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Rob Hirschfeld is CEO and co-founder of RackN, leaders in physical and hybrid DevOps software. He has been in the cloud and infrastructure space for nearly 15 years

This is a special episode with Rob returning as the guest for his 4th podcast and for the commemorative 200th episode!  We discuss how to unlock the power of multi-cloud automation, the challenge of human ops, and how we are finally reaching an “overnight success” of true bare-metal provisioning and multi-cloud automation and operations.  

Follow Rob on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/zehicle 

Check out the awesome work by RackN here: https://rackn.com 

Subscribe and listen to the 2030.cloud podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/user-410091210 

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

  1. Wow, that’s right. 200 episodes. You are listening to the 200th episode of the DiscoPosse Podcast. My name is Eric Wright. I’m your host and holy moly. This is really kind of crazy and awesome. I really just want to say a big, huge thank you to all of you who’ve listened and to all the amazing folks who make this podcast happen, including the amazing friends over at Veeam Software. So give a shout out to them and drop a visit. Go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. They’ve been fantastic supporters of me, my whole community of creators here.

So thank you to the Veeam team again, vee.am/DiscoPosse. Not just because they’re great. They actually have the best data protection platforms in the entire universe. That’s my opinion. So go check it out. And on top of that, if you want to celebrate 200 amazing podcasts, you’re going to need to stay awake. How do you do that? You drink diabolical coffee. That is because it’s the most devilishly good coffee and we’ve got the most diabolically awesome swag, including really cool stuff, which is coming up for the holidays.

So get on in. Some really cool slick mugs their showing up there. So go to diabolicalcoffee.com. And one last amazing thing because not just your data needs to be protected, but your life, your data in transit. The best way to do that is to make sure you use the fine folks at ExpressVPN. I’ve been a fan of VPNs for a long time for a variety of things. First, functionally to protect your data in flight, in transit, wherever you go, because I travel a lot.

And on top of that, going one step further by making sure that you can do cool things like testing for different locations and locales and testing latency in your network when you’re doing web testing. I’m a big fan of doing that. So do that. Do that thing. Go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse. Again, that’s .tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse That’s it for the live reads for this one. And speaking of live reads, this is live and awesome. Well, it was live when I did it. I guess technically every recording is live when you do it.

But this is Rob Hirschfeld. Rob is a good friend. He’s also the founder of RackN, the inventor of Cloud. Oh, yeah. You’re going to hear about that story. So I think this is really worthwhile to jump on in. Thank you to the folks who do this thing and support this podcast. Make sure you share it. Click subscribe. Go to Rob’s site at RackN. Check out the 2030 Cloud podcast. Also fantastic. And with that, actually, the funny thing is it’s just the episode for yourself. There you go. Rob Hirschfeld on the DiscoPosse Podcast.

Hello, this is Rob Hirschfeld and you are listening to the DiscoPosse Podcast.

This is the fun part because I get to do the intro. You’ve actually done your voice for Binger before. I’ve been lucky enough, Rob. Now we’ve talked a few times on this and I wanted to have you on because this is super special for me. First of all, to thank you. You are one of the inspirations to why I do this. I kind of go back to sitting in Austin at OpenStack Summit and me with my crazy weird USB dual mic set up, just trying to put something together, and we got to first sort of meet and spend time there, actually at the summit.

And obviously we’ve run a lot of miles, both in the tech circuit and quite literally on the ground at these events. But this is 200th. I had you on for my 100th episode, and this is 200th episode. So that’s why it was perfect that we got a chance to put this together. So thank you for inspiring me both in business, in life. And of course, the podcast is the third piece of that. It’s been a wild ride.

You’ve been a valuable friend, and I’ve been enjoying. It’s fun, because with podcasting, you get to listen to people talk vicariously. And I love what you’ve been doing with the podcast and sort of where you take it like conversations you have.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with you. But for folks that are new to you, let’s have you do a reintroduction and I’ll tell people go back and catch. I think we’re at, like, four podcasts we’ve actually record together on my side and a couple on your side here and there as well. But let’s give them the full meal deal on Rob Hirschfeld.

It’s interesting because I’m about to celebrate 20 years of inventing the Cloud. That’s one of the claims of fame. I sort of keep on the downlow, but Dave McCrory and I need to get out and tell people a little bit more about it. We started a company over 20 years ago now, where we were the first people doing virtualization in the data center at any reasonable scale, and we filed some patents on it that are about to be expire. We won’t have to worry, but we never made any money from them.

They got locked up by startups and then the Quack acquisitions and things like that. But yeah, so I’ve been doing the data center automation and virtualization business for a long, long time. So it’s very true to the theme of what it means to do virtualization and data center operations at scale. Like you said, I got really involved. I was at Dell and got really involved in OpenStack at the time when everybody was worried that VMware was going to take over the Cloud and Amazon was a nuisance, not necessarily the Juggernaut that it’s become.

And then, well, believe it or not, seven years ago, RackN is now seven years old. We left Dell with this sort of idea that OpenStack was going to have trouble because there weren’t good operating paths, which is sort of what we’ve seen play out. This was pre-Kubernetes, like, I was involved in Kubernetes early on, and actually, I saw the same thing with Kubernetes and was concerned about the operational patterns, too. And so the theme sort of for me, career wise, and then RackN specifically, is that companies aren’t running infrastructure well.

RackN set out to say, all right, how do we help companies run infrastructure better? We always had this idea that you’re not smart enough to run a data center is amazing marketing from Amazon’s perspective. What’s crazy to me is that so many people in our industry just go along with it. The HP’s and Dells turn around and be like, oh, well, I guess our customers are too stupid to use the gear that we sell them. And that’s always insulted me at this sort of foundational level.

Even the OpenStack stuff that we were doing always sort of got in the way of, like, oh, of course it’s going to be hard to operate. That sort of goes with the territory. And even with Kubernetes now, I was just listening to Brian Gracely with the Cloudcast, and he’s like, Well, Kubernetes is really hard and complex, and we accept that. And so it strikes me as a problem in our industry that we allow infrastructure to be so hard to operate. And we spend a lot of time talking about, like, needful complexity versus inherited complexity versus collaboration cost.

