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Alex Winter

By Alex Winter

Jun 20, 2024

Topics:

Executives and Leaders Artificial Intelligence Endless Customers Podcast
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Executives and Leaders  |   Artificial Intelligence  |   Endless Customers Podcast

AI For Your Business | CEO Bob Ruffolo Shares His Perspective [Endless Customers Podcast S.1. Ep. 42]

Alex Winter

By Alex Winter

Jun 20, 2024

View the full transcription of this episode.

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Alex Winter
0:00:00
So Bob, level with me, let's be honest. Do you really think AI is going to take people's jobs?

Bob Ruffolo
0:00:05
You kidding me right now? Of course it's going to take people's jobs. Yes, we all need to be paying attention to this, because AI is going to change the way every company operates, everyone's job, everyone's career. It's going to affect all of us.

Bob Ruffolo
0:00:18
And we need to be taking it way more seriously than we probably are.

Alex Winter
0:00:20
Let's talk about it. Welcome back to Endless Customers.

Alex Winter
0:00:31
My name is Alex Winter and today we're joined by the CEO of Impact, Bob Ruffalo.

Bob Ruffolo
0:00:35
What's up? What's up, buddy?

Alex Winter
0:00:37
Welcome back to the show.

Bob Ruffolo
0:00:38
Happy to be back. Happy to have you here.

Alex Winter
0:00:40
Today we're talking about artificial intelligence. I think this is a timely thing to be talking about. I know AI is big in the news and everyone's talking about it right now, it's like a hot topic, but for us specifically and really for you as a leader, it's been about a year since you really leaned into AI fully, you made it like a culture shift here at Impact, you really like got the whole company tracking in this direction.

Alex Winter
0:01:03
Can you talk a little bit about what that was like in the journey from then to now and

Bob Ruffolo
0:01:06
just like what we've learned as a company and what you've learned as a leader? Yeah, yeah, for sure. So I think you go back to when ChatGPT was dropped and kind of caught everyone off guard. Yeah. And, you know, that was November 2022. And, you know, for a few months there, I was kind of processing this, like, what is this?

Bob Ruffolo
0:01:23
Is it actually going to be a real tool that we're going to start using? Is it just a, you know, flash in the pan? And obviously, ChatGPT has continued to get better, improve, more features, obviously 4.0, or ChatGPT 4.0 just came out. So along those months, it's like, all right, well, what do we do with this as a company?

Bob Ruffolo
0:01:42
And I think every company is still really in the same boat. Like, don't feel like you missed the boat if you're not doing much with AI yet. It's still really early, but you have to take some steps. So for us, we decide, OK, well, this is not going away. We felt pretty confident early last year

Bob Ruffolo
0:01:58
that AI is going to be a game changer for businesses like ours, the way we operate, the way we serve our clients, the way we have internal efficiencies, do we need as many people? All these things were real things we were considering. So our first step was to announce to the entire company

Bob Ruffolo
0:02:12
we're gonna be an AI-first company at everything we do. That meant we're gonna make some tough decisions, but we need everyone learning and fully embracing it, putting it into their regular jobs. So here we are about a year later, and I think for impact, I think we've done a good job.

Bob Ruffolo
0:02:27
I wouldn't say we're top of the line. It's not like we're making headlines in the news about our big AI success stories or anything. Right, big breakthroughs that we've had, yeah. But we've put it into everyone's work week that they have time set aside to experiment with AI. That was a priority that Marcus and I had set about a year ago. Marcus was incredibly hot about that. So we put that into everyone's

Bob Ruffolo
0:02:52
work week and some people have done more than others. And we've seen some really big wins in terms of some of the things, especially a lot of the internal efficiencies of how we're working with our clients and using tools like Chatshub-BT or using the video editing tools. So we're doing a lot of different things. But I think, again, just like every other company, we're all in this boat right now. It's like, I'm playing with these tools.

Bob Ruffolo
0:03:14
You've seen what they can and can't do. Some have great promises. It's close. It's not fully there. And then other ones are great, and we're using them all the time, but still very, very early.

Bob Ruffolo
0:03:27
It's the wild, wild west of AI.

Alex Winter
0:03:29
It is definitely the wild west. But when you gave your talk in Chicago about AI, and if you haven't seen it, you've got to check it out. You gave a really great presentation on AI and how to create a culture within your organization. One of the big things you said was like,

Alex Winter
0:03:42
you made weekly, like everyone gets a couple hours a week to focus on this stuff. And it's important to take advantage of that. And I think in the beginning, we were all a little nervous about it. I can speak for myself, I was a little hesitant.

