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The Future of Work is Here: How To Automate Your Business Processes with Dan Abbate Ep. 90
Episode 9011th October 2022 • Fascinating Entrepreneurs • Natasha Miller
00:00:00 00:17:09

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Dan Abbate is an entrepreneur, thought leader, and investor with a career-long focus in business process optimization and automation using advanced technology, organizational development, and continuous improvement. Dan has a heavy transaction background including startup financing, mergers and acquisitions, and turnarounds. 

In the late '90s, while he was still in college, Dan started an internet company which serviced and eventually sold to Wall Street-funded .coms. Between the years of 2003 and 2013, he started/developed or acquired/improved and sold eight companies serving various markets and industries with a total market value of over $100,000,000 and were funded using private and public capital markets. He has experience in both B2B and B2C companies and enjoys advising and leading high-level operational initiatives, including infrastructure design, process re/engineering, and reorganization to deliver extraordinary results in growth, revenue, operational performance, and profitability. From 2013 onward Dan has focused on growing his personal knowledge base to scale his unique value-driving skills and experience as a silent and lead investor and advisor to a number of technology (including blockchain and cybersecurity) and mainstreet companies. This dedication and focus has placed Dan in a unique leadership position in the cross-section of technology, finance, and business.

Dan holds a Masters degree in Finance from Harvard University, a Bachelors degree from DePaul University in Philosophy and Business, has studied Operations and Financial performance at The Wharton School and Math and Physics at the University of New Mexico, presented his prophetic talk “How Not To Be Replaced By A Robot” at TedXBoca, and his book "Automation Manifesto" was published and is available via Amazon and other retail book outlets.

Where to find Dan Abbate

Learn How To Make Million Dollar Deals: A Masterclass By Dan Abbate

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This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcripts

Dan Abbate:

Speed and like really have like a slam dunk of entrepreneurship

Dan Abbate:

or innovation or something like that.

Dan Abbate:

You have to be just 15 minutes ahead of the curve.

Dan Abbate:

You don't wanna be an hour ahead.

Dan Abbate:

You don't wanna be 15 minutes behind, but just 15 minutes.

Dan Abbate:

So I kind of always think that I'm always trying to stay just about that.

Dan Abbate:

15 minutes ahead of the curve.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Natasha Miller:

How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur?

Natasha Miller:

How do they scale and grow their businesses?

Natasha Miller:

How do they plan for profit?

Natasha Miller:

Are they in it for life?

Natasha Miller:

Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics will be discussed

Natasha Miller:

to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Natasha Miller:

My book RELENTLESS is now available.

Natasha Miller:

Everywhere books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com.

Natasha Miller:

Try your local indie bookstore too.

Natasha Miller:

And if they don't have it, they can order it.

Natasha Miller:

To them, the reviews are streaming in and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback,

Natasha Miller:

as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively.

Natasha Miller:

It is not enough to be resilient.

Natasha Miller:

You have to be RELENTLESS.

Natasha Miller:

You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information.

Natasha Miller:

Thank you so much.

Natasha Miller:

Dan Abbate is an entrepreneur and investor with a focus in business

Natasha Miller:

process optimization and automation.

Natasha Miller:

He did a TEDx talk, How Not To Be Replaced By A Robot and has a transaction

Natasha Miller:

background, including startup financing, mergers and acquisitions and turnarounds.

Natasha Miller:

We talk about what he's looking for in his investments, what he

Natasha Miller:

considers a thought leader to be and why he wrote his Manifesto.

Natasha Miller:

Now let's get right into it.

Dan Abbate:

My focus is primarily just investing.

Dan Abbate:

My main team is essentially my chief of staff, myself.

Dan Abbate:

I have two like business development, opportunity seekers and an

Dan Abbate:

assistant, and that's my main team.

Dan Abbate:

And then once I make an investment, everything kind of gets handed

Dan Abbate:

over to my chief of staff and she oversees the interactions with the

Dan Abbate:

CEOs or C-suites of those companies.

Dan Abbate:

And then that's pretty much my job is, is to kinda like decide what

Dan Abbate:

we wanna invest in and then do it.

Natasha Miller:

And what are you looking for in an investment?

Dan Abbate:

I have a very specific opportunity filter that I use if, I

Dan Abbate:

mean, if you wanted to, I could pull it up and I could show you exactly, but in

Dan Abbate:

kind of round numbers, one of the main things that's important to me is to have

Dan Abbate:

a deal that has clear asymmetric risk.