That’s, my bad. So we’re at a point now with RackN, sorry for the long intro, but we’re at a point with RackN, after seven years where we’re doing significant business, global scale operations, we’re breakeven profitable on the business, which is great for a startup and sort of seeing things working the right way. And now we actually have to tell people what we’re doing.

Yeah. You’ve got three more years and you’ll be an overnight success. The typical is the ten year mark where you’re suddenly like, ‘Why haven’t we seen this before? We’ve been here the whole time’. You should have seen us. We’ve been at every event, we’ve been contributing in code, we’ve been contributing in community. We’ve been contributing in our voice.

And there’s a perseverance that’s required to do this and a bootstrap on top of that. So that’s a big deal for people to do that.

It’s been crazy. I think some of it comes back to letting people catch up with your vision.

Yeah.

There’s definitely things that I’ve watched us do that make our vision as more accessible. But I’ve also watched people catch up to the vision and that’s, I think a lot of times with startups, if you’re having trouble communicating the idea, it could be that you’re wrong or it could be that you’re ahead, right? I mean, that’s what my virtualization experience was. We knew VMs were going to be essential for running a data center in 2000, but we spent so much time telling people hey, these VM things are real, and you should use them, and they’re better than hardware infrastructure for this purpose. That by the time we’d won that battle.

We lost the war from a startup perspective.

And talk about another bootstrapped example in the VM world, right? Literally vMware. I hadn’t even realized until not even that long ago that VMware was originally bootstrapped. They didn’t go get VC. I was like, what? But we look back on it now, and it’s kind of funny that just as a momentum that they have today, that everything started with sort of breaking the mold on human belief in technology viability and the trope of we can’t use virtual machines because we need hardware performance.

We can’t use the Cloud because we need data center protections and security and controls. We can’t use Kubernetes because our applications can’t live in any femoral environments. You show me a can’t. And I’ll show you a start up opportunity. It’s really wild to see this transition over to your point. The vision is there and the perseverance to maintain that vision and execute against it for long enough for the industry to finally understand that. Okay. Yeah. This is a thing, and it’s tough to find people. Erica Windisch is one of my favorite examples.

Erica has gotten to the 90-yard line of 100-yard dash, like five times in a row and then finally got to the finish line because for a variety of reasons, had never been able to see something to fruition. And she was able to do that with IOpipe and went to a successful exit. And I actually haven’t caught up with her in a long time I should. Again, because she’s just such a fantastic person.

Yeah. I remember this at OpenStack Paris fighting an early Docker and saying, this is a big deal. You need to pay attention. And the struggle of being able to explain why something is important. And this is to me, part of my journey from being a technologist to being a CEO is understanding why and how to explain the business value of what you’re doing. Because as technologist, we all want to be like, this is shiny and pretty, and it makes this easier. And that’s enough of a reason. But it’s not enough and we need to accept that just because something better or easier or the new thing, it’s not necessarily, what going, to actually become a success.

That’s always a challenge for us. It’s taken us a long time to be better at expressing how much the complexity of what people are building is a actual problem. You run around in tech circles, and it’s like how things are so complex. I’m scared of the complexity. I’m worried about the complexity. I started doing this stuff about a year ago on Jevon’s Complexity paradox. You’re not familiar with Jevon’s paradox. It’s org technology thing that we need to understand better about when you make something easier or cheaper.

People use more of it. And so about a year ago, I was convinced that we have a complexity paradox going on where we’ve made it super easy to use cloud services or things like that. There’s no downside. There’s no apparent cost in that. But we’ve now made that hiding complexity has made it everything much more complex and complexity starts bubbling to the surface. And like the Amazon downtimes where one service fails and the Cascades to their whole infrastructure, we see this pattern over and over and over again.

Or then you offload your services to a third party who uses the underlying services in Amazon. So you’re hosed anyways, right?

We are like one step away from Amazon going down because they had a third party that depended on a service that was in Microsoft that depended on a service that was in Google. And the Google service failed because the time got out of sync or the certificate. The certificate wasn’t updated when it was supposed to be updated.

Certificate. That’ll be what takes us all down. It won’t be DNS. It’ll be some goofball who didn’t set his calendar to renew an SSL Cert.

We can actually predict this with 100% certainty. It’s going to be an SSL Cert that expires. That depends on a DNS entry where the person no longer has control of the DNS, do the record that’s necessary to sort of create and renew the certificate. And so that’s going to be this cascading failure. But it’s totally conceivable that the Clouds actually have interdependencies on each other that they don’t fully don’t anticipate. And that should scare everybody. The challenges that being scared of the complexity of the problem and understanding the actual cost of that complexity and why somebody would, from a business perspective, pay money.

But it’s really more simple. It’s really take action on the problem. This is what it always comes back to. If you’ve identified a problem, how do you motivate somebody to take action to fix the problem or to change direction or things like that? Right. And that’s super hard. People are busy.

We need to come up with assisted menu heuristic. This is the ability to relate to them. That the problem that they’re creating by adding with a DIY solution is actually greater than the value. And ROI on investing in, like, technical debt is just such a throw away phrase that we attach to something. But it gives us a free pass to ignore what’s actually happening and identify it. And it’s sad because you and I talk all the time about this stuff and we see it in real environments, day in, day out where you just celebrate the heroics of complexity.

And some of it. I’m starting to think about terms like complexity budget. So, you know, I do this. We actually have 2 hours a week where we have people come together and talk about DevOps or the future. So this Cloud 2030 discussion group that we have that I started, like as a pandemic hallway track, and we’ve been going over a year, and then we turn them into podcast so people can listen to them. But we.

Sorry, my dog is, hold on.

Let’s talk about that after. But like the fact that what 2030 Cloud is now versus how it began, that’s actually quite an interesting path you’ve taken.

It’s stunning because we have a dedicated core. And then people come in as they want to talk about topics, and we identify topics. And what’s amazing is when you get a group of people talking about the future and infrastructure. Also week to week to week. These themes emerge out of those discussions that are just stunning. Right. So we talk about complexity or coupling or the legal ramifications of jurisdictional changes that could impact how technology is formed. The threads here are crazy. And there are some things that are super impossible to talk about.

