Fall In Love With Your Problem

Fall In Love With Your Problem

Andrew & Patrick

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs

9/28/2020

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Fall In Love With Your Problem

Know the problem that you're trying to solve and fall in love with it. Don't flirt around it, don't think about the money, don't think about any of that stuff. Think about what you're trying to solve.

Be really, really, really good about that. Go very narrow. Think about it, go broad, but really narrow in on one thing that you can be really good at and solve. The moment that you lose your focus on that, you start to run into problems.



The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

know the problem that you're trying to solve and fall in love with it don't flirt around it don't don't think about the money don't think about any of that stuff think about what you're trying to solve be really really really good about that go very narrow like you know think about everything with it go broad but really narrow in on one thing that you can be really good at and solve and the moment you lose your focus on that you start to run into problems [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey and i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several businesses to seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help start up some small businesses with their patents and trademarks and uh today on the show we have a couple great guests and i think this is the second episode that we've done where we actually have a couple people on so you guys aren't the first but you're close to it but we have uh andrew kennedy and uh patrick mcwilliams and uh they are the founders of work entropy um a little bit about at least andrew um so he was kind of an entrepreneur had entrepreneur parents um that his parents did their own janitorial service grew up in the midwest and then they moved their family around around a lot came to california where he grew up and then started everywhere from call center positions over to workforce management and now data analytics and now where you're at today so with that as much of an introduction welcome to the podcast thank you so much i appreciate you having us on here really excited so i'll let you guys direct a little bit of your journey but you know as we as the typical show goes we have the inventive journey which is kind of the journey that led up to where you know you guys are at today with work entropy so maybe uh if you guys want to fill us in a little bit more on kind of the journey that either one and or both of you are taking to get to where you guys are at today yeah um patrick since he knows a little bit more about me and we talked i think maybe you could start with yours and we can fill in some of the blanks fair fair um yes i i guess the whole um you know entrepreneurial ship um you know bringing the family i guess holds true for me as well too my dad owned uh you know a couple businesses um in music so i have a profound love for music and karaoke actually um you know he's also a carpenter too so i learned a lot of things from him early on in life as far as you know just working with my hands and my my first career was actually doing custom body work and collision repair so i started off in a completely different path in life and now i'm a software engineer so it's it was a long path here as well um but yeah i mean i like that going from carpenter to then what was it after carpenter body mechanic bodywork no so yeah so uh custom bodywork and inclusion repair uh was actually my first career uh i actually decided to get into the family business of carpentry um but that only lasted less than i think six months and i ruptured a couple discs in my back and so it kind of forced me down this this other path in life so it was it was a good fortunate accident i guess in a sense all right so far to take you have you or you know patrick and your family was kind of more in the carpentry and it sounds like if i remember right and correct me from andrew you were kind of the janitorial or your family's in the janitorial business yeah there's there's some more details of that story makes it quite interesting so i'll elaborate on a little a little bit not too much cut me off if i get too long-winded but my parents originally met in new jersey at a church because my mother was the daughter of a pastor and at the time my father and grandfather were running a janitorial business in new jersey so they'd regularly clean uh clean the the church and they actually met there one one night and uh he fell in love with the family happy ending story so on and so forth fast forward um i came into the picture in the late 80s in nebraska and we traveled in iowa illinois until about 13 where i moved to new york and my father finally got into the corporate world in the late 80s and that's why we were moving because he kept getting promoted he was a terminal manager for a freight company called consolidated freightways so he managed terminals and all the operations and the logistics and the sales and really everything so it's pretty funny because he actually left that job and got back into teaching which what he did earlier in his career with academia and when we moved to new york he ended up teaching our private high school we went to and then substituting at the high school that my brother went to across the street and then after we graduated they got back into uh picking up uh ajax was the name of the company uh janitorial service so my mother and father actually for about five to ten years i can't remember the exact range but they actually got back into the cleaning business so they ended up moving to florida because my brother relocated there he was in culinary so he went to a culinary school there and left florida so they ended up with him and i didn't want to go with the humidity so i headed out west to san diego and at the time i was very fortunate because i was working in a call center at time warner cable at the time and they had the same analyst position in san diego so i transplanted across the country and that's how i ended up on the west coast and uh it really taught me a lot in terms of uh almost like a gypsy life in terms like we've always done different different professions and different hobbies and different locations that we've lived in fact my first job was in the service industry as a busboy at the cambridge hotel which is in upstate new york very famous for uh home of paella mode and it's just an