Dan Abbate:

If I'm gonna invest some dollar amount.

Dan Abbate:

I don't really like investing for like, "Oh, well we're

Dan Abbate:

gonna get a 10% return rate."

Dan Abbate:

Like "Sure.

Dan Abbate:

That's good."

Dan Abbate:

As long as everything goes, well, if you lose your principle

Dan Abbate:

in the process, then 10%.

Dan Abbate:

Isn't very good.

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

But if, so, if there's a risk of losing significant chunks of your principal,

Dan Abbate:

then obviously we need asymmetric risk to kind of help balance that out.

Dan Abbate:

I like to try to build a deal so that I have that same asymmetric

Dan Abbate:

structure in pretty much all scenarios.

Dan Abbate:

So a lot of times the type of investments that I'm doing, I do look

Dan Abbate:

for opportunity to invest like debt finance, plus some sort of equity kicker.

Dan Abbate:

So the debt kind of creates the current cash flow and

Dan Abbate:

kind of like the path to exit.

Dan Abbate:

And of course the equity kicker is just kind of the cherry on top situation.

Dan Abbate:

And that kind of makes the numbers work in many scenarios.

Natasha Miller:

Any industry or any, is it industry specific?

Dan Abbate:

No, I'm very opportunistic.

Dan Abbate:

I look for opportunity and like, it really has to do it.

Dan Abbate:

Does it fit the filter?

Dan Abbate:

That's what makes me decide if I wanna do it or not?

Dan Abbate:

Like I actually have a real estate deal that I'm work again, right now.

Dan Abbate:

That's been fantastic.

Dan Abbate:

I was brought to me by it's funny, as I became more open to kind of like investing

Dan Abbate:

in other people as opposed to my own things so much, and like really opening my

Dan Abbate:

field of view more and more opportunities and good opportunities have come my way.

Dan Abbate:

Like, so for example, I invested in a company in North Carolina and one of

Dan Abbate:

the other investors in that company also works for a giant real estate

Dan Abbate:

development company and he's the head of their acquisitions department.

Dan Abbate:

So we just got to talking and he's like, "Hey, I've got this deal that our company

Dan Abbate:

turned down and formally turned it down.

Dan Abbate:

But I think it's a good deal.

Dan Abbate:

Would you wanna look at, and to your point?"

Dan Abbate:

"Sure."

Dan Abbate:

It's an industry it's real estate.

Dan Abbate:

"Fine.

Dan Abbate:

I'll look at it."

Dan Abbate:

And anyway, that deal has been fantastic.

Dan Abbate:

It took us a little while to kind of get it signed off on, but once we

Dan Abbate:

got the seller to sign, we acquired for essentially $10,000 a lot.

Dan Abbate:

When two days later, one of the other big boys was acquiring for $23,000 a

Dan Abbate:

lot, and we're talking a thousand lots.

Dan Abbate:

So that's the kind of return that I like.

Dan Abbate:

And we haven't even put any money into it yet.

Dan Abbate:

So obviously that's a pretty extreme, good outcome.

Natasha Miller:

Do you have the minimum revenue that you are looking at?

Dan Abbate:

So not minimum revenue, but minimum potential return.

Dan Abbate:

And the minimum potential return has to be calculatable on paper with some

Dan Abbate:

amount of certainty to be at least a million dollars a year, annualized.

Dan Abbate:

So it, again, it to all sorts of ideas, but if I can't make the numbers

Dan Abbate:

work to about a million dollars a year minimum, Then we'll pass.

Natasha Miller:

So switching gears a bit, you talk about automating workflows.

Natasha Miller:

Do you think you were born with the systems and process mindset or

Natasha Miller:

did that develop over your life?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

Good question.

Dan Abbate:

So in college I was a philosophy major.

Dan Abbate:

So like philosophy is kind of inherently about trying to

Dan Abbate:

figure out how things work.

Dan Abbate:

And I think from my kind of philosophy mindset, went down the path of systems

Dan Abbate:

and process, because it's kinda like, well, that's how things work.

Dan Abbate:

Those systems and processes are in your business, in a business, whether you're

Dan Abbate:

aware of them or not like they've either form organically or you actually put some

Dan Abbate:

thought into it and so I think that's kind of where the mindset comes from.

Dan Abbate:

So to answer your question, I think I'm naturally inclined to look at the

Dan Abbate:

world that way and then kind of applied it more structurally in business.

