On the show with me today is Will Christensen, founder of DataAutomation. He shares a huge passion of mine and that is how can we automate more in business so that we can be more efficient, more profitable, and grow faster.
Will and I were able to completely geek out on all sorts of ways that you can use one of our very favorite tools, a software application called Zapier, it creates all sorts of automation. Since I’ve been a fan of marketing automation for small businesses as much as I’ve been a fan of Standard Operating Procedures, this episode was a real treat.
Since Will and I are both Alexa junkies, we decided to share on some of the things that you can do to automate some of the things in your home. So if you’re an Alexa user or fan and you have Alexa devices all over your house like he and I do, you’re going to want to hang around to the end of this episode so that you can learn more about how we’re using Alexa automations.
Click here to read transcript
Trent: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Bright Ideas Business Podcast. As always, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and I’m here to share the stories of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and more importantly to extract all the best golden nuggets that you can implement in your own business. Starting today on the show with me today is a fellow by the name of Will Christensen who is the founder of a company called DataAutomation. And as you’re going to hear in this episode, Will is going to fast become one of my best new business friends because he shares a huge passion of mine and that is this. How can we automate more of my business so that I can be more efficient, more profitable, and grow faster? And I got to say this was a really, really fun episode to record because will and I were able to completely geek out on all sorts of ways that you can use one of our very favorite tools, a software application called Zapier to create all sorts of super Ninja automations that you can use to do all sorts of really, really neat things.
Trent: In your business and then as if that wasn’t enough at the end of the episode, because we’re both Alexa junkies, we decided to nerd out on some of the things that you can do to automate some of the things in your home. So if you’re an Alexa user or an Alexa fan and you have them spread all over your house like he and I do, you’re going to want to hang around to the end of this episode so that you can learn more about some of the things that we’re doing. And then finally before we bring will onto the show, I am recording this on April 1st of 2020 and as you well know, by the time you listen to this, of course it’ll be maybe a month or two past that date. We are right smack dab in the middle of the Covid19 pandemic and it is massively changed all of our lives, hopefully only for the short term, but I kind of have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to spill over and have some lasting impact in my only messages.
Trent: First of all, I’d like to take a moment to thank you for being a listener. I would like to wish you and your family all the very best through what is going to be undoubtedly an extremely trying time for I mean virtually everybody on planet earth, we’re in the middle of a lockdown right now as I’m sure many of you are, where you’re not supposed to leave your home because we’re trying to flatten the curve and I sure hope that you’re doing that. And then for those of us who are, you know, entrepreneurs and business owners, there’s going to be a significant impact on our businesses, on the economy in general. And it’s just a whole really awful period of uncertainty. So my only messages, you know, keep your chin up. We as our job is to take adversity when it comes to us, face it head on and figure out how to deal with it and how to move our businesses forward.
Trent: And the only historical perspective I can give from you to you from my own life is I actually started my very first company just about a month before the attacks of 9/11 and you know, as you may recall, the economy came to a grinding halt back then and people were dealing with all sorts of adversity that’s somewhat similar and a lot different than we are dealing with today. But what we did to survive was we pivoted the business to take advantage of what people needed at that point in time. And it might not have been the thing that we wanted to sell in the long term and it wasn’t the thing that we ultimately use to build the company into the success that it became before. I sold it eight years later. But it was the thing that allowed us to pay the bills in the meantime.
Trent: So I share this story with you only with the hopes that you will be able to listen to it and think, well, gosh, what is there in my business or in my target market that I would be able to do that maybe wasn’t really a part of my business plan, but is going to allow me to survive or hopefully even thrive during this period of just incredible adversity that really none of us have ever had to deal with before because it’s kind of a once in a lifetime event and hopefully we’ll never have to deal with again. So with that said, again, thank you very much for tuning in, listening to another episode. Please join me now in welcoming Will to the show. Hey, well, welcome to the show.
Will: Hey, thanks. Excited to be here.
Trent: Very nice to have you here as well. So for the folks who aren’t familiar with you or your business, let’s start. Who are you? What do you do in the world?
Will: So Will Christiansen. I am an automation expert and I run an automation consultancy. So we automate and integrate.
Trent: Two of my favorite words of that love the idea of automating. So let’s start off with something that I hope that will really capture the interest of the audience. Tell me about an amazing result that you have achieved for a client. I think it’s something like in the order of 16 hours worth of work, all scaled back to just two hours worth of work and then we’re going to unpack how you did that so that the people who are listening can obviously be able to implement that goal in their business if they’re so inclined.
Will: Yep, absolutely. So that actually leads right into where this all began, that the 16 hours a week process that your referencing specifically is actually something that I did at the very beginning of my career. I was given the beautiful as the lowest man on the totem pole at an advertising agency to do 16 hours of copying and pasting inside Excel every single week. It was a chore, a pleasure. And my wife will tell you that I am not a very patient person when it comes to things that are repetitive and monotonous to such a degree that I will do just about anything. To avoid having to do the same thing over and over again. So I took that passion for, my wife would call it laziness and I would call it efficiency, a passion for efficiency, not laziness.
