We can’t imagine a more fitting way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to highlight the woman who guides us all here at Scratch. Lora Kratchounova is the Founder and Principal at Scratch Marketing + Media and has been leading the agency for over 12 years.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing some of our trusted female leaders to discover even more about their inspiring stories and valuable insights. We kicked off the month of March with our principal Lora to learn more about what it was like to pursue her journey of building a business, well, from “scratch.” So read on as Lora shares the challenges, rewards, lessons learned, and inspirations she has uncovered over the years.
Q: What motivated you to start your own firm? Did you always know you wanted to start your own firm?
A: No, I didn’t know I always wanted to start my own firm. The reason why I started Scratch, my “aha” moment, was when I realized that there weren’t really any marketing firms out there that would look at a challenge and think: “what are the right kind of marketing tools we flex in each unique situation?” There weren’t any firms that I knew of who could objectively look at a business opportunity and figure out how to best go about it.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect for you when starting your own firm?
A: I don’t think that there was just one challenge, but I think the world is changing so rapidly that you need to stay on top of what is working. Part of our mission is to be on the cutting edge of anything B2B marketing, and that requires a lot of time, commitment and resourcefulness. We have to make sure that we’re always competing with ourselves as a standard. Working with people who are self-starters and finding the makers, not just the doers, is not easy.
Q: How would you describe your management style? Was it difficult to figure out how you wanted to lead?
A: Yes, it was difficult to figure out, I try to lead by example and push people to go beyond their comfort zones, because only then do we discover things that are meaningful and go beyond the prescribed sandbox. I want people to say, “wow, that made me think,” and create a reaction to push them forward. It’s hard to determine how to be fair with people while recognizing and acknowledging them — being grateful in the moment can be challenging because, as the leader of a firm, you inevitably tend to focus on the risks and what could go wrong more than what is working well.
Q: What are some challenges you’ve faced throughout your leadership at Scratch?
A: It’s different when you’re one person, a three-people group, and when you are a 40+ people agency, so making sure everyone is on the same page can be very challenging. It’s important to have a shared understanding, vision, and set of principles when it comes to execution, as opposed to prescriptive direction. This is even challenging now that we are working remote, because things can be interpreted differently on the screen.
Q: What are some of your greatest achievements at Scratch?
A: We’ve been in business for 12 years now and survived the “small business test,” which is a great achievement in and of itself. We’ve built a great reputation as a strategy firm, which understands complex enterprise tech, cloud, quantum, blockchain, security and AI and now people come to us because we deeply understand and can navigate the space. Being strategic and knowing the business of our client is an amazing achievement. We’ve had so many successes as a company, even just this year with the rebrand efforts we’re leading for multiple companies. Seeing clients grow is phenomenal, and the success of the people on the team is also amazing — watching them flourish and achieve amazing outcomes.
Q: What lessons have you learned from your employees throughout your time as their boss?
A: I’ve learned many lessons throughout the years. One is that people have unlimited potential if they are willing to explore it — Scratchers continue to prove that they can go after big dreams and big ideas. I cannot stress the importance of empathy and listening enough. Being able to understand other people and what they are going through, their challenges and struggles, goes a long way to connecting with your own people and forming meaningful and lasting relationships with leaders on the client side. Providing constructive feedback is key, but over the years I’ve learned about the effect of pushing people too hard. We have a very open culture, so that feedback can go both ways. I’ve also learned that transparency is important so is being approachable when people need to reach out.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of being the leader of Scratch?
A: One of the most rewarding aspects is the ability to work with so many smart people across so many different industries. Often agencies tend to specialize, but at Scratch we can span the gamut of marketing and sales — we can talk product life cycle management, or how Peloton has built its platform; then switch to quantum; then to what’s next in DLT and confidential computing. It’s exceptional to tap into an amazing braintrust of people on our side and on the clients’ side that continuously grows. I find it almost intoxicating.
The most rewarding side of our job at Scratch, though, is seeing the results and outcomes when you really apply yourself to dissecting the complex challenges clients face and come up with lasting solutions . Seeing what a successful branding and rebranding effort can look like is extremely rewarding, along with being a part of a continuous journey of upwards momentum.
Q: If there was one thing you wish you knew when you were starting your business, what would it be? What advice would you give to anyone who aspires to lead their own business?
A: If you are starting a business, start it for the right reasons. You have to really be passionate about the business you’re building because that’s the only thing that truly matters. There are always challenges when building a business, but if you’re meant to do it and are truly excited and committed, you will persevere through them and feel satisfied at the end of the day.
If you look at most of the startup stories, the successful founders had one thing in common — a clear why. If you don’t believe in your why, you won’t see it through. There are rarely clear right or wrong ways to go about your why. There’s alternative routes to build a vision for a company, solution, or project, but if you don’t have the conviction and belief to stick to your vision, you won’t make it on the other end.
Ultimately, your passion is the true north star of how you explore the path of starting and developing your business.
Q: What inspires you?
A: The possibilities. If I can see something and what it could be, I feel like it’s my moral obligation to go after it. Once I see it — I can’t stop.
That’s what I try to keep in mind across the board. Even when it comes to people — if I see that they have these abilities and opportunities ahead of them, it’s a moral obligation to help them get there.
Q: Which leaders inspire you?
A: People like Elon Musk, and the CEO of Intel, Bob Swan. If you’re looking to become a leader, look for inspiration in the positive people — the people who are always showing up with energy to the challenge, and a can-do attitude. I’m inspired by people who are empathetic, but don’t confuse empathy as not providing productive feedback. Leaders need to be able to push people forward, but also provide constructive criticism to get them where they need to be.
Thank you Lora, for helping so many people — employees and clients, friends to colleagues — take flight over the years. We can’t wait to see you continue reaching new heights!Back to blog