Today we have Michael Devellano joining us. Michael is a Sr. Cloud and App Consultant and the founder of Cloud Advisory LLC. He is also the author of the successful book “Automate and Grow: A Blueprint for Startups, Small and Medium Businesses to Automate Marketing, Sales and Customer Support”.
Today Josh and Michael speak about what Innovate and Grow actually means, how to go about it and maximizing business success by embracing and correctly utilizing “Digital”.
Some points that you will learn today:
- How to deal with digital product innovation
- Successfully applying “Digital” to your business
- Four business areas that can and should be automated
- What is “Blockchain” and why it may be useful
- And much more…
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business.
Today, my guest is Michael Devellano. Michael has written a book called Automate and Grow. His specialty is helping privately held businesses automate and grow what they do. And, if necessary, he plays a role of rent-a-CTO. We might spend some time talking about this whole rent-a-space for C-Suite types of people because, frankly, with many private business owners it makes a ton of sense.
So what I’m going to do is we’ll bring Michael in and we’ll get started.
Hey, Michael. How are you today?
Michael: Great. Thanks for having me today. I’m excited.
Josh: Oh, my pleasure. It’s really fun to have you here. So let’s start off. What is Automate and Grow? And why should I be concerned about that?
Michael: The idea behind Automate and Grow is, really I work with a lot of early stage startup that usually have funding or existing businesses and I think the one common element is they all kind of struggle with the reality of digital. And I think in the last 10 years, digital’s gone from like “Is this is a thing?” to “You need to address a few areas of your business”. One is, I think every business right now is a digital business whether they realize it or not. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, there’s someone creating a digital product that’s going to address your customer’s needs. So the idea behind Automate and Grow is, “How do you deal with digital product innovation?” And then the second part to it is, how do you deal with marketing sales and support and automate those tasks. Really, this is kind of a framework where any business could look at their situation, look at their customer and come up with a game plan before they buy technology or how to deal with technology once they have it.
Josh: So if you decide, “Okay, digital is real. I need to play with it in my business. I need to have it in my business.” What would you say would be the first couple of things you need to be doing or thinking about?
Michael: Personally, I think that most businesses need to look at who’s their ideal client and what are they buying from you? So I think you need to address the product side. I think that there’s really not very many sectors where there isn’t somebody trying to figure out, “How do I solve the customer’s problem using a digital technology?” So I think that’s the very first thing you should look at. Now, some businesses decide, “No, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.” And maybe that is or is not digital but I really believe that every business needs to look at that first.
Josh: You know, that makes a lot of sense. So let’s say I decide that digital is part of my business or needs to be part of my business and it’s like– not artificial intelligence but–
Michael: Mm-hmm. That is one thing. That’s a reality right now, right?
Josh: Well, in my opinion, if you don’t have an AI strategy, you are likely not going to be in business 10 years from now.
Michael: I agree with you. I think the thing about that is actually– if you know Peter Diamandis. And Peter–
Michael: Peter Diamandis talks about kind of six transformational or exponential digital technologies. And I kind of think there’s actually seven now. So they’re obviously computers, networks, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing. And then, in the medicine space, there’s digital medicine and then there’s synthetic biology. I think the seventh one that will probably be added to that list is blockchain. And that can sometimes be crypto and it can sometimes just be blockchain for digital ledger and agreements. I think what I’d talk about is really you need to look at those six or seven technologies and figure out, “Can I solve my customer problem using one of these?” If you’re not, somebody else’s, I think. And I think that’s going to change. Like, in 10 years, what you’re selling is maybe not what your customer’s buying to solve their problem.
Josh: That’s probably true. Even if you’re like a construction company and you’re building homes, you better know about digital because it’s going to put you out of business. You still need hammers and nails to build a house–
Michael: Yeah, maybe.
Josh: –but you’re going to be building smart houses–
Josh: –with digital technology in there. And you better understand that as part of what you’re doing because if you’re not doing that today, 10 years from now, you’re going to have to do it or you won’t be in business.
