Automation & Creating SOPs Allows You To Reclaim The Most Valuable Thing In Life: Your Time.
Sarah Doody is the Founder & CEO of Career Strategy Lab. She is a user experience designer, user researcher, and product strategist. As well as an experienced Automation Expert.
Her Website: SarahDoody.com
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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 energy on repetitive tasks that added no value one day, the Better Automation podcasts by PROCESIO came to help them find a 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 at Better Automation podcast by PROCESIO, where I interview the world's top experts and share their very best ideas on how to use and improve automation in your business, processes. And life. My guest today is Sarah Doody. Sarah is the founder and CEO of Career Strategy Lab. She is a user experience designer, a user researcher, and the product strategist as well as an experienced automation expert, Sarah, how are you today?
Sarah Doody 1:22
I'm doing well. Thanks for having me. Aziz.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 1:24
It's my privilege, it's my honor. And it's going to be a great time, I'm sure of it. So to begin this conversation, what a use case or a scenario or a situation where automation made a big difference for you. Can you tell us the juicy details?
Sarah Doody 1:43
Definitely. So just for some context, I run a career coaching program called career strategy lab. And it is part one on one part group coaching to help people navigate the tricky journey of landing their next job in user experience. And, you know, thinking back, I've been doing this for about four years now. But I think the first place I really automated was the delivery of this career coaching. So it all started with a 45 minute live kind of Lunch and Learn style workshop that I taught. And I thought, I'll teach this once. And I will never have to talk about this again. And that is kind of as the story goes, people started to get hired. And then they said, Can you run this workshop again. So I ran this workshop, once a month, I taught it live. And then I ended up kind of extending it. So it was a four week workshop. And I went through this process of teaching it live over and over and over. And then I kind of hit this tipping point where I thought I should automate the delivery of this career coaching, because it was that critical kind of decision point that many business owners have, when you think what is the value of my time, and maybe two months ago, you thought your time was worth X, but you quickly realize there are other things in my business that I should be spending my time on. So the first thing I really automated was the delivery of this program. And we did that through investing the time and energy to record all of this curriculum and make it very timeless and evergreen, if you will, so that we could accept people, you know, any day of the month when they wanted to join not on this four week cycle we were on. So that's the first thing we did. And we use a platform called teachable to kind of help with the delivery of that, and various other video editing and stuff like that.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 3:53
Thank you. That's really, really good. And since you're a strategist, I would like us to get deeper. Where are these thought leaders who think that we're moving towards a world where things will be revolving or reinventing or changing on such a consistent basis that it's harder to even capture knowledge or a course or something like that for long term where you need to keep updating things and it becomes a lot more about manual labor. And not automation will not be a factor in that specifically. Do you agree with this? Do you believe it's true? Or there is some timeless knowledge and wisdom? And if you focus on that, everything will be fine?
Sarah Doody 4:39
That's a great question because I myself have been a student in programs I've enrolled in that. We're very time sensitive in nature. So for example, I enrolled in a Facebook ads course. And as you can imagine, the person who ran that course had to constantly be updating it and I As a student, I appreciated that. But I also thought to myself, that seems like my worst nightmare to have to redo my curriculum. You know, every time Facebook makes a change, plus, it created this environment for the students where the students were panicking all the time, everything Facebook would change something. And I thought, the founder of that program, you know, I don't know how to deal with all that stress. So the very lucky thing for the niche that I'm in is, it is very timeless, like when you think about writing a resume, writing a case study about projects you worked on, so you know, what the heck to talk about in an interview situation, like the the act of articulating your skills and experience and how you write about that, I believe that is very, very, very timeless. And I guess if I had to think about one risky or evolving part of this process, it might have to do with the job search, and how people may want to use LinkedIn, or maybe other platforms that come along. But I've really lucked out with this timeless niche. And I will say, everything we do every piece of content we create, I'm thinking to myself, like, how do we make this so we don't have to make it again, in eight months or two years or something like that. It's not always possible. But that is definitely a guiding principle for us, like, make a timeless once and try and, you know, foolproof ourselves from redoing it in the future.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 6:34
Thank you, that is actually a digital transformation project in many ways. So let's say someone they don't have experience specifically, in taking processes within their business and turning them into automated SOPs, or strict standard operating procedures and all that. How would you recommend they approach such projects to not make any common mistakes that someone new might not be aware of? Some people, for example, would say, use and copy exactly what you're doing manually but automated because trying something new is like guessing and it's not time to guess when you're automating. Others will say well put it on paper or somewhere visual look at it and realize it in efficiencies and play with it, optimize it before doing that, because well, when you're within the process, you don't realize what is used less than what is useful, or whatever it is, how would you recommend the project to be approached to be done to be completed?
