You’ve got one software system that doesn’t play nicely with your other software system—so surely the answer is a third software system to link them together, right? And how about adding a fourth, maybe even a fifth? Paul and Rich discuss the challenging gaps between the platforms people use to manage their businesses: How hard it can be to truly identify problems while you’re trying to grow, and how technology consultants tend to recommend shorter-term solutions that only make things more complicated—and more expensive.   

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The Space Between Platforms

Rich Ziade: I’m Paul Ford.

Paul Ford: No, you’re not. I’m Paul Ford. You’re Rich Ziade.

Rich: I’m Rich Ziade.

Paul: You’re the CEO and co-founder of Aboard. And I’m the president and co-founder of Aboard. What’s Aboard?

Rich: Aboard is data management for normies.

Paul: Yeah, that’s right. That’s our tagline, tf you go to our website.

Rich: Data… It’s not for reporting. It’s not that. It’s actually, people use data to get work done. Aboard’s a workflow tool that makes it really easy to work with data.

Paul: It sure is. And this is the Aboard Podcast.

[intro music]

Paul: I think we should talk about the space between.

Rich: Oh, stop it.

Paul: All right, all right, all right.

Rich: We were visiting an organization a couple of days ago.

Paul: Okay.

Rich: And we were like, we want to watch you work because we think Aboard will be great inside of companies.

Paul: Yep.

Rich: This isn’t going to be an Aboard hard sell, so don’t worry about that.

Paul: No, but this is our life.

Rich: This is our life.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: We went to visit this company, and let me tell you, we were like, just work. Show us how you work.

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: And the number of acronyms that were flying around was wild.

Paul: I mean, I’ll throw a couple out. CRM.

Rich: Oh, no, no. This was, like, AQR.

Paul: Oh, okay.

Rich: Like, it was their world.

Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rich: And so they had created expertise around it. But there are acronyms that sort of dominate corporate software.

Paul: CRM for customer relationship management, ERP for enterprise resource planning.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And it goes on and on. There are many. Right?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And…

Paul: CMS for content management system. It’s a classic.

Rich: I think people give things, acronyms to speed things up, and they think that software is going to speed things up.

Paul: You don’t want to say content management system every time you get up in the morning.

Rich: We live in New York, man.

Paul: Yeah, that’s true.

Rich: There’s not a lot of time.

Paul: I was listening to this comedy album by this woman, Aparna Nancherla. She was talking about living in New York City.

Rich: Mmm hmm.

Paul: She said, you know, the other day I saw an ambulance cut off another ambulance. [laughter] And that kind of, kind of sums it up.

Rich: Fair enough.

Paul: Yeah, it was good. It was good. So, here we are. Anxiety-driven, acronyms all over the place, speeding things up. CMS. I gotta connect my CMS to my ERP tool, and then we gotta, we gotta integrate that with the CRM.

Rich: Yes. Yes.

Paul: That was like $4 million right there, what I just said.

Rich: Look, work is messy.

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: The more successful—not successful. The more sort of embedded you are in whatever sector you’re in or whatever you’re doing, the less you worry about all these details, and you just kind of go, especially you’re growing.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And then you’re like, “I need one of those tools, and I guess I need this other tool.” And so you buy a lot of tools.

Paul: People bring their tools from the other co—we’ve walked into organizations where people are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on things like Notion.

Rich: My favorite is tools to help you keep track of the licenses of your other tools.

Paul: Oh, no, that’s a whole thing. It’s a whole world, right?

Rich: [laughing] But then who’s going to keep track of that tool?

Paul: Well, look, you wrote the newsletter this week.

Rich: I did!

Paul: And you made a point. And the point was that platforms, all this sort of like, here’s how people sell something like a Salesforce or SAP. They’re like, “For integrated delivery of better systems across your entire governance organization, you can use this tool to create true happiness among your cohort.” They’ll say things like that.

Rich: You’ve got that middle America twang to you….

Paul: Just like, here we go.

Rich: An affect that just makes me want to trust everything you just said, even though I know there’s a lot of bullshit.

Paul: That’s how we built a business together. And so—

Rich: No! No!

Paul: No no. [laughter]

Rich: It’s earnest.

Paul: It is. It’s very earnest.

Rich: You’re being genuine.

Paul: Well, I made up, half the words were wrong in that, but yes.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Okay, but your point is that all a platform is is a way to skip steps. And the example that I—

Rich: That’s the promise.

Paul: The example I always like with this is Brazilian accounting. You got so big, you have a factory in Brazil.

Rich: Mmm hmm.

Paul: And that means you actually need to work with the equivalent of the IRS in Brazil.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: You need to hire Deloitte Brasil. And—it has an “s” in there.

Rich: Yes. Bra-thil.

Paul: Exactly.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: And then, you need to—and like, if you build your own Brazilian accounting software, you’re an idiot. You need that shortcut.

Rich: You need the shortcut.

Paul: But now, what doesn’t get covered is the fact that you may need your Brazilian accounting system to talk to some other system.

Rich: Okay, you’re adding a layer on, right? Because what happens, I think, is this. What happens is when you’re running a business, and let’s pick something like real meat and potatoes, like selling…

Paul: Carpeting.

Rich: Carpeting.

Paul: I love carpeting. You know, my joke about, the thing about carpeting is I used to work in the media industry, and I think it’s actually much smaller than carpeting. And I always—but media covers itself. It’s just sort of like, “Oh my God. Big doings at the New York Times.” [laughter] And whenever I see that, I just imagine, like, “Big doings at Bob’s Shag Emporium.”

Rich: Yeah, yeah.

Paul: Oh! Oh!

Rich: Is carpeting still a thing, though? Nobody gets carpet. My parents, immigrants from Lebanon, loved wall-to-wall carpeting.

Paul: Everybody. There’s carpeting everywhere. You’re here, dude. It’s, you’re in a vinyl, like, you know, natural hardwood world.

Rich: Also—Natural hardwood, with maybe the occasional rug.

Paul: Yeah, yeah.

Rich: In Brooklyn, New York.

Paul: No, no, no. People in the Midwest still have, like, carpeted countertops in their kitchen.

Rich: [laughter] All right, so carpeting.

Paul: Carpeting.

Rich: All right, I’m. I am Rich’s Carpet Emporium.

Paul: [laughing] Great.

Rich: And what do I need?

Paul: You’re, you’re saying this is a man from the Middle East, not me, because otherwise it’s offensive.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I am saying this.

Paul: Okay, fine.

Rich: It’s a thriving business. I have four locations.

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: Right? I have a handful of suppliers.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: I have inventory I need to keep because I can’t tell my customers, “You’ll get it in three months.”

Paul: And you have, like, 120 employees. Like, it’s pretty big.

Rich: 120 employees.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I have to market it.

Paul: You sure do.

Rich: I used to do ads in the newspaper, but now there’s no more newspapers, so I got to spend a lot of money on Google, so I need, I need smarts there, too.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: All of this is getting managed somehow, and I need a bird’s-eye view to make sure that my marketing spend and my inventory, I’m not carrying too much.

Paul: Well, let me tell you the truth. You don’t have that. That last bit.

Rich: No.

Paul: You have spreadsheets, and you yell at Carl.

Rich: Now, here’s the thing that happens. What happens is—

Paul: Carl, God damn it! Where are my numbers?

Rich: Yes. Now, look, if you, if you’re a real business owner—

Paul: Carl has sciatica, by the way. You’ve gotta give the guy a break. His back hurts.

Rich: I get it.

Paul: I know.

Rich: I really do. We are trying to upsell La-Z-Boy chairs, and he keeps sitting in them. [laughter] Is the only thing. At the showroom—

Paul: His back is killing him, man. He needs to lose about 120. I got, I’m actually on Carl’s side on this, but go ahead. Abuse Carl.

Rich: What happens is this. You make a near-term, a series of near-term decisions. Like, let’s say, let me give you an example. The TV ad worked way better than we thought. We got this ridiculous mascot.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And it worked way better than we thought, and we’re growing. Now, I need to buy more inventory, hire more people, revisit my accounting because it’s not scaling well. And so what I end up doing is I just, you know, my COO or my head or my general manager is like, “Well, you need better software.” I’m like, “I don’t care. Fine, go get better software.” But the software you end up getting at that moment is, you’re moving at 40 miles an hour already.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: So you make a bunch of decisions to just keep the thing, just to keep the bolts on the machine. Like you’re not making long-view decisions, because you want to make sure you’re fulfilling the needs of your business near-term.

Paul: Let me tell you one thing you’re definitely not doing. You’re not calling a large consulting firm to come in and get it all on right.

Rich: Not doing that. Also, what I’m not going to do is like, look, you’ve got three months to give me a plan. No, no, no. I need, I need, I need things in place in two weeks.

Paul: That’s right.

Rich: Because things are moving fast.

Paul: And you don’t, if you have, let’s say you like, you don’t have a chief financial officer. If you do, it’s your cousin.

Rich: It’s your cousin. You may need one. If I grow big enough, they’d be like, oh, you need one of those, Carl.

Paul: No, no, we’re now in like a 12-year period where it’s just going to get a little worse every year as you add systems.

Rich: Yeah. Now let’s fast forward five years from that moment where it was like, it was this launch pad and I took off and now I’m in 13 locations across North Carolina and Virginia.

Paul: I have a mascot that actually goes out and does a dance at Minor League Baseball games.

Rich: I’ve trademarked my mascot.

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: I got lawyers.

Paul: Mmm hmm. It’s Johnny Carpet.

Rich: Things settle, have settled down a bit.

Paul: Okay.

Rich: It’s a business that, it wasn’t a rocket ship from all the way through, but it’s a healthy, profitable business.

Paul: Johnny Carpet had a drinking problem so he had to replace him with a new Johnny Carpet.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Carl’s doing okay, though. He got physical therapy.

Rich: And now you’ve got a minute.

Paul: Yeah, well, he’s on Ozempic. He’s doing okay.

Rich: I like your skit.

Paul: [laughing] Yeah…

Rich: Sort of, this sort of…

Paul: I think a lot about the carpet company, my friend.

Rich: You do! You seem to. You seem to.

Paul: It just seems so nice. People come in and they’re like, “Hey, I’d like some carpet.” And you’re like, “I’m going to get you out of here with some carpet.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And they’re like, “That’s great. I really appreciated this transaction.” You’re like, “You need more carpet, you come back.” As opposed to what we do, which is sell magic rectangles.

Rich: Well, I think they’re, I think they’re…magical. Yes, okay, fine.

Paul: No, they are. They’re magic rectangles.

Rich: And then you look up and you’ve seen this shot in the movies where it starts narrow.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And it looks a little messy, but then the camera kind of pans up to a wider view?

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: And it’s just a wasteland of chaos.

Paul: Bomb went off.

Rich: And what you end up with—look, nobody wants to make bad decisions, but what you end up with is that you’re making those decisions in real time while you’re trying to get a business in flight.

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: And then you look up and you’re like, whoa. We now live with these things that made sense in that moment, in the heat of the moment. But I’ve been living with this thing.

Paul: Let’s quantify these things in the problem, because we’re getting very abstract. I’ve got my tool for managing inventories. I got my tool for…

Rich: Customers.

Paul: Customers. I got my marketing over here and my budget for marketing.

Rich: When someone buys a carpet from me.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I know for a fact that after about five years, they want to buy more carpets.

Paul: Yeah. But I can’t even get that data. That’s, like, buried somewhere.

Rich: Well, that’s my, they call it a CRM.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: I have Mailchimp. I’m always telling them about big sales—the July 4th sale? For whatever reason, people get real patriotic and they want to buy carpets, like, in July.

Paul: You know a symptom, and I saw, we had a conversation with someone today, and I saw this. They brought it up and showed it to us. The symptom is the spreadsheet where they save a lot of data from one system?

Rich: Mmm hmm.

Paul And they work on it for a little bit. And then they, like, email it to someone every week.

Rich: This is that transit system, that makeshift transit system.

Paul: And there will be, at the point you described, there’ll be 20 of those spreadsheets flying around.

Rich: Every company.

Paul: And they’ll be updated—some will be updated every day, and some will be updated once a year.

Rich: Let me say something to make everybody feel better.

Paul: Oh, good.

Rich: You’re not screwing up.

Paul: Oh, thanks, Rich.

Rich: Everybody’s doing this.

Paul: I’ve worked with you—

Rich: We have visited hundreds—

Paul: I’ve worked with you for nine years. You’ve never said that to me.

Rich: You’re doing a very nice job.

Paul: No, no, you’ve only said that to all the other companies.

Rich: Yes, that’s true. I’ve never said it—

Paul: [laughing] No, you’ve never said those words.

Rich: From a leadership perspective, I should say more nice things to people that work for me.

Paul: It might be a little too late on this one.

Rich: That ship has sailed… [laughter]

Paul: Yeah. I think we’re just gonna have to go. This is the army—

Rich: I love that I came to this revelation now that we have a company with almost no employees.

Paul: No, I know. This is the army we have. Yeah. We’ll build a, we’ll build a great culture, and we’ll just, you and I won’t be allowed to talk to them.

Rich: We talked to an e-commerce company recently.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: They were literally saying, you know, we had this hot item, but we couldn’t tell how fast the stuff was coming off the shelves. So we ordered all this inventory, and we think we have too much, like, millions of dollars more. [laughing]

Paul: Sure. It’s sitting there.

Rich: It’s sitting there.

Paul: No, I talked to someone today, and they’re big, I learned something really interesting today. Like, interesting from, like, whoa. Really? Do you know what compliance is?

Rich: Sure.

Paul: I mean, it’s. It’s, you hire a big company like PricewaterhouseCoopers, and they come to your company, and they look at everything, and—

Rich: They make sure your practices are proper.

Paul: Yeah. Because you’re a publicly traded firm—

Rich: If you are…

Paul: You know, or you’re about to get bought, and that’s kind of due diligence, you know? So. Or a publicly traded firm is going to buy you. Like, all these things have to happen. Right? And what I didn’t know is they audit the GitHub repositories on an ongoing basis. They look at code now.

Rich: Interesting.

Paul: Because that’s if that’s the core of your business, right?

Rich: Sure.

Paul: It’s like anything. If the code is what runs your business, it’s the same as your friend with the piles of inventory on the shelves, right? Like, what’s going on there? Where’s the money, and how’s it getting spent?

Rich: I mean, this is another great example. Compliance—if you’re a fast-growing business, you’re not thinking about, what will cause you to tidy up?

Paul: Acquisition.

Rich: Acquisition. And usually that takes months anyway. So what ends up happening is these extremely large vultures in Brooks Brothers shirts show up, [laughter] and they’re like, we will clean this up for you. Don’t worry. You’re not the first to—to have, I saw you sent me all your contracts. Half of them don’t have signatures in them.

Paul: Some of them just have paw prints. [laughter]

Rich: So they swarm, and you know what? Here’s the thing. Acquisition is a forcing function, which means like, okay, if you tell me I have to paint—

Paul: Oh, it’s driven by—

Rich: The room red?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: [laughing] I will paint the room red.

Paul: It’s the purest fear-greed combo that’s ever existed.

Rich: That’s right. Being publicly traded, which means that you have to meet certain thresholds of transparency and reporting to essentially common stockholders.

Paul: Well, the government doesn’t want you out there unless you meet those.

Rich: You have to meet those. That’s another one. Another, by the way, which is the most stressful, is an audit. The IRS is like, “Uh…”

Paul: Wait a minute, you made—

Rich: You look fancier than you reported.

Paul: Yeah, those shoes are really nice.

Rich: [laughing] We’re coming in!

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Those are forcing functions. And the truth is, a lot of the time, let’s put aside the criminal actors who are, like, trying to be shady. A lot of the time, the reason you didn’t do it is because you couldn’t believe that people wanted to buy all that carpet, and you’re just happy to sell them carpet. Buy it from your suppliers for $10, and sell it for $18. [laughing]

Paul: I mean, you know, the database of record in America for, is email, that’s where all the receipts are. And that’s where like—

Rich: It is email, and…

Paul: And I think most people, there’s a, it’s a very long time before you go, the fact that that contract is somewhere in my inbox is insufficient. Like, you might be a $20, $30 million a year company.

Rich: Look, we went through this. We are technologists.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: You would think we were all about writing scripts that somehow made sure the PDF got into a certain Dropbox folder and time-stamped it a certain way. And we were scrambling like little children during our process.

Paul: Well, look, I mean, flat out—

Rich: They even told us—we were embarrassed. I remember this. And then the bankers turned to us and said, “You’re not even the worst we’ve seen.”

Paul: No, no, flat—I, at one point, about probably a year or two years before, I personally kind of instrumented our relationship-management tools so it could hold the contracts and so on and so forth. But there’s no, it was all just, let’s do this if we feel like it, because there’s no stick in a small organization. The stick is, if you’re not compliant, the government won’t let you trade your sco—your stock on the open markets. So that’s a pretty big stick. Most orgs, even if you instrument all the tools really nicely, it just doesn’t get done.

Rich: Getting by, right?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: You know what has never happened? During a boom sales cycle, the owner of that business never stood up on the desk and said, “Guys, take a minute and tidy everything up.”

Paul: “Organize the Z drive, guys!”

Rich: Yeah. No one has ever said that in the middle of, like, a boom, like, the Cabbage Patch Kids CEO?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: In that moment didn’t say, “Guys. Compliance. Compliance. Compliance.” [laughing]

Paul: “I got five folders here and they got five different colors, and we’re doing it!”

Rich: No one’s ever said it.

Paul: For those, for the, for the youth out there, the Z drive was the network drive where just kind of all the stuff went.

Rich: Yes. So we’re giving the humans in this story the pass here.

Paul: But wait, what is—

Rich: Because they’re trying to run their business.

Paul: What is this? Because here’s what, here’s what we’re getting at. What we’re getting at is there exists this enormous liminal space between all of the giant platforms where an unbelievable amount of friction occurs and an unbelievable amount of work exists to do.

Rich: Paul.

Paul: Yeah?

Rich: I’m going to get to that in a second, but let me, let me set it up even better for you.

Paul: All right.

Rich: Technology, and I’m going to say this, and I am a business owner of a technology company, is the ultimate bait and switch.

Paul: Well, you told me I was going to get to skip a step.

Rich: It is the ultimate bait, because here’s what humans do. Humans come into your absolutely chaotic environment, as a carpet seller, and they see opportunity. They see opportunity because you’re in pain. You made a bunch of short-sighted decisions to just keep your business moving.

Paul: I mean, you don’t really have a way to organize those leads, do you? But I can help you out using Mailchimp Custom Something Integrated.

Rich: And what ends up happening is, and this is not about just tech. It’s about kind of everything. We tend to fill up any voids with complexity because we can sell complexity.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: We can make money off of complexity, and we can make money off of the pain you’re in. Right? Because we promise pain relief.

Paul: Well, give me an example. Let’s make that a little more concrete. So I’ve got a spreadsheet with all my customers in it.

Rich: Sit down. I see your stuff is sprawled across Microsoft Access, a half-dozen spreadsheets.

Paul: Carl’s passed out on the La-Z-Boy. He’s not doing anything.

Rich: He’s not doing it. And for some reason, you’ve got this other sort of bespoke custom CRM that someone wrote for you five years ago, and some stuff’s in there.

Paul: Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.

Rich: We’re going to bring it all together. Really—

Paul: Mmm!

Rich: Well before—don’t get too excited, we have to send a data analyst in.

Paul: Mmm…

Rich: And spend, we’re going to spend about four months mapping all this.

Paul: [Low defeated tone] Oh no…

Rich: There are teams of people at big consulting that will go in and just kind of in a forensic analysis way, just try to sort of map everything.

Paul: Boxes and arrows.

Rich: All right. And so it’s May, when will I have the thing? Well, we’ll give you a report on the lay of the land in about four months. And that’s not unusual. That’s fast in a lot of organizations.

Paul: But this only really happens when the carpet company gets really big. Usually they just suffer.

Rich: Well, smaller businesses, by the way, they’re in a weird no man’s land, because they don’t have the cap—they don’t have the spend to go and do all of that work. They also don’t think that way. That’s the other thing worth saying here, is like, they are literally reacting to the winds of the industry constantly.

Paul: They’re not going to spend a million dollars unless they can make multiple millions from it.

Rich: They’re in a lurch, right?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: They actually end up in a weird type of technical debt.

Paul: This economy, our country, and I think the world in general hates mid-sized businesses. I felt this very much as Postlight—

Rich: Interesting.

Paul: Postlight grew to mid-sized. We love small bus—we love small, open up the coffee shop? Absolutely. Let’s get you a bank loan, so on and so forth. Over here? Big Google, Apple. Mmm. Mmm.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: Beautiful

Rich: It’s that middle.

Paul: But that middle, it’s just, like, the eternal adolescence of business.

Rich: It’s real.

Paul: People are like, it’s, “Oh, you’re making us millions of dollars a year. Well, good for you. But we’re going to tax the crap out of you, and everything we sell you is ten times more powerful than you need and cost ten times as much.”

Rich: That’s right. And what you’ve seen is sort of, look, there is, I’ve been shitting on software this whole podcast.

Paul: Keep going!

Rich: But there are a lot of good SaaS tools, like look, I mean, Dropbox, Notion, you know, tools like Monday, those are really good for small businesses, right? You run into snags because you often, you hit a wall. What happens is like, but it won’t do that one thing. But they’re really good, like, the world has gotten better in that way. But you have to do it on their terms. They’re not going to customize anything for you. They’re not going to deal with your legacy data.

Paul: Every now—so what you see, they’re different, here are the two dynamics. There is the Notion dynamic, which is templates, WordPress too, just like, okay, whatever thing you need, there’s templates.

Rich: We’ve seen this problem before.

Paul: And you can hire a template designer and they’ll help you make something a little more custom. Over on the other side—and you actually are starting to see this with Airtable and other tools like that. They actually have consultancies out in the world, people who will build custom solutions for you on top of these platforms.

Rich: We’ve said this before, a lot of these—

Paul: And template, they also have templates.

Rich: Software people, and I’m looking at you, Silicon Valley, you’ve fully convinced yourselves you can automate away that last 10% of complexity and customization. It’s the promise. Even AI and right now is like, “We got this.” You gotta go in.

Paul: Well, you know why you can’t? Because you literally are speaking a completely different language and using different frameworks to understand business than the guy with the five-carpet distribution.

Rich: That’s right.

Paul: He just, he can’t understand you.

Rich: He’s got flags in there and weird logic that only he and his people have, understand over the years. Don’t send a marketing email on certain holidays in Virginia.

Paul: That’s right.

Rich: Like, weird logic that is very specific, but very meaningful to them. That’s where it starts to break down.

Paul: And then you come in with a general solution, and the minute they hit one of those roadblocks, they’re like, “We can’t use it, because of the email situation in Virginia.”

Rich: That’s right.

Paul: What are we trying to say here? Like, let’s just sum it up again, which is all I’m doing is—

Rich: I think software can do better. I, I think… Look, man, when someone is presented with an opportunity, they have one of two choices. They can either exploit the opportunity and maximize money out of it.

Paul: Mmm hmm.

Rich: Right? An opportunity is a chance to make money. I’m gonna be very blunt here.

Paul: Okay. Fine.

Rich: And if you’re gonna make money, there’s two ways to do it. One way is. Is to say, “Hmm, I know you thought it was a $3 hose, but it’s gonna take a little more than that.” Right?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And, “Well, why?” “Well, I’m the expert, and I’m not gonna sit here and explain it to you because you won’t understand me, but just trust me.”

Paul: People who sell audio cabling do this.

Rich: Everybody does it.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Everybody does. Honestly, I mean, just about anybody who is trying to capitalize on, you know, the classic upsell.

Paul: Right.

Rich: The problem is only this big, but I can actually sell you more.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Does it. It’s one path, right. The other path is, guess what? This isn’t as bad as you think. It’s actually not that bad. We can bring you pain relief sooner than you think.

Paul: See, that’s software magic to me. That’s what I love about the industry.

Rich: But the thing is, the people that sell it, especially to people that are in pain, don’t do that. Why? Because there’s more money to be made by make, by obfuscating and making it bigger than it needs to be.

Paul: Yeah, but I actually think you can spread more broadly throughout the organization with solution, with that other approach.

Rich: That’s a longer game, isn’t it?

Paul: It is a longer game.

Rich: It’s a longer game.

Paul: It’s longer, and it’s also—look, I think, what we’ve identified is a pattern. And the pattern is, I have one solution for this and another solution for this. Both of them are expedient, and it turns out that by moving them into place, I’ve created an immense gap and neither one of them will help me close it up. So now I need a third solution.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: And now, because I have a third solution, but those other two solutions, I actually need two more solutions in between those. And it’s like a combinatorial services problem where I just keep having to add new ways to glue things together.

Rich: Look, when you see these really messy problems, you can’t help but say to the other person, the person that’s sort of dealing with it all, “You have a really, really messy problem, and we need teams of consultants to help you. And we need—”

Paul: Look, obviously people expect us now to say that we’re the solution, and we do like to, we’ll help here. But what is the solution more broadly? Not marketing us.

Rich: Let me, let me shoot myself in the the foot—and shoot you in the foot while I’m at it.

Paul: I just got out of my boot! I’m wearing real sneakers for the first time in months.

Rich: With the right mindset, most solutions are good.

Paul: Yes, that’s true.

Rich: With the right mindset.

Paul: That’s true. Google Sheets can be an adequate way to run, like, a country.

Rich: With the right attitude.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: With the right sort of openness. That’s why when you have the cousin who’s a database person, it is just such gold to have them come by the office, because they have no agenda.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: They want to help you out. They’re like “Oh, that’s not even that big a deal. Don’t worry about it. I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to do,” and then you go hire someone.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: That is gold. Why? Because that agenda around max-selling has been cut out of the picture, right?

Paul: Right, right.

Rich: And most tools are frankly not bad. Like, there’s, there’s garbage out there, but most can do it.

Paul: Sure.

Rich: Can Aboard do it? Yeah, Aboard can do it. But guess what? So can other tools. The truth is, the spirit in which you approach the problem and the opportunity actually dictates whether you’re going to bring, you’re going to exploit it or you’re going to bring value more quickly. And that is something we did at the agency, in a lot of cases. We would often tell people, “This is not that big of a problem. Frankly, we’re too big of a shop for you. Go somewhere else and solve it for, like, do this.”

Paul: Sure.

Rich: And we would give them that advice, and they would, you could see them exhale.

Paul: Oh, yeah.

Rich: Because they thought it was way worse than it turned out to be. And that, I think, is a longer game. Not as popular, frankly, because people chase revenue. Look, man, we’ve been on RFPs where they’re like, “Look, you know, the maximum we want to pay is $8 million.” When you see an RFP saying our budget caps at $8 million, nobody’s going to bid at $2. [laughing]

Paul: No.

Rich: They’re not going to do it. Right? They’re like, “Oh, I guess the cake’s out!”

Paul: I got to tell you, I always thought that we, like, bidding at $2 is a move.

Rich: It’s a great move. Do you know why? Because they’re going to have 20 more RFPs.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Do you have the long-game mindset? It benefits everyone.

Paul: The whole—

Rich: They trust the hell out of you if you do it.

Paul: The whole industry is set up against that mindset, because—

Rich: Most industries, by the way, I feel like we’re targeting tech. It’s everyone.

Paul: But salespeople are, you know, they’re judged quarterly.

Rich: I hate the accounting firms that I have interacted with over the last five years.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: They do it, too.

Paul: It’s a very normal. Everybody has this problem. They interact with so many accounting firms, and they… [laughter]

Rich: Well…

Paul: This is very relatable.

Rich: I’ve fired a few.

Paul: [weary sigh]

Rich: But, dude, you could see their eyes go wide. It’s constant. I mean—

Paul: Oh, if things are—

Rich: Everyone, my point is, everyone does it.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: Lawyers do it. Accounting firms do it. Everyone does it. Why? You’re supposed to, your bonus is based on how much you bring in, not how much you save someone. It’s just life. It’s New York City, in a very fundamental way, right?

Paul: I know, but it’s a little bit like when you go to the doctor and they, they charge you the same amount, you know, when they give you penicillin as if you went in and they’re like, no, you just have a little cold.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And you go back to that doctor. Right? You like, you actually, you like you like a little steadiness in your care.

Rich: You like steadiness, and…

Paul: If you went in and the doctor’s like, “Ooh, looks bad, I’ll tell you what it is if you give me $100,000.” You don’t want to go back to that doctor. But that is how most consulting works.

Rich: Is that evil? No.

Paul: It’s not—

Rich: It’s being painted as such. It is what it is.

Paul: It’s not evil. It’s just short-term.

Rich: It’s extremely red meat. That is the industry.

Paul: I’m going to get in there with my one solution and leave it to you to figure out how it fits with the other solutions.

Rich: Right.

Paul: Anyway, I just wanted to call this out today, because I think we’re starting to live more and more in the space between. As we go and talk to organizations, the pain that we see between the, between the acronyms.

Rich: It’s all glued together, dude, it’s just duct tape everywhere.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: That’s just…

Paul: Yeah. And I swear to God, if you go to anywhere in the world of software, they’re like, oh, we solved that years ago. All they have to do is use feature 35.

Rich: Yeah. By the way, the problems sound so familiar from ten years ago. It’s the same thing.

Paul: I think AI doesn’t solve that.

Rich: AI, I think, can accelerate and provide, like, value quicker and cheaper. I do believe that.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: It is, definitely, you’re not gonna hit a big red button. That’s not happening.

Paul: No, it’s just not.

Rich: It’s just, you know, it is humans, it’s like finding a cave with writing on the cave walls. It’s just too much history.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Too many weird decisions. I used to love looking at, like, old PHP code.

Paul: Oh, it’s the best.

Rich: Because you can tell, like, someone had a bad summer.

Paul: Yes.

Rich: Like, in one of the libraries that they checked in.

Paul: You really can.

Rich: You just see life over time, right?

Paul: Yeah, yeah.

Rich: It’s like rings on a tree stump.

Paul: Right. 10,000 lines of code checked in at 5:45 on a Friday. [laughter] You know, kind of like. Just like, “Okay, here.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: So look, this is, this is what we talk about all day. We like to talk to other people about these things as well.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Just go ahead and get in touch. Check out the website at

Rich: Yes.

Paul: We are in a funny mode, Richard. We are out really learning a lot, showing our product to people, and starting to build solutions with it. Like, we’re starting to use it in a day-to-day capacity.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: So if you want to talk with us about that, or you’d like to join a growing and stable startup, you should get in touch.

Rich: We are looking to hire product managers, both to sort of go out and listen to people and hear about their problems, but also to help us really level up the consumer. The sort of sign-up experience and, you know, the sort of pick-up-and-play experience around Aboard.

Paul: Lots to do. It’s very fun lately, I gotta say. We also got a new office. It’s very pretty. We’re in a nice, we’re in Manhattan now.

Rich: We have natural light.

Paul: Where we’re recording right now. Might be a little echoey, but that’s okay. We’re gonna work it all out. It’s a good time. This is, I love this moment when you’re actually able to really just go have conversations with humans. So feel free. We’d love to have a conversation with yooooooouuuuu.

Rich: Yes, this is the Aboard Podcast, sponsored by Carl’s Carpet Emporium.

Paul: No, Carl just works for the guy. It’s Rich’s Carpet Emporium.

Rich: Okay. Rich’s Carpet.

Paul: Yeah, Carl’s just in there with the sciatica, and it just gets worse every year.

Rich: We should buy the domain name.

Paul: We should. And Carl should keep going to physical therapy.

[outro music]

Paul: All right, let’s get out of here.

Rich: Have a lovely week.

Paul: Bye!

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