Meet the CEO Who Took His Teen Son to a $55 Million Funding Meeting
One of the things I love about what I do is that over the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting many fascinating entrepreneurs and startup founders.
I attended the #ICON14 conference in Phoenix earlier this year and had the opportunity to meet the event founder, Clate Mask, CEO of Infusionsoft. What strikes you when you meet Clate is how friendly, gracious and keenly intelligent he is -- he’s a genuinely great person to be around.
So when I read recently of Infusionsoft’s $55 million series D round closing, you might think it was the dollar amount that got my attention. However, it was actually the story I heard about his final meeting with Bain Capital Ventures, who led the round, which had me intrigued. I was able to speak with Clate personally and ask him about the story I’m alluding to, as well as some other things happening with this busy, intrepid CEO.
Family comes first isn’t just a mantra with you, it’s a lifestyle. Recently you brought your 18-year old son to the closing of your series D round of funding for Infusionsoft. Why was it important to you to have him with you?
My son Tanner was about to leave on a two-year mission for our church, and it was important to me that I spend as much time with him as possible before he left. The summer was winding down, but work for this funding round was ramping up. I had to get creative with how I could spend time with my son while also keeping commitments to the business.
I had to fly to Boston to meet with Bain Capital Ventures for an important meeting, and instead of doing a red eye in and red eye back to minimize my time away from my family, I made a few calls to see if I could bring my son to the meeting. I got the thumbs up and this turned out to be a great opportunity not only for the two of us to spend quality time together, but for him to also be exposed to the business world. This turned out to be a memorable trip for both of us.
Did Bain Capital’s team have any response to your son being along and what was that like for him to be there with you?
Bain was great about it. I explained the situation to BCV and asked if I could bring my son to the meeting with me. They were happy to have him and took it upon themselves to show him a wonderful time while we were there.
Bain was having an event one night for their summer interns where they all went to a Red Sox game, and they invited Tanner along. One of the BCV partners, who also taught at Harvard, even offered to give us a campus tour. My son got to meet a lot of great people and we spent even more time together on the trip than we could have at home.
People talk about a work/life balance, but many entrepreneurs find it difficult to achieve that ideal. Did you start out making this commitment to balance, or did you reach a point where you knew that better balance had to be structured into your routine for success?
It takes a lot of work and commitment to find balance. I plan like crazy and always look for ways to maximize my time, like the trip with my son to Boston. Another example is with my fitness routine. I wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym and invite my father along so we both stay active and can spend quality time together throughout the week.
I also have adopted specific strategies to help me balance. For instance, I have learned to leave my phone in the car every day after work -- not on the kitchen counter or in the house where it’s easy to grab -- until I put my youngest kids to bed at about 9 p.m. I also avoid any sort of evening business events, because I find you can make the connections you need to make during the day. The evening is family time for me.
Can you give other entrepreneurs your best advice for maintaining a commitment to a balanced life, whether they're established or just getting started?
First thing is don’t forget the reason you’re working so hard in the first place. Secondly, I’d suggest that you plan time with your family just like you plan time for your business. It’s easy to get wrapped up in everything it takes to start a business, but your business will probably be better off in the long run if its leader is leading a balanced life.
Finally, you have to trust the people you hired to do their jobs. The most disciplined people I know in business have the ability to say “no,” which frees them to balance their priorities more effectively. And they don’t have “B” players around them. They have “A” players on their team.
I learned that having a “B” team at the office makes it harder to balance. You have to spend more time coaching or fixing work, which means that you spend more time at the office and less time with your family. Life is much better on you and your family when you surround yourself with “A” players.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.