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174: Discussing Workflow Efficiencies with the Process Architect Jason Sayen

Written by Rob Stott

June 27, 2023

It’s incredibly cliche to talk about the need to work on your business as opposed to in your business. But it’s in those moments where you step back to take a look at how (and why) you do things a certain way where successful businesses can target and massage pain points to create efficiency and maybe even save a little dough along the way. Jason Sayen, founder of I am Sayen, is a professional process fixer. While his experience centers around the custom integration channel, the work he does is applicable beyond the world of CI. We dive into the importance of process management, common struggles, creating buy in across your organization and much more.


 

Rob Stott: All right. We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast. Real excited today to have a guy that have a bit of history together in the industry. We’ve both taken different paths to where we are today, but excited to have you on, Mr. Jason Sayen, the founder, and I love this, process architect of I am Sayen, a company that you started that we’ll dive into. I know we got a lot to dive into today, but first of all, how are you doing, man?

Jason Sayen: I’m doing great. Yourself?

Rob Stott: Doing well. Thanks for asking. I don’t know how many times… I’ll have to go back and count. Not many. I could probably count on one hand a number of times I’ve been asked, so I appreciate that. Doing well. And like I said, just excited to have you on, catch up. I know we just saw each other not too long ago at the Oasis Summit in Nashville for Hank’s big event, his rebranded summit and diving into all that, and nice to reconnect. And you were there with us, like I said. I want to start there. Before we dive into what you do and all that awesome, exciting stuff, tell us what your experience was like at the Oasis Summit and seeing all those integrators come together, vendor partners, and be able to talk to them.

Jason Sayen: It was really great. I’ve done a lot of the different buying group events. They all have the same mission but different formats. And I thought the way that Hank put it together, just the way you guys showed the rebranding vision, which I thought was important, there was a lot of great press on it, but that presentation really painted the picture. And also, launching the new field team, timing was perfect. And just in general, the way that there was presentations followed up with group discussions and round tables and breakouts. Because a lot of times at these events there’ll be this amazing presentation by some thought leader and then it’s not for another day or so that the attendees actually get to discuss it. I just thought the way that it flowed and everything, and we had a nice wrap up at the end was good. You could tell the attendees were engaged.

Rob Stott: You mentioned the follow conversations, that’s even if they remember to come find you in the hallway and have that conversation with you. So to have that scheduled time I thought was pretty cool too. Definitely stood out. You got the chance to, I feel like he had six different keynotes and you happened to be one of them at Oasis. Talk about that a little bit too, the opportunity to get in front of those integrators and share a little bit, set us up to dive into what you do. What did you talk to them about? For those that weren’t there, what was your message to them?

Jason Sayen: This message is kind of the same that I’ve been giving now for quite a few years as I’ve been speaking about process and efficiencies. Because I started out in car audio, and when I left car audio, I noticed the cycle of phases that industries go through. And when I got more embedded into the CI channel, I saw everything that I saw on car audio. So, I really tried to start off by painting a picture of, let’s recognize where we’re at as an industry, and all these things are out of your control, because people stress over supply chain and now there’s this less expensive product that’s competing with my product, let’s just talk about that and recognize that. The whole message is really focus on what you can control, which is your business. And that’s where I start to dive in on the tools that I have.

And I’ve always had the impression or the mantra of, I’m going to give away some free information and teach people what I know. And if that makes them better businesses, that’s great for our industry. If they realize it’s more than what they can handle, then they’ll reach out to me to hire me one-on-one. And that message has always gone over pretty well.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. And you mentioned, it’s such a unique way that you got to where you are today and with your company. Because the background, you were doing that, but not necessarily as specifically drilling down to what you’re doing today. Talk about that path to getting in with car audio and where you are today. What was that journey like for you?

Jason Sayen: I started off as a car audio installer. And as I go speak at these events, I find a lot of us started out in that side of things. And then transitioned into the manufacturing side as a trainer and regional sales manager. And most of the companies I worked for, they did car audio, they also did CI products. And then 2011, transitioned full-time into the CI channel, again working with manufacturers.

I spent 10 years at JL audio though, and that was my first experience of learning about Lean Six Sigma, which is essentially a methodology and a set of tools to remove waste from a process. And all their assembly lines were built using these tools. And I thought, “Wow, this is used in manufacturing. Could it be used on the business side, backend office side?”

And it wasn’t until 2017 that I got the opportunity to go back to school, and I earned my green belt and black belt. And to earn my black belt, I had to use the tools to apply to a project with a business. A friend of mine owned a pretty large plumbing contracting business, very similar in size and scope to a CI integrator. And using the tools and identifying the problems they had, I was able to save about $50,000 a year and streamline their truck auditing process.