Like we tried to talk about networking. Networking always double clicks down into infrastructure or persons or technology or jurisdictions like security is the same way. It’s super hard to sink into a simple security problem. And then the complexity comes back, comes in over and over and over again. And this idea of having a complexity, budget and understanding what you’re doing. The point that you were making about the sysadmins and the technical debt, though, is that a lot of this is organizational bias towards Siloed behavior, and it’s actually not just the organizations.

It’s actually the tools play to that, because that’s how you sell into market. So we are so used to operational silos, and then to sell a tool or a platform or product into an operational silo. You build tools that work for operational silos. One of the things that RackN’s done that I didn’t even realize we were walking into this trap is that we built tools that crossed operational silos, right. Because our goal, our customers goal was end to end operations. And I see this in conferences all the time.

You get people, the CEO or whoever is in charge of the conference. The big speaker stands up and says, I must have an end to end single pane of glass, one, one ring solution. Right. And you know, the ISO flashes in the background, and everybody sort of watches and they’re like, yes, that’s what we want. And then they leave that session and they go talk about their siloed tools and how they’re not going to act, how the network team is the enemy, and we have to fix it without them.

And so we’ve created this interesting situation where it’s very clear that you want an end to end solution. You need zero touch operations for us. Somebody’s reeling a rack in to a data center. Right. We do this for banks a lot, and we’re software. So the banks are doing it. We’re just making it possible. But you reel a rack in to a server in country somewhere and they turn on that rack, and they want that event to turn into working productive equipment inside of an hour, and then they want it to be completely the same process that they use every data center.

Right. Or if they need to reset the data center because they’re worried about ransomware or something like that, they can push a button, you’ll get a coffee and then come back and have the system all set, which sounds simple. But to do that, you’re actually talking about crossing 15 bank, 15 or 20 different organizational silos to get all that stuff to work. Right. And it’s a super hard problem, not because you can’t do all those things. It’s a super hard problem because each silo resists integrating with the other silos. It’s one of things that made Cloud a big deal.

It’s like, oh, my developer can set up a network because the Amazon APIs have networking. My developer can set up a compute system. Yay. Doesn’t mean they’re doing it in ways the networking wanted.

Right. Yeah.

The thing that you think about from all those perspectives, though, is that we’ve incented the industry to build silo, silo, silo, silo and tools to do silos, and then we haven’t created the incentives to connect the dots. Right? I mean, DevOps conferences are full of people crying on each other’s shoulders about how misunderstood they are.

I’m sorry to be pejorative. I’m not trying to be pejorative about DevOps conferences, actually. The way it goes, it’s like we need to talk about the culture that would allow me to work with another team. And then they have say that, and then they go in the next room and they’re like, these are all the reasons why I can’t work with the other team.

Right. You tell them that you’re an ops-focused person, and I pulled this thread the other day, and it had the precise effect that I thought it would. I actually said that your GitHub heatmap is actually a meritocracy, right. Because I meant it in the way that I’m often presented by people all the time, that if I’m doing infrastructure as code, and I’m dabbling, that the moment that I go to a DevOps conference and pull this thread. Pull that. It’s not, again, not talking negatively on the DevOps commerce, but the audience there, the community that’s there, GitHub heatmap is sort of like a great vendor T shirt to them.

It’s a thing they wear proudly and a thing that they show off. And so when you get there and you don’t have that, you don’t necessarily have the skills to walk into the room that screams about inclusivity, and then you get shoved out the back because you didn’t write a Perl script, and you don’t know who somebody else was at one point in time. I feel that sort of battle, like Gartner at their recent event. They talk now about XOps, which was, I rarely see something that I find kind of cool about some of the Gartner stuff because they have to be careful and generic with a lot of things.

They’re talking about predicting ship building, which it’s a really tough thing to the level they’re working at. So they talk about XOps just like DevOps, AIOps, MLOps, ITOps, NetOps that each of these silo breaking methodologies has created its own silo, and we need a cross breaking silo create, like, we need an abstraction layer for the silos that have really been meant as abstraction layers to silos.

And this is actually a hat tip to Gartner because they’ve really been doing something that we think is a good description of this and thought Werks has done it too, but they call it infrastructure pipeline or continuous infrastructure automation pipelines. We consider them automation pipelines. They’re actually showing all of these things fitting together, and it’s different than value stream mapping, which is similar. It’s like I need all my teams to work together and understand how I generate value. It’s important, but they’re actually elevating it to say if all these silos they need to be connected in the pipeline like a CI/CD pipeline.

But for infrastructure. And we found that nomenclature incredibly helpful for this. The difference being that what we’ve been doing with RackN and Digital Rebar, our product, is we’ve actually built the infrastructure pipeline as a platform, whereas the.

There’s thunder going on in the background, you can probably see the lightning in the window.

You’re in the midst of a good Texas storm.

I got my UPS and I should be set, but definitely much needed rain.

But the idea here that I can run a workflow all the way across all these pieces as a platform is actually a critical thing. When Gartner shows that they’re like, and I’ve got 20 different tools I have to use to connect all these dots together. And the lift on that organization is super high, and the complexity that you create is super high. So we’re excited to see a name for it. The infrastructure pipelines concept, which people seem to sort of get intuitively.

Like, okay, I got CI/CD pipelines for code. They don’t really work that well for infrastructure. We can talk about get ups and how that’s sort of this very narrow band of things, but it doesn’t really work for infrastructure. So I need a pipelining system that connects all these tools I’ve got for infrastructure.

It’s like Jenkins for your hardware. When you can give it a name and a relative example. I’ve totally stolen your infrastructure pipelines. When I talk about stuff through the stuff my team is doing at work because we’ve got the app pipeline, which people are totally they get like, it makes sense. There’s both application and infrastructure pipelines, and when it comes to doing things around decision automation and infrastructure automation, that’s where we’re seeing the more of it come into play, which is originally it was like, just do the thing like the hypervisor manager will be the layer that people work with, and so we’ll attack it there.