Michael: Even the process of building, right? I think there’s digital stuff that’s being made by entrepreneurs to change how houses or buildings are built.
Josh: Well, I used to be in the food service and vending business.
Josh: One of our clients was a place that they used to build pre-fab houses.
Michael: What about 3D printing houses, that’s kind of crazy.
Josh: Well, that may happen but that’s– you need big 3D printer. But the houses they built in their factory where every bit is nice is a stick-built house that’ll be on your property. They’ll build the houses. Have it in pieces and ship it out and assemble it on site. And that was kind of an early stage of that.
Josh: But as we go into the digital revolution further and further, especially with robotics, it’s going to become much more cost effective to build in a house in a factory and assemble it on site than stick built.
Michael: Makes total sense. I totally agree with you.
Josh: At least in my opinion, that’s going to happen.
The thing that I was just trying to think of and I did think of it is , you know, I’m looking at digital as sort of like an augmented reality. It’s part of running a real business. Does that make any sense to you?
Michael: Augmented reality, what do you mean by that?
Josh: Well, what I mean by that is you may not go completely to a AI (artificial intelligence) but you’re going to have some sort of a digital or artificial intelligence assistant that’s going to be helping you through that.
Michael: It makes total sense. Yeah, I think so. I think, for example, like I’m part of one early stage company called Honcho CRM. And at it’s very basic, Honcho’s idea is really give a really low cost customer relation management software. But then, I think, the long-term vision is one role, which is the sales development rep, which is kind of like your outbound rep. They usually create email campaigns and reach out to ideal clients, kind of list building. And I think we really believe that you can create machine learning-based SDR. So rather than having to constantly find that resource, train them, manage them, give them facilities and a framework, that’s one of those roles where you could actually use an artificial intelligence that will do the job of finding ideal clients, building lists, setting them campaigns and seeing if they’re interested in talking to a really human being.
So I think that more and more, there’s going to be those types of roles and some of them might be advisory roles where you have AI and it’s giving you feedback and decision support. And some of it might be like role based, right? Like, there might be jobs that will go away because of that.
Josh: So I’m a little bit curious here. You say there’s four main areas of business that could be automated. What are those four areas?
Michael: I think the four that we address are, obviously, product. So looking at your customer’s problem and “Can it be solved with a digital technology?” Marketing – I think, marketing automation is something that some businesses struggle with and others are adopting it. So I think marketing is definitely an area that could be automated. And then sales. So sales you’re seeing some organizations are going to a completely e-commerce virtual model. Some still require, because there’s a complex customer or a complex product, a human to really sell. And then there’s hybrid. So I think sales is a big area. And then the final is really around customer support or customer success. So I think those are really the four areas that you want to address in your business.
Josh: So let’s talk about product. The other stuff makes perfectly good sense to me but I’m a little confused about what does automating product mean?
Michael: Well, I think it’s really like “How do you solve your customer’s problem using a digital technology?” So an example to that, at the simplest, would be “Is there an app that becomes either a gateway to delivering a physical good or a service, or replaces a physical good or service?”
It could also be a software as a service solution. So we’re seeing businesses that might normally be a service-based business but they’re creating a Software as a Service application that can deliver some of the value that normally a human would.
And then, I think, you know, this whole thing around blockchain is really changing things. So, to me, blockchain is really around agreements.
Josh: So first, can you explain to the folks listening–
Josh: –what the blockchain is?
Michael: Well, at its simplest, so people are already talking about bitcoin and all this stuff around cryptocurrency–
Michael: –but the underlying technology is blockchain. Really, think of it as a digital ledger. So it’s a way to keep track of agreements between different organizations or people. It’s like, “What did I give you and what did you get?” So I think any agreement that you have up there can be looked at to be moved to the blockchain. So, for example, if I have a mortgage. A mortgage – your contract on a mortgage is probably paper of some sort, right?
