Launched in 2001, today, InfusionSoft is one of the fastest growing private companies in Arizona. Last week, I chatted with its CEO, Clate Mask. http://www.infusionsoft.com
CLATE, HOW DID INFUSIONSOFT GET STARTED?
Well, we got started as a group of friends that wanted to help small businesses with their sales and marketing using the Internet, and it turned into something a whole lot bigger than we ever imagined.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF WITH INFUSIONSOFT?
The way that we are helping small businesses be successful by automating their sales and marketing. That is an art that most small businesses don't understand well enough and frankly it stymies their growth and success. We've been able to help them create a process and then automate that process to achieve success.
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SUCCESS OF YOUR COMPANY?
First, we had a big problem to solve.. that creates a really good market opportunity. Second, the passion, drive and tenacity to help us push through all the obstacles. And third, a really big vision that helps us to overcome the different things that (would otherwise) cause an entrepreneur to cash in or sell out.
DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR OTHER ENTREPRENEURS?
Feast on positivity, (chuckle) cause you're going to get pounded with negativity every step of the way while you build your business. My biggest advice for entrepreneurs is to master the 'game between your ears', and that comes down to eating positivity for breakfast , lunch and dinner.
DID YOU EVER GET CLOSE TO FAILING?
Yes, big time. For the first three years failure just meant we weren't going to successfully create a business for ourselves and provide our own incomes. After we raised a bunch of money, we'd done our A and B rounds and had raised about $19M. Then we had to make a pretty huge adjustment to our business model, which caused our (customer) churn to shoot through the roof and our business model to go out of whack. We got close to running out of money and losing the company.
DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP?
No. Never thought of that. Honest truth. I love what we do and have an undying belief that we'll be successful. That belief is far stronger than the challenges and threats that we face.
ARE YOU AMAZED BY ANY OTHER TECHNOLOGY INVENTORS?
Yes, several. In the old days it would be the Wright Bros. What they went through, the adversity and life-threatening, trying to turn science on its ear, I like people who can push through the nay-sayers. Like Edison who lived through 100's or 1000′s of failures before being successful. Today we're way too wired for quick success and not nearly wired enough for massive diversity and failure. We look back to inventors of the past, and a lot get inspiration. More recently, I love what Steve Jobs has done for the world, love the fact that he got run-out once, came back and had his real wins after he came back. To me, Jeff Bezos at Amazon is one of the most exciting and inspiring stories, since he is so passionate in serving his customers.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY MENTORS?
Sure. Michael Gerber was key to us in the world of small business and the way he helped us establish our vision after we'd been at it 4-5 years. Pat Sullivan was really helpful for us in the world of CRM and with how to build a software company. On a broader scale, Geoffrey Moore and his Crossing The Chasm has been a super influence. Helping us understand how to do direct response marketing was Dan Kennedy. We learned a lot from Jim Collins. We met with him and read all his books like crazy. We are huge believers in culture and our Culture is... Strategy. It's been seeming we have always invested in, seen it a little differently that some others, but over time people believe in it.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR HARDEST EXPERIENCE?
Several years go. We made the decision to change our cost structure, we had to let go a chunk of employees or we were not going to make it, it came at a hard time, when we were struggling as a company, but we had to makes changes.
I had to let go a best friend, a cousin, a brother-in-law, some really good friends and other family members and a lot of employees that I'd become good friends with. These were good employees, they weren't slouches. That was the toughest thing, and it came in midst of a time when we nearly lost the business.
[In closing] In the first few years, we had no intention of InfusionSoft becoming so big. It took about 5-6 years to develop a vision. We're just scratching the surface and we have very big ambitions.