How a ‘Nightmare’ Startup Became a $100 Million SaaS Business – with Clate Mask of Infusionsoft 
Clate Mask is the co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, which makes sales and marketing automation software exclusively for small businesses.
Infusionsoft combines CRM, email automation and e-commerce capabilities into one product. It helps small businesses capture more leads, improve conversion rates and generate more sales.
The company was founded in 2001 and has raised over $125 million to date. Infusionsoft has over 125,000 users and so far has processed $3.4 billion of payments for its customers.
Clate is also the author of Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy', a New York Times best seller which focuses on balancing personal and work life, will becoming successful as a budding entrepreneur.
This episode is a story about a guy who always wanted to be an entrepreneur. But he decided to go to law school and got an MBA instead. Then with $100,000 in debt, he finally decided that to take the leap and become an entrepreneur.
He described the first 3 years of working on his business as a ‘nightmare'. He was getting deeper into debt every month. But he was determined to make his business work, yet he also had his wife and 4 kids to think about. Eventually, his wife had enough and told him that he needed to find a job.
But he had a surprising conversation the next day and decided (with his wife’s support) that he was going to continue working on his business for a little longer. And his determination paid off.
Today, his company employs 675 people and does over $100 million in annual recurring revenue.
He’s a great guy and very transparent. He shares his story and how he got through those first three ‘nightmare’ years. We explore how he got his first 1000 customers and started to get traction. And we discuss how he’s building a product-driven culture and how he thinks about competition.
[00:11] Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast I'm your host. Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their strategies and insights to help you build launch and grow your business.
[00:29] This episode is a story about a guy who always wanted to be an entrepreneur but he decided to go to law school and get an MBA instead. Then with a $100,000 in debt he finally decided to take the leap and start his entrepreneurial journey. He described the first three years of working on his business as a nightmare. He was getting deeper into debt every month but he was determined to make the business work. Yet he also had his wife and four kids to think about. Eventually his wife had enough and told him that he needed to find a job. But he had a surprising conversation the next day and decided with his wife's support that he was going to continue working on his business for a little longer. And that determination paid off. Today his company employs six hundred and seventy five people and does over $100 million dollars in annual recurring revenue.
01:36 He's a great guy and very transparent. He shares his story and how he got through those first three nightmare years. We explore how he got traction and quite his first thousand customers and we discuss how he's building a product driven culture and how he thinks about competition. So I hope you enjoy the interview before we get started. I would love to send you my free productivity toolkit which will teach you habits hacks and tools used by successful founders and entrepreneurs. If you'd like a copy. Just head over to thesaaspodcast.com. OK let's get on with the interview.
[02:19] All right. Today's guest is the co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft which makes sales and marketing automation software exclusively for small businesses. Infusionsoft combines CRM e-mail automation and e-commerce capabilities into one product. It helps small businesses capture more leads improve conversion rates and generate more sales. The company was founded in 2001 and has raised over a hundred and twenty five million dollars to date. Infusionsoft has over one hundred twenty five thousand uses and so far has processed 3.4 billion dollars of payments for its customers. My guest is also the author of Conca the chaos how to grow a successful small business without going crazy. A New York Times bestseller which focuses on balancing personal and work life while becoming a successful budding entrepreneur.
[03:15] So today I'd like to welcome Clate Mask. Welcome to the show.
[03:20] Thanks Omer it's great to be with you.
[03:20] Now as we were talking before we started and before we started recording I've been trying to get you on the show for a long time over a year and I think timing just worked out well for me that we've finally been able to do this so I'm really glad to have you here.
[03:35] Well I'm sorry I'm so hard to track but I'm glad to be doing it. This is something I love doing so. Thank you.
[03:42] I'd like to start by asking what gets my guests out of bed everyday to work on their businesses. What is it for you. Do you have a favorite quote or in your own words you want to just tell us like what drives you.
[03:53] Yeah you know I I think the thing that gets me out of bed every morning is the challenge that I know that it is for small businesses to grow. So for me it's just you know I'm grounded in the realities of what it is to grow small business. Having having done it myself and having worked with tens of thousands of entrepreneurs that are that are doing that if not hundreds of thousands now and so to me it's a it's you know it's it's passion and compassion.
