204: Use Automation and AI with Garik Tate

Garik Tate, the co-founder and CEO of Valhalla Team, a tech product design and development company in the Philippines that is amplifying the impact of innovators around the world incorporating AI technologies. We discuss the framework for turning good systems into great ones with AI. Garik elaborates on how they utilize cutting-edge AI techniques to enhance existing systems and take them to the next level of efficiency and performance.

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Use Automation and AI with Garik Tate

Our guest is Garik Tate, the co-founder and CEO of Valhalla Team, a tech product design and development company in the Philippines that is amplifying the impact of innovators around the world incorporating AI technologies. Garik, welcome to the show.

Glad to be here, Steve. Thanks for having me.

I think you’re the first entrepreneur from the Philippines, maybe the second on the show. We’ve been running over three years. So I’m really excited. It is a major area of outsourcing. I think it’s a major trend now that a lot of companies are outsourcing to the Philippines and it’s great to see entrepreneurs emerging and being successful. So, tell me a little bit about your story. How did you get to start Valhalla team and develop into an entrepreneur? What does it take in the Philippines to do that?

Absolutely. of Northwest USA, near Seattle, Washington. And I moved out to the Philippines when I was 18 years old. I moved out here with my father, and we had started a publishing company, him and my brother and I, the three of us, but when we came over, it was just the two of us. And actually something you said about the Philippines, I think is really important, is like the Philippines right now is blowing up inside of Southeast Asia.

That’s because, well, there’s a lot of reasons why, but I think one of the primary reasons is it’s one of the only Catholic countries in Southeast Asia, which has a very high birth rate. So, so essentially you have a much younger population on average, the average age here is significantly lower than most of the other Southeast Asian countries and the population is still expanding.

And so the average age is continuing to stay at a pretty low level. And as we’re moving into the next phase of the international economy, whatever that looks like, there is, a lot of the places in Southeast Asia are aging very, very rapidly. And it’s not always clear which where labor is gonna be moving and such. I think Philippines is actually gonna continue to blow up for a very long time.

So if you wanna make a very, very long play inside of Southeast Asia, I would definitely recommend the Philippines. And also it’s just fantastic here. The culture here is amazing. The people are super, super nice, very hardworking. You know, we’re gonna be talking a lot about AI today, but I can definitely recommend if you’re on the fence about coming to the Philippines and seeing what’s about here. It’s definitely a pretty unique country in Southeast Asia.

I’d love to visit. I’ve been to Vietnam a couple of times, but Thailand and in Malaysia, but not in the Philippines. So would love to do that. So, Garik, this podcast is about frameworks and you develop the framework for turning good systems into great ones with AI. So tell us a little bit about how that works and what are the steps involved. How do you apply AI when you have a system, you want to improve it, how do you go about it?

Absolutely. So I think that what a lot of people are thinking about when they think about AI right now, are they’re thinking about making themselves more effective with tools like Chat GPT, maybe using Midjourney for some image creation, maybe you found some Chrome extensions you can play with. And it’s generally about making yourself more effective. But AI can also be used to automate steps inside of a process.

And I don’t think that small to medium business owners are fully appreciating just how much has opened up in the world of automation. So what do I mean by that? I mean that it used to be that there would be the engineer engineering the business and maybe that’s a visionary entrepreneur. Maybe they bring on a COO to to to to systematize things. And so there’s there’s a map maker as lynchpin by Seth Godin. Now, Seth Godin, there’s a map maker as Seth Godin says, and that’s the only job you can’t replace. But then once the map is built, you know, humans get plugged into that map, almost like cogs in a machine.

And if it’s a really efficient machine, then the machine will have very clear inputs and very clear outputs. I don’t think we’re right now appreciating that if you can boil down the inputs and the outputs, AI can automate many, many types of knowledge work, which really frees up your team in order to do more humane work in order to also expand out the business, can focus on growing the business rather than doing the repetitive work that they would have previously done. So I help businesses map out their businesses, or business owners map out their businesses, and help them see how they can use AI to automate steps of it.