Alex Winter
0:03:53
But now I take advantage of that because I'm learning more and more that with AI, like anything else, you gotta get your hands dirty. You gotta just experiment and listen, some of it doesn't work the way it should. Some of it's a little clunky, but until you go through that and learn that and figure

Alex Winter
0:04:07
it out, you're never going to grow and you're never going to figure out the ways to leverage these tools to your advantage.

Bob Ruffolo
0:04:11
You're exactly right. You have your processes inside your company. People are used to doing things a certain way. That's what has to be broken right now. The questions always have to be asked, can AI do this better, faster than we've always done it before. So we look at this episode, this podcast.

Bob Ruffolo
0:04:31
When we first started, I mean, were we on episode 40 or something at this point? But when we first started it, editing an episode was very, very manual. And that was the way we had to do it, right? That's the way to get started.

Bob Ruffolo
0:04:44
We edited a video podcast just like anyone edits a video.

Alex Winter
0:04:47
And it's the way it's always been done.

Bob Ruffolo
0:04:48
That's traditionally how we would normally edit this type of stuff. And I challenged you and also the rest of the team here to say, we have to be using more AI tools. We have to find ways to do this faster. And I challenged you and we found a tool and the tool is called what again?

Alex Winter
0:05:03
It's called AutoPod.

Bob Ruffolo
0:05:04
AutoPod. And it's Adobe Premiere? Yeah, it's a plug-in.

Alex Winter
0:05:08
I'll get it.

Bob Ruffolo
0:05:09
It's the extension, yep. I'm glad we found that. You and I had sat down, we watched the tool work. And what that tool did was, it just pressed a button, and it just automatically does the back and forth between us. So as you're watching this, you're seeing, OK, the camera goes to Alex.

Bob Ruffolo
0:05:22
Camera, shoot over to Alex for a second.

Alex Winter
0:05:23
Smile.

Bob Ruffolo
0:05:25
And then it comes back to me, right? And I'm talking here. The AI knows that we're having this type of conversation, and it's doing the cuts for us. It just saved a ton of time. But had we not said, is there an opportunity here for us to edit these episodes better faster and just cranked room and we just said well

Bob Ruffolo
0:05:43
Let's just do it the way we always do we have a process for this This what that would never happen and how many hours a week has that saved you a lot? I would say at least an hour or two per episode just with the editing time and when we're doing the quantity of episodes We're doing that compounds and it really saves an enormous amount of time it does Yeah, but to the point that I was making earlier, which this is a great example, the first few times we used AutoPod, it was a little clunky because we didn't know

Bob Ruffolo
0:06:07
how to use the tool. So sure, we watched the video and the videos make it look easy because you click a button and magic happens, right? And it does do that, but it's not quite that simple. So you have to practice and the more we learn how to set the timelines up correctly and Austin and I doing the experimentation we've had, we've really got it dialed in now where it does save us quite a substantial amount of time for a week over week day over day Yeah, what's really cool and the the vertical video tool that we use again?

Bob Ruffolo
0:06:31
I'm totally blanking all things as offers this clip open up which I love Not a sponsor of anything that we do right and we're not sponsoring any of this This is just tools that we actually that we actually use but open slip if you're watching this we'd love to have you as a sponsor But no in all reality like opus clip, you know again first time you guys had used that you're like, oh we can't use this you know our internal video editing is just better than this okay when you realize you have a full-time person who's that's their only job you're paying this much

Bob Ruffolo
0:07:00
yet these softwares they cost like $25 a month it's like well how can we use the software we have to go find a different one you just got to stay in the fight with it and go right to your point you just keep experimenting make the tweaks it's AI it's learning as you're using it so it's getting better as you use it. So sometimes usage just makes it work better over time as it realizes all the changes you're making,

Bob Ruffolo
0:07:24
and your team's gonna get better and they're gonna learn how to do it. And that's where you get the efficiencies. If we're not doing that, again, we're talking about video editing a little bit, you know, chat GPT, obviously everyone thinks

Bob Ruffolo
0:07:33
about content marketing, we think of chat GPT. This could apply for writing and copywriting

Alex Winter
0:07:37
and for blogging and for a lot of different facets.

Bob Ruffolo
0:07:39
Accounting, project management, estimating, shipping. I always say shipping because like, yeah, like how are the people in our shipping departments, if you have a shipping department, thinking about AI to be more efficient? It's got a million different use cases, even with travel. For your corporate, you know, your leadership team or people that travel quite a bit, you can do a lot of automated travel booking and finding the cheapest flights or the most efficient flights,

Bob Ruffolo
0:08:04
I mean, it's pretty impressive what you can do. And those are just a few of the many potential possibilities of where it can go. Especially when AI agents become more prominent, and that might be at the end of this year. As we talk about Paul Reitzer from the Marketing AI Institute, he's got a great podcast, the Artificial Intelligence Show. Yeah, great show.

