Take Stock of This 22-Year-Old's Advice: Enterprise Technology Pays Dividends.
Carl Lewis: Welcome to the Connected Enterprise podcast. I’m Carl Lewis, your host from Vision 33, and my guest is Chase Linsenbigler, the CEO of Tabono Consulting. Chase, tell us about your journey to starting Tabono Consulting.
Chase Linsenbigler: Thanks for having me, Carl. For those who don't know me, I'm young. That’s my opening as a CEO. I'm only 22. I started this journey because of a program at my college. I went to St. Vincent college in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. They had an SAP Business One training program where we learned everything we could about the software in a year. We also went to several conferences, met people, made connections in the Business One world, and learned to market. That was my introduction to consulting. I fell in love with it and knew I wanted to be involved with SAP Business One and the software industry.
Chase Linsenbigler: I got more consulting experience at two internships and built myself up. Then the coronavirus happened and made it difficult to find job offers. It seemed like an opportunity to go into consulting and help people with projects they couldn’t find full-time employees for. That's what led me to Tabono.
Carl Lewis: One reason I wanted to interview you is your age. At 22, in the middle of a pandemic, you had the chutzpah to start your own business. It's remarkable, and you have my admiration. I have a friend at the opposite end of the spectrum – he started a new company at 69. He’s an upcoming interview. I'm interested in getting your lay of the land and his.
Carl Lewis: You’ll have an interesting perspective on the technology I like to talk about – artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IOT), electronic data interchange (EDI), machine learning (ML), warehouse management systems (WMS), and all the other acronyms business people are interested in and how they use them to stay connected to their customers, vendors, and employees. Have people wanted them more or less because of the pandemic? Are they holding off on projects? What’s been your experience as you started a new company?
Chase Linsenbigler: Many people have experienced this boom with e-commerce and EDI. There’s a steady trend of those increasing every year. People want it because in this age of online shopping and new technology, fewer people go to stores. That forces a need for efficiency, warehouses, and factories because the supply chain needs to keep up.
Chase Linsenbigler: People want WMS and manufacturing software in warehouses and factories because that's the first step in making them more efficient. But AI and ML are becoming more prevalent because that's the next generation technology for business efficiency. As e-commerce and EDI have grown, the need for AI and ML has accelerated, but we're just scratching the surface. There’s cool technology using AI, but many are new and general right now.
Chase Linsenbigler: The AI and ML experiences will continue to grow. It’s exciting. We have no idea. And coronavirus will be a big push.
Chase Linsenbigler: Many businesses aren't as willing to spend money because of problems from the virus, like training people, cutting hours, working around rules and regulations, etc. It's not the best time for them to venture out into the AI and ML space. But this business shift won’t go away after the virus. The e-commerce will continue with AI and ML at the forefront. And many people will start experimenting with it as the virus slows down and they can get their businesses back on track.
Carl Lewis: It reminds me of a line from a movie – “This is going to change everything." Many changes will last into the future, and businesses are looking at them right now. There’s liable to be pent-up demand for these things. However, there's a challenge for companies to deploy this stuff and think through the process. What are the biggest challenges companies face making these changes to rely more on technology?
Chase Linsenbigler: It all comes back to the first thing you learn when you start dealing with business efficiency: the cultural change. That's always the issue when we're dealing with things like this, especially technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning because it's a unique change. Your frontline employees know the job better than anyone. They do it every day. And they don't necessarily want you to change what they know how to do and what they believe works. They see you come in with technology and think, "Here we go. They're going to change how I do things, even though they don’t know what they're talking about because they don’t do it every day like I do." Which is reasonable.
Chase Linsenbigler: But this pushback from frontline employees delays companies bringing those technologies in. You have to communicate that AI and ML will make their life easier, not get rid of jobs or cut down on hours. We want to eliminate their biggest headache. They might deal with a problem all week and be fed up with it, but AI can resolve the problem.