Will: And I started to dig into how could you, well, what could you do here? And, and I remember sitting down at the desk with my immediate superior, this is like eight years ago, and he goes, this is called a V lookup. And I was like. What? What is that? Because it’s like, this is all, if you look up, let me show you this. And he showed me how to take two different data sets that like, so let’s say transactions and customer contact records. And he showed me how to create a column so that I could pull in. The invoice number and show it next to those customer records without having to go into each one manually. So if you’ve had this problem before, you’re looking at two spreadsheets. I got data about customers and I got transactions. You want to use a V-lookup and a some, if those are the two formulas you’re going to play with to create helper columns and kind of man with some of this. So he showed me how to do that and it blew my mind. I was like, are you sure what you can make these too. Cause I had been copying and pasting four 16 out.
Will: So this, that cut that cut off like an hour every week. And I was like, okay, if I could cut off an hour, what else could I do? I proceeded to spend probably 10 hours of my week automating and chunking off a piece of that manual process. Every week for the next six months. And I teach myself a little bit more and I record these macros. So here’s another nugget for you. If you’re doing anything in Excel or Google sheets, I challenge you at this moment to stop doing whatever you’re doing. And go spend 30 minutes watching a couple of things. Tutorial YouTube videos on macros and surprise. Google sheets has macros now. So if you were thinking, Oh, I’m not using Google sheets because it doesn’t have macros, right? Google knows that they’re going to eat excels, excels lunch. They came out with that. So you can now record all of those actions and replay them. So I figured out how to create all of these recordings and then I would run into these situations where like you think of like the little man running along a cliff, he’d get to the end and there was no and then I’d have to pick him back up and put him on him. He’d run again.
Will: Well, I was like, well, what if I built a bridge between these two macros? And made it so they didn’t stop. So the little man running on the track didn’t fall down. And so I started looking at the code and I connected the two different pieces of code and this is where a lot of people are going to fall off and say, well I don’t code. I would be willing to bet. That if you just a little bit of time looking at it, you would be surprised at how much you can understand. I went a little further that remember my passion for efficiency, not laziness pushed me over the edge to the point where I taught myself. To code, connect all of those dots. I taught myself to go in and take, but like I actually had Excel go in.
Will: And open up a web browser and it would go download my report and then it would copy and paste it and put it into that next place. So here’s the, here’s the other nugget. When in doubt Google it. If you’re wondering like I wonder if I could automate this process right. My habit at that point and I’ve drilled this into myself, is to open up a web browser and type in exactly what was in my head. Can you automate? And I insert whatever was in my head and I literally type it just like I would ask the question to you, Trent, can I automate all the time? Oh yeah. Well and so to here. Now, for those of you who are listening to this, you know how successful Trent is. Trent and I did not talk beforehand, but we both have the same ingrained process.
Will: Can I automate X, Y or Z? What you’re telling the world, this is what I’m looking for and there are entrepreneurs out there begging you to ask that question and if you’ve landed on the right process, they will have built a piece of software that is begging you to ask that question. I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve been like, is there a way to take a screenshot, a live screenshot or I mean. It’s endless in terms of what’s there. It’s been shocked at what comes back.
Trent: And to be clear, my beloved audience, this is not going to be a podcast about teaching you how to write little lines of code. The podcast is going to be focused on helping you to identify areas of your business. Yeah. Without writing little lines of code you can automate because these days, unlike eight years ago, there’s some pretty spectacular tools that make. Creating these automations pretty darn easy. So, with that said, we’ll, how should someone determine if they should automate or delegated or eliminated because so many entrepreneurs are bogged down. We’re chopping down trees, working in their business, digging ditches, chopping down trees. Both metaphors like to use, but they’re stuck in their business because they got to get all this stuff done. I got clients stuff to fulfill and so forth. How do they figure out whether they can automate something?
Will: So I’ve actually developed a litmus test that allows you to decide whether or not a process should or should not be automated. So the first thing you’re going to do when you take on and decide whether or not you got it, you gotta decide whether there’s return on that investment. What I tell people is look for processes that are more than 15 minutes a day, more than an hour a week, or more than an hour a month. And what I’ve discovered is that if the process is taking, and this is company-wide, so if you have one VA who’s spending two minutes a day doing that, well maybe not worth doing. But if you have 10 VA’s and they’re all doing the same thing and it’s all taking two minutes, maybe time to start looking into that.
Will: So if it doesn’t pass that litmus test, stop. Don’t dig into that. Don’t look into that. So remember how Trent and I both go into Google and we search for that. One of the built in litmus test that I did for myself, as I said, wait, stop. Is this going to happen in perpetuity? Is the thing that I’m going to automate going to be happening for the foreseeable future? And there are several times when I’ve done this when the answer is no. And if the answer is no, why are you wasting your time trying to automate something that’s only going to happen once. So look for something in perpetuity, which is why I say more than 15 minutes a day, more than an hour a week or more than an hour a month, and you can do the math there and obviously more than 15 minutes a day is way more than an hour a month. But I find that thinking about it in terms of daily, monthly, or weekly forces you to really understand some of that value, that ROI. Okay. The second litmus test that I tell people is could this be done by someone with reasonable understanding of Excel or Google sheets or email? Could this be done by someone like that? Or could this be taught to someone like that in the same amount of time that it took to do it?
Will: If the answer to that question is yes, I can. I can teach someone to do this as quickly as it takes to actually do it because most of it is common sense and it’s just procedural. Something that should be mapped out in Flowster. Right. If it’s procedural that way, it’s probably time to consider the idea of automation. If you’ve developed an SOP, you have somebody doing that. There’s an, there’s an opportunity to start looking at that. And that’s where I start to find the nuggets. So you make a big long list of those things. And then you start Googling, you start hunting down where that is. I like to tell people, get out that sticky note, put it on your desk, write down the things that pass those three time limits and then put a tick mark next to them every time they happen. And once you get to the end of the week, you’ll know where you should start automating.
