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April 14, 2022

E005 Chad Sakonchick: Automator & Founder @ BetterLegal

Automation Can Be Your Competitive Advantage In Business.

Chad Sakonchick is a serial entrepreneur, a builder, a NoCoder and Automator. He is currently the founder at BetterLegal which he grew to $2.5m in revenue and $500k ARR.
His Twitter: @csakon
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Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 0:07
Once upon a time, there were millions of businesses struggling. Every day they wasted time, effort and money on repetitive tasks that added no value one day, the better automation podcast by process EO came to show them the way. Because of this, these businesses save time, reduce costs, innovate, and make better decisions because of that these businesses grow, scale, and use human creativity to change this world. Hello, my name is Aziz, and I'm your host that better automation podcast by process here where I interview the world's top experts and share their best ideas on how to improve automation in your business, processes, and life. My guest today is shad. Second check. Shad is a serial entrepreneur, a builder, a no coder, and an Automator. He is currently the founder at better legal, which he built with no code and grew to $2.5 million dollars in revenue and $500,000 in annual recurring revenue better legal is the fastest and most affordable way for business owners to set up their business in 10 minutes or less. Chad, how are you today?

Chad Sakonchick 1:46
I'm good. How are you?

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 1:47
I'm feeling great on Earth. And I'm sure this is going to be a wonderful conversation. So for you, what's your story, what made you become an Automator, as well as choose no code for everything you do, especially something that is growing like better legal,

Chad Sakonchick 2:07
I'm lazy. So I don't like to have a mountain of tasks in front of me every day that I have to check off. I like to create and build and make new things and strategize and try to go the next step. So I've always, for the last couple decades, in my various roles that you know, corporations and whatnot, have always tried to automate myself out of a job. So I can then take time off, I don't have to, you know, if I want to just chill for a day, because I'm not feeling you know, I'm not in the flow, I can do that. And a set amount of tasks don't have to get done. But then if I'm really, you know, feeling kind of in the flow, and I'm, I'm vibing, then I can create something new. And I can go to my kind of backlog of ideas and just pull one that that kind of fits what's what's necessary at the moment. And so and so I kind of want to actually mention that I talked about this on my Twitter feed. So better legal is currently not no code. But we are going back to no code. So we started no code, we went to full custom code. And now we're wrapping up migration back to code. I mean, no code. So I've really kind of gone the whole route of, you know, cobbling things together with, you know, type form Asana, web, merge, Zapier. SendGrid, just, you know, all these different tools and just really making a process out of a bunch of random third party tools. Obviously, we ran into struggles. So we replaced Asana with Salesforce, because it allowed us to have more of a user interface that was customizable. We were on that for a while. But we also realized that Salesforce is just massively overpriced. For us wanting to provide a front end to our customers, we are not able to do that with Salesforce without this prohibitively expensive licenses, that just we would, it would have bankrupted us. So we were forced into going into code. So we could have a real app that users can log into. So we went down that path for three years and, you know, the more you build the more complex objects and it just you know, after most recently, we had a project where I and our our Automator We have another Automator. So I don't have to only be the one automating she, she and I put together a partner, we had an affiliate program. And it was really just providing a coupon code to someone in our database. And when they use that good one, when their friend use that coupon code, they got $100 off, the friend got $100 off. And then if they purchased, we sent a check to the referrer. So we had this system all set up. The problem was we were going after some influencers, some YouTubers and whatnot, and they were unable to see how much you know what, they weren't able to see every sale. And so they didn't have that visibility, there was just y'all all email base. But we built this automated check sending system in a few days with Google Sheets, Zapier. Lob, you know, and we put that together in a few days, and then we essentially told our development team, hey, we need a partner

