In 2006, Bill Harney’s father, a real estate broker for 25 years, realized something was rotten in the state of real estate, and that something bad was coming. So he started Keeping Current Matters, a real estate education business. Bill joined the business as employee No. 4, when his dad was doing 200 speaking events a year, which Bill saw was unsustainable economically and practically. Within a few years, Bill had taken over the business and has grown it into an online education platform with 16 employees. He chats with Clate and Scott about knowing when it’s the right time to make a major change in business model; getting more than ten times the anticipated audience for their very first webinar, and making powerful and confident decisions.
Mentioned in this episode:
“Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
“The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
“Essentialism” by Greg McKewan
Bill Harney: He was trading hours for dollars. That only gets you so far. He had a bigger dream. We had a bigger dream.
Clate Mask: That was Bill Harney of Keeping Current Matters, talking about how he made the successful transition from trading hours for dollars to a great thriving business. For the full story, listen to the rest of the episode of Small Business Success podcast.
Scott Martineau: Welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I'm Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask. We're co-founders of Infusionsoft, and we got Bill Harney with us today. Bill, great to have you with us.
Bill Harney: It's great to be here. Thank you guys for the opportunity.
Clate Mask: Yeah. You bet. As we always do, start off and just tell us your business, a little bit about it, how many many years you been in business, employees. Give us a quick overview.
Bill Harney: All right. Sure. The name of our business is Keeping Current Matters. We are essentially a content company for the real estate industry, specializing in creating market-driven content that agents can use to be able to share with their consumers so that they can feel confident during the home-buying and selling process.
We've been in business for about nine years. We just -- yesterday, are bringing on 2 new people, so that'll bring us up to 16 employees. And that's us in a nutshell.
Scott Martineau: Fantastic. Sixteen employees. That is awesome. Tell us what it's like to hire your sixteenth employee and how is that different from your -- maybe, your first?
Bill Harney: So, that's a great question. It's funny. We've been talking recently. It's -- if you've had asked me two years ago how many employees we'd have when we got big, or when we --
Clate Mask: Yeah. [Inaudible comment due to crosstalk] Right.
Bill Harney: It would have been 15, or 16 -- maybe 20 if we were stretching it. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said 35. If you asked me today when we're hitting it, I'd think we'll be north of 50.
Clate Mask: Wow.
Bill Harney: I think to get to this point it's -- we're bringing on two fantastic people who I'm super excited about.
But it's a little bit of a -- a little bit of a rush and a little bit of a -- we got this, right?
Clate Mask: Yeah. [Laughs] I love Scott's question because so many -- the vast majority of small businesses, as you know, are stage one solo-preneurs, just one person. The only thing that is close to being as scary as going out on your own is hiring your first employee. I love Scott's point about how did hiring employee number 16 differ from hiring employee number 1. Do you remember hiring employee one?
Scott Martineau: Our story's a little bit different. My father actually founded our company, and so I was actually employee number four, I believe. But I do remember when employee number one was hired because I had come home from where I was living at the time. Obviously, at that point, we were built out of the house. And there was a side apartment on our house with a fold-up white picnic table and just a desktop computer and a beach chair.
And that is what the office was.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] Nice.
Bill Harney: It's different now. It's, actually --
Scott Martineau: That was an ergo beach chair, right?
Bill Harney: [Laughs]
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Bill Harney: The Adirondack, you can't reach the computer? Yeah. That's kind of what it was.
Scott Martineau: That's fantastic. Well, tell us -- I'd love to just hear the story. So, you joined the business then. Your father got it started. Give us the history of where it was and how you got to where you are today.
Bill Harney: Sure. With KCM, dad started it -- he had bene a realtor and broker, owner. He kind of ran a _____ in real estate for about 25 years before this idea even came up. He had sold his real estate company in 2004, and took some time off, just trying to figure out what he wants to do next. Started doing some research around 2005 -- 2006 timeframe, and realizing something's not right. There's something bad coming. It's going to be really bad, and there's not a lot of people that area ready for it. So he, very quickly, stared to get the message out, worked with some friends of his.