Trent: So let me give folks a couple of real world examples of things that I’ve automated in my business just to kind of give context. So I have people come to book an appointment with me to talk about growing their business. So they go to my Calendly app and of course they book an appointment. Now if I didn’t have automation, whenever that appointment was booked, in my case, I’d have to go create a workflow in Flowster for the manual processes that I need to make sure I don’t forget to do. I then have to create a record in my active campaign account. I’d have to create a record in my pipe drive account. I’d have to create a deal in my head, right count. I’d have to put the deal in the right stage with the right value, with the right close date, and I’d also have to somehow put a notification into Slack to tell me I got a new lead.
Trent: No, I don’t want to do any of that manually. So I have automated that entire process from the moment someone books with me in my Calendly, all, everything that I just described, it happens just like that. Thanks to one of my favorite apps in the whole wide world, which is why people don’t know how to, they don’t know how to have to code. If you can figure out how to use Zapier and you’d be amazed. You are able to automate the ability to integrate one app with another app and have the trigger event happen and have an outcome happen or an action step happen is absolutely phenomenal.
Will: Zapier is one of my favorite tools in the entire world. I have all sorts of crazy things happening inside Zapier. Things for my personal life. I have automation that happens. Sobyou talk about Calendly. Well, let’s talk about Calendly for just a second. For those of you watching this, we’re recording this on April 1st, 2020, and if anybody remembers back to April 1st, 2020 when you’re watching this, you’ll realize that was right in the middle of this Covid19 craziness, right? And my grandmother is an extreme extrovert. We live in their basement. We’re there to help them out, prolong that the time that they can spend in their home. Okay. So don’t need to be there where they’re helping them. And she’s an extreme extrovert. She’s secluded to the house. She can’t, yeah. I really can’t go out. And she’s 92 so she shouldn’t be going out. Right. On Sunday this week, I created a Calendly link for her and I created a Facebook event for all of her grandkids to go create virtual meetings with her at zoom. That it totally for free. And then I automated the process of pushing the email that comes in that says there’s a new calendar event, ding her cell phone with a text message. So I mean it, and, and here’s the funny part. I thought nobody’s actually going to do this. She’s already had five appointments. It’s only been like three days.
Will: She’s already had five video calls. And the stress level in our household has decreased dramatically. Because those grandparents are recognizing that their grandkids care about them and it’s all about them. So automation doesn’t have to just be about business. You can automate some things that can make real impact in people’s lives. And she’s a much happier human being right now.
Trent: Yeah, I’ll bet. Can you give me another example of an automation that you have in your business?
Will: Yep, absolutely. If you were to go to my website and this will evolve over time, but currently if you go to my website, there are two different forms that you can contact me through. There’s the sticky footer, so if you scroll down, it’s through active campaign. There’s a sticky footer that pops up on the bottom of the website. It says, “Hey, do you want a free consultation?”
Will: And you put in your name and your email address. If you were to fill that out, you’ll get an email from me within five minutes. It looks like I have lightning speed. In fact, one of my clients was like, you should probably put a delay in there because there’s no way you wrote that email that fast. Like it kind of pulls back the curtain on the fact that it’s an automation. This automation allows us to automatically send you an email and it says something along the lines of, “Hey, so and so”. And it puts in your first name, even though you may not have even put in your first name because Zapier has this really cool a feature where you can do lead scoring. So I take your business email address and poof, I have your name, the size of your company, all sorts of other things that’s included in every Zapier account.
Will: That’s a feature that a lot of people don’t even know. Zapier Score. Trent didn’t know about that one. So Zapier score is what it’s called. It’s included in every single Zapier account. And I can put Trent’s email address in there and it’ll tell me his social security, no actually just getting, well it won’t tell me the social security number, but it will tell me. It actually does tell me like how large the company is, whether or not you’re a Google shop, it’ll tell me all sorts of data about you as a company. And it allows, it gets the domain name. I don’t know if you’ve ever done one of those apps where you’re like trying to pick apart the domain name of somebody you don’t have that, you don’t have that problem anymore because [inaudible] the email address, it’ll spit back the domain and it’s all nice and pretty.
Will: Well, what we do is we pass it through that lead score tool and then we automatically respond to you and we say, Hey, thank you so much for reaching out to us. We’d really appreciate it if you would fill in this form, which I have painstakingly taking the time pre-fill for you so that you don’t have to give me any of the information you already gave me, and you click the link, it pre-fills the form, you fill it out and you tell me. So my favorite part about it, this is my favorite part, they go down the form. If they say that they’re a high value lead, guess whose calendar they get access to?
Will: Mine! If they say, Oh, and they’re one of the smaller guys who I still want to help, but I really don’t have time to be jumping on the phone every single time with those individuals, guess whose calendar it goes to? My assistant, so I’ve pre-filtered the people, so and guests, guests. Guess what the guess how good the quality of the appointments that started flowing into my Calendly became
Trent: Much, much better.
