Chris Ronzio is a serial entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of Trainual, he helps small and growing businesses document what they do, delegate roles, and create scalable operations manuals to centralize and teach their processes, roles, and responsibilities.
Before founding Trainual, Chris learned how to build and sell smart, scalable businesses, including a video production company he founded as a teenager that would go on to serve all 50 states. He also founded Organize Chaos, a firm dedicated to helping small businesses solve their problems.
Chris is also an Inc.com columnist, a speaker, and an investor. Today, he joins the podcast to share stories from his own life in business, but also to talk about the challenges so many entrepreneurs face when it comes to growth, company culture, focus, and technology – and the actionable steps you can take today to organize the chaos within your own organization.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
If you enjoyed this podcast, click here to download your free copy of Chris’s newest book, 100 Hacks to Improve Your Business. Be sure to rate and review the podcast, and send us all your questions at email@example.com – it may become the topic of an upcoming episode!
[00:00:45] Andrew: Welcome, everybody, to another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. I’m your host, Andrew Rafal, and today we’ve got a fantastic episode, one that I think is going to help you as the business owner and the entrepreneur grow and scale and help to organize the constant chaos that we all face. Today we’ve got a special guest, Chris Ronzio, the founder and CEO of Organize Chaos and his new venture, Trainual. Chris is a serial entrepreneur. He started his first business when he was 14 and over the years he’s worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners like you to help rediscover clarity amongst this chaos that is our life, it is our business, and help build efficiencies and operations, and just transform the way that these companies work. The key component is helping to use technology and build systems and processes to help scale the business.
So, today, we dig into not only his background of how he became in his love for being an entrepreneur, but then what he saw out there, some of the trials and tribulations that he had growing his business and scaling it and some of the things that we can do as business owners to become more efficient whether it be new technologies or using the current system that he’s building to help you take it to the next level. We had a lot of fun today. So, without further ado, my episode with Chris Ronzio on how to transform your business and organize your chaos.
[00:02:23] Andrew: Welcome, everybody, to another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond and today I am super excited to have Chris Ronzio on. Chris, how are you today?
[00:02:34] Chris: I’m great. Thank you.
[00:02:36] Andrew: So, one of the areas of what we try to do with Your Wealth & Beyond, Chris, as you know is we try to help the business owner, the entrepreneur, learn from other business owners, trials, tribulations, successes of what they did, which allowed them to grow and in some cases sell their business, but also how to become more efficient in their business in growing it, in training their employees. So, today I’m super excited because we’re going to be able to talk about both from the aspect of you, a serial entrepreneur, and then also building the systems and processes to help other business owners. So, thanks for coming on board and spending some time with us today.
[00:03:16] Chris: Yeah. I’m excited to talk. Thanks for having me.
[00:03:18] Andrew: So, before we jump in and talk through some of the ways in how we can improve our businesses, I know that you started, I think, was it 14 you started your first business back in the Midwest?
[00:03:31] Chris: This was my first business I paid taxes, yes. I had lots of those kid businesses but, yeah, first real business was when I was 14 on the East Coast in a suburb of Boston.
[00:03:42] Andrew: And what was that business? How did you jump into being an entrepreneur at such a young age?
[00:03:46] Chris: Yeah. So, I remember when I was touring my high school, they had kind of like an activities fair where we could walk around the fieldhouse and see all the different things the school offered and one of them was a video production department, and at that time I wanted to be on TV. I thought I wanted to be Ahmad Rashād or something like a sportscaster and so the cameras caught my attention. So, I signed up for this program where a friend and I produced a cable access TV show and it was right around the 2000-2001 mark when all the digital equipment was coming out. So, at the time, all of the video equipment was VCRs and tape decks and all analog and they had just gotten all this new digital equipment.
And so, my friend and I took the class. We instantly had all this nice equipment at our disposal and we started producing a TV show. Now the cool thing was because no one else was producing a show, our episodes aired 40 or 50 times a week. And so, as we would walk around town, people would recognize us as the video guys and from there, would offer us paid opportunities. So, at the beginning, it was everything from weddings and parties and anniversaries and graduations and bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs and slowly it evolved into live sporting events, and that’s really what the business became was a live youth sporting event coverage company.
[00:05:05] Andrew: And at that time, you guys were using actual tape to record?
[00:05:08] Chris: Yeah. At the very beginning, it was tape. It was SVHS tapes and those over-the-shoulder cameras and Hi8 tapes and then it was mini DV tapes, and so finally it was at least some version of digital with importing those tapes and doing nonlinear editing on the computer but it was definitely in its infancy.
[00:05:26] Andrew: And so, between you and your partner, did you guys have any other employees that you brought onto the team and had help train and get involved in helping you grow the biz?
[00:05:36] Chris: Yup. There was my mom, my dad, my brother. No, it was all friends and family at the beginning but when we were young, 14, 15, 16, it was really just school events. We would do the soccer games and the football games and the cheerleading competitions and the turning point was when we got asked to do a state-level cheerleading event. The league was coming in to do a big state championship and they said, “If you can record the event and give us a copy for our archives then you can sell those copies to anybody that attends.” So, my friend went in the audience. He had the camera. I put on my nicest dress clothes and sat with a table and collected orders all day and by the end of the day, we had made $900 in VHS tape sales. And so, we saw right away that we had this really scalable model where instead of selling a one-time wedding video, we could do these sporting events and have some kind of recurring revenue. So, the business actually ended up running for 13 years and through those years, we grew quite a bit to three offices and over 300 camera operators doing events in all 50 states.
[00:06:46] Andrew: That’s awesome. And started it though as the family helped you catapult that. Here’s a question. If you had to keep one of your family members that were part of the initial, who would’ve been? Was it somebody who kind of took it and ran with it better than the other or were they all just joint helping you take it to where it needs to be?
