Abigail Olaya and her husband went from corporate work to owning their own business during the U.S. economic downturn of 2008. They now run Venue at the Grove, a wedding venue and experience in Phoenix, Arizona. Their business journey hasn’t been easy—when Abigail was pregnant with triplets, her one remaining site coordinator resigned a mere month before Abigail’s due date. She talks with Clate and Scott about her founder’s story, how she and her husband leapt from corporate to entrepreneurs, building a team that aligns with company culture, and balancing family and business.
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Abigail Olaya: In early 2009 the grants were cut and given where the economy was, so his position was one of those that was able to be cut. And he called me up – I was working at my corporate job – and he says, "All right, here's the situation. Do we go back, or do we take the leap?" And I was like, "Let's take the leap."
Scott Martineau: Wow. Wow.
Clate Mask: Wow, that – that's Abigail Olaya from Venue at the Grove, talking about the leap that she took to start her business. Keep listening to the Small Business Success podcast to hear the entire story.
Scott Martineau: Welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I'm Scott Martineau, co-founder of Infusionsoft.
Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask, co-founder of Infusionsoft, and we're really excited to have Abigail Olaya with us. Thank you for being with us, Abigail.
Abigail Olaya: Thank you. It's an honor to be here talking with you guys today.
Clate Mask: We feel the same way. We're so excited about what you've accomplished in your business, and we're just excited to talk to you about it. So this is the Small Business Success podcast.
We're gonna talk about your success and give our listeners the opportunity to hear their stories and their opportunities through your eyes and your words, so thank you for being here. We would love to just get a little bit of understanding of the overview of your business, so I think it's useful for the listeners to just understand what you've created in your business, and maybe how long ago you started it, where you are in your journey as an entrepreneur.
Abigail Olaya: Sure. Well, we started in 2009, and we are a wedding and event facility here in Phoenix, Arizona, called Venue at the Grove. What's unique about our property is we're on a two-and-a-half-acre pecan grove, and we have anywhere from a range of weddings all the way to corporate events and rehearsal dinners. Just basically we create extraordinary experiences. So we've been doing this for six years. We did 86 weddings last year, and we continue to grow every single year. Our goal for this year is 121 weddings and events, and we've already booked more than what we did last year.
So we're set off to a good start this year.
Clate Mask: Wow, that's fantastic.
Abigail Olaya: And when I say "we," let me just introduce – my husband is not here, but Edward is co-founder of Venue at the Grove as well. So we created it from the very ground all the way up to where it is together today.
Scott Martineau: So what gave you this crazy idea to start your own company?
Abigail Olaya: Yeah. Well, we knew we always wanted our own company, and we both came from science and engineering backgrounds.
Clate Mask: So of course let's start a wedding business, right?
Abigail Olaya: Exactly.
Clate Mask: I love it.
Abigail Olaya: I know. He jokes around. Biomedical engineering with a couple patents, and now he's doing event and wedding planning, so. We were always trying to create the product, so even as we were hanging Christmas lights, we were like – you know, those little plastic clips? We just need to create something people would want. Like what's the next big idea? And we weren't coming up with it, and so finally we wrote a list of items that we thought we could bring our skill sets and our strengths to. Product management, managing people, just enjoying hosting people.
Wedding venue wasn't on there. I don't know how it was. There was a list of other things on there. We happened to be driving by the property one day. It had a huge For Sale sign, so we stopped. We took a walk around the property, and the rest was history. We immediately had a vision of what we could do with it. So that's where it really started.
Clate Mask: That's fantastic.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah.
Clate Mask: So two scientists walk onto a pecan grove with entrepreneurial ambitions, and say, "This is it."
Abigail Olaya: That's right.
Clate Mask: That is awesome. I love it.
Abigail Olaya: And let me just paint the picture. It had yellow walls and pink doors, so.
Clate Mask: So you had a vision.
Abigail Olaya: I did have a vision.