[04:26] And what I like to say is you know it's passion to see small businesses grow and it's compassionate for the challenge that it is you know just that the sheer struggle that it is for business owners to achieve their dreams and get their it their business to the level of the state that they want to get into.
[04:42] So you know I I actually I actually say that while it's that that passion and compassion that drives me it's really about bleeding you know entrepreneurs believing in their ability to do it and wanting to see them achieve those goals. I just you know our number one guys we have our entrepreneurs in our number 9 values we believe in people in their dreams. And it's those two things those values that we have Infusionsoft those are that that's value one of value. And those are the things that drive me every day and get me and our employees excited about helping small businesses succeed.
[05:19] Love it. Now I gave the audience kind of an overview of Infusionsoft. Can you share in your own words what makes Infusionsoft better or different than maybe other products out there.
[05:35] Yeah. Well you know it's there's kind of the standard answers that I offer which are first about your CRM system and getting the getting all of your data organized and centralized in one place and then second it's about the level of automation that you can go to once you have that in place. So we're we're we're different in the sense that we are a CRM system. Many tools out there aren't.
[06:01] We're different in the sense that once you've got that data in there you can do all kinds of automation to put in your sales and marketing process on autopilot. And then the third thing I would say is we're crazy passionate and focused about small businesses. I think a lot lot of companies that take whatever customer they can get. They'll talk about SMB as though it's all small business and the reality is that it's a very different thing to have a three person company than it is a hundred person company that it is a thousand person company. So we're totally focused on small business so the standard answer is well it's CRM and it's the level of automation and it's intended for small business.
[06:43] I would say the more the more colorful answer is that our this is the system that helps you grow. We are about systematic growth. And I think a lot of other things out there are a kind of a simple tool or quick thing you can do to try to get a little bit more some more customers or something like that. But if you don't do it systematically you cave underneath the complexity of it eventually. So you know it's systematic growth. And I think supported by passionate people who want our customers to be successful.
[07:19] The one thing that I've always really liked about Infusionsoft is hearing some more about some of the case studies and how people were able to implement it and grow their businesses.
[07:32] And I think that's one thing I'd recommend to anybody is that if you haven't been to the Infusionsoft Web site. Go and check some of those out because those alone are pretty inspiring stories to just hear.
[07:44] Yeah thanks for saying that. That's you know I when you said what gets you out of bed I should ask people these stories. Maybe it's you know I can say passion and compassion and we are entrepreneurs you know that's all true but when it comes down to is when you hear people's stories and when people come up to you and say Holy crap what you guys done to streamline my business and get my you know get organized and get me growing my sales in the time that I say you know that's what's that's what's really inspiring and what we love doing. And you know we've got about 140000 people that are using the software today. But we want to serve millions.
[08:22] So I had that done me wrong. I said 125 thousand.
[08:26] You already added another 15 while we were talking.
[08:31] OK. So let's kind of go back to the early days of how you started the business. And so you guys have been in business for 16 years now. And. It's not as straight forward I mean a lot of the times we hear stories and people will say well I had this idea I did my you know product market fit and went out and talked to customers and you know launch my product and you know and here I am you know having a successful exit or something right.
[09:02] But the reality and I think most people who listen to the show know that the entrepreneurs we get on here and and the stories we listen to. It's never as simple as that. And it's often you know Dina is an overnight success which was a decade in the making. But people don't necessarily always talk about that. But I know that's one thing that I really love to sort of explore because there are so many important lessons in that. And and I think it's also really inspiring for people to hear about what other people went through and I know that from the research that I did the first three years of running this business you described as a nightmare and it was really it took you guys three years to actually figure out how to get to the product that we sort of now understand is Infusionsoft. Can you tell us a little bit about that and why were those first years so difficult.
[10:02] Yeah you bet so. Thank you. I think it's true a lot of times people see views and say oh great all venture capital. No no we bootstrapped the business to seven million before Scapino. And for the for you know we've been in business 15 years the first five years is very different than what we're what it looks like today. At the heart of it was the same work and that work is to automate sales and marketing for small businesses. But here's how I got started. It was it was three. You know actually there were four four people who were trying to do custom software to help small businesses grow with them in their sales and marketing.
