Updated: Jan 2, 2022
Kristin Luck is an American businesswoman, Entrepreneur, Consultant and Public speaker, who specialises in nontraditional marketing and branding strategies.
In 2015 Kristin launched her own management consultancy called ScaleHouse, which focuses on nontraditional growth strategies for data driven marketing technology firms and market research companies.
Kristin lectures at industry conferences for groups such as the Advertising Research Foundation, the Council of American Survey Research Organizations and the Marketing Research Association. She is considered one of the world’s top voices when it comes to “market research". This is due in part, to her regular column in the Research Business Report, the ESOMAR blog, and RWConnect.
In our interview with Kristin, we explore her entrepreneurial journey and the value proposition of her company, ScaleHouse. She also provides tips on how to scale your business.
Hello Kristin. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. Please give us an overview of your background and origin story?
Kristin: I grew up in rural Oregon where most kids ended up working on or inheriting family farms. I was one of only a few in my graduating class to attend University. I worked my way through University at a social science research firm and that led me to my first job as a market researcher in Los Angeles, post-graduation.
How and why did you become an Entrepreneur?
Kristin: Truly by default. I was working at ACNielsen, building their first online research platform and I realized that it's really tough to run a "start-up" in a big traditional company.
We just couldn't be nimble enough to meet our clients needs. I ended up leaving with a colleague and starting a firm within an entertainment based holding company called iFILM, right in the midst of the Dot Com boom in the late 90's/early 2000's.
We had the right product at the right time and scaled the business from $0-30M in less than 3 years. The business, OTX, was the fastest growing research firm in the world in 2002 and 2003. It was acquired in 2005 by Pilot Group and again in 2010 by Ipsos. Since then, I've gone on to start, scale and sell two other firms in the marketing technology vertical.
What key challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey and how have you managed these?
Kristin: Too many to count and I think that's the deceptive nature of entrepreneurism.
If you look at LinkedIn, all you see are the wins, not all the massive struggles that almost took you down along the way!
I've had massive technology failures and outages, key employees leave at pivotal points in the business, a line of credit pulled right during the economic downturn. I've grossly underestimated how quickly I could sell in a product or displace a competitor....and that's just to name a few.
I think what defines an entrepreneurs is grit.
There's a great quote from Noel Bushnell (the founder of Atari) that "the true entrepreneur is the doer, not the dreamer" and there's a lot of truth to it.
When things get tough you need to either persist or pivot.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any past or present business leaders?
Kristin: When I started my first company I didn't know any other female entrepreneurs so it was a pretty lonely path. It's interesting to hear stories from other female founders like Sara Blakely (Spanx) who at one point said she never took on VC funding because she didn't know she could, me too!
I think a lot of female founders, myself included, didn't have many role models or mentors to guide us. That said, I'm so thankful to the folks that did offer me a lot of guidance, like Brent Willman (CFO of the PAC 12 Conference) who very patiently schooled me in business finance, Eileen Campbell (former CMO of IMAX) and Cindy Gallop (needs no introduction) who gave me a lot of "come to Jesus" talks when I was negotiating my exits with Private Equity firms.
What’s the origin story behind your company ScaleHouse?
Kristin: After I sold my last company I spent a few months thinking about what I wanted to do next. I didn't technically need to work, but I was really too young not to work, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what I really loved doing.
What I realized was that I didn't love the starting of companies so much as I loved the scaling, and all the challenges that come with its growth.
I thought if I could just spend my days working with other Founders to help them scale their companies while avoiding all the pitfalls I faced along the way, that would be the most fun I could have!
What role do you play as Founder and Managing Partner of ScaleHouse?
Kristin: I drive sales, marketing and client development for the practice. This is no small surprise since my 1:1 consulting focuses primarily on sales, marketing strategy, and fractional CMO work. I also have my investment banking license and, through our relationship with Oberon Securities, my business partner (Michael Pazzani) and I also work with firms on pre-M&A optimization, capital raises, recapitalization and debt financing, as well as buy and sell side initiatives.
Please give us an overview of ScaleHouse’s value proposition and target market?
Kristin: ScaleHouse is a management consulting firm dedicated to growing, optimizing, defending and perpetuating enterprise value. We provide a unique service-offering, focused on the development and implementation of field tested methods that include offensive and defensive strategies targeted to achieve growth and value-maximizing objectives. With extensive experience in all C-suite functions, our Team, having successfully founded, scaled and exited companies, is uniquely capable of supporting our clients growth objectives. We work exclusively in the marketing technology and services vertical.
What tips do you have for startups trying to scale their business, especially if they have been bootstrapping for a while?
Kristin: I think there's a misnomer that every startup needs to scale quickly and become the next "unicorn". Some businesses are growth businesses and others are what I would consider "phoenix" businesses. They may grow 5-10% a year and the Founder runs them for a long period of time, making a healthy income, until they're ready to retire or exit.
How you run a growth business is really different from how you run a "phoenix" business. So be clear about what your exit timeline is, and your objective behind starting the business in the first place.
Before we conclude the Q&A session do you have anything you would like to add?
Kirstin: Not everyone is cut out for the life of an entrepreneur. It can be incredibly stressful and can have a significant impact on your relationships, and ultimately many of your life decisions.
It's good to have a clear understanding of your risk tolerance and what you are and aren't willing to sacrifice before you head down the entrepreneurial path.
Thank you Kristin for participating in this Q&A session, we wish you all the best?
Kristin: Thank you!
This article was originally published in Issue 9 of The Business Anecdote Magazine.