Building an Inspiring Business Using AI & Automation

5 months ago
Building an Inspiring Business Using AI & Automation Image

CEO Brad Weber of InspiringApps joined Adam Torres on the Mission Matters Podcast to announce his new book and dive into InspiringApps’ latest insights on the business applications of artificial intelligence. The discussion explores challenges and lessons learned in growing a company, emphasizing the significance of a strong team and strategic decision-making, and predicting the future of AI from revolution to best practice.

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Key Takeaways

AI & Automation

AI is transforming how we create solutions.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a significant force in our lives, particularly through our mobile devices. AI can predict our routes and provide traffic information, making it a useful tool for automation and more. 

Representing one specific type of AI, ChatGPT has gained popularity because of its ability to generate content. However, there has been a backlash due to concerns about copyright infringement.

Despite this, companies like InspiringApps are finding ways to integrate generative AI capabilities into products, creating more targeted solutions for consumers.

We need to approach AI implementation thoughtfully.

Overall, AI presents both opportunities and challenges for businesses, and it’s crucial to approach its implementation thoughtfully.

While some see potential benefits, others worry about job security. For example, starting out as a copywriter in this space may be challenging, as entry-level positions could be affected. 

Large companies initially reacted with fear to ChatGPT, but now they are seeking guidance to understand the technology better and implement best practices within their organizations.

Building an Inspiring Business

Complex business challenges are no match for inspirational leadership.

In his chapter of the new book, Brad discusses the challenges and importance of growing a successful company and cultivating a winning culture. He emphasizes the need for a strong team and a solid organizational structure.

The concept of “team” is crucial to Brad. He has found that having a cohesive leadership team and solid continuity across all roles in the organization is essential. InspiringApps invests in meeting its team’s needs and involving everyone in decision-making, making it a great place to work and keeping turnover low.

Brad also addresses the idea of creating cool stuff for clients versus building a real business. He shares a personal story about being “slapped with a backhanded compliment.” In this experience, Brad came to realize the need for long-term sustainability and formalizing roles for success.

InspiringApps is as nimble as a startup but as mature as an enterprise when it comes to app development capabilities. As the company continues to grow, the team recognizes the importance of understanding its strengths and bringing value to clients, whether they are startups or large enterprises.

Entrepreneurship & App Development

“Despite having many business degrees, I’ve made many business mistakes.”

BRAD WEBER, CEO | INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO

Brad shares his experiences and mistakes, hoping that others can learn from them. He believes that learning from both “triumphs and goofs” is valuable.

  • Growing a company is fraught with risk.
  • Cultivating a winning culture requires an employee-based team.
  • A flat org structure will only take you so far.
  • Create cool stuff for clients or build a real business.

To get the full story on topics like these, buy the book on Amazon today!