And eventually built that into a speaking career, just going from brokerage to brokerage, community to community, talking to the agents in the area and helping them understand what was going to happen. That business took off. We helped a ton of people go through the crisis that was that real estate market in 2006 -- 7 -- 8 -- and early 9.
And about that time, we started to realize that the impact that we could make was much bigger than what he had originally thought. I was involved at this point. We did a lot of events and we realized that we couldn't do what we wanted to do just by him going out and speaking in front of larger crowds. It was a sheer economy of -- he was doing 200 speaking events and that wasn't going to last.
Scott Martineau: Wow.
Clate Mask: There's probably a lot of listeners who have built their business around their personality, their skill, their capability. They can identify with that. More success jut feels like less time and less life for them because it's all them.
I imagine your dad, when he's doing 200 speaking events, he was probably, like, "Yes. Success sucks." [Laughs] I guess. Not so _____.
Bill Harney: He was trading hours for dollars. And that only gets you so far. He had a bigger dream. We had a bigger dream. We took it from there. We took it from that speaking company to an online business, membership-related, just creating content, one to as many as we could possibly get and took off from there. Did a lot of things right. Screwed up a bunch of things along the way. But here we are and having tremendous success, going to grow another close to 50 percent this year after growing 40 percent year over year the last three years, I believe.
Clate Mask: Wow. Well, that is awesome. Congratulations and your point about making that transition from trading hours for dollars to a transition where you have a subscription model, you've packaged up the expertise, you're giving people access to that and they're paying to have access to it, that's a way of productizing expertise that so many entrepreneurs could do.
But they don't. It either hasn't occurred to them. They don't know how to do it. They're trying to figure that out. That's pretty awesome that you guys have done that. I don't know. Maybe it'd be useful to just hear a little bit of how did you go about doing that? Packaging up that expertise? Getting out of that hours for dollars business?
Bill Harney: Sure. We may have had a little bit of an unfair advantage. And that is what we turned into our product when we first started was literally just what he was doing from stage and doing it to more people. I think ours is -- we have a little unfair advantage there, but I think that there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there that I know that I've met, that have asked me the same question. There's so much that you can do.
People -- at the end of the day, people are thirsty for knowledge. They want to feel confident and powerful in every decision that they make. There are too few people out there, helping people do that. That's a passion for us and I think that there's a lot of people that -- there's a great opportunity for people that know what they're doing to help a lot of people if they can just figure out how to productize _____ stuff.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. It's interesting 'cause I think the way Clate and I were taught as we grew our business was that marketing -- we didn't necessarily think about this at first, but marketing is really -- it's salesmanship in print. It's sales in print, or e-mail, or whatever else. And a lot of times, I think the knowledge that people -- you know, maybe in this case, as a business owner's going through the process of selling, if they even call it that -- sometimes they like to avoid that word -- but if they're doing that, they are -- they're often times unaware of the knowledge that they have as they're going through the sales process. In a lot of cases, marketing is extracting that information and turning it into a more systematized process where you're sharing that in more scalable way, right, instead of having to be the one charging through. It's awesome.
Clate Mask: To take it a step further, you know, when Scott talks about our learning as
marketing being salesmanship in print, I think now that the link that was missing between that and what you and your dad have done of productizing your expertise and packaging it up is actually the key distinction to understand marketing effectively, and that is that marketing -- if marketing is salesmanship in print, it's not about selling your product or even selling information about your product. It's selling information or getting information out there that's related to the problems that your product and service address.
If you start to get into the sharing of information about the problems that you address, that's when people start to get attracted to you, and they realize, "Hey," -- you know, that's where terms like "thought leadership" and "content marketing" and all of these things come from. They actually come from just talking about the problems that exist in people's minds and the things they're dealing with. Effective marketers, as you know, and you guys have done this, they get very good at spreading the information about the problems that are solved by their products and services. And my guess is that is something that you guys have done very well.