Clate Mask: You had the ability to see what it could become. But I think it's really interesting because what you described there is you had some skills and some unique abilities in the way that you could actually apply your background and those skills in an industry that was totally different than what people would expect. And so actually your ability to see how you could engineer the lights just right.
How you could get the clips just right – that helped you actually to recognize an application for your skills that most people would never see on the surface. Just like most people would never see what that pecan grove could be as a wedding venue on the surface.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah; thank you. Yeah, if we never wrote that list and actually did that exercise, I don't think that we would've recognized the opportunity passing by it and being able to have that vision. But it certainly is amazing to look back and see how it all came together.
Scott Martineau: So you just quit your jobs cold-turkey? What did you do?
Abigail Olaya: No. So what prompted us actually taking this step is that my husband was part of the ASU Research Park, and so the projects that they were working on were grant-funded. In early 2009, the grants were cut and given where the economy was, so his position was one of those that was able to be cut. And he called me up – I was working at my corporate job – and he says, "All right, here's the situation. Do we go back, or do we take the leap?" And I was like, "Let's take the leap."
Scott Martineau: Wow.
Clate Mask: Wow.
Abigail Olaya: So that was really the beginning of it.
Clate Mask: So he got nudged into entrepreneurship.
Abigail Olaya: He got nudged.
Clate Mask: And you both said, "Let's do it."
Abigail Olaya: Yep, we said, "Let's do it," and then –
Scott Martineau: Did it scare you to death?
Abigail Olaya: No.
Scott Martineau: No – you're ready.
Abigail Olaya: I'm ready. I mean I'm sure there was like a little bit in the background, but there's excitement and something knowing that's where we wanted to go was enough to continue us moving forward.
Clate Mask: Okay, so let's fast forward now; so that's six, seven years ago, and just give the listeners a little glimpse or a little taste of where you are today. The number of employees you have, and you've told us, I think you said 86 weddings last year. By the way, my mind is thinking that's almost one every single weekend night or whatever; that's amazing. And this year you're gonna be doing 120, which means you're gonna be doing two or three events per week, which is –
Abigail Olaya: Yeah.
Clate Mask: That's hustling. You're doing a lot.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah. Yeah. We have eight full-time employees right now.
Clate Mask: Okay.
Abigail Olaya: That's including us.
And then we can staff anywhere – we have 34 in our total payroll books where we can staff up to, since we already went and seasonal-based it, we have a pool of part-time employees, up to 34, that we can pull per event. So what's also interesting about the wedding business in Arizona is that it's very seasonal, so like June, July, August are a little bit tougher months, because of the weather, so it's a dip. So we go high peak season April, November, October, where we're doing four to five, maybe even two on a day, never at the same time, but morning and then evening.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah, it's quite the high. But there's also a huge amount of gratification in just seeing this being one of the most important parts of people's lives, and that we get to help create that.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. So thank you for giving us kind of how it started, and a little bit of where you are now. So talk for just a moment about that passion that you have, 'cause you said you get to see such an important thing in people's lives.
I gotta believe that's part of why you do what you do; you see the impact that you can make through an amazing experience.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah, the passion that we have. I mean we knew that when we were looking into this being the business that we enjoyed people just having a good time; family and friends coming together celebrating. It's really almost indescribable of the emotions in the events that really we're walking through with somebody in their life, from the very beginning of when they decide they want to bring their lives together, all the way up to the family and friends hugging, and two families joining, and it just being symbolic in their life. And really, we get to live it through our employees, because really they're the ones that are working more at the events than Edward and I, particularly. So seeing that we can have this vision, have something that they can buy into, and that they can be a part of creating, is really where we're getting most of the payback, or the-
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah.
Clate Mask: Yeah, that's cool.
Scott Martineau: So I'm curious – I'm fascinated by your story. A lot of people will ease themselves into starting a business, and you jumped in. So buying a two-and-a-half-acre property like this is a big investment.
Abigail Olaya: It is a huge investment.
Scott Martineau: Did you just have a big old pile of cash you were sitting on or what?