Josh: Most likely, yeah.
Michael: Yeah. And it may be digital paper. But in the end it’s paper and the terms and conditions of that agreement are locked in that paper and someone would actually have to read it to enforce it.
But the blockchain, the idea is you could actually create a digital agreement where it’s funded and then delivered. So it’s like “here’s the conditions that have to be met for these things to happen.” And even the money transacted – all in that technology. So I think that’s what the blockchain offers, is you can make the actual agreement the real thing.
Josh: So I want to ask you a question about this because I’ve been reading a lot about the blockchain myself recently. And many people, I’m reading, are saying the blockchain is the internet of 1980. Would you agree with that?
Michael: Maybe 1990s but it’s probably a little more advanced than 1980.
Michael: I think it’s closer to when we moved to high-speed internet. So it’s still slow but that’s going to change really fast. But in terms of the impact it’s going to have on society and business, I think, it’s going to affect everything as a technology anyway.
Josh: So if you’re a business owner, especially if you’re in the advice business, my own personal feeling is if you don’t understand the blockchain within five years you could put yourself at a serious disadvantage.
Michael: I think there’s two things that threaten advice businesses. Your expertise as an individual is what other people trust, obviously.
Michael: And that means you have to have a certain amount of knowledge and then you have to do delivery of that knowledge. So AI could really be a threat. And then blockchain is the delivery and transaction of that. So they both could be interesting.
Josh: One of my business is a financial advisory business.
Josh: And that is very much up at risk with both AI and blockchain.
Josh: –because the blockchain’s going to get rid of this T+3 which means it takes three days for a trade to settle. The blockchain will have trades settling in seconds–
Josh: –if not nanoseconds.
Josh: The AI portion is, right now, you have what’s called roboadvisors in the world. And they’re not real AI.
Michael: Like Wealthfront or –
Josh: Right. Well, yeah–
Josh: Yeah. They’re not AI.
Josh: But I know, there’s some startups out there which are doing true AI which are going to be very similar to what’s being done with programmed trades right now which is a whole different thing. That was written about by Michael Lewis in a book called Flash Boys.
Michael: Mm-hmm, I haven’t read that book but I’ll look it up.
Josh: That’s a great book. A great book. I highly recommend it.
So now, that’s the technical side of the investment management but the new is the personal planning side. And I’m 65, I’m pretty sure that AI is not going to put the personal planning side out of business, in my working career–
Josh: –maybe your working career but not my working career. So if you’re in this sort of business, if you’re in the advice business, you better be figuring out “What’s the blockchain going to take away from you? What’s AI going to take away from you? What are you going to be left with?” And what you’re left with, by the way, is what clients really value.
Michael: You hit it on the head. And I think when people read Automate and Grow, the one think I talk about is, “This is not about just replacing people. It’s looking at– it’s dividing the work. So it’s “What, in your business, is repetitive but important? And how can you replace that using a digital technology? How can you digitize it so that you increase the time for people to deliver high value and premium work?”
And I think you hit it on the head which is, “What do they really value?” And they will pay more for that and eliminate the stuff from your day or your offering – not eliminate it totally but eliminate it from needing time to deliver it.
Josh: Yeah, I think you’re still going to want to have the ability to deliver what AI brings. And you’re going to bring that as a piece. It’s almost going to be like AI becomes an employee in your company.
Michael: Right, exactly.
Josh: You know, it’s not going to be where AI is you’re not just going to do that stuff anymore. It’s just that AI’s going to take it over instead of you doing it.
Michael: Right. It’s decision support. I think people still trust people.
Michael: And I think that’s where they’re going to buy from people and they’re going to want validation, probably, of the intelligence that comes out of those technologies. So I think you hit it on the head like “how do I co-exist with this and how do I leverage it?”