[00:07:04] Chris: Actually, my younger brother is a partner in my current business so he’s still working with me to this day. So, I would say him. He’s three-and-a-half years younger than me and when I started in high school, he was an 11-year-old, the cutest little salesperson I could possibly have and so he was crucial to our marketing then and important to our marketing now.
[00:07:27] Andrew: That’s a great answer, especially that you used to work with him. I think parents would appreciate that you made the right call there. Good work. So, then you guys actually were able to sell this business at some point?
[00:07:38] Chris: Yeah. So, it went through a few stages. So, like I mentioned, the business started in Massachusetts where I grew up. When I was in college, that’s when I started hiring freelancers and contractors off Craigslist so that the work could get done while I was in my dorm room and in class. And as we started doing more events around the country, we needed to build a larger network of videographers. So, that was where operations and training became so central to what I was doing. We would find camera operators and in markets all around the country. We’d run them through our process so that they could show up at an event and look and operate just like a part of our team and then we would get the footage back from them and list it on our website for sale. And so, the company was really a logistics company that was getting contracts, building crews, acquiring footage, and then selling the footage through an e-commerce and a custom application online. So, after 13 years, the business was changing quite a bit, technology changed a lot, and we ended up doing an asset sale where we sold our contracts and equipment to a competitor and we sold our intellectual property, a software we had developed to our biggest customer, and I spun off part of that business into my next company which is a consulting operation.
[00:08:48] Andrew: So, with that consulting operation the goal of that was to help business owners create scalable systems and processes. Is that the operation consulting firm called Organize Chaos?
[00:08:59] Chris: Yeah. Exactly. So, at the time when I sold the video company, I was 27 and I had 13 years of entrepreneurship under my belt, which is pretty unique for a young guy and I look back at what I had done and saw that so much of it was systems and processes-related. We were putting together camera kits in the most efficient, effective, cheap packaging we could and shipping them, crisscrossing them all around the country. We were coordinating really complex events at union venues and bringing in labor and there was just so much involved with those events, that when I started looking at my friends’ businesses, I thought, “Well, this is pretty simple. How can we make this as efficient as possible?” So, Organize Chaos was all about how do we unpack the workflow and unpack the operations of a business and then put it back together and use technology, a new software, and make it as efficient as possible.
[00:09:54] Andrew: As entrepreneurs as they start creating, in a sense, their entity and in most cases, they got a vision. It’s maybe one or two people and they’re grinding every day and trying to grow that to first and foremost stay solvent and be able to put food on their table but then as I’ve seen it as growing my business over the last almost decade is as you get bigger, the challenge of wearing all those hats and trying to drive the growth and the vision and having that scalability becomes almost impossible to do it on your own. So, from your standpoint, being an entrepreneur since 14 or even it sounds like earlier than that, you were able to identify that there is quite a need for this and with the evolution of technology, it enabled you to morph those together and create in a sense a package to help entrepreneurs on that basis of becoming more efficient, more profitable, and allowing them to focus on more of the things that meant for the future success of that company. So, how did you go and get your clients at that point?
[00:10:57] Chris: Well, I think there’s an important point what you just said there and when you create a business, especially a consulting business, it’s easy to want to do everything for everyone if you don’t have a focus and a package. So, one of the most important lessons I learned with my video company was that initially when we started, we were any kind of video for any kind of customer. Like I said, we were doing parties and weddings and bar mitzvahs and photo montages and commercials and corporate videos, music videos, and anything for anyone that would pay us. But then, as the business evolved, it became just huge sporting events and then as it evolved further, it became just youth private expensive events like equestrian events and figure skating events. And when we narrowed down our focus, that’s when we were really able to scale. So, when I started the consulting business, it’s the same thing. It was first just trying to understand what within the world of operations could we do that would be effective and make a good profit? And then how could we package that and narrow down our focus?
So, we created this model for Organize Chaos that was the 3Cs I called it, the context of a business, the chaos of a business, and then the clarity. And we have these packages where we would go in and audit their operations and within one to three days produce a really clear tactical action plan for the business for 6 to 12 months and that was really the focus of that company was how do we go in and organize the chaos of a small business. I heard Verne Harnish, the author of Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, I heard him speak and he said, “In your business, you need to own a word. You need to have one or two words that you own,” and the word I wrote down was Chaos and I thought, “If I can own this, if I can own Organizing Chaos, then that’s my ticket to helping growing businesses.”
[00:12:46] Andrew: Yeah. That’s so right on because entrepreneurs, there’s something in a sense wrong with us that separates us out to make us take that leap of faith and to take on all that risk and for most of us being visionaries and kind of that greater idea of what we want to build is getting into the nitty-gritty and handling really the nuts and bolts of what causes the business to be successful is the challenge that most of us have. If you’ve seen that working with entrepreneurs over the years, have you seen where that’s really one of the main areas that prevents the company from growing is not having that maybe leadership but just the processes in place and the organization in place to be able to take the company to the next level?
[00:13:28] Chris: Oh, absolutely, it’s limiting. If you don’t have processes and you don’t have discipline to stick to your system or to stick to the product that you do then it’s easy to chase shiny objects and I think as entrepreneurs, all of us want to chase shiny objects. So, it requires a discipline and even when we don’t want to focus, we have to focus if we ever want to grow our business. So, I saw that with every company I worked with, over 150 companies that we went under the curtain and picked apart their operations. And within a business, there is so much opportunity, especially if you’re feeling that chaos. If you’re feeling the chaos, you’re feeling overwhelmed, it likely means you’ve got a lot going on. You’ve got a lot of opportunity, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make, and that’s a good thing in business. So, the problem isn’t a lack of opportunity, the problem is a lack of discipline to stick to your top few opportunities. And so, that’s what we would work with companies to narrow down and to focus on.
[00:14:28] Andrew: With digging in and looking under the hood of 250 companies, do a lot of entrepreneurs, was it a challenge for them to take your advice?