Bill Harney: Yeah. I think to -- at certain points, we've done it well. At certain points, we're still figuring it out and I think it's that constant journey to figure out the right ways and the best ways to communicate and engage and talk with your audience is big. I think in a very dumbed down analogy. We're from New York. So New York, everything has to stay simple because that's just the -- that's just who we are, right? We always ask about what the analogies and metaphors to make things simple to understand.
And I think for us -- we always talk about is if you can give people headaches -- it's not even give them headaches, 'cause that's not even the right thing. It's if you can help them understand their headaches -- 'cause they have them. They realize some of them. And some of them they don't even know they have yet. If you can help them learn that, if you happen to sell aspirin, you're going to do pretty well. And I mean in the best possible way. We have a fantastic product. We have an amazing team that puts that together. But we know what we do, and not every one of our customers realize the pains that they have.
We help educate them to that piece of _____. Show them the opportunity that's in front of them if they can make some pivots. And then we just happen to help. It becomes a no-brainer at that point, if you can help them see the future.
Clate Mask: Yeah. And I think so many business owners, they're so busy selling their product or service, they don't take the time to share the information about the problems that are in the minds of their -- that people are having. And when they do that, then it naturally -- they naturally end up selling more of their product and service. Good on you guys for packaging up the expertise, talking about the challenges and issues that the real estate agents have, or your target customer has, and then being able to build the business and get to a point where you've got 16 employees. That's awesome.
Bill Harney: Thank you very much.
Scott Martineau: Bill, tell us about the toughest time in the business. You know, when you're ready to throw in the towel and wondering why on earth you did this in the first place.
Bill Harney: Sure.
Well, the toughest time that we probably had, it -- we've been very lucky. Let me start off with that. We've been very lucky. We've been very blessed to be in really good positions and try to -- one of our core values is we play chess, not checkers. We're trying to line up our moves a couple of steps ahead instead of just reacting to what happens. We try not to get caught off guard.
Scott Martineau: I hear that's the idea with chess.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: I always tell my kids I'm three steps ahead of them, but then I'm really not.
Bill Harney: [Laughs]
Clate Mask: But if they think you are, that's all that matters. [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: That's right. Sorry.
Bill Harney: You have to have mental edge over them. But I think the only time that we ever even tossed around the idea of "is this worth it?" is, I think, when we were first starting out the transition from my dad being on the road to you're not going to be on the road anymore. We're going to have to figure this out without you going out there and killing yourself to make it happen. The first couple of months were scary as we didn't know if we were going to be able create the sales.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. Risky.
Clate Mask: Totally. And did he want to go back on the road?
Bill Harney: Everyday.
Clate Mask: Yeah, Yeah.
Bill Harney: Everyday.
Clate Mask: It's, like, when you know the way to success, to income, even if it's you on the road 200 days a year, you can't help but just have to go back to that -- well, I have to go back to that _____. I imagine that was very tough to get him off the road, stay at home, stay the course.
Bill Harney: Trust the process.
Clate Mask: Yeah, yeah.
Scott Martineau: This is so oddly familiar because I don't know how much you know about our history, Bill, but we started as a custom software company, trading our hours for dollars. Clate was our sales guy. He'd pitch it. We'd go back in the room and work away. Billable hours, baby. And when you said that, it just took me back to the time where we made the jump. We're, like, "You know what? We're done with this." It was this two-edged sword because we knew were done with that life. We didn't want to do that anymore. But, man, you are literally stepping off a cliff, you know?
And we went back to two of our employees. We're, like, "All right, guys. You're going to own all of our custom projects," several of which were right in the middle of them. And we're going to go focus on this product, turning this application that we had, basically, into a product. It's a little -- it's a nail biter.
Clate Mask: Yeah, it is.
Bill Harney: How many employees did you guys have that time? What's a ball -- do you remember?
Scott Martineau: Four?
Clate Mask: We had -- no, no. We had -- it was right before --
Scott Martineau: Clate will give you all the details.
Clate Mask: We had six. Yeah.
Scott Martineau: Six.
Bill Harney: How -- I think one thing and -- it's just a question that I have for you guys since I have the opportunity. There are a lot of businesses that have this opportunity in front of them, that they have a chance to be able to do something, but there is a lot -- there's a lot on the line. You had six people that were making a living, paying their rents, paying their mortgages. And we were in the same spot. We had five at that point. That's not easy to make that decision. I would love to hear advice that you guys have along the lines of how do you know when is the right time?