interesting way that i journeyed through life to end up as eventually a product manager and intuit because of my call center and operational experiences to build workforce management tools interaction analytics like speech analytics and stuff so it's really cool to see all of that culminate so with all that so both of you guys have i would say you said gypsy type journeys but you would you know kind of wove in it woven it out and whatnot between a few different careers you know a few different paths with your family and working with family business i find it interesting that at least at some point both of you guys came from family businesses or worked in family businesses for a period of time before striking it out on your own so how did you guys kind of connect up together how did you come up with the idea of entropy or what what was the path that connected you guys together that led you to where you're at today i've got to give credit to patrick on that one i'll let him tell that story yeah it's interesting how andrew's path led him to san diego um and and my path actually led me out of san diego i i was born and raised in san diego i recently moved to sacramento a few years ago for family reasons um i'm a father and when i when i was in san diego uh how long ago was that now maybe 10 years ago close to andrew started working at time warner cable in the call center that was kind of a transition period for me i used to be in i.t prior to that job then 10 12 years ago the iit industry collapsed i could not find work at all so i started working at time warner cable as technical support and andrew was working there in the ops and you know while i was there i essentially reinvented my career in software by writing some in-house application um it was really to protect myself they had no way of the agents to be able to tell how long they were on calls how many transfers they had these are all things that you're measured on you lose your job over i realized the information was on the computer and i wrote a quick application so that way i can see those those stats live so that way i knew what i was doing and i could actually not get fired um andrew working in austin dealt with those reports figure out what would get you fired yeah yeah yeah exactly and andrew worked on the side of making those those monthly reports um so he he saw directly how it impacted everybody because it became this weird little bootleg application that started getting passed around the call center because people saw it on my computer and they're like what's that and i'm like oh i don't want you getting fired so i gave him a usb with it and we weren't allowed to have that obviously so just everybody started using it and then all of a sudden management was like where did this come from uh so you know i owned up to it and they actually made it an official part of their um software um they actually ended up you know deploying it to other regions as well too i ended up increasing productivity like 20 or something but for me it was like i'm not getting fired so that that helps out yeah i i have to tell my side of the story because it was awesome right so i had recently so this is in 2012 i moved from upstate new york at the albany call center and we had just finished going through massive regionalization so we started taking syracuse calls we are already taking up state new york we started taking new york city calls even some of the carolinas they were centralizing all the customer support sales started to go to the south you started to see some of that uh segregation in terms of the skill in the call center so i had just gone through all the headaches of reporting and the training different billing systems you know starting as an agent you know going through and using it really helped me in the leadership role to guide and trade agents so when i came out to the west coast we um i was basically in that analyst role and they were starting the same thing san diego was starting to take la calls they had a new signature home white glove service and they were even taking calls from nebraska all over the place so really what it came down to is these call centers were like hey if we're the most efficient taking the calls we get the volume so there was this huge push for management on performance and handle time and transfer rates and truck rolls all these costs you know reducing the cost of the cost center so for me it was really exciting because like oh wow we're actually able to hit our handle times better like we're able to leverage our staff now because now the agents have this direct control of their performance and they're earning more money on their on their performance bonuses and as an analyst it made my capacity planning a lot better so once we started seeing this i was like i need to meet this patcher guy and every time it went down i swear it was like 30 seconds 60 second uptick in handle time transfer rates would start skyrocketing because the agents had their blinders they didn't know they like because because when you're taking back-to-back calls all day you know you don't really keep track of how many calls you've transferred right you're like oh you know maybe it was a couple of an hour but when you have that in front of you and you have the information it's very clear to you like oh man i my 10 i'm at 10 transfer rate already i better not transfer calls so maybe i'll really dig in maybe my handle time will go up but i won't transfer for phone calls so it was just really cool dynamic to see how he applied that and um the morale actually was boosted from the agents management liked it it was really like a win-win-win like this pirated program that he was running a script on um and i think he later on he told me once you left it it ended up breaking and they were trying to get him to come back and fix it but they they didn't want him to pay him to do it so i was like all right well you can't have everything for free so it's just a really good story and it kind of embodies um i i think just just us and in terms of our relationship and and how that's really how it started so um you know how many people like messaged me after i left because they upgraded their phone systems and so that that caused my application not to work because it was a completely different phone system afterwards um but how many people text me was like begging me to like come back help me please we can't work without it but it was just a simple little tool that you know and that's that's always how it is um prior to working at time warner cable