Abigail Olaya: No. That would've been really nice. Wasn't anything like that, so. As I mentioned, Edward's position had just been cut. I was working in corporate. When we called the owner of the property, he said he was asking $1.4 million, and even in 2009, that was a lot to be asking for the property. He also was very adamant that he didn't want to go into any further lease agreements; he had done that before, and they didn't really work out. He wanted to sell it and be rid of the property. So we weren't sitting on a huge pile of cash. We were able to start the entire business on a $15,000.00 loan, and I continued –
Clate Mask: Sounds familiar, Scott; 15 grand.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah. And we didn't hire anybody. It was basically my husband getting in there working in the day. I would corporate, come home at night, and we'd work on the business. But one of our favorite stories to tell is him remembering he's riding – we had finally purchased a riding lawnmower. For a long time, we were –
Scott Martineau: Pushing.
Clate Mask: Oh no.
Scott Martineau: That's brutal.
Abigail Olaya: I will never forget the first time we both pushed the lawnmower. Yeah. So we bought a riding one off Craigslist, and he was riding it, and he remembers the phone ringing. You know, this was like on a daily basis. He'd turn off the mower, answer the phone, "Hello, Venue at the Grove, this is Edward, how can I help you?"
Scott Martineau: Oh, that's so great.
Clate Mask: That is great.
Abigail Olaya: So yeah, those were the early days.
Scott Martineau: I'm guessing there are many listeners who are very familiar with that feeling, you know? Just you've gotta go figure it out. And you might put on your landscaping hat for a moment; then you have to take it off quickly, and then put on your sales hat, and – wow, that's fantastic.
Clate Mask: Yeah, and what I love is you didn't have a pile of money.
So many entrepreneurs – so many would-be entrepreneurs – are saying, "Well, if I had this, then I would do it." And yet I believe that that need that drives people is actually what ends up creating great businesses. Who knows? If you had had the money just sitting there, it wouldn't have created the drive, the ambition. It wouldn't have helped you push through the hard times. I'm sure there were plenty of hard times. So I think that's really important, and Scott and I got a chuckle out of $15,000.00 'cause that was the amount of our first business loan that we had to beg –
Scott Martineau: My firstborn is still on – there's a lien against his life.
Clate Mask: Seriously, we had to work so hard to get the bank to give us a $15,000.00 loan. They told us "no" two or three times before we finally got them to say "yes." But it was $15,000.00, so that number is very symbolic and significant to us. And I'm sure for a lot of people out there who've been through the same kind of challenges of trying to bootstrap the business and get it started, your story I'm sure is very meaningful to them.
So tell us about maybe a really like a low point. When were you like thinking – I mean you jumped into this entrepreneurial venture. You're trying to get this thing going. Certainly at times you must've said, "Who are we kidding? What are we thinking to do this as a wedding venue?" Tell us about the low point, 'cause a lot of times I think that is important for people to hear. You know, people hear the success, but they're like, "Yeah, well maybe that person just kinda got lucky and skipped over the hard parts." And my experience is there's never any skipping over the hard parts; it's just hard. So do you have maybe a story you could share with us of a low point?
Abigail Olaya: Oh gosh, which one do I choose, even to tell you how you said? Well, I think probably the one that stands out in my mind the most is we had always wanted to start our own family, and so we had finally accomplished that after ten years of marriage. We ended up going through IVF, and they said, "Hey, there's only 50 percent chance you're even going to conceive.
Don't get your hopes up high." Well anyway, we found out we were having triplets shortly after.
Scott Martineau: Oh my gosh.
Clate Mask: Oh wow.
Abigail Olaya: Yeah. So with that, I went on maternity leave from the venue; I was still working corporate, and trying to eliminate stress in our lives. So my husband, being the great man he is, was supportive, and took on the responsibilities at the venue, so he was running everything that was going on at the venue. The low point was that we had two coordinators. One that was part-time, and she had been with us for a couple of years at that point, and then we had another one that was fairly new. Well, the part-time one that had been with us decided that she was going to dedicate all of her efforts to being a stay-at-home mom, which we supported her, so that was in June. We had a little bit of a scare, and I completely removed myself from anything. Like I didn't wanna know about anything, I just wanted low stress. And come November, my husband's still managing everything. He took on all of the client aspects and the coordinator that was left, she was able to take on the workload of the part-time that had left.
