On this episode of the podcast, we speak with Adam Schweickert, Partner & Integrator at Wetmore Consulting Group.
Mark Percival, Brent Sanders, Adam Schweickert
Brent Sanders 00:06
So today we have with us, Adam Schweickert. So Adam was introduced to me through a mutual friend. And we got to talking and we didn't really know what one another was up to. But it ends up that, you know, we both are kind of doing the same thing, but just from a different lens. So we had this initial conversation, and I wanted to just introduce kind of what you're doing and how you're doing it to our audiences, I think it'd be really interesting. So why don't we start by? Adam, can you just give us a quick background? What got you into space?
Adam Schweickert 00:37
Yeah, so I guess my process journey, if you want to call it that starts, at my first job out of college, I was working at a small Wealth Management shop in Iowa City, we're at an inflection point where the owner was doing well, but we had the option to grow in scale. Long story short, we bring in a consultant. And on the first day on the job, he asked, okay, who knows what's going on here, but who can build out these processes for us, and, of course, everybody pointed at me. And so that kind of kicked off the journey in the process space. So from the start, that's a little bit of background there, just built from a very elementary level, how to documents, screenshots, things like that. It's really kind of how I started. And then as I moved throughout my career, I moved into real estate, where it's also a space that is, I'm not, I don't know how well you guys know realtors, but I'd say that they probably don't have documented processes, most all of them. So I was brought into a team, to document processes and build out some solutions, as well for them to kind of help them scale like, like I did at this wealth management shop. And then from there, at that same time, I picked up a book called traction, I think there's by Gino Wickman, which kind of got me thinking a little bit differently a little more strategically about business. And I applied with that Real Estate Group, for two years, I don't know how personal we can get on the podcast here. But I was dating my girlfriend long distance in Chicago for about a year and figured it was probably time to make a move. From there, I got a call from my current business partner in the consulting firm, I'm involved with Jeremy Wetmore and said, hey, I've seen what she'd done. On the process side of things for these past two companies. I have two other companies here that are looking for the same thing. Would you be open to moving to Chicago and doing exactly what you're doing? You know, with us, we'll start this company. And so I made the move to Chicago. So really, that's kind of what got me into the space was this from a very low level, you know, building how to document and then those evolve from, you know, just a static document to how can we take this to the next level? Because I can stare at a piece of paper all day, but how do we really start, you know, holding people accountable to following processes and making sure that all these boxes are checked. So I think that's a good background on me and how I kind of got into this space, but just wanting more out of the process documents I was building in Microsoft Word, I think it's a really good way to sum that up.
Brent Sanders 03:15
Yeah. And so, you know, to put you in a category, right, we, we have engineers we have in the sort of automation, what are the typical positions, like, coming into it as a non somewhat non technical, I guess, you know, you're not instead of writing code, but you are working with digital tools, and documenting process. So, you know, I call it like business analysis or something along those lines. And so, when you work with your different clients, it sounds like your key piece here is getting everything organized, right? It's like getting all the pieces enumerated and putting them in an order that makes sense, like, what are some of the tools that you use to automate?
Adam Schweickert 04:01
Yeah, our preferred tool, and I'll first take a step back, I think you put it nicely when using no low code type tools. I've, I've heard, probably what I'm referring to on the podcast as citizen developer, and I embrace it, I embrace the dirty word. I know. Both sides have been represented. And I'm here to represent a citizen developer to a certain extent today. But when we're building these things out for clients, number one, first go is really Google Docs. I started every process with what I just call a process document. And it kind of reads a little bit more like a story rather than more of a flowchart. So, you know, where are we going, what are the inputs, who's involved, and adds a little bit more color as to why we're doing things because first and foremost, I think that you can build flowcharts and I'm familiar with lucid chart, but we prefer to go with this process style document first, because when can at least, you know, save that as kind of a, you know, standard operating procedure document before we build that out in the cloud. When we go digital with these process documents, we use a software called process Street. And process Street, if you're not familiar, they've been a great partner with us. It's it's basically, standard operating, you know, these process documents that we've built, infused with checklists, inputs, some integrations as well, and then some lower level automations that really allow the user to get into the software and not the software, say, Hey, we're gonna do this for you get out of the way, and then come check on it. When it's done. It's more of like, hey, let's take your hand and walk down the road through this process together. So it's, it's a little more human centric, then data centric, is how we can best describe that.