Bob Ruffolo
0:08:23
But I really trust his insights on a lot of these things. But he's thinking, you're going to see more of these AI agents towards the end of the year, and certainly next year. There are starting to become headlines and success stories of companies using AI agents now, very, very early.

Bob Ruffolo
0:08:40
But again, as we're thinking about as business leaders, as professionals, if we're later in our career, early in our career, it doesn't matter. All these things really, really matter right now. We have to be thinking about this in everything that we do. We had this big Chachapiti moment in November of 2022.

Bob Ruffolo
0:08:56
All of a sudden, the world was turned upside down. I think there's going to be two or three more big Chachapiti moments, and this AI, it might seem like it's going to be going slow, but then it's going to be fast. I make a lot of parallels to the rise of AI as to the rise of the internet. And the internet came on pretty fast. It might have been slow in the beginning,

Bob Ruffolo
0:09:17
but all of a sudden, no one's using faxes anymore. Everything's via email. We're doing everything, everything's online. All of our systems connect to the internet. We're doing cloud computing. Now we have to have a social presence.

Bob Ruffolo
0:09:26
All of our customer service is done social media. It happens so fast. AI's gonna be the same way. And we just have to make sure we're all ready for it. I think those are good parallels. There really is, it's obviously not the exact same,

Bob Ruffolo
0:09:38
but there are a lot of comparisons when it comes to early adopters versus people who are late to the game when it comes to building a website and leveraging these tools to their advantage to help scale their businesses. With that, for business leaders, what are some of the challenges that you face? Because there's a lot of positives with this, and it's exciting, but there's also some tricky things you have to navigate to as your company starts to adopt it.

Alex Winter
0:09:59
What were some of those things that maybe you went through?

Bob Ruffolo
0:10:01
Yeah, I think first off, as a CEO, you're going to have a whole bunch of people, and they're all going to be at different stages of their AI journey. Some are having experimented with it, playing with it on their own, with their own social media

Bob Ruffolo
0:10:14
profiles. Whatever they're doing, they've been playing with chat GPT they're excited about, and they're saying, heck, how come we're not doing more of this at work? Then you're going to have the other side, where people are going to be watching other headlines in the news

Bob Ruffolo
0:10:25
and saying, I am staying away from this. That's the devil, right? Like, you know, we know the media outlets are gonna say that type of stuff, right? Yeah, Skynet. And they are resistant to that.

Bob Ruffolo
0:10:34
And I think you're gonna see, actually, whether your employees are gonna admit it or not, you're gonna see more resistance. Because I think, deep down, there's gonna be some kind of internal fear of AI's gonna take my job,

Bob Ruffolo
0:10:43
or if we just kinda like don't push it as much, maybe they won't push it as much. So I think there's a little bit of an internal resistance that I think we're always going to face with our employees when it comes to AI. While you're going to have certain staff members that are

Bob Ruffolo
0:10:57
going to be ready to go and ready to run with this. So I think that's probably the biggest challenge, is how do you navigate this wide variety of employees at all stages of their career and all stages of their AI education and willingness to dive in? So I mean, that's probably the biggest challenge.

Bob Ruffolo
0:11:14
And then you've got to counter that.

Alex Winter
0:11:15
Yeah, yeah, and I do agree that there's going to be resistance. And I think even for myself, there is a little bit of fear that these tools are powerful. And the more you start to use them, it's like, wow, is this going to really take my job?

Bob Ruffolo
0:11:26
And in reality, let's just admit it, yes, it will.

Alex Winter
0:11:30
Yes.

Bob Ruffolo
0:11:31
Yes, it will. At some point, there will be technology and tools that will take a lot of jobs. Maybe not yours, but it's going to take a lot of jobs. Yeah, it's just going to. I mean, but you know, at Impact Live, we talked about this.

Bob Ruffolo
0:11:45
This is not new. This technology has been taking jobs since the beginning of time, right? Yeah. You know, we make that joke. There used to be a job called a computer.

Bob Ruffolo
0:11:53
You know what took that job? The computer. A job doesn't exist anymore. Yeah. You know, it's, there used to be video stores. That's how you used to go watch movies, right?