[10:43] And I'll tell you that that custom software business was just brutal. You know it was trading hours for dollars working to help small businesses that didn't really understand what they were trying to create. They would have different ideas of trying to effectively serve that customer that was taking you know that they had to. Now they had this grandiose idea of what they wanted to do and they had no budget for it. So when we started doing that 15 years ago it was really tough and we tried to move out of the custom software business as quickly as we could. It took us about a year to get to it semi-custom CRM product that was web based. And it took us another year to get to sort of the CRM product that was really the predecessor to what Infusionsoft is today. And then another year to kind of get the get that we you know get those things dialed in it took about three years to where we had we had our product that was that was specific for certain kind of small business that wanted to do their automate their follow up.
[11:48] And that three years was just brutal. It was so hard. And the truth is that about halfway through I wanted to get out in the worst way. You know I I would be I wanted to be done with it because it was so hard. But by then we had personal guarantees in place. We had more. You know it was it was more risky to get out of the business than it was to try to stay in and see it through. And so you know I had a mountain of student debt that I was wanting to be able to pay off and it was only getting.
[12:18] We were only getting deeper in debt. I had a lot of years of college and my wife was looking at me saying Why did we do all of that. I was completely delusional about about what I was bringing home and you know how to actually provide for the family. And so you know I just was full of the desire to get the business to a place of success. But the reality was we were struggling like crazy. And it took about three years to get through that.
[12:43] I guess part of that was you talked about the progression of trying to figure out the products and building the product and so on.
[12:52] But that just sounds like it was slow progress.
[12:56] But when you use the word nightmare can you give me an example of why you use that term white Why did it feel like a nightmare.
[13:02] Sure I'll take you into the depths of it. So here is why it was so tough. I had a gun. I had you know an MBA and a law degree in economics degree at eight years of college and a hundred thousand dollars of debt to show for it. And here I was doing a startup taking home about two to three thousand dollars a month and I had four kids and my wife was at home with those kids trying to make life work at home. And I was just working like crazy getting deeper and deeper in debt. Not only that but we had personal guarantees on the office space and personal guarantees on some servers and equipment that we had to purchase and. I was so mired in debt. That and I was and I was you know nothing to show for it to bring home literally about$2500 a month.
[13:53] And my wife was just like why didn't we go to all this school why didn't we do all of you know everything that we've done to get this points you could have done this going out you know at a high school. So it was right. And you know it was it was probably about nine or 10 months of frequent conversations with her that I should go get a real job. And by the way my wife is amazing she's incredibly supportive you know she was just broken down to the point that she just she just couldn't believe it was going to work. And and so that when you get to that point where nobody around you believes it and you're trying to make it work and you're working your brains out. I mean it is a nightmare and you want you know you just want someone to wake you up and you snap out of it and and you know everything's actually OK and life's fine but you wake up the next day and you're still living the nightmare.
[14:46] So that's what was so tough is I had a lot of financial obligations. The business wasn't progressing. It was slow going trying to trying to figure out what was our customers really needed. And you know when your wife comes to you in tears and says look I love you but I just we're to the point where you have to go get a real job or else. And you know that's that's the reality of where we were. And you know somehow we made our way through it. But it was pretty tough.
[15:17] You didn't go and get a job. Right. And so what what kept you going. And how did you convince your wife to stay on board with the plan.
[15:32] Yeah. Well here's the story after. I don't know how many tear filled conversations like that on one particular night. It was like you know you have to I can't do this anymore. And so I said OK. She said I remember that thing that caused me to say OK I am willing to do this because I'm just so stubborn. You know I just I knew the business was going to work and she finally said OK maybe it's going to work but you need to like connect up with it down the road. You've got to you've got to get off the bus for now because I just it's not it's not going to work for us and I can't do this anymore. So with that little thought of well maybe it could work down the road I thought OK I will I will go look for a job tomorrow.
[16:21] So the next day I went to work and I sat down on my computer and I was back in my you know in the saddle doing my thing and before I knew it the day was over and I was time to go home and I hadn't done anything for them like crap what am I in a Test series. So I'm driving home and literally I was like I just I felt bad because I hadn't done what I said I was going to do. And you know I think Oh I think only entrepreneurs can understand that you kind of you get in your your you get in the saddle and it's almost like the whole world goes away and you're just doing your thing and then all of a sudden it's time to go home and you know and I just like realized oh shoot.
