Evan Rutchik / Founder & CEO of LocalFactor Posted on July 23, 2021
Evan Rutchik is the Founder and CEO of LocalFactorGroup. Built on the vision that advertisers and publishers can leverage a cookie-less proprietary data set generated from cross channel local content merged with data derived directly from users to deliver brand safe, privacy compliant campaigns to reach their consumers in exclusively premium inventory.
In addition to founding LocalFactor, Evan Rutchik manages an angel investment fund named RIII Ventures that is focused on funding innovative technology with the mission to improve the human experience on a local and global level, as well as co-manages the Evan and Kaylee Rutchik Foundation with various missions dear to he and his wife’s heart to support local businesses and development, education, and mental and physical health.
1. What do you like most about being a CRO?
Well, I’ve had two types of CRO roles. I’ve been the CRO that is actually a Head of Sales, and then I’ve been the CRO that is actually building a strategic system that drives revenue, instead of being, as you like to say “the best-dressed salesperson in the room” which takes away from the main objectives. And, honestly, I like both for different reasons. Being the head of sales type CRO keeps me in the game, meeting with clients regularly, and really having a grasp of the market. The early stages of the startups I have worked on are where I have been able to gather invaluable market knowledge and evolve our product and pitch to increase the acceptance rate and conversion rate of our product. But the dangers here are where you have a myopic view of the business, since you are so ingrained in the day-to-day action, and you can miss operational issues coming your way. This is where I like the “other” CRO role I held, where I was able to take myself out of the day-to-day, think through the business metrics and the organizational strategy of the department and overall business. Get ahead of problems by knowing the numbers, investing in the business, and having a grasp on where efficiency can be achieved and where you can’t be stingy. Both come with their own set of challenges and opportunities. Both require you to hire excellent people around you. Sellers that can bring in new relationships, customer success that can service and grow existing relationships, operations to string it all together, and FP&A to keep an eye on the business forecast.
2. What is it about building businesses that you enjoy the most?
The feeling that every deal you bring in matters to the company. Setting the pace and the culture of the business. The recruitment process and building diverse teams. Creating new job opportunities for people, and honestly, making people money. Nothing makes me happier than when someone I hired and trained proves to be a highly successful and contributing team member, and they take home a paycheck. I’ve seen people’s lives change in 1 quarter. Not to forget to mention the fun of building a business. It’s really fun. No one talks about that enough.
3. What best practices have you learned over the years?
- The people you hire will have the largest impact on the business, no question. Hire the right people with the right mentality and grit.
- Never forget where you came from and what matters is the human connection.
- Set people up for success with clearly established roles, responsibilities, objectives, key performance indicators.
- Establish the org design based on the strategy of the business, and hire into that design.
- Have a very clear and direct review process with the team, where feedback is open, honest, and continuous. That way there are never any surprises, everyone knows where they stand and what needs to happen in order to get better.
- Clear and obvious titles, promotions.
- Equity is nice to have, but it is a crapshoot, and really only benefits the earliest employees. Develop creative and alternative ways to incentivize the leadership team and rest of your employees on a more frequent basis, in a way that doesn’t require the company to be one of the 2% of companies that get acquired or go public for >$1B
- Never start a business without a proper plan in place and a seasoned Operations person by your side.
4. What are your core values?
Grit, Integrity, Humility, extreme ownership:
Come to work with integrity – follow through, mean what you say, and say what you mean. Have principles. Come with humility – ready to accept feedback from others, open to new or other peoples’ ideas, and be a team player, apologize quickly when you are wrong or have wronged. Come with GRIT – fight for the wins, dig in when it matters, roll up your sleeves and never give up. Accountability – extreme ownership. Bias towards action, own the responsibilities you are given, take credit for wins and losses, be there for each other, don’t let each other or yourself down.
5. As a leader, how do you develop a culture?
You determine first what kind of company you want to be. You embrace different types of people and ideals. You set the example at the top, for example, how do you want people to communicate with you? Then you communicate with them that way. How do you want them to treat clients? You show them the same respect you show internal people. I’ve seen too many examples of founders or CEOs saying “do as I say, not as I do” where they tell you they want you to be humble, but then they act the opposite. Follow through and be consistent. In no world is anyone perfect, however, recognize the imperfections and quickly own them, get better, learn from them, and move on. People want humans as leaders, and if you respect your people and live authentically, they will respect you and you will build the right culture for your business.
6. Why did you start your own company?
The world needed more adtech! Just kidding. I wanted to build a company from the ground up, to not only set the culture and grow an organization but to take the learnings from my past experiences and apply them to an entire company. Too often I see companies overcomplicate and overcharge clients for services or create processes that are just not necessary or unique.
Consumer privacy and consumer experience matter to me. CTV matters to me. Simple solutions that scale for marketers and publishers matter to me. And, Local media and business matter to me. I wanted to start something ground up, with a clear vision and mission, which in this case is to deliver simple and performant media executions for brands and publishers. I wanted to partner with the tech and platforms that also fit our mission, whether that is a new data source, a new inventory source, or a new and innovative creative format. There shouldn’t be unnecessary barriers. Keeping it simple is something my dad always drilled into my head at a young age.
7. What is the optimal org structure?
Well, I know what I learned from the CRO Collective course, and while I came in thinking something different, you convinced me. Having the Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and Yield Management/Operation team roll up to the CRO is the right organization. Having a VP of Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and Operations to run each sub-department is the best way to set a strategic vision at the excom level, and have it carried through at the day-to-day level. This creates the optimal level of communication, feedback, and teamwork – all reporting to the same C-level executive. In this structure, there is little cross-departmental frustration, delays, or politics. It still exists, but less. Just simple planning and execution. These VPs all need each other and must align to work together. Also, they are operating from the same budget.
The nuances of that will depend entirely on the type of business you are operating. For example, at LocalFactor, I would like to end up with two VPs of Sales since we have two distinct client bases: SMBs and Enterprises. This way they can focus primarily on their segment of the market and can set clear targets for themselves and their teams. I’ve seen regional structures for sales teams, I’ve seen vertical/industry alignment, and if your business is global or has multiple offices, you have to determine if you are centralizing or regionalizing different teams. Lot’s can happen. It’s just important to build for both your strategy and for the best service of your clients.
I’ve said it before, but here it is again, having a strong FP&A person on your team will make or break you. I’ve worked with people on all ends of the spectrum, and it’s night and day. This person is a business partner from the Finance team and works hand in hand with you and your VPs, while you as CRO work hand in hand with the CFO to be more strategic and know your teams are thinking ahead too.
Like anything, you have to be agile, think simple, and course-correct if something is not working.