Bob Ruffolo
0:12:02
Like, that doesn't exist anymore. There's going to be a lot of things that we're doing right now. And I definitely think there's, you know, how many copywriters there are in the world, I don't think we're going to have nearly as many copywriters

Bob Ruffolo
0:12:14
in the world five to 10 years from now. Video editors, I don't think we're going to have nearly as many doing that. You can go up and down the whole list. There's going to be a ton of other jobs that right now employ lots and lots and lots of people, that's just going to really,

Bob Ruffolo
0:12:28
really shrink down. Kind of like think about, you know, a newspaper office in the 50s compared to today. Like, there's going to be a lot less people in those jobs. Yeah. But the positive of that is you got to look on the other side of this. That, you know, you went back to the year 1999. There are jobs today that thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people have that just didn't exist in 1999. Right, and that's a great point is some of this stuff

Bob Ruffolo
0:12:54
is going away because of the advancements in the technology so you're losing some of these jobs or it's shifting, but it's also creating all these new opportunities. So it's really more of a shift than like you're gonna be out on the street trying to make ends meet and figure out your next move.

Bob Ruffolo
0:13:09
And I think that's the biggest piece that you've helped a lot of us here and myself and the company realize is that it's an opportunity to learn and shift into something new and to like leverage these tools in a new way and I forget if it was at your speech or when you when you said this to me but you were saying like eventually there's gonna be an AI expert in every company that's like the

Bob Ruffolo
0:13:27
the chief AI person or you know just like your CMO or your CEO there's gonna be a position like that in a few years from now and I've never thought about it that way so you said it but it makes total sense when you say that, because that's where this is going. Yeah, yeah. I mean, again, if you think about, you go back to the mid-90s, did all these companies have IT departments? Maybe, maybe not. But today, almost every company has an IT department. So you just can go down, like another job, social media influencer, did

Bob Ruffolo
0:13:53
not exist in the late 90s, right?

Alex Winter
0:13:55
No.

Bob Ruffolo
0:13:56
But today, I mean, how many social media influencers are there, right? So, yes, we know there's going to be a chief AI officer. You know, many companies are going to have a chief AI officer or at least some kind of VP, executive VP in charge of all AI initiatives for the entire organization. Most companies might have an AI engineering department, which might not exist today. We don't know.

Bob Ruffolo
0:14:17
I don't know. I'm making guesses here. There's going to be a lot of AI trainers. But you know, again, no one could really picture how big social media influencers would have been in 1999. So it's like trying to take a guess right now of what careers will be out there.

Bob Ruffolo
0:14:30
We don't know yet, but at least I have confidence that there will be new jobs and new opportunities for people that don't exist right now. Now that bears a question, like how do we prepare ourselves for that? And that's probably, you know,

Bob Ruffolo
0:14:43
we're probably wanting the rest of this conversation, right? Yes, definitely. No, that's where we're going with it. Real quick, so I have an interesting question here that I wanted to ask you, right? It says if you could go back in time, so if you go back a year, maybe two years, when ChadGBT first came out, would you do things the same way that you roll things out currently?

Bob Ruffolo
0:15:00
Or would you shift some of these things around if you reflect back and retrospectively look at it? It's a good question. I'm glad we did something. I think a lot of companies probably didn't do anything, and we did something by at least addressing the elephant in the room, talking about how it's gonna impact jobs based on everything we knew at the point, and that we want people fully embracing it,

Bob Ruffolo
0:15:21
so we had a clear message. But I still think we're very, very early with this, so I wouldn't say we missed too many opportunities yet, but I think that window for missing opportunities will be coming up really quick for a lot of companies, where all of a sudden there'll be some massive disruptions

Bob Ruffolo
0:15:37
in different industries, and people will get left behind. So I think at least having an entire culture that is watching headlines, seeing software updates, playing with software, playing with different AIs, doing different things, at least that is probably better than most companies.

Bob Ruffolo
0:15:56
And I think that's probably one of the biggest takeaways off this episode is get your entire staff at least to that level where we're all educated, we're all aligned, we've got some guidelines in place, we're experimenting a little bit inside of our company. If we have at least a few of those things going on, then we're probably going to be way more prepared than most of our competitors and most people in our industry.

Bob Ruffolo
0:16:17
So I'm not sure if I would do anything different, but I think it's kind of like saying the next day after the draft, like, hey, would you have drafted differently? It's like, who knows? You're not going to know after the NFL draft if you have good players for like three to five years later. We've got to see how all this plays out.

Bob Ruffolo
0:16:32
Yeah, or you draft a superstar and then the first game they blow their knee out and you never know what's going to happen. Yeah, no, totally. Totally. I think that's a good answer. And I think too, this is a good segue to go into for people that haven't adopted it yet

Bob Ruffolo
0:16:43
or maybe people that are trying to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it's not really

Alex Winter
0:16:47
a thing.

Bob Ruffolo
0:16:48
Yeah.