Natasha Miller:

I asked because I'm very systems and process oriented as well.

Natasha Miller:

Even though I am like a recording artist, a violinist, a jazz vocalist that they

Natasha Miller:

don't typically go together and people say "Were you born an entrepreneur

Natasha Miller:

or did you know, was it learned?"

Natasha Miller:

but that's a really broad question.

Dan Abbate:

That's right.

Natasha Miller:

So what inspired you to do the TEDx talk "How

Natasha Miller:

Not To Be Replaced By A Robot"?

Dan Abbate:

Kinda like people could be more aware of kind of

Dan Abbate:

how systems work and that these systems are at play all the time.

Dan Abbate:

And I think that was the intention of the TED Talks was to be able to just share

Dan Abbate:

that, that these things are going on.

Dan Abbate:

And then also, even if you don't care about the technical aspects of it, you

Dan Abbate:

should be thinking of it in terms of like the social impact and kind of what

Dan Abbate:

your impact on you personally could be depending on what your job is or how

Dan Abbate:

you approach things, because one way or the other, and it kind of makes sense.

Dan Abbate:

And I said this in the TED talk, if technology can be used to replace what

Dan Abbate:

you do, it probably should be used to do that because otherwise, if we

Dan Abbate:

didn't think like that as human beings.

Dan Abbate:

Then we'd all still be like pulling plows with cattle all like.

Dan Abbate:

Do right, like if it can be done, it probably will be done.

Dan Abbate:

I hesitated there to use the word should cuz there might be some scenarios in

Dan Abbate:

which it shouldn't we could philosophical goal like talk about that all day long.

Dan Abbate:

But anyway, that was kind of the point to get people thinking

Dan Abbate:

about those things that who maybe as part of their regular day to.

Dan Abbate:

Don't necessarily think of those things.

Natasha Miller:

So for the TEDx talk, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

There's a lot of work that goes into that and preparing and writing

Natasha Miller:

and practicing, and then applying for various options to speak.

Natasha Miller:

What was the outcome that you hoped for?

Natasha Miller:

And did you meet that goal with the talk?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah, I mean, I think my outcome was frankly to just do it and I-

Dan Abbate:

right?

Dan Abbate:

To like, it just is something to do.

Dan Abbate:

That was probably the soft outcome.

Dan Abbate:

And I guess one of the things that came out of it that wasn't really, maybe my

Dan Abbate:

intention, but has been, was kind of like a happy outcome or a happy extra

Dan Abbate:

thing is the fact that like today, like we're talking about this, right.

Dan Abbate:

And this was a number of years ago that I did this.

Natasha Miller:

That was like 2015, right?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

I didn't even remember.

Dan Abbate:

It was a ago and that, and throughout my time over the

Dan Abbate:

last, I guess it is seven years.

Dan Abbate:

That TED talk has kind of come up in conversation a lot or like it was always

Dan Abbate:

kind of a little kind of an intro.

Dan Abbate:

Well, I also wrote a book around the same time about the same subject.

Dan Abbate:

It's kinda like that, like, you use these kind of like intellectual

Dan Abbate:

or like you're in your case, you said artistic or whatever, creative

Dan Abbate:

endeavors that we all get involved in.

Dan Abbate:

And sometimes there isn't a direct correlation to how it applies today.

Dan Abbate:

And then you get to be pleasantly surprised at how it applies tomorrow

Dan Abbate:

kind of thing, just by doing it.

Dan Abbate:

So I always tell my son "That you have to be a creator.

Dan Abbate:

You can't just be a consumer.

Dan Abbate:

So create something.

Dan Abbate:

It doesn't matter what it is.

Dan Abbate:

Put it out in the world.

Dan Abbate:

And with no expectation of it, doesn't have to be in an art museum.

Dan Abbate:

It doesn't have to be any of these things.

Dan Abbate:

You just have to create and put things out in the world.

Dan Abbate:

And then just see what happens.

Dan Abbate:

And I think that's what that was for me.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book.

Natasha Miller:

That you should write the story of your life to help other people

Natasha Miller:

learn from your experience?

Natasha Miller:

Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your

Natasha Miller:

publishing path and market your story, your memoir, to a best seller status.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Speaking about the book you published a Manifesto versus a typical following book.

Natasha Miller:

What was your intent for that?

Natasha Miller:

That is the Manifesto is actually currently gaining a little more steam.