[00:14:37] Chris: Typically, when we were engaged, business was at one of two places. Either they had been growing really fast, faster than expected, and the wheels were starting to spin off, and they knew that at any time the whole thing could collapse and they were really needing that help or they had been in a place that where they plateaued and they were looking for outside guidance to help them free up some capacity or cut some costs or figure out where they could operate more efficiently. And so, typically the companies that would pay to bring us in were open to that feedback. It was a red flag for us if in the interview process and the screening process we had a prospect that had shown resistance to other outside support or had brought in consultants in the past and said, “No one can fix me.” That was a huge red flag. So, we screen pretty carefully for that.
[00:15:29] Andrew: Does Organize Chaos still exist today with clientele?
[00:15:32] Chris: Not with new clients. It’s kind of in a cryogenic chamber or whatever it’s called. It’s frozen right now since we’re focused on the new business, Trainual.
[00:15:43] Andrew: So, we could go check it out up here North Scottsdale with Ted Williams head in the cryo-chamber there. We’ll field trip.
[00:15:49] Chris: Yeah. Exactly. So, Organize Chaos also took an interesting turn. My vision for that company was to build a team of operations professionals that could go in and pick apart an operation and, of course, you could pay us for the services but in some cases, we also partnered with businesses or took equity stakes. So, usually, that was when there was a spinoff opportunity where we would work with an existing business that would have some unique opportunity but not enough time to pursue it and we would pursue it with their expertise and our team and capitalize on that. So, we ended up having six spinoff companies that we still have an equity stake in today, but don’t operate. So, that was kind of an interesting byproduct of the consulting business.
[00:16:30] Andrew: And as from the consulting business then that evolved into the third business that you’ve been building and now purely focusing on which is the company, Trainual.
[00:16:42] Chris: So, it’s online training manuals.
[00:16:45] Andrew: So, where did that come from, that idea, that concept? What were you seeing out there? What kind of problem were you looking to solve?
[00:16:52] Chris: Yeah. It was a pretty natural evolution so as we work with businesses, we were focused on their systems and processes and rebuilding their operations and their workflows and when we did that, when we put new tools or new software in place, we had to train the existing employees on how the business works, all the new processes, and policies inside the company. And so, when companies are investing in themselves and trying to work more on the business and going to conferences and reading books, everyone says work on your systems and processes, but there’s not a lot of guidance on what you need to do in order to make progress there. So, what we saw was that companies would make a lot of documents. They would fire up a new Google doc or Word doc, they would try to make Dropbox folders and share those with their teams, and really what you’re trying to do is memorialize how you do what you do. Because as a business grows, you figure out how to do something one thing at a time in the business and then you want to take off that hat and hand it to someone else so you need to write it down or document it before you can delegate it and hand it to another person.
So, we saw companies doing that over and over again just very inconsistently where they’re making documents, they had outdated files, they would make a big effort to write things down in the company and ignore it for a few years, and so we thought, “There’s got to be some tool, some way where you could capture that institutional knowledge inside the company and assign it to people easily and update people when things change and just really capture the brain of the business.” And so, Trainual started as a tool, an internal tool within the consulting business, Organize Chaos, and we’ve just used it for our own clients. So, as we would work with the company, we would write down all the new how-tos inside our system. But then over a few years of having that tool, we were starting to get referrals and inquiries about the software from people that didn’t necessarily need the consulting help. So, last year in 2017. We decided to spin it off, make it a separate company, and it had such a successful launch that we stopped all the consulting and focused full-time on Trainual.
[00:18:04] Andrew: Yeah. I think it’s fascinating because from my standpoint I come back from conferences or masterminds, and I got all these ideas and I think all of us come back, we’re energized, our staff is dreading the day we get back, we’re ready to reinvent the wheel, and then nothing happens because we’re moving and going and it’s just one of those areas that I think as a business owner it’s one thing that I grapple with is how do you not, like you said, chase that next shiny object here. So, the system and platform you put in place, walk me through the onboarding process of bringing a business on, what that looks like initially, and then what is the sustainability of that to continue making sure that it’s updated and most importantly, that the staff, the people that need to be using it, that they’re using it rather than just going by the wayside and they’re paying for something that they’re not taking full advantage of.
[00:19:57] Chris: Yeah. Sure. So, I alluded to this a little bit, but we came up with this methodology that it’s called Do It, Document It, Delegate It. So, what I saw again working with all the companies is that the ones that would scale most effectively and in the fastest were the ones that figured out how to do something and do it consistently. So, even if it was just a one-person show and they were doing some service, as long as they could do it effectively, do it consistently the same way every time then they could start to write down the steps of how they did it and they could offload that or delegate it to a virtual assistant or to their first hire and then that process just continues to cycle and repeat itself as you grow business. So, you hire more people, you’re shedding more of the things that you do, and you’re documenting those things in a formal way as a best practice for the company so that you can delegate those things and hold people accountable for knowing how to do them.
So, you mentioned in the business, first, you’re always having new ideas so you need to be disciplined about your plan. You come up with a plan for what you’re going to work on and you have to stick to that and then, of course, you have to manage how you do the work, all of your client work and your tasks and things like that but the missing piece there is where do you learn how to do the work. You might have a project management system or a CRM or something that you work in every day that you’re just managing the day-to-day but where do you write down how you do the day-to-day? And that’s what Trainual is. So, when you sign up for an account, it’s really simple. You create departments or high-level subjects within your company and within those, you just make all the different topics that you’d like to document, and we have hundreds of suggested ideas on the website, inside the app, so companies will usually start with writing down some process that applies to everyone like their new hire orientation.
[00:21:49] Chris: What is someone’s first day look like? You want to introduce them to your business, teach some maybe about your history, your values or your mission. Who’s the key team? Where are your products and services that they need to have some kind of foundational understanding of? All those things that you might explain to someone one-on-one, that is what you can put inside Trainual and deliver with text and videos and screenshots and photos in whatever way makes the most sense for your company.