Chase Linsenbigler: The biggest thing is breaking through the, “I’ve been doing it this way, and I like it,” and showing them technology can fix these issues. There's a big stigma around AI, robots, etc. and people worrying about losing jobs. We have to ensure our employees know we only want to optimize processes.
Carl Lewis: I used to look for the most reluctant person on the team and try to recruit them into the leadership committee because everyone else knew that person, and if I won them over, they’d help with everyone else.
Carl Lewis: Chase, what’s the next big technology thing businesses will hear about?
Chase Linsenbigler: New warehouse technologies, like automated guided vehicles (AGVs). AGVs are forklifts or cars or something similar that zip around warehouses guided by laser triangulation or wires. They’re getting more popular because they save time.
Chase Linsenbigler: We know they're great for timesaving – but what if we could make them smarter? What if we didn’t have to watch or control them? The goal is to make them completely automated, which requires AI and ML. The forklift zips around the warehouse picking things at high speeds using laser triangulation. But say you’re unloading a truck. AI can look at the truck like Tetris and devise the best way to unload the truck.
Chase Linsenbigler: And eventually they can use this stuff outside of warehouses and factories. But the warehousing and manufacturing industries are the perfect places to test this technology. Someday, we'll see it in our everyday lives. With AI, we may never have to touch certain things again. It's exciting.
Carl Lewis: I want an AI robot that washes and puts away the dishes!
Carl Lewis: I saw an interesting video about it on LinkedIn – robotic units flying around a warehouse. It looked like ants crawling around, working with amazing speed and accuracy. It's fun to watch. I've loved warehousing since the first day I saw it.
Carl Lewis: Chase, I like to talk to people about business communication. You grew up in a different time than me, so you've probably always had a mobile device, and using a computer didn’t happen in the middle of your life. How do you communicate most often in business? On the computer? A mobile device? Are platforms other than email important? What's your life like with communications?
Chase Linsenbigler: It's all about LinkedIn. I email and call a lot, but LinkedIn is the lifeblood of my business. I got most of my partnerships, meetings, and advisors through LinkedIn. It's easier to get ahold of people, and I love that you can put a name to a face.
Chase Linsenbigler: I meet people at conferences and talk to them. Then I can message them on LinkedIn. “It was great talking with you at the conference" and mention what we talked about to jog their memory. Then they see my face on my profile and say, "I remember that kid. We had a good conversation." And they come back, and we can pick up where we left off.
Chase Linsenbigler: That's the beauty of LinkedIn. If I emailed, they might not recognize my name or remember the conversation. It’s easy to forget someone after talking to people nonstop for three days at a conference. LinkedIn creates a community atmosphere. Even if they don't remember your name or face, they can look at your profile and see where you are and where you've been.
Chase Linsenbigler: With LinkedIn, it's not just you asking them for something or vice versa; it's a community where you have conversations, stay in touch, like their posts, see what they’re doing and vice versa, etc. You have a relationship with them, even if you're not constantly talking with them, so if something comes up, you’re in each other's networks and can help each other. That’s been a saving grace for my business. It’s the only reason I'm here.
Carl Lewis: Do you access LinkedIn on a computer and your mobile device?
Chase Linsenbigler: At home, I'm on the computer all the time – basically, I wake up, open my laptop, and have LinkedIn up. I also have my email and whatever else I'm doing up, but I check on LinkedIn throughout the day. If I need a break, I search through my recommended people on LinkedIn to see if there's anyone I recognize.
Chase Linsenbigler: And I always have my phone. If I get a notification from LinkedIn while I’m at the gym or out to eat, I'm right there. I can usually quickly reply or at least read it and reply shortly. LinkedIn makes it easy. So does email. It's all at the tips of our fingers.
Carl Lewis: Definitely.
Carl Lewis: You've ventured into the area of being a trusted advisor. Businesses choose a product, and you come in as a third-party technology consulting company to help them deploy it. What are the biggest challenges for working with companies as a third party?
Chase Linsenbigler: It all comes down to culture. When I’m going to work with a client, they tell me what they need from me. Then they expect me to do it my way.