And it's November. They're like, "You can deliver at any time; it's all up in the air." And she turns in her two-week notice, and we're in the middle of season. So this is like wedding after wedding, weekend after weekend.
Scott Martineau: She had the relationships with all these clients, probably.
Abigail Olaya: She had the relationships, and it's a very emotional time in their life, so their having a transition at that point is something scary. So anyway, her two weeks, and we're gonna deliver any time, and the next person that it would default to would be my husband. And I'm like, "You need to be here. Can you please figure something out?" Anyway, we hired a HR company – well, he did – and they went through the process, and the candidates that they brought forward to him in the very short amount of time really weren't ones that we felt comfortable with. The low point is really having the time against us, and this need of family vs. the company that we had created, and what is it gonna be.
So anyway, he made the best decision possible and brought in the person. I went and sat in the last interview, just to kind of be an extra set of ears of where this was going. And we really had hopes that it would work out. Anyway, we delivered the babies. She was brought onto the team. She had very little training, and what we saw was a couple months later is that the emails he started seeing were clients having issues. "You're not responding to me. You're to hearing me. She's abrupt." All these things that were completely the opposite of what we had been creating, and she was having a hard time with it. So we had to just let it ride. Sales were down; everything was down, and we're at home with three triplet babies that are newborns, feeding them and changing them around the clock, and he's working full-time in the business. And so –
Clate Mask: And not sleeping.
Abigail Olaya: Not sleeping – yeah, absolutely.
Clate Mask: Well, when sleep deprivation's involved, it's crazy. It is just crazy. I know exactly how that feels, and it is really tough.
Abigail Olaya: It was absolutely tough. And just being on the other end of this is where we're at, and this is what we had to – we had to just let it ride out, and continue that he would do some coaching with her and help. But really, there was just the fundamental belief inside that there was something off here.
Clate Mask: Yeah. I'm sorry that you had to experience that. I love that you shared that story with us because it brings into such crystal clarity the conflict of family and business that happens so many times. And you're bringing up a situation where it's just as intense as the conflict can be. You've got triplets coming into your family, and all of the burdens and the pressures of the business. But I think everybody who's run a business and is trying to balance their family and friends' relationships knows how hard that can be at times.
And this is an example where it was just incredibly difficult. But I thought you said something really critical; you said, "He made the best decision he could make." And a lot of times that's what we have to do as entrepreneurs. You make the best decision you can make, then you move forward, then you try to upgrade that decision, whatever that looks like. And sometimes that's all you can do to get through the hardest part is just make the best decision you can make, and then move forward knowing that the mess isn't all cleaned up yet. But maybe it's cleaned up just enough that you can keep everything together to get to where you can make a better, more effective decision, that wasn't available to you at the time. And so we make the best decision we can make, understanding that there's more work to do, and that's hard. 'Cause we wanna just make the decision and be done – "Okay, it's all fine now" – and it's never like that.
Abigail Olaya: Right, right. And really, we felt the effects of everything. We had to go in and let her go after a certain time that could really come back and see the business, and it just couldn't be off-railed anymore.
We felt the effects a year later, because we're booking these events up to a year continuous in advance, and so once we lose that time period of sales for the next year, we can't go back for it. Yeah. But now it's thriving. We came out of it.
Clate Mask: Well, thanks for sharing. So how did you get through it? What happened on the other side of that? Obviously, your triplets are now two, three years old – is that right?
Abigail Olaya: Yep, they're two years old in a couple of months. I think just both of us getting that vision, still having that passion, and just putting our heads back together. And, "Okay, we've got some sanity, we've got a little bit of sleep." Our girls have been really good to us, by the way.
Clate Mask: That's great.