AI can automate knowledge work, freeing teams for more humane tasks and business expansion. Share on X

Okay. So you can be a lynchpin for business, be the map maker, and then you help fill out, fill in the gaps as well?

I help lynchpins bring their game to the next level, yeah.

Okay, so what are the steps in this process? So okay, you create this map. How do you even create this map? And then also what are the other steps? You talked about bottlenecks, identifying the bottlenecks, and go from there. So can you describe this in more detail?

Absolutely. So it starts off with mapping out your business. And you can bring up a tool like Miro or any sort of diagram software, or just have a piece of paper and a pencil and just draw out what are the steps and the business processes that your business does in order to fulfill its work. So start all the way at the far left with, where do you get your customers? How do people find out about your stuff? What’s the first engagement they have with your business?

What’s the next step? How do they book a sales call? Assuming you have a sales call, how does that appointment go? What happens to them next? And you specifically don’t wanna just be mapping out the user process, most importantly, you wanna be mapping out the physical or manual steps that your business has to take to facilitate that customer journey. So it’s not a real customer journey diagram, but it can be similar to that.

But it’s mapping out how the processes and the steps that your business take map together. And once you have that, you have it, assuming that your work, it has many white collar elements, because while AI can be applied to blue collar very, very effectively, reality is very, very messy. And these new tools like Chat GPT, generative AI models, like Ficuna and image-based models like stable diffusion, these are all still very much white collar. They’re digital tools.

So assuming that your business has processes in it that are white collar, you now have a laundry list of steps that you can probably automate if they have clear inputs and outputs. And I can describe what that means in a second, but before I go down there, you mentioned binding constraints. And this is one of the most important steps that the business owner has to go through. Once they’ve mapped out their business processes from left to right, they have to identify which one is the constraint to the business’s growth.

So Eli Goldratt wrote the book, The Goal, and this book was a very big moment inside of our business. It was originally written for factory engineers to make their factories more efficient, but it can really be applied to, I’d say pretty much any business. And the basic concept is really simple. You know, if you make really any part of your business more efficient, there’s a chance you’re making it worse, not better. Like if your constraint is downstream and you widen the river, right, widen the flow upstream, you’ve made your business worse, not better because the constraint is just going to become even more overwhelmed.

So if you have problems with fulfillment, you don’t wanna sell more. If you have problems with your conversion rate, you don’t wanna book more appointments. So it’s really important to have metrics and KPIs in your business to figure out where is the constraint, where is it, the area where your business is underperforming that has the greatest potential to increase, and once you find that spot, then you can do one of two things. Either A, it’s a spot that you can apply with human brains and try to free it up, at which point then you ask yourselves, what are those humans doing that’s wasting their time and how can I use AI to free them up? Or it’s a step that you can automate with AI directly. And both cases, AI is a really good tool in your tool belt.

It's really important to have metrics and KPIs in your business to figure out where is the constraint, where is it, the area where your business is underperforming. Share on X

Okay. Well, that’s very interesting. You mentioned the Miro board where you can put the virtual post-its on a whiteboard, and then you can move them around. So I can really see how you just jot down all the pieces of the process. You put it on the whiteboard and you move it around and you see, okay, where are the bottlenecks and then focus on the bottleneck, you remove that constraint, and then there’s going to be another constraint somewhere else, right?

Exactly, yeah.

And then you work on that, and then you can work forever, because the river is just going to be faster and bigger and rounder, and the next, you can identify the next constraint.

No, the business is just a flywheel, you just do multiple, multiple turns, and then it just starts going faster and faster, yeah.

And then you have basically higher and higher level problems to solve in this process. So what do you find is the most frequent bottleneck that you’re constrained when your customers come in and that they want you to help them?

The three constraints are either A, they aren’t getting enough eyes on their product. So it’s a marketing and traffic problem. Or second, the customer journey is not well facilitated, which decreases their conversion rate. Or third, they’re having problems with the fulfillment. It’s typically one of one of those three areas in the broadest in the broadest possible scope. Sometimes it can be that one of their back office systems is so broken that it’s just taking a lot of the founders time like their finances or their HR or something is just becoming a drain on their leadership team and that requires fixing. But more common than not, it’s that they need to automate something in their fulfillment or their sales process.