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Business & Strategy

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16 hours ago

AI Artificial Intelligence

Thriving in the New AI Era: Book Announcements, FAQ, & More

In the latest conversation with Adam Torres of Mission Matters, Brad Weber, CEO of InspiringApps, announces his newly released audiobook and discusses the importance of connecting with customers through digital products, especially in the new AI era.  Nearly everyone we work with is asking about the impact of AI. But there’s a need to focus on solving specific challenges rather than just following trends.  In addition to these AI insights, Brad shares his perspective on how to thrive in an industry that’s constantly evolving. He emphasizes the significance of leadership, company culture, and strong collaboration in navigating entrepreneurial challenges and ultimately driving brand success. Key Takeaways Announcing the launch of an audiobook featuring various authors, including Brad. The importance of connecting with customers through digital products. Insights on the impact of AI and automation on businesses, emphasizing the need to focus on solving specific challenges. Differentiators from creating a strong company culture and retaining long-term employees. The significance of leadership and team collaboration in driving success in the industry. Watch the Replay Read the Transcript Adam: I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest on the show, just head over to Missionmatters.com and click on be our guest to apply. All right. So today is a special episode, maybe even a commemorative episode. We’re celebrating the launch of our very first audiobook as a company. This has been a long, long time coming. If we were musicians, this would be our greatest hit, but since we’re not, it’s our best-of series. For all of the books, we published over 400 authors, curated some of the top authors in that collection, and put them all together. They were game enough to want to read their chapters and participate in the creative and construction process, so that’s what we’re here to celebrate today. I brought one of the authors—he’s wonderful—back onto the show. Brad has been a guest multiple times. Brad Weber, for those who do not know him, is the President and CEO of InspiringApps. Welcome back. Brad: It’s great to be back. Adam: So, Brad, we’re going to get into, of course, your content in the book and the audiobook. I’m curious to hear how the recording process was for you. Because that’s always interesting, but before we do all that, we start this episode with our “Mission Matters minute.” So, Brad, at Mission Matters, our aim is to amplify stories and get them out there for business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives. That’s what we do. Brad, what Mission Matters to you? Brad: I’m passionate about helping brands connect with their customers by designing and building digital products that their customers love. Adam: I love it. It’s great to have you back, and I’d like to jump right in here to celebrate recording the audiobook. I know one of the engineers who worked on the book. He’s actually in the background doing the controls, so it’s okay. Jack, close your ears. Brad, what was it like recording your portion of the audiobook? Brad: It was fantastic. I’ll return to your opener, inviting others who want to be guests on your show to endorse you and say that Adam, you, and your team have been professional and great to work with through the book and the audiobook process. I can’t say enough good things. It was also nice to connect with some other authors along the way. Yeah, but it was great, and honestly, the audiobook was easier to record and produce than I expected. Adam: Yeah. Isn’t it fun to finally hear it and like the end product, and then you hear all the voices? The audiobook is made up of about 15 different chapters, and each one has the author reading their own story. So think about it as you hear from the author in every chapter you listen to, except one that I recorded for them. But other than that, all of the authors read their stories. So, to me, it’s kind of like this surreal experience because I’ve interviewed you and talked to all of the authors before, but it’s almost like a collection of friends. Because I know everybody and I’ve worked with everybody. What was it like for you to go through and hear all of the different stories, hearing them from their voices? Brad: Yeah, it was nice for that same reason. I have not had the pleasure of speaking with everyone with whom I co-authored, so it was fun to hear. They are passionate about telling their stories as well. Adam: Yeah, it’s different to me. It was different. I was like, just as a work and a creative work, it was like, normally one person reads the whole book or this or that, or maybe even sections, but to see like each one be something different and to hear their passion for what they, you know, what, what their particular story was. It was a unique work in the marketplace. And I hope that many, many people go out and grab it because I think it’s worth listening to. That’s why we made it. I want to take a couple of steps back for some of our new listeners here, Brad, who may not have caught some of our previous work together. So, talk a bit more about InspiringApps, what you do, and how you got started to set the tone before we get into some of the content you submitted. Brad: Sure. Yeah. By way of background, InspiringApps creates digital products for companies. We develop custom digital products for enterprises and funded startups across a