Brent Sanders 05:59
That's cool. So what I'm taking away is that process trade allows you to define process and give somebody an interface to like, hey, log in here, and choose a process to start, and we'll walk you through it and give you like, the ability to check things off the list and conditionally puts you in the right spot for each thing. So you know, if you're a business, like one of the things that we're seeing a lot of our engagements right now is like the temp is the big thing right now, no one can hire. So you roll temps into these projects, and it's really hard to onboard them. A if you don't have things well documented, but then even beyond that, it's like, you know, there's complicated processes that only senior people know how to do. And so then they're bugging people. So this seems like a solution specifically for that is like, you can kind of hop in, follow the instructions, and you'll be pretty well equipped to do the job.
Adam Schweickert 06:53
Absolutely, I think that the best way that I can describe it, when I'm describing it to a business owner, it's, it is software that allows you to control how your people deliver and really hold them accountable to that, as you alluded to, as well, with this temp dilemma, it is new guy coming in, you know who's going to train them. Whereas you can just plug and play these users into the process as it's been built. And then as an owner, you do have that dashboard level to see where everything's at, you know, that works getting done on time in the way that you've established it to be. And then from an employee standpoint to I've gotten feedback from people that haven't been in software that says, Wow, that isn't that really restrictive, like it feels like you're just telling them, you know what to do, it's very push rather than, you know, the feedback from the employees who we've talked to that that have used the software as they love it, because it cuts out the time of them having to reorient yourself with what's going on every day, you come into work, whereas you know, you sit down the program tells you what's due. And, and really, that it takes a lot of the thought process out of having to figure out how to do the work rather than you actually doing the work. So you can focus more on the important things.
Brent Sanders 08:13
And how hard is it to set up something like a process street? So you've done this for a handful of clients? Like it's a low code thing? You don't have to get an engineer involved?
Adam Schweickert 08:23
Yeah, so it is low, no code. And I won't say that it's, I think what a lot of these low no code solutions do is they make it very approachable off the street. And to reference a citizen developer, like myself, I think when citizen developers, if you'll say that or, you know, someone who wants to use a software, they do a great job of saying, hey, we've already had these pre made things, you know, once you start with us, and we can kind of go from there, which is fantastic. And if that works for you, great. When it comes to really tailoring it for your business, I think that it gets much more complicated, right. So out of the box, I could assimilate it to like Salesforce, for instance, you know, you could go on get your license, try to customize it yourself. Versus You know, there's implementation teams that are third parties that, you know, contract with Salesforce that will actually customize the program and build it to your processes for you so that you can really get the thing to hum for you. So in short answer, no, you don't need an engineer. But if you really want to take some of these functions and integrations with the program to the next level to make it work for you. I would say you either need to have a slight code background or you know, some sort of understanding of the logic behind the scenes going on with the software which I think a lot of good intention citizen developers don't have when they decide one day that they're going to try to whether it's a no low code or an RPA environment. The good intention is there. But I think the long term perspective to understand, you know, hey, you're probably gonna have to maintain this thing down the line is just not there. And I think that's probably where a lot of those types of individuals fall short.
Mark Percival 10:17
Yeah, I was gonna say this is definitely something we see a good bit of, which is these tools really, they allow a lot of people to get involved in and start these processes and make these improvements. And then you have to kind of make this decision about when you gonna upgrade everything, when it starts to, you know, usually involve more people? And then you made a great point, which is the maintenance and making sure it's safe, maintained? And, yeah, it's a tough decision about when do you kind of advance from the low code? Or what's that transition? Like?