Abigail Olaya: So just getting in the business; diving back in and pushing through it, and hiring good people. So making sure that we were hiring the right people, and that they were aligned.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Scott Martineau: What's the point that you can remember where you felt like – I remember in our business where we shifted from this place of survival.
You know, we were missing payroll, and not quite sure if we were gonna make ends meet, and so forth. Then we got to a place where it was like, "Hey, I think we're gonna actually make it and this is gonna work," and there was a feeling of, "Oh, this is what it's supposed to be like." What's the time when you felt that sort of settle-in in the business?
Abigail Olaya: Oh my gosh.
Scott Martineau: Or you're not – by the way, I don't always feel that way.
Abigail Olaya: I think one of the most prominent times was recently – well, about a year ago. We actually went through the Elite Forum and learned again about the purpose and values, and how important they were to the company. And coming out of that upswing from having our family, and triplet girls at home; coming out of where we're feeling low in sales and here feeling it a year later; and still surviving through that impact, we had brought another person on the team. And she was performing. She was performing, but she was still missing the mark, and it was hard to relinquish control.
It was hard to have that trust. When we went through the Forum and we went through purpose, and we were challenged like, "No, that's not really a purpose. You're not really feeling it," it was tough to hear. And then we came out, we went and we co-created – that was the advice that you gave to us, to go back and co-create. We went and co-created with the team. And I remember – and this is an example of loss of trust – is I was like, "Well, what if I don't like what they create? Now I've already involved them in it." You said, "No – trust the process," so I went back and really trusted that, and I think that from there, we've just like skyrocketed, and that's all within less than a year of being able to know this is who we are so clear on who we're being. That we create extraordinary experiences, and these are the values. And anybody that is outside of those are gonna be unfit for what we're trying to accomplish here. And that's where we're at now.
Scott Martineau: And there was no sales work to get them onboard because they're part of the process.
Abigail Olaya: Right. Right, they're a part of the process. And the amazing thing is we had values before.
Like respect, teamwork, integrity; there were six of them, and they were words. And what was created when we co-created is still the same thing. It's we treat others how we wanna be treated. We do the right thing. We love what we do. We have each other's back. So that's the teamwork one. Now instead of saying like, "Oh, we're teamwork," they're like, "I've got your back. I've got your back." And so they're speaking it and they're holding each other accountable, and it's really amazing.
Clate Mask: That's great.
Scott Martineau: I love it.
Clate Mask: Congratulations. It's so great to hear, and you're touching on something that I think for a lot of entrepreneurs out there is a sore subject. How do we build a team to all work together? And a lot of times, entrepreneurs look at employees as a necessary evil; they just don't wanna deal with the people problems. But what you've described, you've given a great contrast between the challenges that you had when you weren't hiring the right way, vs. the smoothness that you're experiencing now when you have the right people onboard.
And that all comes down to getting totally clear on your purpose, values, and mission, and that's hard work. A lot of people don't realize how much work that is, and the co-creative process that you go through, so congratulations. It's great to hear, and without a doubt, you certainly deserve the success that you've achieved. I'm dying to ask a question, because I know this is so important to many entrepreneurs who have a family, and they're trying to balance their business and their life. And you talked about it when it was tough – what things do you do to strike the balance now? You've achieved a level of success that a lot of people would look at and point to and say, "Wow, I wanna get to that." But we're no strangers to the challenge of balancing; we know how difficult that is, so I'm always intrigued. So what do you do with triplets that are two years old, your husband's in the business as well. What are some of the tactics and things that you've come up with to help you achieve the balance?
Abigail Olaya: I think it's just being real with myself on like what can I do? I can't do it all, and I'm surrounded by really good people.
And the trust that they'll get the job done, and that's what exists now. So that's like the foundation of it. And then after that, being clear with them. Like, "Here's when I will be in the office, and here's when I won't be in the office. And when I'm not in the office, unless it's an absolute emergency, I have full confidence that you'll be able to get the job done." That has made a total difference, because in the previous points of where we were struggling, I was on call all the time, so I was always high-stress mode. Any time a call would come in I felt like I needed to solve the problem. And now I have full trust that they can, and they actually perform and make really great decisions. Sometimes I'm like, "Wow, even better than what I would've made; that's amazing."