Natasha Miller:

And so what were your ideas around that?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

Great.

Dan Abbate:

Well, so for one thing is I wanted to get right to the point.

Dan Abbate:

Like, I didn't wanna feel the pressure of writing a three or 400 page book, and

Dan Abbate:

then having my readers feel the pressure of reading a 300 to 400 page book.

Dan Abbate:

I think the book ended up being like 80 pages or something like that.

Dan Abbate:

And it was very action focus, like very specific, like here's the

Dan Abbate:

things that a person should be doing to prepare to participate

Dan Abbate:

in this kind of automated future.

Dan Abbate:

And I didn't even really, at the time this was 2015.

Dan Abbate:

I didn't even get into any of the AI stuff.

Dan Abbate:

Really.

Dan Abbate:

Like, it was really more just like, systems, process, and automation let

Dan Abbate:

alone where we are kind of today, where you've kind of got AI and big

Dan Abbate:

data and machine learning, which are actually able to kind of make decisions

Dan Abbate:

in what's going to happen next.

Dan Abbate:

Right?

Dan Abbate:

Like, so in 2015, when I was talking about it, it was very much like you're making

Dan Abbate:

this decision on what's gonna happen.

Dan Abbate:

And now we've even gotten to the point where the machines themselves are

Dan Abbate:

kind of deciding direction for us.

Dan Abbate:

So-

Natasha Miller:

Lots of movies made about that and lots of

Natasha Miller:

movies to be made about that.

Dan Abbate:

Exactly.

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

Some of them documentaries about the good and the bad of it.

Dan Abbate:

I'm sure.

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

So, yeah, that was the point of the Manifesto, the kind of shorter,

Dan Abbate:

more specific outcome focused book.

Natasha Miller:

And what were you doing with the book?

Natasha Miller:

Were you using it as a business card or a calling card?

Natasha Miller:

Were you just putting out great information for the

Natasha Miller:

world to consume with Goodwill?

Natasha Miller:

What were you looking to achieve with the book?

Dan Abbate:

It goes again, back to my philosophy background, I think

Dan Abbate:

you've gotta get your ideas on paper and you just gotta put 'em out there.

Dan Abbate:

And now it, that book lives on Amazon and occasionally people

Dan Abbate:

buy it like once in a while.

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

And so that was really all the intention was, was to get it out there

Dan Abbate:

into the world and let people see it.

Natasha Miller:

So I see in your bio and on LinkedIn, on your bio, it's

Natasha Miller:

everywhere you refer to yourself and you consider yourself a thought leader.

Natasha Miller:

What does that mean to you?

Dan Abbate:

I think it means somebody who knows a lot about a lot of stuff.

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

But then is also looking at that area that they know, and then trying to

Dan Abbate:

move forward, like really analyzing what's going on in this space.

Dan Abbate:

And what's coming in this space.

Dan Abbate:

I think there is a difference between an expert in a thought leader.

Dan Abbate:

An expert is somebody who really knows what's going on now.

Dan Abbate:

Applies it really well kind of processes within that area.

Dan Abbate:

And a thought leader is someone who may also be considered an expert, but also is

Dan Abbate:

moving kind of forward at the same time.

Natasha Miller:

So why not call yourself a futurist?

Natasha Miller:

Do you ever refer to yourself as that?

Natasha Miller:

Is that

Natasha Miller:

something-

Dan Abbate:

I, I never have referred to myself as a futurist and I don't

Dan Abbate:

know why, I guess whenever I hear the word futurist, I always feel

Dan Abbate:

like it's further out in time.

Dan Abbate:

Maybe, and maybe this isn't true.

Dan Abbate:

Maybe this is just my own definition, but I always think of a futurist as

Dan Abbate:

like 30 years in the future, or like really what the world really could

Dan Abbate:

be and a thought leader, or like kind of where I tend to think is more like

Dan Abbate:

three to five years kind of situation.

Dan Abbate:

Like here's where we're like where we're at right now.

Dan Abbate:

And just on the edge, a buddy of mine.

Dan Abbate:

Uses the analogy that in order to succeed and like really have like a slam dunk

Dan Abbate:

of entrepreneurship or innovation or something like that, you have to be

Dan Abbate:

just 15 minutes ahead of the curve.

Dan Abbate:

You don't wanna be an hour ahead.

Dan Abbate:

You don't wanna be 15 minutes behind, but just 15 minutes.

