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Small Biz Buzz—128—Clate Mask—The meaning of Big Grit

Clate Mask, Keap’s CEO, joins Small Biz Buzz to talk about the mindset of entrepreneurs versus small business owners and how having grit can get you through the hard times.

Clate expresses the fact that the entrepreneurial journey is hard enough, let alone with the curve balls like we've had this year. COVID-19 really clarified the difference between the typical small business owner and the entrepreneur.

“The typical small business owner generally lives in a very concerned state of being and is very cautious and very concerned about the present, and can easily be swayed by circumstances around them,” said Clate. “Whereas the entrepreneur is very focused on the future and is very optimistic and is very driven and action-oriented to not get stuck into a rut, but to actually drive to a better place and is willing to take some risk and is willing to be uncomfortable. Typical small business owners want to be comfortable. Entrepreneurs are okay when they're not uncomfortable so they can drive to a better state.”

Clate also discusses Keap’s upcoming conference, IKON, which will be held virtually this year November 12-14.

“If you're serious about growing your business and you want to be in a community of people that are like-minded and are serious about growing their business, if you want to understand sales and marketing automation and how it can change your business, and you want some inspiration and motivation, IKON is an event like none other,” said Clate. “It is so remarkable to see what happens when you bring people together and their stories, how they use our software to change the game, how they are overcoming the challenges, how they bring grit and optimism to their work every day. I just love our customers.”

Speaking of grit, check out Keap’s newest Big Grit docuseries at keap.com/big-grit.

Also, if you want to register for IKON, click here.

Click play for more.

Transcript:

Speaker 1 (00:05):

What is Big Grit? Starting October 19th, Keap will begin a new documentary series devoted to the struggles, adaptation and triumph of business owners like you and how they've been able to thrive amid absolute chaos. Join us for a raw and unflinching look at what Big Grit means, if you have it, and how to find it when you need it most. Visit keap.com/big-grit. That's keap.com/big-grit. Subscribe to get updates on new episodes as they release. As a business owner, you know it takes something extra to succeed. See the stories of entrepreneurs that exemplify Big Grit. Visit keap.com/big-grit. See how people like you have found growth by filtering out the chaos. Once again, that's keap.com/big-grit. See for yourself how gritty entrepreneurs always make a way.

Dusey (01:06):

Hello, everybody. This is Dusey Van Dusen and welcome to Small Biz Buzz. I'm joined by our amazing host, Crystal. How's it going?

Crystal (01:15):

Good, so excited for today.

Dusey (01:17):

Yes, and we are honored to have our wonderful CEO Clate Mask on with us. Hey, Clate, how's it going?

Clate (01:23):

Great. So good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Dusey (01:26):

When we spoke a little while back about what we wanted to talk about when you were on, and I think everybody that was in that little meeting came away going, "Man, I love when we get the chance to talk to Clate because we come away more energized and more optimistic than we were before and just ready to take on the freaking world." And I thought that's what I really want our audience to feel from you, so we love having you on. We love when we're able interact with you, so thanks for hopping on, Clate.

Clate (01:54):

Absolutely. Look forward to it.

Crystal (01:57):

I'd call Dusey a brown-noser if I didn't agree with everything he just said.

Clate (02:02):

Now he'll call you a brown-noser, right?

Crystal (02:07):

Exactly, exactly. That's kind of how it goes. But, yeah, I totally agree. You always energize us and get us feeling that passion again for entrepreneurs. So one of the things I just want to jump right in is how do you keep your passion alive for our mission, as an entrepreneur? How do you keep that going?

Clate (02:24):

Yeah.

Dusey (02:26):

Because it's been a hard year to keep that going, I think, for a lot of people, right?

Clate (02:29):

Yeah, yeah, no doubt, and I think the entrepreneurial journey is hard enough, let alone you throw some curve balls like we've had this year. But the answer's always the same. It's getting connected to the purpose of what you do. When you really understand why you do what you do and you remind yourself of that and you get back to that, then there's a never-ending source of energy there. And when entrepreneurs, their enthusiasm fades or they're frustrated, and I don't mean just the regular day-to-day frustrations, I mean the point where you're saying, "You know what? I think I'm done. I want to go do something different," usually when I talk to entrepreneurs who get into that situation, it's that they've gotten away from the joy of what they do. They've gotten away from the purpose, the why behind their business, why they are doing this in the first place. And a lot of times, that's what happens, as you go through the small business journey. The day-to-day small business life beats it out of you. And it's the job of the entrepreneur to try and bully that.

Crystal (03:34):

I feel like it's got to be hard out there. I mean, so many things every day. I was just saying before we started, your energy is always at a high level, any time of the day you speak, and that you're working all the time and that it just seems like you never get exhausted. So is that true or are there moments you're kind of exhausted?

Clate (03:57):

It's mostly true, but there are some moments. But I will tell you, I'll illustrate what it is that entrepreneurs can do by sharing what drive me, what fires me up, what drives me and why I have that energy. And it's that I understand the plight of the entrepreneur. I understand the challenge. I've been there. We, at Keap, Scott and I, we experienced it firsthand. We know what it's like when you have a business that you're trying to get going and you're dealing with all of the challenges of the business, whether it's product things you're working on or customer service issues or employee issues, payroll challenges, financial strains, competitor issues, you name it. There's so many things that come at you every day as an entrepreneur that it can be really challenging to get through that and succeed.