[00:22:15] Andrew: So, you brought up videos, right? So, we do a lot of our processes here from a new client on board to the application process for what a client review meeting looks like and we incorporate which we’ll get into a little bit later on. But Salesforce, we have different technologies that embed with Salesforce in our financial advisory practice but one area that’s been helpful for us is being able to do a, we use Snagit right now. So, we Snagit and it’s a video that goes through exactly what that step is, what phase one of the onboarding process looks like. So, we’ve got this video, but the one thing we’ve always had a challenge, we use Box right now, so we’ve got that as our server, but there’s really no easy organized way for us to position that. So, with the way your system is set up is that you can actually put in screenshots and videos so that the new staff or the employee that’s moving to a different role doesn’t have to spend the time with the employee. They can actually just watch the video within the internal world of the platform.
[00:23:15] Chris: Yeah, exactly. So, what you’re doing is fantastic. You use a tool like Snagit, you grab a video, you throw it in your Box folder, but then the problem that happens is you can’t consistently assign that to someone and hold them accountable for whether they’ve watched or not. So, it’s really more of a delivery problem than a capture or creation problem. So, with Trainual, you take all that content, the videos, the screenshot, the text, the files, anything that’s part of your training process, and you just break it down into step-by-step communication where there is a sequence to how people should learn something and then the system records that they’ve done so it records their acknowledgment with the time and a date stamp that they’ve gone through it so that you know whether it’s for compliance or just for training or if there’s ever a disciplinary event, you can refer back to the fact that they were actually trained on how to do that thing.
And then the next piece is keeping people up to speed. So, if you changed one of the steps of your process or say you used to use Salesforce but now you just switched to another tool, when you make those changes in a document in Box, you might have to email that to everyone, ask if they understand it. Whereas in Trainual if you changed that process inside the system, it automatically updates everyone who has a role that you’ve said needs to know how to do that thing. So, it just becomes the place to manage all of your roles and responsibilities.
[00:24:36] Andrew: And you could create the different role so that you’ve got an admin and then you’ve got this individual, can’t make any edits. They can only in a sense a read-only?
[00:24:45] Chris: Yep. Exactly. So, you’ve got read-only or general users, you’ve got creators, you’ve got admins. So, you set all the permissions and then you create all the roles. Another thing that we did is you can layer roles on top of each other so people say it in their business they wear a lot of hats but we found if you can at least select which hat, each responsibility goes with, then as you grow and you hire for those positions, it becomes a lot easier to divide the responsibilities than if you’re having to do that after the fact. So, as one person in the system, you can have multiple roles which makes it really flexible.
[00:25:20] Andrew: It is. Company culture is a key component to any short-term or medium-term, long-term success of a company. So, when you’re new, you’ve got a couple of employees in that culture, it doesn’t have to be presented out. It lives and breathes with who was there, the heartbeat of that company itself. As the company gets bigger, a little bit harder, right, to capture that culture and to ensure that the new people understand what the company was built on, and then as we get larger, it gets more and more challenging. Can we use this system then to help keep that culture? Or if we did some fun events, if we’re giving back to the community like which we do, we have all these pictures, we’ll throw it on social media, but then it’s gone. So, like I get a new employee coming on board, I can see this is a way for them to go back to maybe there’s a culture section to go back, “Oh wow. They did feed the starving children last quarter. They did UMOM shopping,” those type of things. How does your system work with that, not the number side, but more of the intrinsic of a company culture and keeping it aligned with the founder’s vision?
[00:26:22] Chris: Yeah. So, great example. If you do events, we do the same thing and if you go through our training as a new hire, you’d see our Cinco de Mayo party and you’d see our holiday party and you’d see the anniversaries and things like that inside where we just drop photos and animated gifs and videos and it’s great to have that as sort of a repository to look back on culture. I think it’s something that you build a culture of process and the way that you do that is by reviewing your processes and updating your processes at least every 90 days. We have, we celebrate the wins in our weekly meetings and anytime someone has a new process where they’ve updated something in the system, they share that at our weekly meetings with which really drives that sense of keeping our materials up-to-date. So, I think culture it’s important to build a culture of process, it’s important to share the fun side of your culture for new employees.
And then it’s also important as a company grows and you can’t have that one-on-one time with everybody that you hire, maybe you have separate offices even, it’s important for the founding team or the leaders to be able to have a face in front of everyone to introduce themselves to everyone, to give them the same welcome experience like those videos on the airline. It’s the same experience for everyone. You don’t get a different experience for every different plane that you sit on because the pilot had to record the videos. There would be all sorts of different qualities of video. They do one that’s the same for the whole airline and they do that for a reason because they want the passengers to feel the same experience no matter which flight they take.
[00:28:07] Andrew: Is the service subscription-based?
[00:28:10] Chris: It is, yes. So, you know, the reason we did it as a subscription is because it matches the utility of the product. Your operations manual, your training manual, it’s not a project you do that’s a one time thing. It’s something that you’re consistently updating, you’re always rolling out new processes, new policies. You’re always training new hires or retraining old hires. So, one thing that we did choose to do differently is we don’t charge per user. So, a lot of software products charge per user a license or a seat fee. We do it as a more broad company size because part of the reason people buy this system is to have that individual accountability so that they know that this person logged in and completed this and if we charge per user, you start to see people sharing logins, sharing licenses, and you lose that benefit. So, it is a simple subscription but it is a monthly subscription.
[00:29:04] Andrew: And do your clients do they own the data?
[00:29:07] Chris: Yes, definitely. So, the information that you put into the system is yours. It shares that in our terms of service. You can download it at any time, you can generate PDFs or printed materials at any time, so definitely owned by the companies.
[00:29:23] Andrew: And you got to love the subscription business. It’s the account that keeps on giving which is great for you guys but I assume you got to keep evolving your product. When I look at Salesforce, so I’ve been using them since 2010, there’s no chance I’m leaving. I can’t go anywhere else. They got me as a lifelong client. Now, they’ve got to continue evolving like they’ve been doing but I think in that scope for you building this out and finding this problem, we’re going to solve it, and then building it out for you where you’ve got that recurring revenue, that’s a nice thing to have as you start building your client base.