Dan Abbate:

So I kind of always think that I'm always trying to stay just about

Dan Abbate:

that 15 minutes ahead of the curve.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, it's similar to, if you know, 10% more than someone you're

Natasha Miller:

teaching or leading, then that's plenty.

Natasha Miller:

Which-

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

Right, exactly.

Natasha Miller:

Right.

Natasha Miller:

But I understand how that could work out.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah, or, and combine that with a bunch of other things.

Dan Abbate:

Right.

Dan Abbate:

So if you know, 10% more in this subject, but then you also know a couple other

Dan Abbate:

things that maybe you own 10% more now it's like multiple it's exponential.

Dan Abbate:

When you start combining different perspectives and expertise in those areas.

Natasha Miller:

What else do you do with your life?

Natasha Miller:

Acquiring or you're investing in businesses.

Natasha Miller:

You're not acquiring outright, correct?

Dan Abbate:

Not anymore.

Dan Abbate:

That's a change.

Dan Abbate:

That's happened over the last essentially five years.

Dan Abbate:

I realized that it made more sense for me to take minority interests, and

Dan Abbate:

in most cases or debt deals or these different things like we're talking about.

Dan Abbate:

And the reason is for that is that my opportunity filter now

Dan Abbate:

says that other people in the equation have to have more to lose.

Dan Abbate:

Because that's kind of part of my risk management strategy, right?

Dan Abbate:

Like if I'm not the only one or not, like if there's a lot of other folks that have

Dan Abbate:

more to lose than I do, then that puts me in a more comfortable position that

Dan Abbate:

their focus is in the right place and they're focusing on the right things.

Dan Abbate:

So, yeah, I mean, other than that, from a business perspective, I mean,

Dan Abbate:

that's pretty much the story personally.

Dan Abbate:

I do have a lot of academic interests that I do follow up on.

Dan Abbate:

I have a kind of a 20.

Dan Abbate:

Excel spreadsheet that basically outlines on a semester by semester basis.

Dan Abbate:

My various masters and PhDs that I wanna do over the next 20 years, I just finished

Dan Abbate:

my master's in finance from Harvard.

Dan Abbate:

So that was kind of a cool thing.

Dan Abbate:

I got to go to the graduation, which was fun, a little boring, but fun.

Natasha Miller:

I don't know if I have talked to anyone or they've

Natasha Miller:

said it out loud that they had a master plan for higher education.

Natasha Miller:

That's very interesting to me, for me.

Natasha Miller:

I love going to the higher education opportunities within EO, like a short bit

Natasha Miller:

at Harvard business school, short the EMP at MIT to consider doing a full on degree.

Natasha Miller:

Doesn't interest me.

Natasha Miller:

Cause I wanna learn the top line.

Natasha Miller:

I wanna get the meat.

Natasha Miller:

And then get out, but I appreciate that.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

It's like bowling basically.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Dan Abbate:

If I wanna go bowl, like I don't bowl, but I go to academic stuff, it's a, for

Dan Abbate:

lack of a better word, a hobby, but then that hobby somehow always incorporates

Dan Abbate:

into my regular life and I apply it in some way and it's very helpful to me.

Dan Abbate:

So that's not why I do it, but I do definitely see the value.

Dan Abbate:

How I can relate these things back into my real life.

Dan Abbate:

And I do really, I mean, I guess I need to say it out loud once in a while that I do

Dan Abbate:

kind of look at myself as a philosopher.

Dan Abbate:

And I, like I said, my first bachelor's degree was in philosophy and business

Dan Abbate:

and I just haven't given up on that yet.

Dan Abbate:

Like it's like, I think that that's what I am my entire life and it will always

Dan Abbate:

be, I that's what I am first, probably even before an entrepreneur investor,

Dan Abbate:

business person, all these things.

Dan Abbate:

I think of myself as a philosopher.

Dan Abbate:

So kind of sticking with kind of the traditional higher academic stuff kind

Dan Abbate:

of fits that the show a little bit.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

For more information, go to the show notes where

Natasha Miller:

you're listening to this podcast.

Natasha Miller:

Wanna know more about me go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com.

Natasha Miller:

Thank you so much for listening.

Natasha Miller:

I hope you loved the show.

Natasha Miller:

If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review

Natasha Miller:

where you're listening to this podcast.

Natasha Miller:

Now I'm Natasha Miller.

Natasha Miller:

And you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

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