Will: Much, much better. And my favorite part about it, did I use a paid plugin? No, I used Google forms. And the contact form that was just built into it, built into the WordPress website that I use. I’m going to upgrade it because I just got off the phone with Gravity Forms, which is we rebuilt Gravity Forms Zapier Integration. We’re going to do a webinar with them and we’re going to rebuild it so that when it gets to the end, it like dynamically redirects and does some other cool stuff. I mean fascinating in terms of like, you know, you, there are case studies out there, if you respond to a lead within five minutes they are like 95% more likely to respond to you or to take action on what you just said. So what if you could hire a robot that would do that while you sleep? Wouldn’t that be amazing? That’s essentially what we did. We’ve done that. So and that’s, that’s true of both. If you fill out the contact form and you say, “Hey, I really want to automate something”. When you fill out that form, it pre-fills the section that says what do you want to automate with what you sent to me in my context.
Trent: I’m filling out your footer bar right now cause..
Will: Do it. Try it out. Yeah. No and it works. It honestly it happens on that schedule. Zapier has the one minute or the 15 minute plans. I think I’m on the five minute plan. And so it’s it depending on like when the ticker goes off cause Zapier doesn’t have it all on the actual one five, 10 mark of the hour. So depending on when you fill it out, sometimes it comes back within like 30 seconds and there’s no, it’s humanly not possible to have written the email that fast. But I wrote it in such a way that I wanted people to feel like I had spent time looking at it and doing what was there not to deceive them but to show them I am going to treat your business in a personal way, but I’m going to do it in an automated way. So, and that’s an example.
Trent: That green footer bar that’s just native to active campaign. That’s not an extra plugin?
Will: Hey, do I know I got another gold star right there? Gold star? Yes. That is native to Active Campaign.
Trent: Okay. I did not know that. I’m relatively new to Active Campaign.
Will: Active Campaign is pretty cool. It’s a powerful, powerful tool. It’s almost more juice than I need right now. I’ll be honest. We use Active Campaign, I use Streak alongside it actually because I Streak spend a little bit more okay. In what’s there and that I forgot to mention when I send out that lead, it actually does create a deal or a box as Streak calls it inside my Streak account and it tracks all of that stuff and gets everything rolling.
Trent: Very cool. So I got your email, it’s taken me to the Google form. So I’ve done this using job form and there’s conditional logic. And so in my job form, the first question is tell me where your business is at and there’s three options. Yeah. Two of the options are I have a business or I had one on sold it. Those options will both ultimately see my calendar. And then the third option is I’m brand new. They’ll never see my calendar. Those folks don’t buy what I have to sell because they’re brand new. They don’t have the budget. They can make the decision. I figured out that if I’m going to do any one-on-one consulting, I really liked it working with existing business owners but I don’t on a one on one basis. It’s just not a good fit. So you’re probably doing the same thing here with your uh, with your Google documents survey. Cause you got the, who are you? I’m the Zapier user. So depending upon what radio button I choose, you’ve got a conditional logic in the back. That is going to route you to whoever’s calendar needs to be routed to.
Will: Correct. So if you choose there I am a Zapier SaaS, like I’m an owner of SaaS company. I run a SaaS company that hits my calendar every time. If you choose the, I’m a Zapier user, you get down a step further and there’s one that asks this really interesting question. It asks, how much time is this taking you? And if they say above a certain amount, I want to talk to them because I know that there’s more ROI and what can be automated if they say below a certain amount. It goes to my assistant, that’s it for me ahead of time. And then she jumps on the phone and and says hello. And then me if they, if they’re the right person to talk to you.
Will: So that, that right there helped a ton with our ability to process and work with people in a, in an automated way. But they didn’t feel grumpy about it because yeah, they got access to my calendar. It could do everything that was there.
Trent: Yeah. I love it. I absolutely love it. Yeah. All right, where are we here? Questions? So we’ve just run through a few examples. Why do you think people aren’t automating basic stuff like this. I mean, I’m going to guess cause they don’t know they can.
Will: So I’ve actually done that bunch of research into that. I talked to, I mean you got to think about it every single day. I talk to three to five people who were looking to automate something and over the past three and a half years. So if you were to add that up, I should really do some statistics on what is that three to five years in terms of business days worth of people. I’ve asked that question a lot and the thing that I’ve discovered, The thing, the reason people aren’t automating is because they tried and failed and they didn’t want to go back. So they spent some time looking into Google. It’s cause everybody’s like, Oh, Google can solve everything. That’s Google’s magic, right man. Like the idea they came up
Will: with like, “Hey, all you gotta do is put it in this magic white bar and we will give you back what you want”. Like it’s like a genie, right? Like I want a million dollars and sure enough, there’s 20 people telling you how to buy, how to make a million dollars. Right. Well, okay. I’ve found that Google can also be a bait and switch and that’s not Google’s fault. That’s just because somebody figured out how to put something at the top of the page. It wasn’t the most effective thing for you to find. So I find that most people are not automating because they spent an entire afternoon digging down a rabbit hole and either they successfully automated and the thing that they automated, they only had to do once and they’re like, well, screw this, I spend an entire afternoon and I’m never going to do that again.
Will: Why would I ever, and they forget that they’re looking for something repeatable or they went down that rabbit hole and spent an entire afternoon trying and like most being able to automate it and they gave up. It didn’t work. Some something about, I mean, you and I both though we were talking about it earlier, Zapier has some gotchas. There’s some things, triggers and searches and some of those other things. That’s why they have Zapier Certified Expert Program that we’re part of where we help people with that. But yeah, most of the time it’s because they’ve tried and failed and they’re just like, it is just not worth my time to investigate.
