Tenacity, ambition, determination, the willingness to act on an idea — all are characteristics that describe successful entrepreneurs.
No one knows that better than Scott Martineau, co-founder and senior vice president of product for sales and marketing automation technology provider, Infusionsoft.
Infusionsoft SVP Scott Martineau On Growth
Despite the company’s track record of growth over the past decade, in an interview with Small Business Trends, Martineau admitted that Infusionsoft got off to a rocky start.
Martineau adds more in this video:
“We were just scraping to get by,” Martineau said, recounting an incident that took place following a sales call. “At the time, we were driving this little piece of crap truck that I didn’t have enough money to repair. I had a starter problem. Thankfully, we had parked it in the back parking lot. Clate [one of the founders] and I go out there, and we knew exactly how to push start it when it didn’t start on its own.”
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Martineau confessed that incidents like that tested his and the other founders’ entrepreneurial metal.
“There were two or three different times where we’d go for months without taking home any personal income,” Martineau said. “[F]or me, it’s hard to look back and we don’t feel like it would have been better to take a different path … I think there will always be pain required to grow a business. I’m really appreciative that we had that baked into our DNA so we could understand some of the pressures that business owner’s feel.”
As if the external pressures of starting a new business weren’t bad enough, Scott Martineau said he also had to fight a mental and emotional battle:
“There are those moments where you’re just trying with everything you can to look more legitimate and struggling with that feeling inside that’s like, ‘Am I going to make it or when is somebody going to expose the fact that I’m a fraud and don’t have a clue what I’m doing?'”
Despite the company’s initial difficulties, Martineau said that Infusionsoft’s origin story was not unlike that of other startups.
“There was what I would categorize as not a lot of crystal clear vision,” he said. “We had this raw ambition and excitement to do our own thing. I think, like most entrepreneurs, we saw this vision of freedom and that we could control our time. … It didn’t take too long before we woke up and realized that it’s not as easy to get that freedom as we thought.”
To Martineau, the lack of a clear vision should not prohibit someone from starting a business, however.
“The beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that’s where almost everybody starts,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to have this perfect vision to be successful.”
What Scott Martineau and the other founders lacked in vision they made up for in determination. In his opinion, their willingness to suffer through and learn from the painful lessons experienced during those formative years is what largely contributed to the company’s success.
“I feel like that was critical for us in formulating our mission,” he said. “[W]e do want to provide tools to the world that make starting a business less painful.”
Martineau cited the following numbers as signs of the company’s growth.
“We have 650 employees … 117,000 users of our software and about 35,000 businesses,” he said. “That’s a big number, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to where we see ourselves going in the future.”
Another sign of Infusionsoft’s growth is its annual user conference: ICON.
Citing statistics from the latest conference, which took place in April, Martineau said, “We have over 3,000 attendees here from all over the globe. To contrast that, ten years ago, at the very first ICON, we rented this little space and had 37 people. I’m sure we didn’t even have enough money to pay for a microphone that would amplify anyone’s voice. It was an entirely different story back then.”
Numbers aside, Scott Martineau also attributes Infusionsoft’s success to a genuine commitment among its employees to help small businesses succeed.
“The customers and prospects that we’re serving can really feel that,” Martineau said. “They can tell a difference. They can sense from a mile away when a business understands them and is dedicated to their success and when it’s not.”
One way the company expresses that commitment is through intensive training. Infusionsoft is devoted to ensuring its customers know how to use the product, to achieve success.
“Our consultants spend time helping customers learn how to use the software and get it set up,” Martineau said. “In just a few weeks of training, we can get people to a really great place of value. I think we’ll always be a high touch-oriented business. There will always be a human connection factor. It’s an important part.”
That consistent focus on and commitment to small business is what differentiates Infusionsoft from competitors such as Marketo and Pardot, whose products are intended for enterprise use.
“Our feet are dried in the concrete, so to speak, in the small business space,” Martineau said. “We exist to help small businesses.”
Infusionsoft’s commitment to small business isn’t merely rooted in quantity (the number of customers it serves) but quality as well, Scott Martineau said.
He expressed in no uncertain terms that his company isn’t for every small business but those in which the business owner demonstrates the same entrepreneurial characteristics as he and the other founders.
“I think we’ll always be a company that serves the small business owner who has the grit and tenacity to attack problems,” Martineau said. “It’s not in our DNA to serve people who are cynical and aren’t willing to do the work themselves.”
Concluding his remarks, Martineau shared one other component that he feels is necessary to be successful as an entrepreneur — the willingness to both conceive and act on an inspired idea.
“I think about my company and the way it exists today; you can trace it all back to an idea,” he said. “I hear all these stories about what business owners have created. It all goes back to having an idea and acting on it. That’s what entrepreneurship is all about, right?”
Image: Small Business Trends