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Conquer the Chaos: Think Practice Makes Perfect? Think Again With Piyush Parikh

Piyush Parikh, Co-Founder of SaaS technical support platform Equinox Agents, joins Clate Mask to discuss the importance of finding your business's niche and how doing so helps you conquer the chaos. They also talk about the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship, and why business owners should always look for the next mountain to climb.

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Transcript

Intro:
Welcome to Conquer the Chaos where entrepreneurs share real stories of how they mastered their own chaos and found success. Host Clate Mask takes you behind the scenes to hear the tough lessons learned so you don't repeat them. These are the stories you don't hear every day.

Clate Mask (00:26):
Welcome everyone to this episode of Conquer the Chaos. I'm your host, Clate Mask, co-founder and CEO of Keap. I'm really excited because today I've got a long time friend, somebody I have a lot of respect for, that's joined us for this episode of the podcast. So help me, welcome Piyush Parikh.

Piyush Parikh
Hey, thanks so much Clate. It's so great to be here. Really honored to be on your podcast.

Clate Mask
It's so great to have you with us. Gosh, you and I have known each other for over a decade at this point. I remember talking with you at a conference and you're like, ‘Hey, can I just get a little advice for a second?’ I remember we talked about something there that is actually, I talk about it in the book a lot. I believe one of the biggest issues for entrepreneurs and do you remember what you asked me that day when we were together and you're like, ‘Hey, I'm looking for some advice on where do I go next in the business? What should I be doing?’ And you shared with me later that that was really helpful in helping you to conquer the chaos and get to a better place. So maybe just share a little bit of that and what happened. I think that'd be great.

Piyush Parikh
Super. Thanks so much, Clate. So yeah, I remember that. In fact, it was at an event and you were on stage and they said if you give Mentors International a donation, you get to spend some time with Clate. I ran back and I said, ‘Yes, I'd like some time.’ I think it was one hour with you, and I said, ‘Clate, can I do like 5, 25-minute sessions?’ And you're like, ‘No, you can't do that. You must do one.’ So that's fine. No, but I do remember at that point we were just getting started. I had just gotten into the Keap community. Marketing automation was kind of new to me. Automation was natural to me. My background was engineering, so I was kind of familiar with that. But not marketing automation, which was new. And then I said, ‘Well, every company needs it. So I'm going to sell this to any company and every company that needs marketing automation.’ I said, ‘Clate, I've done this now, I've been trying this for the last, I think it was maybe 16 months or yeah, I remember. And it's fine. It goes in roller coasters. I go to a few and then have to service them and then now I have to go sell. I forgot to sell, and I've got to service them again.’ A lot of others had a similar kind of background. I said, ‘Clate, what do I need to do?’

And he said, ‘You need focus.’ I said, ‘Focus, sure, what do I focus on?’ And he said, ‘Focus on one type of customer. Do this one or two campaigns, create one or two campaigns that work for one industry and do that about five or six times to different companies. And after six months come back and show me how it is and that should make a difference.’ I followed that. It took me not six months, it took me 18 or 24 months to get to that level. But I finally got there. I said, ‘Alright, I'm going to pick a niche.’ It's a niche. It was chaos before. I think that's kind of why the book, it's all about chaos. There was chaos before doing anything for everybody came down and found two campaigns that worked for the real estate industry. I knew nothing about real estate, but I partnered with someone who did and he said, ‘He'll get the clients if we can service them and here are the campaigns that we need.’ So I built them out and that did it. I mean really it was just focusing my attention on a couple of campaigns that worked and that went from getting five to six to 7,000 a month to 20, 30, 40,000 a month. I mean it didn't take six months, but it worked.

Clate Mask (03:34):
Love it. Yeah. I've shared this many times, it takes about three years to get the business rolling and it usually is because it takes a while for people to find their niche. So I always tell people, if you can just push to find your niche quicker, you're going to shorten that period of time where you're, but it's so hard to say no to the business that you get. I tell people all the time, look, a client in the same niche is worth five to 10 times as a client outside the niche because you get so much more learning, you start to be able to charge more.

Clate Mask (04:22):
So you guys did that. You got in your niche, you got a couple of campaigns that worked, you stuck to that, started to produce. I love hearing the growth of the business as a result.