Trent: Yeah. I know. And there are times, even myself when I get frustrated, you know, I’ll be having, In the zaps that I was showing you before we hit the record button that I use in my own business. There was one of them, dude, I must’ve monkeyed with this thing for three hours trying to get one simple little thing to work and it was driving me absolutely.
Will: Trent, next time shoot me. Oh well now if you get stuck there when you’re, when you’re in the middle of it. What I tell people is I actually set a limit for myself and my threshold is much higher than others. But my limit is about an hour. Depending on the demand on my time right now, my limits like five minutes. If I get stuck on something for five minutes like that, there’s somebody on my team who can probably, who has more time and can figure it out more. I record a Loom video or a Screencastify video or something like that and I say, this is where I am. This is where I bang my head out and I send it to one of two people straight to Zapier support team who is amazing. If you’ll give them the details that they need.
Trent: They actually give support? I wasn’t aware that Zapier gave any support.
Will: Oh yeah. They will give support so they have the Zapier experts. Those are more, you can get live support from someone like me and obviously you know, I’ll jump on for 15 minutes to 30 minutes with you for free just to help you see where it is and hopefully gain your business. Zapier will go the other direction and do it via email and if you give them a loom video that describes exactly what you’re seeing, those guys go above and beyond to fix what’s there. So I set myself that five minute limit. I record that video and I actually, I have an automation where if I title the name of the Screencastify video bug dash Zapier dash title of bug, it actually automatically sends Zapier a bug video for me. Edit or it automatically sends, skew bono, which is another platform that I use a lot, a video and I created a list of like eight different people. I’m commonly in finding bugs. And I put that in there. I also made it so that I could do a couple of abbreviations to send videos automatically to my assistant to find different things. So now instead of being like copy, paste, describe video, all of that stuff, I don’t do that anymore at all. I literally just titled my video. Ends up right where.
Trent: You and I, we got to nerd out some more.
Will: Yeah we do. Yeah we do.
Trent: I want to see inside your Zapier account.
Will: It’s a little insane sometimes. I mean I’ve even, my wife makes fun of me but she made fun of me at the beginning, but now she uses it. If you come to my house and you say Alexa and I can use that keyword cause I use a different keyword. But if you say Alexa trigger Alex home, Hey Alex is my daughter trigger Alex home? It actually we’ll hit IFTT which is another automation program. Yeah, it’ll hit Iott which will, because that’s where Alexa gets it gets their little juice that will fire a post request. And so for those of you who are like post what, that’s just a fancy way of saying a message on the internet. That goes to another service I have on my phone call. Yeah. Which sends a text message right out too. The family that is often playing with Alex. And it’s a message that says, “Hey, do you mind sending our daughter home?”. And so my wife was making fun of me. She was like, really? You made that? She uses it almost every day now. Not right now because Covid19 and all that jazz. But yeah. Okay. When my daughter’s over there, cause that’s the friend’s house that she’s most often at. She uses that thing all the time.
Trent: As opposed to just picking up her phone and saying, “Hey, I’m home”.
Will: Well see. So as soon as she says trigger Alex home and then it shoots a text message that says, okay, “Hey, would you mind sending Alex home for dinner?”.
Trent: Yeah, I know. But you could pick up your phone and hit there and do a voice recording saying, Hey, would you mind? But I get it. I get it.
Will: So here’s, here’s the funny part though, about the effort that it took. Yeah. That’s three words. Nope. Four because I have to give the keyword. So four, guess what? My phone is still in my pocket.
Trent: Oh, I like it. I have Alexa. I have echo dots all over my house. I love Alexa. I don’t think I’m using it anywhere near its potential.
Will: Trent, we should, we should geek out over what you can connect. I’ve got all sorts of crazy stuff that I’ve connected with Alexa too.
Trent: Maybe we’ll do it at the end of this cause I’m sure there’s some people who are cool. Yeah. Hanging around to the end. Will and I are going to do some Alexa nerding out at the end of this episode. So even an organization Will. What advice would you give to a business owner who wants to establish a culture? Yeah, let’s always be looking for automations. Let’s constantly be looking for ways that we can [inaudible].
Will: The first thing I would do is establish a grant or a scholarship program inside your company. Uh, that is for automations and I would give the employee who comes up with the idea, a chunk of that change. So if you’re not rewarding, so if your employee comes up, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. If your employee comes up with, drastically amazing idea, real innovation. They do entrepreneur move. They’re inside your company but they figure out a way to reengineer something or change it. Sometimes us other entrepreneurs, the boss are pigheaded enough to think that we own that innovation or that we somehow made that possible. You have got to pull your head out of wherever it is and recognize that that individual just provided a ton of value for your business. Asked me if when I took it, that’s 16 hours of work and I turned it into two because I thought it was annoying.
Will: Ask me if I got it. Any piece of that savings? No. My employer was like, Hey, would you just, let’s just keep working. Thank you for bringing that efficiency to the table. Did that motivate me to go find more automation? Not for them. But I was internally motivated to find automation for another employee who brings that sort of savings to the table for your business. Calculate it out and give them a year’s worth man. Like give them 10% of what they just saved you over the course of a year. And if you do that, these guys are going to double down and they’re going to find every freaking way they can possibly do to automate your business. You want to know who you want to know, who can actually make a difference in your business. As far as automation, it’s the peons at the bottom of the pyramid. The dudes who’s who’s on, whose back you ride right now, those guys are the ones who can find processes. So when I go in and I do what I call an automation audit, I sell the CEO. Hey, let me go in and transform your company. Yeah. So I start interviewing all the way.
