Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to Get Unstuck and On Target I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and whether we're working with supervisors to improve their people skills or it's me coaching a leader one on one getting leaders and companies unstuck is at the heart of everything we do and that's exactly what this podcast is about.
Joining me is Connor Offutt Connor is the CEO of Aetos Imaging now I want you to think drones VR 3D scanning their vision is to revolutionize the build environment by using 3D scanning technology to enhance how facilities train their staff manage their assets and collaborate online we've got a lot we can talk about.
But let's start with saying welcome Connor
Connor Offutt: nice to be here nice to be here thank you for that kind introduction Connor
Mike O'Neill: I would love to cover several things in our conversation today I was drawn to you initially because you have an interesting background from an entrepreneurial standpoint I'd love to kind of explore that a bit.
Aetos imaging it's a unique service and I think that the listeners would find benefit and learn a little more about where that is and how you're embracing technology in a way that makes it very very practical for your users and I really like to get into time permitting to what you introduced me to and that is the concept of industry 4. 0 that's the flow I love to take
Connor Offutt: got a lot to cover together today
Mike O'Neill: well we're going to get started on that Connor you are a part of founding your business but you kind of had the entrepreneurial bug for a while tell us a little more about your journey as an
Connor Offutt: entrepreneur
yeah so I mean I really like to say that my entrepreneurial journey goes back to even my childhood where I was raised as a missionary kid in Kyrgyzstan Kazakhstan and Thailand.
So I really grew up in a complex environment needing to adapt to my surroundings fit in learn different languages and that really gave me the grit that I have today on what it takes to build a business I was always creative and trying to find different ways to make money and whether that was a local you know boutique pest killer shop to take care of the rodent problem with my neighbors or Building my own video game when I was 11 years old I was always looking for different ways to get creative even in these different types of environments.
And so moving back to the U s for college and then jumping into the business world I started a tennis academy in Atlanta we ran that for about eight years and happy to say that it was very successful we focused on high performance juniors and that really taught me what I needed to know about maintaining a balance sheet being fiscally responsible year round managing other coaches and players and really learning how to lead and build an organization.
I'll be a small one nothing compared to what we're doing now but that's sort of how I got my journey started
Mike O'Neill: you used the word grit a moment ago in that you were able to do these things but it required grit in what way have you had to rely on grit in your role there at Aetos
Connor Offutt: Well grit such an important thing Mike you know as a CEO you never know what problems you're gonna face and what types of things you're gonna have to deal with.
And so you know whether that's getting a team on board whether that's solving a new problem encountering something that you never thought you would have to deal with and then just weathering the stress of running a business there's financial insecurity you're trying to deal with you know quite frankly be responsible for the livelihoods of in our case of about 15 families.
And that's not easy that's a lot of responsibility to hold on your shoulder and so you need grit to persevere to keep your sanity throughout the difficult times and you know I think that's a really important characteristic of anybody who's going to lead a business
Mike O'Neill: you didn't necessarily list the number of employees.
You mentioned families and as you know I have an HR background but when you have a business you have to be mindful ever mindful that those who work for you have families and the decisions you're making impact not just them but their families you've also shared with me that y'all have been very fortunate and that you are growing.
You're growing at a relatively fast pace could you describe in more layman's terms what is what is the service you offer and can you explain it in a way that a person like me could understand
Connor Offutt: yeah so essentially what we tapped into in the founding days of Aetos is the idea that Visual matters and so what I mean by that is we can all instantly understand that if I've got a picture of something then that helps me understand what I'm looking at far more than a description of the thing.
Right and so we take that concept to its very end by imaging entire factories facilities Class A commercial buildings et cetera to give the people that operate that asset that building a visual perspective of everything that they do on a day to day basis and so even more tactically what that means is say for example I'm a contractor and I get a work order to go service a valve at one of these factories.
Well I might show up and I might not have the first clue of where that valve is right maybe I spent 30 minutes an hour even looking around trying to identify where it is if you have the visual context Of what you're stepping into not only do you know exactly where to go but you can actually even essentially pre visit the site look at everything that you're stepping into and make sure you have the right tools you're prepared for the job and even almost diagnose the problem before you even get there.
And that's just one example of the power of the visual that elevates that existing experience and so we're not really reinventing the wheel of the processes that we're enabling it's it's training it's asset management it's work order management it's maintenance management but what we're doing is reinventing the way that the form factor that that comes across by bringing that visual element.