Chase Linsenbigler: That's not what I want. I want to be tied into their culture and understand the company so I can do it the best way. I want to leave a lasting impression. I want to give you something you’ll use long term. I want to ensure what I do sticks around. The best way is to become part of their culture, understand how they do things, then get in their head. I want to truly stand for your business. That's how to make a difference.
Chase Linsenbigler: The hard part is getting the opportunity to go in, meet them, get into warehouses or factories, and see how everything runs. Learn how frontline employees feel, think, and do things. Talk to c-suite employees to learn how they want me to guide the company. Assimilate to the culture, so I leave the best product on the table. That's the biggest challenge – getting introduced to the culture, having a chance to understand it, and being part of the team.
Carl Lewis: Definitely. There are too many stories of consultants showing up, disappearing into a closet, doing their magic, and leaving. I've had customers say, "Our consultant was great – but we have no idea what they did."
Chase Linsenbigler: Exactly.
Carl Lewis: We know it's working, but if it breaks, we might not know. The pandemic affects this because it's harder to get an in-depth cultural experience virtually. You can't go to lunch, enjoy a basketball game, or do other social things during these times. It’s always a challenge, but it's even tougher these days.
Carl Lewis: Are there technologies you want to implement in your company for automating processes and things like that?
Chase Linsenbigler: Definitely. There are so many exciting things out there. I can’t implement any yet, but eventually, I'd love to. I see things people are experimenting with, and it’s impossible to predict what I’ll get to implement five years down the road. We'll be looking at a completely different landscape for these types of technologies, especially AI.
Chase Linsenbigler: For example, what they’re doing with call centers is phenomenal. Almost any time you call a customer service number, you get an automated voice. And although there are still headaches, it's 500 times better than a few years ago. So, when I'm ready to implement something like that, I can only imagine what we’ll have.
Chase Linsenbigler: The beauty of AI is that it gets smarter. It keeps growing. We're close to getting things like call centers completely automated, or at least getting the call to the right person. I can't wait for the days I can be on the phone less and spend less time training people to direct calls to the right people, or get the right information in the right person's hands because an artificial intelligence system is doing it for me.
Carl Lewis: They still sometimes have ‘auto attendants’ with phone systems. To me, it’s, "Press 1 to be confused, press 2 to be really confused, press 3 to hang up." Now, it’s gotten so intelligent that you have to listen carefully to determine if it’s a real person or not.
Carl Lewis: Are your customers effective at tracking when they start a new technology project? How do you recommend tracking the effectiveness of projects?
Chase Linsenbigler: I love this question because it's a huge missed point for many people. It's probably the most important thing about implementing new technology. We hear all the time about defined measures of success, and that’s great to talk about. But people ask, “What does the industry define as successful for a project like this? What’s important?” That’s what companies are looking at – but it's a huge miss. It's wrong because when we're talking about culture, we have to look outside ourselves and identify why we’re doing it. What’s the reason?
Chase Linsenbigler: There’s always a core reason and a million secondary reasons – and a million secondary measures of success. But there’s one primary measure that's boom or bust: this needs to happen. This needs to have a positive effect, or there was no point in this project. Say we're talking about those automated guided vehicles. The number one goal is time reduction. As we work with AI, the goal will eventually be error reduction, but right now, it's time reduction. You could have one AGV doing the job of 15 to 30 people.
Chase Linsenbigler: Time reduction is your number one goal, which might lead to things like error and cost reduction. There will be great secondary results like that, but you have to pinpoint the number one thing. Ask, “Why am I doing this?” Then, when you're looking at the financial aspect and getting ready to implement, that's the main goal. Don’t focus on, "How does the industry define good? How do our partners define good?" It's, "How do we define good?"
Carl Lewis: That's smart.
Carl Lewis: Chase, it's been great talking with you. I’m excited about your business and how you see the future. I’ll check back in a few months to see how things are going.
Chase Linsenbigler: I appreciate you having me; thank you.
Carl Lewis: Absolutely. And for everyone else out there, please stay connected.