[00:29:55] Chris: Yeah. I love the model personally. Of course, it’s nice to have the predictable revenue stream, but I think it’s also the fairest model in terms of always having to deliver for the customer because it’s not the customers paying a multiyear upfront kind of fee and then you don’t have to deliver and they cancel. You’re consistently having to prove your value, you have to have great service, you have to have great support and great product and new product releases, and if you don’t, then they could find an alternative. So, I think it’s in the best interest of the company and the customer.
[00:30:33] Andrew: So, working with entrepreneurs all these years when you look at why some companies are successful, others with the right idea, the level of what they’re trying to build might be right, why do some of them succeed and why do some fail?
[00:30:48] Chris: Man, there’s so many ways you can fail and you really have to put it all together pretty well to succeed. I think the best advice or the biggest thing that I noticed is that because there are so many opportunities to fail, you really have to have a model and a margin that supports your failures, and when you run so lean and you’re paying everybody under market and you’re skimping on your software that you’re subscribed to and you’re under delivering for your customers, if you’re running that lean then really any big problem could sink the business. So, I think the most important thing for entrepreneurs is they need to protect that margin, they need to deliver a great level of service without handicapping themselves, and if they can do that, then you’ve got some room to innovate.
[00:31:42] Andrew: Question for you. I’m a Cleveland Browns fan, this is kind of outside the box here, and you think about if we look at the Browns as a business and I’ve been dealing with heartaches for 30 years, how can this business still be around? If this was a company, it would’ve been disbanded years ago. Are you a sports fan at all? Do you follow NFL or college?
[00:32:04] Chris: A little bit. I’ve been lucky. When I was really young, I lived in Chicago during the Bulls years and then I moved to Boston with the Patriots and the Red Sox and the Celtics and the Bruins and they were all winning.
[00:32:15] Andrew: Ridiculous.
[00:32:16] Chris: Now I’m in Arizona. Yeah.
[00:32:18] Andrew: But I look at like this franchise running from the owner, this guy has, it’s just like from the top down, when you look at the dysfunction, it starts at the top. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s Cleveland Browns or a business that’s selling ball bearings. If you’ve got no leadership, you’re not going to succeed, and that’s where I think a lot of from what I stand because I work with a lot of business owners too and when we look at what’s made some successful versus others, I think it’s that proper leadership and then trying to, like you said, bring the right people in that can carry out that vision and maybe take some of the nitty-gritty, the stuff that an entrepreneur doesn’t want to do. We don’t want to sometimes roll up the sleeves and deal with the SOP, standard operating procedure, but you got to have that. You have to have that or you have no chance for success if you want to grow the thing.
[00:33:05] Chris: Yes. I don’t know if the Browns as an organization if they’re profitable. I would imagine they couldn’t be 30 years and not at least break even. So, I would probably compare them most closely to a commodity where if you look at the commodity markets that you kind of need those things. You need oil or you need corn or you need something like that and so that the businesses stay around even if they’re not that exciting. And so, if there is a market for football in Cleveland then maybe it’s just kind of a commodity product or it’s not a really exciting stock, but it gets by.
[00:33:43] Andrew: Yeah. That is one thing about any professional sports, you really don’t have to put out the best team each year where they still make money. You look at even the Suns here I think they’ve had bad teams for the last 10 years but that franchise is more than double. So, anyway, I digress. So, when we think in terms of all this technology that’s out there and from our standpoint, I love technology. Technology for me, it helps us with our business both on the internal and the external side, but I know a lot of business owners, they’re not great with technology. It kind of scares them. They’d love to go back to the analog age, but the cat’s out of the bag and when we think about try to be more efficient and one of the books you’ve written, the 100 Hacks to Improve Your Business, which in our show notes will be a link for you listeners to be able to download a free copy of it.
So, let’s talk technology. Now, I know this is one of your passions as well and obviously, built several companies around that, but with the evolution of technology, it can be daunting. If we were to look at today and we’ll talk through high level of some of the best ways that companies can use technology of what’s out there, what have you seen over the last maybe decade or last five years or so and let’s talk through on some of the technologies that each and every one of our listeners, doesn’t matter what industry they’re in, that they may want to take a look at to help improve efficiencies and to really the profitability of their companies.
[00:35:08] Chris: Yeah. Such a great topic. I could talk forever about this but I think so at your initial point about some people being afraid of technology or skittish around technology, I think it’s important to remember that everything is technology. The printing press is technology, the printed word is technology, the car is technology, your cell phone is technology, and it’s really just a matter of how quickly you adopt the new technologies, but you’ve got to recognize that in your industry, in your business, someone is adopting the newest technology and are they going to beat you in your own market? So, if you want to stay at the front of your market, then you should be open to exploring new technology and not afraid of it. Another thing that people say is that you subscribe to so many software tools these days and it just feels like overwhelming, “I wish there was a silver bullet, a one tool I could subscribe to that fixes everything.” That was the old way of technology.
When technology, when software started coming out, the biggest companies would create these massive tools but they were charging hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars for licenses to these tools. And now the technology is so much more accessible, you see a lot of micro solutions popping up. So, the fact that you need more tools now than you did 20 years ago is actually a good thing in terms of your budget. So, really when you look at the 20 or 30 things that you’re subscribed to, you should think of that as cobbling together the perfect employee that cost a fraction of what they would if you had an army of people performing all those duties. So, technology really is an amazing thing and I think you have to have that mindset about how you can take advantage of the tools that are out there and utilize them for your business. So, I’ll get off the soapbox, but there’s so many different things. Is there a particular area that you want to start?