To the end user and to the operators you know
Mike O'Neill: I'm a visual learner and so this resonates very much for me we were talking about training if you can offer a visual representation of what it is that this person is going to be working with and its relationship to the other things is that that It adds a whole new dimension that it's it kind of escapes most.
Can you elaborate a little bit about how your service your product if you will how does it help improve the training of those using it so
Connor Offutt: let's first take a look at how things are today and then how they're different with a toast I think that's the best way to paint this story here so today training happens in a couple of different ways.
You might get a training manual right a bunch of procedures that you're supposed to follow you might get some videos that walk you through generically here's the safety training start stop procedure you might get some books around general you know best practices when it comes to operating equipment.
And then you go through of course apprenticeship you're going to be walked through the step by step procedures often in very loud environments you're stressed it's your 1st time on the job you're trying to absorb it all right and so that's really the status quo today and quite frankly even a lot of places don't have all three of those completely figured out.
Now what we do with Aetos is since we operate on the basis of this 3D representation of their building 8K imagery I can see exactly where everything is it's like Google Street View for the inside of your facility now we can walk them through these step by step procedures and take the guesswork completely out of the learning process.
So instead of generically go to the emergency evacuation shutoff valve we can show them exactly where that is in their facility we can show them exactly where the start button is on the big piece of equipment we can show them exactly where the shutoff valve is we can show them where they're supposed to deposit hazardous materials.
Right so it takes the guesswork out of the ambiguity and the general training that happens and it's actually immersing them into their own facility and walking them through these step by step procedures so that they know exactly what to do and are ready and we've seen a reduction in the onboarding time by as much as 50 to 75%.
So it used to take six months to get fully operational is now taking about two and that's incredibly impactful when it comes to the turnover and the change management and the continuation of the institutional knowledge that you have at these facilities
Mike O'Neill: Connor as you know I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of industries manufacturing is something I've spent a lot of time in and in manufacturing you mentioned the onboarding piece people forget how costly ineffective protracted onboarding is.
If you can bring people in train them correctly up front you're going to have them up to speed operating with competence more quickly most likely more safely and when you begin looking at what does that say because you get them up at that it really adds up pretty fast you know Connor you shared that you as a entrepreneur at a very early age I think you said you develop a software.
Video game my bad yeah you you're describing technology that I understand in concept you as a as a company you're bringing multiple technology to bear on this outcome how have you found technology changes so fast it does is the combination that y'all have come up in terms of the tools is has it even changed in the time that Aetos has been
Connor Offutt: around?
Absolutely and and the way to the way that we look at this Mike is we're trying to understand fundamental driving forces in the market and then latch on to those concepts and think from first principles rather than saying oh VR is the thing that everybody's obsessing about we need to jump on that bandwagon and go build something right there.
That's not how we think we think from first principles okay here's a couple of things that your audience might be fascinated with so first off the cost to capture reality is trending down towards quasi zero now that's a bunch of words there what that means is you know if you think of the computing revolution right we are all are all should be familiar with the concept like Moore's law where the doubling of computing is happening at about every 18 months or so.
Well so is facial scanning so this concept of it's going to get easier and easier to capture and represent reality that's not an individual technology it's not a camera it's not that's a movement right and we're getting better and better it's getting cheaper and cheaper to capture and scan reality.
That could be drones it could be robots it could be better cameras it could be better methodologies better software we're all riding that wave right so that's a core fundamental principle that we're attached to and so then the question is how do you enable that revolution for operators and for facilities?
So then you have to think okay What are they doing every single day that could be better and enabled by this visual experience well they need to train an onboard staff they need to manage their assets they need to track histories of maintenance procedures documentation compliance records and they need to troubleshoot and have remote field service capabilities so that they can actually Coordinate across an entire portfolio of assets and synchronize the efficiency of their operation across multiple disparate factories that are still running the same type of equipment but have very different personnel and oftentimes very different procedures.
And so we're sort of bringing all these things together and I you know I haven't even mentioned IOT yet and predictive maintenance and how that revolution is is fit for Aetos as well because we amalgamate a lot of these disparate systems it's a single pane of glass that puts your building in the pocket.