But we’re finding more and more is that no, they’re using some kind of a pipeline to manage that abstraction layer, and they’ve moved away and they realized the true control plane is the human control plane, which lives in pipeline, and pipeline is manifest it’s physical human run books that we’ve played out for all this time, and now we can actually relate it into product. And this is why I’m on team RackN. I’ve been for a long time on this.

Thank you. It’s interesting to us, and it’s useful to bring up the human run book piece of this because we do want this end to end component. And one of the things about the pipelines for us, because we’re a product company. So us building a platform that gave somebody a pipeline would be a pat on the back, but it’s not our objective. And actually, this is worth explaining. What we try to do is we want the pipelines we build to be reusable and standard. And I watched this, and this goes back to RackN formation history. We used to do in time with Sheff, switched over to Ansible. Right.

And all those tools are great, really good, actually, but they aren’t designed for reuse. What we see in the industry is and Terraform has the same thing in spades. It’s really a challenge. We see people using the tool, but in similar ways, but not with shareable components. Like you get a Terraform provider, but when people build like a plan to talk to a piece of infrastructure, those plans are not typically reusable. They’re not decomposable. Right. So you might have three teams using the Terraform to interface the same Cloud, but doing it in different ways and nobody can audit it, nobody can check it.

It becomes really a problem. And that’s where the pipelines breakdown. You can’t build a pipeline easily. If the things that you’re building the pipeline on top of don’t have a degree of standardized interconnect between them.

This is the one thing just stick there to pull on the Terraform piece, like even in their own docks, they’re very clear to tell you this is a bad idea. If you are doing data interplay between external systems, it’s not going to go well. You’re creating rigidity and things can change, and then your run book will no longer be valid. I respected that they put it in there, but like any good stuff, you put in a documentation, it’ll never be read, and people are still going to try and work on it.

And you and I have talked about this before, right? The pattern in Terraform is it is a single source of truth and Terraform easy to pick on in this case. They designed a tool that has a single source of truth embedded in it that assumes it can actually control the environment, which is handy if you have to build an environment. But infrastructure changes outside of before and after your tool runs, and even in between the runs of your tool, the infrastructure changes. The idea that the state is controlled by Terraform is a failure at the pipeline level because pipelines are part of a flow, and so things happen before your tool operates. Things happen after your tool operates.

And so in building a pipeline, you have to have this idea of an incremental state and your state has to be adaptable. So if you’re messing with the infrastructure, you have to expect that something might change outside and you can take that information in and say, oh, look, I just learned this, and there’s a ton of cases, especially in configuration where you like you build a cluster, and the keys for that cluster aren’t known until the cluster is built, right?

You might get a token or security or generate a certificate. That’s what makes Kubernetes so hard to install. It’s not Kubernetes. Kubernetes is a simple go binary that could run as System D with ten line install command. But what makes Kubernetes hard, it’s the fact that you have to generate services for every if you do it right for every service that interacts with it, and then distributing the TLS infrastructure is actually what made the whole Kubernetes the hard way was because of the TLS infrastructure you had to build, not because of the binaries.

The binaries are the least of your concerns.

Yeah, communication between nodes is like the simplest possible thing. The scheduler out of the box does what it’s supposed to do. It’s actually creating a proper, secured, and operational infrastructure. That’s resilience, too. Right.

That was the one thing I’m probably the only person who talks about Nomad who doesn’t have a hashicorp.com email address, and I’ve even got two Pluralsight courses on it, which are lightly attended just because it’s still early days with a lot of that stuff. But I’m banking that there’s more and more people are going to dig. I like that it has stuff that solves a lot of these problems. However, it just moves the problem goalpost a little bit to a different area.

At the end of the day for something like that, your development team or whatever is going to use a tool that should abstract out how the containers are operated. And so we see this, like when we use Terraform for our pipelines to do cloud provision because people are used to it. The cloud interfaces are actually pretty good, even though they’re heterogeneous. We deal with heterogeneous stuff pretty well because that’s what infrastructure is, but at the same time when we do it, we designed it in a way that doesn’t require Terraform to be the interface.

So if somebody says, oh, wait, I don’t want to use Terraform anymore, or HashiCorp becomes hostile. And Terraform isn’t a good utility. We could switch because at the end of the day, not whether you want to use Terraform or not, just like, Nomad versus Kubernetes. It’s not whether nobody cares, as long as your containers running and schedulable. So the idea is you want to break it back into what that unit of work needs to be done at that phase in the pipeline. And then you can start substituting, which is exactly what CI/CD pipelines do.

It’s like. Yeah. Look, I started with code. I needed to deploy it, whatever you got. And then over time, you keep adding new things into the middle of the pipeline or you switch tools and you’re like, oh, here’s a better security scanner. I’m going to swap it. And nobody. Pipeline keeps going just you swapped out a segment that does the job better. And that abstraction becomes a really useful thing to building all these systems. You have to have that connective tissue. You have to have a way to move state across a pipeline.

It’s been fascinating for us. Yeah.

The thing that I really want to pull out of this is you mentioned it. HashiCorp had to be example, right. What if HashiCorps becomes hostile? And we always have this thing like, even Kubernetes. People are like, oh, there’s such a vast group of people worldwide who are supporting Kubernetes. How can they go sideways? One word, Docker, right. To the point now where we’re questioning whether it’s even viable to maintain now that Docker desktop is licensed and it is entirely possible. Look, Mirantis was a good example, like the largest ever funding round in open source history, $100 million.

And I have not actually heard Mirantis mentioned, except in historical reference for quite a while. They’re doing stuff now. They were the Kubernetes company, and they are originally the OpenStack company. They’ve had to pivot and adjust, and the world has not necessarily been friendly for them. As a result, it’s tough. So Docker went through the same thing when you wrap a business around an open source product. And then there’s a divergence of belief systems in where it goes. We see now played out now and now they have to make it commercially viable.

And so all of a sudden, we have to unattach, like, this is the AWS risk factor of in Open. So Kubernetes, no matter how large it is, I have to think about what’s the risk pattern. This is sort of the lock in myth in a way, but as a methodology I need to think about preparedness.