And I thought, “Wow, I think our industry could use this information.” And I put together a case study, put it on LinkedIn, started talking about what I learned, and that led to these speaking opportunities, and that led to someone asking to hire me after one of my events. And to be honest, I didn’t know what he was hiring me for, but basically it was to get everything out of his head onto paper. And that led me down the path of workflow documentation.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. And to be clear, to go back a little bit, you mentioned a green belt and a black belt. Someone listening to this, you’re not like a ninja, right?

Jason Sayen: No.

Rob Stott: Trained in karate or anything like that? Explain that a little bit and what that means, when you say you got your green belt and your black belt.

Jason Sayen: Absolutely. Actually, with Six Sigma, you can start off with, I think it’s yellow or orange. I started off with green, which is a couple steps up. People always get asked like, “So, karate?” I’m like, “No.” I think Hank called me a mental ninja. But it’s basically a set of tools. It started off with GE and Motorola. On the assembly lines, let’s say they’re building a phone and they want to reduce the defectives by 5%, 10%, Full-on Six Sigma is a statistical analysis that can take six months where they look at what’s causing problems and really drill in deep, and then they create a contingency plan to streamline it and remove that waste. Lean Six Sigma is kind of a stripped down approach. We don’t do statistical analysis. It’s just using some common sense tools and approach of looking at a process to identify waste. And waste could be an email versus a phone call, using someone for something that they’re really not designed for. There’s a variety of ways of waste. And just being able to analyze processes and streamline them to improve efficiencies.

Rob Stott: Was that program something, you mentioned where you learned about it, and it was on the manufacturing side. Did they already have in place a way to train on the business side that you dove into and learnt from?

Jason Sayen: Yeah, absolutely. When you actually go to take the classes, they apply it to all areas of the business. It just so happened that it really dug in on the manufacturing side because there’s more of a tangible measurement. We were building a hundred of these and 10% were failing. Now, we’ve reduced that.

It’s hard to do that on the business side. You can have metrics for sales, but simple things like when I was doing my project, we were analyzing how a technician ordered a part. They would place an order through the iPad, it would go to someone in customer service who would print this order, set it into a bin in the office that would just wait for somebody to pick it up and then process it. And it wasn’t till we sat down and actually discussed that, that the light bulb went off and everybody said, “Well, that’s wasteful. This should just go directly to the person that has to process the order.” Again, not as tangible of a measurement as in production, but when you just use the tools and have the conversations, you can find so many areas to make improvements in a business which add to the bottom line.

Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. We think of just in our day-to-day dealing with and working closely with independent retailers and the custom integrators, just the fact that I think we hear, it’s kind of cliche at this point, but you hear so often that they’re working in their business as opposed to on it. And I think that’s, not to oversimplify, but they get so ingrained in the day-to-day and just going about things the way they always have that they don’t take that chance to step back and think about the way they’re doing what they’re doing, as opposed to how they’re going about actually doing it. So, it’s that opportunity, you’re bringing the light, the opportunity to analyze and find those efficiencies and streamline things.

I imagine you see a lot of it. You’ve worked with a lot of businesses and talked to a lot of custom integrators. Are there a lot of commonality, things that you find where there’s a lot of deficiencies in the way they’re doing things that are common across a lot of these businesses? Like you mentioned, there’s a lot of different areas that you can focus on. I’m sure it’s all over the board, but does anything come up as recurring in what you find?

Jason Sayen: Probably the biggest commonality I see is… All these projects have multiple phases. To simplify it, there’s a phase where they sell the project and get it under contract, and then it goes into the labor phases, so typically you’re doing pre-wire trim and final, and then transfer to service. That beginning phase is where most integrators don’t have everything clearly defined. And so what happens is, they sell a project, it goes under contract, they get a deposit, they schedule pre-wire, and most of the company isn’t finding out about that project until they’re showing up at the job site. And this is big and small companies. I’ve worked with many sizes.

And what happens then is whatever issues weren’t identified in the beginning, like we’re putting the wrong amounts for the TVs, if we would’ve discussed that upfront, we would’ve caught it. Whatever, the handful things that are ingrained from the beginning that they’re not covering, they compound later on in the project. When an integrator complains about having to do multiple change orders, it’s stuff they could have prevented. Because you’re always going to have issues at the job site. The plans aren’t going to reflect where the walls were, and now you got to put the TV somewhere else. That’s out of your control.