site that basically just duplicate this no code process that we set up. And this you know, so just throw together, you know, something, we were expecting it to take a couple of weeks, maybe a month at max, because it was it was nothing more than just a front end for all these processes that were already working. It ended up taking five months and 10s of 1000s of dollars, we were paying this firm, $8,000 a month. And it granted, that wasn't all the partner dashboard that they're supposed to be developing. But that was their primary task for a long time, we just stopped giving them new tasks. And so we weren't even able to develop new features, because we were waiting on this one for almost half a year. And that when they released it to us, it was just in a beta version. And it's because they over engineered it. They didn't kind of come from an MVP standpoint, and this is kind of the problem with development teams. Especially if you are a small team, I'm not saying code is not the answer forever. Code is very much useful in specific instances. But when you're trying to grow a business and trying to stabilize and trying to find product market fit, just see how much steam your business has. And you're just really, you know, adding and removing new features, you know, very quickly, it really hurt us a lot to to kind of fall down that rabbit hole. So what we ended up doing is we spent two months we spent January and February, I'm sorry, February and March. So I learned bubble in January, I kind of did the build, sell 30 self taught, just built a project called trade beacons. It's kind of like an SEC investment tool that I just built myself in, you know, a couple of live streams. And I really was open to the idea that bubble provides this. This no code front end, you know, and I haven't really seen anything like this since the days of like p And Dreamweaver and being able to actually develop something useful in no code. You know, we didn't call it no code back then. Right. It was just drag and drop WYSIWYG, you know, no code is a fancy term for WYSIWYG. So so my eyes got opened a bubble, and we just, I just kind of drew a line in the sand. I said, Okay, we're gonna go, we're gonna move everything over to two bubble, I was hoping it was going to take 60 days, when we were two weeks in, I thought it was going to take a month. The problem is, it's kind of like moving, you know, you, you move all the big items first, you're like, oh, man, this is going really fast. But then there's all the like, little, you know, kind of sweeping that you need to do and the little, you know, your nails in the wall. And so they're all these processes that we built over building a business for six years, we've got 250,000 items in the database, we've got, you know, 10s of 1000s of businesses that we've formed. So we just have a lot of data over a lot different places, we have a lot of automations that run that, you know, notify our customers of their businesses. Stay state compliance. You know, every state has a very specific date that your state compliance is due. It's different for every state and every business has a different anniversary. And so that gets complicated and we have to we have all these automations that send out to say, Hey, your state compliance is coming up. Here's how you take care of it. We'll take care of it for you for this price. You know, Registered Agent mail, which is a state required kind of mail delivery thing The businesses are required to do, we've got all these automations that actually file the formations for us. So in our most heavy volume states, we don't have humans that go file it, a bot just pops open a browser and fills it out. Because let's face it, that is not a very fun job for someone to do. It's repetitive, it is prone to errors when someone gets tired. And so we try to make it to where everything that is just repetitive and time consuming. We try to take that away. So everybody that works directly for us, is working on something unique, or working towards automating something. So we can have more more volume and support more volume, and more customers and more revenue without having to add to the, you know, to the operational cost. And so our competitors, what how we're different from our competitors is that, you know, Legal Zoom is 800 pound gorilla in my space. And they have

just hundreds and hundreds of people, human people filing in all these states. So they do you know, hundreds of 1000s of filings a year, so 300,000 filings a year, I think in 2021. And they just have rooms and rooms and rooms of people that are just clicking and taking care of this stuff. And again, it's prone to errors. It just takes a long time they take 30 business days versus our two business days. So yeah, so we we, you know, we've been six years down this path. And I'm really excited about, you know, getting fully on no code, we're, again, we're almost there, it's just little things that it's just we want to make sure that we almost built an identical products kind of pixel for pixel. So when we make the switch, people don't even really know that there's been a change. But we've, we've also kind of been adding features. In the meantime. So I talked about this five month partner, Portal dashboard. We built that in a couple of days. So we put that whole thing together in a couple of days, and showed it to our accounting team. And they were like, Oh, my God, this is exactly what we needed versus the old one that we were showing them that took five months, they're like, well, this doesn't really do what we need it to do. We've we've already kind of, we're going to replace our use of Asana. We're kind of recreating Asana within our platform, mainly because you know, we don't want to systems, we don't want someone dealing with a business in here, and then having to go to another system, making comments over here and talking about it. But those comments and that discussion gets lost in this program, and the customer can't see it, because it's over here. And so we're, you know, part of the reason that it's taking us longer is simply because we're just going so far ahead of where we were so yeah, really excited about. About all that.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 13:05
Me too. It sounds absolutely fantastic. I actually have so many questions. But I will begin with one, six years that you're ahead right now, doing this, understand understanding the use of code, no code, automation, and all that. And even before that, I know you were working as an Automator. Well, if someone were in your place, having their first startup or second startup or even to yourself at the beginning of the journey, what three pieces of advice when it comes to automation to use in no code to the whole startup building experience you'd give yourself that you will find very valuable,

