How ACT! was born out of desperation and a “Hail Mary pass”

When I finished reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie, I knocked on Dale Carnegie & Associates’ door in Midtown Manhattan and I said, “Please, hire me. I want to work for you. I want to learn how to build the kind of relationships that Dale Carnegie wrote in his book.”

One of the first things I noticed was that the people I worked for all had a software called ACT!. I had never heard of it before. When they talked to someone on the phone, they would go into ACT! and they’d add some information.

When they went out for a meeting, they’d check their software to see what did they know about that person from past conversations–their kids, their interests, whatever they happened to scribble down while they were in past conversations. So, I went out and I bought that software and it was hugely helpful for me when I started my first company.

Today I’ve got the creator of the company behind ACT!. I invited him here to talk about how he did it all and to find out about his newest project. Mike Muhney is currently working on a company called VIPorbit Software which is dedicated to Mobile Relationship Management solutions; the first CMS solution for all of the Apple products.


Mike Muhney

Mike Muhney

VIPorbit Software

Mike Muhney is the CEO and Co-Founder of VIPorbit Sotware which is dedicated to Mobile Relationship Management solutions; the first CMS solution for all of the Apple products.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of, home of the ambitious upstart. And I’ve got to keep talking directly into the mic, so I’ll keep moving closer and closer.

I think I’ve said here on Mixergy that when I finished reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie’s book, I went and I knocked on Dale Carnegie & Associates’ door in Midtown Manhattan and I said, “Please, hire me. I want to work for you. I want to learn how to build the kind of relationships that Dale Carnegie wrote in his book.”

They brought me in right away. They said, “You can have an internship and we’ll pay you not in money but we’ll pay you in classes and all kinds of other stuff,” which is better than I expected. I wanted to work for free because I just wanted to learn from them.

One of the first things that I noticed was that the people that I worked for all had computers that had this piece of software on it called ACT!. I had never heard of it before. But I watched what they did when they talked to someone on the phone. They would go into ACT! and they’d add some information.

When they went out for a meeting, they’d check their software to see what did they know about that person from past conversations–their kids, their interests, whatever they happened to scribble down while they were in past conversations with them. So, I went out and I bought that software and it was hugely helpful for me when I started my first company and also before that to just get to know people and remember what I knew about them.

Well, today I’ve got the author, the creator of the company behind ACT!. I invited him here to talk about how it went and to find out about his newest project. Mike Muhney is currently working on a company called Vipor. Boy, I’m looking here at my notes. There it is. VIPorbit is an on demand, instant recall, photographic memory personal assistant that’s with you 24/7.

It’s an app you can get right now in the App Store. Go to iOS App Store for your iPhone, iPad, even the Mac App Store. You could put it on your computer or other device and you can stay in touch or stay up to date on all the people that you’re connecting with.

This interview is sponsored by Toptal. If you have an idea for a business or new product and your developers are too busy working on other projects, go to They’re a network of top developers. Let them know what you’re looking for. They will find the right developer for you. And if you’re happy with them and you want to start working, you can often get started the very next day. Go to

Hey, Mike, how did I do about the intro for Vipor?

Mike: You did fantastic. It’s what I say is my own personal value proposition. Most people don’t have an assistant, although we all wish we could, to offload some tasks and remember things and keep us on track. So, as opposed to hiring somebody that could never be with me 24/7, I invited VIPorbit and that’s how I get by everyday managing my business and personal life.

Andrew: You got into computers from construction work. What were you doing as a construction worker?

Mike: Well, construction paid my tuition for college and I literally graduated from the University of Illinois with no debt. So, that was a coup right away. I started my career with IBM.

Andrew: How did you get to work at IBM? As a construction worker, how do you go to IBM?

Mike: Well, what happened is I was actually wanting to be a lawyer. In the era that I graduated from college, there was no PC industry yet. So, you got a degree and you went and you worked for the man. I wanted to be a lawyer and I was accepted to law school but a week after graduating, there was a concrete truck driver strike in Chicago, Andrew, and it lasted a month. All the trades supported the strike. That strike cost me the ability to go to law school and I had to defer it for a year.

So, I went back to construction just to make money and save up for law school. A friend of mine who worked at IBM said, “Have you ever thought about going into sales?” I said, “No. Why?” He said, “There’s an opening in our office. If you’re interested, I can make the introduction and then you’re on your own.” I said, “Well, it beats digging ditches.” So, I did. At the time, you had to take an IQ test and pass it before they would interview you. Obviously I passed it. I ultimately got hired. I never expected to be in the high tech industry at all. It was a punch card mainframe era.

So, I had a great career with them. They taught me so many things, so many principles that I adhere to today and that I used in both the design of ACT!, the design of VIPorbit today for Apple and the soul of the product. Most people don’t ever talk about the soul of their product. They just have a product.

But there was a reason behind it because as I reflect back, Andrew, going through their intensive sales school, which was six month case studies, role playing–I was ranked nationally, 6 out of 66 in my national class–they didn’t teach me how to sell. They taught me how to deal with more people more effectively, the result of which would be I would be more successful.

Andrew: Give me an example. What’s one thing that you learned at IBM that allowed you to build, and as we’ll find out later in the interview, to sell ACT! as a company? What’s one thing that you carried with you as you built that business?

Mike: I know it’s going to sound trite today, but again, you’ve got to put it in the context of the era. They taught us, of course, a number of things. Number one, we were professionals. People do business with professionals, so we’re going to brand you and equip you to be a professional, but you have to embrace that concept that selling was a profession, number one.

Number two, they taught us things like always remember to get the executive assistant’s name. Remember, we were selling mainframes. So, we were calling up big companies’ CEOs and they did have executive assistants. They taught us how to cozy up to them, as funny as that sounds.

Andrew: How would you cozy up to an assistant?

Mike: Well, number one, asking their name. It starts out with being personable and asking, “What’s your name?” “Oh, my name is Sue.” “Hi, Sue. I’m Mike. I’m your IBM sales rep.” “Oh, nice to meet you, Mike.”

Andrew: I see. Why is “your IBM sales rep” such an important way to express it? What are you expressing there that I’m not picking up on when you’re saying “your IBM sales rep?”

Mike: That I was here for you.

Andrew: I see.

Mike: I was at your service. I was your guy to go to to help you solve some problems that hopefully an IBM solution could solve. It’s a mix of identity and a connection.

Andrew: I had a startup where our COO for a period of time, because our office was too small, had to sit in the front room. Because she was a woman, as soon as someone walked in, even though she was kind of in the back of the front room, people would immediately go to her, ask her, “Where’s Andrew?” and dismiss her beyond that, never pay attention. To even ask her name was a huge a step that most people hadn’t gone through. So, I see that.

Where would you back then record this? Obviously the iPhone didn’t exist back then. We’re talking about the late ’70s. How would you keep track of it all?