[17:01] So I'm driving home nervous about when I'm in test race. Just you know just having to tell I didn't but I'll do it tomorrow because I was afraid of what that would mean. And I walked into the kitchen and her back was to me and I I don't I don't know how to. I don't know how to actually do it justice with words Olmer but when she turned around she looked different to me. I could just see she was totally different that the stress and the anguish and the arguing and everything that had been a part of her face in my face for quite some time. It was not there and she just came up to me and hugged me and she said you know what just keep going. I believe in you. Wow. I know that.
[17:41] I know that God knows what we're doing it's all going to work out. It's going to be OK. Just keep at it. And like I tell people that was my Rocky Balboa moment but you know I felt that I was like OK I can do this you know I know I can do it. It was it was really amazing because when I felt her support then I was like OK we can go make this happen. And it was shortly after that that things began to turn around. It wasn't it wasn't right away but within a few months we started things started to get better and she could see that I was getting better. And the key thing was that. We got to a place where you know we found the the marketing automation that we were doing for our customers was really starting to hit home. And by the way that was before anybody called it marketing automation. You know it was just it we were doing that back in 2005 and that's when that's when the business started to go.
[18:36] So that was your rookie for a moment right. When Adrian says you can't win and then she eventually comes around.
[18:42] That's exactly right. Well that was exactly right.
[18:49] So OK so let's kind of talk about how did you make the transition into the business was that really from talking to the small businesses that you were trying to serve in the first few years and then.
[19:03] Is that where the opportunity sort of emerged from you know that it really was a matter of us finding our beachhead. So you know I'm I'm a huge Jeffrey Moore fan across the chasm thing and he's like he's on our board of directors. I talk with him frequently and you know we were we had read his book early on and we got very clear about finding our beachhead. And so for us it was it was growth hungry entrepreneurs who were savvy and direct direct response marketing. And specifically we've kind of found that in this room doing the Dan Kennedy Glaeser Kennedy in inciter circle world and that's where it started for us. And so we really worked hard on solving their problems related to following up with their customers and people who had shown interest in in you know the products or services of our customer.
[19:56] And so that's really where it started we got focused on that growth hungry direct response oriented entrepreneur and created a great solution for them. And then it began to just spread. And so we got our product in place. We got out of the custom software world and got into the product world and then specifically found that niche that beachheads so to speak. And that really was really the thing that propelled us from about 2005 until I would say 2007 and at that point we got a much much bigger vision. We'd been in business for five years and we thought we would kind of build up the business and sell it off. But we got to a point where we just fell in love with what we were doing for small businesses.
[20:38] We saw that it was a massive opportunity because sales force dotcom didn't you know was vacating the small business space and we felt like hey we can go and do something massive for small businesses and be that sales force Telecom for small business. So that's when we took off in our big vision for the company back in 2007 about 10 years ago.
[20:59] So for someone listening to this interview maybe it's in the early stages and maybe hasn't figured out what the beachhead for them is or should be. Yeah. Do
[21:11] you have any advice on how they can go about trying to figure that out.
[21:18] Yes listen to angry customers.
[21:23] That's it. I mean it sounds so simple but our human nature is to take the angry the anger and frustration and upset. It's coming at us from a customer and then run away from it or dismiss it or say why they're wrong and we're right. Or any number of things that are human nature. But what we found was if we embrace the angry ones in that when we were trying to get that product markets it we realized that the angry ones. Love this. They were just upset about some things. It was far better for us to have an angry customer than it was for us to have an indifferent customer. And it's countered It's counterintuitive when you're getting your you know you're putting your baby out there for people to recede and they spit on it you know like why what do you do.
[22:12] And you know.
[22:13] But but the reality is it's that feedback from from local and passionate customers that helps you find the fit. And I remember having some pretty pretty heated debates and arguments with both customers because I was the one really facing the customers. And then with our developers internally and you just have to embrace it because that's where that's that's the hard place where you find product market fit that that's a really fascinating way to think about it.
[22:45] I never even thought about thinking of it that way.
[22:48] And I think as you know as a product guy and you know I spent well over a decade at Microsoft and working with engineers for most of my my career. You know when when when a customer or a user complains about your product the typical engineer kind of reaction is they're stupid or they don't know what they're talking about.
[23:11] So it's very very easy in that culture to kind of dismiss that kind of feedback is much harder to listen to it and take it on board.