And what do you do? How do you plan for that?
Clate Mask: Oh, man. Well, I'll tell you. Actually -- were you going to say something?
Scott Martineau: Yeah. I was going to say you don't ever know when is the right time.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: I mean, it helps that you can help to predict the real estate crisis, so maybe you should be the one answering this, but --
Clate Mask: [Laughs] Yeah. That's right.
Scott Martineau: No. Honestly, I think there's a -- I think there is an entrepreneurial instinct that you get as a business owner that you just have to follow. I think probably the more dangerous thing than making a mistake would be just falling into a pattern of indecision, you know. And I guess, for us, we had gone through a season where it wasn't all that great. It wasn't, like -- if it didn't -- we were ready to move on. But it still is a tremendous risk. I think my answer is, obviously, you've got to use wisdom, but I think there's just a lot of instinct.
And I think the relationships that we had built with our team at that time helped us to go through that transition. That's just the nature of the beast, I think, with entrepreneurship.
Clate Mask: I can tell ya that we went from September 2003 to January of 2003. That's when we were going through this. Some people listening are, like, "Holy crap. That was a long time ago." It was, but we actually can remember it very well. And it was tough, but I think the point is what we had was mediocre at best. We're, like, "Well, this isn't' great. This isn't what we want to do."
And we were putting our blood, sweat and tears into this business, trading hours for dollars, and just barely keeping the lights on. And I mean, barely. When we had an opportunity to take a -- to go from custom to creating a product, and we had gone from July of 2003 to September of 2003, starting the -- doing the development work on our first product. When we had done that work, it was, like, "We got to go."
It was that tough time where you just -- you basically burned the ships and say, "We're going to go for it." There's no, "Well, what if this doesn't work?" It was just all in. We're going to make this thing work. And we came -- we went back to our employees, the other three -- there were six of us in the business at the time. We said to the other three, "You guys are going to run with the custom-software customers and just keep them going and wind down that work.
And the three of us, as co-founders, we're going to go make it happen on the product." We spent, from that point, mid-September 2003 until the beginning of January, just trying to -- just fight our way through it, and battling all kinds of issues. A partner that we thought was going to be our sales arm, that ended up not. Different issues in the development of the product. All sorts of stuff. We can into every obstacle you can run into. And at times, looked at each other and said, "Is this the way it ends?"
Is this going to work? But we just kept battling and fighting our way through it, believed we were going to figure it out. And then by the time we got to about January, we started to sell this -- sell a product on a repeated basis. And that was an amazing thing when you go from doing trading hours for dollars to now having a product you can sell again, and again, and again. And then it wasn't too far after that, where we turned it into a true subscription product, and the recurring monthly software subscription became the real growth driver of the business.
Bill Harney: Awesome. Very nice.
Scott Martineau: One more thought. I think my answer's bothering because I feel, like -- I feel, like --
Bill Harney: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: while I totally agree that instinct is core, I do think -- I do think something happened in that situation that helped us. And I'll suggest, maybe, what that might look like today. We did have evidence of success because we went out and we actually did an initial sales attempt with this idea of the software.
We saw --
Clate Mask: Demand.
Scott Martineau: in essence -- yeah, we validated the demand in the market. In the case where the shift is a business model shift in that case, and you're maybe changing product offering, I would say that there's a lot that you can do. It's never going to be perfect. It's always going to be imperfect data. You probably won't reach statistical relevance, but there are things that you can do to be -- to do an honest assessment and make sure that you can validate that what you're going to do is really going to have demand. That might look like -- in our case, we actually sold something. In fact, we sold something we didn't even have at the time, and we had to go and create it.
Clate Mask: It was partially developed.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. It was partially done. And we were in a place where we could finish it by the time we had committed to. But there are very -- that's a great way to test, right? Actually just start to sell something. That might be a suggestion for people who are considering a business change.