Josh: So if you’re talking to somebody who is basically a neophyte, someone who’s a newbie, and yeah they have email, maybe they have a Facebook account. They probably have a Facebook account–
Josh: And they probably have a a very basic website that’s sort of like a business card but not really very interactive. There’s not a lot going on. What would you tell them to focus on first?
Michael: So I think we’re kind of talking what may or may not be out there. But I think, at the very short term, if you’re an existing business, what you want to look at is, “Is there a way for me to deliver a digital product?” And maybe there is, maybe there isn’t but then you definitely need to understand, “What’s my traffic conversion plan around marketing? What’s my sales playbook? Like what’s my model for sales? What can I automate out of that?” And I think a lot of that centers around CRM. And then, again, around CRM, probably is “How do I support my customer in an automated way?”
Josh: Okay. So I want to go to even more basic than that–
Josh: –because my experience is, with most privately held businesses, especially that are owned by people who are 50 years old or older, what you just said– and what we actually have been talking about so far, is so far past what their belief system is–
Michael: Overwhelming, yup.
Josh: Yeah, it’s overwhelming. So how do we get this? So it’s what I call operationally doable. And not a waste of money. That’s the other side of the ballpark.
Josh: I see people spending– in fact, I have a client about to go into a software project and I said, “But we haven’t even done the five why’s yet, so why are we going forward before we know why this is a good idea?” But going back to the really basic stuff.
Michael: So I think for most businesses, this centers around probably two things, (1) How are you keeping track of customers and interaction with them? Do you have a CRM or a database of some sort that is able to keep track of who your customers and who your prospects are?
Josh: So I’m a jargon buster so I have to say CRM–
Michael: That’s why I said database.
Josh: Yes. But I’m not even sure many people know what a database is.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Josh: CRM stands for customer relationship management system.
Josh: And a database is just a list of all of your files and stuff.
Michael: Yeah. Like if we went back to the 1950s, let’s call it. In those days, it would’ve been a rolodex, right?
Michael: But, today, we want to keep track of that in a digital way so we want to know, “Who are my accounts? Who are the people at those accounts? And what sales opportunities do I have?” And that’s really what CRM is.
Josh: Okay. So there’s about a zillion different CRMs out there. I know you’re a Salesforce expert. And I have to sort of push a little bit on Salesforce because every time I’ve looked at it, I say, “Do people really pay $140 a seat per person per month?”
Michael: Or more.
Josh: Yup. And I’m just saying, “For a small business with 20 people, that seems like a lot of money.”
Michael: So I think what you need to look at is your business specifically, “What are you trying to get out of this? And which product applies?” Salesforce, I think, applies very well to anyone that needs their sales process customized, that they need to keep track of physical goods. So they want to be able to know under their business, “This is what I’ve billed them and this is what they paid for and this is the products they have.” And I think that’s one area, as an example, where Salesforce is really strong because you can make it talk to other applications in your business if you have to.
So, really, I think, product-heavy businesses really good fit. I, for example, do a lot with medical device, medical supply. I got a lot of products. They’ve got a lot of SKUs. The sales force is a great fit and the money is more than worth it because then they can automate a lot of the steps between marketing, sales, and support.
Josh: Okay. So let’s say I’m a security company. I provide security systems, and fire alarm systems, and access control systems. Would sales force be overkill or would it be something that fits into a cost-effective solution?
Michael: So I think Salesforce themselves have product-ized their product in kind of three, I think, categories. (1) They do have a small business product which is Salesforce IQ. And it’s very email heavy. And it’s actually a really interesting product to look at.
Then there’s kind of like their next tier which is actually about 75 bucks a month per user. It may lack some of the reporting and automation capabilities but you can still customize it. But the core of that is opportunity management. So it’s like account management, opportunity management and lead management. And that’s what you want, right? So if you’re a security company, you’re selling to prospects, you’re selling to existing customers and you probably got a bunch of products that you’ve got to keep track of over what you’re selling and quota.