[23:19] It is is tough and you know I've found myself in those in those earlier days being in-between our our product team and the customer. And you know in a very angry company very angry customers at times and so that that was the key thing for us is to listen to it because the past especially the passionate and articulate ones are so valuable to help you understand what you're missing and how if we did this or changed that or did this thing you know be it would be a big big help to the customer and so it just comes down to finding ways you can solve their pain. And that was the key thing. No we really knew we had to reinvent ourselves. A couple of times as we've grown the business and each time you've got to remember oh yeah that's actually the part we want to embrace.
[24:08] Now let's talk a bit about growth. So from the point where you launched a product and you're trying to get your first.
[24:17] I mean I know this is going way back but you know let's say your first hundred or thousand customers. Yeah. Can you kind of recall some of the growth strategies that work too well.
[24:30] Most effective for you back then.
[24:33] Absolutely. Back then getting the first thousand customers is really all about partner relationships. So you know we were we did our own marketing and you know work to generate our own leads in both those prospects but almost you know the the majority of our early customers came through partners and and so you know we got to about 1000 customers in that first couple of years. And you know back then they were paying$5000 for us in a set up the plus you know three or$400 a month. And it was you know you needed to go through partners because it wasn't clear exactly what the customer was getting. So I think a lot of times when you're trying to get product market fit. Right. Think of it this way. It's a lot easier to get the market fit right for a few partners than it is for all the customers of those partners.
[25:27] And so you listen to those partners extra closely especially when they're upset. But you know that was the key thing for us was to have those those partnerships where we could gain access to their customers and their their tribes so to speak and help them see how Infusionsoft could benefit their business but I would say it was all part of a strategy for those first couple of years 3000 customers or so.
[25:53] Can you give us an example of a partner.
[25:57] Yes so when one partner was I mentioned earlier it is called Glaeser Kennedy in Satir circle there. They're still around DTIC But Dan Dan Kennedy and Bill Glaeser they were really great because they had these savvy direct response marketers. Another other partner was a guy named Joe polish who had a lot of customers in the carpet cleaning industry and they needed something similar. And you know we had another partner that was kind of in Internet marketing. And so these you know these these handful of partners that we had gave us access through their events through there they would introduce us through their affiliate marketing their email marketing. And that gave us the ability to get in front of a lot of customers that we otherwise couldn't have.
[26:44] How do you build a partnership like that with the Dan Kennedy or a Joe polish I don't think those guys are necessarily going to be about. OK great I can generate a bit of affiliate revenue or something. I mean this is their reputation as a sort of start to share a product with with a tribe.
[27:06] So how did you get those guys on board.
[27:10] We got them on board with the software so that it was really interesting because what we did is we got them using the software.
[27:18] Dan and Dan was selling his business to a guy named Bill Glazer's So we got Bill using the software we got Joe using the software we got several other is using the software. And once they were using it and they realized oh I mean this is the customer database that I've always needed to do effective marketing. So once we got them doing that then then they realized yeah we we we this makes sense to recommend it to our people because our people are asking what should we use what do you use it. You're exactly right Olmer it wasn't about some dollars they could make it was it wasn't at all like I said Joe last week I see him all the time and Joe is our he was our second customer and I'm with him. He was an early adopter trying to improve his own marketing and sales and he needed a he needed a database he was using act and he was trying to do email marketing and he had a shopping cart and he was trying to do all those things and it wasn't working well.
[28:13] There was no effective follow up for him. It was very manual. So we got him on this on our system and then it became natural for him to promote it. But interestingly we began at one point trying to get partners to promote Infusionsoft without first using it and that didn't work. It just it was you know try to do it for the money or trying to do it if they didn't have that and use it and believe in it just didn't work. So we had to do the hard groundwork of getting them using the software and fully on the system in order to get them to begin promoting.
[28:47] How much time did you guys spend thinking about your competitors were you were you tracking what competitors were doing.
[28:59] I mean I know it probably in the early stages there probably wasn't that much because in many ways you are almost defining a new category.
[29:07] Yeah but between then and now marketing automation has become a very crowded market with a lot of people trying to build some kind of product.
[29:18] So what has just been your philosophy about competitors and how much time you spend thinking about them or do you just tend to just ignore them and just focus on what you're doing.