Just do some of that work, because if you're finding that of the ten people that you've interviewed and shopped the idea, they're saying, "Yeah...this isn't so great," then it's probably back to the drawing board.
Clate Mask: Yeah. I'm glad you said that. I'm going to -- you've done a good job, Bill, getting us to talk a lot. So I'm going to turn this back to you, and I'm going to -- 'cause what I'm going to ask you is this. I'll make a comment about it from our perspective, but I want to hear what it is from yours. People say entrepreneurs are big risk takers. And I think they're actually very good at calculation. They're very calculated, and they're not stupid.
Successful entrepreneurs, they follow their nose and they kinda figure out where it's -- the success is likely to be found. Where I see entrepreneurs fail sometimes is they beat their chest with an emboldened "I'm a risk taker," and it's stupid risk. It's not validated. There's really -- and the biggest place you see it is when they go way too far down the sales and marketing -- or down the product development process, and they haven't' validated whether there's legitimate demand for what they're creating.
For us -- and I want to ask what that looked -- what did calculated risk taking look like for you as you made the transition, but for us, it was really a matter of -- we had been talking to prospective customers. We had been talking to a couple of different partners. We'd been getting a sense of, "Okay. If we did something that looked like this, if the software did A, B and C" -- you know, we were going down a path where we could tell there was going to be very real demand if we could get this created.
And that's a different kind of risk taking. It's a different kind of leap of faith, so to speak, than kind of just a blind gut feel, "I know this is going to work out." And I think if entrepreneurs aren't careful, sometimes they can get too far on the side of "I just believe it's going to work. It's in my gut." And they don't validate enough, and they end up being unsuccessful. So, I don't know. What did that look like for you and your business as you were making the transition?
Bill Harney: Sure. I think you see a lot of -- you see a lot of companies.
Like, if you ever watch Shark Tank, you see a lot of companies that -- they say, "This is a hobby. This is an idea. Nobody's going to buy that." Then you have the person that's up there beating their chest, saying, "No. I know this is going to work." And they have no sales. They have nobody interested. You're starting to realize -- you want to get that. I think entrepreneurship, there's risk taking _____ of it, and I like how you said that, Clate. It's calculated risk. It's figuring out where the patterns -- what is -- no matter how much, you're never going to have perfect data. But whatever the data you have is -- what is that telling you?
For us, we knew wanted to be an online company. We knew that just going on the road and selling it at the back of the room, similar to what you guys were doing, the standard speaker model, that that was not going to take us to the places that we wanted to go. We had a pretty big mission to change the way that real estate advisors are educating _____ their clients. We weren't going to do that from live events. We knew that we wanted to go online. We knew that was huge for us.
But we dipped our toe in it. We didn't just dive right in day one. We figured out -- there were a number of things that we were going to have to do in order to be successful. The first one was can we replicate my father's presence in a room on _____? And we -- when that went well, that gave us more confidence to take that next step.
And when that went well, it gave us more confidence to, like, "Okay. Let's start pushing and taking two or three steps at a time. Let's start running a little bit more." I think that's good advice when you have the opportunity to take a baby step, and then take a larger step before you start sprinting.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. Lean Startup is a fantastic book and they -- the pattern that you're talking about is right there. Let's, essentially, create validated learnings, right? Let's start with something tasked to make sure -- and the idea you basically will prioritize the biggest leaps of faith first.
In other words, if getting your father to -- if packaging his expertise via a webinar didn't work, it would be really sucky if you built this entire sales funnel and tried to drive people to webinars and that just fell flat on its face. Pick out those biggest leaps of faith, and validate those first. And then that'll help your confidence grow, and then you can push forward.
Clate Mask: And we'll put the title of that book, Lean Startup, in the show notes. Bill, I'm interested in this: when -- how did you the model from speaking 200 times to doing the webinars? Did it happen -- did you decide on one particular day, okay, you're done. You're never going on the road again? Or was it, like, from 20 appearances a month to 15 appearances a month to 10? Did you taper it in some way?
Bill Harney: Geez. I don't know. That's a good question. We knew we wanted to do it. We knew we wanted to go into the webinar space. I wanted to dive in. I was confident.