Mike: Well, it was a paper system. So, Day-Timer was probably the prominent paper organizer. I was a power Day-Timer user. So, you would write it down. If I got the business card from the CEO or anybody that I was delegated to, I would write that information on the card and keep the business cards in my three-ring binder so that I could remember it. When I scheduled that next call or meeting, I remember to either go to the card or I wrote it down on the day of the call. So, I would always say, “Hi, Sue, this is Mike from IBM,” much more personable.

But another thing they taught us was a concept called–and remember, Facebook did not exist back then–called, “What’s on the walls?” All it was was when you to a company, notice what’s in their lobby, notice what magazines are on the coffee table. When you go into the executive’s office, notice what pictures and trophies, etc. they have on display because those represent the things that they’re really passionate about. Ask them about those things first.

Always adhere to this sequence–sell yourself first, personable, sell the company second, IBM, “IBM is doing great things in your industry,” and number three, sell the solution. Never violate that sequence. So, we’ll probably get to the question of how did I get some of the original investors in ACT! and I employed those same things with calling on the CEO of a company who became the chairman of ACT! for the life of the company before we sold it and was one of the big investors in the company just because of how I treated his secretary to get through to him.

Andrew: What came first, the funding or the idea that became ACT!?

Mike: Oh, the idea. But the idea was born out of desperation. Most people don’t know the ACT! story, not that I expect them to. But you look at successful products and you think, “Well, that was their idea. They hit it off and it did well. That’s not what happened. It was a Hail Mary pass, desperation, back against the wall. If we didn’t come up with an idea, we had to shut down our business.

So, my partner and I were both career sales guys. We had a software product that we created that was special to PC stores, now back in the mid to late ’80s, ComputerLand, Entre, those kinds of stores. Well, that product failed, but we had raised $100,000 from an angel out of Boston. $85,000 later, we literally said to each other, Andrew, “This dog ain’t going to hunt. We’re dead.”

The CEO that I just referred to that I got through to him because of how I treated his executive assistant, I was trying to get to him to sell this product. I ultimately did talk to him. He never bought it, but he liked me. So, I went to him for advice. He was one of the 25 top business people recognized that year in the annual edition of Computer Reseller News, the print era. Here I know the guy.

So, I went to him and I said–his name was John–“John, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to shut down the business. Our investor is coming down in two weeks. What do you think we ought to do?” We didn’t know. He said, “Look, you guys are smart guys. Next week is July 4th, 1986, why don’t you go have a four-hour brainstorm breakfast and see if you can come up with another idea?”

So, we literally took his advice. It cost us nothing. We were at a booth at 8:00 in the morning and we said, “We’re sitting here until noon.” This is how we started. We said, “What do we need? What do we need for ourselves as career sales guys?” Everybody sales was our attitude also, by the way. I don’t care if you’re an architect, an engineer. There are competitors you have, so sell me why I should select you as my architect. So, everybody sells. What they do is what they do, but what they are is a sales person.

So, we said, “Well, what do we need to help us? We’re sales guys.” We started saying, “Well, if we can take what’s in this Day-Timer and create a software product that did this and this and this,” and we started this, “Yeah, we could do that.” We started the momentum. By the end of that breakfast–we were there for a full four hours and I still have the original napkin–we had conceived what became ACT!.

Here’s what happened. This is where it gets interesting. The original investor came down. He knew nothing. So, when he came down to visit us on his regular trip, we took him out to lunch and we finally said–his name was also John–“John, we have bad news. Margin Maker is dead, but we have another idea and we’d like to tell you about it.” “Well, okay, so tell me about it.” Kind of skeptical.

We told him. We were so passionate and enthusiastic about it because we had spent the interim between July 4th and his visit designing the screenshots, the decision tree, everything to have something to show him of substance. When we were done talking to him, we didn’t know what his response would be. This is what he said, “I didn’t invest in Margin Maker. I invested in the two of you guys. It’s obvious you have a more passionate idea. Do you need any more money?”

We were shocked by it. He could have said, “You guys are scum. You took my money. Now it’s failed only eight months later.” We spontaneously said, “Well, $50,000 would keep us going,” and he pulled out his checkbook and wrote a $50,000 check on the spot. I went back to John, the other John who told us to have the breakfast who knew nothing since he told us to go have the breakfast, I brought him up to date.

This is what he said. “I like that idea too and as a matter of fact, I think there might be three or four other guys that would be interested in investing.” He pulled together a meeting the next day and a week later we had–I forget now, I lose track of time–but $300,000 or $400,000 in checks written. We were on our way. We were that close to closing the business down.

Andrew: And this is because of your sales skills. Everything that you learned and taught yourself after that and outside of it, that’s what you applied to connect with people who believed in you so much that even when your first software wasn’t going anywhere said, “We’re going to keep backing you and we’re actually going to get you more money.”

Mike: Yeah. Over the life of ACT!, we had raised $6 million to keep us in business until we eventually sold the business to Symantec in Cupertino.

Andrew: How much of the business did you own by the end?

Mike: By the end, I personally was down to ten percent.

Andrew: Ten percent of the business. So, you did well from the sale.

Mike: I did well from the sale. It was our first effort. We were naïve. I would do things a little bit differently had I had to do it all over again.

Andrew: What do you mean? What would you do differently?

Mike: I would have a higher valuation because ACT! was a successful product. So, we sold equity for lower than I think we could have gotten as a valuation and given away less of the company, meaning I would have held on to more of it. So, my partner and I each left with ten percent each.

Andrew: Okay. And your partner was Pat Sullivan.

Mike: Correct.

Andrew: What got you, by the way, to be an entrepreneur in the first place? You said that you didn’t even know the word entrepreneur, you told our producer, Jeremy Weisz. How did you become an entrepreneur?

Mike: Well, I don’t think I ever even heard the word as I said during the era I was starting my career. What happened was a couple of guys that I really liked started a company and they asked me to join them as a VP of sales. What it was was a regional computer disaster recovery facility.

I know that’s a mouthful, but in a mainframe era, if your union shop, for example, and your mainframe breaks down, you better have another mainframe that you can go print the payroll checks or the union is going to shut you down, right? So, we tried to sell a subscription service for mainframe disaster recovery.

The company that owned it subsidized us for one year and we had to pay $1 to buy it. So, they’d pay out our salaries for a year. But we were selling fear, uncertainty and doubt. It failed after a year. I had to go back to the corporate world. But I had a taste of being a VP of sales as a young kid, kind of crafting my own journey, if you will. I enjoyed the taste of it. I didn’t look at it as a personal failure. I just looked at it as an experiment, an event that failed but I learned from it. It enthused me. I kind of left it there.

As the PC industry unfolded, Pat and I were best friends. We both had a desire, as best friends, to own our own company one day. Since we were in the high tech industry, something to do with high tech was on our horizon. That’s why we wrote this special product for PC stores because Pat left the corporate world and worked at a PC store. So, he had a sense of how they operated. “Okay. So, let’s start the company because now we have an idea.” But that’s the product that failed.