Adam Schweickert 10:42
Absolutely. I don't have a good answer for that. Because I mean, you guys are on the Intelligent Automation side, formerly known as RPA. I don't have a great answer for that. Because, you know, when I, when I met Brent, a month ago, he introduced me to this space, but what I can do is speak on, the experience that we've seen is that, you know, what our solution is great for and our company is great for is is building out processes for companies that that really have little the no documented processes in place. And I think that's the space that we fit in. Whereas, you know, when you do make that transition, it's great for companies that, you know, are operating on maybe some sort of an enterprise s level that have systems in place that really need to kind of, you know, tune them up and take it to the next level with automation, where we come in is, we want to be that approachable, first step that I think a lot of business owners get hung up in, because they think it's your business owner, you think about process and automation, probably the first word that comes to your mind is, Oh, that's too expensive. The second is I don't have any time in my day to even write these things down. And third is, even if I had one and two, I don't even know how you'd even approach a challenge like that. So what we strive to be is not to say that lower level space, but we want to be that approachable first step for businesses that, you know, maybe have things falling through the cracks need more visibility, and just really need to take that first step to get things up off, even if they're not on paper out of their head onto paper, and then built out in the software. So that's where we strive to be. But to go back to your question mark is when do you flip that switch? It's tough to say, and I would say that, you know, it's, it's when it makes most sense for your business, because I think a lot of businesses could use our solution and go very far other businesses if their needs might be a little bit different. And the timeline is just a little different. So it's a tough answer to give you. But I just wanted to shed a little bit light on, you know, kind of what we try to solve for, and then maybe you could give some color on the back end of maybe what that inflection point would be.
Brent Sanders 13:00
Do you find this pretty easy to hand off to somebody and like your client, and then they can evolve it? Or do they do something where they need to come back to you, because you're just like the owner of the system so to speak?
Adam Schweickert 13:13
Yeah, it gives some color on the relationships that we do have with our clients, we try to have a resource internally that, you know, knows this process front to back, they know the inner workings of the company, and you know, where all the bones are buried per se, but we try to have a resource like that on the inside. So that we can be kind of the ones that are pulling the strings from the build out standpoint. So you could turn it over to a client, there's nothing stopping them from going in and making changes, you know, to the build out of the software. But we prefer that we are making the changes, because it kind of goes back to that, you know, citizen developer dilemma, good intentions, one day, that's not thought through for the long term, you know, we'll put you in a bad spot. So we go into every client relationship with that expectation at, you know, we're going to be the ones building and maintaining, but what's most important for you client is to be that expert in the process. And I think a lot of the value that we add to coming from the consulting side is, you know, I think that you could probably find anybody to say, Okay, tell me your process, and I'll build it. We spend a little bit more time in that discovery, understanding why phase two, just go to a couple more degrees of asking questions behind the why of it to understand, you know, really what we're trying to get to with this process, because you could anybody off the street could, you know, give you a poor process, right, and I could build it out for them, and it would really just be worthless. So we do prefer to spend a little bit more time in discovery so that, you know, we can really build something that's purposeful on the back end, and then, you know, really hope that we won't have to make too many changes down the line as though they're inevitable. I think that's it. Good way to summarize our approach to it.
Brent Sanders 15:02
Yeah, I mean, in businesses change, like business should change, it shouldn't stay static, you know, things have to evolve, you know, going through, like working with process, treat other other tools that you work at, that you've worked with that are similar that, like you tried out and just didn't work for you. I'm just curious, like, about this category. Yeah. What else did you look at? Or did you find this land on? It was like, this is the one for me?