So, from a high level, we’re looking at the things that are in their control and making sure they control them. So in that beginning stages, make sure the project’s engineered properly, make sure there’s a meeting with the team so they understand what’s coming soon, give them an opportunity to create a feedback loop, to say, “Hey, those mounts you sold on the last job took us two hours longer than they should have. Let’s change those now before we get to the job site.”

Outside of that, supply chain isn’t as bad as it used to be, but that’s always a struggle. Change orders, software. But honestly, if anyone was going to take anything away from this, it would be, looking at what happens from your project going under contract to that first onsite to do the install, and figuring out the areas you can tackle problems ahead of time.

Rob Stott: Do you have a lot of aha reactions, like, “Oh yeah, I can’t believe I didn’t think about that,” from clients.?

Jason Sayen: Yeah. My focus is helping them visualize their process through workflow documentation. So many people focus on the written documentation. I’ll get a client that has a Google Drive Dropbox folder full of documents that they’ve never seen. They had the right intentions. When you visualize it, 65% of adults are visual learners, it’s almost always a light bulb, like, “Oh, now that I see it like that, yeah, we need to do it this way.”

Rob Stott: It’s true, right? Because I can think about just the idea of you can go through a process so often and not even realize… I don’t have any data on it, but just how many processes we go through in a day as people. Once you start writing it down and seeing what your day looks like, even from a personal scheduling standpoint, you can understand, “Well, instead of spending 30 minutes on this project, maybe I could have done it in 10.” Just finding all those ways to streamline your own day and then just the grander scale of applying it to a business, you don’t realize it until you start putting it on paper. And I love that.

And I love, even going back to what you were presenting on at Oasis and seeing just how many steps one of these projects can take for a custom integrator. There’s a lot. If you don’t have it in front of you, almost like a map there, there’s a lot of different areas where you can get lost in a project or a process rather. It’s a lot to try to pull from memory, if anything. I know a lot of these things are, they’re used to doing it a certain way, and maybe it’s muscle memory for them at this point or something along those lines, but it’s crazy. I can’t even imagine how many of those type of moments that a client would have going through this process with you to see what it looks like when they write everything out.

Jason Sayen: Yeah. And again, it doesn’t matter the size of the company. I’ve worked with two person operations and 50 person operations. And some of these companies are pretty sizable from a revenue perspective and employee perspective. And you start to wonder, “Man, how did they?” Not that they’re poor businessmen, but you’re blown away on how they were able to grow that well because there’s some very severely broken processes. But some people are conditioned to just pushing through the friction and fighting the fires as they come.

Rob Stott: That’s something too. You’re known in the industry obviously, having the background in the space, and you got a lot of these companies, you mentioned, you go to the different groups and you’re talking to them and very well-connected. Are you actively… I’m sure in any business it works both ways, trying to find clients, clients come to you. Do you have a lot of businesses that, I guess what I’m trying to say, that come to you seeking advice? Or is it, they didn’t even think about it and you have to educate them on the opportunities that exist to go through a process like this?

Jason Sayen: 95% of the people that sit through either my presentation at a conference or I have a 10-minute presentation where I dive deep into what I do, they all get it. They’re like, “We absolutely need this.” Because they’re either struggling with their software to make things run smoothly, or they need to hire people and they don’t know where they need to hire for. So, getting the agreement that they need it is probably the easy part, which is great. But getting the buy-in to actually do the changes that they need to is the tough part.

Rob Stott: Well, that’s a nice segue, because follow-up question to that is about that buy-in. Because even just a simple thing, I think companies in the past that I’ve been involved in where they try to implement, and not to say this is the same thing as what you’re doing, but something like a monday.com or there’s process management tools, there’s often resistance. So I can only imagine when you’ve done something so long a certain way, it’s tough to get that buy-in from, maybe not, or maybe it is even, the person that recognizes that they need to make these changes and getting them to adapt to new process, a new way of doing things, but the rest of the company too, the people that are out on the project sites and doing the work, trying to get them to change. It’s the old, teach an old dog new tricks kind of thing, I imagine. What is that like, to get that buy-in? Do you have any tips or advice for that?

Jason Sayen: There’s not a magic bullet. You have to lead them to the aha that we need to make the change. I do my best to facilitate conversations. One time, I was with a client on Zoom. And I tell owners to include some of their upper level team, because if they’re part of the discussions, the buy-in happens faster. One time, we hit on something that I just sat back and they have this 15 minute dialogue on, “We did it this way and we need to change it this way,” and they solve their own problem, which is great. And I tell every client, “I’m not in on massive change. So if you tell me, just tell me what I got to do, that’s not me. I want to learn what you’re doing and then figure out how to make improvements so that behavioral change isn’t as great.”