when i got into ip uh my transition out of working on cars was a similar thing that worked for a company um named solera which is actually a very huge company then i was like the 14th employee at the time though um but you know there same thing uh one of the other supervisors was saying saying i wasn't doing my work when i was actually doing it really fast and i kind of just stumbled upon learning how to do web scraping through an excel spreadsheet with vba to dump all the comments from everybody like in our little center to bring a report to my boss to say no i'm doing my work i'm actually doing double the work of everybody else um but even even that that's what catapulted me into my i.t position so it was it's always these you know things of me trying to defend myself and using the tools that i have available to me that brings these these things about for me and then that's that's how work entropy came about same thing basically so that's that would be a good sign so i mean if i were to summarize you guys are both working different positions or did a little bit different you were in uh andrew you're a bit more management patrick or you were more on the floor and you know you you guys kind of connected up via the tool you made here you the tool you created is getting enough of traction and people using it that you connect it up so with that then so how did you guys then these after that what made you guys leave com it was a comcast is that my right time warner cable sorry i got they're close enough there's so many yeah that's all this is now a spectrum and then they all buy each other they really all are recessious anyway but yeah pretty much time warner cable you're out there what made you guys it sounds like if i remember that then you you jumped over to work entropy which is where you guys are at now is that right or is there anything in between there the pretty big gap in between actually we really formed a friendship first before the work entropy part came about um so we became friends at time warner cable because of that and then stayed in touch so yeah and both ended up leaving time warner cable for a period of time where did you guys each go and then how did you guys connect back up for work entropy so for me um this one's i can fast forward to pretty simply so again starting as an agent in new york at the call center coming out in the analyst role i had gathered a lot of experience with call center technology so what was really cool is now there's this big need for customer success customer experience and service centers so i ended up in the technology segment so i ended up going to mitchell international actually i got poached through linkedin so this is the first time i got my a job through linkedin and i was needed there basically to come into their service center help them organize all of their workflow processes reporting the slas what mitchell international is in short is um they started out in the 50s with the um goes back to auto like all the auto parts to body shops to give estimates for for parts and i was on the medical service side because in recent years they added on basically estimating software for insurance so medical claims so like all-state liberty mutual like those big companies they would use our software to process medical claims so i came into the service center and basically everything was manual when i came in and by the time i left after three years we had automated all the data ingestion from our vendors that did the processing we had tableau dashboards we had automated and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in sla violations just simply because we got visibility to the data to understand where the bottlenecks in the workflows how do we measure turnaround time how do we adjust staffing and work with our vendors and give them that information so that they can be proactive instead of reactive so for me that was a huge learning experience that really set me up to be successful and ultimately get a job at intuit which i don't typically tell this to people but a year before i started working there actually interviewed for a capacity planning position something that i had years of experience and it failed i completely bombed the interview i had a demo to had an excel demo that i went into the interview it was all fancy had my vba scripts all this stuff for my years of experience i'm like i'm gonna make this super cool i go in there i change one number everything goes negative and the thing just crashes right so needless to say i didn't get the job but a year later hit up again on linkedin and it was for a temporary contractor position for business systems analyst and i was basically coming in to help with the customer center technology and that was with workforce management the call tools pretty pretty much everything telephony that all of the business units used it into it so that was quickbooks turbotax mint all these different segments um and in fast forwarding um this is where me and patrick came in contact again around that same time when i was a contractor into it patrick started over in the turbo tax segment as uh in data engineering so our past crossed again out of complete randomness i think he just messaged me one day he's like hey man i'm working it into it what are you doing i'm like uh you on camera no you forget you got me the job you forgot that part i did well i'm not gonna take credit for it even if i did but okay that sounds better if i embellish it right you know so anyways we crossed paths together cross paths again message each other on linkedin and then how did that then evol evolve into uh work entropy uh how did you guys you guys started the message started to connect up and then how did that say hey we got an idea for a new startup or a new business or hey i've always i've been working on this project on the side or hey what let's get together to figure out a new company how did you guys get together or make that connection or decide okay we're going to reconnect and get going on this startup oh let's pick that part up yeah yes one of the interesting parts is of how like paths cross and and you know everything along the way just to point out um andrew was talking about his time at mitchell which interestingly all the executives from the company uh solera that i was talking about earlier left from mitchell to create celera and is now one of mitchell's primary competitors um so it's just it's interesting how you know especially in san diego even as big as san diego as you know this thing is kind of you know