Trent: Because that are doing all the processes that the executives never do. They have no there. It’s just so far off their radar screen. Nobody’s looking for efficiency in there. And unless you change how they think about doing their work instead of just following the established procedure, if instead you had sent them with a scholarship program to say let’s make your job better, let’s make you more efficient. It’s just never going to happen.
Will: Yep. So so allowing that individual cause cause in there, in the CEO’s mind, he’s got something in his head that says I’m better than that individual. Or maybe I’m not better, but they’re so inexpensive, there’s nothing we could possibly do to make that better. And the moment you can get your whole company to shift so that they start feeling like those individuals down at the bottom of the totem pole start to realize that you’re willing to invest not only in them, but also their processes. I mean you look at at Amazon and some of these other companies where they’ve gotten there, they’ve instilled that culture from the beginning. They allow it. Anyone to pull the ladder, stop their production line and say, Hey, why don’t we go left instead of right, right here. And the CEO says, flip, why don’t we, I had never considered it because they’re standing on top of the ladder looking out over the top and they have no idea what’s happening on the bottom floor.
Will: So if you want to instill a culture, incentivize your employees to bring automation to the day table. And reward them for doing so. And if you were awarded them for doing so, they’ll go back and chase it again and again and again. And obviously you’ve got to equip them. So Zapier training. Okay. You know, training with a company like mine where you could, you could hire a company like mine to come in and do webinars on automation. You could go out and find some of that material yourself. Put together. Spend a half an hour finding a couple of videos on how to automate just on YouTube, right? So, so you want to find the fastest way to do this. Okay. Go spend a half an hour. Okay. Watch some videos. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. Just watch the first, you know, two to three minutes.
Will: Make sure that it’s a decent video. Yeah. Send that out to your whole team and say, I will pay you to watch this video. You don’t have to work. I want you to just sit and watch this video. Educate your team on what’s even possible. That’s your first step.
Trent: All right. Before we go, nerding out, how do you turn Alexa into your slave with respect to the business angle that we’ve been talking about so far? Is there any other questions? You were interviewing yourself? Is there any other questions we think we need to add to this conversation so that we don’t leave no stone unturned?
Will: This is going to sound like a selfish question because it will directly tie to the bottom line of my business. But I’m not trying to tell you that you should hire me. I’m trying to tell you that you should hire someone to be an automation expert in your company, to be someone that you can pull that lever with. So, but the solution, the fastest solution I have found to those, those companies, those employees, those people who have tried to automate it and failed, is to give them someone they can call, who knows the answer faster or better than Google. Someone who can back them up for what’s there. And so the, the question I would ask is, will, if you were in charge of my company, what percentage of our total revenue would you devote to automation and efficiency. And that would be the question that I would, that I would ask myself if I were okay until the table.
Trent: All right, cool. Okay. So time to nerd out on Alexa. Obviously Alexa is a pretty popular thing. So I think a lot of people listening to this probably have at least one Alexa device at home. As I mentioned to you, I have them in the living room and the kitchen and the office and the bedroom there. They’re all over the place.
Will: Yeah. Me too.
Trent: Literally. Barely. I’ve got the lights, you can turn on and off by saying, Alexa, I have a nest thermostat, which I don’t even know if you can connect it to.
Will: Oh yeah. What?
Trent: It’s not one of my priorities. I haven’t bought wanted bread.
Will: You can totally do that. Yeah. It’s totally connectable.
Trent: All right, so let’s start off with some of your coolest Alexa home automations.
Will: Trent. Okay, well let’s start with the thermostat. Honeywell makes one. We’ve got a Honeywell thermostat. Okay. My 96 year old grandfather who is legally blind, it controls the thermostat in my house. Now that was a mistake. We should not have allowed him to set the thermostat because it’s always too hot in there. But he’s legally blind. So let’s talk about like what, what did that just put in his fingertips? He can go in there and it’s not, it’s not a nest. It’s a Honeywell that that has an Alexa connection. And here’s the funny part. It was connected for six months, maybe even a year before we moved into the basement to help them out. You didn’t even know somebody had told him and he’d forgotten. And so every time he’d ask me, so what’s the temperature in the house? I was like, why are you asking me?
Will: Just say, Alexa, what’s the temperature in the house? And it’s going to spit back and say it’s 72 degrees and you can be like make it colder and it makes it colder. Make it warmer. It makes it warmer, like amazing in terms of what and then so a lot of the things that, okay, he’ll ask what’s the temperature outside all the time. And we’ve got a dial up on the, on the side of the screen, but he’s legally blind. He can’t see that he’s got, he can see enough to walk around, but he can’t, he can’t see the dial from across the room. And so he doesn’t ask me anymore. And the crazy thing, he’s smart enough to know the difference between the different devices. So I have two different Alexa networks in my house. I have a network for me, for my family, and I put one in the kitchen and the front room.
Will: And then we’ve got the basement ones that I’ve got one and out out in the office and one in the garage. That’s all right. Those are and I’ve got one in the bathroom too, so, so, so that’s my network of Alexis. Mike grandfather is smart enough to know when to say Alexa and when to say echo. Oh, it didn’t go off. It was, there’s one of them sitting right here on my desk. Yeah. So he’s smart enough to know when to say that. And it’s just fascinating to see like him interact with that device. He’ll use it to call me on my cell phone. Did you know that? That makes phone calls?