[29:29] Yeah it's a great question. So generally our philosophy is that success or failure lies within you know within within not what's going on in the outside. So we you know we we they attend today we certainly pay attention to compare it to competition. But but we have a vision of what we're trying to do. It's independent of any competitors out there now in the early stages. You know the competition was like sales force or Net Suite or you know right now technologies. And so all we had to do is look at that and say yeah we're not doing that. There wasn't there wasn't much we had to worry about there because we were so focused on small business. But you know 10 years ago when we created our Everest mission as we referred to it which we just completed and we've now kicked off the launch the new mission.
[30:21] But 10 years ago we actually the mission was to create the category. And we said you know and the reason why we said there was really no I mean you had to act and you had and enough market these huge pieces of it that nobody was really doing CRM marketing automation sales automation e-commerce. In a suite nobody was doing that. Even today most aren't doing that. They're just doing marketing automation. Most of the competitors but 10 years ago we said look we're going to create the category for small businesses and we're going to be the clear leader in that category and we consciously said you know to do this if we really do succeed in that mission then we're going to have a bunch of competitors and we smiled and said yeah that will happen.
[31:08] We're OK with that because what we're trying to do for the world in small business requires that we create this category and that there will be other competitors out there. So over the last few years you know as we've kind of worked our way through that 10 year mission we've watched the competitors pop up and do a piece of what we do. And so we certainly know that and we think about you know we think about different aspects of what Infusionsoft is and how we can how we can respond and maybe offer a piece of what our entire suite is for those customers that just want some simple marketing automation may or may not be a little precursor of things to share. But what I would say generally is, Omer, our focus is on how we are trying to revolutionize small business growth. Now we're trying to change the world for small businesses and that's independent of what anybody else is doing out there.
[32:04] Yeah that's great. Yeah.
[32:07] I have a SaaS product which is being kind of like more of a side project up until now which is called Presto pod and it was really driven from my frustration with publishing a podcast and all the things that you have to do like adding E3 tags uploading to Lipton or SoundCloud getting all the information right there. Scheduling it for the right day creating new shows and so eventually I ended up creating these scripts to automate this for me. And it turned into a product and then other people started asking me how I was publishing my podcast and they started to to use it.
[32:44] But because there's nothing I can talk about that for a small business success. We started doing that last year and it's awesome we love it. But you know I've got to I got a guy that produces I should probably get in touch with him.
[32:58] Yeah we should definitely do that. But yeah I think the thing that I found was because it was there was nothing really like like it out there. It was very difficult to explain it to anybody. And so building a web site and having people just go there to a landing page or your home page. People just didn't get it yet. When I got on a Skype call with somebody and gave them a demo in 10 minutes they were like OK I'm signing up.
[33:25] And it was like OK there's this something here in terms of I think a lesson in terms of when you're going into building some sort of new category you've got to think constantly about how can you refine the messaging so people really get it. And then secondly I think the takeaway for me was don't try to build something scalable too soon by having something automated when in the early stages you're still at a point where you need to have these conversations one on one not just to to close a sale but to get valuable feedback from each person which is going to help you refine whatever your value prop is going to be.
[34:04] Yeah totally agree. Those are great points.
[34:06] I know that you guys you talk to at some point certainly from an interview that I came across that you guys had been very much of a sales and marketing culture driven culture and then you sort of made the shift to Tony Infusionsoft into a product driven culture.
[34:24] Yeah. What has that meant for you and why did you need to make that change.
[34:31] Well it's a great question. You know when you think about what we do in our software it's really about sales and marketing. You know sales and marketing acumen. So that's kind of how we grew up. That's what the expertise was that we were injecting into the software for our customers. And so that's how we really propelled our own business. But I think that what I saw was as time went by and there there are two big things that occur as the company scales. The first is you've got to learn to you've got to learn to master the people challenge the leadership challenge of it all does the organizational challenge. And the second is that you've got at this scale requires different strategies. And I think that what we found is to really to really get the business to a greater scale.
[35:22] Some of the sales and marketing tactics and strategies we had used for a long time just don't they just they don't read they don't have the reach and penetration that you want them to have. And ultimately it's about an amazing product that attracts and draws people in. And so what I found was you know we could build the business to 50 million you know 60 million in terms of you know through through our sales and marketing effectiveness and a solid product. But to go to serve millions you have to have a beautifully elegant product and you have to have the kind of fanatical attention to detail that allows customers and to get in and word of mouth to spread like wildfire. And so that required a change in how we ran the business. It required a different a different investment approach to where we put our dollars in sales and marketing versus versus product. It required different leadership structure.
