I know I said it in the title of this article, but I’m saying it again: I can’t wait for AI to replace me.
Let me clarify because I’m not talking about letting robots do what I love doing, like teaching other founders how to leverage creativity and curiosity to unlock possibilities. Or advising brands on identifying and seizing novel opportunities and devising unconventional growth strategies.
I’m talking about a prevalent problem for us founders, which is getting trapped in the details of Every. Little. Thing. Instead of channeling your energy into creating and executing winning strategies, your power and motivation are zapped by lower-value work.
Ditto with employees who work with you and support you. If they’re doing rote, time-sucking tasks, then they’re not available to help you work faster, more efficiently, and at a higher level.
This is not to say there aren’t some legit concerns about the impact of generative AI on the workforce, but I’m with Bill Gates when he says:
“The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”
And to the forward-obsessed founder, I say: You will distinguish yourself by how well you use it.
In this article, I’m sharing a few ways I’m using AI to revolutionize how I work to inspire you and hopefully get you thinking about all the many ways you can leverage the power of today’s technology. I’m here to help you envision a future that includes an autonomous agent (aka a digital personal assistant) and other AI-powered tools that amplify your productivity — and with it, profitability — exponentially.
Modernize Your Meetings
Meetings, though necessary, can be the bane of a founder’s existence. We spend around a third of our week in meetings. And if you’re in marketing and advertising like me, research says you’re packing in an average of nearly 21 meetings per month — and even that sounds light to me.
Now, chances are, most of your meetings are at least in part on Zoom or another conferencing tool, and you’re hopefully using AI-enabled platforms like Otter.ai or Fathom to transcribe, summarize, and provide highlights.
That’s a start, but it doesn’t make meetings less painful or more productive. What you (and I) really need is a punch list of action items deployed seconds after the meeting ends so everyone can get to work and we can all be accountable to each other. This includes:
- Who promised what to whom?
- What deadlines, milestones, and other time-sensitive tasks were discussed and agreed upon?
- Which topics got people psyched?
- Any missed agenda items?
- What juice, inspiration, and key takeaways came out of the meeting?
- Was the meeting productive? Could it have been shorter? Or, on the other hand, did we need more time?
Forward-obsessed means that every minute of your day should point you toward done and next. So, I’ve been experimenting with programming and configuring AI tools and platforms specific to what I want to get out of meetings. Topping my list is doubling down on energy and good ideas — here’s an example anyone can use that uses the built-in Notion AI feature:
The better your questions, the better your answers. Same idea with your prompts — so, for example, I tell the Notion AI:
Note: NotionAI uses Open AI’s GPT-3.5-Turbo model, which isn’t as advanced as GPT4, due to costs.
That’s just Part One. Part Two is to have AI keep track of everything, so you don’t have to, with a prompt like this:
Assign tasks to the people discussed, with deadlines, and send them a reminder email about their deliverables. If the person was talked about but not present in the meeting, send them their assignments, ask them to review their tasks, and tell them to contact me with any questions. Copy me on those emails.
Now, let’s say you are hosting a webinar and addressing a topic you’re an expert in. For example, in my case, it might be common challenges that startup founders face. The presentation is insightful and well-researched, so why not turn the information you’ve shared into content for your website?
Here’s a prompt you could use:
Act like an expert content marketer who’s writing a concise, informative, searchable FAQ startup founders facing common challenges. Read the content below and put it in an FAQ format where you insert the question and end with a question mark. Underneath each question, insert the answer. Output it all in a markdown format that can easily be used on a website dedicated to answering startup founders’ questions.
Voila! Meetings become something different: a place to GSD (Get Sh*t Done).
Talk Numbers With Your Business
If you’re like me, your business is your baby. It keeps me up at night and wakes me up early. And top of mind for me always is: What can I do to help nurture my company so everyone has what they need to grow and scale?