If 2020 hasn’t taught us anything about supply chains, then you’re not paying attention, right. We have learned about physical supply chains. We’ve learned about going back to solar winds, about software and virtual supply chains. These are absolutely critical things that companies should be considering in how they look at building their software. And innovation is part of that supply chain. One of the things that we talk about with a cost of complexity is that when you build systems that are very complex, they end up being tightly coupled or having unseen coupling.

And that coupling actually makes it harder to innovate. Right. We just liberally talked about CI/CD pipeline, where you swap out something that works better. I could easily see, actually, it’s very pragmatic. So if you are, I’ll stick in Terraform, but you use us to provision with Terraform. We build a template, you like our templates or use whatever Terraform. But you could come back and say, you know what? I’m not using the provider that you’re using. The version I have is further back because it hasn’t been tested.

There’s a new feature that I have to use in a Cloud that isn’t exposed in the provider yet because they lag. And so it is essential that your automation right, for us, the pipeline has an extension point that says, oh, wait a second. If I need to make a call to an Amazon API or a Cloud API or another tool that’s not factored in. I can add that into my pipelines without breaking other things. Right. And it’s subtle, but it’s so important. This took us a long time to realize and longer to get right is that even though I’m using a completely standard process, all of our cloud interfaces use the exact same pipeline, but all of them have extension points.

I actually just gave this talk in ADDO, and I wish I had more time to show it, but each cloud has its own layer of, oh, these are the things that I have to do to service that Cloud through Terraform. Same actions that I run in Terraform. But the way you do the work not just plan differences. Like for Linode, you have to open a firewall port for Google Cloud, and it doesn’t work. Right. So you have to SSH and Ansible to join the machine.

Each one has some wrinkle, and you can easily imagine my company makes this additional call in Amazon that isn’t in a Terraform plan, or I can’t put in a plan. The sequencing is wrong. And so you’re like, how do I add in my unique wrinkle into that work? Normally you would fork it, you would have your own version of it, or you’ve read a Bash script. What we worked out with the pipelines that has been game changing for us is that there are extension points and how pipelines are built.

It allows you to infrastructure as code wise, extend the pipeline. And then from that perspective, have a very narrowly defined, oh, here is where I have to open up network ports in Linode because they don’t have a firewall in place like Amazon does. Same inputs, different actions or slightly different paths. But I can go back and see exactly how it was different than the standard path. And then we do that, like for Linux installs or VMware installs, that pattern of standard with known extensions plays out in incredible ways.

This is about protecting innovation.

Yeah. When it comes to drift management, and this is the other thing that we have to help them. Right? There’s provisioning. So stuff that’s particularly good at provisioning, and there’s stuff that’s particularly good at continuous configuration management and never the twain shall meet. This is part of the problem that we bump into. Now, where does drift management come into play now, in how you’re approaching this problem.

Drift management is tricky, and there’s a couple of ways that you can slice it. Are you thinking that the system is drifting out under the configuration, or are you thinking the actual?

First is the infrastructure itself moves with the right level of abstraction, the right level of change that can occur. I used to bump into this with just Terraform, like just a simple Cloud, a persistent Cloud workload, and all of a sudden for no real, particularly good reason. 22 days into me running my infrastructure, it gets reprovisioned because there is some drift, and Terraform sees it and says no, and it responds to my workload because it saw underlying drift in AWS, but I’m like, I wouldn’t even have noticed the workload was exactly the same.

But somewhere a host, an identifier, something changed. That was enough of a drift that it triggered a Terraform.

It could actually be a change in the provider that you’re using. One of the reasons now that you can lock the provider, so you don’t get an updated provider that then interprets a value in a different way. The way we deal with that is that our state information is designed to be incrementally, extended, and incrementally updated in very practical terms, like we embrace Patch as an API, as opposed to put, which means that we expect people to make changes to individual parameters or individual values in objects rather than expecting somebody to replace the whole value.

Anybody making changes to a Terraform state file, you’re like they’re doing it with tweezers, and they know they’re doing something dangerous and crazy, right? It’s a bomb defusal. Sometimes you have to do it, but you’re going to wear as much pattern as you can. And so for us, we know state changes all the time. So from a drift perspective, we work to item potency and not doing bad things and telling you, hey, this value isn’t what I expected. I’m going to stop and not try to fix it.

Rule number one with infrastructure, stop if something isn’t what you expect, don’t just keep going.

Works the same with fiber cables when you’re racking a server. If you feel resistance when you’re shoving the server back into the rack, you should probably stop and think about why there’s resistance.

We have this fight all the time, and actually we ended up adding retries in as a programmable option, which is nice, so I can be like, hey, this thing always fails. One retry and it fixes it. But by default, we don’t do retries, because if something didn’t go the way you planned then it’s wrong. Stop figure out what happened and fix it. And sometimes people are like, I don’t like that. We’re like, look, it’s much better to realize that it wasn’t what you expected. Fix it.

One further on that one, if you don’t mind Rob, the timeouts is also one of the biggest areas of issues I’ve seen with people that, just, like, manually blow out timeouts into their, Terraform is a great example. I’ll run exactly the same build. I like fully automated an EKS cluster. And everybody said, Why would you do that? It’s the simplest thing. Just use Cloud formation. Assume that I’m going to do it on Azure too with AKS. So I want to have a separate way. So I did it whether I’m self annihilating my belief in the world by doing this stuff all the time, but I do it and I build it and it runs.

It takes like 17 minutes to have a complete EKS cluster. Fantastic. And then I go on a webinar and I go to do it. It takes 42 minutes, because just some weirdness inside Amazon takes longer. And then if one thing flips beyond five minutes or ten minutes or whatever the default timeout is in Terraform, the whole thing just fails. And now I can’t just pick it up where I was. I have to basically unwind it. But now there’s timeouts on the unwind because there’s this weird interdependencies.

So you end up with this weird sort of like ladder of dependencies. That time can change the ability for a dependency to exist or not exist. That’s the one that I’ve raw retry. But even within that, just the infrastructure could take longer for some unknown reason. Something won’t reply back in time, and then a perfectly working manifest will not work the next time.