That being said, it all comes down to them making the time to work on their business. Right now, almost all my clients are virtual and it’s a 90-day engagement. Although, starting next week, I’m doing some two day boot camps, which will be exciting. But that process helps hold them accountable. We meet every week or every other week for an hour to work on their business in various ways. That’s what I tell everyone is, “You just got to set that time aside.” Everyone has these weekly meetings to discuss projects, very rarely do they set time aside to say, “What’s working? What’s not working? Where do we need to fix it?” And that’s really the only way you can institute some change.

Rob Stott: I want to ask, I asked you earlier about some of the commonalities, anything ever super catch you out of left field, something that came out of going through one of these process management situations with a client, where it blew your mind?

Jason Sayen: I don’t know if this is what you think I’m going to say, but I had a pretty large client that hired me that was struggling with their software integration. And it was pretty obvious why it wasn’t working, and that’s because someone else on their leadership team didn’t have buy-in. So, they were stuck in the old software while everyone else was stuck in the new software. And when I built the first version of the process map, they’re like, “Why does it look so messy?” And I go, “Because that’s what you’re doing.” And they’ve since moved on and got rid of the old software and got alignment. But there was no internal alignment, and there’s only so much I can do with that. But given the size of the and scope of the company and the fact that they knew they needed this, I was still shocked to find that there was someone inside the company who was holding out.

Rob Stott: Well, that is crazy. And that gets back to the buy-in question too. So much of specifically what you’re doing is, you mentioned, the process map and writing out how a company goes about doing the things that they do. But I feel like a lot of this too is just those interpersonal things between people in the office, it’s a lot of just people talking. They might be in different departments and not necessarily see each other face to face. This interpersonal, interoffice communication is a big part of this too.

Jason Sayen: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s the same whether… I’m considered a coach or consultant specifically on process. There’s some other industry business coaches that focus in other areas, and of course you have EOS. And all of those are great solutions, but at the end of the day, it’s usually the holding the business owners accountable and the employees accountable and helping them with change behavior.

Rob Stott: That’s interesting. You go back to your early training in this, the project that you did at while earning your belts, earning those degrees and whatnot. This is clearly something I think that, to me, sitting here listening to you talk, obviously you’ve got the CI focus for what you do, but I have to imagine this is easily applicable I think to the rest of the nationwide membership and what a retailer does. Have you been able to see what you do apply across other industries and other spaces?

Jason Sayen: Yeah, absolutely. I actually have a client that is a roofing company and they own a plumbing business. I’ve done the same thing that I’ve done with CI integrators. I’ve already started talking with some manufacturers. I’ve started at Infocom just last week, because I have a manufacturer background and they also recognize that they could shore up some of their internal processes. I’ve met with doctor’s offices. And a lot of times at these conferences, someone will pull me aside and say, “I got a friend that owns this type of business. I think they could use it.” So, yeah, it can apply to anyone and everyone. Because as businesses start out, you don’t really have formalized processes, unless you’ve started and created and sold companies before. So, you have to organically figure it out as you go. And everybody has that different tipping point of when it’s time to step back and say, “All right, I need to reassess this,” because you’re just going to hit a plateau and you’re not going to be able to grow anymore.

Rob Stott: That’s a great point too. I’m sure a lot of the people that talk to you are people that have been around in business for a while and they’re trying to figure out either how do we get to that next level, to your point, or where are the areas where we can find some efficiencies. But maybe you’ve worked with, is there benefit to a company that’s just starting out? Before they even have process in place, is this something they should go through? If they don’t know what the process is yet, can they develop it? I’m talking to myself in circles, but you see where I’m trying to get at. Can a new business set a process before they really know what that process needs to be?

Jason Sayen: Yeah. If somebody was an installer and decided to start their own integration firm with one other person, I might tell them, “You need to go figure it out for a little bit because you’re used to installing.” But someone that’s been doing at least a year or so, now they have a process under their belt in some way, shape or form. And I’ve worked with a handful of one to two person operations, where now they realize they need a CRM because they got so many inquiries and they need some project management software. Software is a tool to automate and systemize your processes. Most people try to leapfrog that and go, “I know I’m a mess, the software’s going to fix it.” Well, you got to have a good understanding of your processes.