That’s interesting. And can you also help them with the traffic? Can you apply AI to increase the traffic or remove traffic constraints?

You can. One project that we’re doing right now is we’re actually stitching together a series of AI tools that consumes the input of essentially people’s LinkedIn and then it does cold outreach to them based on what it scrapes from their LinkedIn and from other pieces of information out there on the web. So it’s a cold outreach on AI system, but that’s a relatively more niche solution and is not the primary focus I would have most business owners first take with with AI. But yeah, you definitely can.

So you said traffic and then conversion. So can you give an example where AI can be used to remove a conversion bottleneck?

Absolutely. So actually I was just working on this earlier today, mapping out a sales process and one of the steps of the sales process is that after the client has booked a sales call, the salesperson has to do research on that person. But the only information that we have when the call is booked is just the prospect’s email and also their company name. But you don’t want a ton of questions on the calendar, so they didn’t ask too many questions and it can be kind of a pain to find that person’s information and make sure they’re a qualified lead.

So what we do with that is we take the email and first we automatically take one step back. The primary tool we do to automate these steps is primarily using Zapier or Make.com. Make.com used to be called IntegroMAT if your viewers have heard of that before, but they’re both very similar. If you’ve heard of Zapier then then you know how make.com works I do recommend to all my followers to look into make.com because it is ultimately my opinion of a better platform even though it’s not the the biggest platform on the market Zapier right now is a gorilla in the room but I find make.com is better for engineering multi-step processes so with these tools like make.com and Zapier, you can automate steps with AI without ever having to write any lines of code.

AI and automation can help determine if a task is a good use of time, preventing wasted efforts. Share on X

And that’s really the magic. You have to take an engineering mindset. So if you’ve never touched a spreadsheet before, or if you’ve never thought through steps abstractly, it will be challenging, but maybe you can bring on a member of your team and describe the problem to them, and then they can execute on it, which very often is the right strategy for a lot of business owners. You map out the journey in make.com or Zapier.

And in this case, what we did is first we took the event from when the calendar is booked, when the sales appointment is booked, we take the email address and we feed it into a tool called Apollo, which is an AI enabled database, but this is actually just a CRM that scrapes data on leads. So then you query data to know what the company is, the company’s website, the company’s LinkedIn. And then we use relevance.ai to scrape the website that we get from Apollo, scrape the website, summarize it. We then use Phantom Buster to find the person’s LinkedIn, scrape that, consume it.

And with all of those disparate elements, we put all of it in the Chat GPT and we say hey, this is a LinkedIn bio this is the website summary This is the company name in a summary put all this together and just tell me what the hell is going on because you know It’s it’s all these different data points. You have summarizes to me a is this person qualified? We’re looking only for XYZ companies be you know, what do you think is the nature of their problems?

See, you know, what’s their role and title? Are they a decision maker? And you can then package all that into a PDF that is then sent to that salesperson through like craft PDF or an email module. And all of those steps can be automated with make.com and the salesperson then doesn’t have to do any research. You can email them the moment it’s booked or within eight hours before the call. So then they’re just reminded, hey, you have a call. Here’s all the info about it. Do you want to cancel or do you want to proceed? And then they’re off to the races.

That’s fantastic. So actually in this process, they can determine whether it’s even a good use of their time. Maybe someone booked a call, which they are not a good fit for your service. So you don’t even waste their time or your time. You just cancel the appointment.

Yep. And on a high level, the mindset here, you know, these tools are just particular tools. You know, Phantom Buster is a good tool. You know, Chat GPT is a good tool. They’re all just tools. And the more tools you discover, the stronger you become in this kind of stuff. But fundamentally. The high level approach here is asking yourself, is this a problem worth solving? Are my salespeople, are they actually doing the research? Is are they being consistent?