So, it wasn’t that I so much wanted to be an entrepreneur necessarily. I wanted to just work with Pat and, again, have a taste of crafting my own destiny. I didn’t have fun in the corporate world. I was a sales guy. I was going to be compartmentalized as a sales guy probably forever. Sure, I could work myself up through the ranks, but I wanted more. Entrepreneurship gave me that opportunity and that’s why I latched on to it. I was willing to take the risk.

Andrew: So, you had your idea. You had the software, the funding. Who created the software?

Mike: We hired two programmers to code it. Of course, they joined the company. So, they had equity in the company. So, it was really four of us. From there, it just grew. We had to start hiring in preparation for its release customer support. We had to get wholesale distributors back then and call on all the retail chains. So, the need for more jobs quickly emerged in the company as a result of that. It was probably the most indestructible version of ACT!, that version one, but it was spaghetti code as we look back on it.

Andrew: While it was in beta, you started making sales calls. One of the people you spoke to was the VP of sales at Visa.

Mike: Right.

Andrew: What did he say to you at the time?

Mike: Good lesson learned. He was excited about it. I think he had like 500 sales people. When I showed him a beta version of ACT!, he said, “Oh my gosh, I want this for every one of my sales people.” So, I said to him, “Would you mind putting that on your letterhead and saying you’re going to order 500 and sign your name?” He said, “I’d be happy to do that.” So, I took that back to my board of directors, all of whom were investors as well. They were excited, “Wow, even before it’s on the market, we’ve got Visa that’s going to be a client. That’s pretty cool.”

So, the day came where ACT! was released on the market and I called them up, not necessarily that day, but you can imagine within a couple days. After we had the niceties, I said, “Well, we’re ready to ship those 500 copies.” He said, “Well, I’m not so sure about that. Why don’t you just ship me two?” I said, “Two? Why?” He said, “Well, I’m going to give it to a couple of my guys. I’ll let them test it out, etc.” Ultimately, I’m sure Visa did order many over the course of ACT!’s life as we owned it, but we never got that 500 order.

So, here’s one of the lessons learned, Andrew. There’s infinite demand for the unavailable. You go to somebody and say, “Hey, I’m thinking of creating this. Would you use it?” “Oh, sure I would.” Until they have to write a check and then the game changes.

Andrew: Now I’m hearing a lot of entrepreneurs say, “Oh, you do? Well, why don’t I give you early discount pricing. So, you’re going to take 500? I’ll give it to you at half price if you sign right now.”

Mike: Yeah. Well, I wasn’t smart enough to ask them that because I knew it created value and I wanted to sell value. One of the lessons at IBM was IBM did not discount. It was a premium product, premium service and you have to pay for that. That’s how we viewed ACT!. You might ask, “How did you arrive at the $395 suggested retail price of ACT!?” That’s pretty expensive for a brand new product in that era.

What we came to was this. We looked at Lotus and WordPerfect, who were both $495 at the time and then Borland, the black classified ad $99 product, we said, “We don’t want to be viewed as a $99 cheap product. We have value and we’re going to deliver value. So, we’re going to put it up there near the big boys.” So, we said, “Let’s not be $495. Let’s be $395.” That’s how we arrived at the price. We weren’t willing to discount.

Andrew: By the way, I love your sales philosophy. Do you have a book to recommend on sales, one that informed the way that you sell today?

Mike: You know, I don’t even know if it’s still in print, but the one that we all read as an IBMer was called “The IBM Way.” I’m sure you can find some on eBay. But if you look at IBM’s philosophy of how they train you and how they teach you to see other people, that set my tone. I really have not read any sales books because being trained by IBM, Andrew, I got the training from the best. So, to me, every book would have been somewhat anticlimactic, personally.

Andrew: You know, I think after Steve Jobs’ fight with IBM, we tend to think of IBM in those days as an old, stodgy company that we have nothing to learn from. But boy, they were fantastic sales people. So many great guys came out of there. I say guys because it was mostly guys who were in sales. I’m thinking of Ross Perot, who was a tremendous sales person who I used to idolize as a kid, came out of IBM.

Mike: Yeah. It was the closest thing to being militarily trained and disciplined but having that sense of honor and value that you delivered to people and you did because you saw them as valuable even if they never became a customer. One of the IBM principles was you could never ever disparage a competitor. You could talk about facts, feeds and speeds, but you can never disparage. If we find out you did, no questions asked, it’s immediate termination. So, they kept us corralled so that we didn’t have that gossipy-type of approach.

So, those are the things that they embedded in us in seeing ourselves and carrying ourselves as a professional. The first day of sales school, here’s what the instructor said to us. So, we’re all newbies, all, “Wow, we’re starting our career.” We’re at IBM. We’re all together, all 66 of us in Atlanta for two weeks with all-nighters and bunking.

He said, “There are two kinds of sales people in the world. There are jackasses,” no, that’s what they said, “And there are stallions. You guys are stallions. Jackasses can carry a heavy workload, but you have to always kick them. Stallions are their own spirit. They have a fervor for life. They run free and they bring some excitement. We’re going to train you as a stallion to be a racehorse. That’s how you’re going to win when we’re done with you.”

Andrew: Alright. I’m buying the book right now. I see it on Amazon, $0.99 only for the Kindle version. I hope it’s an authentic thing. Sometimes people end up with scammed versions of the book they’re selling, but it’s worth it for a buck. So, that didn’t work, calling on Visa and getting them to commit beforehand. What did seem to work was COMDEX, the tradeshow. You guys had a booth there and you were selling it sounds like [inaudible 00:22:08].

Mike: We kind of were. So, what Pat and I did is we went to the April Atlanta COMDEX to see what it was like. One of the things we noticed in that era, believe it or not, was nobody had chairs in their booths, nobody except one company, WordPerfect. And WordPerfect was constantly full of people looking at a presentation every hour on the hour. So, we said, “Okay, in preparation for November, the big COMDEX in Las Vegas, let’s get a big booth, let’s go big.” So, we got a 100-foot long by 20-foot wide island with a partition in the middle. So, we had a 20 by 50.

What that meant, Andrew, is we had three aisles around our booth and we bought 50 chairs so people could sit down to rest their feet. Imagine walking around a convention in Las Vegas all day. People are tired. We didn’t care what the reason was, just get them in a seat and do a presentation every hour on the hour. I did all those presentations with a microphone. So, our chairs were constantly filled after about the third one that first day–I mean filled.

What we didn’t expect was people were saying, “What are all these people sitting down for?” And they would look at us and they would stand there for an hour and watch my presentation. We were blocking all the 10 by 10 booth exhibitors the entire week but we kept people stationary in front of their booths.

We did sell it at a show special, even though the contract said, “No selling of product at your booth.” Our attitude was, “What are they going to do? Kick us out? We’re going to sell. We’ll sell by taking their credit card,” right?

Andrew: Wow.

