years ago, if China had outlawed Bitcoin mining, I think the likelihood then is that it would have ended the experiment. But now they’ve ended Bitcoin mining and everything seems to be okay, which is interesting. Right.
And now we’re seeing networks like Ethereum instead of moving to go from proof of work to proof of stake, which is a massive change. And it’s a really interesting point. And I think that we are on the cusp of some serious things happening here. And we are not that far away from seeing ease of access to the currencies. If you want to call them currencies. And ease of use for everyone, technology wise. Then leading something very big happening. It’s close, I feel, but we shall see.
Well, I’ll be the one to circle back on what we came here for. Right.
Is that interacting with these systems of record and systems of money and systems of transfer, there is no physical option. You are systemized or you are not participating. Right. And it talks about the strength and the need of optimization and automation, because without it, you just simply can’t participate in this world in this new world.
That’s right. Exactly.
I mean for us, it was a question of do as a company. Do we want to have some holdings in cryptocurrencies? The answer was yes. Can I be bothered every single month to go and got to do all the buy the currency, by the theorem, we’re going to stake? I can’t be bothered. So instead we just automated it. One of the reasons why we have the API from our bank is that we can do that. So we have the API from the cryptocurrency brokerage, and then we have the same from our bank just automated.
So every month, two and a half percent of profits are just tucked away in cryptocurrency. And it’s enough of a small bet where if we’re wrong, it’s not going to kill us. Right. We could have said that was booze money that we just didn’t spend.
Yes. Effectively. It’s interest rate loss on a credit card, right?
Yeah. Never mind. But at the same time, if we’re right and it does as I believe, go possibly 100 fold from here, then we are very right. So it’s worth doing. But you’re right.
Yeah. It’s all about automating that process and how you can do that. So I think that for many, banking and finance is a really good area to look at. An assistant you can automate with persistence and processes. There’s a really good book that I believe is called Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz. Apologies to Mike if I said his second name. But it’s a good book, and it’s quite a good book for business owners in that he really pushes for paying yourself first and understanding what profit you want out of a company before then you start adding on Opex to operate your expenditure and staff, because often as you say, we’ll just find the staff to be busy. Right.
Like a tank full of gas, the gas will expand to fill the void, it’s the same thing with money and companies. You have to be really careful with it. But what was interesting about his point first is that when money hits your first account, it should be split automatically in other accounts, so that’s things like Opex, taxes, payroll, all these things. And for us, it was a pain to do, because every single transaction, multiple transactions, and then you have to be reconciliation inside of your accounting systems to optimize and automate the whole thing so much easier to deal with. Right.
And then you kind of have a bit of safety, the fact that’s happening. I think that’s a great example of the type of thing you can be doing and really just ties back to cryptocurrencies banking. That whole thing.
Yeah. It’s a beautiful world when you can focus on what humans must do and what humans do well.
And this is the potential for automation and optimization, because first you must automate the process, then you can optimize it, and it begins by documenting, understanding, and then effectively you begin to attach a value to it and not just a value in that process. But where you can just as we talked before, that $6,750 a month. It’s not just a value of $6,750 a month. It’s the 450 hours. Well, I could not get rid of a staff member, but I could put them on automating my crypto buys with my CFO, right?
Like we can then suddenly put them on almost a gig work. In fact, this is something that I’ve adopted now because I’m using a virtual assistant firm, but rather than just like, 40 hours a month or 60 hours a month virtual assistant, I have what’s called a pod. It’s a company called Level 9 virtual actually had Joe Rare, who’s the founder, on the podcast. And I just get 40 hours a month, and it’s just their project teams. And so it makes me go like, okay, what’s the thing that I can toss at them and it’d be about 15 hours of work, and they’re just functionally solving this problem for me.
And the more that I think about using that effectively, the more I think about new things I’m doing and mapping it to the way I can hand it off. And rather than me just knocking it out for 40 hours a month of doing busy work. It’s fundamentally changed the way that I think about what could it be doing at home instead of this task or whatever. And it changed me, as a result.