Clate (04:52):

But then when you introduce all the personal side, all of the stress, the financial pressure, the identity that you have wrapped up in the business, your friends and family, relationships that can be suffering because of the business, the business starts to consume everything. And I understand what we call the dark side of entrepreneurship. I get it. I know how dark it can be. I know how it can cost you your health. It can cost you your relationships. It can cost you your mind, your mental health, your emotional health. It is incredible the toll that it can take. We've been there. We've been in that situation where every day was a complete fight for survival and friends and family are saying, "Go get a real job." Customers are saying, "Oh, you messed this up. Can't you guys ever get it right?" Your employees are saying, "Are we going to make payroll on Friday?" Your mortgage is 30 days late, these things that just bear down on you.

Clate (05:54):

And as an entrepreneur, yeah, sometimes you want to just pull the covers over your head and not get out of bed and just say, "You know what? I can't do it." But that's not going to make things any better.

Dusey (06:06):

No.

Clate (06:06):

Now you have personal guarantees, usually, that you've got to live up to, other kinds of obligations. And so you have to fight your way out of it, and there is fight to it. And I know sometimes people say, "Oh, well does it have to be such a battle?" Well, yeah, in the early days, it's a fricking battle. I'm sorry, but it is. It's a total battle, and I understand it. And so what drives me is we found a better way. We know there's a better way and we see it with thousands and thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of users now. There is a better way to run a small business. It's an entrepreneurial way.

Crystal (06:43):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (06:44):

It is a way that enables you to have a great business and have a great life, where you don't have to sacrifice everything in order to have a good business. And unfortunately, when you talk to business owners, especially those that are stuck in the small business rut, they have come to believe that the price that is required for them to have a successful business amounts to something they probably wouldn't have signed up to in the first place. They may not admit that to you, but in many cases that's true. And so when I see business owners that are in that place where even when they're successful, but they are having to give up too much.

Dusey (07:26):

They can still be grinding then, right? Even when they're successful, a lot's coming in, you don't even have time for that one thing in your life. There's still too much to do.

Clate (07:38):

Yeah, you said it right. It's grinding then. And a lot of times, they'll get to where they've got five, 10 employees. And now their friends and family are no longer worrying about them and telling them to go get a job. And in this funny small business phenomenon there's this overnight flip where they from being afraid for you and telling you you should go get a job to now, suddenly, they're proud of you and saying, "I believed in you all along." Yeah, right.

Dusey (08:04):

Now that they're on the other side, yeah.

Clate (08:07):

And they tell you, "I knew all along you could do it." "Didn't you just tell me last we I should be going to get a real job?" So yeah, you're-

Crystal (08:14):

Suddenly, all the best friends come out.

Clate (08:16):

... Yeah, you get to that success, though, and you think, "Oh, well, things are going to be so much better," but no, you're still ground down to a pulp. You still can't go on vacation without stressing about the business. You still can't make it to your kid's soccer game on time because you're trying to get something done. You're still feeling frustrated that you are canceling that appointment or date with a friend. The business is just consuming. And so that is what drives me. I know it doesn't have to be that way, and I know that entrepreneurs every day are finding a better way to do it. And that's what we get to do here at Keap. That's what drives me. It's very personal for me because I've been there. It's very personal for me because my friends and family have been there. It's very personal because I see the customer's success stories who use sales and marketing automation to change their game. And that's what I'm on a mission to do is help them to change the game.

Dusey (09:08):

That's awesome.

Crystal (09:09):

Right.

Dusey (09:09):

So what I'm wondering is, I think Crystal asked you, do you always have this amazing, positive energy and you're just going at it and you don't feel ground down, well, when you are feeling, I want to hone in on those moments when you're saying, "Okay, this is tough." Maybe there's some doubt creeping in. What do you do to get your mindset back to where it needs to be because I imagine a lot of our audience-

Crystal (09:37):

Definitely.

Dusey (09:37):

... that are small business owners, that's something that they will struggle with, absolutely?

Clate (09:42):

So there's actually two pieces to what you said there, Dusey. It's okay for it to be tough. It's supposed to be tough. Now, we all enjoy the times when it's not tough and there are parts of the entrepreneur's journey that are just amazing and it's flowing and it feels awesome, but there's also tough times. And by the way, spoiler alert, if you're thinking you're going to get to a certain point and everything's okay, it's not. There's just new challenges. That's just the life of the entrepreneur, and it's amazing and fun and incredible and sometimes really, really hard.

Dusey (10:16):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (10:17):

So it's okay that it's tough. You called that out Dusey. What do you do when it's tough? It's okay. Recognize, yeah, it's tough and sometimes that's just the way it is, but it's worth it because the next part, the next leg of the journey, where it's smooth and fun and everything's flowing, is awesome. And then you're going to go through a tough part again and that's the life of entrepreneurship.

Dusey (10:38):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (10:39):

That part's okay. When you start to doubt yourself, that part's not okay.

Crystal (10:44):

Right.