[00:37:07] Andrew: Well, I mean, if we look at just even five years ago at my company or email, right? If we look at email and how many companies out there and some maybe still do when we look at servers and just the cost of having to have servers for your Outlook. So, what have you seen with businesses, taking it to the cloud whether it be Office 365 or some other avenues there? Let’s just first talk email and why it’s so important to have that cloud-based versus internally keeping it on a server in your office.
[00:37:37] Chris: Yeah. So, if you’ve got a server in your office, first of all, you’re exposing yourself to any kind of natural disaster that can happen at your office. Your equipment could break down, you could have a fire in the office, somebody could steal your equipment. There’s so much that could go wrong with your local equipment and the cost of that local equipment is astronomical compared to the cost you can get for virtual servers and things online. So, everything is really moving online. Actually, my older brother does flash storage and just even that for enterprise flash storage, it’s amazing how these companies that used to have warehouses dedicated to equipment, now just buy a few flash drives and that’s all they have. So, everything is moving to the cloud. In terms of email and browsing and everything like that, I think there’s a couple of things.
First, there is your file storage, your file management. You mentioned Box, there’s Dropbox, there’s OneDrive, there’s all these different cloud file storage solutions and then there’s email like Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite for Google. I remember the first time I saw a Chromebook. If you don’t know what a Chromebook is, it’s Google’s version of a laptop that has nothing stored on it. It’s literally just a device to access the Internet and it was an amazing thing. The first time I saw it because you realize that you don’t need anything locally, everything that you need is stored on web services, your email, your calendar, all your files. You can really access anything from anywhere. And if you go fully cloud-based, then you can have your laptop fall in a puddle and be up and running with a new one in an hour. And I think there’s a lot of power in that to be able to be that mobile.
[00:39:29] Andrew: And with email, though, it’s a double-edged sword, right? It is our lifeline. So, one thing that a lot of executives and business owners, I grapple with it, you probably do as well, how do we keep in this constant struggle of our inbox filling up? I’m sure by the time I get done recording this with you, I’m probably going to have 30 emails. So, it’s that ongoing push, pull, push, pull of how on do you have to be? So, let’s talk about some hacks that are out there to help us take back control of our email inbox and to take that stress away from us as all business owners it’s always hanging over us each and every day?
[00:40:08] Chris: Yeah. So, one tool I recommend to everyone is called SaneBox, S-A-N-E-B-O-X. SaneBox is a software. It works across all email providers, but what they’ll do is actually train your inbox to be smarter so that the only things that make it to your actual inbox are emails from individuals that are personally addressed to you. So, this cuts out everything like those social media notifications, receipts, newsletters, sales, all the things that might distract you or get your attention and take you away from doing the work you need to do. So, first thing first and that is to eliminate most of the mail, 80% of the mail that even makes it into your inbox. What they do is they put it all into this optional folder that you can review at your leisure and make sure that nothing important slip through and you can even schedule digests where they show you all the messages that they screened out and you can scan through one message, make sure nothing is important and then just address it later. So, SaneBox is a great, great tool.
Another thing that you can do and this is popping up, this functionality as in more and more email services now is you can snooze your email and if you haven’t seen a little snooze button on your email service, you can check out tools like Boomerang or one for Gmail that’s called Gmelius that I use. I think the newest Gmail version just came out with this though. But basically, the idea is that when an email comes to you, it is coming to you on the sender’s timeline. But when you read it, you might have a different priority. It might be a bill you need to pay in three weeks. It might be a reminder for an event you’re going to in two months. It might be something that you need before meeting next Friday. And so, you can snooze that message to come back to you on your timeline, on your terms at the time that’s most relevant so it keeps it out of your inbox and keeps you from having to scan over those messages over and over without taking action on them. So, I think it’s kind of twofold here. It’s eliminate whatever you can coming into your inbox and then be disciplined about how you treat emails so that you’re only keeping things in your inbox that you’re acting on.
[00:42:17] Andrew: Yeah. I think of those that, and maybe you’re one, but those that get that zero inbox or inbox zero I just don’t believe them. I just don’t believe them. I don’t know it could actually have…
[00:42:26] Chris: I’ll send you a screenshot of my inbox because I am one of those people.
[00:42:30] Andrew: All right. I want to do that because it’s going to be in the show notes so please make sure you send it over to me.
[00:42:34] Chris: Okay.
[00:42:35] Andrew: So, for you, if you don’t have your inbox zero, do you feel stressed or you just like if you’ve got this goal, we’re feeling organized, and it just puts you in a good place?
[00:42:47] Chris: You know, it’s not like you have to have inbox zero every minute of the day or every day of the week. It’s the same as a clean room at your house. I like my room to be clean, but if I drop a towel on the floor or if I’ve got some clothes to pick up or I didn’t make the bed or something for a few days, it doesn’t stress me out to no end. So, I think it’s just about having a routine of getting back to that place where you’ve got a clean room or you’ve got an empty inbox. So, for me, things sit in my inbox until I act on them, so I know if there’s something that’s in my inbox for a week or two weeks, that’s a problem because it’s something that I’m being indecisive about. I’m either not replying to the person or maybe I need to just figure out what the task is and put it into my task list or my project management system, maybe I need to delegate it to someone on the team, but if the email is sitting in your inbox unattended for that long, there’s probably a deeper issue. So, I believe that everyone can be at inbox zero at least once a week.
[00:43:46] Andrew: Well, here’s one way to get to that. I was on my, well, don’t take this as advice, listeners, but I was on my Entrepreneurs Organization Retreat over this past week and actually one of my four members I don’t think it was him, but I think he had said that somebody literally just they’re trying to get control of their inbox. They deleted everything. They just went, “I’m going full nuclear, I’m deleting it all, and you know what, if it’s that important, they’re either going to get a hold of me, they’re going to call me or they’re going to email me again.” So that’s one perfect way to get inbox zero. Chris, we are not saying to do that, but that’s a good way to do it.
[00:44:21] Chris: That’s called email bankruptcy.
