Artificial Intelligence (AI): A New Way of Business
Using Technology for Business Growth
OUTdrive Episode 35 with Aric Snyder Jr.
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Aric Snyder Jr., President and CEO of Inter-State Studio and Publishing Co., the nation’s largest family-owned school portrait company. Aric is passionate about utilizing new technologies and strategies to lead the company into the future while remaining true to its rich history.
Read more for their thoughts on utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a new way to do business, advances in digital technology and managing uncertainties in business. They also discuss the importance of communication and trust in rural America, the benefits of a positive work environment and the power of a simple smile.
Advances in Digital Tools and Technology
Founded in 1933, Inter-State Studio and Publishing, Co. has evolved over the years and adapted to many changes in processes and technologies. As Aric leads the company into the future, he continues to integrate new advances in technology to achieve optimal results through the entire sales and production process.
One of the most important advances that the company utilizes is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Aric shares that it allows Inter-State to conduct business in an entirely new way, reaching customers faster and more accurately than ever. When asked by Cliff how the company utilizes AI, Aric shares some insight.
“We use AI for analyzing areas for growth potential or opportunities,” he says. “Even in production, we use AI to streamline those processes so that we’re as efficient as possible. It’s exciting and it’s a new way to do business.”
Utilizing AI throughout the sales and production process allows the Inter-State team to deliver high-quality products in a more accurate and efficient way. By saving time and resources, the company is able to focus on additional areas of opportunity for growth. Due to the unique nature and sales process of Inter-State’s business, the company utilizes a large amount of custom technology.
“Everything we do is custom. When we work with automation software, it’s a unique beast. When you speak about technology, that’s where people are the most surprised,” says Aric. “We do have to develop and build a lot of our own software because it is just so unique.”
Whether it is an exciting advancement such as Artificial Intelligence, or custom-built software to handle order processing, Aric and the Inter-State team know the value of incorporating new technologies. By adapting to changes in technology and society, the company is well-positioned for continued growth.
Managing Uncertainties in Business
Although advances in technology are a great foundation for future growth, companies are nearly guaranteed to face uncertainties at some point, like we all did this past year with COVID-19. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting schools across the country, many schools are or were virtual. Aric shares some insight into how the company has pivoted and continues to navigate what’s ahead.
“The schools really are the gatekeepers for us to our customers. If the schools aren’t there, we don’t have access to those customers,” he says. “So it has really been trying to manage out as far as we can without going too far and overextending ourselves.”
Inter-State owners and employees both know that the challenges are far from over, but the team is optimistic about the future. Opportunities to utilize new technologies and connect with customers in new ways are a perfect compliment to refined internal processes backed by trust and communication.
“We’re very optimistic that there is a lot of opportunity. This is a 90 to 100 year old industry, so there’s been a lot of change and a lot of things that have happened,” he says. “We look forward to opportunities to continue to partner with our schools and work with the districts that we’ve been blessed to work with. There will be all kinds of different ways that we get to do that and we’re very excited about it.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to impact businesses, many are successfully navigating the challenges through strategic business planning and scenario planning. Having a plan for the expected and unexpected will prepare your company to navigate upcoming challenges and reach your goals. To learn more about planning for business success, tune in to episode 23 of OUTdrive with Robb Lamm.
Communication and Trust in Rural America
As the conversation continues, Aric shares that while COVID-19 has led to changes in many areas of the company, the team continues to work together to achieve the same goal. This team-focused mentality can be seen at Inter-State and throughout rural America.
“It has forced us to change. We have an absolutely amazing team and group of people here that have supported and helped us navigate through this,” says Aric. “For our employees that work on the floor, in management and out in the field, it has taken a lot of trust, understanding and communication to get through it.”
Trust, understanding and communication are vital to the company’s success, no matter the situation. Being a family business, Aric is not the only key leader in the company. His father, sister and brother-in-law are also leading the way. When asked by Cliff if family business is challenging, Aric shares how the team works together.
“There can always be a challenge and I think that communication and trust is very important to succeed. In addition to that, I think for us, we’re very fortunate that all of us have very different areas of responsibility and talent,” says Aric. “We communicate and trust each other that we all have the same interests at heart, and that works well for us.”
Family or not, trust and communication are vital for a successful team and business. Establishing trust and maintaining open communication at every level will lead to a more focused, resilient team that is prepared for anything.
Benefits of a Positive Culture
A positive culture built on trust and communication has many benefits, and Inter-State is a great example of this.
“I hope one of the things that keeps people here is the culture. My parents and grandparents worked very hard to create a positive culture here,” says Aric. “Their goal was that not only would we say that we care about our people, but that we walk the walk. They set a very high bar for my sister, my brother-in-law and I to meet, and they truly cared about their employees.”
This commitment to a positive work environment helped Inter-State navigate the challenges associated with COVID-19. “We all were challenged, but to see how people rallied around us and helped us was just truly humbling, and we are so appreciative,” says Aric. “It’s important to me that my grandparents’ and my parents’ work continues here at Inter-State in the way that we treat people and take care of our employees as best we can, and how dependent we are on them to be able to be successful.”
Inter-State’s team shares a common mission: to share the power of a smile. This mission is at the core of everything the company does, creating memories for families to enjoy for generations. Although there are uncertainties and challenges along the way, the company is achieving its mission by integrating new technologies, building a strong culture and working together each day.
Get additional insight from Aric and Cliff in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!