Yeah. And it could be something that is not actually, it’s a dependency chain that you don’t actually have a real dependency on or something that was misconfigured that’s never going to recover. What we did with infrastructure pipelines is we saw patterns like that where you’re like, using a tool to do a whole bunch of stuff, and because the tool is biased towards single source of truth or very atomic actions, Ansible’s like this, you build these men’s playbooks and you run them, and then they either work or they don’t.

I’m wondering if it’s impossible. What we have done is go the opposite direction. So when we build a pipeline, it actually decomposes into very small units. And a lot of times we’ll leave units in and just say this is a no-op because we know that in a different circumstance, you might want that in and you can turn it on later, or you can just make sure that it doesn’t impact the type of infrastructure you’re working with. That could be a whole our conversation about how subtly and powerfully that standardization works, but what we do because we end up running each component in what you described as a pipeline is that the system would actually go in and say, oh, I’m running cluster with 100 things in it.

Yay, the cluster or even multiple clusters are going to have their own management thread that you can track and see. And it’s a pipeline that’s doing its work. But it’s coordinating actions on separate pipelines running on the different pieces of infrastructure you pulled in. And then that actually. And this is one of the big things that’s coming in the next release that actually pulls in this concept of resource brokers, where instead of the cluster running the plan, the cluster actually talks to a system that is responsible for providing resources in a generic way.

So that becomes a generic abstraction point. And then that is actually what runs Terraform. You’ve got this place where with what you’ve been doing, you’re like, running a Terraform plan, and then it has to go to Amazon and build a whole bunch of resource and do all this stuff. And if someone gets stuck, that plan now is you’re locked there. And then the state for that plan is all of your infrastructure and unteasing that becomes like, all right, I got to unwind it and try the whole thing again.

What we’ve been doing is actually decomposing that into all the units, and then letting each unit be its own pipeline. And then that means that you could actually say, oh, I’m building a cluster. And here’s all the resources I got spun up. That’s great. And now here’s all the downstream work I have to do. And if something breaks in that one task, you might actually be able to fix that one task, reassert it, and then continue. And then the other things waiting for that to happen would get triggered when they’re supposed to trigger, which sounds more complex.

This is why complexity is so hard to describe. Pulling us a little bit full circle. Complexity is not bad. Everybody’s like, oh, I have too much complexity. I have to get rid of my complexity. I’m going to move everything to Amazon and just use their tools. Or I’m going to only buy from this one vendor. I’m going to use Terraform for all the provisioning. The Terraform doesn’t do some types of provisioning very well. And so they end up looking at it. And so what we’ve done is we’ve stepped back from and we started as a bare-metal automation company.

Complexity is not avoidable in bare-metal. You can’t say, hey, I don’t think I like raid controllers anymore, you shouldn’t use them. But I’m just going to buy giant SSDs and be done with all that. But the idea here is that you need to manage complexity. So there’s times when you decompose stuff into small units of work, because once the unit is a small unit, it’s reusable and you can track it. And if something changes, your blast radius for that change is small so you decoupled the actions.

You might have more moving parts, but they’re easier to manage as a unit. And this is the frame that we’ve really been helping people see. It’s not about eliminating complexity, it’s about managing structures, code. Go ahead.

I’m saying you’re introducing us the problem that we fail to talk about that. I see, because I, maybe decided to spend way too much time in business continuity, design and stuff. So I have a very systems thinking approach to all, like, always thinking about dependencies and interdependencies and lifecycle, including duration. Right. So what you’re creating effectively is long running ephemeral infrastructure. It’s the idea that you could rip and replace. However, we also know the pattern of consumption is not to use the stuff like ephemeral, like seconds long containers.

We do not, despite the ability to do so design applications and infrastructure to be treated like a bunch of cattle that we gun down in the field, apparently, which is whatever the reference we want to choose. Right. The reality is that I’ve got containers, I’ve got VM, I’ve got hardware that has to live much longer than what was originally anticipated to the point where things inside it. We’re looking for clean, deprecation options. You are creating the ability to have that long running yet ephemeral pattern so that you can ultimately get the best of both worlds.

So that when the time does come to, there is some kind of an underlying adrift of deprecation that needs to occur that you can look at it from the pipeline perspective, which is the right abstraction. The human abstraction is to treat it as a pipeline, and then life cycle and duration become variables that you apply to that pipeline.

And that’s what’s been powerful for us. Once we started thinking about things as these pipeline segments, it took me some mental lift because our CTO, he’d be like, no, you’re not thinking about pipelines. And I’m like, what do you mean? I get it, I get it. We keep taking me down the path further and further. And it is about the human understanding of how the pipelines work and the intent. The pipelines have intent and what constitutes a pipeline. When we talk about a pipeline, it really is like, oh, I need to build a cluster.

Okay, great. That cluster is composed of pipelines that need to build a Kubernetes worker or Kubernetes leader. And then the cluster’s job is to then connect all those things together. And so you end up with an intent, and then the intent gets piece together out of other pieces. And then one of the things that’s fun is you actually end up with standard units in that process. So when you build the pipeline, you might have a pipeline. That the difference between the hardware and the virtual pipeline might be a whole bunch of stuff in the middle, but all the stuff at the end is the same, which is amazing.

So now you’re just like, okay, I got the standard, I’m just dropping it in and it’s going to work. And then that falls what we have been trying to solve for a long time, which is how do we stop reinventing the wheel every time we have to provision a server? Right?

Yeah.

For us, it matters because we want our customers to be able to repeat success across every one of our customers. It’s a big deal. Right now. We have a ton of VMware deployment stuff for banks, media, and hosting companies and telcos and stuff like that. So we’re doing a ton of this. But we’ve gotten to a point now where they’re all using the same pipeline. It doesn’t mean they’re using the same hardware or the same network or even the same version of VMware. All those things are extensible, but they’re using the same pipeline.

And so when VMware changes something or we improve something, that pipeline can be shipped to them as a new code unit. Their extensions are against known points, so they can reuse that. And we’re seeing the same thing coming up in the way we’re doing Terraform work and the way we’re doing Cloud interface. So for us, it’s a customer to customer thing. But instead of our customers, it’s a team to team thing or a data center to data center or a Cloud to Cloud fix.