Sarah Doody 7:39
This is a great question. Because we are doing this literally right now in my business, I now have four employees, and there's so much knowledge in my head. And we are in the process of creating SOPs, and then identifying what we need to automate or what automations need to be changed. But before I got to the point of automating everything, you know, the first question that you really need to ask yourself is, what should I automate? And for me, in order to identify that, I went through a period where I was just logging my time. So what was I doing on a daily, monthly, weekly basis in my business, to help myself identify all those repetitive tasks, because I think, as a business owner, it's almost like sometimes I'm on a hamster wheel. And I just do these things over and over and over. And then I finally realize, I spent X amount of time or days doing this, we should automate it. So step number one is identifying what to automate. And I used a tool called Rescue Time to actually look it, it kind of tracks what software you're using. It might also track what websites you visit to, I'm not sure, but it helps give me insight into what software I was spending my time in. And then I was very meticulous about tracking time and harvest or something, what I did on a daily basis, but then, in terms of that knowledge transfer and creating those SOPs, what I have found is working really well for us is just getting into the habit of recording myself doing tasks. So I use a tool called loom l o m.com. And it records my screen, it can also record your face and audio, obviously. And then that gives my team a starting point to see what I've done. And also I just did this this morning, I recorded a loom and I was talking through. I'm doing this because of XY and Z. And then in the video I said, now that I'm talking about this, I realized we should do it this way and it made so much more sense. So talking it through allows me to identify improvements. And I think it helps with that knowledge transfer as well. So that's kind of the stage we are at right now is we've grown as a team, and we're trying to get all the knowledge out of my head to free up my time to do other things in the business.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 10:08
I love that. And I will ask you something that is absolutely related to what you're speaking about, and to your experience, which is this. Some people corporate or whatever they work based on best practices, emulating what is the standard procedure within their industry community, or whatever it is, and they try to follow it. While a lot of entrepreneurially spirited kind of people will say, if you do that you have no uniqueness. And therefore the quality or the competitive advantage of your business, is the fact that your processes are unique to you done your way. And therefore they will feel different, they will result in unique outcomes or experiences and all that. So when you are creating those processes based on what's on your mind, did first How did they come to me? Was that like, the easy way that follow your instincts, your natural talents? Or did you like you said, you took a course on Google ads, or Facebook ads and all those kinds of ads? It wasn't based on some courses or best practices? How did you develop those processes as well as do you believe people should innovate in the processes or try to have streamlined best practices so that they reduce costs, and focus on reliability rather than creativity?