Clate Mask: Isn't that awesome?
Scott Martineau: It's beautiful.
Abigail Olaya: And then just sticking to that schedule that I created and holding myself accountable. Also, when I get home and I'm with the girls, the laptop's closed, the phone is away. It's not there; I'm present to them, and I really feel that that's what's allowed me to be so the mother that I've always dreamed of being.
And just in the moment with them, rather than being stressed out and concerned and somewhere else mentally.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Scott Martineau: That's great. So I've been dying to ask you a question.
Clate Mask: What's the matter, I keep jumping in or something?
Scott Martineau: Maybe. Clate and I have probably – we got some really good advice early in – actually, before we started the business. Somebody said, "Do not ever go into business with family." So I don't know if you know this, but Clate married my sister, so we're brothers-in-law, and the third co-founder of Infusionsoft is Eric, my brother. So we obviously ignored the advice, and I can share how that's worked for us, but I'm curious for you. How has that been? You know, working with your husband in this business – that's a big deal.
Abigail Olaya: It is a big deal, and we get asked that all the time. How is it? If you're fighting or something, how do you handle that? And we are able to just separate it, but I think that the biggest thing that set us up for success early on was that we had clear responsibilities.
Like, "You're handling this, and I'm handling this." And so we weren't crossing each other's paths. That, and then also we learned from our first employee, she'd come and ask me a question and knew I'd answer one way, and then go and ask him a question, and of course he's gonna answer –
Clate Mask: Just like children. Wait till those two-year-olds grow up.
Abigail Olaya: We're a little prepared now, right? Ask him and he would answer another way, 'cause he comes from a different set of making decisions. So then I would be talking to her, and she'd be like, "Well, Edward said." And so we worked that out together of who's making what calls and giving answers to people, or asking them, "Did you ask your leader first?"
Clate Mask: That's great. The role clarity is so important. I remember when Scott and I and Eric, when we were early on, and we were making so many decisions by committee. It seemed like we had to kind of run everything by each other, and you just can't do that. It's so frustrating, and it slows things down.
And we got clear and said, "Okay, you're responsible for this, you're responsible for this," and then we'd get together once a week and talk about the different things that were related to our areas of responsibility. And it's just evolved and gotten more and more refined, and of course we've been able to hire people to do things way better than we did it in those early days, which is a lot of fun. But I think that point, for our listeners, that clarity of roles and responsibilities, it's true whether you're in a family business or not, but it's especially true in a family business, because the lines tend to get blurred naturally if you don't create clear distinctions. So thank you for sharing that, and thank you for sharing some of the things that you do to create that balance. I love hearing that. You know, Scott and I are always assessing how we create that balance in our lives, and I think it's so commendable that you shut it off. That you're present with your children and your husband in a venue that's not your venue, that's actually different than your business. And I feel like that's a constant challenge for entrepreneurs, to be able to shut if off.
And I've done all kinds of different things, from turning off my phone to leaving it in the car to stopping phone calls on my drive home, and just all kinds of different things to try to be present and in a frame of mind where my kids know I'm there for them. My wife Cherise knows that I'm in a place where I'm gentle, and not out dragon-slaying and in the work world. It's a tricky thing to do to make that shift, but it's critical if we wanna have the business and the life that we want. So than you for sharing that.
Scott Martineau: So what is the most powerful advice you would give somebody who's aspiring to create what you've created?
Abigail Olaya: I would tell them to listen to themselves, and wherever they're coming from, to take that with them. There's enough nay-sayers out there, and everybody's gonna have an opinion, so just listen to their inner whatever's driving them, and their passion, and pursue that.
If they're clear on what they're wanting to accomplish or create, that will carry them through. I mean of course there's a lot of hard work and other things, but I think what we found is anybody that we talk to, even close family members, were like, "We're really happy for you. But you could probably do it better this way."
Clate Mask: Yeah. Oh yeah, there's always an opinion.