Is it the kind of crappy work that lowers morale? Is it a bottleneck? Is it something that’s wasting their time and their time is valuable? Those are the four questions I ask. Is that bottleneck to growth? Is it crappy work? Is there a lot of errors? QA, consistency is down. And is it expensive? Is it using expensive resources? Those are the four questions.

And if any of those, the answer is yes or any two of them are yes, which in this case, with this particular client that we’re creating this for, their problems are the founders doing all the sales calls, and so it’s really expensive on their time, and it’s not the kind of work they want to be doing. It’s not a bottleneck on growth because they just won’t do the research, so they’re still having the sales calls, it’s just using their expensive time.

So there we wanted to solve that constraint. We said, yes, this is the right constraint. The founder’s time is a constraint. Therefore, we want to free that up. And this was a perfect step to say, well, the input is we got the email, we got the website. What’s the output? The output is they get a report and they make a decision. So we can automate every other step of the process.

That is fascinating. That really is amazing what can be done with the combination of AI, automation and AI. Essentially, you use make.com or Zapier, you link together all these software applications, and then the output you put into a Chat GPT or an AI engine, and you ask them what to do with it, and it basically spits out, useful information that allows you to really speed things up. That is very, very impressive. Can you give another example where, so we talked about traffic, we talked about conversion, fulfillment. So how would fulfillment be helped by this kind of approach when you are mapping and identifying bottlenecks? Just give me a quick example of that.

Fulfillment would probably have the greatest number of variance from business to business. It just totally depends on what you’re fulfilling, what’s your business output, right? We have one sister company that we were able to double the size of their company in about three months because we found their bottleneck and it wasn’t a fulfillment. They’re called 2XU and they are a premium executive assistant company.

So getting personal assistants, executive assistants for high net worth individuals. And they were having lots of clients, lots of people needed exactly what they were selling, still do, but the problem was, is that they couldn’t get the type of talent necessary. So they had as many open roles as they had positions in the company and they were starting to lose prospects because we couldn’t fill the roles fast enough. And so we looked at the recruitment process, which was fulfillment for them.

Fulfillment can benefit greatly from AI and automation by identifying and addressing bottlenecks. Share on X

And we found that the recruiters were entirely overwhelmed with, well, first of all, we did a questionnaire, and this is what I would recommend, you know, business owners, they put on their engineering mindset, you have to look at it kind of coldly and calculatedly, you know, where’s the KPIs that are showing where the constraint is?

So we just asked all the recruiters, where are you spending most of your time? And we found that they were spending 50% plus of their time just reading the resumes of people in the very beginning of the funnel. And they were having no time left over to get people processed to the end of the funnel. And lots of people applying were kind of complaining that the service was really bad because they would never hear a response back or other things and they got rejected, but they didn’t know it. It was kind of a mess all at the beginning of the funnel.

So we realized the input was just their resumes and their cover letter and their submission to a job form we had, and the output was just a decision, yes, to proceed with the initial call or no to reject it. And AI can do that very effectively. So what we did is we, actually, there is an important step here that I’m kind of simplifying the story, but it’s really important for your listeners to hear, which was first, the inputs were kind of messy. Sometimes they would be getting the resumes via email. Sometimes it would only come in via this one JotForm submission we had.

Sometimes it would be, you know, at a different step of the process. And so we said, OK, the inputs are not consistent and the AI can’t help us here. Like the AI has to know, you know, when to accept certain inputs. And so first we had to standardize a couple of things. We said, sure, someone can email us their resume, that’s fine, but the important part is they submit it in this JotForm. And we said, everybody always has to fill in this form before they continue. Once that was simplified, we then put all the data into a new, we use Notion for most of our systems, so a Notion database, but you can use ErrorTable or just a spreadsheet just as easily.

And once that data became standardized in the same way, in the same format, and the same sort of structure, then AI could be applied very easily. So that’s often why I find most business owners struggle with, is that they might know where the constraint is, but the constraint naturally doesn’t have clear inputs. At which point you either have to change the system and put in the elbow grease to change the system to standardize it, or you have to have humans attack the problem, and you have to free up the humans in other areas.