Mike: We did have a Las Vegas price special just to get people to download it. What we didn’t expect was a lot of international people were there who came up to us and said, “Who’s distributing this product in England, in Sweden, in Germany?” We said, “Well, nobody yet.” “Well, I’m interested.” And that’s what introduced us to the international community.

So, one of the funny stories about COMDEX was we determined the very first valuation. Somebody was willing to buy the ACT! company. The ACT! company was known as Contact Software International. The product was ACT!. So, one of those 10 by 10 booths that listened to all my jokes that week came up to Pat and I as we literally were walking away from the show.

It closed down. We were done. We were heading back home and he said, “I want to buy you guys. I’ve got $1 million cash. You can have it in your bank next week. Are you willing to sell the company? You guys did great.” We looked at each other for a nanosecond and said, “Nah.” That guy’s name was Kevin O’Leary, who’s currently on Shark Tank. He offered us $1 million.

But when he left us, Pat and I looked at each other and we went, “Wow, we were just offered $1 million for the company.” It kind of set the first point on the graph because later on, we were approached a number of times to also buy the company. We monitored what they ultimately said we were worth even though we said we were worth more. Why not ask big? They can always talk you down, but ask big. We were never shy about that.

So, it was a big success for us. We were celebrities at that time. There were already a number of companies–I’m talking all the laptop manufacturers, we automated every one of their sales forces around the world because they were going to corporations as well as the PC stores to sell laptops and, “I want you to sell more NEC than Toshiba.” So, what we did is we conceived a strategy called, “Let’s automate the automaters.” All that meant was I called on every laptop manufacturer in the world and I literally trained–and they paid for my expenses to come out there–their entire sales forces.

So, now when they walked to a store and said, “Well, what can I do with a laptop? What should I buy? I don’t need it for word processing. I have a secretary doing word processing. I’m not an accountant. I don’t need a spreadsheet.” “No, but do you deal with people?” “Yeah.” “Well, let me show you this product that I use myself.”

By them using ACT! themselves, they were keeping track of their own organizational relationships. They were able to demonstrate with authority and correctness a solution that everybody has. So, everybody looked good and people are going, “I’ll buy that.” We literally automated globally every Toshiba, NEC, Sharp, Zenith, GRiD sales person in the world and IBM Canada. IBM only did Canada–stuffy old IBM, right?

Andrew: You know, for me, the killer feature was the ability to quickly take down notes. Much faster–Outlook eventually came out and they were going to do contact management, but it was a hassle to take a quick note on a call with someone. So, if I was done with a conversation, I could just quickly pop in. There was even a shortcut key to just add a note.

Mike: Right.

Andrew: What was the killer feature for everyone outside of me, outside of my world?

Mike: The automatic logging of every transaction once completed. So, you had what I’ll call a relationship history chronologically sequenced most recent through the oldest. So, I could stair step from the very beginning of any relationship literally every call, meeting, to-do, whatever I did for or with that person in custom fields, as well.

So, if one of the things I wanted to personally keep track of with people was, “Well, what are some of your hobbies?” “Oh, I love golf.” Okay. Golf is going to go in that field. So, next time when I saw you, again, be personable. Talk about things that people themselves love to do, the “What’s on the walls?” “Hey, where have you played golf lately?” “Hey, I was at The Masters in Augusta.” “Really? Tell me about it.”

What you see even displayed for me right now, Andrew, is people would start to smile and they would talk about, “Oh, man, Augusta was great.” They were expressing themselves comfortably with me and it was a technique to get people to open up because our natural instincts are to resist. “I’m only going to answer so many things. I’m not going to tell you everything. I’ll answer your question yes or no.” But when you get them to talk about what they love, you become more of a friend.

Andrew: Yeah.

Mike: That was another thing that we were taught. So, a lot of people have asked me, “So, what is your goal when you go talk to a company about your product or service. Is it to convert them to a customer?” I say, “Well, sure, of course I want them as a customer,” and they know that because they’re selling something too. They need sales people or themselves to stay in business.

But my goal was to create, on a first impression if possible, an attitude from you that said, “You know, that was a pretty nice guy. I could see having a beer with him,” which says, in so many words, “I can be a friend with that guy.” And friends do business with friends, right?

Andrew: Yeah.

Mike: Friends tell friends things. Friends give you the edge. So, it was a technique by which you created a greater likelihood of them becoming a customer because what you tried to do is formulate a friendship. Now, most people don’t want to become your friend. That wasn’t the point. The point was what’s the goal and how do you perceive them?

Well, the perception as a friend–I’m going to treat you differently if I’ve heard about you and I’d like to have a beer with you when I’m next out in San Francisco. We’re already on a different track and it’s more friendly. Well, I like being around people that make me smile and that are friendly, as opposed to stuffy people that are rigid. There are people like that, but I’m going to do what I can to break your armor and penetrate it.

Andrew: By the way, I’m looking over your shoulder and I see, I guess that’s a family photo up there in the top corner, right? I see ACT! boxes from the old software back when people used to shrink wrap software. Boy, that looks so familiar, the logo.

Mike: Yeah.

Andrew: One thing that stands out for me is Betty Boop with the moon. What is that about?

Mike: Oh, interesting story–my mom looked like Betty Boop as a girl. So, her nickname was Betty Boop. So, my mom collects Betty Boops. She gave that to me. Because I’m an entrepreneur, shoot for the moon.

Andrew: I see.

Mike: An interesting fact is my son, my oldest son, lives in Sherman Oaks, California and the house he bought was originally built by the creator of Betty Boop.

Andrew: Wow.

Mike: So, Betty Boop–but that’s a, “What’s on the walls?” right?

Andrew: Right. So, to be an organized, good sales person, I would have to write that down somewhere so that I know Betty Boop and the connection to Betty Boop and the moon as an entrepreneur. And then if I came across an interesting Betty Boop item, I might buy it and send it over to you or I might bring it up next time in conversation. That was the magic of the way that oyu were thinking.

Mike: Yes.

Andrew: “Here’s the way that we should be as human beings and I’m going to create software that will make it easy for people to do it.” I can see how you were selling it as a guy who was a good sales person, who was using sales techniques to introduce other sales people to software. I could see how that teach to sell process worked. Why did you decide to sell the company?

Mike: Interesting question–competitive pressure, unknowingness about the future. We were a one-product company even though we had created the Windows version and then a network version obviously in the DOS era that carried over the Windows and translated into German and French and others. We were kind of a global company now. We were still a one-product company.

The competitive threats from Lotus, Microsoft–it wasn’t Microsoft then, but they were still a big company–were impacting us in the way of, “Should we sell the company and walk away everybody doing well or do we go for it?” A company that held out for a $60 million valuation a year earlier that we knew out of Houston that had a Lotus competitive product, a spreadsheet competitive product, Lotus wanted to buy them.

Lotus said, “You’re only worth $40 million.” “No. We’re worth $60 million.” They didn’t do the deal. A year later, that company went out of business and they could have had $60 million. Look at Groupon, what happened to them. Look at so many companies. It’s a risk. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. So, that was one reason.