[36:23] And I think fundamentally though it requires the CEO to take to really have a passion for product and to get fired up and excited about the product in maybe a little bit different ways than you do when you are either an early founder or a successful company that's growing and growing fast. And I know there's something that happens it's hard for me to explain exactly but I remember when it happened two or three years ago and that was really critical because it got me focusing on what needed to happen in the product for us to be able to serve millions of small businesses now.
[37:02] Someone told me that you have somebody in your organization whose job title is dream manager. Right.
[37:12] I mean that sounds like the coolest title that I've come across but so this is somebody who will tell us what does this person do.
[37:18] Yeah. Well let me get you a little background so we're very intentional about our culture are consistently named a great place to work. You know we are we hire and train and fire people we're are passionate about helping small businesses succeed.
[37:33] And you know the the the thing that we found early on was to get people to bring their very best to work. You've got to care about them beyond work. And so if you if you want people to come and be super passionate then it's not just about their performance at work. What's happening at work. It's about themselves it's about their lives it's about what's going on. And so we came across that. We just believe that you know I told you earlier in the values we believe in people in their dreams. So because that's part of our philosophy we've always been attracted to writings authors you know thought leadership around that topic and we came across a book called The Dream manager. We read this book the premise of the book is is essentially what I just shared if you want to if you want if you want to really love the place that you work and really get along great with your coworkers your employees and have them get rid of their very best.
[38:34] Then you've got to give your best to them and that means the. Be involved in their lives beyond just their work. And so the book the dream manager is about essentially the role of a person who helps the employees discover their dreams and achieve their dreams. And those might be homeownership. They might be you know getting on American Idol or something. I say that because one of our employees went through that process while it might be taken a dream vacation to Europe. You know there's all kinds of different things that might be getting married or having a child or and so we found that when people will dream at work about what they're trying to accomplish in their lives they show up differently.
[39:19] And so we have a role in our company it's called the Dream Manager and his name is Dan and some people call him dreamy and then he meets with people and individuals as well as teams and helps them to think bigger and think bigger for themselves. But that inevitably helps them to think bigger about the company as well and their role in their team and what's possible. So that's what the dream manager does helps people articulate their dreams and go after them.
[39:47] Wow I love it it's awesome. So what is what is next for Infusionsoft. Right so we talked before we started recording we talked about you having hired a CEO which is has freed you up to be able to hang out with me.
[40:04] And so I really I'm really thankful to your CEO for that. And you know the company is is doing well you guys have raised 125 plus million dollars last number that I came across back from 2014 was 15 was the you guys were doing around 80 million dollars in revenue.
[40:25] And so I'm guessing that number is well beyond that now. So so things are good that they're very different from where they were in the first three years of of this business.
[40:36] And I'm sure that you know it's your the belief that your wife had in you in those first few years has paid off and you know so things sort of come together.
[40:50] But but what what what keeps you hungry right so what's your kind of have you done the Rocky 4 thing what's your Rocky five challenge.
[41:00] Well Rocky livestock and you're right it has paid off.
[41:06] It's been great. And for us it's not it's about trying to do in the world now it's not about a financial thing or it's not about you know anything like that. It's it's what we believe is possible for small businesses when when they automate their sales and marketing. And so for us it's about making that accessible to millions. It's about you know getting our you know immediately it's about Icon which can which comes here at the end of April April 25th to 27th and introducing the world to some pretty cool innovations that we've created that you know we're really excited about and that really kind of set up a platform for the future of things that we'll be doing so that we can serve millions of small businesses. So you know that's it for me it's not it's not anything different. It's just the same thing at a different scale and it's a having an impact on the world.
[42:03] For business owners so that they can they can grow their business and have a life. And I think that's the that's the thing that most people don't really understand very well if they haven't started their own business that we all get attracted to business ownership because we want the freedom to be our own boss to make you know to make how much money we can make versus what somebody says we're going to make to work the hours we want to work instead of the hour somebody says we're going to work. You know that's the that's the draw. And then of course the challenge is that you quickly become become you quickly give all your freedom to the business on that ends up owning and controlling you and you can't go to be case without worrying about it.