Piyush Parikh
And that was good. But again, there's waves to that. And it didn't always last that long. The campaigns don't work all the time. I mean you have to keep tweaking them. You have to find another niche if that doesn't work. What's interesting is I ended up taking a meandering approach to getting where I am now, I started as an engineer. I'm a chemical engineer, that's what I learned. In engineering, everything is pretty structured. Making an error is not, it's within tolerance levels. I worked at a nuclear regulatory commission and they're like, if there's a plant meltdown, you got a one in a million chance if that happens. And you got to model everything to that tolerance level. And then I come to marketing and you're telling me that one blast should work out of 10,000 or 5,000 that just didn't sit. It's interesting how if you do find that thing in marketing, that's probably why I keep our infusions of startup in marketing automation. It had picked up so well. That's why when I saw that, I saw the perfect customer lifecycle is what you called it earlier. That resonated with me a lot. It has been a ride even since. I mean I did that. I got the niche. That niche kind of went away. I found another niche. Right now it ends up that we are in customer support and we worked with Keap as our first client to all of your support. We've grown since then. And even that has been a nice roller coaster. That's why I liked your book that just came out. I read it multiple times over at least the bookmarks. It's been really good. The chaos is there. It's just what level of chaos it is, is what I'm finding out. There's the balance. I've got the personal side. I've got a son and he's nine. We're trying to get him doing all these fun things with him of course. You've got six, which is a whole different story, but that's a level of chaos I don't know. But I have some there and then have the business chaos that goes up and down. The mindset is one thing that I connected with most.

Clate Mask (06:46):
Yeah, let's talk about that because I do want to come to the mindset. Let me just tie off one thing on this. So the business, you found your niche, you were able to command much higher prices, greater revenue, the word of mouth starts to spread, so get within a niche so your marketing gets a lot easier because people are telling you because they're telling their friends that are in the same niche. So you got that benefit. Then you found, oh, there were different. You needed to find a new niche when one wasn't working out as well or maybe that partnership didn't go as well. And so you kind of move to different things. Your business has been very successful. If someone looked, came, I know your business. And if someone looked at it from the outside, they'd be like, ‘Hey, that was great. Yes, you guys did, you found your niche and then everything got better.’ I'd love for you to take just a second as we talk about mindset to help listeners understand the way that you mentally deal with those ups and downs in the roller coaster. Because most people, one of the biggest fallacies I think in entrepreneurship is that, oh, you get to a point. Then once you get to that point, then everything's great. I do believe there's a certain survival point and it tends to be that about three years where you kind of get to that point, but it's not like everything's just smooth sailing from there. A lot of times I tell entrepreneurs when they're in that mode and they've got themselves thinking it's going to be just smooth sailing once they get to a certain point. I'm like, listen, entrepreneurship's amazing because it's like mountain climbing. There's always a new peak, there's always a new thing. There's always new challenges, ups and downs. So I'd love to hear in terms of mindset, which we talk about as the number one key to success for entrepreneurs in the book, what helps you to go from peak to valley to peak to valley, to peak to valley and not lose the energy, the momentum, the excitement to keep going.

Piyush Parikh
That's great. I think a lot of it actually, I've learned from Keap, from Infusionsoft. Your story on keep going. I think that encapsulates it, which is, there are these peaks, you go up and there's a lot more values and you come down, you lose something, you lose a big client and you have to find something else. You've worked two years to make this happen and then your wife says, this is not going to work. And it's almost there. The things that have kept me going, there's many times when I wanted to, I'm done with it, this is not worth it. Can I just do something else or do nothing or just keep biking? I think the things that worked for me are my support team, as in my support community, and it's a small community, but my wife obviously, she's similar to yours, just ‘What's wrong? It looks easy enough. What's wrong? Why are you thinking so much about it? It's just, look how successful you've been in the past. Keep going, do it.’ I have a business partner and you met him and he's vital and critical as well. He helps me, I help him, he helps me. It's like when he's down, he's like, ‘Should we shut this down?’ No, come on. We have 120 people right now and I can't let go of that. So most recently it has been the team and the company. We've scaled it up to 120. It's a great team and every one of them, my goal is to get them all to be whatever they want to be their dreams. And just like you had done it for Keap and for employees here, it's how do we get to your dream and how can this place help you get there? Anytime I feel that, that I'm not going to make this work, I think of those guys.