Josh: And they also already have a system where it’s a third-party management system/ database system for their industries, an industry-specific product.
Josh: Does it have a CRM?
Josh: Or has a very basic CRM.
Josh: But it really isn’t a Salesforce-type management tool.
Josh: So if I want to bring the Salesforce type management tool in place, I’m assuming we need somebody like you to make it work.
Michael: Yeah, that’s the one thing about Salesforce, you do need a partner that understands the technology and then takes the time to understand your business and then break down, “Here’s my sales process. Here’s the stuff that I need to make this all work and then make them talk to each other.”
And you used a good example where there’s another platform that’s industry specific but it’s not a very good CRM, that’s where Salesforce is really good because has like an API which is like a map that two pieces of a software can talk to each other.
Josh: So you just brought in something which I think is really– one of the best reasons I like CRM’s is that most companies I talk to don’t have a sales process.
Michael: Mm-hmm, exactly.
Josh: And by integrating the Salesforce or a ZOHO or one of those sort of CRMs, to use those product properly you’re going to need to develop a sales process.
Josh: So how would you recommend somebody go about doing that?
Michael: So that’s one of the benefits of Automate and Grow. It’s a really inexpensive way to get a template. When you buy Automate and Grow it’s really divided up into kind of those four sections I talk about. So you can come up with your own digital product innovation plan, your own traffic and conversion plan for marketing, and then your own sales playbook. And there’s kind of a workbook that anyone that buys the book can download and that’ll step them through kind of at least the very basic questions that will get you to put that in place.
Sales playbooks are really looking at “How does your customer buy? And then, what process do you create to help them through the stages of that process?” So I think the key is create your own sales playbook. Get some help to do that. And at the end, before you invest or even if you’re already invested in technology, you need that playbook to tell you what to do with the technology.
Josh: So is that the sort of thing that your company does?
Michael: Yeah. So we’ll work with our clients. We have kind of a virtual CTO type offering where we can help you create your digital product plan. We can help you create your traffic and conversion plan or help you create your sales playbook, help you create your customer success roadmap. That’s kind of the strategy piece.
And then once you’ve done that, you’re ready to really start implementing or changing your technology to mirror that. So we can walk you, help you through all that stuff. You don’t have to do it yourself.
Josh: Cool. Hey, Michael, unfortunately, we are out of time.
Michael: Oh, no problem. Thanks.
Josh: At least for the podcast, we’ve already been doing this for 23 minutes. And I would love to have people know how to contact you and how to buy your book. So how would they go about doing that?
Michael: It is on Amazon, the book. But you can go to AutomateGrow.biz. So automategrow.biz. If you drop in your name and your email there, it’ll will re-direct you to buy at Amazon but the benefit of that is you’ll actually get three free bonuses there, on the website. And you can contact me to through the site there.
And then if you’re a salesforce client or you think you might need help looking at Salesforce as a CRM or marketing then that would be cloudadvisory.io.
Josh: Cool. And if somebody wanted to contact you personally, do you have an email address, or a phone, or do they just go through your website?
Michael: Yeah, if you send it to email@example.com, that’s probably the easiest way. And I’ll get it, I promise.
Josh: Okay. That’s cool. That’s cool.
I also have an offer for you, too. I have this one-hour free audio CD course. And it actually is a physical audio CD that you can play in your car if your car still has the CD player.
Michael: I don’t even know if it does but yeah.
Josh: Yeah. Well, if it doesn’t have a CD player, you send me an email and I’ll send you the audio file of the course. It’s called Success to Sustainability: The Five Things You need to Do to Build a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. It’s a great audio CD. It’s really easy to get out. You take out your smartphone. And you don’t do this if you’re driving, specially in Vermont because you’ll fly into a snowbank right now. But you take out your smartphone and you text the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. That’s the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222.
This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been at the Sustainable Business. I hope to see you back here really soon. Thanks for stopping by.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.