wide variety of industries. There has been a heavy emphasis on financial services and medical lately, but there is lots of innovation happening. The market has been really fun for us to work in. You talk about starting it. So I had my start after my master’s program, a large consulting firm, one of the global, you know, what they called the big six at the time. I don’t know how many are left now. While I learned things for sure, I realized, most importantly, that that was not the environment for me to thrive in. After a few years in that environment, I ventured out on my own and had a number of experiences starting my own thing, developing software for small businesses. Well, I tried to build up a client base, but I did not have enough clients, so I took a job for a while and went back to trying to build my own business. Adam: You have to love the entrepreneurial journey. Brad: I had a series of those until I found something that worked, and I did so independently for about a dozen years before I founded InspiringApps. As I mentioned, we’re in our 17th year and have built an all-US-based team that designs, develops, and tests various products. Adam: I love to work in a pay-it-forward question when I can. And I think I got my opening here, Brad. What kept you strong during those times when it went up and down? What kept you moving forward? Brad: Oh, my goodness. It was easier in some respects when I was on my own; there were just fewer moving parts. I think that having that success on my own helped me once I started to grow a team as things got challenging. I needed to hear my inner voice saying, “You’ve done this before; you know how to push this forward; you know how to succeed.” And that, along with having a great team to support me through this, led to the success that we’ve enjoyed. Adam: So, going further into what you’re doing right now, I know it’s been a while since we last spoke. I mean, you’re my guy when it comes to apps, anything like this, just period. I’m like, okay, Brad, what should I be thinking about? I’m hearing all this noise. All I’m hearing right now is AI, AI, AI. Brad: It’s part of almost every project conversation now. And having done this for as long as I have, it reminds me of some other trends that I’m sure your viewers will be familiar with. There was a time in my business when everybody needed a website. That was the craze, and then when the iPhone came out... Adam: We have to pause there for a second, like that’s... Some of our younger audience members will say, “That was the craze?” We have to at least laugh at this, and yes, I was around for that craze, too. Dotcom, anything with dot com, would be an amazing investment. Go ahead, please. Brad: Yes, I appreciate you calling that out, Adam. I’m sure several people just decided to tune out the old guy. Adam: No, I was there too. They better not tune out. Brad: But after that, in 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, there was another craze. Adam: It was a great craze. I think I was too busy working at that point to understand what was going on. I had just graduated college, so I was too busy doing that to have the time, but that was a great craze. I was like, what are all these lines about? What’s all this other stuff going on? What sold out the phone? Who cares? That was amazing. Brad: Yeah. During that time, it was apparent, but there were years in there when every business felt like they needed an app. They needed a mobile app to be relevant, just like the web before. And I see some commonality. The AI craze that’s happening now is fabulous. I mean, much like the introduction of the iPhone and the Android platform to follow, it’s going to impact our lives in really meaningful ways.  But what I recommend to businesses who are getting caught up in the frenzy is to focus, as you do for all things like this, on what problem you’re trying to solve. What is the challenge specifically? Then, we have loads of tools in our toolbox.  AI is a big one right now. It’s kind of a sledgehammer at the moment, but there are a lot of tools in the toolbox to solve a variety of business problems with a digital product. And that’s just one way that we can help either save people time, improve the quality of whatever it is that they’re producing, maybe offer suggestions, or slice and dice data in ways they hadn’t considered before. Those are all some of AI’s benefits, but they must serve a specific purpose and not just jump on the bandwagon because you see your competitors doing it. Adam: What excites you about AI right now? You mentioned its ability to help us or to progress us. What excites you about AI right now? It could be technology. It could be how it’s helping businesses. I mean, whatever, it doesn’t matter. It could be something just for fun. I don’t know. What excites you about AI right now? Brad: It’s phenomenal and honestly amazing to witness the rapid advancements in our industry, even for someone like me who has been in it for a long time. Not long ago, we were impressed by the ability to point your camera at a piece of fruit and have it differentiate between an apple and a banana. I thought that was great. Now, it’s writing entire articles and categorizing data in unique ways, which is impressive, as I mentioned before. What’s happening with mixed media, including photos and videos, is also noteworthy. It’s not just about working with text; it’s about generating original video or photo content from the prompts we give it, which is pretty cool. It’s interesting to think about how we might apply that for business purposes. Adam: It’s interesting to see how fast everything