[00:44:24] Andrew: Unbelievable. Yeah. I’m a compliance officer so that would be a no-no in my industry.
[00:44:30] Chris: You know, you can archive emails though. Don’t delete them, don’t delete anything. Just archive it. Archive it out of your inbox, put it in, sweep it into a different folder but keep your inbox empty. It’s kind of like when you get the mail. When you drive home, you get the mail out of the mailbox. You don’t stuff half of it back into your mailbox, you take it all out, and then it piles up somewhere else in your house, but at least you’ve taken it out of your inbox so you should do the same thing online.
[00:44:53] Andrew: And then this leads to one of the other areas that we’ve implemented in our business and I know you’re a big proponent of with emails and your team. What we’ve is just back and forth in these one-line emails and you’re Cc’d and you’ve got five people on an email and it really only needs to be one other team member and that’s just all of a sudden, I get out of a meeting and there’s 50 emails. None of them really are important, but it just stresses you out. So, the one technology that we brought into the equation on my standpoint has been a great way to reduce email is Slack and I know that’s one of the hacks that you’re a big proponent of. Can you talk the listener through how Slack works with emails and just that communication internally on steroids and not having to go back and forth via email and being able to archive things a lot easier?
[00:45:39] Chris: Yeah. Slack is for conversations. I think if you go back to the paper letter days when you used to mail people a letter, you wouldn’t send someone a one-line letter and then wait for them to send you a letter back with one line and then you send the line back that’s one line. You just don’t write simple, simple one-sentence letters back and forth to people but because email is so simple, a lot of companies have gotten the habit of having email conversations which is where you end up with those threads that are 40, 50 threads and just total chaos. So, Slack is a way to get the conversations out of your email where it’s just a simple chat room that people can post questions or post quick, quick notes or items for reference and you can get them sort of on your own time.
So, Slack for us has really reduced email. It’s reduced any kind of texting. We just use Slack as the channel where everyone will either type in a group thread or they’ll type in an individual message and then you can reply to those things in a batch whenever you have the time, but it doesn’t clutter up your inbox. So, then your inbox is reserved for more thoughtful longer responses, for big presentations you’re preparing for, those kinds of communications.
[00:46:56] Andrew: Right. And the other nice part of it is being able to archive, go back through, be able to search through these conversations that may have been impossible to find an email. And as the business owner, being able to construct the environment with different roles and permissions, and if you do lose an employee being able to get them out of that environment and it really helps on a compliance side. So, we’ve utilized that. We haven’t integrated Slack into our Salesforce. We just haven’t needed it, but I know that those type of integrations are there and for some companies, they’re beneficial.
[00:47:26] Chris: Yeah. And it’s also great. With Slack, you can also connect it to a lot of other tools and get notifications inside Slack. So, for instance, we have a channel that’s dedicated to all of our new sign-ups and all our new leads and so throughout the day, we’re having these mini celebrations with the whole team as new sign-ups are coming through on the platform. We also see things like inside Trainual if you complete all of your subjects, a new hire when they complete their training, it does a little message to Slack to the group channel so everybody can celebrate around that. So, there’s some fun things you can do with Slack.
[00:48:00] Andrew: Now, when it comes to scheduling meeting times, business owners, a lot of times they’ll have a team that will help set their calendar, but this evolution over the last maybe five, six years of streamlining that back and forth of when you’re available. So, for instance, to set up this podcast recording, did you use Calendly for my team to set that up?
[00:48:21] Chris: Yes.
[00:48:21] Andrew: Okay. So, walk the listener through what the software like Calendly, what it’s there for, what it does, the efficiencies of it, and how it can help streamline the appointment setting process for both clients and prospects.
[00:48:33] Chris: Yeah. So, Calendly is a great tool, it’s a great innovation, and what it does is it allows you to connect your schedule to a scheduling link and then set some rules around the types of appointments that people can book through that link. So, I have all different links that I use for things like interviews like this one, for things like meetings. If I want to meet someone for coffee or for lunch, for different work sessions with my team, and then for each of those types of appointments, you can set rules for the times of day, days of the week, days of the month that you want to be available for those things. So, then when you want to set up an appointment with someone, you can just give them your link to book a time and you know that they’re going to book a time that works for you. So, it’s been a game changer in terms of eliminating the back-and-forth communication and streamlining the scheduling. There’s also other tools that now are based on artificial intelligence, which if you’re skittish around technology maybe it’ll be a little bit before you adopt something like this but they are phenomenal.
So, there are software tools where you can connect a virtual assistant, an artificial intelligence assistant to your calendar and then CC them on an email like they’re a real assistant and they will have a conversation with the person that you’re trying to schedule with and that person will not know that they’re interacting with the computer. So, I think you’ll see that more and more for all other purposes but that’s nice when you don’t want to just give someone a link. If you want a little bit more of a hands-on, high-touch approach then these services are great for that.
[00:50:15] Andrew: Right. In the show notes, we’ll have a clip back a couple of months ago, I think it was Google that had a video that they showed at a conference that was a back-and-forth between an artificial receptionist, basically an artificial employee that called might’ve been to schedule an appointment at the salon and just the fact of the human at the salon going back and forth with this AI and the conversation if you close your eyes and didn’t know that they were talking to in a sense a robot, it was just incredible just the way that they’re able to diffuse a meeting in just the everyday dialogue. So, it’s scary, but it is where the world is going, right? There’s no way we can stop it.
[00:50:59] Chris: Yeah. I think it was called the Turing test and the guy’s last name, the scientist that came up with this is Turing and they said that it was a prediction back in the past of at what point in the future a human would not be able to tell the difference if they were talking to a human or a computer. And so, we just passed to that milestone, which is pretty incredible.