You have to document. You have to create the SOPs to send to them. Right?
Otherwise, they’re not going to know what they’re doing. But isn’t it interesting that when you’re working like this, of how much representation that is of the remote working industry and companies that struggle to move to remote, I absolutely fundamentally believe, is because they cannot write SOPs. They just don’t want to. And there’s a real lack of trust of employees. So if you can’t write an SOP, good luck being remote. And I think a lot of companies really struggled with it, and that’s why they’re trying to force people back to the office. Unsuccessfully, I might add.
And it was conversely, too, when someone said, like, oh, I’ve been a remote worker for well over a decade, and so it wasn’t shocking to me that I was remote. What was shocking was that my entire team was and they had an unfortunate belief that their productivity was measured by the number of meetings they had in a day. And all of a sudden I had a calendar that looked like a losing game of Tetris, and it just didn’t make sense to me. I’m like, this is the same teams that I was remote from before. They kept busy in the office, I guess this way.
But I was doing the thing that I was doing and interacting with them when needed. All of a sudden there was this unfortunate need to fill every hour, and so I’ve tossed them. I’m like, okay, wait till you have to get bloody productive work done. And you’ve got a meeting every other half hour.
There’s no productivity in that.
No, absolutely not. A lot of companies don’t measure this, and it’s all about utilization, which should be measured. Most companies, you can find a way to do this. It allows us here to have unlimited holidays. What holidays you want? I don’t care, as long as we don’t all take them on the same day. But the point of it is you can take whatever holiday you want because we have a utilization rate of target of 80%. So what it works out to is 6.4 hours a day on average, that you need to hit utilization above.
It doesn’t matter if you do it at 02:00 a.m. Or one in the afternoon. Doesn’t matter if actually, you can’t really be bothered on a Friday. So you might do on a Saturday. That’s not what’s important. The important is the output and the quality. And for us, that’s number one. And it’s worth looking at those types of KPIs that can indicate to accompany their performance and looking to leverage off of those details. Not just as you say. Do people look busy as a real middle management thing, right? Just look busy.
And a real culture of presence, which unfortunately, was the sense that that was productivity, that you were physically in the office for 9 hours a day and then commuting and the fact that you suddenly could be at home, enjoying your family, having breakfast with your family instead of having it on the subway. Just imagine how many amazingly happy people haven’t had to listen to mind the gap, please. Every day. It’s out of their vocabulary. Now it’s beautiful because they’ve got back time. And I tell you, it was speaking of get back time, I know.
If you got a few extra, just a few more minutes, Daniel, there’s one thing.
I’ve got lots of time I can happily talk to you for as long as you and I can bare it.
Till one of us passes out.
We’ve talked about sort of the ideal scale customer, large organizations. But you do mention in a lot of your work about sort of the side hustle, the individual creator in adopting some of these processes and policies. What’s the potential for an individual creator or whatever they are, an entrepreneur, a single person business to learn from what you’re doing, especially with what’s coming up in the book?
Sure. I think a really good example you gave earlier on was this VA company. What were they called?
Level 9 Virtual.
Level 9. It’s a really good example, because what it allows you to do is you can rely on Level 9 to do good hiring and find good people, smart people who are dedicated to going to get the work done, which means you no longer have to do that. So as long as you can write the SOPs and you can work out what you want to do, you can actually push up and pull down your staffing as and when you need it. But if you’re starting from a clean slate, although I’m saying, look, just get on with it and just do it.
Yeah, do that, of course, make the money. But then quickly you can start to realize, hang on a minute. There’s a system and there’s a processor that I can start to pull together and you can keep it really cheap. At first, you can start to use off the shelf automation tools like Zapier, which is one of everyone’s favorite tools. Or IFTTT to start to automate small things that are just going to make your life a lot easier and doing things on these lines just to get you started.
The key to it is, I believe, is if you can try and up your hourly fee, if that’s what you’re charging, or if you’re making red buttons, whatever it is, working out a way that you could be more productive doing the thing that earns you money and less of the admin, the better. Right.
But you can only do that and scale it by using more humans. You’re not going to be able to just automate everything. That’s impossible. It can’t be you and a load of robots, not going to happen. Which is a shame. That would be brilliant. Trust me.
Especially get those Boston Dynamics ones, they can do parkour. If they could do that and then file my taxes would be spectacular.
Yeah, exactly. I think you have to scale. And that is by hiring employees. And that is by getting stuff. But you can start with VAs and do it like that. But you need to reduce your admin quite severely. So a really good example of this is let’s say we had to hire recently and we were hiring for more consultants, basically. And I know that as soon as we put the ads out. It just goes bananas. We receive, through our context, we receive 650 applications for two positions. We use automation software for HR.
There’s a few different systems out there for HR that you can use for this, and you can set the whole thing up so you can use minimal input on it. It’s that type of thing that you need to do at first. Your time is just not sucks in one direction. When you’re just starting out because you have to keep the wolf from the door, you’ve got to pay the bills. It may be that this isn’t a side hustle. Actually, you’ve gone out and done this because the company working for let you go because they have financial difficulties, might be decided to go on your own anyway.
But finding more time, as I keep saying, to actually bring home the bacon is the absolute vital piece.
Yeah. And when we think about the algorithmic problem, on the other side of a lot of that work, there’s the pure selection process. We talk about this process called the optimal stopping problem. Right.
And that’s the average number of people that you would in person interview. But then you’ve got to first go through 650 CVs and figure out which one might be a fit. Then you sort of cut it down. By the time you get into it, you’re effectively going to hire the 7th person you meet because of the way optimal stopping works. But you’ve mostly done that because you’re so sick and bloody tired of the process because you’ve been peeling through 650 CVs trying to find differentiation. And that’s the reason why we fail at the hiring because we spent three weeks in preselection and then you have to get an offer out versus just like grab a person and sit down and have a chat with them and all of a sudden. Okay. They’re a good fit. Perfect.
I mean, the thing here is if anyone is now sponsored to build their business thinking, I need to hire my first employee. I can tell you that from my side, I will 100% hire the first 100 people in the company. Without exception. Hiring is the hardest thing you will do. It’s the hardest thing to get right. But you do need a process for it. It cannot just be, oh, well, I’ll just have a conversation with a person, and if I think they’re a good fit, they’re a good fit, and we’ll just hire them.
It cannot be that way because you cannot take the risk. If an employee leaves or any company, the average that you lose from that from having to train the next person, fit all the holes and all this other stuff is actually a year and a half worth of their actual wage. That’s a huge amount of money.
And there’s a lot of knowledge that departs with that person. You can’t risk that. And also, if you hire the wrong person, they could potentially damage the business and your reputation. So it’s vital. So you have to set up a system for us. There are two interviews. There is a video pre interview that they submit to us, and there’s a psychometric test. And if you skip one of those points, we won’t hire you, and we purposely make it tricky. There are Hoops to jump through.
If you don’t bother sending us the video at first, you try on another. We just went to it. If you talk to an interview late. I’m sorry. No.
And you have to put these boundaries in. You have to try and hire. You can take some shortcuts that we do with the HR automation. But what is really automating is, it’s like a drag and drop can ban board, right? You drag the thing across and it enables the person saying, hey, good news. You’re out through to the next stage, but you can’t shortcut looking at the CVs. It’s the boring bit, but you’ve got to do it.
Yeah. Especially now that’s the expectation that you can avoid the systems and yet still participate in them. That’s also a real tragic human behavioral problem where I don’t want to do the work that I don’t feel is meaningful. But I want the job on the other side of it. Like this may seem like an odd process that I’m going to ask you to do is like a psychometric test. People are like this really helps us just by a handful of questions really tells you how you approach a problem.
So then the in person interview is what I put you beside me at a consultants, at a client call. That’s the real thing you want to test. But you can’t test that unless you have very, there’s early up front, which is super easy to do.
Yeah. And also at the same time, from the other end of the spectrum is you’ve got someone who’s looking for a job. They really don’t want to work in your company. If they’re going to fail, they don’t want that. They don’t want to have that horrible feeling of you having to let them go or them failing at it. That would be absolutely crushing for them. So they want to find a position that suits them as much as you want to find someone who suits you. So there’s already a meeting of minds on this, but it is important that you put the effort and realize that there are just some things not that you can’t automate them.
I’m absolutely certain that we could scan the CVs for keywords and only pull those ones through, automatically invite them to interviews. But every CV is so different and so nuanced that I want to check it because it’s so important. It’s something that I think should not be automated. There’s a difference, right? I could do, but I won’t because it shouldn’t be automated. Yet moving money between bank accounts. I’ll automate that because it’s really binary. It’s true or it’s false. But when you look at the CV, it’s not as black and white as that.
It’s more nuanced. And there’s more of a gray area. You need to appreciate that, right? It might be that someone’s changed industries and they’ve got a massive amount of history and an adjacent interest to you and to us that will work perfectly for you yet the keyword you’re looking for, isn’t there. It could well be that. So it’s really important that that happens. And I think if there’s anything for a new business owner to take into account is be mindful of the things you do automate and the things that you choose not to do.
Often you hear this thing of do something. Just scaling something isn’t the key, right? Do what can’t be scaled. That’s really important. HR is a great example of that. So just be mindful about what you are trying to automate.
Yeah. And it’s funny, too. There’s so much nuance in the actual person behind the qualifications I’ve actually seen in my own organization plenty of times where people come in and they call it BDR, sort of like the, we call them the Dialing For Dollars kids, right. They get a huge set of qualified leads, ring them up, find out, get them a book a meeting. You compensated by how many meetings you get and such. And it’s almost in tech, it’s like help desk, in a way. That it seems like a mundane thing, but it’s actually critical to the business.
But I remembered when I got into tech the first time I was a shoe repairman. I was actually a cobbler, and I got into tech with no background of schooling, but was able to find somebody who said, let’s go through a test here. Let’s take a look at the system. And what would you do here? And I was studying. I was doing the work, but I didn’t have accreditation for it. And then I was able to get through to process. So we have these BDRs to come in.
And four of them I know directly, have now founded companies that are at, each of them are at series B, so it wasn’t even like they just winged it and started a Shopify store. They legitimately have grown venture capital back companies, and we hired them to dial for dollars. And in doing so, we put them through the system very quickly. They accelerated us, and then we helped them to kind of move on to what was appropriate for them. But just by their resume, probably not a one of them would have been marked for anything special.
It’s kind of bizarre.
Yeah. It’s so important. Hiring is a really tricky one. This is why our very first stage is they sent us a video, so they sent us a loom.com video, first of all. Because for us, we can’t teach personality, but we can teach skills. This is really important, especially in consulting.
Yeah. So talk about irony that you’ve chosen Loom. And our Luddite mentions earlier on here that I’m at a point in my life now where every job I get, I won’t have sent my CV. And it was funny the last time we were going to hire for somebody, I was changing roles and the HR team were like, can you do us a favor? Can you send us your resume? Because it appears we don’t have it. I was like, yeah, I guess I actually never sent it because I met the person who was going to hire me.
And I got introduced to the founders, and I went through all these interviews and then we signed contracts. But there was no, like, go to the website and upload your Doc file. It was all done by referral. And most likely, I’m far enough in my career that that’s how every future job will be gotten. These looms of the world are fantastic because it can get you to that type of discovery. And then the CV is simply just backing the decision.
Yeah, absolutely. For us, I think, especially if we look at the engineers at our end, it doesn’t actually matter the education.