Chad Sakonchick 13:52
like my most my biggest one I tell people now is develop for what your customers or you need now, not what you think they're going to need. So, you know, we went code because we wanted to do all these things. And so we were trying to kind of like skate to where the puck was going versus where the puck was. But we we overdeveloped and we let our you know, where our business was going way ahead of time. And we developed a bunch of things that people didn't even want. And that didn't add to the bottom line. And so, again, we're a small team. So you know, I do development and marketing and operations and you know, I wear all these hats so if I'm, you know, waist deep in development, I'm not spending time on marketing. And so you know, luckily on no code Twitter, there's been a huge or just startup Twitter I should say there has been a real big push towards you know, marketing you need to spend at least equal time marketing. And that goes into kind of my second thing is that you should do the bare minimum Remember what your product needs to be for your customers to be happy, and provide something that they really, really want. And then you spend the rest of the time marketing it. So as soon as we move over to this new system, we're going to be spending a vast majority of that time not doing development, but rather, doing marketing. And using the no code tools that we have. There's another tool that we're we're going to use pretty heavily called productivity suite, which is going to allow us to do this kind of bubble templates, if you will. And it's gonna allow us to do more kind of automated marketing. And so this is going to allow us to just really push that much further. So yeah, number one is, develop something basic, and make sure people are buying it. So you should be able to build something and get customers within 30 days. I know that's not for everyone there, there. Obviously, products are more complex, but you should at least be getting beta users talking to people, people looking at buying something. And really, within 90 days, you should be having paying customers that likely your product is and are happy with what your product is right now. And then once you hit that level, you just sell to as many of those people as humanly possible. And just really, really focus on marketing. Because if you can find one person to pay for what your product is, right now, you can find 10 people to now it's going to be hard to find those next nine people. But you don't need to develop more features to add, you don't need a feature per user, you develop the product that you're developing, and then you find the 10 customers, and you figure out from all of them, is there something that you don't have? Or is there something that you have that is something that that they all love? Like what is the thing that that they all agree that they love the most about your product, lean in on that try to figure out where those people are, is there anything missing, maybe there's something that's missing, or a tweak that you could make to the existing products that are really get the next 10 customers and the next 10, so you need to get the first customer, then 10, then 25, then 50, then 100, once you're at 100 customers, then you can really start figuring out exactly what your product is, you know, light the fire on marketing. And, you know, honestly, if you can find 100 to 1000 customers, that's all your business needs. You know, if you're a small team, I don't believe anymore, and kind of chasing this billion dollar valuation, you know, when I was younger, you know, I'm 41. So I've been doing this since like the early 1000s and trying to kind of chase this thing. And the tools now are just so much more available back then you needed to have a co located server than you had AWS and that made it so much more accessible that you still needed people to run AWS and that's really complicated. Now you don't need any of that stuff. Now you can run with, you know, bubble, these third party back ends like Zando. Back end lists if you need those. There's gli there's a dalo there's Zapier Integra mat make a tool that I'm developing called the masonry which is kind of integration or automation agnostic where it's like a it's a browser Automator for one. And it's also a place to store cloud code that is automatically attached to a web hook with a secure token that you can input into your Zapier or Integra mat.