So you can be like, wait a second. I’m going to build a pipeline and use that on Amazon. Right. And then you can say, well, I need to use that same pipeline on Google. We know where the deltas are, that reusability is really important. But then two teams can actually share the components that they can share. That’s the thinking that’s so hard in this, right. The tools are designed. We were talking about the Terraform ones. Terraform isn’t designed for people to share their plans. Even if you use Terraform Cloud or Terraform Enterprise, it’s managing the stuff better and letting a team work together.

But the idea of everybody in your company using the same plan, that’s where things get more interesting from our perspective.

You’ve actually created a pipeline marketplace. In effect, that innovation in one area allows you to feed it back and then share it with the rest of the community, which is where the bring us back to perseverance, the seven year and beyond period. Right. Your vision is being realized now because you had this. What you needed to do is get people to come along for the ride. And then the network effect sort of begins to come in. It’s a really difficult thing, like customer one through ten to get them to see that down the road.

And so there’s some stuff you don’t know, right? As you said.

This is a matter of laser focus because it’s been super hard from the start. My co founder and I wanted to build a software, not a consulting or service company. And because what we wanted to be able to do, what we heard really clearly is nobody feels like they’re improving their business by installing RAID in BIOS configuration and laying down operating systems. Like I said, this is something that the industry should just have working. It shouldn’t be a creative exercise at any company, and there’s no business value created by doing it in a creative way.

But that’s the way it’s been for the whole time. I’ve been in industry, and we could have taken our expertise in those areas because we know more about RAID-BIOS configuration and PXE booting servers than really, I’d stand up my team against anybody but selling those hours would have done no good. And we walked and made it harder for our journey as a company we walked away from. Hey, can you just build something for me in my data center so that I can do this better and we would come back and say, no, that’s not what we do.

We have a software platform and a product, and it does it this way. And if that will benefit you if you adopt it. And we had plenty of customers, there was $1 million account that we were basically like, We’re not going to patch your cobbler infrastructure for you. We can’t pull the plug on it. It runs 100,000 servers and we’ll help you migrate it. But we’re not going to fix it for you because fixing it would have entrenched you in this bad pattern. And, yeah, that was from a startup perspective, being true to we’re doing software that’s repeatable patterns that can become a marketplace and have shared what we usually talk about is curated content.

That’s the value, rather than going up with people in parachutes into your data center and fixing it so that your 20 year old infrastructure designs can live another five years.

Something Cloud.

For you only. Like this is what we saw this with the application development pattern that’s with the team at the Cloud Foundry, they said, let’s go in as a pattern development and coaching program. And so it’s far more consulting heavy. And as a result, how many times have you seen a Bosch implementation lately because they didn’t lead with products and then use consulting as a secondary revenue stream? In fact, the best thing you’ve done is said, no, we could genuinely make money by putting consulting hours in and pulling together a SWAT team of people and growing this whole stable of consultants.

But what you’re doing is delaying the inevitable, and you’re empowering them to do things that are counter to the vision that you have to be able to do. End result, you survive, you persevere. And on the other side of it, people are like, this is it. It actually works, and it’s always worked. It’s just that now they’ve got social proof and customer proof, right? The NASCAR slide is now something that people can, okay, well, if Company X is doing it, then I better get on this train business value I almost wanted to do for any super technical startup founder.

I’m like, you almost want to say do a spoof like a B of A quarterly investor call. It’s never like Jamie Dimon getting on saying yes, this week we updated the RAID firmware on all of our servers on our private Cloud. And so it’s gone very well. We’ve got a strong group of folks that are working on it, like, now they’re talking about business outcomes that they’re doing, and then this stuff that has to happen, you got a choice of how you’re going to let it happen.

Are you going to let the Cloud drive you or are you going to create the Cloud and you’re delivering. This is what Alex Polvi talked about, like, Giphy, right? You’ve done it.

Yeah, that’s right. It’s one of those slow, methodical things focusing on for us, customer autonomy at the end of the day, but, yeah, it’s hard. It is definitely a journey. It’s fun to watch customers pick it up, by the way and then see it spread virally inside of an organization, which we typically see that. Or we had a customer like, all your stuff was working great. We usually don’t have any trouble with any of your stuff, and they’re like, but we’re seeing something. And a couple of hours later, they’re like, oh, yeah, we had some configuration on our end, but you help them through that.

And the fun thing is when they’re autonomous in that perspective. But it’s the opposite of what a lot of people are doing right now. They’re all telling you to outsource. They’re all telling you to manage service. We’ll take over. We’ll run your data center for you. The hedvig of hey, if Kubernetes is too hard for you to understand, let us do that for you. It’s a good business model for people, right? Yay. But we saw this with OpenStack, and it was really bad. The idea that our software is too complex for somebody to learn how to use.

So just let us take it over. That’s our new business model as we’re going to keep it complex so that you don’t have to worry about it. The industry isn’t going to grow. That’s not a growth model for the industry, especially with edge and things like that coming in. Right. We should have the underlying hour on this of thinking through, what would it look like if we had small data centers in everybody’s house or in municipality? And what would it look like to make that stuff go?

That’s game changing all this cloud stuff. It’s great. It’s amazing. It’s powerful, and people should use the heck out of it. But at the end of the day, be careful about the autonomy that you’re losing, in a lot of cases without even realizing it.

True that. Tell you about my one close in complexity and I don’t mean to make fun of the folks at Microsoft because Microsoft Ignite, of course, is happening as we’re recording. This is actually fairly rapid that’s going to go live. I saw the Tweet and it had this thing. It was like as your arc deploying Kubernetes on vSphere, I was like, wow, it’s just a list of things that I would love to do as a science experiment, but nothing I would want to run into production. However, there’s a thing, so bless them for gluing together a lot of bits, but there’s a reason the patterns are out there.

In the end, one thing that we need to do is do Cloud as a practice, treat infrastructure as commodity. And like I said, it’s beautiful to see it realized in what you’re doing. And the cheat is that as we close up this part of the podcast, I get to get a real live demo with this stuff, but we should definitely get you out more and more. Now you’ve got such a fantastic audience as well. Cloud 2030 is amazing. It’s really wild to see how that’s continued to gain momentum.