Clate (10:44):

And so let's talk about that because the self-doubt is something we can't allow to take us over. As the entrepreneur, the people around you, whether you are a solopreneur or you've got a team of 50 people, the people around you are counting on you to have your mindset right. You cannot afford to be sabotaging yourself and the company by entertaining thoughts of, "I can't do this. I'm not good enough. Who am I kidding? This customer that's telling us we screwed up is right. We're never going to get it right." If you start going down that negative path, you are toast because the mind is so powerful that it will lead your body to what you're thinking. It will lead your company to what you're thinking.

Clate (11:35):

A company is a corporation. That is a body, right? Well, the mind of the entrepreneur drives that company. It drives that body. It drives that corporation. So if the mind of the entrepreneur starts to slide and starts to go to a negative place, you can bet on the fact that it's going to end in a bad place if they entrepreneur doesn't pull him or herself out of it. So it's okay to see the toughness. It's okay to recognize how hard it is and understand we're in a really tough season right now, but you must maintain undying belief that you will be successful.

Crystal (12:08):

So, I'm not going to lie, this sounds pretty lonely. To someone who's been nervous to ever start my own business or side hustle, I have to say it sounds very lonely, what you're talking about. Even when you're talking about your own moments of struggle, you're thinking about however other many people you have that are counting on your leadership. You're thinking of your family. You're thinking of everyone. But at what point do you really hone in on thinking about yourself?

Clate (12:36):

Yeah, well, it is lonely. You're dead-on, Crystal. It's lonely, and that's part of the reason I love this company is because of the community, the Keap family of entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs. I'll say more about that in a second. But, yeah, it's really lonely, and it's especially lonely when you are of the entrepreneurial mindset where you're not okay with just the rut of small business life and getting stuck in the status quo of small business, where you want to be successful.

Clate (13:10):

You want to have the freedom that you were looking for when you started the business, the time to be able to do what you want, the financial freedom to do what you want, not be so tied down to the business, to have the mindset and the space where you can actually think clearly and not be so dominated by the business. Yeah, when you want that and you're striving for that, it's actually even more lonely because you realize that, of all the small businesses out there, there's only a small subset that actually have that mindset.

Crystal (13:41):

Right.

Clate (13:41):

Most of them have gotten into a place where they just accept the way it is. And by the way, that's part of my job, is to wake them up and say, "No, this is not why you started your business. Did you really start it to settle for this? No, you did not. Be honest with yourself. You wanted something better. You wanted more freedom. You wanted to have more control of your time." And so when you're an entrepreneur of that mindset, it's even more lonely to find those who actually see it that way and connect with you. And you're dead-on, it can be very lonely. So what do you do?

Clate (14:19):

First of all, you surround yourself with some people who do get [crosstalk 00:14:24]. Now, I'll give you some examples, my parents, they get me. My mom did have an entrepreneurial run of her interior design business for several years, so she can understand this to a certain extent. My dad's a teacher. So they don't really understand the plight of the entrepreneur, but they do know me and they know my drive and they know what I'm trying to do. And to be able to just go to my parents' house and sit on their couch and just vent and get a bunch of stuff out and have them listen to me is incredibly liberating, and I do that on a regular basis. So family's one.

Clate (15:07):

My wife is amazing. I always tell people she is my best and most valuable coach and advisor. She's very busy running the business of the Mask household, and so I occasionally get little snippets of her brilliance. But every time I can get it, when she opens her mouth, it's like manna from Heaven as she gives me advice. So she's really helpful to me, so family is super powerful. Some friends who will be by you, whether they understand your business or not, that's helpful. And then finding people who really get what you're trying to do, finding a community of entrepreneurs, that's part of why I love Keap. That's why I love IKON because it brings people together in this community.

Clate (15:55):

And then the last thing I'll say is, I've always been a big fan of a coach, having a coach for an entrepreneur, someone you can talk to, someone you can just process your thoughts with and get the toxic thoughts inside of your mind out of your mind. And these thoughts turn into beliefs and those beliefs start to take on a life of their own and they turn into actions and habits and you literally begin to manifest your thoughts out into your business. Well, if those aren't positive thoughts, productive thoughts, as my coach says, "Useful thoughts," if they're not useful, why hold onto them?

Clate (16:36):

Well, because it feels good sometimes to gripe about something or to be upset about something or wish this would be different or so and so would do this other thing. Okay, it might feel good to do that, but you've got to channel that and you've got to work through that and you've got to turn it into a productive way. Otherwise, you start carrying yourself in your business, in a really negative, toxic way that doesn't lead to the outcomes that you want. And the worst kind of toxic thought is the belief that this isn't going to work. If you get that belief inside of you and you don't work that out of you, trouble.

Dusey (17:12):

Yeah.

Crystal (17:13):

Yeah.

Dusey (17:13):

I think it's really easy to want to keep that inside of yourself, right? I know I've caught myself in that sort of position of something's bugging me and it's going around in circles in my head and in my heart, and it's churning me up. And I don't even stop to think, "Oh, I should just tell, just even tell my wife what's going on inside of me right now," right?

Clate (17:39):

Right.

Dusey (17:39):

That one little thing can get you out of that rut of just getting it out of your mouth.

Clate (17:48):

Right.

Dusey (17:48):

Just blah, shoot it out.

Clate (17:49):

And your wife's sitting there looking at you and saying, "Dusey, I know something's up."

Dusey (17:52):

Right.