Clate Mask (10:29):
Yeah, I love that. There's two things in there you're saying that really resonate with me. One of the things I've said so many times over the years is that entrepreneurship is amazing because it's a lab for life. You're working on life. You can't help as an entrepreneur but try to get better and better and better. What I'm hearing you say is that you like doing that with your people and you find satisfaction and joy in that when your employees, your people are able to be their best selves, work on getting better and better. Then the other thing I'm hearing you say is you get inspired by them and what they're able to do. I've had that experience many times. There have been times where I'm frustrated about something and then I see an employee who has solved a problem or has created some kind of innovation that we've been thinking about for years. The person does it. I'm like, ‘Hey, this is awesome.’ It's so fun to be inspired by your people. So I love that. Kudos to you for having 120 people who have a job and are able to provide for their families and work on being their best selves because of what you've created.

So I think that's fantastic. The other thing about the mindset that's a little bit tricky when we're going up through those ups and downs is Dan Sullivan talks about the gap and the gain. I think this is a very common thing for entrepreneurs. Anybody that's got a lot of ambition has a goal they're trying to get to and they're looking at that goal and they're looking at where they are and there's a gap and they measure themselves in terms of that gap. It actually becomes very destructive because you start to feel discouraged anytime that you don't measure up to that goal that you set. By the way, I'm a big believer in goal setting, as you know, it's all over in the book. I talk about this all the time, but I have no problem setting a goal that I get really excited about but falling a little bit short, I'm okay with that. I don't love it. Of course, I would rather hit the goal. But what I find a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment in is the other side of what Dan teaches, the gap theory is what I just described, measuring ourselves against that goal, the shortfall. The gain approach is, we measure ourselves from where we were when we started and where we are now. When we do that, then we see growth, we see progress. As you know, I talk about in the book all the time, the whole point of entrepreneurship is progress. That progress, not perfection. That's what we're after. We get so ingrained to think that practice makes perfect and I'm telling you right now, that's a killer. Practice makes progress. That's what we're after and that's the game.

Piyush Parikh
I like that. One of the things that I've been blessed with, another mentor of mine or coach is Lynn Knighting, he's always said, ‘The detour is the path. We're taking the detour. That's the path. But it's also enjoy the journey.’ We've been told that it's not easy to enjoy the journey when you're down at the bottom, you're like, what is this journey? Get off the journey. I don't like this journey, but that's the part that I'm working on. It's also how do you enjoy what you're doing? Goal setting has been, I do it sometimes and I don't, but I want to do it again, but I don't want to get caught up in the end on the goal. I want to enjoy what we're doing now. Then just like you said with the team, as long as we are all working towards progress and to improving, I've used the same kind of, you have different core values. I've used that, brought that in from the ad forum and applied that. That worked. It's magic.

Piyush Parikh (13:55):
I mean, all the people that we have right now, they grew up with us. They were the original employees. Seven years ago and they are all now running the place thanks to you, thanks to Keap. I mean we are going to keep going.

Clate Mask (14:47):
I love it. Fantastic. Well thanks for sharing that with me. I think that mindset, that growth mentality, looking at the gain, not the gap, recognizing that it's about progress, not perfection and practice makes progress. To me, I think when we get discouraged in entrepreneurship, it's really because our mindset isn't quite right. We're looking for perfection. We're looking for, you got to hit the goal every single time. I love goals and I do believe that sometimes entrepreneurs can err on the side of accepting the journey instead of accepting both the journey and the reward of what we're trying to get to. And it's both of those things. I think when we'd say it's all about the win, well that's not quite right, but it's also not quite right that it's all about the journey. We want the destination too. It's really good when we get the destination, we want that. So we want both those things, and apply a little wisdom in the downturns, and understanding it’s all part of the process.

Piyush Parikh
There's a way out. Every time someone tells me there's a problem. I was like, we just haven't found the solution yet. There is a problem. We haven't found the solution.