Adam Schweickert 15:26
Yeah, that's a great question. I was thinking about that, before we hopped on today, when we were in our discovery, to find this solution, the software solution, we were often finding that many products were forcing us to take our processes and kind of modify them to fit their structure. I think that I think we had a demo, I think it was pipe phi. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that, or maybe any of the listeners are, but it was just a square peg in a round hole just not working. Like I understand why it's structured that way. But we were really gunning for a way to take these process documents that we built out that have much more of a wide behind them, and translate those, you know, up into the cloud. And what we really enjoyed about process Street was basically, when you're in the software, there's a workflow level, which is, you know, the culmination of all these tasks. And then at the task level, it's kind of a, it's a drag and drop HTML type situation, or sorry, if that's not the right word for it, but you can, you know, just write paragraphs of the why behind something, you can drop videos and really explain and give somebody color as to how to complete a step. And a lot of this other softwares were just a complete step and move on. And that wasn't good enough for us because we think the Why is important to explain to employees as they're going through a process. And a lot of these other software's weren't given to us. orcas, Lee, I think was another one by Zoho, I swear, I looked high and low. And I could not find anything that would fit our needs. But then when we landed on process Street, the second we had the demo that was just like, 100%, this is exactly what we're looking for.
Brent Sanders 17:18
That's fantastic. That's really cool, though, like, you know, the value of this conversation to me is like, you know, what are the other tools out there? Because I feel like we get at least with it in our interviews and our conversations, we talk to like, the incumbents, the people that use those incumbent like RPA, and automation tools, and typically will more software based, then there was like this whole category we had talking on, who else did we have? Maybe Electroneek. Mark, like, we had, like this whole set of platforms that were the whole Magic Quadrant.
Mark Percival 17:51
Brent Sanders 17:53
We had them all, we've navigated the whole magic, right. And this is the one thing where you know, we've talked about it previously, and we do a little bit of work with it is like Power Apps, it's like, there's a ton of value to just like, Hey, we can quickly turn something around, hand it over to the client. And sure, it's not what I call big boy automation, where it's high tech, and it is somewhat automation with kid gloves. But sometimes that's all you really need just to like, get a process, you know, away from being broken.
Mark Percival 18:24
100% Yeah, no, I think that's that's the good, that's a good point is I think we found it's sort of a good introduction into starting this process, or the process of fixing a process is, you know, the Power Apps gives us the ability to kind of quickly make some, you know, put some guardrails on the process, and then see where we can go from there and what we can actually automate more thoroughly after that.
Adam Schweickert 18:46
Absolutely. And I'd like to add something to that to that the term I sometimes uses is low fidelity versus high fidelity, you know, you might call it big boy RPA, or with kid gloves, but I think at the end of the day, if, if you can build a solution, it doesn't have to be the sexiest thing in the world. But so many people build solutions for their business on Google Drive. And that's really how I started and started to tinker with this. And then that evolved from how can we make this even better, but, you know, if you can build a solution, more power that works for you and your business out of Google Drive, it's free in it, you know, it's all the problem? I think you should absolutely do that. Because it's a need. And, yeah, I think that's the way to go.
Mark Percival 19:31
I think the really interesting thing with the low code piece, though, is, especially as a consulting or if you're coming into a project externally, is that handing it over process, because part of the allure of this flow code is that I can hand it Hand it over and you can make some small changes to it. But the reality is, maybe not that that's that clear, right? Because sometimes you kind of wind up with a world where, you know, yes, you know, theoretically you could hand it over, but maybe they're not, you know, desire on the other side. make some changes, a lot of times people don't want to actually get in there and mess with something because they're afraid they'll break it. And there's that unclear boundary of who's actually responsible for what. So sometimes it's, you know, you still end up with this, you know, I need to be upfront and very clear about who's going to take care of that. It sounds like from your end your ideas, you know, very much we're gonna actually be the ones that manage that.