Integrations because Integra mat doesn't support custom code. So if you need to write a script, or most recently, I had to what I what I used and what I always use the example because this is what I use. First, well two things is I had a very specific process where I needed to change a state to a two letter code. So Texas to TX, New Hampshire, two NH and I needed to put that in a bunch of different places. And so I had to put in probably, you know, eight to 10 zaps. This isn't going to happen, but hypothetically, if we just add another state, and there's a new code, or one state changes their code. And this kind of stuff happens all the time, like not in this particular instance, but like, I deal with state and federal governments. They change stuff on a whim. So if I've got custom code that is sitting in a handful of places, and I need to change that, I need to go change in all of those different places. So what the Masonry is flow does is allow me to put that code there define the inputs and outputs And then take that web hook and just input it into my zap, or into my scenario on Integra mat. And then if I need to change that code, I can go make the change there. But then I can actually open it up. And I can say anybody can use this for free, or I can charge per use that, you know, if it's a very simple thing, maybe I charge half a penny, per runtime, or if it's something more complex, I can charge a monthly subscription. So that's kind of what what we're doing down that road. But there are all of these tools now that allow you to do this yourself. I do recommend still learning how to code. You know, but but nothing further than like, Code Academy. You know, learn JavaScript or Python, to the extent that you need to do some formatting of texts, or numbers, or splitting lists and things like that up. That is, like learning math, you know, you kind of need to learn the basics to be able to do stuff, because you will in your no code journey. Run into those barriers, were like, Oh, I can't, I can't do this, even if all you're doing is going to GitHub, which is what I did for this state thing, going to GitHub and copying this Python code that converts Texas to TX, and then pasting it. Like you need to know enough to be able to do that. The other thing that I needed was a name parser. Like Integra mat, and Zapier, they don't have a, you know, they're their 100 million billion dollar companies, they don't have a name parser, every one of us has this problem of, I have a full name. And I need it to be a first and a last name or a first middle last suffix, or prefix, or I have the first and last name and need to be the full name. That requires custom code. If you're not going to have kind of a formatted module that does that. So we created that module in the masonry and then go to the marketplace. And you can add it to your thing right now. And you can start using it today, because it's something that we should all be able to use. And so I kind of want to create this, I like to like look at Epic Games is development community as like my beacon for where we should be going with no code. And that is, it's also kind of like Stack Overflow a little bit. Get Hub here and there. But a place where a place where we can develop these things that I need, but I know that everybody else needs to. And so I can put it into the kind of this library this this repository. And then you can also use it without having to because here's another thing, like when I found that code, where do I put that, like I found the code is on GitHub is right there. Everybody can see it. It's searchable on Google. But if you're no coder, where do you put that, like in Zapier, you can put it in in there, but if you're using Integra mat, or you're just using bubble, and you're not using Zapier, where do you physically put that little, you know, 50 lines of code or those five lines of code. And so that's what we're trying to solve with, with the masonry. So I, I'm building this no code, business, but then whenever I need tools, I kind of develop my own tools. And then I use them in here to kind of validate that they're real, and then open them up to the community.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:37
Thank you very much. That's so interesting to peek into how you think and you approach this whole process? Well, what is the biggest benefit of automation and no code, in your experience, you spoke about eliminating repetitive tasks, about reducing or eliminating the error that comes from human operators, doing whatever they're doing. You spoke about how you can do a lot with a small team. Some companies will say that they will have scaling problems if they don't have real liable automation and processes and systems in place. Well, what do you see is the biggest need right now, maybe some entrepreneurs never tried automating. They're facing those struggles. And maybe you can open your eyes to them as well, as well. You're on the forefront of developing tools. Where do you see the future of automation and no code going? What technologies will come? That will be the next big thing or the next level up?