Clate (17:52):

And she'll even say, "Hey, what's going on?" "Nothing. I'm fine." What the heck?

Dusey (17:57):

"Hard day at work," right? "Hard day at work."

Clate (17:59):

Right, yeah. So that's the thing. And let's be real for a second. Of course, we have doubts. I'm not saying you don't have doubts. I'm saying, as an entrepreneur, we cannot afford to have those doubts take root inside of our mind. So it's okay that they come onto the stage of our mind as passing thoughts. Heaven knows that we encounter 100 negative data points each day in our entrepreneurial life that would cause us to say, "The rational person would not believe this is going to be successful, Clate, so you might want to actually pay attention to these data points," right? That happens to every entrepreneur.

Dusey (18:43):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (18:43):

I'm not saying we don't have those thoughts. I'm saying, "What do you do with them?"

Crystal (18:47):

Yeah, make them actionable.

Clate (18:49):

Yeah. Yeah, how do they take root or not in your mind? That's why a coach or a trusted advisor is so valuable.

Crystal (18:57):

So, one of the things I wanted to talk about is, okay, we get it, entrepreneurship is lonely. It's exactly what some of us scaredy-cats, like myself out there, think it is. It's scary and lonely and rewarding, but scary and lonely. Now enter social distancing and quarantine and 2020. What do you think that is doing to the entrepreneurs? We serve to entrepreneurs in general. What are the impact of being alone even more or far from your community?

Clate (19:31):

So, it's a great question. It definitely does cause more loneliness because one of the ways we deal with the loneliness of entrepreneurship is we get together with people you go to events or you just go to lunch with people. You get together and you talk. So, obviously, we have to do that virtually in order to get some of that release, some of that help that we need. But it's not the same as being in person, let's be honest. There's a certain benefit that comes from being together. So, here's what I would say about it, thought. To me, it's been fascinating to watch. COVID really clarified the difference between the typical small business owner and the entrepreneur.

Crystal (20:14):

Definitely.

Clate (20:15):

The typical small business owner generally lives in a very concerned state of being and is very cautious and very concerned about the present, and can easily be swayed by circumstances around them, whereas the entrepreneur is very focused on the future and is very optimistic and is very driven and action-oriented to not get stuck into a rut, but to actually drive to a better place. And is willing to take some risk and is willing to be uncomfortable. Typical small business owners want to be comfortable. Entrepreneurs are okay with some times where they're not uncomfortable so they can drive to a better state.

Clate (21:10):

And what I saw with the pandemic was it really shined a light on people who were willing to adapt and go to that place of discomfort and work on it and adapt, because everybody experienced this. Our products and services didn't sell the way they normally did, opportunities were shut down, major financial concerns, not to mention all of the health and safety concern. So, when you get into that situation, you really have an incubator for the entrepreneurial mindset to take on.

Crystal (21:52):

Definitely.

Clate (21:53):

And when those kinds of circumstances pop up and I know, in some ways, we've never seen this before, but there's always big challenges, and the challenge galvanizes the entrepreneur. And so what I've seen is this. I've seen entrepreneurs who rework their products and services, who came up with really compelling offers to give their customers a reason to do something, who went back to existing customers and found new ways to serve those customers, who found new offerings, virtually, that they've always thought maybe were possible or wanted to do, or maybe never even thought of it but just came up with it. What I saw was entrepreneurs adapt while typical small businesses recoiled. And for anybody listening to this, of course the tendency for us is to recoil. I felt it.

Dusey (22:48):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Crystal (22:48):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (22:48):

We all felt. We all felt like, "Oh, crap. Let's retrench." And there's a certain amount of protectionism that's needed when things get tough, but we have to be really careful not to shut off the creativity and the drive and the ambition of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur inside of us wants to come out and create. And if we shut that entrepreneur down too much and say, "No, it's not safe to play," then we're going to find ourselves in a rut and in a trench that you can call COVID. So I've been fascinated to see how people have responded and how the entrepreneur has turned to market more effectively, sell more effectively, innovate, create new offerings and use technology to be more effective and more efficient.

Crystal (23:44):

So I've been actually really lucky this year to work on projects I never knew were coming before COVID. But I've worked on the Keep Going grants, both of them that we did. Got to read all those stories from entrepreneurs that are adapting, struggling, yes, but adapting and moving forward and being actionable. I've got to work on, recently, the IKON contest awards from our customer base and see all the great things they're doing, which I'm shocked that many of them were saying this is their best year ever. I mean, that's a true icon. It's crazy to me. And then more recently, we are doing a docuseries, Big Grit, and we've got some really cool stuff coming out. So what do you think it is that really makes up the difference between that typical small business and the gritty entrepreneur that seems to be thriving almost this year? What do you think are the core differences?

Clate (24:47):

It really is a mindset. And we talk so much about the entrepreneurial mindset, and I know a lot of people might hear this and just go, "Oh, that's this namby-pamby soft stuff." No, this is actually the hard stuff. This is the hard edge of small business success and it is a mindset and it's fundamentally this, that whether we win or lose, succeed or fail, it's not about the external circumstances. It's about what's inside, inside of the person, inside of the company. That's what it's about. And what happens when big issues happen out in the world, 99% of human beings see those big issues and say, "Oh, well, yeah, it's going to be tough because of this and this and this, but we can certainly understand that." But the entrepreneurial mindset sees opportunity. The entrepreneurial mindset says, "Hey, to heck with the challenges. I'm going to figure out a way. I'm going to make it happen."