Adam Schweickert 20:21
Absolutely. I think, the second you have someone else in there, I don't have much of a code background, I took a coding was at Java, my freshman year of college, instead, it wasn't for me, I got through it. But no, I think your point is very valid, mark because the seconds somebody else comes in and starts monkeying around with the back end that, you know, you built purposefully. And I don't know how many times, I mean, even for myself to go in and modify the back end of some of these processes, it takes a little bit of time to orient yourself to really what's exactly going on. And if someone comes in there, you know, on thoughtfully it makes a change, you know, maybe good intentioned, that can throw a wrench in things. So we do like to get ahead of that conversation. as friendly as the programs, especially these low code ones may look, it's it's important to communicate that there's, it's being built with a purpose and a long term purpose, rather than, you know, if we put together all these short term patchwork fixes, that might be good for maybe that next three, four months, but you're gonna have to rip it down and build it at some point. So we'd like to get ahead of that conversation. And we do like to be a little bit more pickier with some of the clients that we come on with, just so that they understand that. And we've been very fortunate to have a good group of clients that have, you know, really just opened the doors to us to say, you know, this is what you guys are going to own. We'll bring the expertise side of it. And we'll kind of meet in the middle to build out this solution.
Brent Sanders 21:51
Interesting. Yeah, I mean, so when you guys are prospecting, and you're, you're looking at, you know, who's a good fit? Who's not? I mean, first of all, how do people find you? Is it mostly word of mouth? Are you guys out there doing sales around process, optimization and automation?
Adam Schweickert 22:08
Yeah, so historically, it's been word of mouth. And I mentioned this Consulting Group, that my business partner, Jeremy and I founded back when I moved to Chicago. Wetmore Consulting Group. And really the need for this, this process automation company that we've since spun out called build the process came from just that common paradigm of many of the business owners that we were dealing with. So instead of saying, Hey, we have to operate under this cloak of, you know, what more consulting group where it's company restructuring, evaluating talent, these sorts of things, why don't we, you know, spin out a piece of it, and just focus primarily on this common paradigm that we've seen with literally all of our clients, and market that to other individuals who may not be in the market for, you know, our full blown services. So, that's how the second company spun out. When it comes to marketing, there hasn't been a ton of it lately, I honestly, it's been word of mouth, from our current clients, but there's the process it started last month, actually. But it's, it's just really been born from just literally this common paradigm that many small businesses don't have processes anywhere. And they've been kind of skirting by with, hey, I've got some, you know, key employees, and it's all in their head. So they've got it. And while that's fantastic in the short term, that doesn't really scale or work for you long term. So it's really been word of mouth and built our consulting groups businesses.
Brent Sanders 23:43
That's fantastic. So, you know, you have a sub consultancy that's focused on, you know, process and automation. So, it just goes to show it's like the tools are, I was talking about this, this field is, is being really broad. And this is a great example, that it's like, you can have a full service, automation practice without having software engineers and technology. And, and I don't even mean like, Oh, you know, how to use a strong local tool. It's, it starts with the process, like, and I think that's where you guys are focusing And sure, like, you know, at a certain scale, and this is one thing that we see with our smaller clients is, you know, if they're really below a certain size, these automation tools don't have the ROI because it's like, well, I'm paying three people $15 an hour to do this, and it saving them, you know, four to six hours a week isn't really worth it. Right. And so, it's, it's funny, and I'm not saying that's necessarily what you're working in, but we see that we see that we're, you know, you have to be choosy about, you know, a larger, you know, set of tools, license costs, fees, hosting SLA is it gets complicated really quick and so it's kind of refreshing to see like a You know, process oriented practice that, you know, uses a lower technology approach, but still, you know, has has the impact. So, you know, with that being said, like, what have been some of the outcomes, you know, around automation? I mean, just, and I'm not sure what the scale of the businesses I see on the site, it's one to $10 million in annual revenue to build the process. But, you know, what are some of the outcomes like?