that didn't flow as far as this industry even um but yeah so after i started working at um intuit yeah me and andrew you know we started hanging out a little bit more talking more started working a little more closely there as well too and and one time i was hanging out his house um i won't go into the details of that story as a story for another time but uh we started talking about you know how do we solve something like homelessness um that's actually something that i have dealt with a few times in my life personally um that time period between um being in it and getting the job at um time warner cable i was actually homeless um like there was a point in time where i was actually on the streets like living in a bush so that job at time warner cable got my life started back up again basically so that that's a very um crucial time in life for me personally uh so me and andrew had this conversation about you know that that's something that shouldn't exist that's something that you know it really wouldn't require much effort to do but how do you do that um and the takeaway we have in that conversation uh really was you know that people are a resource or can be a resource um but that the world doesn't view them or allow them to be in certain ways um and and so then we left that conversation and we're like okay but how how do we make people a resource and we just we couldn't figure that part out right like how do you make somebody valuable but not valuable to the point of where they're exploited right um and so years went by and we kept that conversation going and we're like you know how do how do we you know solve this and we keep adding pieces to it through you know our own life experiences and when i moved to sacramento um three years ago [Music] without getting too far into that story it wasn't by choice i am a co-parent and my ex-wife and her husband had to move here so i had to move here as well too um and the company that i worked for at the time um laid me off a week after i moved here so that put me in a very bad position um so what i had done prior to moving i was familiar with the gig economy i was familiar with like uber lyft uh instacart um doordash you know all these companies and so i think maybe a year before um i moved here and i was familiar with them i was like you know what let me let me do something about my situation in case i ever get into a situation like i was in years ago when i was actually homeless um let me make sure that i sign up for these platforms learn about them see what they are um so if i ever get into that situation again i have a backup plan you know instead of trying to job hunt i can use that as a backup plan to to stay afloat um and you know it i knew it wasn't going to make it as easy as having a full-time job but i knew that it would be better than nothing and i wanted to learn about it um so the opportunity happened when i moved here and got laid off um and so i started to you know i got back onto those apps that i had tried out and i started doing deliveries with instacart and postmates grubhub i think was another one of them and i just started really learning about them there and i started really understanding you know how they work and some of the inefficiencies there and it's not necessarily the platform's um uh problem it's just a whole ecosystem problem that we started to identify right it's part of that is that a lot of people who do these do this work as gig workers independent contractors they're used to being employees they don't know how to be independent contractors so because of that there's a lot of slack the platforms have to pick up and so i started understanding some of the inefficiencies there so i created a quick proof of concept app for myself just like i did in the three other time or the two other times in my past where it you know was a career changer for me in it um when i started my software path in this case here i created a quick poc that allowed me to get more information on the jobs that were available um and be able to to select more efficient jobs for me so that way it was more profitable without me just taking any random job and not understanding the cost of it um because a lot of the problems are just not understanding your costs you're out of pocket costs and so that takes away all of your your your net you know um so i created a quick you know proof of concept on that it was actually helping me out you know i had kept andrew in the loop this whole time and i was like hey you know what this is something that you know if we can identify these pain points in the gig economy um that we can really do something positive for all the independent contractors so that way it's not a a a thing that people can bridge or to keep them afloat but actually be full-time work some that can be profitable for both sides for the good workers for the platforms they're struggling with profitability as well too but a lot of that is just kind of waste and excess because of them having to pick up the slack from the independent contractor side um so we're like how do we create a platform that can uh do this and that's really where work entropy came from um and andrew can probably give some of his insight from his side of things you know i'm i'm the i'm the engineer and he's the business side so yeah yeah i know and just kind of real quickly because that's that's the bulk of the story right there and um continuing from where i was how i really got involved with the gig economy was in my time it into it um i quickly transitioned into a product manager role but i didn't quickly transition into a full-time role i was actually a contractor for almost 18 months and almost my contract over almost expired so every day that i was there i was like you know this is a learning opportunity i'm blessed to have this opportunity you know what can i learn how can i impact the company and this company is doing great things i love the people i worked with but there was always this gap between the employee and the contractor didn't get the full benefits couldn't go to the on-site meetings you know there's these vague lines that you know people tried to make it as welcoming as possible at the end of the day still was an employee i eventually um you know crossed the line and came full time and it was awesome but the important piece of that journey was that i was closely involved with the turbo tax live program and this was really revolutionary for them because this is like bringing live cpa tax advice to the consumer as a consumer service and this