Chad Sakonchick 24:45
So I'm actually pretty excited. It's I use it very heavily, but I don't think a lot of others use it, but it's just browser automation. I don't really you know, browser automation generally is kind a scripting language like Selenium or you know, they're scraping B. And there's, there's these other hand coded tools. What we have at better legal is, so 50% of all of our sales come from about five to seven states. So Texas, California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida. And so talking about the repetitive tasks, think about, you know, we're we're doing about 500 LLCs a month, right now, think about having to do, you know, 10 or 20, Texas filings yourself in a day, while also having to do the smattering of like, there's a main one, and there's a New Jersey one, and there's a Wyoming one. And so, by automating that task, there's no API for that, that doesn't exist. But all it is, is putting information that we already have in the database that the customer has given us, and putting it into some forms in a very specific way. And so what we have now are these automated, fully automated, so we validate like post sale, we show the customer what information we have, and we walk them through, we say, hey, states don't like this, you can't use a special character. You can't do this, move this around bow. And then we have a button that says confirm and file. If they're in one of five to seven states, their LLC gets filed automatically by a bot. And so every state is different. You know, they they file it differently, some have their own automated system, some don't like Texas takes two days. But again, Texas right now, there are a lot of states that have humans that are running these, it takes two days, but right now they're on a severe delay. So it takes 10 to 12 business days. Whereas like Wyoming or New York, are fully automated. And so they their instant file, when you file in the state of New York, you get your filing, literally immediately. And so when you have a company like LegalZoom, who for 20 years has been doing with with people, they still give a 30 day 30 business day turnaround time for something that takes instant. So you can either go to the Secretary of State of New York and file it instantly yourself, go to the IRS and file it instantly yourself. Or you go to LegalZoom and have them file it in 30 business days. Whereas we have bots that say, Okay, file the New York, LLC. And then now the reason why people don't want to do this themselves is because every state is different. They have different terminologies. So we asked, you know, questions in a very, like explain, like I'm five type situation, and then we figure out where to put everything. Because you know, but there are a lot of nuances into all of this, which is why people hire us. So we file with the state of New York, and then we instantly get it back and we get back the email some states, you download it, some states, you get an email. So New York sends it via email. So we've got an email intake that knows that we got an email, we look at the PDF, we read the PDF via OCR software, and we look for is this the one we just filed? Yes, it is we matched it, okay, put it in the customers dashboard. Make sure it's right, move on to the IRS, ein filing, so then it goes to the IRS website, fills out everything. The IRS is a download. So it clicks the download, downloads, it takes it puts it in the customers dashboard, then goes off and then generates the legal documents. So it takes all the customers information, puts it into the right place and generates a 40 page legal document puts in the dashboard. And then it fires off an email to the customer says we're done. Here's all your information. So even though seven of our states are automated, Texas still takes two days right now 10 to 12 days, because it's on there and we set it to them. It takes them 10 days to get back to us. But New York is instant. So our customers in New York get theirs back in under an hour. And so because the browser automation. Now, there are interesting things where, you know, there are a lot of people hiring globally, contractors globally. And so I'm seeing people that have issues with you know, they've got a client, they're an accountant. They've got clients in Houston, and

they're in, say Dallas. But the Dallas person offloads the repetitive kind of tasks to a global contractor, you know, they're a CPA. And they are still going to verify the work, but they want to hand off the work to someone who is more junior. So they hire someone, maybe from the Philippines, they get that work done. But when that person is logging into different systems, the client is seeing that these logins are happening from the Philippines. And so, you know, people just get weird about that. They're like, what's what's happening, you know, it's like, well, you're hiring me, and I'm doing your thing. But they still don't like to see that this is happening. So you get a VPN. But then the VPN is don't work. Great. So the VPN is are only in LA or New York or Dallas, and they switch a lot. Right, now we've got a problem with the IRS, the IRS only allows us to about three ei ns, because we just we have a static IP address, we do about three ei ns, and then they say, That's it, you can't do any more today. So now we've got this problem, we've got to find rotating IP addresses. So you can use a VPN or a proxy, but what I think is more interesting that we're going to start playing with it, the Masonry is using a Raspberry Pi, in developing kind of a little, a little system that you can put on, you can, you know, tap it into your router. So it's your little mini computer, and it's got Chrome, you know, chromium attached to it. And then you put the browser Automator there. And so then you let's say this, let's let's change the the task a little bit where, let's say the CPA themselves is still physically doing all the work, but they are traveling, they're in Vegas, they're in Cancun, they're in Phoenix are on the beach, and their client is still seeing these logins happening from all these different places. I've actually heard this from an accountant friend of mine who was like my client comments on every time because they're actually logging in from all these different places. And my client is commenting on where I'm at. And it just makes me feel uncomfortable. And it makes me feel like they don't think that I'm working when I'm working. I'm just working remotely. I'm a nomad now. And so what this little tool allows you to do is do browser automation, but also be a VPN on your local network. And so you can always log into stuff via your home network. But then imagine a kind of a network of these. So like, everybody has one of these little things. And then so you say, I want to allow a certain amount of traffic, a certain type of traffic through my little VPN, like I want to allow better legal to file ei ns, through my VPN. And you know, if we get enough people doing this, we've got, say, 1000, people with these little VPN is all over the place, then even if the IRS or someone else starts cracking down on these, you know, big proxy companies, then you're like, how are you going to stop residential, Raspberry Pi's Shum from being browser automation? So going deeper into browser automation? I think, when ended again, this is something we're experimenting with it at at at the masonry? Is that? How do you get this stuff to be no code? How do you take browser automation away from scripting, to drag and drop. And so we've been experimenting with that. So our filers that when the state of New York changes or website or the state of California change their website, which they both have done very recently, we don't have to get a developer to go in and recode all this stuff, they can go in, and they can drag and drop the information into the into the proper form, and then train the bot themselves and do that. So so taking browser automation away from code, moving it to no code, but then also, that's kind of where I think is going to be you know, something that's really exciting. But in the future, I think taking that even further and since everybody's kind of doing