Adam Schweickert 25:24
So a lot of the outcomes that we've seen with a lot of our clients has been like, like you just alluded to it in these smaller businesses, it's tough to come in and sell, we're gonna save you X dollars, well, yes, we're going to save X dollars. But I think it's been alluded to on this podcast before. But what would be the alternative to this, it's, it's a lot of people's only option to go up from where they're currently at in their business. And it's tough to put a price on that. So the outcomes that we've seen, this solution can be built out for many different types of business uses. But for instance, new client onboarding, a good customer of ours is a payroll company where in payroll, it's a maze of documents and information that you need to collect to switch payroll providers, whereas you know, that could take them, I don't know, four weeks, historically, we cut that time in less than half to collect all of the information documents that a client would need to provide to become a client. I think that that's a great outcome. The program itself has allowed us to build on all this conditional logic that says, hey, if they're switching January one, we don't need these reports. Or if they're switching mid quarter, we need these reports. And also this report. So it's allowed us to really navigate that maze and kind of cut through all of the head work and guesswork of the types of requirements that would be needed if a human was just running the process throughout. Another feature of that process that helped us really cut that time in half is, you can open it up to have guests be a part of your organization. So we've built it out so that we can invite guests and open up essentially a portal for them. And they provide all these documents themselves, which was never the case before it was emails back and forth, that I get this Oh, yeah, call me with your social security number, all those sorts of things that was just, we had to say, hold on, let, there's got to be a better way to do this. So I I'd say that's a, that's one of our better outcomes is just really cutting the time in half that it would have taken for a human to kind of have to collaborate and quarterback all this versus having that process as the center, and then allowing the process and software to go out and say, Hey, that'd be on the shoulder client, I need all these things. And kind of cut out that back and forth. I think that's a good example of it. Some of the integrations and automation pieces of it on the back end as payroll companies using Google. And we can take everything that was created. And all the information that was provided through process Street and our onboarding platform, which is on a street and just throw it all into Google Drive, organize it, it can spin up documents that we need, other types of things like that, where historically that'd be a human creating those, as well. So some lower level integrations, but at the same time, high impact for what the alternative was. And we think that it's hard to put $1 value on. But the peace of mind that comes with this software, I think it basically sells itself after we build one out for someone.
Brent Sanders 28:40
Yeah, it's really similar. When we do the same thing, just getting started in the first engagement, try to keep it small. And I think what we found and what it sounds like, in your case is like, organizations just don't really have anybody to spend the time and like pull away from their existing role to like spend time on something, ensure they would if they could, but it's like there's so many other bigger fish to fry. And so it's a great fit for an external party to come in and look at.
Adam Schweickert 29:08
100% Yeah, that's, it's the paradigm, it's the process. Automation is expensive, it's scary, and I don't have the time, and I don't really know where to start. But if I keep kind of in my business like this, things aren't gonna go well for too much longer. So that is the case. And it's so hard to be working. It's too many business owners working in the business rather than on the business, which is probably why a lot of consultants get involved, but I think you hit it on the head there, we can come in, we can be that partner for you. You just have to be the expert in your business and we can pull all that other information out of your head and get that built out so that you know you can finally have that visibility to know that the things that are falling through the cracks. Employees are following processes, you know, to kind of give you that peace of mind and visibility that a lot of people don't have when running their business.
Brent Sanders 29:59
Right Exactly, yeah. Well, yeah. Mark, do you have anything else you wanted to add? Before we wrap up?
Mark Percival 30:05
No, this is really helpful. I think, you know, we talked a lot about technology on the show. But we also, I think, when we implement a lot of this stuff, it really does come down to process. Right, and, and fixing the process and documenting the process and all these other pieces that are soft skills that are actually, you know, sometimes like the first step and actually starting an automation engagement. And so I think it's, it's useful to hear sort of, I think it's something we should talk more about, which is, which is sort of that business process management and, and how you get to that point.
Adam Schweickert 30:35
Yeah, absolutely. I think I think you nailed it with that one. It's that first step, you know, everything else is built on top of it. And if you don't get that first step right, and you don't spend the right amount of time there, you know, your long term product is bad news. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Brent Sanders 30:55
That's great. Well, Adam, thanks so much for talking to us. And it was really interesting to find out about how you guys go about, you know, doing automation, and, you know, looking at some of these sort of process improvements. So, thanks for coming on and talking to us.
Adam Schweickert 31:08
Of course, thanks for having me. Appreciate it, and we'll be in touch.
Brent Sanders 31:13
All right. Take care.
Adam Schweickert 31:14
I'll see you guys again.