Will: Oh yeah. Alexa totally makes phone calls. You can say Alexa call so-and-so. And if you sync it up with your phone, it’ll look in the context of your phone and make that phone call if they have a.
Trent: Just talk through the Alexa. So you don’t even have to pull your phone out of your pocket. Yeah. I’m assuming you can send texts as well.
Will: Text messages. They had that turned on and they recently turned it off, I think it became too expensive through Twilio or whatever they were using. Correct. But I bet you that comes back before too long. I send text messages, but I go around and about, so if you use an Android or an iPhone? Okay. So this is one of the reasons I don’t like iPhones. Right? They don’t have as many of the cool apps. There’s an app on Android called Automate.
Will: It’s literally just called Automate. This app will do just about anything you can think of in terms of like making phone calls or, I mean the app is incredible. I’ve got it set up where I can actually go in and I can copy someone’s name. And then I can share that name to an automation on my automate device, and it’ll go find that person’s name inside my contacts and then I click okay. The next time a text message comes from that individual, it forwards the text message to my assistant. So like if it’s the middle of the night and I’m like, Oh, I’m going to bed right now, but I want to cancel that meeting, I will schedule a text message to go out in the morning so that it goes out like an hour before the meeting.
Will: But I’m sleeping and I want the text message of the canceled appointment of their reply to go to my assistant so that she can see that it got canceled and take care of it and reschedule it. Yep. But I don’t want to do that right now cause it’s the middle of the night. So there’s just all sorts of that through. Alexa, remember we’re talking about Alexa, sorry. Okay. That was automated. That was automated. Okay. So another Alexa hack, it’s another one where we’re, we’re sending text messages to a group of people. So I am, we were talking about gaming earlier. I really enjoy Overwatch. So it’s a game that’s out there on the PC. I played a lot with my brothers at night. Okay. If I say trigger Overwatch, which connects to IFTT. Okay. It will automatically texts my brothers. And one of my friends saying, “Hey, do you want to play Overwatch?”. So instead of pulling out a group message and getting all of that out there, because if you’ve ever have you, have you ever tried to say, Hey Siri, send a group message. Good luck. Siri doesn’t do that yet.
Trent: Okay, so I’ve got my dirt bike in buddy. So you’re basically saying I can just go say, “Hey Alexa, who wants to go dirt biking this weekend?”. And I could have that pre configured so that it would send a text to the group?
Will: Yeah, you would do that through IFTT. So if this then that has the ability for you to say, Alexa, trigger it, insert your own keyword and, and you would give it a special keyword and then you can trigger it. So if you look at, let’s talk about hacking Alexa. If you look at the numberless possibility of things that you can have happen inside your Alexa device, it’s fascinating. Another thing that I do you guys use the grocery cart list for Alexa?
Trent: My wife who is an Android user has an app on her phone that she really loves. I don’t know what it is, but she’s a huge fan of her grocery shopping list app.
Will: Okay. So here’s, here’s the cool part. I don’t care what app it is. It’s probably on IFTT. Most of those lists making apps are, and um, you can probably connect the grocery list app inside Alexa to push it into that one. And then you have access to put things on the grocery list. That’s probably what she likes. Let’s be honest, Trent, she doesn’t like you putting things on the grocery list.
Trent: That’s why I never put anything on the grocery list. I don’t even give me. well I could say, Hey Alexa, add blueberries to the grocery list or whatever it is.
Will: And then it would show up inside her app. Yeah. So like the groceries shopping thing. Oh this was mind blowing. We were in the grocery store the other day where we’re like loading up on a couple of things cause I got a 92 and 96 year old grandparents and I don’t want to get them sick cause this thing’s crazy for that age group. So we’re at the grocery store and we’re buying them bunch of cans and stuff that, you know, to try to eliminate the need to even be in the grocery store for more than 10 minutes for milk. Right. Just trying to, yeah. Minimize our exposure. Okay. I go into the Alexa, it’s right in the same view of everything else and you know those three dots in the top right hand corner of every app that it’s like the menu.
Will: I’m addicted to those three dots, man. I click on those every time I see them just cause I want to see if there’s a new option for something in there. I opened it up and it goes, okay, would you like to categorize your shopping list? And I was like categorize, wait, no way. I hit categorize my shopping list. It took my list of 50 items. Yeah. And it put them into dairy, bread, vegetables, fruit. And I was like, of course Amazon. I mean they’ve got an API that’ll categorize whether or not it’s a bird, a picture of a bird or a dog. Of course they could categorize my list automatically. So then when you’re walking through the grocery store, how many, raise your hand if you’re, yeah, and I know that most of the people who are listening to this podcast just raise their hand. Raise your hand if you, I have gone into the grocery store. You bought bread and then you went back to get milk and you said, Oh crap, I forgot buns.
Trent: Yeah, you ended up zigzagging all over the place.
Will: It categorize the freaky. I’m never going to use anything else again man. Because I can be like, Alexa, add milk to my shopping list. Alexa, add this to my shopping list. And then when it actually comes time to do it, categorize, boom. I walked down my aisle, I get everything I want it. It was so slick. It was so slick.
Trent: So I want to put something in the show notes where people can go to understand the relationship between Alexa and some of them was popular. Alexa hacks and maybe if this then that is, have you got something for me? Where should we go for that?