Abigail Olaya: And I think they have good intentions, but if we listen to everything, then we wouldn't be doing anything, right? We would be constantly up and down, up and down. And so I would just say, yeah, trust your inner self and go with what you're really committed to creating.
Scott Martineau: Great, so glad you said that, so great. Because to Clate's point earlier, the way we react to decisions after we've made them is more important than making the perfect decisions, and I think that's what puts people in the stalemate. They're like, "I don't know, I've never done it before." But in my opinion, that is the beauty of entrepreneurship is it's a creative process, and the business owner, I believe, is blessed with this instinct and ability to go create it. And it's not gonna all be perfect, but that's half of the joy, you know?
Just embrace it, follow the instinct, listen and be open. You don't wanna be closed, right? Be open to the feedback, and then make the call and move forward. It's beautiful.
Clate Mask: Yeah, thanks for sharing that. And if you had to kinda highlight one characteristic trait that you think is really critical for small business success, what would you share with people?
Abigail Olaya: Commitment.
Clate Mask: Great. Yeah.
Abigail Olaya: I think just being committed to what it is that you're really wanting will carry you through the ups and downs. I don't know; there's like a quote that I remember reading, and it was something like if you're not committed, then you'll find any excuse. So true commitment means that you're in it for the good, for the bad, for whatever it is, and so I think commitment would be what I would say.
Clate Mask: That's awesome, that's totally great. Well, do you have any questions for us? Anything about our history, or something maybe you're working on now that we might be able to chime in on, give you some thoughts about?
Abigail Olaya: Yeah, I'm really curious as to we're growing, we're over this million-dollar mark. We're really clear on our purpose and our values, and we're doing strategic planning. What advice do you have for the next set of challenges that we're gonna face, to get through them?
Clate Mask: Yeah. Yeah. I got a couple thoughts, so I'll share with you two things. The first one is with 8 employees, but then potential of 30 more or so that are part-time, the weight that's on you and Edward is going to begin to grow, and you're gonna need a stronger leadership team in order to keep growing. So I'm not saying that you're there just yet, but the really critical thing, just as you've learned how critical it is to hire and train and fire to your purpose, values, and mission, now the next step is as you go from the million to $3 million, you're gonna start needing to build a leadership team that you've hired in that way.
So my guess is with eight people, and because you've got all those part-timers, you probably have a couple people that maybe are emerging. You'll need to build out a team that has maybe one or two other people in addition to the two of you, where you all feel this partnership. A total bond, a total unity, a really strong connection on your purpose, values, and mission, because you need them to hire to your purpose, values, and mission. It's one thing for you to hire to your purpose, values, and mission. It's a totally different thing for your leaders to hire to the purpose, values, and mission. So that's the first thing is –
Scott Martineau: And let me add to that too, right. I remember when we got to the point where – in fact, this happened in the same year – where I didn't even know the names of every employee. Then I didn't even know the names of everybody who was hiring. And when I got to that point, it was a really spooky experience, and that's the point where it's too late to go. Now, what I had done two or three years prior, and the way we had groomed leaders, the way we had prepared them to hire to the core values, it was locked in.
So now is the time to make sure that that's there. And with vigilance. You gotta realize that the leaders of your company, they're the guardians of the culture; they're the guardians of your purpose and what you've created. So now's the time to make sure they are perfectly living the vision that you have.
Clate Mask: Yeah. I like to say – you may have heard me say this in Elite – but I like to say that when people you don't know are hiring people they don't know, if you don't have the hiring process committed to a purpose, values, and mission, you're up a creek. I mean it's gonna be rough. And the people problems that you were so afraid of bringing on blossom in full bloom. So you're doing great because you've got a purpose, values, and mission you're hiring to. The next step is to hire leaders who hire to the purpose, values, and mission. So that's the first thing. The second thing is the alignment process that you create, because as you get more people, it's getting everybody aligned in the day to day operations.