Alex Winter
0:16:49
How do you get business leaders and companies excited about it wanting to learn more about it wanting to start to bring it into their

Bob Ruffolo
0:16:54
Organizations and be proactive instead of reactive to it well I think it's just continued like what we're doing today more people need to talk about it more people need to support each other Just talking about what AI is going to do for our business You know our CEOs are in peer groups Are we bringing that education to our peer groups our employees bringing it up to senior leadership and saying, here's my ideas,

Bob Ruffolo
0:17:17
here's what we need to be doing, starting the conversation. I think the more conversations that are happening, I think if you're a CEO and you're saying, well, I don't want to hear about AI right now, that's a very ignorant stance to be taking.

Bob Ruffolo
0:17:28
I think it's a very scary stance to be taking because it's like, in the 90s, being like, don't tell me about this internet thing. I don't want to know about it. We don't need a website.

Alex Winter
0:17:36
We'll be fine.

Bob Ruffolo
0:17:37
And listen, the most successful companies are growing. They're pretty progressive when it comes to being open-minded about changes in the world and changes in technology and how that can impact their businesses. But if you're one of these folks that are saying, I don't want to hear about that, that does create a risk. And listen, I've always said this too.

Bob Ruffolo
0:17:57
Other companies that are incredibly successful today that still go out and do everything with pen and paper, and they maybe have a snet.net email address, right? And they barely use it. Are there people that do that? Sure. They still use smartphones, of course.

Bob Ruffolo
0:18:14
But there are still companies that are very laggards when it comes to technology, and they're just fine. But that's much, much harder to do than it is to say, OK, well, how are we going to be more on the cutting edge of this? I like the cutting edge or the leading edge because that's most CEOs that I've met and that I've interacted with, there's a similar mentality that's trying to stay on the leading

Bob Ruffolo
0:18:37
edge of these things, not because they want to be cool or they want to be edgy, but because they want to be able to give the best services and products to their clients and they want to keep enhancing their business to be the best it can be.

Alex Winter
0:18:47
That's just a driving force of most CEOs that I know.

Bob Ruffolo
0:18:50
And you know, the companies that use technology the best, it drives profitability, it drives consistency, it drives better customer service or customer delivery of your products or services, creates a better experience. Everything is more streamlined. So again, that's going to be the promise of AI.

Bob Ruffolo
0:19:07
If it can make your employees' jobs faster, can get things faster for your customers, just give you that competitive edge, that's the way we need to be looking at this. It's all right there. I mean, if you just watch,

Bob Ruffolo
0:19:19
you know, one of the biggest things I tell people to do, if you want to get exposed to AI and what it can do, go watch 15 demo videos, go to YouTube. You know, we can't even provide the list and the show notes here, but just go watch a whole bunch,

Bob Ruffolo
0:19:29
it just opens your mind to, okay, now I have a better idea of what AI can do for our business. And maybe let's talk about how, you know, now let's start experimenting, go see if we can find softwares out there that we could put into our workflows. Yeah, that's great advice too.

Bob Ruffolo
0:19:42
And that's, that's no cost to enter. You go on YouTube, it's free to watch. You can look at some keynotes or some different demos, and it's a great way to get your hands dirty. So we've looked at the leadership and the CEO side of the equation. This is a good segue. You started to talk about your frontline employees.

Bob Ruffolo
0:19:55
What happens with frontline employees that maybe are really into this, but the rest of their organization isn't? Or like, what advice could you give for employees that want to start adopting this but maybe you're in an organization that is a little laggard and getting up to speed with this. Yeah so let's talk to you frontline employees. You. Yeah and that that I mean at the end of the day everyone is responsible for their own careers. Everyone is responsible for

Bob Ruffolo
0:20:19
their own careers. It's not your boss's job to take care of your career although they have that responsibility but you may have a bad boss and you can't be held back in your full professional career because you had a bad boss or two, right? You have to take control of your own career, totally. The world's going this direction. We all know this. There's no arguments that AI is not going to have a massive impact on the workforce. So at the end of the day, you

Bob Ruffolo
0:20:41
frontline employee, it's your job to go and learn this and experiment with this and get really, really good at it because being an AI enabled version of whatever it is that you do is going to be better than being a non AI enabled version of whatever you do. You have to become that AI enabled person. So go out to other industry events where your peers hang out, go be proactive on that. If your company is not going to send you, send yourself.

Bob Ruffolo
0:21:07
You have to take control of your own education, your own knowledge, and your own skill building. Now if you work for a company that is very supportive and they're going to learn from you, maybe they will send you these things. Maybe they're going to want to hear your ideas. Maybe they're going to want you to bring this

Bob Ruffolo
0:21:20
to the organization. You know what that's called? Advancement opportunities. It's called career growth, right? When you are the employee that leads this charge, that's what your boss wants from you.