Clate (25:53):

And so it doesn't surprise me one bit that we have a bunch of customers who are saying, "This is our best year ever." Of course, it is, and stop and think about why, because your competitors all recoiled and you, as an entrepreneur said, "No, we're going to find a different way. We're going to create a new offer. We're going to create something different. We're going to be more compelling. We're going to build relationships. We're going to get closer to our customers. We're going to shut out all of the suffocating noise, shut it out, focus and drive to our goals to serve our customers because they need us." They need you. Everybody, in a pandemic, is sitting around feeling, "Woe, woe is me. Woe is the world. Woe is my family." Then throw social injustice, throw political turmoil, I mean, let's face it, we could sit and watch the news and just bury ourselves in tears because it's such a sad state of affairs. Well, that's not going to do your entrepreneurial business any good.

Dusey (26:59):

Mm-hmm (negative).

Clate (26:59):

So I pay attention. I'm aware of what happens, but I don't spend time on the news cycles and I don't spend time wasting away my energy on a narrative that somebody else wants me to buy into. I got a business to run. I got customers to serve. I got employees to take care of.

Dusey (27:17):

Mm-mm (affirmative).

Clate (27:18):

I've got goals to hit. I've got a dream and vision and a mission that we're on, and there's actually a cover of COVID that's happening that enables entrepreneurs to get ahead.

Crystal (27:30):

Wow.

Dusey (27:31):

I think-

Crystal (27:31):

Mind blown.

Dusey (27:33):

... Yeah, that's awesome. I think some of what you're saying, well, it definitely applies to other times as well, but can apply to things that are happening inside of your business as well. Just a very small example of that is looking at when there's a customer that is upset, a client that is frustrated with you. You're seeing those negative reviews or whatever. That stuff is so easy to hold onto. And I think one of the things that we can do to reenergize ourselves is to go look at, "Well, let's look at all of the customers and the clients that are giving us awesome feedback. Let's take a moment to celebrate some of the cool stuff that we're doing to rejuvenate ourselves," right?

Clate (28:13):

Yeah, you got it, Dusey. That's exactly right. When Crystal says, "What's the difference between the typical small business owner and the entrepreneur?" I say, "It's the mindset."

Crystal (28:23):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (28:24):

And the mindset has to be cultivated. And every situation is an opportunity for the mind, whether it's a pandemic, the mind creates meaning out of something and then the body follows based on its buy-in to that meaning, right?

Crystal (28:42):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (28:44):

So if the pandemic's telling us, "Of course, revenue's going to be down. Of course, sales aren't going to be good. Our business is going to go backward," and that's the mindset that we embrace then, yeah, that's going to happen. But if instead we say, "Oh, no, there's actual opportunity here. We just need to get scrappy and figure out how to go get after that," then there's a way for us to grow the business during a recession. By the way, we've grown our business two times during recessions, and we'll do it again during this recession. We're growing. And there's going to be a recession after the pandemic that, unfortunately, is going to drag out for a while. And you can take it to the bank, this company with grow through the recession because we know it. It's in the mindset. It's ingrained. But that's how you deal with the incident of a pandemic, which is, obviously, massive.

Clate (29:32):

Let's take the incident that happens every day, an employee complains about something or a customer complains, or you find something on your website that's wrong and you're frustrated, or whatever. There's all kinds of things that cause you to go, "Oh, crap. I screwed something up." How do you deal with that? Well, I will tell you. In the early days of our business, when a customer complained, I recoiled, and I was like, "Ugh." And then I would get mad at the customer, "Oh, well, they're wrong. If they just understood this."

Dusey (30:03):

"Why don't they understand?" is often what we tell ourselves, right?

Clate (30:07):

Yes.

Dusey (30:07):

"How do they not see that they're the problem?"

Clate (30:09):

Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly, to which my coach would say, "Is that useful," right? And the everyday way of saying that is, "How's that working for you?"

Dusey (30:20):

Yeah.

Clate (30:22):

We can grab ahold of these things that happen and put meaning around them that prop us up and make us feel better because we're right and they're wrong, but that doesn't help the business. That doesn't help the customer. That doesn't help you improve. So I learned a long time ago that all customer feedback is good.

Crystal (30:44):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (30:45):

The hard customer feedback that you don't enjoy hearing, naturally, is actually something that's trying to make you better if you will embrace it.

Crystal (30:55):

100%.

Clate (30:58):

So if you look at the challenges that come at you as gift-wrapped packages that are there to help your business get better-

Dusey (31:06):

It's a gift, absolutely.

Clate (31:07):

... then you embrace it. You get excited about it. You open it up. You say, "Okay, how are we going to go make this better?" If, instead, you shirk your shoulder, you kind of, "Ugh," and you want to dodge it, then, by the way, that gift is going to keep showing up [crosstalk 00:31:22]. So fix it, right?