Will: So I’m going to have to, actually, I need to have a post on this. It’s funny. Data automation has been kind of in the weeds doing development on all of this stuff and we’ve just really started playing this like podcasting game and we’ve got our own show that we’re starting automate, delegate, eliminate. It’s going to be pretty fun. Yeah. So I don’t have a blog post yet, but I’ll put together a couple of links for you and we’ll put it in the show notes
Trent: And I’ve just found one. It’s on IFTT.com/amazon_alexa. And it talks about that just gives example after example after example of ways that you can integrate those two technologies too well, easier.
Will: And go look when you’re looking inside Alexa, there’s a, there’s a section of the Alexa app. If you open up Alexa, go look for the routines. It’s a new, it’s a new section of the Alexa app. It’s called routines. It’s right in between the skills. I’ll open it up to tell you exactly where it is, but that section Alexa is putting in new stuff. The Amazon team’s putting in new stuff inside that part of the app all the time. So we’ve got all sorts of stuff in here. Yeah. Routines is what it’s called. Yeah. And they do, I mean, you can set it up. I have this thing on Alexa where, okay, we’re members of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. And we do this thing every night at home called Come Follow Me, where we give a lesson inside our home.
Will: It’s really powerful. It helps a lot with our family. I have it set up so that at 6:30 every day, every week day. It comes on and says, Alexa actually announces to the whole household, it’s time for Come Follow Me. And then it plays a him. Yeah, to remind us all to go do that every single day. So I mean we got all sorts of, like we’ve been kind of in the dumps right now about all of the things that are going on in the world. It’s been really hard. And so one of the things that I challenged the household to do was to write down things that make them grateful. And so we created a gratitude list. You may not know this, Alexa can actually do any list you want, you can say, Alexa, make me a gratitude list and it will create a gratitude list.
Will: And then you say, add groceries to my gratitude list, add sunshine to my gratitude list, add. And so we have a list going. I think we’re up to 120 things that we’ve added to this list in a week and it totally calls you out. So if you try to add sunshine twice, it’s like you already have sunshine added to your list. Do you want to add it again? And you’re like, dang it, I have to find something else. And so we’ve challenged ourselves to find a hundred unique things every single week ongoing. It’s going to get a lot harder here soon cause we’ve already got 120 things on the list. But that’s okay. That’s another one that I love.
Trent: We actually have a slightly a more manual take on the gratitude exercise every night at dinner. We all, my daughter and my wife and I, we all say, and she’s not even six years old yet, and we all say what we’re grateful for. There you go. I have an app that reminds me on my phone to actually write an entry in my gratitude journal, which is, there you go, which is also on my phone. Every single.
Will: Yep. And so that gratitude take, we, we write that down and I actually took it a step further and we printed them out. Okay. And, and like I have little pictures all over my house. I wanted my three year old to be able to read what was on there, but she can’t read. So I actually I hacked, if you want this, I’ll send you the code later. Okay. I hacked Google so that you could, or not Google, I hacked a couple of these free image sites so that I could put in a keyword into the document. So like sunshine. And it would automatically find the first free pictures of sunshine that it could find so that I didn’t have to go do a Google image search for all 120 things.
Will: So like. That was one weekend. I was like, Oh, I want images. And I was like, screw it. I’m just going to write myself something and Google apps script. And so I made it. I’ve made it so that I can have a formula that says bring back image URL of this and that. I imported the image into the cell. I just do stupid stuff.
Trent: Everybody’s got their hobby. All right, well we are going to put an end to our nerdiness at this point.
Will: Yeah, If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You can consider yourself a nerd too. Hence my sword in the background.
Trent: There’s all sorts of links in the show notes folks. I don’t know even know the episode number of this yet, but all of a sudden at the beginning when I, by the time I do post production and I come to the show notes and you’ll find the links to things we’ve been talking. Again, both things that I’ve been Google Googling while will and I, I’ve been talking about. For example, I found on the smarter home guide, uh, there’s this list of best Alexa routines for 2020 so I’ll be, can you go later and we’ll, I’m sure you’re going to send me some good stuff. Well, if people want to get in touch with you, we’ll put your LinkedIn, yeah. URL, to your profile rather than the show notes to make sure you get that over to me as well. Okay. And I want to thank you very much for making some time to come and be on the show and geek out with me on how to automate your business in your life.
Will: Yep, absolutely.
Questions Asked During the Interview
[00:00] Who are you and what do you do?
[00:55] Tell me about an amazing automation result? (Took a 16hrs/week process and reduced it to 2hrs/week)
[07:18] How should someone determine if they should automate, delegate, or eliminate?
[11:45] Give me some examples of what you’re automating now?
[21:15] Why aren’t more people automating now?
[28:10] How can I establish a culture around automation so that my team doesn’t get stuck?
[33:10] What is the most important thing to do if you want to increase automation in your company?
[34:50] Let’s talk about Alexa automations for the home.
With over a decade of business development experience, it’s safe to say Will Christensen has an elevated passion for fulfilling what the end-user desires and efficiently working towards faster iterations.
Considered by some to be the “Tony Stark of Software,” he enjoys tinkering with cutting-edge technology, apps, and systems, and loves to create innovative solutions for businesses and individual clients.
Will is the co-founder of DataAutomation, which customizes both automation and integration processes for businesses small and large. He also heads up business development for RoundSphere, a tech incubator dedicated to developing new opportunities through software.
Prior to his present endeavors, Will has garnered extensive proficiency in advertising, media management, and product development.