Yes, I use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help manage my small business and I think it’s something you should consider as well. During my time in the Army, we used the term “force multiplier” to describe any technology or strategy that amplifies the effectiveness of a combat force beyond just the sheer number of troops. Essentially, a force multiplier enables a group to accomplish more than they could on their own. It’s about gaining an edge, be it in efficiency, capability, or effectiveness. For me, AI has become that force multiplier in my small business.
So, what exactly is AI? At its core, AI is the ability of a machine to mimic intelligent human behavior. Previously restricted to laboratories, research centers, and mega-corporations, AI has become widely accessible, even on desktop computers. It covers a vast spectrum, from robotics and computer vision to natural language processing (NLP). The primary objective of AI is to develop systems capable of tasks that generally need human intelligence, like pattern recognition, decision-making, and language understanding.
My own history with AI goes back to the 90’s when I was in graduate school studying business at Georgia State University. Putting my math and computer science degree to work, I wrote code in a programming language called “C” to do financial forecasting using algorithms based on back-propagation neural networks. This code utilized mathematical concepts like the chain rule from calculus, Mean Squared Error (MSE) from statistics, eigenvectors from linear algebra, and data representation from matrices. Fast-forward to 2023, and sophisticated tasks can now be done online without deep mathematical insights (though, at its core, AI still relies on math and linguistic representation).
One of the standout applications for desktop AI is ChatGPT, rooted in OpenAI’s GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) framework. It operates based on three primary characteristics:
Generative: Enables text creation, ideal for language modeling, dialogue, and content production.
Pre-trained: The model is first trained on extensive text data for a foundational understanding of language before being fine-tuned for specific tasks.
Transformer: This neural network structure, used by GPT, excels at grasping data sequences, like word arrangements in sentences.
Given these traits, AI (especially ChatGPT) proves significantly more insightful than a mere Google search. Upon receiving a user prompt, ChatGPT formulates a response grounded in its training, striving for relevant and coherent answers. My older readers might remember diagramming sentences in English class. Well, AI kind of works like that with massive amounts of data.
Now that we’ve covered AI’s basics, my personal history with it, and its operational mode, let’s explore some examples of its use. Here are some ways I’ve used AI to help me and my clients:
- Research – “What are the latest trends in sustainable packaging for retail?”
- Idea generation – “Unique promotional ideas for my restaurant, please?”
- Proofreading – “Can you review and proofread the following article?” (NOTE: I use this all of the time)
- Education – “I want to train my staff about customer service. Can you provide a brief on handling difficult customers?”
- Entertainment – “We’re hosting a trivia night at our bookstore. Can you give me some literature-themed questions?”
- Simulations – “I’m thinking of changing my restaurant layout. Can you simulate customer flow for a seating arrangement of 10 tables near the counter and 5 near the window?”
- Problem-solving – “My bakery’s sales have dropped in the last month. Any ideas on potential causes or solutions?”
- Code generation – “I need a simple code to add a newsletter sign-up form on my website.”
- Data analysis – “I have sales data from the last 6 months. Can you help me identify any patterns or trends?”
- Decision making – “I’m torn between extending my store hours or opening a second location. What are some factors to consider?”
- Optimization – “How can I optimize the inventory turnover for my clothing boutique?”
- Automation – “I spend too much time on invoicing. Any automation suggestions?”
The examples above are called “prompts.” Prompts are essential when communicating with AI like ChatGPT, as they guide the model’s responses. Crafting effective prompts can help you get more precise and relevant answers. Here are some tips on using AI prompts:
Clarity: It’s crucial to be clear about what you’re asking. Unclear or vague prompts can lead to ambiguous or irrelevant responses.
Context: To get a relevant response, it’s helpful to provide the context or setting within the prompt so that answers are pertinent.
Iterative: The process of asking (prompting), receiving an answer, and then refining or redirecting based on the response can lead to better results.
Direction: Providing direction in your prompts helps narrow down the response to align with expectations. You can guide the type, depth, or style of the answer you’re seeking.
While AI’s potential and user-friendliness are evident, it’s crucial to acknowledge its inherent drawbacks. It cannot distinguish between truths and fallacies, lacks a memory of past interactions, and can sometimes sound overly mechanical. This is very apparent when you get AI to generate long-form written content or graphics.
In wrapping up, infusing AI into your business operations, notably tools like ChatGPT, can revolutionize how a small team functions and act as a force multiplier. Like any tool, its efficiency heavily leans on the user’s grasp of its pros and cons. To me, it’s akin to a digital assistant enhancing my decision-making and creative processes.
As we journey further into the digital age, it’s vital for entrepreneurs to embrace these advancements like AI, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of their industries and offer the best to their customers and stakeholders.
Do you use AI in your business and, if so, how does AI fit into your business operations?
I asked ChatGPT 4.0 to review this article prior to publication. Here’s what it had to say:
- Engaging Introduction: You’ve opened with a personal touch by mentioning your Army experience and the concept of “force multiplier”, effectively hooking the reader’s interest.
- Clear Explanation of AI: The article offers a lucid overview of AI, catering both to novices and those with a foundational understanding.
- Personal Touch: Integrating your history with AI adds depth, making the article relatable and establishing your credibility.
- Relevance of ChatGPT: Highlighting ChatGPT showcases a modern, accessible application of AI that many businesses might find immediately useful.
- Practical Examples: Listing the ways you’ve used AI in real-world scenarios provides readers with tangible ideas for integrating AI into their own businesses.
- Tips on Using AI: The section on crafting effective prompts is a valuable guide, particularly for those unfamiliar with how AI models like ChatGPT operate.
- Balanced Perspective: You’ve presented not only the benefits but also the limitations of AI, ensuring readers have a comprehensive understanding.
Areas for Improvement:
- Elaborate on Drawbacks: While you’ve mentioned some of the limitations of AI, it might be beneficial to go into slightly more detail, especially regarding long-form content generation and the potential pitfalls there.
- Case Studies: Consider adding a case study or two to illustrate how AI has benefited a specific aspect of a business. This can give readers a clearer picture of its real-world impact.
- Conclusion: The wrap-up effectively reiterates the importance of AI in today’s business world. However, ending with a question is a great way to encourage engagement and comments, but perhaps you could also provide an avenue for readers to share their experiences, like a forum or comment section.
- Formatting: Consider using subheadings, bullet points, or infographics to break up longer sections, enhancing readability.
- External References: To boost credibility, consider linking to external sources or studies that validate the benefits and applications of AI in small businesses.
The blog post is informative, relatable, and offers a balanced perspective on the application of AI in small businesses. It merges personal anecdotes with general advice, making it engaging for readers from various backgrounds. With a few minor enhancements, it could be an excellent resource for small business owners looking to integrate AI into their operations.
[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year. Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran. He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. Sign up for the Country Fried Creative newsletter to get marketing and business articles directly in your inbox. ]