really shifted a lot of their business models towards you know to the normal sas to really services that they started to provide and at the time some of the huge problems that they were presented with was the way to schedule these workers they you know we had to treat them like as an employee so we didn't have any other mechanism so we were hiring them but we needed to give them the freedom to have a flexible schedule because they were cpas they had their own practices or they had their own jobs or they were going to school and they had these really weird hours and workforce management platforms just had no concept of handling that um the closest was european companies and european platforms they have a lot of unions and different regulations and they have a lot of strikes and all these crazy business rules but it still wasn't quite fitting so while i was there as a product manager we built flexible scheduling services to actually help with the hiring process and managing the real-time schedules to help us get our capacity filled without over hiring and having excess because i think the first year it was you know we overshot and over scheduled and it cost millions of dollars on extra operational cost so going to patrick's point i can only imagine the complexity that you know i got to see firsthand when i went to a two-sided marketplace at long love actually another story for another time but i got to see that at the startup level of getting the the the contractors and getting the consumers and paying the cost of acquisition on both sides it's very expensive and in the meanwhile you have the same services that people can provide every day but now you have technology to make that easier but really we're making it more complicated so with work entropy that's really our goal is to simplify things and just get us back to the basics and how do we connect people with a service and help really anyone be their own business and thrive in any economy whether it's a recession or or downturn or if it's thriving so so far to do and there are a lot of rabbit holes that we can go down and you know unfortunately we don't have time for all the rabble holes but maybe what i'll do is so i think that that it it's an interesting journey and i think it's interesting kind of be able to hear kind of how the two co-founders are both coming together how you guys took different paths how you met each other how you diverged how you came back and now how you guys are working on that and so i think that you know and then what you guys are doing to solve the problem if i avoid all the rabbit holes what maybe do is jump to i always ask a couple questions at the end of the podcast we're kind of reaching towards the end so maybe what i'll do is i'll split it or split one question for each of you and you can each answer one of them so maybe on i'll let you guys decide which question you want to answer but the first question i always ask is so what was the worst business decision he ever made the worst business decision um is that you or me patrick i don't know um i'm not i'm not gonna say worse but they're i guess i can go into um you know i've been a part of a couple of startups and walking away from them just washing my hands from both of them may have not been the best decision on both of them solera being one of them um especially with them being a multi-billion dollar company now um but at the same time the what i learned to get me to where i'm at now came from that so i think those were also probably very wise decisions in some respects but definitely kicking myself in the butt on some of them so all right so patrick took the first question so now i get asked andrew the second question he's gonna get to get out of it now if you're gonna take talking to somebody that's just getting the startups just getting into small businesses what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them know the problem that you're trying to solve and fall in love with it don't flirt around it don't don't think about the money don't think about any of that stuff think about what you're trying to solve be really really really good about that go very narrow like you know think about everything with it go broad but really narrow in on one thing that you can be really good at and solve and the moment you lose your focus on that you start to run into problems and in my career that's where i've seen it and that's where i've learned the most and that's where my failures have come which means that's where my lessons have come from so that's something that we're that we're very focused on here at work entropy we want to solve one problem and that's to help enable a more prosperous gig economy for everybody all right lots of lessons to learn interesting journey never have enough time always things i want to talk about two more but i think it was uh fun to hear how you guys got toured out well people want to is there if they're in the gig economy they want to whether it's user software invest in you guys become an employee just get connect up with you guys or anything across the board what's the best way to connect with you guys yeah i mean um we can go to our website work entropy.com plenty of information there you know we like to reach out personally as well too so our we also have our linkedin as well um for both of us um we we networking is what got us here so you know that's that's one of the things that we love to do more than anything else all right so either go to your website or reach out to you guys on linkedin and that's the best way to connect so well perfect well i appreciate you guys coming on it was fun to hear your journey always wish we had more time but never enough time or in the day um but um thank you for sharing and for those of you that are listeners who you have an interesting journey to tell and uh would like to come on or be a guest on the podcast and tell it feel free to go to inventivejourneyguest.com and sign up or reply to be a guest on the show and for those of you that are listeners make sure to click subscribe so you get the notifications of new as new episodes come out and lastly if you ever need any help with the patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law well patrick and andrew thank you again for coming on it was fun to have you and hear your journey and uh wish you the next delay of your journey the best appreciate thank you very much appreciate it [Music] you English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded

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