Sure. If you’ve got a PhD in machine learning, I mean, that’s probably going to get you somewhere. But at the same time, if you have almost no qualifications except you’re just a talented programmer, you’re still good. And this is the wonderful thing about living in this age that we live in now is that I think that you could learn anything you want on the Internet. Now, that’s what’s fantastic from whether or not you want to start automating stuff for your business or whether or not you want to learn, I don’t know, Russian or Chinese or the opposite way, if you want to learn English.
It’s all there for you to be able to do. You just got to go out there and start doing it. And for those people who would worry about the future of jobs and technology, and what would they do. Reskilling is unlimited for free on the Internet. YouTube is a wonderful place. khanacademy.com. Great, right? Not many adults our age, suppose would’ve come across Khan Academy. It’s basically a free platform to learn.
Yeah. Like science and mathematics based stuff. I spent a long time on Khan Academy when I had a whole thing into machine learning a couple of years ago when I was trying to really work out as many of the intricacies as I could and came across the reality of, okay, you just need to be really good at math.
The barrier to entry is how much you like math, for sure. Right.
Because with machine learning, especially, you start to go, okay. Wow. That’s really cool. Look what I’ve done.
And you think, well, how does that work? And then you look a bit deep because for those who haven’t done it with Python, which is the program language. You can basically load up packages, if it is the best word to use for, I suppose, which will allow you straight out of the box to feed it. What isn’t not easy, but for someone who is an engineer or developer, it doesn’t feel onerous or massively complex, and it will just spit it out at the other end and you say, wow, that’s so cool. Look what we did.
And aren’t we smart? And then someone says, well, maybe we want to do it in a slightly different way and we’d have to probably remake this package that we use. And how does that work? And go, okay, this is extreme.
Yeah, the Khan models are fantastic. And then the moment you have to reshape the Khan, you’re like, oh, good golly. This is not good.
Okay. Advanced Calculus day one.
I now realize I used to always joke. Somebody actually tweeted for a long time, and it was something that was like 4,222 days that I have not needed the Pythagorean theorem in life. That calculus and differential mathematics, I’m like, I probably should have hung around that class a little longer now when it comes to machine learning.
Yeah. I don’t think machine learning is a funny one. It’s one of those things that you see a lot of new software that comes out and VC circles are always out. It’s AI powered and all this stuff. And a lot of the time you have to read between the lines on this stuff and AI and machine learning in most cases probably just not needed. It might just need a couple of if-this-then-that type of logical conditions in it. There’s a lot that can be done in business and business process automation without that type of stuff.
If you really, really want to get into the weeds and start doing stuff like that, then you can. But will the benefit outweigh the cost? I’m unsure on that because by the time you finished it, the business has already moved on. And there’s a whole other process now that wouldn’t even look like it did originally. Right. And your years down the line, probably not worth it.
Yes. For us, the curiosity of the method is more important for the future of the use of that method. But, yeah, spending all your effort on it can be a painful thing. Well, this has been fantastic, Daniel. I could definitely do this all day. And for people that do want to be able to tap into what you and the team are doing with Lolly, what’s the best way that they can reach out and find out more? And of course, we’ll have links because the book, it is called Upgrade, the Lightning Fast Path to Productivity and Automation in Business by the one and only, Daniel Cooper.
So that will be coming out any moments now. By the time folks are listening to this, it will be published. So I’ll have links to the Amazon links and such. But Lolly.Co and where do we find you if they want to reach out?
Sure. So as you said, it’s, Lolly.Co, the website. You can reach on Twitter @imdanielcooper or you’re more than welcome to shoot Me an email if you want at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, Daniel, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you very much. And, folks, there you go. Automate the good stuff and automate the mundane stuff and you’ll realize it’s a fantastic world waits on the other side where you can enjoy Bitcoin. You can enjoy all sorts of exciting stuff you can invest your time in. You can’t spend time on Khan Academy when you’re wasting it away printing Out Spreadsheets.
That’s right. I’m going to go and have a non automated dinner now.
There you go. Thanks very much.
All right. Thanks.
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