And so that that's kind of the ethos if you will of how we're writing these technologies but we're really agnostic to any one particular trend in the market we're really trying to think holistically about what this platform ought to be in the limit
Mike O'Neill: I want to come back to this in a moment but I also would like to kind of get your thoughts on industry 4.0 I understand this is new to me but that concept has been around for a while can you explain what that is please
Connor Offutt: sure I'll do my best and this is a quite touchy subject for some so I'll try not to you know make anybody upset who has maybe strong opinions but the way that I look at industry 4.0 is it's the push towards better process better automation and better data and that's that's sort of the overall thesis right and that's Okay great what does that actually mean right and what it means I'm going to give this and specifically the concept so there's industry 4.0 for manufacturing and you can understand that as robotics right?
Better automated lines fewer people faster production cycles that's sort of what it means for there in our in our world I'm using industry 4.0 on the operation side as utilizing data for predictive maintenance rather than scheduling or even worse reactive maintenance so what does that mean that means I have a vibration sensor on a pump on a chiller that is showing and detecting anomalies to say we can actually predict based on the slight variation of vibration that this pump is going to fail in four months.
Let's go ahead and fix it now before it costs $15,000 to rebuild that's just one example of this concept of better automation and better data in the way that we manage our facilities and operations another example there would be more streamlined training and more and a further example there is going to be being able to do things remotely tap into your controls your your your asset management from sort of a bird's eye view perspective.
And being able to service things without necessarily needing to have boots on the ground now as my best friend Ralph says it still takes a shovel to dig a hole and so we're not anywhere close to displacing the people that actually run these facilities but we're actually trying to enable them to do more efficient more productive work.
So that's kind of this whole concept of industry 4.0 and how it's driving the entire market
Mike O'Neill: know one thing I picked up we had a conversation prior and one thing I picked up that kind of caught my attention that really said I think Connor will be a good podcast guest is yeah you understand technology your team really understand technology but what you said something's about that first principle we got to understand how that technology.
could be used should be used and you're trying to keep an eye towards that end user if if you walk in all you have is a lot of technology that doesn't serve a purpose they may be cutting edge but you're looking at very practical things training maintenance P m the list goes on is these are things that Operation leaders deal with every single day and probably don't have the capacity to go out there and research all of this technology.
It seems as if you can come in and you can offer that visual representation that 3d representation and give it back to them in a way that is practical am I hearing that correctly
Connor Offutt: oh you're you're right on the money and this is core to who we are as a company it's not good enough to be cool it has to be valuable.
We we are pragmatists over here at Aetos and so the first thing that we do every time we pioneer or I you know ideate a new feature new technologies we think does this serve the customer does this make their lives easier and will this actually be adopted at scale and what ends up happening is we end up ruthlessly simplifying everything that we thought needed to be complicated.
Every iteration of Aetos gets simpler not more complicated we we are always trying to reduce and take parts away and think about how can I make this even more intuitive how can I make this even simpler for the user you know at the end of the day they don't need to know about all this magic behind the stack.
They don't need to know about how incredible our code base is or our technology is doing this this and that behind the scenes that doesn't matter to them what matters to them is they're able to do their work in a better way today than they did yesterday and that's what we care about and so we we apply that.
Sort of Occam's razor approach if you will to everything that we do and try to simplify make things pragmatic and leverage technology only when it's useful and valuable we do believe technology has incredible ability to reinvent the way that things are done and make things more efficient.
Otherwise we wouldn't exist but I think so many of our peers just go too far and they're detached from their end user you know I like to walk the facility I hang out with our end users you know I'm not just leading this company from a you know skyscraper somewhere I'm out there on the field I'm not beyond going out and doing a scan myself and hanging out and understanding you know how they're using it.
Because everybody at our team is we have to understand what are the real problems that they're facing and be the first line of defense to hear the problems that or the pain points that they're having with our product so that we can fix it
Mike O'Neill: as CEO Connor you are at the helm of a fast growing organization with technology coming hard and fast but you said that you really want to emphasize all of the distractions.
It's not important for the end user to fully understand the magic behind the stack it's important to make sure that y'all have not lost sight what is the real problem and what is the most practical solution we can offer how do you plan to keep that Baked into the DNA to your organization as you grow?
Well that's where the grit comes
Connor Offutt: in my friends mm you know there's this concept called you know entropy right and so without attention things devolve towards chaos necessarily so I have to be a steward of the culture and of the people and of the mission and of the vision and it takes constant reinforcing sometimes.
One of my favorite pieces of advice is being a CEO is you're actually c r o in the sense that you're the chief repeating officer and you need to keep repeating the things that are most important to the team because you know you take for granted you hire five new people they haven't been there for the last 3 years.