Microsoft had put out a press release saying they were developing a product called Schedule Plus that was going to handle your contacts and your calendars and we thought, “Uh-oh. Here it comes.” That product ultimately ended up being Outlook and Outlook never did replace ACT!, but we didn’t know that at the time. That’s number one.

Number two, Pat and I were best friends, as I said in the beginning, but the success of ACT! put a wedge between us, not in a bad way, but in a way where we lost our best friendship because success was so stressful. We were the parents. Parents don’t always agree on how to raise the child.

Andrew: Can you give me an example of a disagreement?

Mike: Well, some of the culture of the company, people to hire, not hire, people to fire, not fire. What happened is political camps began to emerge in the company. So, there was Pat’s camp and there was Mike’s camp. So, you could see–now, the casual person wouldn’t know–but you could see some tension building. Success can go to people’s heads. You have to put your ego in check. When you are successful, it’s hard to do that. I think I’m a pretty humble guy, down to earth guy, but everybody has an ego.

Andrew: How did your ego express itself? Now when you look back and you’re regretting, what’s one thing that you wish you hadn’t allowed your ego to get you to do?

Mike: You know, it’s hard to remember an exact thing. I talked to a prospective investor and I gave a timeframe of when I thought the next version would be released. He was going to invest based on that comment from me. Well, he told Pat what I thought the valuation was going to be and Pat disagreed. And then Pat and I ended up having an argument about it.

It got down to things you kind of don’t realize or think of, but mothers and fathers don’t agree and they think they’re right, each of them in their own regard. So, there was always a standoff because we were the partners. So, we created a company. We created a solution, a world-changing solution that caused some stress. That stress ended the marriage. So, that was part of the reason that we sold the company.

Andrew: Did you also have a literal marriage failure because of it?

Mike: I did.

Andrew: You did.

Mike: Yeah. Three years before we sold the company to Symantec, I lost a 19-year marriage. Why? So, Pat and I are career sales guys. How do you split your responsibilities between career sales guys? Well, he was the inside guy and I was the outside guy. So, we obviously collaborated. As the company grew, other people collaborated on the design and functionality, of course.

But the moment it went out the front door, PR, talking to dealers, that was me. He handled the inside of the company. So, I was not there much because I was in demand to speak all over the world. I spoke at huge venues because of the phenomena of ACT! and the value of relationship management.

So, because I was never home and ACT! was successful, it literally became my mistress. I don’t care how you slice or dice it, Andrew, we were on a red carpet journey. We really were. So, I was in demand. I couldn’t delegate a lot of things because I was the co-inventor. They didn’t want the VP of sales.

Andrew: I think about here on Mixergy, right? I need the founder to come and do the interview.

Mike: Really. So, I was away from home and I lost balance with my family. I subordinated them to, “I’ll get to you when I can, but I’ve got to do ACT! stuff first.” So, I take responsibility for the demise of my 19-year marriage.

So, one of the things I say to entrepreneurs or want to be entrepreneurs is, “Think of what the cost is. You look at me with this gross success–the money that I made.” I look at it as put a price tag on a marriage with three kids. You can’t. So, you have to net it out and understand, “I can’t foresee that I’m going to have a divorce, but it might be one of the consequences of my literal devotion to what I’m trying to do to survive another day.”

Andrew: Isn’t it worth it, though? If you were really to look at the previous self in the eye and say, “You’re going to lose your marriage over this, but you’re going to change the way sales people connect with people, make them more human, make them more aware and you’re going to usher in this new form of software.” If you were really to be honest with yourself, would the younger you have said, “Do it?”

Mike: Sure, I would have. No question I would have. But that’s an existential question kind of, right? The answer is yeah because I did have that. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be everything I said previously. But what I would have done is when I went home, I would have not still consumed myself with ACT! stuff–preparing for the next day, just thinking about it, talking about it. Let it lay at the office or from my trip and come home and focus entirely on the family. That I didn’t do.

Andrew: I see.

Mike: So, my ex-wife, one of the things she said to me was, “You’re like the couch. You’re here, but you’re not here.” I didn’t listen to her. So, stuff happened and one day when I did come back from a trip, she just said, “I want a divorce. I do not want to grow old with you.” So, all of my dreams for building what might be financial independence–you don’t know, but we were certainly on a path towards something like that–I was going to enjoy the fruits of the labor should that happen with my family and then she divorced me three years before the sale and we sold the company and I didn’t have what I had fought my own contribution to ACT! to create.

Andrew: You had a couple of offers. You turned one of them away from Symantec. Why did you turn Symantec’s offer away?

Mike: We had three offers from Symantec. So, a year after COMDEX, the $1 million offer from Kevin O’Leary, we got a call from Software Publishing, a publicly traded Silicon Valley firm, Harvard Graphics if you remember that product. That was one of their main products. They called us and said, “We’ve done some investigation of you and we wondered if you’re open to maybe being bought.” We said, “Well, we’re always open to hearing an idea.”

Before they came out to Dallas/Fort Worth from Silicon Valley, Pat and I literally said to each other, “Well, what would we sell the company for?” We were 13 employees at that time. We just picked out of the air, well $10 million. That’s a good number, $10 million. We’ll all do well. So, they came out and we signed papers.

They did a two-week due diligence and this is what they said, Andrew. “We do want to buy your company. You’re worth $6 million.” We said, “That’s not enough. We want $10 million.” “You’re not worth $10 million.” “Yes, we are. We want $10 million. You’re not getting it.” And they left. When they left we said, “Holy shit, we’re worth $6 million.”

Andrew: “Where do we even come up with $10 million and now we’re worth $6 million.”

Mike: It was $1 million a year ago and now it’s $6 million.

Andrew: Yes.

Mike: So, you see this chart building by market momentum by just doing what we did on a day-to-day basis and we got noticed by people. So, a year and a half later, another Silicon Valley firm came and wanted to buy us and we agreed to the sale for $16 million. But it was an all-stock transaction.

Here’s what happened, something nobody could predict. This little guy in a country called Iraq, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. That made the stock market drop dramatically and that $16 million value dropped to $10 million and we said, “Deal’s done. We’re not doing it. It’s not worth $10 million. We said $16 million.” “We can’t give you $16 million now. The stock market has dropped.” We called off the deal. They ultimately went out of business. So, good thing we didn’t sell although we were close to it.

Andrew: How do you not get depressed after that where you’re envisioning yourself already on a beach somewhere, everything is good?

Mike: You kind of start to think about, “What am I going to do? Get a new car. Sure, I’m going to do that. And maybe get a bigger house.” But I didn’t ever really allow myself to get too carried away with it. $16 million spread amongst the investors wasn’t going to help me retire for life.

Andrew: I see. It wasn’t like you were already checked out. You were still in there. Okay. So, you still had to recover and then you got an offer form Symantec.

