DiscoverOrg reaching soaring heights

CEO of fast-growing market intelligence company discovering right path

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

At lunchtime, Henry Schuck often stays perched in his corner office on the ninth floor of a Vancouver office tower. He said he never eats lunch — unless it’s a business lunch about something important. Last Monday wasn’t one of those days.

On a window sill sat a model airplane emblazoned with “DiscoverOrg,” the name he and his law school buddy chose for their new company 10 years ago. Behind the model was the cloudless October sky where passenger planes from Portland International Airport climbed and dived over the glinting Columbia River.

Then, suddenly, a message popped up on his computer. A smaller tech concern in the South was closing down at 5 p.m. Did DiscoverOrg want to buy them, the owner asked?

In a matter of minutes, Schuck pried a senior executive away from his lunch, batted around some logistical questions — How much would it cost? Was there enough value to make it worth bringing on more employees and paying rent at a new office? — and then heard the offer over conference call.

It took maybe 10 minutes to play out. The company and its employees were sent packing.

Schuck said later that those situations don’t happen often. “It’s not that common,” he said. “Probably in the last three years, I’ve had four or five situations like that.”

High-wire moments might not be a daily occurrence for Schuck and DiscoverOrg, but they are certainly becoming more common.

The Vancouver market intelligence company has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, thanks to some key acquisitions. It is projected to reach $130 million in revenue this year and employs nearly 400 people locally.

Leading the way is Schuck, the 34-year-old CEO who believes DiscoverOrg is only beginning to take off. At the same time, planning and reorganizing is becoming more important if he hopes to lead the company into the Fortune 500. He concedes he’s unsure how, exactly, to get there, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

New faces

Stepping off an elevator of the eighth or ninth floors of the 805 Broadway Building, you can take a left or a right. Either way, you’ll be in the middle of DiscoverOrg.

Blue walls, dotted with offices, wrap around both floors. Walking in, the volume notches up with chatter of sales and tech support. Most work is done by 20-somethings who occupy long bullpens of desks and computer screens.

Everything has been amplified recently. Since moving from an office park in Orchards in 2014, DiscoverOrg has added more than 200 employees. As recently as 2009, it had just three, including Schuck and Kirk Brown.

Brown helped found the company while he and Schuck studied law at The Ohio State University. He has since stepped away from day-to-day business, but serves on the board of directors.

That has left the future in Schuck’s hands. On Monday, he strode across the floors in a blue suit, acknowledging employees by name on his way to and from meetings. He knew many, but admitted that the company’s rapid growth has brought in a lot of new faces, too.

“We’re hiring a lot of people, so I don’t know some of them, and it’s like, they are working really hard for you — it’s awkward,” he said.

Schuck, born in La Crescenta, Calif., has had plenty of time to learn to be a boss. While an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he started a business contracting with casino bars and restaurants to steer people off the Strip and into events. He said he learned to sign deals and to manage people.

Around the same time, he also worked for Texas-based market intelligence company iProfile, learning the basics of the industry DiscoverOrg now occupies. Workers scrape web pages, make cold calls and buy similar data to assemble profiles of companies and organizations.

He was in his early 20s then, learning he could thrive in the world of business-to-business sales. That’s where DiscoverOrg makes its bones today, providing thousands of clients with a platform containing constellations of data to be used for sales leads.

Schuck said starting DiscoverOrg after working at iProfile made sense, at least at first.

“I knew exactly how to block-and-tackle our way to $5 million in revenue,” he said. “Beyond that, I had no idea” how to grow the company.

Outside investors and a board of directors have since been established, providing Schuck with mentorship along the way, he said. And, in 2015, DiscoverOrg bought iProfile.

On a platform

It was during an afternoon meeting Monday when things appeared to get chippy. Executives in the conference room trudged through a long to-do list until a flickering internet connection disconnected those who had joined via teleconference.

Some shot around sarcastic jokes while others tried to keep on trudging. One executive finally spoke up. He said that the meeting ground rules already asks everyone to keep their phones in their pocket, maybe they should prohibit sarcasm and passive aggression, too.

Schuck, sitting at the head of the table, dismissed it. “It’s not passive,” he said.

DiscoverOrg is in the midst of some growing pains. Two months ago, it completed a nine-figure deal to acquire Maryland-based competitor Rain-King. While it is the biggest milestone in the company’s history, it hasn’t come without logistical hurdles.

Besides integrating new employees and protocols, they are trying to weave together distinct platforms with vast troves of data.

“That’s a real task because you’re playing with millions and millions of rows of data,” he said. “Then, if contacts are the same person and the data conflicts, which one do you agree with?”

Ahead of the acquisition, Schuck hired a chief of staff to keep things running smoothly. Together they take a hands-on and data-driven approach to management. Any tasks that can be measured and quantified are tracked, and reports land on Schuck’s desk daily.

“It’s just cleaning up,” he said. “It’s like the business was a baby, so you get away with anything. Then it became a teenager and it had a little more responsibility. Now it’s like an adult and it has to do things.”

When asked how he would describe the working environment, he said it’s “intense but collaborative.” Workers are encouraged to be assertive without being disrespectful, and told that the best work will get recognized even if it can’t be accomplished in less than 40 hours a week. The result: Many employees put in long days and weeks.

“It’s a personal balancing act,” said Carolyn Murray, an account executive at DiscoverOrg. “It’s competitive, everyone is competing against each other.”

But that was the environment she signed up for, she said.

“I’m never jealous of someone who does less work,” she said. “I just want to be the best.”

Schuck, of course, has a hard time putting work away. On the weekends he invites DiscoverOrg employees over to talk shop — though he won’t make any firm decisions on Saturdays and Sundays. His 18-month-old daughter mimics him by holding a phone, hitting the table and saying “We won’t take that deal!”

Looking forward

After grabbing a midday coffee break with his wife and daughter, Schuck found himself back in his corner office thinking about the future.

At its current size, DiscoverOrg could probably go public, a process that would financially reward its founders. But it would take two to three years to get processes in place to then grow at the pace of a publicly traded company.

“I’ve talked to the company here about what a 2020 IPO looks like,” he said. “About what has to happen in engineering, what has to happen in marketing, what has to happen in sales and finance and research to actually be a candidate for an IPO.”

The steps moving forward are going to cover new ground. When DiscoverOrg first started, he could read tons of books about startups and early companies. He’s outgrown those books, but the only one’s he seems to find are written from the perspective of Fortune 500 companies.

“I’m sort of trapped in this middle space where the literature doesn’t speak to me all the time, and conferences don’t speak to me all the time,” he said. “So it’s hard to find good literature to read that makes me better at my job specifically. The board will help me.”

As for personal goals, Schuck said he just hopes to raise a great daughter. He said he doesn’t care what line of work she goes into when she grows up, he just wants her to be a person of high character.

“I want her to be empathetic, hard-working and honest, funny and wonderful. I want to raise a really good daughter,” he said. “She could have any job here and I’d be proud. But I want her to work hard and have goals and be a great kid.”