is moving, especially with the original written content. I don’t even need to start on video because that’s evolving rapidly as well. It changes my concept of five-year planning. Anyone in a creative field used to plan their studio for five years in advance, but now you can’t plan for more than two. For example, we are investing in large amounts of equipment used to make sense. There’s a notion that AI isn’t replacing jobs, but I can provide a specific example that contradicts that. It didn’t replace a job per se, but it replaced the need for an entire person at a conference we covered. We bought an AI camera at the last minute when the person couldn’t come, which was phenomenal. It did exactly what we needed for the size of our production. This was the first instance that directly impacted our business, Mission Matters, in terms of production. Before this, everything we added, whether to increase video quality or something else, just added a layer of improvement. This moment was more like a fork in the road. I wondered how one could plan for the next five years. Brad: That’s a great point. There’s a lot of talk about AI not taking jobs or replacing people. Jobs will disappear as a result of this technology. It might make our existing team more productive, so we don’t need to hire more people. This doesn’t necessarily mean someone gets fired because AI took their job. Adam: That’s been our experience. I’m not trying to be politically correct, but that’s just how it’s been. Now, we can accomplish more with higher-skilled individuals trained on better tools. Every employer wants their employees to feel needed, wanted, and invested in, especially when it comes to training. In my opinion, it creates a better work environment. (I wanted to clarify that in case someone thought people were losing their jobs.) Brad: I completely agree. Regarding technological advancement, ChatGPT/OpenAI has been quietly innovating for years and made significant progress last spring. I was fortunate to attend a Microsoft event in New York, where they demoed their capabilities. It was impressive even then. The updates I received in November showed tremendous progress in just six months. Now, Google is holding its developer conference this week, and they will announce new developments. We’re now about six months after that, and some of the things they’re adding to their platform are beyond what I could have imagined a year ago. It’s an impressive pace of innovation. Adam: It’s an exciting space. I tell people they should get involved in their personal and business lives. For example, Amazon updated its publishing platform, allowing you to record audiobooks using an AI voice. This completely changed our business strategy. I was debating whether to read my book myself or go to the studio, but then I participated in their beta. Within 10 minutes, an audiobook of my book was published with an AI voice. The quality was surprisingly good, making me question whether I could have done a better job myself. Considering the entire audiobook industry, if you’re a voiceover actor or own a studio, this could significantly affect your business. With the ability to produce an audiobook with a click of a button, the demand for traditional recording may decrease. I’m amazed at how quickly everything is shifting. It feels like it’s only been a year with the whole ChatGPT thing, yet it feels like it’s been a decade in my life. Brad: It’s hard to imagine what next year will hold. Adam: Oh, well, I’m going to bring you back, and I’m like, Brad, what else should I be thinking about? I want to jump around a bit here. I want to go further into the book. Everybody, I want you to pick up a copy for sure. The audiobook is live and out there, so you can hear Brad reading his chapter and work. But your title and section are important. The section was to meet business challenges and build an inspiring business. And you go through things on your journey. And lay those out for people. I think it’s a great entrepreneurial story. And I think what I like about it, too, is you don’t sugarcoat it. It’s not all fun and games, right? Why did, so why did you choose this topic? There are a lot of different things you could have written about from a lot of different angles. Why did you choose to present this? Brad: Yeah, I think your last comment about it not all being a bed of roses, so to speak, was important to me. I learn from the mistakes and trials of others. I don’t. Sometimes, it’s easier to hear those lessons and apply them and avoid those problems in your own life than it is to hear someone’s perfect path and think about how you’re going to stick to that. It’s not going to happen. There are going to be challenges. There will be things that throw you off your journey, your intended route. I think it’s valuable for me to hear how other people have dealt with adversity, and so I wanted to share some of what I walked through in my process, and hopefully, that’ll benefit someone else in a similar way. Adam: You wrote about a lot of different things, but growing a company fraught with risk and cultivating a winning culture requires an employee-based team. A flat organizational structure will only take you so far. You gave a lot of different nuggets in your journey, which is the one that I want to talk about today. The one that I want to pick out, though, is that you create cool stuff for clients. You build a real business. Talk to me about that, Brad. Brad: Yeah. This evolves a little bit. If we go back to the story of my journey that I shared, where I was working independently and what I enjoyed was making cool stuff, It was fun