Mike: Symantec. The first deal was for $20 million. They flew us out to Cupertino, board room meeting. We’ve done the numbers. We were playing poker with WordPerfect and CompuServe, the predecessor to AOL that also wanted to buy us and we had hired an investment banking firm out of Silicon Valley and they advised us with their Harvard MBA that we were worth no more than $25 million.

On the plane trip out to Symantec, literally just as I’m going to describe it, Pat and I said, “What would we sell it for if Symantec gives us a number?” And we said $40 million. “$40 million. We’ll take it.” We had these competitive threads. Again, Pat and I, we weren’t enemies. I don’t’ want to portray it that way. We just had disagreements that kind of put this uncomfortable wedge between us. But we never did anything to hurt our child ever. We loved our child.

So, their first offer was for $20 million. They wined and dined us the night before and we said, “Is that your best offer?” Again, that Harvard MBA investment banker said $25 million, so to him, that looked like, “I told you guys.” But we told him he was fired if that was what he was going to do for the best of us. He said, “Don’t fire us.” We didn’t. But we put him on notice. “We’re worth more than that.”

So, we said, “Guys, thank you for the time, but you’re not even in the ballpark.” Two weeks later, they called us up, flew us back out, wined and dined us the night before, sitting at the table in the conference room the next day and they said, “We’ve redone the numbers. We want to offer you $22 million.” It was an Austin Powers $1 million moment. We were stunned. We were straight-faced and we said to them, “Did you hear what we said two weeks ago?” “No, what did you say?” “We said you weren’t even in the ballpark. What makes you think it’s going to be good at $22 million?”

And this guy who wasn’t in the first meeting got angry that we didn’t understand how much money that was and that we were fools to not accept it and he started to pound his fist. He was going to pound his fist on the table to yell at us. But these conference chairs with rollers on him, the chair slipped out from underneath him, Andrew, and he fell on the floor and had to lift himself up on the table. It was kind of a funny moment. We were straight-faced, but we were laughing inside. We said, “Bye.” And we left.

About a month later–it might have been five weeks–but about a month later, they called us up and said, “Hey, guys, we’ve re-done the numbers.” We said, “Spare us the trip, let’s get our boards together and we’ll have a conference call.” To make a long story short, they offered us $39.5 million that was $20 million five weeks earlier or six weeks earlier.

We said deal, but this was what we did get from our investment banker. They said, “Whatever they offer you, ask them for a collar.” “What’s a collar?” “Well, it’s a little bit risky, but we’ve studied their stock price and it’s lower than it’s been in a long time, so there’s more upside potential because it was a stock deal,” publicly traded company with only a two-month restriction or maybe it was three. We were willing to take that deal. So, if their stock price went down, the value would have gone down. But the stock price goes up, we should be remunerated for that. So, we said, “We want a collar and we want the deal to be based on your stock price, Symantec, 30 days from today end of business on the stock market.”

Within three days, Dan Dorfman on CNBC, the Maria Bartiromo of his day–

Andrew: Bartiromo.

Mike: Bartiromo. Yeah.

Andrew: Yeah, hard to pronounce the name.

Mike: The stock price went up $4 a share. 25 million shares in the market, so we added $100 million company to the company by acquiring us. Exactly a month later, it had stayed at that $4. It had fluctuated, but it closed at that $4. For that extra $100 million, we got another $7.5 million that made it a $47 million deal.

Andrew: Wow. You with your 10 percent end up with $4.7 million.

Mike: Yeah.

Andrew: Life changing.

Mike: Life changing when you came from a poor background. I’m the oldest of my family, six kids, blue collar family. Yeah. That’s a lot of money.

Andrew: How poor were you then? What’s an example of how poor you were?

Mike: I lived, until I was ten years old, above taverns right on the edge of Chicago, rough parts of Chicago. I got a switch blade knife pulled on me by a gang in Chicago. I got beat up. I was raised the kid of a construction worker. So, imagine my upbringing. I’m the first kid to get a college degree. That’s why my dad and my grandfather thought it would be honorable to have a lawyer in the family. So, I was going to be an obedient son and be a lawyer. It’s not that I necessarily wanted to be. So, I’m so grateful I didn’t become a lawyer because I think I would have been miserable.

Andrew: Yeah.

Mike: So, ACT! changed my life just as much as it changed so many other people to this day still because so much of it was never imagined. That’s the whole mystery to it. It was a magical environment, despite the political camps that grew in the company. When you get over 100 people in a company, there’s politics. There’s politics with five people. But there’s really politics when you’re over 100. People form friendships in departments they work in.

So, I bet it’s interesting working at a company like Oracle. That’s got to be very political environment, Salesforce, very political environment. One can only imagine. But you toe the line. People don’t enjoy working in a job where they’ve got to toe the line. That’s why I broke away from the corporate world. I hated toing the line myself.

Andrew: What’s the best part of having done it, of having sold?

Mike: The best part was not the money and far from it because the double-edged sword was I lost the marriage. So, it’s kind of a net, if you will. I’ll put it that way nicely. The best part was the realization that an ordinary person did something extraordinary.

What it showed me was that there were capabilities that I had that nobody ever saw in me. I never had a compelling or desperate reason to try to find what I had in me to draw upon and learn from. I gained a lot of confidence and it gave me a credential that is truly unique in the world. I truly am a pioneer in a global category, right? I say that very humbly, Andrew. My feet are on the ground.

But here’s the key. This is where a lot of people go in one direction and I went this way. There’s a saying that success should be a springboard and not a hammock. A lot of people succeed and they rest in that hammock for the rest of their lives on what they once did. All it showed me was, “Man, if I can do that, what more can I do?”

The real reason I’m an entrepreneur, the real reason I’m doing VIPorbit today is I don’t know what I’m fully capable of achieving in my life. I only have this one life. When I get to the end of my life, I want to be able to say, “I gave it everything and here’s what I achieved because I wasn’t afraid. Even when I failed doing something, I still grew from it.”

That’s just my attitude because relationships are about attitudes, not necessarily having a data capture mechanism to keep reminding yourself that this person likes golf. It’s not that. It’s, “Why do you play golf? Where have you played?” And draw that enthusiasm out from them. So, it’s made me more of an extrovert whereas I started out as an introvert. I just had the sense of damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

There’s a quote from a poet that I’ll give you quickly that inspires me personally. So, put yourself in an entrepreneur’s shoes, trying to decide, “Should I or shouldn’t I? What do I do?” So, here’s the quote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, what might have been.” I don’t want to have a, “What I might have done but didn’t do.” No. I have an attitude of, “I want to do it. Even if it fails, I’m going to do it.”

Andrew: So, Vipor–what is your vision now with Vipor? In a world that does know contact management software, in a world where ACT! has already existed and other software and our phones now come with contact management software, what’s your vision today?

