Disrupting Revenue Operations with Tara Kinney

Tara Kinney is bringing a discipline of evidence-based marketing and sales growth to emerging companies. With a background in driving growth for established companies as well as consulting for dozens of MIT-launched startups, Tara helps startups in St. Louis accelerate revenue and realize their business potential with her company, Atomic Revenue.

Tara Kinney
Kinney, with her oldest daughter on a family trip to Tuscany.

Explain revenue operations for us a little bit.

It’s the integration of marketing operations, sales operations and customer success—all of the revenue drivers for your success. It’s an uncommon term that I redefined to unite these three emerging business disciplines.

Why should entrepreneurs, investors and customers care?

It’s of huge importance when your resources are limited—organizing people, processes and data to produce results and eliminate re-work—because it’s about scaling, adding value and growing more efficiently.

How do you focus on being evidence-driven while still staying relatable?

We focus on figuring out what really needs to be measured and we measure that, instead of trying to measure everything and suffering from analysis-paralysis. If you can measure the impact you have on a client, you’re on the right track.

You moved here from Boston—what’s similar and different about the two ecosystems?

Startup-wise, Boston has really developed the whole ecosystem as they’ve matured. St. Louis is still in some of the silos, not seeing how all the elements can work together. We need to eliminate duplication, let companies fail fast or succeed with support.

Tell us about the picture you sent for use with this story—where did you take it, what’s in the shot, what’s interesting to you about it?

My oldest daughter and I were walking along the beach in Tuscany and we climbed out onto an old rock breakwater by a well-preserved medieval castle to snap this selfie. The adventures we can stumble upon in everyday life are far too commonly overlooked by many, but I like to find them and seize the opportunity.

How, when and where do you do your best work?

At home, when everyone else is gone, pretty much any time of the day. I’ve been working from home since 2005, and I’ve learned that people distract me. Housework doesn’t distract me, but people do.

Beyond education, what prepared you for what you’re doing now?

When I was three, my parents found me at the neighbor’s house with a pocket of nickels and rocks. I’d figured out if I washed gravel, people would pay me a nickel for each piece.

Later in life I developed proposals for big infrastructure projects like bridges at the engineering firm I was at. I’ve grown to understand what motivates both individuals and governments to buy.

What’s something you just learned about that you’d like to spend more time exploring?

The loss of languages. Every day we’re losing more and more languages, like tribal languages. What happens to the bigger culture as we share fewer and fewer languages interests me.

What do you struggle with the most?

Sometimes I have to shut everything off and force myself away from more commitments, whether they are civic or business or just to my condo board.

What do most people not understand about what you do?

They don’t get the importance of the behind the scenes of operations more than the public-facing marketing and sales materials. Processes, educating the marketplace and aligning incentives are as important as the revenue model.

When you’re gone, what do you hope your contribution will have been?

I want my two daughters to learn and remember they can do anything they want to. If we’re not careful as parents, we can treat them as employees instead of entrepreneurs.

We don’t have chore charts with a payoff for each chore. We reward them when they see a problem and jump in to solve it.

What do you do for fun?

I travel and I cook. I love to explore, so I want to go places I haven’t been. We took our three and six year-old to Istanbul and Tuscany this summer. I’m more of a doer than a relaxer.

What current problem would you like to solve?

Helping people understand the perspectives of others. Finding all of the stakeholders and giving them voices is how something grows—an industry has to evolve to accommodate everybody.

I have two drone businesses, for example, and we’ve identified 18 opportunities for space management to allow commercial drones to operate. Long term, just like people before us figured out mineral rights, we have to figure out flyover rights.

Who else’s work do you admire and why?

Lots of people here know Jim Eberlin, founder of TopOpps. He also founded Gainsight, which is a pioneer in customer success for much bigger companies than the startups we serve.

Gainsight is huge in Silicon Valley for the success they’ve helped tech companies achieve. I see us as helping right-size those ideas to grow companies, basically getting startups ready to use those kinds of tools.

How can people follow you (twitter, blog, events, etc.)?

@AtomicResults on Twitter or on LinkedIn. I’m around major startup events, too.