Business success often hinges on identifying constraints and applying the right tools and strategies. Share on X

So, it’s about the mapping and then you extract the information, you organize it, you feed it into AI and then essentially get the output that you want. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.

And so now the AI can just scan the resumes. Once all that becomes standardized, the AI scans the PDFs from the resumes and then also takes in the job description and gives an official recommendation. And then we had the AI also write some standard responses, you know, decline, accept, et cetera, et cetera. And a human, we still wanted a human to ultimately double check the AI’s work. So we don’t fully automate this side, but now a human can go through like easily 10 times the amount of data as before, and they’ve significantly freed themselves up. And we were able to double the size of business by fulfilling those roles.

That is pretty amazing. So obviously, this is a very fast moving area. What are you more excited about working on right now? What is the most exciting stuff that you’re working on?

We offer two types of services. One is a consulting service, helping clients map out their business and go through this process. It is something that ultimately I think any business owner can do if they put on an engineering hat. It’s not something they need us for, but if you want someone to kind of guide you through it, we’re happy to help. But the other package, which is more of our bread and butter from the longest time, is just building software products and software platforms.

So we still engage with some clients in that. And we have one in Australia right now, who I’m really proud of the work they’re doing. The founder is a life coach and business coach for high C-suite level individuals. And they have a lot of IP. They’ve certified many other coaches and they’re very easily one of the top 1% of coaches in the world. And they want to take that IP that they’ve certified other coaches with and turn it into an AI system.

So right now we have built a platform with them in order to turn their life coach methodology into a mobile app, and right now they are already signing contracts with some different corporate clients to give it to their employees, and it looks like that has a lot of opportunity to be really just helping people with AI in a way that that really excites me. So if you’re asking what I’m most proud of slash most excited by, I have a very soft spot in my heart for that project.

That’s fascinating you know if you can get more people have access to coaching because coaching is pretty expensive because you need someone a smart person to listen to you and it could be several hundred dollars an hour and if you can get an AI to take some of this heavy lifting that is an incredibly powerful tool potentially for companies they can give access and also the timing can be scheduling can be really challenging with forging and essentially that you can do it as synchronously whenever you’re available you can get coerced. That is that I think.

So this coaches credit. He’s already using AI. He’s been testing it. We’re basically in his. He’s built some. Some amazing prompts that that take his IP into account and he will transcribe parts of the conversation with his clients, copy and paste it into the problems. And he doesn’t hide this. He shows off. This is the output. He kind of walks through it, make sure it matches with his mind, but he actually uses the AI in the coaching calls. And he’s been saying the clients have been getting even better results. And by going through that cycle with clients in real time, putting it into the app becomes a lot easier. So to his full credit, he’s really been embracing the next wave and is not scared of losing his expertise.

I mean, definitely you want to be careful not to commoditize yourself, but if you can turn it into a major innovation that you can monetize, that’s fantastic. Awesome. So Garik, very exciting stuff, how to use AI. It’s not just AI, but this whole engineering mindset you bring to the table to basically map systems and identify the bottlenecks and then you open them up with the help of AI and not just AI but automation and using off-the-shelf systems such as Zapier that is very, that offers a lot of potential. So if people would like to hire you to figure this out for them, what should they be doing? How can they get more information and maybe reach out to you.

Absolutely, so if if someone is listening to this and wants help building an AI based product, you can check out my company’s website, the Valhalla.team. And if you’re looking for more consulting and coaching to map out your business processes, whether you’re a tech company or just a blue collar company that wants to automate certain certain steps, you can just reach out to me on LinkedIn, send me a connection request, say that Steve’s pregnant and we’ll be off to the races.

That’s awesome. Well, thank you, Garik. That’s super interesting. And I think I’ll take you offline as well, because I’ve got some more questions that pertains to my own business. So thank you, Garik, for coming to the show. And for those of you listening, stay tuned, because these frameworks are getting more and more advanced and sophisticated and groundbreaking with AI automation especially. So stay tuned for more entrepreneurs like Garik. So stay tuned for more entrepreneurs like Garik. Thank you.

 

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