I recently had the incredible opportunity to interview Clate Mask, co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, the leading all-in-one sales and marketing software built for small businesses which is currently servicing over 30,000 customers and growing at lightning speed.
Clate's story is so powerful and his advice so important, I have broken this into a three-part blog series. His passion to help entrepreneurs succeed is inspiring to say the least!
Here is the first part of my conversation with Clate. Please start the conversation in the comments section below and let me know how this post has helped you!
- In a recent article I read, you said you started Infusionsoft with a group of friends for the purpose of helping small businesses with their sales and marketing using the Internet. Did that stem from frustrations you had which made you search for a solution, or was it something you felt there was a market need for and wanted to capitalize on that need?
Infusionsoft was formed from passion and commitment to help small businesses succeed. Founded by Scott and Eric Martineau, who are actually my brothers-in-law, the initial focus was on developing custom software solutions for small businesses. I joined them a year later and, over time, we recognized a pattern in every small business: they were using multiple systems to manage their sales and marketing – and none worked together. What we found was that customers were having difficulty following up effectively with their prospects and customers. This insight led to an opportunity to develop an all-in-one sales and marketing solution to help small businesses get organized, grow sales and save time through the power of personalized, automatic follow-up. After a few years of bootstrapping, Infusionsoft began to take off. Today, Infusionsoft serves nearly 33,000 small business in 100 countries.
- You mentioned that passion, drive and tenacity helped you push through all the obstacles you encountered along the way and was a big part of why you have achieved your current level of success. How have you personally harnessed these traits? Were they instilled in you by your parents & family? How do you maintain them?
Passion, drive and tenacity are traits that are not only instilled by those you surround yourself with, but they grow within you as you continue to fan their flames. My father was a teacher and we didn’t have much money growing up. From a young age, I learned to work for the things I wanted, even if it meant getting up in the wee hours of the morning at a young age to deliver newspapers in order to have some spending money. This work ethic and drive has served me well throughout my life.
I remember the first time Infusionsoft applied for a business loan. We were broke, and our credit was hammered. We put a lot of hope into getting that loan, but the loan officer rejected our application. After our initial disappointment had subsided, we called the loan officer and found out that the bank required additional assets. We gathered the documentation and resubmitted the application only to be denied again.
Although most small businesses would’ve stopped at the second rejection, we pressed on. We called the loan officer again determined to get the loan. We shared as much information as we could. We were passionate and driven, and we didn’t stop talking until the loan officer finally agreed to make the $25K loan.
I talk to small business owners every day, and while they all come from different industries and places, passion and tenacity along with freedom and impact are the main drivers of success and progress. They aren’t isolated— they work together and are achieved together. Without passion for your business, you’ll never make an impact, and your passion is wasted. If you are not making an impact, you’re not allowing your passion to be fulfilled.
I maintain my passion, drive and tenacity by building my emotional capital. Emotional capital is the currency that’s needed to wake up every day and fight the battle. It’s the passion, enthusiasm and positive outlook that propels me through my day and helps me achieve my goals. It’s the balancing of work, family, and emotional and physical health.
- You have spoken about mastering the 'game between your ears’. Can you explain what that is and how you do this as well?
To master the ‘game between your ears’, you must build up emotional capital. You do this by first being mindful of your thoughts. My dad taught me something as a teenager that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was faced with the challenges of starting a business:
- Thoughts become words.
- Words become beliefs.
- Beliefs become actions.
- Actions become habits.
- Habits determine our outcomes.
Success begins with positive thoughts that manifest into actions and ultimately determine outcomes. As entrepreneurs, we have to master our thoughts. When we do, we create amazing outcomes. It’s not the formula for solving every business challenge you have, but it goes a long way toward getting you on the right path.
- You wrote a New York Times Best Selling Book, Conquer the Chaos. One of your six strategies is to “Cultivate a realistic and disciplined optimism”… Can you describe how important being optimistic (and staying optimistic) is when building a business?
If you are going to survive the chaos, and survive it well, you must be prepared to handle all the pain and unpleasantness that comes with running a small business. In addition to what I learned from my dad about the power of positive thinking, Jim Collins shares a concept I like called ‘The Stockdale Paradox’ that shapes the way I think about this. Disciplined optimism starts with (1) an undying belief that your small business will achieve the success you have envisioned, while at the same time, (2) confronting the brutal facts of your current reality, and (3) attacking those brutal facts because you want to, not because you have to.
The alternative is succumbing to negativity, which reduces productivity and propagates throughout your business and into your personal life. Without disciplined optimism, success will be difficult to achieve. Optimism breeds the positive thoughts that you need in order to take action and achieve results.
- In Conquer the Chaos, you also talk about how technology has changed the game for small businesses. How has technology lowered the barriers to entry and leveled the playing field for small businesses to compete with big businesses?
There has been a technology power shift. In the 20th Century, we saw huge companies enabled by the availability of technology. Now that technology has matured and become nearly ubiquitous, it is available today to small businesses as well. According to Emergent Research, 78 percent of small businesses will have adopted cloud technology by 2020. This means that, in many ways, small businesses have many of the same advantages today that large businesses had in the 20th century.
As a small business owner, you no longer need a brick-and-mortar shop on which to hang out your shingle. Today you can easily launch a website and sell online. You can keep in touch with your customers throughout the entire journey by leveraging CRM and marketing automation technology. You have access to talent from across the globe thanks to our freelance economy. In addition, with the emergence of new financing models made possible by the web, it’s significantly easier for small businesses to access capital.
Technology is allowing entrepreneurs to pursue their passion and expertise rather than reaching for scale. But, the truth is that small businesses aren’t adapting to this digital revolution fast enough. Their customers are online, so they need to move there and fast. The modern small business embraces technology not just for a competitive advantage, but also for their survival.
Now that might seem scary to some small businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. Technology is becoming increasingly easier to use, and there is much more education out there to help small businesses modernize their sales and marketing. There is also a big community out there that is committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed. Infusionsoft wants to lead this movement because when small businesses succeed, it transforms our economy and communities.
- Many people can get complacent when they have reached a certain level of success. You mentioned in a recent article that, despite your current level of success, you are only scratching the surface. Can you explain what your plans are in the future (Infusionsoft or otherwise) and how you manage to maintain the hunger now that you are not (literally) hungry anymore?
As we come to the end of our original 10-year mission, we’re looking toward the future and realizing that we’re just getting started. We have a ton of work to do in order to have a huge impact on the world. We plan to serve millions of small business owners and thousands of partners in our ecosystem. We will change lives through our Small Business Success Platform and the principles of entrepreneurship.
The hunger inside me never subsides because there are millions and millions of small businesses and entrepreneurs out there that need our help. Last week, I met with ten businesses who were working on accelerating their business here at Infusionsoft. They are hustling and they all have big things to do. We have big things to do.
Tune in over the next few weeks for Part Two & Three of my interview with Clate. Again, I want your thoughts! Let me know what you learned and how this post helped you in your entrepreneurial journey.
Have a great day! - DJ