Clate (31:26):

And then the other side of customer feedback is the part you do love to hear. Oh, that is like salve for the wounds of the entrepreneur, right? You want to read that stuff. You want to get ahold of those stories. You want to talk to those customers. A few little tips that I've used over the years, if I'm in that rut and I'm feeling really frustrated, I read customer success stories. I go talk to people about the successes. I remind myself of the good that we're doing to empower entrepreneurs, and those things totally lift my spirit.

Crystal (32:03):

Yeah, for sure.

Dusey (32:04):

So what's great about those gifts that come is they're from a point of view that we could never possibly be from. They are able to see things in our business and experience our business in a way that we could not possibly. So they have that point of view. But that's also not to say that every single piece of feedback is 100% accurate or not just a larger rant because of a small frustration. So how do you decouple that or how do you identify, "This feedback is something that's accurate or is something that we need to fix," or. "This feedback is more about dealing with somebody who's frustrated and who's emotional and something else"?

Clate (32:52):

Well, here's the thing. Usually, those gifts are wrapped with lots of emotion and we have to understand that we might not like the way it's packaged up. We might not like that emotional wrapping where the customer or employer or, by the way, our spouse or our child [crosstalk 00:33:15] bringing us this lovely gift of feedback. But the thing is, inside is something amazing for us and we need it.

Dusey (33:24):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Clate (33:25):

We need to see that. We need to see that to improve our business. We need to see that to improve as an entrepreneur or as a husband, father, wife, mother, you name it. So we need that, and this is one of the reasons why we have our value, "We check ego," because the ego doesn't want to look at what's inside. The ego wants to protect itself from what's inside and justify itself by calling out the ugly wrapping paper of the package, the emotion, the rant, the whatever it is from the customer. But that ego is going to hold us back from getting at what's inside of that package that we need to improve our business.

Clate (34:07):

So we got to check ego as entrepreneurs, and this is one of the tricky things for entrepreneurs because sometimes, especially when we start to have success, we can easily start to let our ego drown the humility that we need to improve and accept feedback. But the beautiful thing is that the reason that emotion's coming is because they want it to be better. They're actually on your side even though it doesn't look like it.

Dusey (34:36):

They wouldn't have said anything if they were [crosstalk 00:34:38], right?

Crystal (34:38):

That's what I was just going to say.

Clate (34:40):

That's right.

Crystal (34:40):

I was going to say, obviously, on social media, we see it all. And I've had people tell me, "How can you deal with people so unhappy or this or that? They're the worst." I always say, "No, I'm the worst. I'm the worst because what I would do, if I were them, is I would never say anything and I would leave."

Dusey (34:58):

"Peace out. I'm done," right?

Crystal (34:59):

"You'll never have my business again." They're the best because at least they're bringing it to our attention and we can fix it.

Clate (35:06):

Right.

Crystal (35:06):

So really, if you look at it like that, it doesn't always feel good. It stresses me out when I see something because we want all of our customers happy, but I prefer that because if they don't say it and they leave, we can't fix it. We can't make it better. We can't fix up any issues at all if they're gone.

Clate (35:25):

Right. That's right.

Crystal (35:26):

And so I look at it as I'm the worst. I'd just leave. I'm not giving you any time. If I get that done, I'm done. So I appreciate the feedback. And, yeah, sure, I'd like it to come with a bow instead of emotional distress, but we'll handle either.

Clate (35:40):

That's right.

Crystal (35:41):

We'll handle either.

Clate (35:42):

Really well said. Apathy is the worst attribute of a customer, right? You want a customer that's raving and excited or one that's raging and telling you how you need to [crosstalk 00:35:54], right?

Crystal (35:53):

Agreed.

Dusey (35:53):

Yeah.

Crystal (35:57):

I think it just pushes you to more excellence.

Clate (35:59):

That's right.

Crystal (35:59):

Well, I know there's people out there listening right now that are thinking, "Well, sure, some people could be having a better year this year and I can't because of X, Y, Z." And what I'll say is, "I've seen a magician, who literally only did events, go completely virtual and be able to do more events than he's ever done virtually, and be making more money than he's ever made. I've seen photo booths go completely virtual." How do you do a photo booth virtual? But they're doing it.

Clate (36:35):

Karate studios, restaurants that have gone to meal prep, I mean, you name it.

Crystal (36:37):

Yeah.

Clate (36:37):

It's adaptation. Entrepreneurs adapt. And typically-

Crystal (36:40):

So what I-

Clate (36:41):

... small business owners make excuses. I hate to say it so bluntly, but that's the truth. And by the way, [inaudible 00:36:48], they're making those excuses at times, so I'm not calling them out. I'm saying but be honest with themselves, myself included and say, "Don't fall into the excuse trap. Adapt."

Crystal (36:59):

Yeah. So what would be your challenge, Clate, to anyone who's maybe their mindset's low right now, they're struggling? What would be the challenge if they're thinking right now, "I can't do it because of X, Y, Z?" What would you say?

Clate (37:13):

First of all, I have great empathy because I know that there's reality to what you're dealing with. I'm not trying to say, "Oh, just suck it up. Grin and bear it. It's not real." No, I know there's real stuff you're dealing with.

Crystal (37:29):

Right.

