Trent Lapinski

@trentlapinski

What Is Business Automation?

I have a confession: I actually like working. It gives me a purpose, and goals to work towards. It can be fun, and challenging. I like solving problems.

However, that does not mean I want to do it all the time, or for the rest of my life. At some point in the next 10 years I would like to start a family, and you know—go outside.

Having recently turned 30, I have come to realize I cannot keep working 16-hour days for the rest of my life. After selling my startup I bootstrapped to $1 million in revenue nearly 2-years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future of business automation.

As any small business owner can tell you, it is really easy to fall into the trap of working for your business instead of on it. When you first start your journey as an entrepreneur no one tells you that running a business can become a time consuming bureaucracy nightmare of which there is no escape. Unless of course you sell your company, which is eventually what I did.

In the last 2-years, I’ve been studying all the different components required to launch a successful online business from business development models, business development processes, product launch formulas, and marketing automation. I have also studied the technology necessary to power it all from the intricacies of container technology, cloud orchestration, and cyber security. In fact, I’ve been working with a former VMware / IBM executive, the former CTO of JP Morgan Chase, and a team of some of the World’s best software engineers on an automation platform that has the potential to scale and automate the entire multi-billion dollar software as a service industry. While I would love to write a novel about all the cool technology I am working with, I’m instead going to focus on explaining the future of automation on a more human level.

When I was running my startup I ended up spending most of my time working for my business managing money, hiring, marketing, networking, business development, and overseeing product development all at the same time (hence the 16-hour days). It sucked, and most of it was entirely unnecessary yet required to run a business. Almost all of the bureaucracy was merely a set of processes that needed to be carried out either monthly, or when a specific event occurred.

Business As A Repeatable Process

Any successful business has a certain way of doing things, and defines processes to accomplish goals to be able to reliably solve the problems with consistent results. Imagine going to Starbucks and ordering the same drink every day, and it not tasting the same. You’d be pissed, demand a new one, or a refund. Would you really keep going to Starbucks if every other day your drink tasted awful?

This is the problem every business is trying to avoid, especially monthly recurring revenue businesses.

Starbucks ensures that every time you order the same drink from any store it tastes the same because it is prepared with the same process using the same ingredients, whether your at a Starbucks in New York, or San Francisco does not matter.

While the physical world is defined by physics and reality, the digital universe is mostly undefined. Software has the ability to be anything, and solve any number of problems and processes without necessarily having to accept the confines of reality. Software doesn’t even need to live on your device anymore, and can exist and evolve in the cloud on someone else’s super computer.

Where things get really interesting is when software begins to automate physical tasks like driving a car. Much like a business, driving a car has a relatively predictable set of circumstances that will eventually be automated.

The key to automation is being able to predict and define easily repeatable processes, and automate them with software so you don’t have to think about them anymore.

Automation Is Already All Around Us

Automation can be as simple as being able to hit play on Netflix and have the video you selected start playing immediately.

Have you ever paused for a moment, and thought about how complex it is for Netflix to start playing a video when you hit play?

Somewhere in the world is a giant super computer with a bunch of video files, and meta data associated with the video. Someone had to write thousands of lines of code to get the basic functionality required to even play the video, and then someone else had to take that software and put it in the cloud, and get it to work on multiple devices. From there, someone else had to build a way for tens of millions of people to be able to watch the same video file all at once all over the world on demand, including the people who built the physical fiber optic network or wireless network that provides your Internet connection so your device can even talk to Netflix.

The end result is when you sit down at your computer or tv, and select a video on Netflix that video file is then streamed directly to your device in realtime. The process of doing this is entirely predictable, repeatable, and automated with software so that all you have to do is select what you want to watch, and hit play without any understanding of any of the technology required for this to happen.

That is the awesome power of automation. Now imagine applying that same thought process to your job.

Why Are We Wasting So Much Time?

One of the few universally true things of every person on this planet is we all have a limited and unknown amount of time.

If you’re anything like me, then a lot of your time goes into your job. However, most people’s jobs are simply to perform the same repeatable set of tasks over and over again. Day after day, every day is the same. It is a huge waste of time, and human potential. Time is far more valuable than money, sex, drugs, or anything else in this world because without time nothing else matters.

That’s why automation is likely going to take your job, and it should.

While I’m not going to go into all the political and societal issues that arise from this, it ultimately comes down to a few things:

Would you rather spend your days solving problems a computer cannot? Learning new things? Creating new things? Being human? Spending time with the people you love? Or repeat the same task over and over again?

These are just some of the gifts automation can give us, however the transition is going to be painful. I would argue we are already in the transition to automation, and while the future looks awesome for the select few of us automating everything, it isn’t so great for all the people’s who’s jobs we’re replacing.

At the end of the day though, the end goal and intention for working on automation is to free business owners and other people from all the crap they hate, and instead allow them to focus their energy and time on working on their businesses instead of working for them by taking all of the repeatable tasks off their plate. Automation can give us back the time that was stolen from us by bureaucracy, and help us create sustainable businesses with actual business models that provide real value for customers.

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