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The Barefoot C.E.O.

Story by PAMELA KLEIBRINK THOMPSON | Photos by JIM PETERSON

 

“Great companies can start anywhere in the world,” declared Russell Brunson, CEO/Founder of ClickFunnels. “They don’t have to be in Silicon Valley. They can be started right here in Eagle, Idaho.”

Brunson launched ClickFunnels a little less than three years ago. “The core marketing team all live in Eagle. Our office building is close to my home–that way I don’t have a huge commute and can spend more time with my family. Eagle has a great downtown area and a lot of cool restaurants. We love playing in the water down at Two Rivers. It’s just such a great family area.”

Brunson lives on the Eagle-Meridian border with his wife Collette, and their children Bowen (11), Dallin (11), Ellie (10), Aiden (6), and Norah (2). Born in Provo, Utah, Brunson grew up in Sandy, and spent two years in New Jersey on his LDS mission. He moved to Idaho in 2001 to attend Boise State on a wrestling scholarship. The BSU grad enjoys wrestling and playing with his kids and vacationing in Bear Lake, Idaho.

“I first got interested in software development in college,” reflected the 37-year-old entrepreneur. “I actually changed my major at Boise State to Computer Information Systems so I could learn how to create software. But after about four days, I realized my brain was not built for software development. But I learned how to understand software development. Some of my first products were really simple software products. It wasn’t until I partnered with Todd Dickerson and other amazing developers that we were able to create a big software platform.”

Brunson shared his ClickFunnels entrepreneurial journey for Eagle readers:

Who co-founded ClickFunnels with you?

Initially, it was Todd Dickerson from Atlanta, Georgia and me. We ended up partnering with a mutual friend, Dylan Jones from Toronto, who

built the frontend editor and designed most of the initial user interface.

How did you meet?

Todd reached out four or five years earlier. I was looking for a Ruby on Rails developer to partner with on a project. I sent an email out to my customers about it. Todd had purchased one of my products in the past, so he got the email. We started working together on a few projects and became close friends.

Dylan Jones was a designer and programmer. Initially, we brought him in as a contractor to design the UI, but later decided to bring him on as a partner so we could bring in the front-end website editor he had built.

How did ClickFunnels get started?

We had a customer who had purchased other marketing training from us, so we initially sold to them. As we got traction, we started finding other entrepreneurs who had big email lists and social followings and promoted it to them. Now we get almost 1,000 people who organically sign up daily who’ve heard about ClickFunnels from friends or family members or seen our websites and ads online.

What services/tools do you provide?

We build landing pages, shopping carts, upsell/downsell sequences, email autoresponders, text message
autoresponders, analytics, affiliate platform and a whole lot more. Basically, everything you need to start, run and grow a company online.

What makes ClickFunnels unique?

It gives entrepreneurs everything they need to be successful in selling their products or services online. No longer do people have to go and buy 10 or 15 different programs and glue them together to try to create an online business. They can do it all inside of ClickFunnels for one low monthly fee.

What makes it so appealing?

People are able to run their entire business from one dashboard. You don’t have to log into 20 things to see how your business is doing. It’s also simpler to use. You don’t need tech people to run it. It can be run by the entrepreneurs. It’s just simple and fun to use.

Which industry uses it the most?

Probably 30 percent of the users are people selling e-commerce products. The other 70 percent are people selling either information or services like coaching, financial services, things like that.

What are the hardest positions for you to fill? Why?

Developers and engineers. We code in a language called “Ruby on Rails.” It’s more difficult to find good Ruby on Rails developers. Our software is complex; it’s not something a developer can learn in a week. It takes a few months to get up to speed with what the code is.

What makes your company culture different?

Twenty-five percent of our company is here in Eagle, Idaho. The other 75 percent work remotely from home. Most of our employees were customers of ClickFunnels before they joined. So they already love the product and the company. We’re a group of 130 entrepreneurs and “intrapreneurs.”

What makes it a great place to work?

It’s pretty casual. As the CEO and founder, I rarely wear shoes to the office. This makes it really relaxed for other people as well. Everyone’s got standing and sitting desks here in the office. We try to live healthy lifestyles. As long as people get their work done, we’re pretty lenient on how and what they do.

How did you create the culture?

It came from who we were when we got started. We were a couple entrepreneurs hustling, trying to make money. As we grew, we didn’t try to switch and become a big corporate company. We haven’t taken on any venture capitalist money. We try to be true to who we were. We haven’t let the corporate game interfere with our lifestyle.

Have you had other startup ventures?

Yes. I’ve had many startup ventures over the last 14 years since I started my online businesses. I’ve sold everything from potato gun DVDs, weight loss advice, supplements for people with diabetic neuropathy and
more. I’m also the author of two books: Dot
Com Secrets
and Expert Secrets and run one
of the largest internet marketing coaching companies in the country.

What is your number one goal for 2017? And what is your biggest business challenge?

Our number one goal for 2017 as a company is to pass 100,000 active users and to break $100 million in revenue for ourselves… but also to help at least 250 of our members make at least $1 million inside of a funnel.

The biggest business challenge is keeping up with the growth. Adding 1,000 new users a day means you have to increase support, keep the software stable and just stay in front of the growth curve.

What is key to your success?

We’ve built an amazing team of people who all believe in our vision for ClickFunnels and its ability to help entrepreneurs to get their messages and their products and services out to the world. We’re insanely passionate about that.

What do you like most about what you do?

I get to work with entrepreneurs every single day. Entrepreneurs are the most exciting and fun people in the world because they always have crazy ideas. We’re trying to figure out ways to change the world and make things better.

What is your biggest dislike?

My biggest dislike is people who get started during the trial, but don’t spend the time to try to learn how to use the software. Then they leave before they actually realize what they’re missing out on.

What is your biggest challenge as a CEO?

Finding the time to do everything. As the CEO, I’ve written two books and I’m working on number three. I’m also managing 130 employees. I’m running the marketing team to add 1,000 new users a day. We’re working on reducing churn and increasing conversions. On top of that, we also have the #5-ranked podcast in the business world right now. We have a fast-growing YouTube channel where we “vlog” our daily entrepreneurial lifestyle and a whole bunch more. The biggest challenge is finding the time to do all that while maintaining sanity with my family and five amazing kids.

What tips/advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

The first thing every aspiring entrepreneur needs to do is spend time serving people first. Don’t go out and try to raise money or sell a product. Go out there and find out what you’re passionate about. Work for free for people and provide that product or service to get feedback and success stories. Those success stories will be the tools you use to sell your product or service in the future. So focus on serving others before you focus on selling.

What tips/advice would you give other CEOs?

My advice to other CEOs would be to stop focusing so much on the day-to-day operations of the company. Focus on building your customer community and the marketing of the business.

Once in a lifetime experience?

Speaking at Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery event in Fiji with Tony’s top-end clients.

Who gave you great advice?  What was it?

I learned most of my marketing advice from Dan Kennedy. He taught me how direct response marketing works and how to use that to profitably scale a company without taking on venture capital.  The best personal advice I got was probably from Tony Robbins to be aware of what motivates people and how to use that to get what you want and help others get what they want.