to demo, not only for the client that I was working with at the time but also to share with friends and others, which helped generate more business. As I founded InspiringApps, I carried those habits and practices along with me in the new business. I was trying to grow a team that worked for a while, but it wasn’t a sustainable business strategy. So, the message in that section that you’re referring to is that there are valuable business lessons to be learned, not just from other technology companies but across industries. It is extremely valuable to have a leadership team, for instance, to support me and for them to focus on parts of the business that are blind spots for me or not necessarily my strengths. It touches a bit on another section that you’d talk about growing the organization, but having team leads to be a point person for our technology teams, our developers specifically, who are really thinking about best practices and their area of focus, is critical to building something that’s sustainable longer term. We still build cool things. That’s just not the business strategy. Adam: Yeah. And what I’ll tell you is that this is something I feel all business owners kind of make these trade-offs. They just don’t word it well. Like building cool things, everybody wants to serve their company or clients. Now, with AI, this is a funny part—I didn’t even mean to tie that into the book, but when you think about all the new toys for people to start exploring with and doing. Even if it is a new technology or a new thing. I like your thinking, “Okay, well, who will lead that project? Are you going to just implement a new piece of software or a new thing because you were able to get it? Otherwise, how are you going to implement that? What’s going to be the tracking? Does it make sense for your business? Does it add to whatever objective you thought it would, or will it just be cool?” I’ll use one example that we come across often. Speaking of AI, it’s like, “Oh, now, everybody can spend 30 bucks and make a million pieces of content constantly and put it out there with the click of a button.” I’m exaggerating, but not by much. So now, for a business to think about, “Okay, does that solve the problem? Does that solve your branding presence or your presence in the marketplace, assuming that’s what you’re going for? Does that help your reach, or are you taking away from your brand by putting out a bunch of things that weren’t well thought out, and now it’s going to be hard to clean those up?” So, it’s this constant trade-off between what you’re doing publicly, obviously, and what you’re doing to build, but also what you’re doing internally, how you’re designing those processes. As you mentioned again in one of the previous segments, you talk about the organizational structure, what’s next with that, and how it develops. So, I’m a fan of the way you laid this out because it really does give an overview and some really good milestones and touchpoints, if you will, for people to reassess after they read it or, in this case, listen to it in the audiobook and go back and say, “Huh, do I need to revisit that in my organization or my situation?” There are many different takeaways and nuggets here, but if you had to narrow it down to one, what do you hope your readers will take away from this experience and from reading your work? Brad: As you mentioned, there’s a lot in there. We’ve touched on some of them. I’ll bring up a new topic that has been extremely valuable for me: the importance of company culture and how I tried to build a team of contractors in the early days. It was challenging for many reasons. Still, it’s particularly challenging to establish a company culture because if you’ve got contractors coming and going pretty frequently over time, there’s not a common thread running through your projects, running through the people who stay. Having employees on our team exclusively has made a huge difference for us. We just celebrated somebody’s 14th year at InspiringApps this week, and we’ve got another 14-year celebration coming up next month. Adam: Congratulations. That’s amazing. Brad: Many of our employees have been with us for 5, 10 years or more. This is a differentiator for us. Not only is it a pleasure to work with people you get to know over that period, but there’s so much institutional knowledge that stays in the company from project to project, which also benefits our clients. It’s been incredibly valuable. Adam: Wow. That’s amazing. Well, Brad, thank you again for participating in this most recent release of our best-of-series, volume one of Mission Matters. I’m so excited about it, and for everybody who’s watching, we’re going to put some links in the show notes so that you can click on them and head right on over and pick up a copy. Brad, if somebody wants to connect with you and your team and talk more about what you’re up to at InspiringApps, how do they do that? Brad: Our website is InspiringApps.com, and we’re fairly active on LinkedIn. You can find us there—it’s @InspiringApps. Adam: Perfect. We’ll also put those links in the show notes for everybody watching so you can head right over to InspiringApps. Speaking to the audience, if this is your first time with Mission Matters, make this show a part of your daily routine. We’re bringing you new content, thought leaders, and episodes. If that interests you, hit that subscribe button. We welcome you so you don’t miss any upcoming thought leaders and experts. And Brad, thank you again so much for coming on. Brad: My pleasure. Thanks, Adam.

2 days ago

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