And there's a strategic planning process to go through there, and simply put, you just need to have a quarterly planning process. The most important thing is actually to allocate the time, put it on the calendar, and hold it as sacred; that's the most important thing. What you actually do in the process, I'm confident you'll mostly figure it out. But where entrepreneurs go astray on this is they don't make that investment of time in their strategic planning a high enough priority. Something else becomes important, something else becomes important, and they neglect it. Then all of a sudden, you find yourself 6, 9, 12 months down the road, and you haven't aligned the team to the strategy and the tactics. And you got people running off well-intended, trying to do good things aligned to your purpose, values, and mission, but executionally they're off, because you haven't made clear the goals and the strategic objectives that you're going to accomplish. And then the big strategies of how you're going to accomplish the goals.
That gets lost, and then people are looking around, saying, "Hey, we need more direction here." So I would just say make sure that your people that are hiring are hiring to the purpose, values, and mission, number one. And then number two, that you have a strategic planning process that you stick to like clockwork, 'cause it's an investment. It's not a cost. It's not, "Look how much time we're spending." No, no, no. It's a huge investment, and it'll return great, great rewards for you if you stick with it.
Abigail Olaya: I'm glad you said that. Thank you.
Clate Mask: You bet.
Scott Martineau: I had one follow-up thought, too. Earlier when you were talking about the employees, and the purpose and the core values clicked in, and now they're saying things like, "I've got my back," I had chills on my arm. And I was thinking to myself, "Why was I so touched by that?" And it's because I've seen what happens as a result of that. What happens is you have this amazing creative power that I was describing as the entrepreneur? You've just passed that on. You've got somebody who's totally aligned to the purpose. And I agree with what Clate's saying. Now you have them executionally aligned, and the creation that comes from that is just marvelous.
It's like you've got a company full of entrepreneurs that are aligned, and you get to extend that ability to other people that go do it, and it's just a beautiful process. People come to me and say, "Man, you must be so proud of what you've created here," and honestly what I think is we were committed enough and tenacious enough to not quit. And we brought amazing people on. We got clear about why we were here. And everything that we see around us is a result of people doing amazing things, including the studio we're sitting in here and the whole process. So I'm just excited – excited to see what your team's gonna do.
Clate Mask: Yeah. I couldn't agree with that more. And I felt it when you talked about an employee that is solving a problem in a way that's better than you would. And I totally understand that; that happens over and over and over for me and Scott. That's where you get the pride. That's what's so exciting, that we're working together to a common purpose, values, and mission, and they're doing it in ways way better than we could. That's a blast. That is a ton of fun.
And then we get to just come in and do the part that we do, and this is a great example, what we're doing here with the Small Business Success podcast. We have experts that are doing this so much better than we can ever dream of, and it makes things possible because everybody is aligned to this purpose, and doing it through our values, and going out on this mission to help small businesses succeed. So thank you for helping us to see how you're doing that in your business. We identify with that. I know entrepreneurs out there crave that and want that and experience it, and when they hire and train and fire to their purpose, values, and mission, they get even more of that. They can achieve the balance. They get that thrill as an entrepreneur to see the company achieve great things that they couldn't have done on their own, and that's what makes it worth it to go through all of the new learnings that you've gotta do to hire a great team. But entrepreneurs can totally do it. Just like you learn marketing or sales or anything else, you learn how to lead people in a great way, and you're a great example of that. So thank you, Abigail, for being with us.
Is there anything else you wanted to share before we wrap up this edition of the Small Business Success podcast?
Abigail Olaya: No. It was a pleasure being here. Thank you so much.
Clate Mask: Great. Thank you, and congratulations on your success. Scott, anything else you wanna add?
Scott Martineau: No, that's it. Abigail, you're amazing. I've been inspired today, and I know our listeners will as well, and we'll call this a wrap. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in to the Small Business Success podcast. I'm Scott Martineau and this is Clate Mask – go ahead.
Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask, co-founder of Infusionsoft.
Scott Martineau: And we'll see you next time, as we explore small business owners who are having great success.
Clate Mask: Don't forget to rate on iTunes and share and subscribe. We look forward to the next podcast. Make sure you tune in.
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