They don't have these things ingrained into their psyche and so you know it starts from the top but it also means that our leaders and those that are in an executive role at Aetos have to embody that same style of thinking and I have to hold them accountable and to the highest standard to make sure that that is going downstream.
And then you know we we love to just manage up in our sort of leadership style it's almost an inverted pyramid right me being the CEO just means that I have to deal with the most problems and serve the most people and you know I'm at the foot not at the head if you will and so you know that that servant mentality of how can we make sure that everybody you know above us is taken care of is extremely important.
And I think it doesn't happen automatically it requires maintenance it requires attention it requires stewardship but if you're aware of those things and you're attentive to them you can maintain a phenomenal culture over time
Mike O'Neill: you are anticipating my only one prescriptive question let me blurt that out.
And that is reflect on your experiences it may be personal it may be business can you share an example where you or your organization got stuck and what did it take to get unstuck hmm
Connor Offutt: so I'll I'll do this from the perspective of our deployments as a process overall so if I go back to late 2022 what we realize is that we're deploying this incredible software but our user data and statistics showed that people would use it for two weeks and it would be exciting.
And the next thing you know two months later nobody's logging in and it was just it was I was stuck you know I just couldn't figure out like this is incredible how are you not using this every day right and what we realize is we're we're massively underestimating how much we needed to be consultants and service providers.
And while you know the venture capital market out there has this wonderful idea of what software as a service ought to look like these days is you click a button you buy your Netflix subscription and you never have to interface with another human again and it's free cash flow and it's incredibly you know renewal and you have this amazing machine.
You know our business doesn't work that way and so we have to actually go through this process of implementation and customer success that we've had to build out an entire organization within Aetos to service the onboarding implementation and change management with our clients because they are not the subject matter experts on our technology.
We are they're the subject matter on experts on their facility and so we now have a very sophisticated onboarding and implementation customer success process to make sure that not only are we doing as much of the work for them nobody likes homework nobody likes to go in and put data from one system into the next and label and identify things.
Let's do that for you let's help you build your initial training courses let's help you go through let's go through a comprehensive training and then let's continue to follow on to make sure that you're actually achieving the ROI that you were promised now does that mean it's more expensive for me that I got to go hire more people to service that?
Yes is it worth happy incredible customers of course and so that was like if it were in a way a theme of the entire year where we were just stuck and could get unstuck we had to kind of push some of the advice that we were getting aside and say No no we have to embrace the service and the consulting side of this and we can't just let our customers go out and tread water and figure this out.
We have to have to guide them and really help them through this process and that's now part of our DNA and we believe that that's going to be a big way that we succeed where others don't in this industry
Mike O'Neill: great example Connor as you reflect on what we've discussed what do you want to be the takeaways for our viewers and listeners?
Connor Offutt: Mm well go check out a dose imaging dot com for sure and if you're in facilities at all whether that's a small medium or large type of facility please go ahead and say hi and we'd love to have a chat with you so that's definitely a takeaway but you know look I think that you know overall there's a lot of technology out there right now.
There's AI there's V r there's things that are happening that and I hate to break it to you but it's not going to slow down it's only going to accelerate so rather than being overwhelmed by the change and the pace think from first principles think about value think about culture and think about the things that matter that no matter what technology comes out these things are going to be eternal in a way.
And so if you're rooted in that mindset and you have critical thinking at your core you're going to be just fine and so that would be the takeaway that I would say I'd like the audience to hear this has been rich Conor thank you thank you Mike I appreciate the time you know I've got a
Mike O'Neill: question for our listeners.
Are people following you because you have to or because they want to you know as a leadership coach I work with executives who have a track record of success behind them but they're now feeling stuck they're frustrated because they're finding with each level of success that follows the bar gets set even higher and they get discouraged because what worked in the past.
Is no longer working but clients despite all their successes in the past are lacking the clarity and confidence to make the decisions needed to get to that next level through coaching we work together to unravel hidden blind spots challenge limiting beliefs and establish a strong sense of accountability.
So if feeling stuck describes you or someone you know let's talk go to bench-builders.com to schedule a call so I'd like to thank you again for joining us and I hope you have picked up on some quick wins from Connor they'll help you get unstuck and on target.
Episode 158: Revolutionizing Commercial Real Estate with Aetos Imaging