I remember vividly a conversation with my father where -- and the rest of our leadership team. It wasn't just the two of us making this decision, but we were talking about how many people do you think you can get on a webinar. And this was 2011, so it's still the early phases of webinars. In real estate, we're usually a couple years behind in technology. Web -- nobody was doing webinars in our industry. We said, "If we can get 50 or 60 people on this, that would be awesome." Our first one, we have no idea what we're doing. If we can get 50 -- 60 people on it, it'd be awesome. We got 700 people on the webinar.
Clate Mask: [Laughs] That's validation, my friend.
Bill Harney: We had to upgrade our _____ webinar service. That helped accelerate the process. I know our original plan was that we would do some webinars in the time that he had off when he was at home, when he wasn't traveling. And then we would taper that off. I think our original plan was about a year, year-and-a-half, just to make sure we knew how to do it right. That quickly turned into, I think, six months just to fill out the agreements that we had.
Clate Mask: But you had a transition plan. You had a tapering _____.
Bill Harney: Totally.
Clate Mask: This is a point I want listeners to hear. Whenever you're in the process of growing the business, there are almost always a few transition points as you change your business model. For us, we went from custom software to product to a web-based recurring revenue product. That's a transition. A lot of times you'll hear entrepreneurs go from service to product. All of those -- any kind of transition like that, you know, a particular product line to a new product line, there's a temptation to do it very abruptly.
You get excited. I hear it in your voice when you're talking about, "I wanted to go." But you're -- and your dad was probably pulling the other way a little bit. But your tension between the two of you, I would submit was actually exactly what you needed to make sure that you could make a transition successfully as opposed to going cold turkey.
and then all of a sudden you find yourself where some things didn't work out quite the way you wanted. The cash flow's not coming in from the prior revenue stream, or the way the business was working before. For listeners, pay attention to what Bill was saying. There was a transition plan. He thought it was going to be a year and a half. It ended up being six months, probably because you got 700 people on a webinar so --
Bill Harney: The data told us that, right? It was -- we had the proof. With what Scott was saying earlier, it's just once you know you have it, then it's a lot easier to go.
Clate Mask: That's awesome.
Scott Martineau: By the way, I mean, that was our biggest leap of faith, if you will. It's happened throughout our entire business. It's always going to be there: pricing changes, models, and introduction of new products. It's always there.
Clate Mask: Yep. You can even take it down to the concept of hiring an employee. Well, there's a transition plan that doesn't have to be so abrupt if you first hire them as an advisor, as a consultant, or a part-timer, something like that. The message I want people to hear is abrupt is usually not a good thing in entrepreneurship.
Unless it's an emergency, go for a gradual over abrupt every time.
Bill Harney: We always talking about evolution versus revolution. We learn that in that instance, that gave us a lot of -- the experience to be able to make other transitions. I mean, the transition from my father as the leader and the -- that did everything at the company to the transition of myself assuming the role of CEO and building the leadership at KCM that my dad was not a part of.
That -- you want to talk a transition process for a serial entrepreneur, that was a lot of fun. But we had the experience of working together and building out a plan, and then adjusting on the fly. It's three years in -- four years in. Four years in now. It's gone along.
Clate Mask: Good for you. That's awesome.
Scott Martineau: Sweet. Okay. So we got through your dark moment. Your dark moment was 700 surprise visitors on a webinar. That's really dark, dude.
Bill Harney: [Laughs]
Clate Mask: By the way, how did you _____?
Did you work with partners to drive people? How did you get 700 people? I'm sure our listeners are saying, "Yeah. Well, if I could get 700, I'd would do the same thing." What did you do?
Bill Harney: We've been very intentional about building a brand, and about caring about our customers, caring about our audience, whether they're a client of ours, or whether they're not, we want to provide value across the board. That has been at the heart and soul of everything in that we do. I wish I could say that there was a magic pill on how to do it. It was just a heck of a lot of hard work, but it was -- we put an e-mail out. We weren't even on Facebook yet at that point. It was cheerly just e-mail to our list and then ad on a blog. We blogged daily. That's probably the biggest thing that we've --
Clate Mask: There we go. You blogged daily to build a followership.