Mike: My vision is that unlike the ACT! era where people were looking for a reason to have a laptop and few did and it was business only, people didn’t walk around with their laptops 24/7. They were too big and battery life was short. We all are multi-screen users today. One of the things I don’t like about CRM, if you say we’re a relationship management product, is CRM systems are designed for the company only, managed by the company, owned by the company, good for customers and prospects.

Well, Andrew, what if you’re never going to be a customer or prospect? Where do I put you? I might put you in my phone list. But you’re just one of thousands of names. There’s no association. I might schedule a call with you on iCal, but those are dumb silos, single purpose and they don’t even know that each other exist, right?

So, in a world where I don’t want any regard for business or personal, why can’t you be both? Why can’t you be in my golfing buddies orbit and why can’t you be in my customer orbit at the same time and keep track of you in many different ways? I wanted a solution that was agile for my entire life, the landscape of my entire life of business and personal relationships and networks.

That’s why I invented VIPorbit so an Orbit can be anything and a person can be in as many Orbits as is appropriate. But that sounds like groups, nothing more than groups so far. It’s putting it on steroids. So, here’s an example. I have 72 Orbits. I have things like my golfing my buddies, etc. But I have customers, board of directors, investors.

I was going to Chicago a few years ago. I hadn’t been there in a while. I have 88 people in my Chicagoland Orbit. I have a Silicon Valley Orbit. Imagine this on my phone. Sitting in a restaurant, I put the phone up to my face and I went to that Orbit, Chicagoland and I said, “Send group email.”

I used Siri and said, “Coming to Chicago. Would like to see you.” Then in the body I spoke and I said, “Hi, hope you’re doing well. I’m coming to Chicago next month. If you’re able to, let me know. I’d love to get together for some Chicago pizza.” Send. Took less than a minute. That email went to 88 people simultaneously but they got it as an individual. I maintained the personal touch.

Andrew: It wasn’t all cc’d to everybody.

Mike: No. So, they felt it was just to them. It automatically archived like I had designed in ACT! to put that in their profile chronologically to document that transaction. 88 people had a refresher, “Oh, Mike, how’s he doing?” Because the thing that we all need to fear is being forgotten, fading away.

Andrew: Yeah.

Mike: I take the initiative. I gave myself three days to see if anybody responded so I then knew how long to make my hotel and plane reservation for. Fifteen people called me or emailed me and said, “I’d love to get together.” So, on less than one minute’s worth of work, maintaining the quality of the relationship but doing quantity of it and documenting it automatically, I had a 15 multiple on one minute’s worth of work.

You and I and everybody else in the world, Andrew, fight one thing that we can’t get away from called 24/7. If I can do more in a day than you can, I’m going to be more successful than you are however you define that. So, that’s why I invented VIPorbit because nothing existed in the Apple world. There are a lot of superficial things.

I’m going to disagree with you on, “There are built in contact managers.” No, there’s not. There’s iCal and there’s the phone list. That’s certainly not a contact manager. But we live in a connected world with Facebook and LinkedIn, but I can tell you in my case, I get a lot of unsolicited LinkedIn. I get the default, “I want to add you to my professional network.” It’s not, “Hi, Mike, I’ve read about you.” Whatever. I accept, but I’ve hidden their ability to see my garden of LinkedIn people because I talk about this very thing.

Andrew: I didn’t know you could do that.

Mike: Yeah. It’s the illusion of relationships, not the reality of them. I love social media. It’s opened up more of the world to people across the world that I would not otherwise meet. But that’s the top of the big funnel. My focus and relationship management’s focus and Vipor’s focus, of course, as well as ACT!’s is the bottom part of the funnel that I need to work because that’s where I’m going to derive my livelihood. Your net worth and my net worth is totally tied to the quality and extent of our networks. How are you managing your networks?

Andrew: Talk about why it’s important to have that recorded, the fact that you invited people out to pizza when you’re in Chicago. I know that with pizza to Chicago, it’s not the most critical piece of information. But maybe there’s an example of a piece of information that’s important to have recorded in a person’s record.

Mike: Right. So, I know all 88 people, obviously. So, when I would have subsequent trips to Chicago, not that I would say anything to them, but some of those people I was really close to. They couldn’t see me when I was up there previously. I would kid them, “You know, you never responded back to me Andrew. How come?” But I would smile and laugh about it and they’d go, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” It was like, “I gotcha.” That sense of feeling sorry, but forgiveness. That created an emotional bond.

The thing that people don’t understand and need to about these kinds of software products is what I’m really after is creating and maintaining and further developing and expanding an emotional connection, not a data collection. There’s a big difference. So, I use things because I know what I can and can’t use, but I have the knowledge to say, “Oh, yeah, he was one of those people that got that email and he never responded. I’m going to kid him about it,” right?

Andrew: So, if we were to meet and I was on VIPorbit and I’d say, “Oh, you know what? Betty Boop. I’m going to record that.” What would I do with that with Vipor?

Mike: “Has your mom given you any more Betty Boop?”

Andrew: I see. But I would record that note in a custom field.

Mike: Yeah. I’ll give you an example. Robert Scoble–you know Scoble, right? When I first went out there to meet him, I studied up on him. Low and behold, he’s a big fan of the Texas Longhorns. So, I went out to the store–going back to some IBM training and my personal view of how to treat people properly and professionally–I bought him a Texas Longhorn baseball cap.

The first thing I gave him and pulled out when I walked into his studio, “Hey, I know you’re a Texas Longhorn fan. I brought you a gift.” And that made him smile and we laughed. He’s kind of an interesting guy and you kind of look up to him when you’re a newbie. It melted him. It changed the whole tone of that first meeting. Those first meetings are crucial, Andrew.

So, Betty Boop, you might say, “Hey, I bought this little thing for you. It’s another Betty Boop memento.” What it shows is–I’m going to tell you this story because it’s truly pertinent to creating an emotional connection. This happened as an IBM sales guy. It was the light that went on over my head that I embedded in ACT! and today, Vipor.

So, the, “What’s on the walls?” concept–I did that with everybody, but a CEO responded to what I did. I called him unexpectedly and he said, “Mike, I would love to talk to you but I’m literally getting ready to go on a two-week skiing vacation in Colorado with my family. Feel free to call me when I get back.”

Hey, great. It was a win. He invited me to call him back. I left. I went out to my Day-Timer in my car. Three weeks later, I wrote down two things, the secretary’s name–so, when I called and got connected to her first, “Hi, Sue, this is Mike from IBM,” and, “Ask him about his skiing vacation.”

I called three weeks later to the day, got him on the phone, “Hi, Mr. Smith. This is Mike Muhney from IBM.” “Oh, hi, Mike. How are you doing?” “Fine, Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith, how was your skiing vacation?” There was a moment of silence, Andrew. This is what he said nearly verbatim. It made that much of an impact on me. He said, “You know, you’re probably a pretty smart guy working for IBM and you’re probably smart enough to figure out that your competitors have called on me to, which they have. By the way, they’ve all contacted me since I’ve returned. You’re the last one to call me.”