Clate Mask
That's right. Exactly. I love it. Well, anything else you want to share about what you see in entrepreneurship in terms of how to conquer the chaos? Obviously we talk about the six keys to success, but you've done a lot in terms of automation. I mean that's a big part of what you guys do. Maybe just a little bit about how automation has, I say all the time, automation's the great game changer in small business because we're no longer trading hours for dollars. We're actually getting more hours in the day, which is right at the core of why we have small business cash in the first place. So any tips or things you've learned as you've applied automation to conquer the chaos?

Piyush Parikh
Like I said, my background is in engineering, so automation is something that I've always looked at and tried to set up in companies for the clients that we have consulting with and so on. What I've found is it works when you have a good amount of volume. When you have volume, that means you're doing something right. If you try to automate something that doesn't have volume, it maybe going the wrong way, you'll accelerate to negative sides. So I always like to say, is there enough volume to automate this? If we automated, will it actually provide the output that we want quickly? I like to look at automation in two ways. I know there may be some back and forth on this, but I look at automation in terms of electronic automation, like computer automation and human automation. I know we have humans that can do a lot of the things when I'm not doing it, I'm automating it because someone else is doing it. Now how well are they doing it? That needs to be automated. I have a combination of humans plus software. People do support, provide chat support for software companies and so they need a human touch to it, but they need to have the AI and the automation piece that helps them understand and make them better. It's the same way in any business automation, your email marketing and all that can be automated, but it needs to have the human touch, you have the 12 points or you have something in your book on how to do it well. So you need a human touch. But I always come back to is there enough volume, can someone else do it and will they do it right? And if they can't, then we need to automate it through technology. We set up the flow charts and all of that after we edit.

Clate Mask
Yeah, once you've got enough of a process, there's a proven path there when you're just kind of figuring it out. I think Bill Gates was the one that said you can't automate if you don't have a process.

Piyush Parikh
Or not enough volume. Even when we were doing chats initially when we started we had maybe a hundred or 200 a week and yeah, people can do that and then we got to 15,000 a week. That's alright guys, that's a big jump, big volume.

Clate Mask
How much, just for curiosity and for our listeners sake, how much does AI compliment what your support team does as they use automation?

Piyush Parikh (18:13):
So we have an AI, we call it deflection rate. So when we have certain things, conversations come in. So if you go in the chat and you look at a question that comes in, how many of those questions are answered by either a bot or self-serve versus a human? So we look at the human contact rate and so we've been able to look at about 25% bot deflection, 75% human. But we are catering to complex tools like Infusionsoft, like Keap, and we have WebPT, a couple of others. These are highly complex CRMs that you need to decipher what's happening, the human side. But the level one, tier one stuff, 25% can be done by automation. It's growing fast and we all see it getting smarter and smarter. It's getting smarter, but I see it's not going to go away too fast and our company is based on the human side of it. I'll let my son worry about what happens when AI bots take over.

Clate Mask
Well good stuff. You guys do great work. I appreciate you spending a little bit of time and just talking about how you've dealt with the chaos over the years. I appreciate the mindset that you take to it. I know the audience will appreciate some of the tips that you shared here and just how to think about the ups and downs because if we think about that the wrong way, it can kind of mess us up. It gets us wanting to quit and thinking why are we doing this? So I appreciate that. If people want to get to know you or Equinox better, how can they?

Piyush Parikh
Yeah, so I'm on LinkedIn quite frequently and you can look over there, Piyush Parikh on LinkedIn and then equinoxagents.com is our website. That's the unit.

Clate Mask (19:49):
That's a niche. You guys do a great job for software companies doing support for them. So well done. Well Piyush, thanks so much, long time friend. Excited to have a little time to talk with you and see the different ways that you conquer the chaos and appreciate you supporting the book and helping to get it out there. It really is something that I feel super passionate about. I poured my heart and soul into it. I really wrote the book that I wish I could have read a couple of decades ago, so I appreciate helping to get it out. I know it'll make a difference for entrepreneurs and glad we had a chance to catch up.

Piyush Parikh
Thanks for having me. I look forward to the next decade of conquering the chaos.

Clate Mask
I do too. Thanks everybody. This has been the latest episode of Conquer the Chaos, and until we talk again, keep growing.

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