Bill Harney: Oh, my gosh. Yeah.
Clate Mask: That's great.
Bill Harney: It's a strong and large follow. And it's heavily from the blog.
Scott Martineau: Take us to the other end of the spectrum. What's the moment your business where you've been most proud? Most satisfied? Most excited? [Inaudible comment due to crosstalk]
Bill Harney: Well, I have to say is when I took over as CEO, right? [Laughs]
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Bill Harney: No, I think the most satisfying -- we had a -- you guys were talking about a product evolutions and making changes. We had made a decision, almost two years ago now, to take an idea that we had for a product -- or a feature as part of our member ship -- and we thought it'd be a really good idea -- and it was going to take a lot of work to set it up, and we had no idea if it was going to be a total hit or a total miss.
And it was at a time when we were starting to plateau. We didn't know what the next thing was that we needed to do. We thought this might be just a spark, but we rolled out that product in September. It was September 8th of 2014. I'll never forget it. It was also the day my wife joined the company, so she takes all the credit for it.
Clate Mask: [Laughs]
Scott Martineau: [Laughs]
Bill Harney: We launched that product -- or that feature -- which was really just a total homerun for our clients. It gave them everything that they wanted. They were able to provide create information. And it was all branded to them.
We took care of all the technology and the backend to just make it one click, seamless. Sales that day tripled and have stayed tripled ever since.
Clate Mask: That's awesome.
Bill Harney: Now it's just feeding fuel now. We now had something that was predictable, and we were at the same time starting our marketing efforts thanks to a lot of chiding from Clate at that point, I remember. Sometimes direct and sometimes just in -- some of the things you would say that I heard _____. But it was -- now it's just pouring gasoline on the fire, and doing the things that we do.
Scott Martineau: That's fantastic.
Bill Harney: Yeah. That was a big deal, though. I'll never forget it.
Scott Martineau: Tell us -- I'd love for you to just give some advice to our listeners. We've got a lot of entrepreneurs in different stages of growth in their business. What's one kernel of wisdom you can offer up?
Bill Harney: I'd like to offer two, if that's okay.
Clate Mask: Sure.
Bill Harney: First is in everything you do, try to be intentional. Don't let chance happen to you.
I'm going to go back to -- we have a core belief. It's something that's instilled in me from my dad from when I was a kid. Make powerful and confident decisions. Don't let the decisions happen to you. Take control of what you have and go at it. The second is in that intentionality is figuring out your culture. And this is something that you guys helped us with at the time.
But figuring our culture, figuring out why you exist. What makes you wake up in the morning? How do you find people that share that vision with you? Set large goals that you don't think you can accomplish and funny things happen. And then figure out what's the most important for you? For us, we look at our core values. We have six of them. We've turned down really great applicants for jobs because they didn't match our core values.
At times, I kicked myself, but looking back on it, it's the best decision we've ever made 'cause it would have been the worst decision if we would have went with it. Be intentional about that specifically. It's probably the most important part.
Clate Mask: Yeah, that's great.
Thanks for sharing that. When you get to the point where you've got 8 -- 10 -- 12 employees, what got you there isn't going to get you to the next stage of growth. And you've been really great over the last couple of years of really being intentional about your culture and attracting the right people to it. I want to go to your first piece of advice that you gave about intentionality and particularly what your dad told you about making decisions and not letting the decisions happen to you.
I think decisiveness is something that is hard for entrepreneurs, particularly in the early stage, because it feels like so much rides on every decision. I remember early on, Scott and I talking about this, and saying, "Look. We just acme to the realization that the success wasn't in the decision we made. It was in how we dealt with the decision." And so part of the powerfulness of making a decision is understanding that it's not -- it's just not the case that it's game over if the decision doesn't work out.
I mean it's always that you can do something. You can make an adjustment. And I think many people live life looking at decisions as being, like, "Okay. This is going to either -- this is either going to be the yes or the no. The win or the loss." It's just not that way. Decision making is much more a process than it is an event. I think when entrepreneurs come to that place and they recognize it, they can make much more powerful decisions 'cause they don't have that fear in the back of their mind of, "What if I get this wrong?"