I’m on the phone. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. He said, “But do you know you’re the only one that asked me about my skiing vacation? What that tells me is you’re a professional. I don’t like to deal with amateurs. You showed me that it was important enough to you to remember something about me. So, if I’m going to do business with you, I know you’re going to pay attention. Yes, let’s have that meeting.” And I sold him an IBM solution.

Now, I might have sold it anyway. But what it did was the moral of the story, not that I sold the solution with that question, but the moral of the story is he relegated my competition to amateur status, elevated me to professional and basically destroyed their chances. So, I discovered by being personal on a first approach and not getting into business, it made a difference in my life and why I was selected.

So, now you see why there was in ACT! a secretary field, for example, in an era of that, and customization so that you can remember hobbies or whatever you do want to remember for what you want.

Andrew: I was in the email business at the time. I would have a field that said, “Email subscriber size.” So, if somebody told me, I would write it down and I would know the size. VIPorbit is in the App Store. It is as easy as just typing in Vipor, right?

Mike: Correct.

Andrew: Let me just double-check that. I think that’s what I did.

Mike: The company name is VIPorbit Software. So, you can go to our website. We have tutorials on there as well.

Andrew: Let me spell that out too just to make sure the transcribers get it right and anybody else who’s driving and not fully paying attention gets it right. It’s It’s already online right now.

Mike: Yeah.

Andrew: Thank you so much for doing this interview. Congratulations on all the success with the businesses.

Mike: Andrew, it’s been a pleasure and honor. Thank you so much.

Andrew: You know what, actually? Before you go, two more things. The first is one of the challenges I think you’re going to have as an entrepreneur in the mobile space is you treat your customers with maybe a little too much respect. You don’t suck in all my contacts from my iPhone app, the built in contact app into your app. There’s a checkbox somewhere. There’s a slider. I can take them all in if I want to.

Every other app just sucks them all in right away. You don’t email everybody in my address book automatically and say, “Andrew just signed up for Vipor. You might want to check it out because here are the features,” and then get virality. Why did you intentionally–you’re smiling because you’re aware of these techniques. Why aren’t you doing it?

Mike: Yeah. I am. It’s a challenge. It’s one of those, “I’m at a fork in a road. What do we do?” But you know, as people, we respect privacy. We respect your decisions. Those are easy ways to do it. I get those same, “Hey, somebody just downloaded a product and they want to verify your contact details.” I view it as spam. I view it as somewhat underhanded. Some people would disagree with that. I understand.

But I view it out of respect for the individual that they’re going to do what they want with the people that truly the relationships are theirs. The people I get those spams, as I view them spams from, I’m not close to those people. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know many of those people. Why would I confirm anything with them? And some of them make you sign up through Facebook and everything is public on Facebook and that violates some privacy issues.

So, we may do that in the future. It does create some virality. I grant that. But we just made a choice to not do that out of more of a professional aura and respect and regard.

Andrew: Alright. Well, I think some of it you could do. As soon as I open up the app, “Do you want us to pre-populate with all your contacts?” “Yes, no,” etc. Anyway, the app is in the store. It’s really clean. I’m so proud to have you on here.

The second thing I’ve got to say is my team keeps telling me to tell everyone–if you want all the latest interviews from Mixergy, all available for free, directly downloaded to your phone, go to your favorite podcast app. Mine happens to be today, Downcast. One of the reasons why I love Downcast, and I’m going to be honest with you–I probably shouldn’t say it, but I love it–Downcast lets me do things like easily fast forward 30 seconds or easily rewind five seconds or whatever amount I want. I can even fast forward by hitting the button on my iPhone headset.

So, I’m going to recommend that to you because if there’s a part of my interview, maybe it’s even the ads that you’re not happy with, double-click and fast forward. I want you guys to have a good experience. So, download Downcast and look for Mixergy or whatever your favorite podcast app is. Mixergy, you’ll get them all directly into your phone.

I should have been doing this over the last six or seven years and have all these people subscribe. Instead, I see a lot of people living in ignorance. I’m not bringing you people into the light–Mixergy in your favorite podcast player.

Mike, thank you so much for doing this interview with me.

Mike: Andrew, one last thing I’d like to say is, again, thanks, but when I come out to Silicon Valley, I would love to personally meet you and take you out if that would be okay.

Andrew: I would love it.

Mike: Okay. You count on. Whenever that is, you’ll know I’m coming.

Andrew: I know I’m going to be in your system. If it’s possible–I know sometimes people come here with a whole lot of work to do and they can’t ever even squeeze in five seconds. But if it’s possible, I would love for you to connect with me in person.

Mike: Okay. Great. Well, thanks very much again. Have a great evening.

Andrew: Thanks, Mike. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy.

Mike: Alright.

5 thoughts on “How ACT! was born out of desperation and a “Hail Mary pass” – with Mike Muhney

  1. Adrian Teasdale says:

    I’m surprised there are no comments on this. I’ve been listening/watching your interviews for years and I found this one of the best. Mike really articulated some key and simple areas for entrepreneurs in this interview and I learned a lot from it. I’m not so sure about his latest venture – but that’s primarily because of the design of the site if I’m honest.

    Another inspiring interview though. Thanks Andrew and thanks also to Mike

  2. Greg Archbald says:

    Andrew: Mike’s interview kicked ass. In my eyes, Mike’s the man not only because he comes from a different time but because he’s also remained relevant. He’s stayed checked in, kept up with tech, didn’t become too comfortable/complacent in his success…

    I’m 33, founded my own SaaS company, and I don’t get nearly enough exposure to guys from Mike’s generation. To me, Mike’s from another era — from a time when ‘sales’ wasn’t such a dirty word…

    And, (although they’d never admit it) most software types AVOID the sale. Heck, the guys in SF used their genius to go as far as to create the viral loop and remove the human element (possibly because they were scared of it?)

    Not Mike. He’s a salesman and a true entertainer.

    I often hear older people talk of the “youth’s disregard for elders”. However, often it’s cover up for older folks who are just too “comfortable in their hammock” to open up and share.

    Lots of founders are too busy focused on tomorrow or next week. However, Mike saying “I take responsibility for the demise of my 19 year marriage…” How many guys from that gen are willing to open up and share (invaluable) stuff like that??

    I’d love to see a segment of Killer Pros from the 1970s and 1980s… as obsessed as your audience is with “the new”, there IS nothing new under the sun.

    A string of interviews from guys in their 60s and 70s would provide so much valuable insight for those in your audience who are willing to listen. Damned the torpedos, full speed ahead — I’m on Mike’s boat!!

    Great. fucking. interview.
    Thank you, Mike.
    Thank you, Andrew.

    Founder of

  3. Al says:

    Best interview in a long time. What is the 99c book called again?

  4. Mark Bowman says:

    Excellent interview. I began using ACT! in my business running under DOS. It was a key component of my sales success back then. This interview brought back memories of how the professional sales process was conducted back before the internet :)

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