you know, digital nomad lifestyle, having your home base with a Raspberry Pi or a handful of Raspberry Pi's where you can actually tie into to kind of make it always seem as if you've got like a headquarters or you're working from home, or if you've got a contractor that is having to get into something because again, we've gotten contractors that are global. And when they try to get into a US government website, sometimes they get kicked out because they are working, you know, in another country. So that's a problem that we have. So that I really would like to see that take off. Because I think there's a lot of a lot of things that people do, that are just filling out forms, they have the information, and they just need to put it over here in a certain way. And then they need to put it over here in a certain way. So

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 35:21
thank you, that's really fascinating. And I love the progress that you're looking forward to I actually, since I'm very familiar with process you, I recommend you check out how it could be integrated within your workflows, and it will help with a lot of things that you're speaking about. I mean, I would love for you to tell people how they can learn more about what you're working on to follow you, or what are the best lengths to be in to know more about what you're doing?

Chad Sakonchick 35:57
Yeah, so um, si se comm on Twitter. So it's just Ford slash C. S ako. And is a Nancy, I talked about no code I talked about better legal there. If you're a student setting up a business, we are the fastest, most affordable. A lot of people like to use stripe Atlas, but they are Delaware only, you know, Delaware, Delaware corporations and Delaware LLC. So if you need to file a Wyoming or a Texas or whatever, you know, We're the fastest and we're we're one price, we don't, you know, have all these upsells and upsell you from 30, business days to 15 business days, for an extra $150 is one price and you get the fastest that we can provide. And then at the masonry, you gotta make the we still kind of working on that. I haven't, I haven't figured out exactly what it is yet. But I would kind of want it to be a community, I want it to be a place where, you know, we talked about process SEO, where we talked about all these different tools, we talked about how to use them together, because what I'm really, really excited about is none of these tools get used alone. There, it's a stack, how are we building the new no code stack, and let's not build lamp and all use the same stack. The more people that create new tools means the more pieces in the stack that we can have, and the more niche products that can be developed, because all of us build something that we need and that our friends or colleagues need. And then we just have that many more tools that we can add to these very unique stacks.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 37:31
I really love that. And, you know, for the listeners, there is this great thing in building their stack. One of the steps is like you mentioned this process here, which is the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. Any person listening can request access to a free account that process yo dot app. It's absolutely fantastic. And if someone wants to upgrade there, there is an exclusive discount code for 50% off it's better 50 off one word in capital letters. There are links in the description. I'll write your Twitter in the description. It was an honor, a privilege. And I wish you to keep going keep building this community and together we will change this world. Thank you so much.

Chad Sakonchick 38:30
Thank you