Marie Klok Crump – Partner of DATUM

Anticipate. I keep an open mind about what will come next but I strive to anticipate the potential next scenarios. That way, you can react to reality much faster and with more confidence.

Marie Klok Crump has played instrumental leadership roles for companies in the process of productizing information management services into software solutions; formulating and forging strategic alliances with major software companies like SAP; developing communications strategies and formal relations with analyst organizations; and leading sales territories for software license sales in the consumer products and high-tech industry verticals.

At DATUM, Marie provides the leadership, management, and vision necessary to ensure the company has the proper brand identity, strategic alliances, operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures, and people systems in place to effectively grow the organization and to ensure financial strength and operating efficiency.

Outside of the office, Marie enjoys competitive sailing and outdoor activities. Marie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economy and Management from Aarhus School of Business and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and International Marketing & Management from the Copenhagen Business School.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

It likely starts early and ends late. It has a good blend of standing meetings throughout the week as part of the overall alignment that affects how we operate as an organization. I also work on a selection of projects that are focused on the strategic growth of the company, which can vary from partnership pursuits to leadership development of our internal team to more random acts (like brokering a private company concert with the Bacon Brothers).

When working on project-oriented topics, I try to reserve larger blocks of time in my schedule to allow for more in-depth research and collaboration in teams. For any regular and ad-hoc meetings, I try to make sure I have the information ahead of time. That way, I can spend time interrogating the data and coming up with the decision/next step instead of reviewing the information on the spot. I can review on my own, but if someone else feels a need to include me in a decision process, I would much rather spend my time addressing the matter with input from that person.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I observe a lot and try to listen for problem statements or general drivers for an issue. Once an idea forms, I ask qualifying questions of any individual that seem relevant to the matter or conduct research for the same purpose. This helps to validate my understanding and assumptions. Before “taking my idea to market,” I typically process the first “draft ideas” in my head and test it out in my mind by thin-slicing across the full life cycle of the idea to execution. If I feel the idea can survive the basic obstacles, I will offer it up for critique by others and share the potential weak points in the hope that someone else could be better at creatively solving that part.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

That communication and teamwork seem to be rising in the ranks of importance when considering criteria of what makes a successful student/graduate/professional.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I inquire about the “how” in everything I come across. I have a fairly practical approach to most things, and I wonder how this or that business creates revenue and profit. I guess you can say I do a lot of analysis on the fly. I don’t mind working hard but I typically try to do it in the smartest way to get more done.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

Every job I’ve had has taught me something, so it’s hard to say any one in particular was bad. My most boring job was as a kid in my parents’ clothing design and manufacturing company, taking the annual physical inventory of buttons, zippers, rolls of thread, and other small items you would otherwise consider bulk items. This was before electronic inventories and computer systems were widely common. It was literally a manual system of counting every single item, marking down the quantity, and leaving a note that clearly showed a category had been accounted for so the next person wouldn’t count it, too.

I took away a couple of valuable lessons: 1) As tempting as it was to just make a guess on the quantity and move on, I learned that small deviations and inaccuracies at the base level can have a big impact in aggregate; 2) Feeling satisfied by what you do is not always about how glamorous or fun the task is, but how well you apply yourself to the task you are given. I was bored out of my mind, so I would come up with all sorts of games to keep myself motivated, changing up my counting techniques and timing myself in intervals so I could then estimate how much longer that shelf unit would take, and so on. I approached it like a marathon — one mile at a time. 3) Working together as a team and understanding the roles of everyone involved makes for an efficient and successful outcome.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Clone the people I work with; scaling would be so much easier! In seriousness, I would try to hire the first team members earlier, although in reality, I think you will find that companies starting out in bootstrapping modes will always feel they can handle a little more on their own before stressing the operating capital of the company. That way, a new position is rarely created until there is a full-time need, and you are right on the edge of being behind on the hiring.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do repeatedly and recommend others do, too?

Anticipate. I keep an open mind about what will come next but I strive to anticipate the potential next scenarios. That way, you can react to reality much faster and with more confidence.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off of the bus. I typically joke that what we do is not much different than running a lemonade stand. Information management and data analytics is a bit more complex than that, but when it comes down to it, as long as your focus is on setting up shop with people you enjoy being around and keeping the customer at the center of what you do, the rest becomes much easier.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I don’t think you can be successful as an entrepreneur without failing a lot, but if I had to pick just one thing, I would say taking too long to recognize that asking for help or advice is not a bad thing. It is a tricky balance: You have to dare to go where others would say there is no potential; asking for help or guidance can disrupt that drive. A valuable lesson I learned was to “ask for advice from many, and act on few.”

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A can of whiteboard paint to turn my wall into a large canvas for ideas and collaborative creativity.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Our own Information Value Management platform has helped us articulate our internal business processes as we grow and adjust the organization for scale. It is a great visualization of complex business processes and related data standards and rules.

What is one book you recommend our community should read, and why?

“Likeonomics” by Rohit Bhargava. It makes everyone just a little more civil.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Marcus Lemonis
ii. @marcuslemonis
Malcolm Gladwell
iv. @gladwell
Jim Collins