And at first I remember telling people that I know Rob Hirschfeld. It didn’t take long because your reputation and the respect you’ve gained in the industry for asking the right questions when sometimes people are a little afraid to hear the answers, the fact that you’ve done it and people realize it’s for the solution, not just the guy that asks the questions.

You’ve just defined what Cloud ’30 is all about in various succinct terms. It’s asking questions that we’re sometimes afraid what the answers will be.

And it’s great to see that more and more as I bump into folks, I say, yeah, this needs stuff in RackN. They’re like, oh, Rob Hirschfeld, right. Yeah. All right. The association is there and the respect is earned in what you’re doing, which is cool. So I’m glad that one day we’ll do some more work together in the world be, it would be neat to pair up on more stuff like this. It’s been great. So with that, Rob, what’s the best way if people do want to find out more, of course, about RackN, Rebar, all of the things? Cloud 2030 we’ll have links for folks that wanted to get signed up and how do they reach you?

I am very consistently Zehicle, Z-E-H-I-C-L-E. Goes back to my electric car days pretty much everywhere. Some reason people don’t like Zs and handles, but I’ve been very happy with it. So you can find me on Twitter and everywhere. I’m very active on Twitter and that’s a great place to interact. RackN is rackn.com and at this point that’s the best linkage point to get to everything Digital Rebar if you’re interested. And the Cloud 2030 is the2030.cloud is the website for that, so you can catch up on episodes or see what the schedule is.

We stay about four weeks ahead if you want to share pick topics, but just drop in and it’s a discussion. It’s a hallway track. They’re just amazing.

Yeah.

That’s what we desperately need.

And the funny thing is, the people that you meet in that hallway. I’ve met them in other commercial opportunities. Now it’s hilarious to see that it really and truly is a small world. And this is why you see repeated voices come up. Then you see them on Twitter, and then you see them in other engagements. This is community, the real true community. This is not about patting ourselves in the back because we built one thing. Well, it is really about finding people that are in a community of practice.

We are practitioners of things. I’m not team OpenStack or team Kubernetes or team VMware. I am team people doing fantastic things with infrastructure and applications. And as a result, community truly transcends the ecosystem that we maybe were born in or lived in at the time. It’s kind of cool to see it all.

Yeah. After 20 years, I’ve seen these products come and go and come back again. Patterns and the people. And sadly, some of the problems that we solve haven’t changed too much.

Was the old joke, right? They said that every time we’re building a better mouse trap, at least that used to be the design of build a company, build a better mouse trap. And there’s, like, more patents for most traps than there are for, like anything else in the world. And in the end, you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s or wherever you happen to go to Home Hardware, if you’re Canadian. Then what do you find? A slab of wood with a spring on it and a place to put cheese?

The most simple possible thing is really the best thing for it. But, hey, we’re going to create disaggregated hyper converged mouse trap infrastructure somewhere. And in the end, just grab a piece of wood.

With blockchain.

Exactly. Awesome. All right. There you go. Rob Hirschfeld, 200th. Thank you for celebrating 200 amazing and fun conversations that I hope to have many more. So I’m going to have you on for 300th. Just give me the heads up right now. So mark your calendar. However long it takes to get 300 more of these. We’re going to do this again.

I’ll be in my walker, and we’ll make it happen.

Right on.

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.

In the meantime, in order to make sure that you want to talk about ultimate protection, ultimate preparation for your business, got to give a shout out to my sponsors, which include the amazing, amazing folks over at Veeam Software. And I say this because they got you covered. Whether it’s everything you need for your data prediction needs in the Cloud, On Premises, virtualized workloads, bare metal workloads, Cloud-Native workloads.

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They got a really cool campaign going around. We got reinvent coming up, lots of cool stuff. So go check it out, vee.am/DiscoPosse. Oh, right on. Speaking of protection, don’t just protect your data at rest and data in flight.

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And ultimately, as you think about places where you need to protect your information, we’re continuously facing the onslaught of digital identity theft and lots of stuff that’s threatening to your livelihood and your personal information. So let’s keep it at bay and go to tryexpressvpn.com./DiscoPosse.

It gives you a little bit of a taste. You get a bonus, actually. You get a free month I think or something like that. But anyways, they’ll hook you up, go do it.

Oh, right. And diabolical coffee. I love diabolical. That’s even hard to say. I love it. I should have come up with an easier name to say diabolicalcoffee.com. There. I said it.

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.

That’s right.

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’s right.

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.

Right.

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.

Yeah.

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”.

Right.

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.

Yeah.

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.

1 second.

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.

Right.

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.

Yeah.

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.

Perfect.

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.

Wow.

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.

So.

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.

Fantastic platform.

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 danielcooper@lolly.co.

Excellent. Perfect.

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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Mike Williams is the Founder of BuildLab, a digital development and automation studio dedicated to delivering automation, application and web development services with or without code.

This is something near and dear to me as we discuss the value of low-code alternatives, leveraging services instead of building them, and why getting experts to help on-demand is a fantastic strategy to build and launch your platforms.

Check out Buildlab at https://buildlab.co 

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikewilliamsfounder/

Follow Mike on Twitter here:  https://twitter.com/mikethough 

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win Deals - Click here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook, Audiobook, and online course, more accessible by offering it all for only 5$


Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!


Want to ensure your privacy is protected? I sure do. Privacy is a human right and the folks at ExpressVPN make sure of that. Head over to ExpressVPN and sign up today to protect your safety and privacy across any device, anywhere.


Vince De Benedetto, MBA is the Founder and CEO of the marketing automation firm – Automated Dreams – in Portland, OR. He helps transformational leaders and businesses scale their positive impact in the world through automation, conversational marketing, and mentors leaders to work smarter not harder.

Vince shares powerful lessons learned in leading the charge with pragmatic automation for marketing teams, startups, and more. Not only does he explore the challenges and wins of automation and tooling, but we also talk through powerful lessons in being a founder and his personal journey building Automated Dreams and how he selects and nurtures a successful world-spanning team.

Check out Automated Dreams here: https://www.automateddreams.com