Bob Ruffolo
0:21:30
Now, if your boss is completely resistant to you and says, we're not going to do this. Stop even spending time with us. I don't want to hear it. I don't care. Well, again, we have some ignorance there, right? You need

Bob Ruffolo
0:21:41
to stay in that battle and go, if you love that company, continue to fight and help educate up in the organization and get them to see that this is going to have a massive impact on the world. And if you can open up some minds, again, that's even better. Because again, think about all those skills to be able to communicate up through an organization to help facilitate positive change inside of an organization, to make the organization more future-proof, to more successful, more profitable in the company. That's what I think every CEO wants,

Bob Ruffolo
0:22:09
but if they're going to continue to resist that, then you might have to say, okay, this is not the right place for me. But you have to, more than anything right now, is take control of your own career, be an AI-enabled version of yourself, and go find a place where you can be successful. Because again, there's a very good chance that the job you're doing today, 10 years from now, will not exist, at least not even look the same

Bob Ruffolo
0:22:32
the way you're doing it today because of AI. But again, that's no different than the job you had in 1994 looking very different in, call it 2020, right? Because everything's way more tech-enabled today than it was back then. So again, it's all natural,

Bob Ruffolo
0:22:48
but we've gotta stay on top of all this stuff. It is, and I like that you just said that. It's the natural progression. And over time, these advancements continue to happen. This one is just the new hot topic right now.

Alex Winter
0:23:00
It's the new hot thing.

Bob Ruffolo
0:23:00
Yeah, it's the new hot thing. And it does feel like it's happening fast, because it is. And I look at this stuff at least once or twice a week, experimenting with things. And I feel like every week, there's a new tool, or there's a new update to some of these tools, and new things that you

Bob Ruffolo
0:23:14
can learn and grow and experiment with. So speaking of experimentation, right, we train and coach a lot of our clients on marketing and on sales, and would they ask you to answer, and with customers, but we're also really leaning into training them

Bob Ruffolo
0:23:27
on artificial intelligence as well. And we have workshops, and we have all these different things that we do. Do you wanna talk a little bit about how maybe a workshop or how some of these sessions can really help

Alex Winter
0:23:38
bring awareness to these organizations.

Bob Ruffolo
0:23:39
Well, firstly, even before we say that, I have to say I think we're very blessed to have some really great companies that we get the opportunity to work with, with some very innovative and very smart leaders. So I've done a bunch of these AI workshops now,

Bob Ruffolo
0:23:54
and because the CEOs get it. They're like, hey, listen, we know this is gonna be coming. We need somebody to come in and just help facilitate this conversation, help get all of our staff, like we just talked about, we gotta get everybody aligned.

Bob Ruffolo
0:24:06
This is where we're going as a company. This is our expectations for you in terms of experimenting with this. And we gotta get everyone on the same page, give them guidelines. So it's a lot of fun, especially watching

Bob Ruffolo
0:24:19
a very diverse group of people enter a workshop. And we got some people that have already been studying up on this or already using it. You got a bunch of people that are like, I've seen a headline or two in the news, but I don't know anything and I'm kind of scared of it.

Bob Ruffolo
0:24:34
And then being able to get everybody on the same page, everybody moving in the same direction. The fact that they're all leaving there with like four or five ideas of how I can start using AI in my job right now, no matter where you are in the organization,

Bob Ruffolo
0:24:47
which has been really, really cool. And then following that up with the senior leadership group and say, okay, well how do we actually keep this alive now? So let's build a roadmap for ourselves. What's going to happen over the next 90 days? What's our plan?

Bob Ruffolo
0:24:57
And again, most of these companies come up with their own plans. We just help guide that a little bit. Some companies are like, hey, we're going to spend a lot of money. We're going to open up seats of Chat GPT or a co-pilot to everyone in our organization, at least give them something to get started so they can start playing around with this, understanding it.

Bob Ruffolo
0:25:13
And we've seen a lot of different things of how people have taken action. So, yeah, well, I've seen a few too. Like there's been some aha moments and it's one thing to say it, but I've actually got to experience it

Bob Ruffolo
0:25:24
with Chris Dupre, one of our head coaches. And we were with a client that was really in the security space. So kind of traditional, I wouldn't say pen to paper, but like they're in security. So they have to be very mindful of their clients.

Bob Ruffolo
0:25:37
And there's a lot of like variables that they have to be accountable for so they're very risk adverse is a good way of saying it so this AI thing there were a lot of people in the meeting CEO was like I want to do this and there are a lot of people in the meeting that were a little hesitant and we're afraid and there was like some concerns with it and to watch the shift happen and to see them as we're demoing these tools go like we could use that

Bob Ruffolo
0:25:59
for this or there's a huge problem with our RFP process and we can change this. To the point where Chris and I were actually getting ideas from them and there was this organic thing happening where we can use these tools in ways we never even thought about before.