Clate (37:30):

And so let me just validate and acknowledge the plight of the entrepreneur and that business owner that is stuck in that place and really fearful. So I acknowledge that. And my challenge to you is to work on your mind to change it. There's a very simple process where you can call out your belief that's holding you back. It might be, "I can't hit my goals because of COVID," or whatever. But call out that belief. Look at it. Get it out on paper. Write it out. Look at that and say, "Is that true?" "Yes," your mind's going to scream at you, "of course, it's true. Look what's happening. It's true." "Okay, is it really true? Is there any way that it could be a little bit different?" And you start to loosen up a very rigid thought that is steering you in a path that you don't want to go down.

Clate (38:24):

And as you start to work on that thought, I would remind you that your mind is a meaning-making machine. It makes meaning out of a situation and you get to set your mind to determine what meaning will it make, and you have to slow it down, but you can actually make a different meaning. You can start to go look at people who are doing really well right now. You can go look at instances where somebody that you really respect has figured out a way to do something that you could learn from. There's all kinds of ways to loosen it up, but when your mind gets into a rigid place, you're on autopilot. You're going to go down a path that you can't stop.

Clate (39:06):

So my challenge is get in touch with the entrepreneur's mind. Set your entrepreneurial mind right. Get back to that place of creation where you want to create something. Get back to that place of serving your customers, finding what they need, getting to them. When you get outside of yourself and you go serve your customers, you're going to find the way, and that's why our tagline we say all the time is, "Keep going, keep serving, keep growing." If you don't stop, you keep going, persistence is the key. And if you have a servant heart, a servant mindset, you go to serve your customers, it will pull you out of this self-absorbed place that we all so easily fall into, and it will get you to a place where you can actually be of value to your customers.

Clate (39:56):

And as you do that and you set your entrepreneurial mind right, you start to see the opportunities, and then you keep growing. So keep going. Keep serving. Keep growing. Work on the entrepreneurial mindset. We teach this stuff all the time. It's real. It's not hocus-pocus, mumbo-jumbo stuff. It is the absolute truth that what's between your ears is going to determine your success as a business owner.

Dusey (40:21):

What you said about creating something, that really speaks to me because a lot of what I do is creating stuff, right?

Clate (40:28):

Yeah.

Dusey (40:30):

I know that when I'm looking at the struggle of, "How is this going to get made? How is this thing going to work?," I have to remind myself of the feeling on the other side of that. When we turn it around, we make something awesome, we get it out there, then my day, my week, my month is made.

Clate (40:51):

Yeah.

Dusey (40:52):

And sometimes it's just reminding that it's there. It's out of reach right now, but if walk towards it, it'll be within reach eventually.

Clate (41:02):

Yeah.

Crystal (41:02):

Right.

Clate (41:03):

Well, said.

Crystal (41:04):

What I'd like to say, too, is I'm taking up the torch here and I want to say that we're going to be here for anyone that wants to get their mindset right. We have Automation Hours happening every week. You don't have to be a customer to get in on those. And they're hopefully there to help you pivot and figure out how to adapt and be around other people doing the same thing. So take advantage of that. We'll put a link to that in our description and we'll also link you to the Big Grit, which is a docuseries that we just recently are doing. We're rolling the first one out very soon here.

Dusey (41:44):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Crystal (41:44):

So I think that is really great to see how other people are adapting and being really strong this year, and they've had external challenges for years, far beyond COVID, that entrepreneurs just know they have to get through. So I'm really excited to be able to work somewhere that cares so much about entrepreneurs and we really want you to succeed, so we're here if you need anything. We want you to keep going, for sure.

Clate (42:10):

Yeah, and Crystal, I'm glad you talked about grit because, in a word, that's what defines entrepreneurs. They just have grit. And I love the docuseries we've put together. It's so awesome to see our customers' stories and they personify what we've just described here, and you see the real experiences that they've had. And that's what's so fun about this Keap family, this community of entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs. It's why we created IKON years ago, to bring people together. It becomes this amazing mecca for entrepreneurs and work on their sales and marketing automation, get the system right for growth and the mindset right for growth. There's a lot of inspiration. I'm so excited we've got IKON coming up.

Clate (43:01):

And it's probably good for us to just point out that we had a dark period for a couple of years in this business, and we were just coming out of that dark period when I retook the helm in January. And then we got the gift of COVID a couple months later. But we've charged through all of that and we're growing the business and we're serving entrepreneurs and helping them to automate their sales and marketing and do it in a systematic way so they can have a little peace and freedom. And of course, we sprinkle in a bunch of the mindset stuff as well. It's so necessary.

Dusey (43:35):

That's awesome.

Crystal (43:36):

For sure.

Dusey (43:36):

Well, I normally don't pitch too much stuff, hard pitch stuff here on the podcast, and in one second, Clate, I want you to pitch why you think people should come to IKON because we're doing a bunch of prep for it and I'm seeing a lot of really cool stuff getting ready for IKON. But before that, I just want to point people. Crystal mentioned that Big Grit page. You can go check that out at keap.com/big-grit, K-E-A-P.com/big-grit. So, Clate, why should somebody come to IKON?

Clate (44:05):

If you're serious about growing your business and you want to be in a community of people that are like-minded and are serious about growing their business, if you want to understand sales and marketing automation and how it can change your business, and you want some inspiration and motivation, IKON is an event like none other. It is so remarkable to see what happens when you bring people together and their stories, how they use our software to change the game, how they are overcoming the challenges, how they bring grit and optimism to their work every day. I just love our customers.

