Henry Schuck is a leading entrepreneur in sales intelligence and lead generation. Having founded DiscoverOrg in 2007 when he was 23, he has led the company on a rapid-growth path, with investments from the likes of TA Associates, Goldman Sachs BDC, FiveW Capital and NXT Capital.
Under Henry’s leadership, DiscoverOrg built the industry’s most accurate, highest-quality contact database, through a mix of technology and a team of live researchers who continually call into thousands of IT, marketing, HR, and finance departments. DiscoverOrg was recognized for the quality of its datasets with both a Stevie® and a CODIE award. It was also named a leader and ranked #1 in customer service by G2 Crowd.
Before founding DiscoverOrg, Henry managed marketing and research at iProfile, leading the company to a successful private equity sale.
He is a cum laude graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he was selected in 2013 as the Honors College Alumni of the Year. He also holds a juris doctorate degree cum laude from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and has studied comparative law at Oxford University. He is a licensed attorney in Washington and Nevada.
Tell me about your early career.
Just before co-founding DiscoverOrg—and during, actually—I was in law school at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State and worked as a clerk at a small law firm in Columbus. I enjoyed the law and the work, but the entrepreneur inside of me seemed to know I was destined for something else.
Before law school, I had already started a successful promotions company in Las Vegas. We recruited people to go to nightclubs, and ultimately had 35 employees. I sold the business because I had made the decision to go to law school.
Also, before law school, I managed research and marketing at iProfile, a company that did a piece of what DiscoverOrg does. DiscoverOrg acquired iProfile in 2015.
How did the concept for DiscoverOrg come about?
I was doing well in law school when a friend from college called me and asked if I would help him start a company. I told him no. Then, he bugged me for three weeks and convinced me to “help” him start the business. Within a couple of months, I had moved my entire law school schedule to evening classes, kicked a roommate out of our law school apartment, and put all of my eggs in the DiscoverOrg basket.
The time I spent at iProfile analyzing data was instrumental in my seeing the value in co-founding DiscoverOrg. I saw a business model that would work, despite the fact that iProfile was more of a lifestyle business than a growth business.
How was the first year in business?
In the first year, everything is a must win. You operate in that period with the most amount of ingenuity. You simply have to figure things out. You’re up against the wall and you learn that necessity is the mother of invention. You’re learning the most and coming up with new ideas. It’s when you’re being the most clever and applying the most ingenuity. I still find it interesting that the messaging on our first website isn’t that different than what we have now. Our entire business revolves around our ability to deliver the highest quality data in the market.
What was your marketing strategy?
We were heavy email marketers. We built our own database of names of people at good fit companies and we emailed them sales messages. We have a product that we can easily share samples over the internet, so we would always include samples so prospects could see what they were going to get. Then, we would set up online demos with them.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Year 1: $110,000
Year 2: $330,000
Year 3: $880,000
Year 4: $2,700,000
Year 5: $ 5,500,000
Year 6: $15.300,000
Year 10: $71,000,000 in annual, recurring revenue
So, not a rocketship, but we sustained slow, steady growth. When I came out of law school and was able to focus all of my time on the business, it really picked up.
How do you define success?
The best way to define it is that it’s something you’re constantly redefining. It’s a constantly-moving target. Every CEO is whacking some mole. The moles I’m whacking today are much different than a few years ago. At each stage they feel important, but when you look back, they don’t seem as important today as they did then.
What is the key to success?
To believe completely and unerringly in yourself, your team, and your product. And to work harder than everyone else.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
There are a few. First, when we were a $10 million company, we met with some potential funders—and I assumed they would want to bring in a new CEO—maybe someone who was out of their 20s. However, they saw the wisdom in having me remain as CEO. You have to believe you’re going to be successful running this company. Unless you believe it, no one else will either. I have a special set of skills that relate to this company. Unless you believe it, people will try to take it from you.
Second, I am an attorney, with no regrets about not practicing. Even when I was thinking about being an attorney, it was very entrepreneurial bent. My wife and I never talked about it, but she believed it would be something bigger than a big law firm job from day one. She believed in it as much as I did.
Thirdly, finding the right people is the most important thing you can do. We got really lucky and hired some great, core people from the beginning who got us to where we are today.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Hard work regularly beats out talent.”
“The fourth paragraph in your email sucks; pick up the phone.”
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast as that” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
One of the hardest times was when we were fundraising. A venture firm cut our valuation in half and asked us to sign, but we walked away because we believed in ourselves and that our company was worth much more. Eight months later, we were worth 15x the valuation. This was around five years in. The lesson we learned, and have always stuck with, is that when you believe in yourself, you can’t be disillusioned by those who don’t.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
We’ve had a lot of challenges over the past ten years. When you’re growing, it means you’re doing something well, and it allows you to keep growing. But what you’re good at today may not be as important in a year or two from now. The CEO I am today wouldn’t have been effective two years ago, and won’t be effective two years from now.
Remember that there will be enough naysayers around when you start your business. Make sure you have a core group of people around you who will support your idea.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1. Hard work is a great equalizer. Work harder than you could ever imagine working. Someone else might have more money, more employees, or might be smarter, but if you work harder than everyone else in the room, you’ll succeed.
2. You are the only barrier to success. When I was growing up, I assumed I’d be really successful. At the same time, I operated with a sense of paranoia about doing the wrong things that would cause a company to fail. I was ultra-cautious about doing the right things and believed wholeheartedly that if I did these things, I would be successful.
3. Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. Don’t pop the champagne bottles and congratulate yourself. It’s too easy to get complacent with success.
4. Get good, and fast, at recognizing when things go wrong. Analyze what happened, then go back to the drawing board and ask why you made the mistake. We have a post-mortem on anything and everything. The most important thing you can do is figure out, “How can we never make this mistake again?” And when we win a big deal, we do the same thing.
5. Know that every company, even those that make what they do look easy, is a bit chaotic and frenzied. You’ll always be putting out fires and whacking moles.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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