Bob Ruffolo
0:26:11
So it's pretty impressive to see that shift

Alex Winter
0:26:13
happening and exciting.

Bob Ruffolo
0:26:15
Which goes back to what we said at the beginning of this episode, we have to start the conversation. We have to be talking about this. The match is gonna happen when we're talking about this. Because that's when people's guards come down because we're addressing the elephant in the room.

Bob Ruffolo
0:26:28
That's when the ideas from across the company start, you know, cross pollinating across different departments and people can say, okay, I can see how this actually could be beneficial to us. And I want to start playing with it. But that never happens if we're not having

Bob Ruffolo
0:26:41
the conversations. So true. The fears, worries, doubts, and concerns literally shift to excitement and they want to use the tools, they want to get more into it, but if you don't address the elephant in

Bob Ruffolo
0:26:51
the room, it's not going to happen. Well, you know, and the fear probably never goes away, you know, across the board. I mean, people are pretty much scared by technology on the whole because it is happening really fast. But I think, you know, one of the things we could really drive home in this workshop and we do is, you know, your senior leadership is actually one of the few that's willing to address this with you.

Bob Ruffolo
0:27:17
They actually care about you enough to have the conversation. Most leaders are not willing to do that. They are not willing to even talk about this because they don't know what to do and they're doing their employees a disservice.

Bob Ruffolo
0:27:30
It's not fair to your employees if you're not talking about AI because that's where the world's going. And so when we do these workshops, it's like that's one of the biggest things. Like, think about how much your boss cares about you

Bob Ruffolo
0:27:42
right now, that they're educating on this, they're giving you the time to learn about and experiment with this, so you can be a better version of you and can be more successful, whether it's in this company or not, at least you're set up for success in the future.

Bob Ruffolo
0:27:56
And I mean, that's the biggest thing here, and that's probably the biggest advice I would have for any leader that's watching this, care about your employees enough to educate them on how this technology is going to impact their jobs in the next three, five, 10 years,

Bob Ruffolo
0:28:12
and probably closer to three than five. Yeah, yeah, very well said. And that's a great segue too, because I want to ask you as the CEO of Impact, where do you see the future of this going over the next six months, year, two years?

Bob Ruffolo
0:28:25
What does that look like, or what are your hopes and aspirations where that's going to take us? You know, I wish I had a better answer for that. I think that's very, very unpredictable right now. I definitely know that questions and answers are going to be a hell of a lot faster. Whether it's, you know, I have an employee, I need to do a job, I need to go and learn

Bob Ruffolo
0:28:49
how to do something, it's going to happen a lot faster. Our customers, they're going to have so much more access to information. They have a lot of access now, but they have even more. I think when we start thinking about AI agents and taking particular tasks off people's plates, and just like, you watch, AI's watched you do it once, so now it knows how to do it forever, so you never have to do that thing again. I think that's going to really be in place. You know, I don't know if companies like us are going to need less employees or if we're

Bob Ruffolo
0:29:18
just going to have employees doing different things. The value that we bring to clients is probably going to significantly shift. So it's going to be a very interesting time, especially being a consulting, coaching business, being in marketing, any type of field like that where you're B2B and you're providing a service. Even software as a service, I think has got to look at this, you know, all these big tech companies, things are changing rapidly.

Alex Winter
0:29:43
Yeah.

Bob Ruffolo
0:29:44
You know, you think about all the R&D that HubSpot's done for their product, and I'm just going to pick on HubSpot for example, you know, over the last 20 years or so, however long HubSpot's been around, 15 years, longer than that. But, you know, they've worked really, really hard on that product, but AI is going to be able to build a clone of HubSpot like that overnight. All these new companies are going to pop up and have lower costs, and it's going to really

Bob Ruffolo
0:30:13
disrupt the entire world. So I think it's just be ready. Be agile, be focused, learn, pay attention. That's the biggest thing you can do, and just try to stay ahead, try to stay competitive because, again, if this doesn't give anyone solace, it's like, you're not the only one going through this. All your competitors are going through it too. Everybody's going through it. Can you just do it better than them? Right?

Bob Ruffolo
0:30:35
That's probably the biggest question. All your competitors are going to go through it too. Can you do it better than them? And then those will be the companies that win. It's actually oddly reassuring when you say that because sometimes it does feel like you're out on an island and depending on what industry, B2B, B2C that you're in, it might feel like it's different. But what you just said is so true. Everybody is going through this right now, every industry, every company, and they're

Bob Ruffolo
0:30:56
going to continue to as we move forward. And you may have to completely reinvent your company all over again and then do it again. The world's going to just shut down. Again, that's not anything that's new. There were companies and industries that existed that no longer exist, and some of those companies reinvented themselves, and some of them didn't.