[00:51:20] Andrew: Yeah. It’s scary but it’s part of where we’re going. One other area that we see in regards to, you know, well, back in the day if you remember your phone number growing up like I can remember my phone number when I was like seven. Nowadays, we don’t have to remember phone numbers. We have to remember passwords. Business owners have to remember not just their personal passwords but the business passwords. So, what type of software is out there that can help a company better get a handle on that in the scope of protecting those passwords and begin bringing some organization to the chaos as well as then being able to implement some compliance measures too if an employee leaves?
[00:51:56] Chris: Yeah. Few tools I would recommend. The one that we use is called 1Password, just the number 1 and then password. There’s another one that’s called Dashlane and another one that’s called LastPass. So, they’re all great tools. The way that they work is that you set up an account and inside that account, you encrypt it with some master password which is almost impossible for even you to type. It’s like a crazy, crazy vault and then you put all of your other passwords inside of that. And so, they’ve got browser plug-ins and smartphone applications and things that will generate crazy passwords for you and then automatically fill in those passwords as you’re accessing the tools that you need to. So, you just authenticate it with a fingerprint or something like that and you’ve got really highly encrypted tough-to-guess passwords to access all of your tools. So, they’ll also do things like they’ll audit all of your existing passwords and suggest ones that aren’t strong enough or ones that maybe are vulnerable based on a service being compromised.
So, it’s a great practice to start to keep your passwords in those tools. And then same with your team is we use that team, that tool, 1Password for our whole company. So, everyone has an account and if I need to reset everyone’s access to a certain tool, I can do that at a master level or if someone is no longer with the company, same thing. You can shut off their account and not have to worry about accessing all of that data or removing someone from all of those accounts individually.
[00:53:33] Andrew: Yeah. That’s been instrumental in us being able to protect, especially in the financial side, the different websites that my staff have to go to. So, right in line with that, it’s a cost-effective way to have a peace of mind on privacy and if you think about our listeners, literally they’re going to go to the website that you need them to go to. As long as it’s connected and most of the time like with Chrome, it’s going to be connected. You’ll be logged in through, use LastPass but once they get to the website, it’ll just fill in the login information with the username and then the password will be there but it will be all blanked out and they get right on right there. So, it’s been a great way not only to have different passwords for every site but then be able to ensure that your team is able to get on but then also be able to shut somebody off just as quickly, and I don’t know if there’s life before LastPass and there’s life after LastPass for us and it’s been just instrumental in helping us on the compliance side for us.
[00:54:29] Chris: Yeah.
[00:54:30] Andrew: Let’s talk one more hack today. I know we’re getting close to the end here and, Chris, you and I could probably do a whole another show on this technology as we’re both really passionate on it but what’s one more hack, technologically, that a business owner should be looking at that can help them streamline their business or look at efficiencies even better?
[00:54:48] Chris: Well, we’ve talked about a lot of them. We’ve talked about communication and email and the live chat systems and project management, CRMs, and scheduling and Zapier so I think the last big one, a good closing place would be outsourcing. So, outsourcing isn’t necessarily sending jobs overseas or however you might think of it. It’s not only reserved for call centers and things like that. Outsourcing is really just finding available labor or skilled labor that can perform a task or a job that you need done and it used to be that you would have to hire an employee or find a temp service or a local freelancer or someone to do a service for you, but one of the things that’s changed a lot in the last 10 years is just the accessibility of people to help perform the work that you want done.
So, there’s so many tools here but a few that I would recommend is, first, if you’re just looking to get simple tasks done like maybe you need a spreadsheet put together or a different research for a certain industry or you need someone to pull sources together or you need someone to research flights for your upcoming vacation, a service I use for that is called Fancy Hands. It’s really cheap and starts at $29 a month I believe and it’s a really easy way to send simple tasks that someone else can complete for you. If you’re looking for more of a project that you need done or an ongoing support resource for a narrow responsibility, maybe you only need five hours a week and it doesn’t make sense to hire someone locally, the tool I use for that is called Upwork. So, Upwork is great for if you need anything from a virtual assistant up to a chief marketing officer or something like that, you can find such a broad range of people through Upwork.
[00:56:43] Chris: Design Pickle is a company I actually am personally invested in and have a minority ownership in but if you’re looking for graphic design, Design Pickle is a great resource. If you’re looking for people to run errands for you around town, there’s a service called TaskRabbit where people can sign up that drive around town or build furniture or do whatever you need them to do locally. So, just the idea, I guess, that you can get work done for on demand is an important idea I think to close with.
[00:57:13] Andrew: It is the golden age for entrepreneurs to be able to systematize and scale and do it cost-effectively by leveraging technology, right?
[00:57:21] Chris: Absolutely. And remember, as you hire those people and bring them on, you train them with Trainual.
[00:57:26] Andrew: There it is, ladies and gentleman. We are definitely we’re going to talk afterwards and then once we go through the process, I’ll be the first one to come on board and tell what a great experience it was but it’s definitely something that I think all businesses need. From us, it’s going to help us take us to the next level. So, Chris, today was awesome. We learned a little bit about you, how you’ve got into this world of serial entrepreneurship, grew companies as young as at 14 and hired mom and dad and then built that into 100 plus company that was able to be sold. And then understanding that we face problems as business owners and how to bring in technology to leverage that to create success both on an organizational side, assistant side, processes side. So, this is why I love what I do is learning from guys like you who have been out in the trenches and have a passion for making business owners get better. So, appreciate the time you’ve spent with us today.
And, listeners, all of the notes that we’ve talked about will be below and if you would love to have a copy, which I do highly recommend, on 100 Hacks to Improve Your Business, you’ll be able to download it below as well and then, Chris, we’ll have the ability for them to reach out to you guys too for discovery or consultation.
[00:58:39] Chris: That sounds great. Thanks so much for having me on.
[00:58:41] Andrew: Awesome. Thanks. Have a great day. And we’ll be back later this month for a new episode of the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast. Thanks, everybody. Have a great week.
Thank you for joining me for today’s episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. To get access to all the resources mentioned during today’s podcast, please visit Bayntree.com/Podcast, and be sure to tune in later this month for another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond.