Ep. #972 - Optimize How Work Gets Done
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, the goal is to optimize processes so work gets done. Lauren Conaway takes a page from Jennifer Smith’s book to learn more about becoming more efficient. The CEO and co-founder of Scribe is here to help you get back some of your time and spend it on things that matter.
Covered In This Episode
Knowledge is an asset—every entrepreneur knows that. But if it takes up too much time to share, it becomes a liability. And it’s just one of the critical business processes to think about.
That is why you shouldn’t miss Lauren and Jennifer’s conversation on optimization. They discuss tips on how founders can become more efficient in their processes, especially knowledge-sharing. Leveraging the right tech and tools are on the discussion table too.
Join us on this Startup Hustle episode now!
- A quick introduction to Scribe and its product (02:30)
- Jennifer’s professional journey from one state to another (03:25)
- The entrepreneurial mindset and its effect on people (06:51)
- All about Scribe and its why (08:05)
- The “peanut butter and jelly” metaphor and its context to knowledge-sharing (11:15)
- Scribe—what is it for? (13:23)
- Use cases of Scribe (14:24)
- Short-term vs. long-term efficiency (16:24)
- Challenges faced by Scribe as a company (18:00)
- What empowered Jennifer to help optimize teams? (19:18)
- Actionable advice for founders about optimization (24:30)
- Time management vs. energy management (27:47)
- Jennifer’s stumbling blocks as a founder (29:25)
- The value of customer feedback and how to handle it (32:41)
- Defining the problem and finding the right solutions (35:08)
- The competitive landscape in the business (36:47)
- Tools for founders that save them tons of time (38:28)
- On avoiding interruptions (42:39)
Entrepreneurs are, above all, problem solvers. But they also tend to be very passionate, and they tend to be very creative and resourceful. Being around them can be exhilarating.– Lauren Conaway
We have a limited amount of time, you know, in our lives. How do we make the most of it? How do we spend the least amount of time on things that aren’t the core of what we love to do?– Jennifer Smith
Starting a company myself and saying, like, okay, you know, there’s gonna be like a bunch of open questions and difficulties. The thing that really matters, the only thing that really matters, is that you really care about what you’re doing.– Jennifer Smith
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Lauren Conaway 00:02
And we are back. Thank you for joining us for yet another episode of the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m your host, Lauren Conaway, founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC. I have to tell you about today’s episode sponsor, friends. Today’s episode of Startup Hustle is sponsored by Double. Double is a flexible assistant service for busy executives that matches you with an experienced assistant. Double handles all of the upfront time-consuming items, such as interviewing, matching, onboarding, invoicing, and training. All of those things that most of us just hate doing. So go to withdouble.com today and get 50% off your first month when you sign up with the code HUSTLE22. Now, friends, today, we have with us a guest who is all about optimization. We had some fun. We definitely had some fun on the pre-show prep. So I’m really, really excited to talk to Jennifer Smith. Jennifer is the CEO and co-founder of Scribe. Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.
Jennifer Smith 01:40
Thanks for having me. I’m excited.
Lauren Conaway 01:42
Absolutely. Well, let’s go ahead and hop right into it. And I’m just going to ask you, Jennifer, to tell us about your journey.
Jennifer Smith 01:49
So I run a company based in Silicon Valley called Scribe. We are a software tool that makes it really easy to capture and share what you know how to do. So very tactically, we run a browser extension and a desktop application. You hit the record button, do your magical process, and when you’re done, you hit the stop record. And we will auto-generate a step-by-step written guide with screenshots automatically showing how to do that process. I share that as context because now I’ll kind of go back.
Lauren Conaway 02:18
Are you basically the dream product for people who are trying to establish SOPs for their organization?
Jennifer Smith 02:25
Bingo, you just said a word document.
Lauren Conaway 02:30
But let’s hear about your journey.
Jennifer Smith 02:33
If you’ve copied-pasted screenshots ever into a document and tried to send it to someone, we should talk. Because there’s no reason, anyone shouldn’t be doing that anymore. It’s quite painful. So I grew up in an immigrant family and didn’t know anyone who was a founder or working in technology at all would have never dreamed that I’d be doing what I’m doing today, went to college and sort of said, well, gosh, I should probably get the best job that I possibly Ken and I had a bunch of management consultants came and recruited on campus and met a bunch of people at this firm called McKinsey. And they seem really smart and curious about the world. And so I joined them to move to Washington, DC. I had never even been to Washington, DC, until I showed up on the first day of my job. And did that for a while. I went to business school in between, not frankly, out of any deep curiosity about business school, but because I was kind of burnt out at the time, and they paid for it. So I went to Harvard for a bit and then went back to consulting afterward. But, you know, while I was in business school, I met some interesting people who were, you know, working in tech or who had founded companies before. And I just looked at them and said, You seem different and special from everyone else, and you feel like my tribe. There’s something about this that feels right.
Lauren Conaway 03:49
Well, wait a minute. So really quickly, I’m going to ask you to drill down on that, like, what do you think it was that just attracted you? Right? Was it the entrepreneurial mindset? Was it the innovation bent? What were you thinking there?
Jennifer Smith 04:02
They had a different look in their eye and a different fire in their belly. Maybe cheesy, but I just felt like they were wired in a different way and motivated in a different way. And where they just were more passionate and excited about what they were doing, what they were building, why it mattered, in you know, a way that that sort of it didn’t see in my other classmates and, you know, sometimes you just sort of feeling an affinity and a draw to things, and I certainly felt it every time I met someone who you know, had founded a company or been part of, of, you know, building an early stage company. And so you get this gut feeling of, you know, I think that’s where my tribe of people is like, this feels more like me. I was in my mid-20s at the time, and so you know, you’re searching for your identity, right? Who am I like?
Lauren Conaway 04:54
What have you found yourself? Are you surrounded by amazing people?
Jennifer Smith 04:59
Yeah, And they lived disproportionately in San Francisco. And so I called McKinsey up, and I said, Hey, can I transfer to San Francisco and to their credit? They called me back in three hours and said, Sure. And so I came out to San Francisco, for only the second time in my life, I’d been here once before for a brief 48-hour trip, and that was it, and upped and moved out here and said, Okay, I’m gonna make a life here. I think this is my place. And that was 1015 years ago now. And it’s become not only my home but sort of feels like my spiritual place because I just met a lot of really interesting people who were all investing in early-stage technology and who had that crazy look in their eyes and a fire in their belly. And so I ended up going to an early-stage venture capital firm like us just to get more of this. And I was there for a few years on the enterprise software side. And that really, I think, stoked my interest, just seeing so many founders who were building things that they were really passionate about. And even if I didn’t share their passion, right, for, you know, distributed storage, or whatever it is, there’s something about that’s quite contagious. Absolutely.
Lauren Conaway 06:12
And I think that for me, at any rate, and one of the things that we talk a lot about around Startup Hustle is the fact that that entrepreneurial mindset is what attracts us like entrepreneurs are, above all, problem solvers. But they’re also they also tend to be very passionate, and they tend to be very creative, and resourceful. And being around that can be really exhilarating, right? Yes, absolutely. And honestly, I love that you just said contagious because I believe that as well. I know that, you know, the people that I surround myself with, I find myself inspired by them, and they make me stronger, and they make me better as an entrepreneur and as a human being. And I mean, it’s really, it’s a beautiful ecosystem that you can exist within when you can find people, a group of people who are committed to a purpose, whatever that purpose is, I don’t care if it’s making printers light. I mean, it’s just as you said, like, it doesn’t matter what your specific tactic is. You have to have that fire, that entrepreneurial fire within you. So I love that you found that and you were able to attract that to you. Now tell us a little bit about Scribe.
Jennifer Smith 07:24
So I had a professor in business school who said, find the thing you’re constantly apologizing for about yourself and find a way to get paid for it. And at the time, I sort of said, Oh, that sounds cute, and filed it away in my mind and forgot about it. But I kept coming back to this problem that was really nagging me, which is, you know what, when I was in consulting, and even, you know, when I was investing in companies, I’d spent a lot of my time looking at how people were building their processes. And we find that there was so much inefficiency in what they were trying to do. There’s so much reinventing the wheel, and there’s so much manual effort that’s happening. And I spent a lot of my time when I was in, in venture capital, talking to buyers of enterprise software. So not just working with founders, but like talking to their customers and trying to understand, okay, these founders are really passionate about this problem, like you’re buying their software, why are you passionate about this problem? What does this look like from your side? I kept hearing from people over and over again, you know, I have all of this knowledge, my team has all this knowledge, my company has all of this knowledge. And right now, it all just lives in people’s heads. And we spend a lot of time trying to teach each other what we figured out how to do, right, whether I’m a manager, like trying to train up my team, or whether I’m a solopreneur. And I’ve got some virtual assistants that I have to show how to do something, or, or whether you know, I have clients, and I got to show them how to use this great software that I’ve built. Yeah, I spend a lot of my time just trying to explain to people how to do things. And to me, that just felt like such a massive waste of time and reinvention of the wheel. Because the thing that’s really special is that people everywhere every day are innovating and finding better ways to do something really great, interesting ways to use technology to build their business, whatever it is they’re trying to do. And yet they’re spending a whole bunch of their time trying to train other people on that exact thing. Same thing, right. And sometimes they don’t even do it. And I looked at them. I was like, this feels like such an obvious problem hiding in plain sight. The only reason we tolerate this is just that we assume there’s no other better way, right? I mean, McKinsey released a study that’s, I mean, of course, I’ve decided.
Lauren Conaway 09:38
That’s not the case.
Jennifer Smith 09:41
Not to be the stereotype here, but, you know, I’ll share just because it was really impactful for me. The average knowledge worker spends 20% of their week just trying to share info with others or getting info themselves on how to do their jobs.
Lauren Conaway 09:54
Oh my gosh, I want every five hours. I’m gonna say I’m gonna I’m going to tell you I’ll tell you something. And then I’m going to bring in an analogy, or I guess a metaphor. So in my previous life, I worked for an IT consulting firm. And one of my jobs was at a relatively new company. And one of my jobs was to create SOPs. And so I had like this template, but the thing, how did you feel about that job? I will. So I loved certain aspects of that job. But the SOP piece was definitely not my favorite because it was monotonous, you know, all right. So the metaphor that I’m going to bring in is the Peterbilt peanut butter and jelly metaphor. And I’m sure that you’ve probably heard this, but for our listeners who haven’t heard it, often when you’re taking a speaking course or something like that, they’ll bring in the peanut butter and jelly story. And they asked you to explain how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And most people, when they hear that, they think to themselves, Oh, okay, you slap some peanut butter, and you slap some jelly on pieces of bread, and you mash it together, and then you’re done. But the fact is, there are actually a lot more steps. If you’re explaining something to someone who has no context and no prior knowledge of what you’re trying to explain, you have to get really granular with it. And you have to be like, so first you walk to the fridge, you open the fridge, you reach into the fridge, and you get out the jar of jelly. And then you put that on the counter. And so it’s much more specific when you’re really trying to explain something to somebody. And it’s always kind of an eye-opener to me because I have to do the peanut butter and jelly exercise. Have you ever heard of this? Jennifer?
Jennifer Smith 11:36
I remember doing it in school? Yes. And they would have you read out the instructions. And then they would have someone else? Read your instructions and do them literally. Yeah. Never. If no one ever makes real peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Lauren Conaway 11:52
Yeah, you ended up with like half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you were really, really lucky, maybe. And because there’s so much more that goes into it. And that’s how I always felt when I was writing these standard operating procedures for this organization. I was like, there’s just so much more. And you always have to link back and track back and find different policies that relate to the policy that you’re writing up and, and all this stuff. And so it was just a very, it was a much more complex process than you might think. But the fact is, you have to think, what happens if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, and I can’t come to work? All of my institutional knowledge, all of my job-specific knowledge that’s gone unless I have shared it with someone else. And so that’s what Scribe is designed to do, right to share that knowledge in an easy and accessible way, is what I’m getting.
Jennifer Smith 12:43
Exactly. Yeah. And we said, well, you like you did the heart and that the hard part was understanding what the steps are right and learning that process. And we said, well, what if we could just watch you do? What your autumn, you already know how to do like, what if we walk you do the thing you’re an expert on? And then technology should just automatically create that documentation? What if it just became like digital exhaust, just a byproduct of you doing the work you’d be doing anyways? And so it’s all about how we make sure that you spend your time. It’s important you share what you know how to do, but what if you just spend your time doing the things you know how to do, and it becomes easy and automatic to be able to teach other people how to do that. Yeah, time away from your job.
Lauren Conaway 13:24
And I can’t even imagine the implications here. Like How much easier would it be to cross train someone you know, or, or prepare someone for a promotion? Or, you know, whatever it is, like I would love to hear and hopefully you have some kind of in your back pocket. But can you share with us some really good use cases?
Jennifer Smith 13:44
There’s a number of them. I mean, one of the things that’s most interesting to me about Scribe is it’s it’s such a horizontal tool, and it’s used by so many people, I mean, literally everything from you know, emerging tech startups to some of the biggest banks in the world to like literally your local plumber, who you don’t think of as having processes, but they’ve got a team that’s probably trying to do you know, some some finances and their QuickBooks or whatever it might be. And so we’ll see people who have to train their clients on how to do something, let’s say the accountant for that plumber, right, you know, has to show the plumber and their team, hey, here’s how you do your books. Here’s how you enter things in QuickBooks, here’s what this looks like. And so any of that kind of client enablement, it sounds a bit like what you were doing in IT consulting, right. Like you got to show someone had to do some process to people who are, you know, onboarding others on their team, we see a lot of kinds of early-stage scaling companies that are trying to move really quickly. And anytime I hear someone say, I don’t have time to train someone on this, I can’t hire more people. I can’t hire an assistant because you know, I don’t have time to do this. Like that’s an obvious cry for help that you need. Work god help you needed to be hiring those people, but you can relate to that feeling right? When you say, gosh, well, if it’s gonna take me so long to sit next to someone and have them look over my shoulder, I have to hop on a zoom with them and show them, you know, here’s what you do. Here’s what our processes look like, you can understand that feeling, right? And so one of the things that’s really cool with Scribe is we’ll see people say, like, gosh, I was able to get so much more time back. Because, you know, not only did I not have to create this documentation, or hop on the Zoom to answer this question, but now those people could go do that work, right. And it didn’t have to be me, like, now my team can do it, or now my client can self-serve on it. And they’re not calling me with questions. And actually, they’re much happier now. Right? It’s, it’s, I deliver both better customer service, and I saved myself a bunch of time and headache.
Lauren Conaway 15:43
Yeah, I love that so much. And I groaned, actually, when you said I don’t have time, because I’ve literally said those words, myself, we all have these, like, it’s so it’s faster, more efficient, for me to do it myself. In the short term, though, that’s the thing. In the short term, it’s much more efficient. But in the long term, you bring about more efficiency by having more people who are capable of doing the work that you’re doing. And honestly, I think of it as a professional development tool, like teaching your employees new skills, that’s a way to make them feel valued. And a way to make them see that there is a path of progression, a path of succession, you know, how can I advance in my career? Well, I can learn new things. And I can take on new responsibilities. And so you’re making things so much easier for teams to operate well, and to operate efficiently in the long term. And I love that.
Jennifer Smith 16:40
Absolutely. And there’s the expert’s story as well, right? So as much as I can learn more, but if you’re an expert on your team, and everyone’s an expert in something, right, that’s why you’re on the team, you know how to do something. Exactly. And so you should now be able to share the best of what you know how to do with everyone else. Like what if everyone on a team had access to the best of what everyone else knew how to do? Yeah, could you operate so much better, individually and together, and we don’t do that right now. Because you’d have to take a ton of time to sit and show someone how to do something. But that’s a limiting belief in a world where we don’t have the technology to do it. And so one of the really interesting, I think, challenges for us we think about as a company is, you know, we have to fight the status quo, where people are just used to saying, Well, I’m not going to take the time, right? I don’t have the time. And then we have to say, well, it’s literally going to take you 56 seconds, we clock it the average Scribe takes 56 seconds, what would you do if it took you 56 seconds to be able to teach someone on your team or teach a client how to do something like how much more could you teach them? How much of an impact and a lever would that be for you? And then you sort of see the lights go on in someone’s head? And they go, oh, gosh, well, if it’s if it’s only 56 seconds, then well, yeah, I guess I imagined I could do this and this and this, but no one had ever thought about it before. Because they just assumed that you know, it’s a problem, and they’re not going to solve it.
Lauren Conaway 18:05
Right? Well, so let me ask you this. What do you think empowered you on the optimization piece? Because really, you’re helping to optimize teams. And that is, it’s so crucial for entrepreneurs, particularly early stage entrepreneurs, like we have to figure out how to do things more quickly with fewer resources. And your Scribe feeds right into that. What that spoke to you about that optimization piece was that quick and efficient sharing of knowledge.
Jennifer Smith 18:38
I think there’s a negative side and a positive side to it. So the negative side is that I just absolutely hate wasting time. It’s like a big pet peeve of mine. I do want to ask my husband, he might actually complain about this. If you were to ask my husband, one of his pet peeves about me, he’d probably say that I’m always trying to optimize things. I’m always trying to figure out what’s the most efficient way right, like I have to run errands, I will map out what’s the most efficient route for those errands, I’m just always have always been this way. I think it’s just the way that I’m wired. I’m just really obsessed with how we have a limited amount of time, you know, in our lives, and how do we make the most of it? And how do we spend the least amount of time on things that aren’t the core of what we love to do, the things that give us joy, bring us energy or our unique talents and all of that good stuff? And so the negative side of it to me is almost like this, this ah I have to scratch off just like being obsessed with efficiency and optimizing processes and the way that things get done. The positive side of it is, you know, I hit a point in my life where I kind of took a step back from what I’ve been doing and I asked myself sounds a little cheesy but like what matters most to me, what do I want to be doing in my career? What do I want to be spending my time on? What would I be really proud of at the end of my career to be able to point to and say, like, I did that, or I tried to do that. And to me, that was two things. One building, building something for being part of building something that endured beyond me. And two was something that I felt would have a force multiplier in the world. And when I look at 20% of knowledge workers’ time, there are hundreds of millions, billions of knowledge workers in the world, they are spending one day out of five days doing things that don’t bring them very much value individually, they’re hugely valuable in the aggregate. But in that particular moment, when you’re writing that SOP as an IT consultant probably didn’t feel super valuable, right? Not energizing work. And it’s, it’s not like special sauce, human work, right? Like the special sauce human is the stuff you know how to do. It’s not sitting there and cataloging it for other people. And so I got really inspired by this idea of like, if I could give back even if we don’t do all of it, even if we’re not successful and banishing, you know, the full day a week that you spent, what if I could give you a few hours of every week back? Right? What would you do that across every knowledge worker on the planet, I get goosebumps as I say it like that, to me is just a very motivating and energizing mission. That also fits with just sort of like my personality, maybe you could call it a personality defect even of really caring about optimizing.
Lauren Conaway 21:19
Well, I love that. And as someone who is efficiency driven myself, my soul is kind of recognizing you right now. Like I imagine that your husband might ditch your need to optimize. But the fact is, I bet he loves it when you do things, like when you take a trip or something like that, figuring out how to have the most efficient, streamlined experience. That’s not a bad thing. So I want to push back on your hubby just a little bit.
Jennifer Smith 21:47
Definitely a beneficiary. He’s a good sport about it. And he’s definitely a beneficiary of it.
Lauren Conaway 21:52
Love it. Well, so let me ask you this. Just a quick little question. As someone who loves efficiency and optimizing things, you wouldn’t happen to have an assistant, would you, Jennifer?
Jennifer Smith 22:02
I most radically delegate so many things in my life. But I don’t have a generic assistant. I have very specific assistants for all different kinds of tasks.
Lauren Conaway 22:13
Well, I gotta tell you, I feel as though our episode sponsors today, they might be able to help you out. As a reminder, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by Audible. They are experts in pairing founders with remote executive assistants, you can trust Startup Hustle listeners can go to withdouble.com, use code HUSTLE22 and unlock 50% off your first month. Or you can just click on the link in the show notes. Everyone needs a great assistant, I oh gosh, when when I get help with with the work that I do. It’s like it’s such a game changer. For me, it removes all of those things that are just annoyances that I don’t want to focus on and I get to focus on the things that I love. We love Double assistants definitely check them out and withdouble.com. Now, Jennifer, my friend, talk to us about optimization. I am very, very, very curious. And one of the things that I love to do on my Startup Hustle episodes is give our listeners actionable advice, or Yeah, actionable advice that they can implement in their lives and their jobs. And you are such a perfect guest for that. Because I feel like there are probably so many of us out there who are wishing that we could do things more quickly, more efficiently, and get back some of our time. So what would be your advice to listeners at home other than than using Scribe, which we are absolutely recommending here for you today. But other than using Scribe what are some things that founders can do in their day to day everyday life, to to make their experience more more efficient, easier, optimize what they’re doing?
Jennifer Smith 23:50
When people talk about optimization, I think that oftentimes thinking about it in bottom line terms, right? Which is, which is like, Okay, how do I make kind of small, incremental tweaks? How can I do this particular task a little bit faster, a little more efficiently. And there are certainly a lot of things you can do there that will be helpful on the margin. The biggest unlock to me, if you think about, you know, the 50 hours a week, whatever you spend working, is to go back to why do you do what you do? Why are you doing this? What is it that you are uniquely good at? What is it that you enjoy? Do it? What is the impact that you are trying to have? And then look at how you spend your time? And is it how much of that out of that 50 hours is actually aligned to the core special thing that you do? Versus just kind of everything else that comes along with it. And you know, I’ll give an example. Like as a founder when we were back in the early days, you know, I would spend my day everything between, thinking about the vision of talking to users like taking out the trash in our office and dealing with the Wi Fi provider when they showed up. Okay, If and when you look at that is okay, well, what those things are not equal, those activities might take the same amount of time in my day, but they’re not equal in terms of the output and impact they’re going to have. And so when I think about optimization, there are so many different components and ways to kind of think about it. But I always love to start with, how do you spend as much of your time the largest percentage of your time focused on the things that are your special sauce, the things that are unique to you and what you’re trying to achieve? And then how do you look at all the other stuff that fills your calendar and fills your time between the calendar that actually ends up being a huge component of it, like the random slack messages that come in emails, or all that kind of communication, collaboration, stuff that that interrupts our day, all day? And how do you try to bat as much of that away as possible, instead, another way, like, if you are not 10x, at a particular activity, I would challenge whether you should actually be doing it, right focus on the stuff that you’re 10 acts at, and then try to find ways to pull away everything else that isn’t whether you reduce the scope of that role for yourself, whether you delegate that to someone else, or, frankly, whether you just decide that’s a ball that you’re going to drop, sometimes that’s okay, too, right? Yeah. And that’s really about driving like the top line of, you know, how do you massively improve your output and what you’re achieving in a given week. And that’s not just good for your company, your job, but it’s great for you personally. Because now you’re actually orienting around your why, like, why are you doing this? And now spend as much of your time in service of that, why, and not all this other stuff that comes along with work?
Lauren Conaway 26:38
Right. And we’re, I mean, we’re talking about efficiency and optimization. But the fact is, I think we’re all aware that being a founder, it’s not an easy journey. And if you’re focusing on the things that you love, and the things that you’re good at, I feel like that burnout piece that we hear about so often, that’s gonna come fewer and further in between, because you’re not doing those administrative tasks, or the things that don’t bring you joy. Right? Would you agree?
Jennifer Smith 27:07
Oh, absolutely. I mean, we talked so much about time management. And when you say the word efficiency, like a bit, a lot of people think, oh, yeah, I gotta be better at time management, I gotta create time blocks, and my calendar, and you know, all that kind of stuff we’ve been taught and, and that’s good. Like, that’s great. Lots of books have been written about that, like, some of them are worth reading, and those are things worth doing. But it’s really like the force multiplier, a big unlock is when you manage your energy, because time is a finite resource, but energy is not the energy of the renewable resource. And that’s what I mean, when I said, Go back to your why, because that’s the thing that gives you the energy. And so if you can orientate as much of your experience around the stuff that gives you energy, then you’re going to be able to do and accomplish so much more, for sure.
Lauren Conaway 27:52
Well, that’s a really, really powerful statement. And I would encourage our listeners at home, to consider that, you know, where, where can you Institute efficiency, which is a very hairy, very scary buzzword. But where can you? Where can you manage that if you introduce efficiency into your processes and the things that you’re doing in order to be a better founder in order to be a happier, more fulfilled founder? And so yeah, I just invite all of you to kind of think through that. Definitely check out Scribe, for sure. Tell us about some of the challenges that you have experienced on your founder journey. Jennifer, I’m really interested because you’ve created this fantastic product. Clearly, you’re very, you’re very intentional about what you want to do and the why behind it. So I’m really curious to hear what were some of the stumbling blocks along the way?
Jennifer Smith 28:44
Lauren, I’m laughing because where do you want me to start?
Lauren Conaway 28:49
Like 20 million, because there always are. Bigger, bigger Meteor ones.
Jennifer Smith 28:55
That was the thing. I think that was most liberating to me. And even starting a company. I think, if you had said to me, you know, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, hey, Jennifer, in 10 years, you’re going to start a company, I probably would have laughed at you and said, not not anything I’m thinking about right now. And then I spent a bunch of time with the founders. And we’ve already talked about, like, how I found them to just be really inspiring. But I also saw that absolutely no company when you are up close, looks like it’s just all up into the right. Like that shirt may look that way when the company IPOs. And they write the, you know, they write the founding story. And it all sounds like it was sunshine and roses from the beginning and they knew exactly what they were doing.
Lauren Conaway 29:39
And you know, it all just kind of works their fancy and I’m always going to be that together. And then I realized like we’re all hot messes just trying to figure shit out.
Jennifer Smith 29:46
Yeah, and you know, I’ll tell you I’ve been there from the earliest days of what are now some of the, you know, iconic tech companies that have since gone public and I’ve been there in the room when it was like the founder and his buddy You know, like, a twinkle in their eye about what they were thinking. And I’ve seen the journey and in the best companies, there are so many bumps, uncertainties, setbacks, nagging questions along the way. And so I found that to be incredibly liberating in, you know, starting a company myself and saying, like, okay, you know, there’s gonna be like a bunch of open questions and difficulties in that the thing that really matters, the only thing that really matters is that you really care about what you’re doing. Other people care about it to IE your customers, and that you don’t give up. And then you kind of sort out the rest along the way, right? Yeah. And so that’s been the story from the beginning. You know, I remember when we started, Scribe, and I was like, Okay, this is the, this is the problem we’re solving, this is likely what we’re doing, we’re gonna we’re gonna go set this out with customers, and I’m building an MVP, right? And I had this plan. And I went around and talked to a bunch of the founders who, who had gotten to know who were, you know, many, many stages ahead, they were running, you know, 100 person, 1000 people company, at that point, many stages ahead of where we wanted to be at Scribe and I asked them for advice. And they all said to me, like, it’s great. You’ve got this plan, it’s not going to work out this way, Jennifer? And I was like, no, no, I’ve done a lot of research. I’ve talked to so many cuts, I’ve been thinking about this for a really long time. And they were like, we pivoted four times last in the woods for four years before we got to this amazing company that you see now, right? You know, like, great for you. If you figured it out from the beginning, I’m just telling you, statistically, it didn’t. And like, of course, we didn’t write. Of course, we changed along the way. The thing that was most important to me, or the thing that, you know, got us to where we are, is that we got something out in the world. And then we sort of just said to people like, what do you think? Are you using it or not? Right? And we sort of sat there and then looked like, who’s actually downloading this thing? What are they trying to do with it? And then we would call them and say, Hey, can you walk us through what we’re doing. And you learn a lot from just getting something really ugly and awful out in the world, we, I say ugly and awful, because we just, we just celebrated our our three year anniversary, I guess not a bit ago, now we celebrated our three year anniversary as a company and we pulled up the first version of our product.
Lauren Conaway 32:19
Everyone, everyone who had been at the company at the time.
Jennifer Smith 32:24
Yeah, if you’re not embarrassed, Reed Hoffman is a great like, if you’re, if you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you’ve spent too much time getting it out there. spend too much time getting it out there.
Lauren Conaway 32:34
All about MVP is here. I mean, the fact is like your minimum viable product, like sometimes you just need to get it out into the world. And sometimes your best feedback mechanisms are going to be that customer use experience. And the only way to do that is to launch it and get it into the hands of customers. Right?
Jennifer Smith 32:50
Exactly. And they’ll and they will tell you, they’ll tell you.
Lauren Conaway 32:55
They’re mouthy little classes.
Jennifer Smith 32:57
Sometimes, you will get feedback, and it is the most precious valuable gift you could ask for as a founder, right? And it’s all good feedback, because it’s a sign that they care enough to engage with you. So you’re probably stopping something they actually care about right? And now you just have to just listen to what they’re saying. For sure.
Lauren Conaway 33:15
So between the MVP that you launched, and now what is some of that feedback, customer feedback that you’ve actioned?
Jennifer Smith 33:24
Oh, gosh, there’s been so much of it. I mean, our first product that we released was, believe it or not, not web enabled. It was just a pretty obvious one, right? It’s everything from like, really obvious stuff like that, you know, to, you know, very specific stuff, hey, I’m trying to share this with clients in this particular way. And like, I’d love to understand, are they actually viewing it? Like, how did they engage with it, you know, what are the parts that are getting most tripped up on? And so, you know, you hear pretty clearly. The great thing about user feedback is if you’re solving a problem for a core group of people that they really care about, you will start to hear consistencies pretty quickly, right? In terms of what they’re building, or what they’re asking you to build. The challenge is that you have to decide, how much of that do you listen to, right? Versus have an opinion about the problem that you’re solving and the best way to solve it? Right? So I was the only thing you have to really listen for to customers is not what they’re asking you for.
Lauren Conaway 34:30
But why that is, that is really fascinating to me, and I’m going to drill down on that for a second because in my limited spare time, sometimes I lead Design Thinking workshops. And one of the things that I always tell our attendees is look for the commonalities in the challenges that you’re experiencing. Like when we’re talking about defining the problem when we’re working in the brainstorming phase. Where are you seeing things time and time again, questions that are continually being asked, you know, solutions that keep popping up, and that’s what you need to focus on because the fact It is sometimes the people who are giving you feedback, they might not completely understand your mission or exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. And so you always have to take it with a little bit of a grain of salt. But when you are open and receptive to that customer feedback, you’re going to see trends. And you’re going to see, you know, direct lines of interest and questions that people will ask you, and suggestions that they’ll make that you see them enough you see them time and time again. And then that becomes actionable insight. Right?
Jennifer Smith 35:29
Absolutely. And it’s really, again, why are you asking for this? There’s this sort of famous Henry Ford, if you’d ask people what they wanted.
Lauren Conaway 35:38
They would have told you, they would have asked for faster horses. I see. I’ve used that quote, workshops.
Jennifer Smith 35:43
A great one, when you say everyone’s had I asked the people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses, Henry Ford brought us the car, which is a disruptive piece of technology.
Lauren Conaway 35:46
And that’s where that’s where you want to live. Like, I feel like Scribe is disruptive. I don’t know of any other entities or organizations that are doing something similar. What’s your competitive landscape? Like?
Jennifer Smith 36:05
We compete against people doing it manually at camp, or not doing it at all? might actually be the bigger one.
Lauren Conaway 36:14
So we’ve even more in common like, I don’t have time for this. So I’m just not going to do it.
Jennifer Smith 36:18
Yeah, the people, anyone who has copy pasted screenshots and written out a step by step guide in Word or notion, whatever, like they see Scribe and they go, Oh, my God, why didn’t I have this last month? And I, like an entire week, created the documentation, right? a harder one is probably people are like, oh, yeah, I hop on zooms with my clients, or, you know, my team, they just kind of like figure it out. Right? Or I don’t even have time to explain it to them. And so it’s like, it’s the change management or the mindset piece of, you know, if we go back to the car analogy, right, it’s back in the day when we had horses, and you said to someone, well, what if you could travel, you know, across state lines in a couple hours, they would look at you and be like, Well, no, that’s not possible, right?
Lauren Conaway 37:06
And that’s not a thing that can happen.
Jennifer Smith 37:08
But imagine the vacations you could take, right? Like, what would you do if all of a sudden, you know, travel was really, really easy. I probably want to plan a better analogy there, right? Like, what if you could visit any country in the world in under 12 hours? And I don’t like it takes a little bit of time for people to now imagine? Well, oh, what would I actually do with that? And so with us, it’s well, what would you do if you could instantly and automatically show anyone how to do any digital process at all? And it took, you know, more time than just doing that process really quickly? Yeah, what if it was really easy to share, then what was really easy to update, and we spent a lot of time thinking about how we take friction down to nearly zero across all of those stages of explaining to someone how to do something. And that for some people is sort of an instant light bulb, and they’re like, Ah, I know what I would do, right? I would hire these people, I would, you know, I would send my clients better training guides. So they didn’t call me and all these things. For other people. It takes a little more time, right? Where they have to really think about it.
Lauren Conaway 38:08
Yeah, no, I love that so much. And I have to tell you, Jennifer, I’m gonna, I’m gonna brush my shoulders off for a minute, because my SOP is my standard operating procedure. They were a thing of beauty. I’m actually very they weren’t them. But that being said, I cannot imagine the hours that I could have gotten back had I been able to, to dive down into a product like Scribe that would have been, it would have been transformational for me in my work. Because again, as we’ve said, kind of all throughout this this episode, the fact is the gift of time, or well, in the gift of energy to your point, earlier points like those, those are such powerful gifts, particularly for a founder or an entrepreneur, none of us have enough money, resources, time staff, you know, we never have enough. And so getting back that gift would be such a game changer.
Jennifer Smith 39:00
And usually, we think of it in terms of trade-offs, right? Like I trade off time for quality. So okay, I’ll spend less time on this. But that means I’m probably cutting some corners, or it’s not going to be as good, right, I’m kind of scoping it down. And so what’s really exciting is that when you use technology in the right ways, you get the end, which is you know, our average user saves a couple hours a week, we have some power users who are literally saving like a couple days a week if this is part of their job, right? And they’re like, and I produce better documentation because unlike the peanut butter and jelly sandwich where like I forget a bunch of steps, and it’s really hard to remember everything, like this thing is complete and automatic and it looks more beautiful than I could have made in my Microsoft Word, right. And so that, to me, is like the very exciting part of technology. And again, as someone who just kind of loves optimization, anytime you’re able to find an end, where it’s not a trade off, you get both it just feels kind of like a life cheat right now.
Lauren Conaway 39:55
Yeah, I love that we’re all about life hacks. And I just think it’s really important to acknowledge, like, we’re talking about the use of Scribe, and we’re talking about optimization, and introducing efficiencies in the scope of being a founder and doing the work. But I also want to add that, you know, for those power users who are saving themselves days a week, they could also probably spend more time with their families, they can find a little bit more of that elusive work life balance that we, we all talk about so much, but very few of us have. And so really, you know, the adoption of operational efficiency, you know, streamlining what you’re doing, but specifically the use of Scribe, it really has the power to impact a lot, not just what you’re doing, but who you are, and who you surround yourself with. And I just, I love that. So lots of implications there. Now, Jennifer, I’m going to ask you to tell us what you can expect from Scribe in the future. Do you have anything big and exciting happening? Are you gonna keep grinding away?
Jennifer Smith 41:00
We continue to double down on this idea of how do we make it really easy to share what you know how to do with anyone with two clicks of your mouse? And we are investing a lot more in our product roadmap, in particular, like how do we take more friction out of that journey? How do we make it even easier to create a document? Am I gonna get even easier to share with someone? How do we make it so that when we don’t even have to share it with someone? How do we make it so that information is, you know, seamlessly across a team? Imagine if you know your colleague next time they have a question on how to do something rather than pinging you and saying, Hey, Lauren, can you be quick? We’ve all gotten these, right? Hey, can you show me how? Hey, how do I again really quickly, you know, you could send them a surprise? Never actually quickly, right. And, you know, the interrupt cost we don’t this is something we don’t realize, but the time switching costs, there are psychological studies that say anytime you get an interruption, even just a Slack message, and you quickly think about how to respond to it, you lose 20 minutes, right?
Lauren Conaway 42:04
Because you gotta get back into the zone, back to that level of productivity that you had achieved before the interruption. And so it’s not just that few minutes that it took to show the task.
Jennifer Smith 42:14
Right, exactly. And so we think about, well, gosh, how could we avoid you even getting that interruption in the first place? Lauren? What is your colleague, your client, whomever? When they had that question, it was a really easy way that it got to them automatically before they even asked you the question, right? And so, can we even avoid the need for you to have to be involved at all? It’s really this idea of, like, how do we make your knowledge the things you figured out how to do infinitely scalable, like software and media? That’s, that’s the magic of software and media, right? One to many is infinitely scalable. Right now, your knowledge is probably mostly one-to-one, right, or too few that the people you happen to be teaching. Obviously, the knowledge you drop on this podcast is media. So this is an amazing way to get that kind of leverage. What if we could do that with all of the processes knowing that you have? Yeah. And so those are the kinds of things that we think about and invest in Lawton and have some really exciting things coming up on our product roadmap?
Lauren Conaway 43:12
Well, I certainly cannot wait to see it. And I invite all of our listeners at home to follow Scribe and see, keep an eye out for those exciting things. Now, Jennifer, I am going to ask you the human question. And in our pre-show prep, I always say the question has nothing to do with anything. It’s a dumb question. But I lied to you because I’m going to ask you something that is related to our conversation. But I think it’s still fun. And I’m going to say, as an efficiency and optimization expert, as someone who has realized the power of reclaiming your time and regaining that energy that we’re talking about, what do you do? What are some of the things that you love to do with all of that extra time that you have?
Jennifer Smith 43:57
So I have a son who’s about to turn one. And so, for me, it is like a constant trade-off between work and doing the basic necessities that I need to be alive. And be a functioning human and spend as much time with him as possible because he just changes every single day.
Lauren Conaway 44:17
Like, that’s such a cute age to, like, so much fun. It’s so much, right?
Jennifer Smith 44:20
He’s not talking back yet. We don’t have any tantrums or emotions or any of this stuff for years. Yeah, but he likes that he really processes the world and is aware of things around him. And it’s just a ton of fun. So my wife is like, I have two babies. I’ve got, you know, Scribe was my first baby. And now my son is my second baby. And so it’s all about how I like to manage my time and energy so I can show up for my two babies.
Lauren Conaway 44:49
Oh my gosh. Well, I love that. And I loved this conversation. I want to say to Jennifer. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today.
Jennifer Smith 44:56
Thanks so much for having me. This was fun. Absolutely.
Lauren Conaway 44:59
Once again, friends, today’s episode of Startup Hustle was sponsored by our friends over at Double. Double’s remote executive assistants can help you with everything. From email and calendar organization to expense reporting and database management. These are all things that I personally would benefit from. Like, I’m gonna hop on withdouble.com immediately. But find your perfect assistant today. Head over to withdouble.com, use the code HUSTLE22, and unlock 50% off your first month, which is exclusive to our Startup Hustle listeners. Even easier, click on the link in the show notes. While you’re there, make sure that you hit that subscribe button so you never miss your daily dose of Startup Hustle. Thanks so much for joining us, and we will catch you on the flip side.