Sarah Doody 11:36
That's a great question. So I think maybe we can look at the Facebook ads I spoke about, and then we could look at kind of the actual running and operations of doing really career coaching at scale, we have over 100 people in our program right now. And when I think back to the the period of time, when I was experimenting with Facebook ads, you know, I originally joined that program, because I knew my time was so valuable, I should not teach myself this area of business. So I invested in this Facebook ads course. And I really find that any program on your role in kind of a guiding principle for me is, I'm going to do exactly what that expert says to do the first time around. And then I will look at what we just did look at the data, how did that impact my business. And the second time I do that, I will iterate based on my own data, or my own gut reaction or other things I've learned from other people in the program. So that's kind of how I approach learning from other people. And in terms of the automation, you know, I think once we get to the point of automating something, it has morphed from kind of best practice, to best practice for us. I can't really think of a time when we've automated kind of just what the industry says to do. Because I really want to do it myself. You know, I have this phrase. And I know many people say it, but like do things that don't scale. And so for us, that meant manually doing a lot of things that I know, we could automate. But I didn't want to automate it until I felt really confident that it was delivering the experience and the result we wanted.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 13:35
Thank you. And I actually have two questions. This is exciting for me, you're saying so many great things. And I'll begin again with something that you're probably facing within your community is that you have 100 people that you're educating, elevating, speaking with getting them to the next level, you said, my time is so valuable, etc. A lot of people deal with impostor syndrome, where either they feel I don't deserve. My time is not so valuable. I'm pretending to be this expert, but I don't know I'm lost. Or even if they're doing it, they're like, I'm unworthy, or whatever it is. So I don't know if you need people who share with you that and open up in that way. But if they could, and someone is listening and thinking, I'm overwhelmed, yes, I could automate a lot of things. But my time is not so valuable. I'm just before whatever, even if people tell them you're so amazing, and all that they could feel an impostor syndrome. So how to deal with it, overcome it, handle it, manage it, or what's your perspective? Yeah,
Sarah Doody 14:43
I am asked this question on a daily basis on every single platform. And I have a couple of videos and articles about this. We could probably link to in the show notes. But I think for impostor syndrome, I think the real key For me is catching yourself in that moment of doubt or self criticism or however that manifests for you. And not allowing yourself to kind of get trapped in that. I sometimes call it spiral thinking or catastrophizing, or sometimes I say like quicksand, almost right quicksand of negativity. But I think the number one thing is find ways to recognize when you are getting trapped in that. So maybe, you know, you distract yourself and go Google stuff and just avoid dealing with something, maybe your heart rate literally starts to increase or something. So first, it's about recognizing when you have this imposter syndrome, but then it's about figuring out kind of like a detour of how to get away from that. So how you do that kind of depends on what your personality needs. But, you know, for some people, it could be as simple as keeping a email folder of like praise and nice things that people have said about you or something on your desktop, I, you know, have a folder of emails and screenshots of testimonials that I look at from time to time to remind myself like, this person, you know, saw so much value from what we did, or this person said, this great thing about a talk I spoke out. So those are some strategies that work for me. And I think that if people are thinking about automating things in their business, but maybe they're intimidated, you know, they logged into Zapier and thought, I don't know what to do, or whatever tool they use. You know, I think that it's really important to think of your time, not just as like, you're an expert, that's going to be on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine or something. But there are probably other things in your business, that if you spend a little time on those things, could radically shift, maybe problems that are happening in your business or areas of growth that maybe you haven't seen traction on. So for me, it's about like freeing up time, so I can do those high value things. For me, maybe that is, Well, currently it's going on podcasts, how ironic. It's also about thinking about like, how do I grow and mentor, my team, because now I have four employees. And I think to myself, like, I need to be developing them as much as I'm developing the people in my career coaching program. So that's kind of how I think about that, that balance of what is the value of my time? And how do I buy myself more time in my business and, and frankly, my life, like when I was doing this solo, I'm a big downhill skier, I was just on the mountain three days in a row on the weekend. But I, I got very laser focused on automation, because when I was a business of one person, I thought to myself, How do I automate everything so that I can literally have more time to go skiing? Like that's exactly what was my driving principles? So maybe it's time back in your life to You know,
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 18:23
I agree. And this relates beautifully to the next question, since you have a team of four, you're upskilling them and mentoring them. And all that. The thing is, since you're dealing with self, a self employed or entrepreneurs, well, they are often that way, because they're unemployable, because they wouldn't handle like being an employee.
Sarah Doody 18:48
Yeah, I might get fired at this point.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 18:51
Yes, like a lot of them like you, even your description of who should be in your team member, you personally wouldn't fit that description, you wouldn't get that job. So they will think managing people and dealing with people and turning this into a job like that. I cannot handle it. It's not for me, it was I will hate every minute of it. I don't know, what would be your answer, because I'm sure maybe you have such thoughts or someone else was saying to you, if I need to add people that I will need to manage then I will kill myself or whatever it is. Let me just keep it at the automation level for you. How did you find joy into having a team into mentoring a team? Is it finding the right people and that's the secret or what's your perspective?