[42:45] If you go at all you don't get home when you thought you're working way more hours. The stress is much higher and there's certainly a satisfaction because it's yours. But wow does it come with a high price and a lot of challenge and to try to grow that business is incredibly difficult. And so for us it's about making systematic growth the reality that allows business owners to have that freedom that they're after and the lifestyle they want.
[43:11] Love it. All right. It's time for our Lightning Round. When I asked you seven questions just try to ask them as quickly as you can ready to go. What's their best piece of business advice you've ever received.
[43:24] Whether you think you can or you think you can't you're right. What book would you recommend to our audience and why. Are positive thinking by Norman Vincent Peale for the same reason that that's the best piece of advice I've ever gotten.
[43:38] It's about what you think.
[43:40] Great book What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful entrepreneur.
[43:46] Read what's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit.
[43:55] I have something called a pocket coach that is comes from strategic coach from Dan Sullivan. It keeps me focused on my life plan my three year plan. My one year plan my quarterly plan my weekly and daily what's new all crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time.
[44:17] I don't think about that all I think about is something small more small.
[44:22] Oh what's an interesting or fun facts about you that most people don't know. I have
[44:31] . Six kids including three that are in college wow.
[44:38] Yeah. No I came across that when I was young I was like because when you wrote that book and let me just what was the title of the book again. Yeah. And this whole concept of like balancing purse personal work life and still being an entrepreneur and then saying oh by the way I think you know I built this company and I have six kids. I think that adds a lot to here. Yeah yeah.
[45:03] It's pretty you know I'm a creep. I've got I've got a million bucks you know and how to do that. And constantly working at it. I think that that's you know part of the thing. Right. Most people don't understand or realize and I think it's also the thing that helps to drive me to be productive and is awesome.
[45:22] And finally what's one of your most important passions outside of your work.
[45:28] Gosh I hate to be done but it is family. I mean it's my kids it's my wife my wife's amazing my six kids are incredible. When you just got married so I now have a daughter in law. But it's my kids are. Ashton is spending time together doing funded cations and just laughing and having a good time together.
[45:46] You don't look old enough to have kids. I know.
[45:53] I'm 44 and I've got a 22 year old that just got married. Wow.
[45:59] Clate think he has been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I'm glad we were finally able to do this and you really have a truly inspiring story. I love having had the opportunity sort of explore some of the early years and I know that that's going to be a source of motivation and inspiration for a lot of people who are maybe you know in similar stage right now and trying to figure out their path and getting their breakthrough.
[46:28] I appreciate what you're doing. I know that you know people don't realize how lonely business ownership is entrepreneurship. It's why we do the small business success podcast that's why we do what we do and it's why we do icon which is just an amazing event for people to come together.
[46:44] Thousands want answers there that are that are sharing their passion and ideas for what they do. But I appreciate what you do to help to help entrepreneurs be successful because it's tough.
[46:54] Thank you. Thank you. And I'm going to include links to obviously Infusionsoft dot com that folks go check out as well as the small business success podcast and icon as well. If folks want to get in touch with you what's the best channel for them to do that.
[47:13] You know the the best way is to send you an e-mail Clate added views of that comic and always do that.
[47:20] Or they can go they can submit questions for the small of success cast. So a lot of times people ask questions and they want me to you know mentor or help them out. And what I usually do is point them to the small business access podcast to submit their questions there. And then my co-founder and I will answer them but cast.
[47:37] Awesome. I love it. Clate It's been a pleasure. Thank you. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Cheers.
47:43 Thanks for listening. I really hope you enjoyed this interview. If you want to get to the show notes for this episode or want to learn how to build launch and grow your own successful SaaS business then head over to thesaaspodcast.com. You can also sign up for free and join our community each week you will receive actionable insights and inspiring stories of other entrepreneurs and companies. So that's thesaaspodcast.com. And if you enjoyed this episode then please subscribe and leave a review in iTunes. Your support means a lot. And I read every single review. Also if you have any feedback on the show you can find me on Twitter @omerkhan. Thanks for listening. So next time take care.
The Show Notes
- Small Business Success Podcast
- Icon – Infusionsoft User Conference
- Clate on Twitter
- Omer on Twitter
Enjoy the show? Let me know by giving the show a rating and review on iTunes.