Clate (44:42):

I'll never forget the survey we did a few years ago where we surveyed a bunch of typical small business owners and we surveyed a bunch of our customers. And there were several remarkable differences, but one of them was when we asked both groups what was their outlook for next year in terms of growth, in terms of revenue, our customers were overwhelmingly optimistic and positive about growing. And the typical small business group was quite pessimistic and had some outlook for growth, but it was a huge difference. I think that's partly because of the mindset and think that's partly because of the tools that we give our customers to empower them to grow their business.

Clate (45:24):

But if you want to be in a community of growth-minded entrepreneurs, serious entrepreneurs, IKON is the place. It's going to be virtual this year, which will be a new experience for all of us, but after a couple of year hiatus with no IKON, we brought it back this year. It'll be virtual this year. We'll be in-person as soon as we possibly can, hopefully, next year, and we're excited to bring our customers together and hear their stories. And I know, if you want to be inspired and you want to see people doing stuff and give you ideas and creativity and suggestions, you want to be at IKON. It's amazing.

Dusey (46:02):

Yeah. Yeah, we've had to do some pivoting and adaptation with IKON with COVID as well, right? So we've been putting a lot of work in making sure it's going to be a great virtual experience, so I hope to see everybody there. I've been to several, I guess, I think, three, in the past, when we were doing them in person and it is really awesome. So, yes, would love to see all of you there.

Crystal (46:24):

I can't wait. I'm really excited for the contest presentation-

Clate (46:29):

[crosstalk 00:46:29].

Crystal (46:29):

... because the videos were already so good, and I'm like, "What are they going to present on stage?" I just can't even wait. So I'm real excited. It's going to be my first IKON and I feel really excited and lucky to be able to witness this, so I'm looking forward to it.

Clate (46:43):

[crosstalk 00:46:43] awesome. And this isn't going to be a Zoom call. I mean, the way we put this event together is incredible. It will feel like you're at an event with the software that we have. The stories of our customers will be inspiring and amazing.

Crystal (46:57):

Yeah, Clate, from what I hear, you'll have three huge screens and you'll see almost every attendee, their faces, when you're doing your keynote. I can't even wait.

Dusey (47:07):

That's so great.

Clate (47:07):

I love it. And the product updates we're announcing, I mean, we've got some really exciting stuff with the product. It's just an incredible event. It's going to be so fun.

Crystal (47:18):

Awesome.

Dusey (47:19):

Yeah. I know I've always-

Crystal (47:19):

Well, we'll put the link to that-

Dusey (47:20):

... Yeah, I know I've always come away energized and having that mindset feel and ready to take on the world so, yeah, looking forward to it.

Crystal (47:30):

... Awesome. Well, Dusey, this was a great conversation here with our fearless CEO. Clate, do you have any final words of encouragement for any entrepreneurs out there listening?

Clate (47:42):

Yeah, what I would say is there's an entrepreneur inside of every typical business owner. And we started our businesses for a reason when we had this desire to have freedom. And unfortunately, the regular small business life can beat it out of us sometimes and we lose our way of what we're trying to do. And so my message is to wake up that entrepreneur inside of you. If there's anything I've said that maybe annoyed you a little bit that I said it, look at it. I'm saying it out of tremendous care for business owners. I want you to be successful and I know that sometimes our mind starts to play games on us and paints us into a corner, as a business owner. That is not empowering. It's not liberating. It doesn't enable us to do what we want to do.

Clate (48:35):

So I would just encourage you to wake up that entrepreneurial spirit. Work through the thoughts in your mind that are holding you back, that aren't useful, that aren't working for you. Don't embrace them even though it might feel good and justifiable. But find out what that entrepreneur inside of you is really clamoring for and give some space to that entrepreneur because when we call out the entrepreneur inside of us that entrepreneur wants to create. That entrepreneur wants to grow. That entrepreneur wants to serve. That entrepreneur wants to give and have an impact. And there's nothing more exciting for me than to see an entrepreneur who's successful and having an impact and making a difference in their personal lives, in their families and in their communities, for their customers.

Clate (49:20):

That's what we want when we talk about our purpose, is to help small businesses succeed. It's that we've got to call out that entrepreneur and then empower that entrepreneur with our sales and marketing automation because it's a true game-changer. So that's the thought I want to leave with you. Crank up the entrepreneur. Adapt. Don't let the circumstances outside of you dictate your outcomes.

Crystal (49:40):

Dusey, we better go and stop hitting the snooze button of our entrepreneurial spirit.

Dusey (49:44):

Yeah, right.

Crystal (49:45):

Every time I talk to Clate I rethink my scaredy-cat ways. Anyways, thank you so much, Clate, for being on the show with us today. We definitely helped everyone get excited and motivated and inspired because it definitely inspired me, so I think we can call that a wrap for Small Biz Buzz.

Dusey (50:03):

Awesome. Thank you.

Speaker 1 (50:14):

Thanks for listening to Small Biz Buzz. Please take a second to subscribe to the show and leave a five-star rating. It helps keep the show going. And, if you need a hand with growing your small business, head over to keap.com. That's K-E-A-P.com, and get started. More business. Less work. That's Keap.