Sarah Doody 19:43
This is a great question because I literally am the person that swore up and down I would never have a team never hire employees didn't want to deal with that. Not just like managing people but all the administrative stuff behind the scenes like payroll and taxes and all this stuff. I'm, and now here I am with some employees and contractors and such. And for me, I think the decision to level up and get a team because I realized, there are some things I can't automate, like, for example, part of our program, people can submit two items a week for critique. So a resume a LinkedIn profile, whatever it is. And it got to the point where I could not do any more of those critiques, it was too much. And as the creator of this program, it almost like, was a unpleasant experience for me to have to critique things because people would make mistakes. And I would think to myself, I made the lesson, why didn't you just do what I said, you know, so I can't automate critiques. And that was really a tipping point where I thought, I need people to do these things that, number one, it just I can't handle the capacity. And number two, I think I'm too close to some of this to be an effective critiquer, to be honest. And that kind of started this process of hiring these employees. And then I think in terms of figuring out what employees you need, you know, it's a matter of what do you enjoy doing? What do you not enjoy to doing and what parts of your business need your expertise and attention to grow. And at the stage, we were at, I thought, you know, it does not make sense for me to hire out, for example, sales and marketing, because I know the audience. So well, people sometimes reply to our emails and marketing and social media and say it, I felt like you were reading my mind. And I think that's because we did a ton of research. And we know our customers and potential customers so well. So it was that tipping point of what are the areas in the business that need my attention. And that's kind of how we ended up where we are. And then it did get to the point where I was managing those people. And then I quickly realized, I cannot run sales and marketing and manage the people. And so I recently within the past three or four months, brought on Director of Operations, kind of a contractor right now, to help manage the people and also get into the weeds of operations. So she is helping us with clickup, this project management kind of knowledge base thing we use. And taking a look at what I did in terms of the initial operations and automation and stuff. And she's kind of coming in and like reorganizing it and putting a bow on it and taking my you know, MVP version of our operations, and making it much, much better.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 23:12
Thank you. That is fascinating. You have a lot of real life experience and everything we're speaking about. And therefore, you're really adding a lot of value wisdom and insight to the conversation. And if people want to learn more about you, they want to know more about career strategy lab. Can you speak about it a bit more, and I'll make sure in the show notes to put a link to your LinkedIn and to the website.
Sarah Doody 23:41
Awesome. Um, before I do that, I want to say something that I forgot in the last question, which has to do with why did I decide to hire a team and do what I said I'd never do. And I think part of it had to do with the impact that I was realizing this business was having on people's careers. So people were joining this program, and then going on to increase their salary by 30, 40, 150%. And got hired at companies like Blue Origin, the rocket company, IBM, Intel, Amazon, all these places. And the testimonials, you know, of increasing your salary are incredible. But also it's like the testimonials that have to do with gaining more financial freedom and being able to pay off debt or put away more for retirement and do things for their family. And so I think that's when I realized I could keep playing small and serve a handful of people at a time. But there is such demand and frankly need for this. I thought I'm just going to do this. So that is how we ended up where we are. But if you want to learn more about career strategy lab, just go to career strategy lab. dot com that will show you various success stories. We have tons of free articles, all kinds of stuff over there. And then just for me, I have my own domain, sarahdoody.com, where there's articles. I haven't written many articles in a while over there. But there's really great articles over there a bunch of talks I've done at conferences and stuff. So it would be great for those business owners out there or people that are maybe thinking of finding their next job soon, too.
Abdulaziz M Alhamdan 25:31
Sarah, this was my privilege, my honor, such a great conversation. And, of course, I have to speak about PROCESIO, which is the wonderful software without it this podcast wouldn't be possible. PROCESIO is the modern low code, no code platform for advanced automation and creating an enterprise grade back end for your software. All the listeners can get a totally free account they can use forever at PROCESIO.app, and those who have higher needs. There is a very generous 50% of code they can use which is BETTER50OFF one word in capital letters, more info in the description. Thank you. This was my privilege. Keep going. Keep having the impact. Don't play small. go bigger, and have a great day.
Sarah Doody 26:25
Thanks for having me. This was a fun discussion.