And I know for us was we were going through it, that was a big thing. We were -- I felt like our decisiveness increased dramatically when we just recognized, "You know what? Whatever we decide right now, a decision now is so much better than waiting. Let's make a decision. Move forward." Sometimes you get two -- three -- four -- five days down the road and you realize, "Oh. We should have done this instead." But you only figured that out because you made the decision. I love the advice that your dad gave you. I'm a big fan of that.
I think Scott's one of the most intentional people I know in the way he lives. I'm a hair behind him, but not too far. I'm pretty intentional myself. That's awesome. I appreciate you sharing that with our listeners. Let me ask you this. What ingredient -- what characteristic, if you want to put it that way, do you think is most responsible for your success?
Bill Harney: I'm going to say focus. There are a lot of distractions out there and I see it in the entrepreneurial world, which I've been very blessed to be a part of for the last few years and thoroughly enjoying. But in the real estate industry as well, it's rampant. It's the next shiny object. It's the next social media tool. It's the next thing. It's the next thing. It's the next thing. I have to get on that. No. That's not how real businesses are built, especially in the beginning. Figure out what you do really well, and then just do that a lot.
And focus on that. Don't -- you have to say no to the good in order to say yes to the great. One of my favorite quotes, which I attribute to you, Clate. But it's --
Clate Mask: Sounds really good. I don't know. I must've been me.
Bill Harney: Somebody really smart one day said that.
Clate Mask: I love that. It's awesome.
Bill Harney: It's making those decisions. And as an entrepreneur it's very, very hard. You will fight often with the people that have those ideas that are bringing them to you, whether they're on your team or whether they're a partner, or potential partner that says, "I have this great idea and that we can make a lot of money on." And it's, like, "Yeah. But that's not what we're doing." It's hard to say no to that person 'cause they're really excited about their idea, but if it's not helping you further what you're trying to do, it's only going to be a distraction. That'd be what I would say.
Scott Martineau: Fantastic. Well, Bill, we're out of time. Thank you for giving us some of your time today. I'm sure you've got plenty of fires waiting for you. I'm sure they'll also be there when you go back. But we appreciate you giving us some of your time.
Clate Mask: I got one quick thing I want to add to you before we wrap this up. I just think that -- I think it's interesting the irony that you just shared about the real estate industry focusing on the next thing, the next big thing, when -- probably the most successful leader in the real estate industry wrote a book on the one thing. He was able to buck the trend of the next thing in real estate and he focused on the one thing, wrote a book about it. That's the founder of Keller Williams.
Bill Harney: Gary Keller. Yeah.
Clate Mask: Gary Keller. It's a pretty awesome book, TheONEThing, if you want --
Bill Harney: It's a good one.
Clate Mask: If you want to take Bill's advice around focus, grab ahold of that book and read it on the one thing. It's pretty awesome.
Bill Harney: And you guys had Greg McKeown out at ICON two years ago. He wrote Essentialism, very similar-ish mindset of focusing on what you're really good at and block out the things that are just going to be distractions.
Clate Mask: Awesome. Bill, you're great. Congratulations on your success. We're excited to see the cool and big things you'll do in the future.
I love the vision that you have and the things you're working on. Thanks for sharing your ideas and your lessosns learned with our listeners. I know they appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.
Bill Harney: Thank you guys very much. Infusionsoft has done so much for our business and I know that anything I can do to repay some of that and kinda even those scales is important to me. Thank you guys for everything that you do for putting this on and doing everything else that you do. it makes entrepreneurs, like myself, more successful, so thank you.
Scott Martineau: Great. Thank you, Bill, and thank you to all of our listeners. That's all for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast.
Clate Mask: Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate us, write a review, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. And if you're looking for more ways to grow your business, check out our knowledge center at http://www.learn.infusionsoft.com. That's http://www.learn.infusionsoft.com.
[0:38:00]\[End of Audio]
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