Much like I feel about my own toddler, I often wish my business could just tell me, in plain English, what’s happening each day with its growth. What’s starting to develop? Where are there roadblocks impeding progress? Is anything out there giving my business a hard time?
Sure, I have employees and capable leaders who can give me their take on the health and well-being of the business. I can wait for quarterly and year-end reports. But if I want a pure, unadulterated look at what’s going on in the business at a moment’s notice, I’m better off going right to the source and lifeblood of the business: the financials.
To be clear, I’m talking about something different than scanning sales reports at the end of a day — that’s like listening to your kid tell you things are good (or bad) for two minutes when they jump in your car after school. AI can help you have a richly detailed conversation with your business financials by digging into your P&Ls and cash flow forecasts.
One important note: Never put financial data directly into ChatGPT because they train on your data, and confidentiality goes out the window. I’m talking about using LLM’s (large language models) APIs to interact and interpret this data.
So, here’s my use case: I often invest in companies, and recently, a promising startup was pitching me to be an investor. While things looked fine on the surface, I noticed that the founder stumbled on a simple question: What does your cash flow projections look like?
This bothered me, so I decided to have a “chat” with AI to get a second opinion. I quickly built a custom Natural Language user interface (NLUI) with OpenAI’s API and some simple tools to look under the hood, so to speak. Sure, I could have done this easily the way I’ve done it for ten years in Excel, but where’s the fun in doing the same thing again? 😜
So I asked the company’s financials: When will the company run out of money? And it came back with a scary answer that gave me the answer in a matter of moments — no PivotCharts or fancy formulas needed.
You don’t need to have any programming experience to be able to talk to spreadsheets and other data sources. For example, Microsoft Fabric enables non-technical users to interact with all kinds of data for collaborating and doing ad hoc analysis in Excel. Its “copilot” feature empowers you to do all sorts of things, from creating custom reports to setting up automation based on triggers.
The more you can take action on your data, the more your data can activate you.
The beauty of AI is it helps you to comb through massive quantities of information quickly. You can then have a human-like conversation with your financial statements as if it were a living, breathing entity.
And if you’re wondering whether I invested in that startup or not… well, let’s just say once I had a virtual heart-to-heart with its financials, I had a change of heart and passed on the opportunity.
Relieve Yourself of Robotic Tasks
Recently, The Hustle surveyed AI professionals and CEOs about whether we should automate the CEO.
The answer was mixed, but they, like me, recognized that many rote jobs can and should be automated.
Now, the Hustle was primarily focused on giant corporations with fat-cat CEOs being paid an exorbitant sum and rewarded for mediocre (or worse) jobs.
Startup founders, in my experience, regardless of if their title is “CEO,” tend to be more hands-on and less generously compensated. So, automating some of our tasks can pay huge dividends to all involved.
I’m currently using AI for almost all of the items on the chart above and then some. Here are just a few examples:
- Value prop and case study discovery
- Integrating AI-enabled FP&A tools to reduce financial SG&A costs
- Competitor research
- Atomizing the content I create to promote my business (i.e., the Forward Obsessed podcast and Forward Obsessed Founder newsletter) by drafting and posting threads/carousels/stories/posts for social media use
- Drafting and reviewing contracts and various sales operations
- Meal prep ideas, ordering food, and designing workouts (we founders must take care of ourselves!)
For example, here’s an actual prompt I use for value proposition discovery:
Simple right? That’s the point; you (and I) waste a lot of our valuable time doing things that aren’t hard but are time-consuming. Or, we delegate tasks to other humans, but we seldom stop to consider if that’s the best use of their time — and the organization’s money.
You became a founder to change the world with your ideas, perspectives, and the problems you seek to solve. Stop letting the busyness of business slow you down by using AI to replace you for all of the time- and energy-sucking tasks you handle daily. When you do, you’ll stop being a robot, churning through the same old obligations, and free yourself up to innovate and grow your business.
What’s something you wish you could automate? How are you using AI-powered tools to get back hours in your week? Let me know in the comments.