So, somebody just starting out, I would say a year or so, could definitely benefit from it. And although a lot of my work is one-on-one engagement, and for some of those types of clients, it might be a little expensive, I’m actually working on some group workshop sessions for smaller companies, where they don’t need this formalized math. They need someone to hold them accountable and they need someone to give subjective feedback, here’s the things that you should be doing, just basic stuff.

Rob Stott: It’s a great chance too. Before they get too far in to doing things a certain way, before they develop those bad habits of not following certain processes or being super inefficient, they can get that set in place and be set up for success early on, rather than having to go back and find that someone who’s been around for a while hasn’t upgraded their software to what they should be using along with the rest of the company. No, that’s awesome, man. I love it. From the process map and seeing you talk through that, it’s one of those things where I feel like it could be overwhelming for someone when they see everything written out, but at the same time, you almost want that feeling, so that you can understand the truth. You can overwhelm your business, but there’s ways to fix it. And that’s what you’re there helping them to do. And it’s great, man. It’s cool to see it in action too, for sure.

Jason Sayen: No, I appreciate that. I’ve tried to demystify it because it is overwhelming. And I’ve learned that what typically happens is, there’s an issue in a project, let’s just say the owner says, “Man, half the time my team’s not covering up the landscape audio wiring.” And so, “Oh, we need a checklist to solve that.” And somebody writes it, and it gets stored digitally, and never seen again. So, all these things get built in silos.

And the other challenge is, if they do try to pull the team together to sit down and talk about process, they just start getting so detailed and like, “What do you mean we need to enter it into the software? We should write the instructions on how to do that.” And then, they stop.

So, I take this visual approach of creating this blueprint to get the high level overview to then identify what you actually need. That’s the concept that I’ve been teaching. Because I see people just go off into the weeds.

The other problem is, they treat it like a project. It’s like something they need to go get done and then it’s done, as opposed to, it needs to be something that’s part of your business and gets ingrained into it. Anyone that’s flown, there’s a pre-flight checklist, there’s a whole set of processes, that if they don’t do that, we’re not going to make it to our destination. And it should be treated the same way in our business.

Rob Stott: Like any business strategy, right? It’s one of those, you look 3, 5, 10 years out on where you want your business to be. And it’s not, “All right, I wrote it, and a year from now, nothing’s going to change.” There are many factors that happen over the course of a year that could impact what that outlook looks like for your business. So, it’s one of those living breathing documents. And same can be said about setting a process, because things can change over time. It’s something that you should constantly refer to and treat like a living breathing document that needs to constantly see the light of day. You can’t just put it on a shelf and forget about it and say like, “Oh, it’s fixed now. Thanks. We’ll just continue going about things the way we’ve gone about them.”

No, it’s awesome. Appreciate all the work. And like I said, it’s cool to see that, obviously the CI space is where your heart and mind is most of the time, but this is something that is applicable and I think a cool message to hear for the entire nationwide audience. Because it’s one of those things that if they’re not hearing about it, they’re probably not thinking about it. And if they’re not thinking about it, they’re definitely not working on it. So, just a nice reminder for sure, that this is an area of opportunity for all businesses. So, we appreciate you taking a few minutes and sharing your message with us.

Jason Sayen: Absolutely. On a side note, tied into what you just said, I’ve had conversations with one of the members that I met at Nashville. And there are three owners that are all looking to retire over the next year or two. That’s another reason to do it. Because if you’re selling your business, you need to have something in place, just like when you buy a franchise. Imagine buying a Subway franchise without some operations manual and documentation. It wouldn’t be as valuable, right? We’re seeing a lot of integrators who are trying to sell their businesses to their employees or give it to a family member or sell it out on the open market, and you need to have some documentation, ops manual type structure, to add more value to it.

Rob Stott: No, that’s a great point. And another area too, that succession planning. Not to re-reference your checklist point, but this should be something on that checklist for a succession plan, is to make sure that when someone takes the keys, they know what to do or they got a good plan in place. It goes to that building a lasting legacy, right? You created this, you want to see it continue to succeed. I’m sure getting out of it, obviously there’s the check that comes with selling the business, that’s nice, but there’s something too to be said about having that name continue to live on and watching what you built not just crumble because you didn’t have a good process in place to hand it over and make the transition easy. So, great point.

No, Jason, this was awesome. I appreciate you taking the time. I feel like there’s a million different rabbit holes we can go down, but a nice overview conversation on process. And it sets the table for anyone that might be interested. And certainly can reach out to you for more. We’ll have all the links underneath in the episode, and people should be sure to click and learn more about you and what you’re doing and all that good stuff. But man, we appreciate the time. This was awesome.

Jason Sayen: No, thank you for the time.

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