Bob Ruffolo
0:31:14
Some of them have been around for 100 years and they're a very different company every decade. You may have to do that. And we also know some companies just don't make it. Yeah, very well said.

Alex Winter
0:31:26
Great.

Bob Ruffolo
0:31:27
Thanks for letting me pick your brain. I love talking with you about this stuff. I know that you don't always think so, but I feel like you're so far on the leading edge of this compared to most people that I talk to. I still have conversations with people when I start to

Bob Ruffolo
0:31:37
talk about GPT-4.0 and certain tools and they're like, what? Are you still speaking English? They have no clue. So it's really inspiring to have you leading this charge here at Impact and I think for a lot of companies out there. I have to give a lot of credit to my friend Paul Reitzer and his podcast, The Artificial

Bob Ruffolo
0:31:52
Intelligence Show. I mean, I learn almost everything I know from that show. Of course, by own experimentations, but that's a great place to get started. So that's a resource I would highly recommend for us. I would too. We've had Mike put on the show and if you haven't had a chance to check

Bob Ruffolo
0:32:05
it out, you've got to go see Paul and Mike and their show is just incredible. I've learned a lot from them too.

Alex Winter
0:32:11
Any closing thoughts before we wrap up here?

Bob Ruffolo
0:32:13
Hey listen, if anyone wants to do a workshop, I'm still happy to do them. I know we have other coaches and trainers here, including Chris, there's a lot of them. So happy to do any workshops for any company. If you're a CEO, you want to bring AI to say your peer group, you want to, you know, obviously that's a topic that you and your group want to learn about. We have options for that. And we also have options if you want to bring it to your company, both if you want to bring

Bob Ruffolo
0:32:37
it to your leadership team, to a certain department, or entire company wide. You want somebody from the outside to come in and have that conversation, we do that

Bob Ruffolo
0:32:44
as well.

Bob Ruffolo
0:32:45
Love it. Yeah, we have a lot of resources to help you bring AI into your organization, whether you're a leader or you're a frontline employee. So check out the resources in the descriptions below. Bob, love having you on the show. Thanks for being here. Thanks so much Alex. Anytime. And for everybody out there listening and watching, this is Endless Customers. We'll see you on the next

Bob Ruffolo
0:32:59
listening and watching, this is Endless Customers. We'll see you on the next

Alex Winter
0:33:01
episode.




Transcribed with Cockatoo

"I make a lot of parallels to the rise of AI as to the rise of the internet,” says Founder & CEO of IMPACT, Bob Ruffolo. 

He goes on to say that “the internet came on pretty fast, so it might have been slow in the beginning, but all of a sudden no one was using faxes anymore. Everything was now via email. AI is going to be the exact same way." 

Bob doesn't mince words when discussing the inevitability of AI transforming job markets. “Of course, it's going to take people's jobs. Yes! We all need to be paying attention to this because AI is going to change the way every company operates." He emphasizes that AI will significantly impact companies' operations, influencing every aspect of careers and daily tasks.

Bob also shares Impact’s strategic shift towards becoming an AI-first company. Since the introduction of ChatGPT in late 2022, Impact has embedded AI into its core operations, driving efficiencies and enhancing service delivery. 

For business leaders, being proactively engaged with AI is a necessary step. Educating your employees and fostering a culture of experimentation and innovation are critical. As AI continues to evolve, businesses that embrace these principles will be better positioned to thrive in the competitive landscape.

Connect with Bob Ruffolo

Bob Ruffolo is the founder and CEO of IMPACT, a coaching and training company that helps businesses improve their sales, marketing, communication, and leadership. Bob is relentlessly focused on helping people grow as professionals and as leaders. The purpose of IMPACT is to create heroes, grow businesses, and change lives, a responsibility he takes very seriously. Bob is humbled by the recognition he has received, including being a 40 under 40 winner and being listed on Glassdoor’s Best CEO for Small Businesses list. He also believes in giving back to the community and currently sits on the board of several nonprofits and charitable foundations.

Check out Bob’s IMPACT Bio: https://www.impactplus.com/team/bob-ruffolo

Connect with Bob on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobruffolo/

Keep Learning

Read: Introduction to AI for Business Leaders and Employees

Watch: AI for Businesses: 6 Steps All CEOs Should Take

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Endless Customers is a podcast produced and distributed by IMPACT, a sales and marketing training organization.

We coach businesses to implement our They Ask, You Answer framework to build trust and fill their pipeline. 

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