Kristina McCoobery launched INVNT in 2008 – at the height of the global recession – as she recognized there was an inherent need to offer clients an alternative to the existing agency model. The events industry had become a little uninventive, and she wanted to shake it up with a new kind of agency model, attitude, culture, and results-driven approach to live brand storytelling.Fast forward to 2015 and INVNT was acquired by Time Inc. – an amazing achievement given the agency opened its doors just seven years earlier – and she and her fellow co-founder [INVNT GROUP] President and CEO, Scott Cullather bought the business back again in 2017.
Today the wholly independent agency employs 100+ ‘INVNTrs’ across eight offices – their NYC HQ, London, Sydney, Singapore, San Francisco, Stockholm, Detroit, and Washington DC – and works with clients including Samsung, Netflix, GMC, Subway, Genesis, Adobe, SAP, and Xero. In 2019 the agency recorded revenues of $66M, and Kristina continues to manage key client accounts today.
What motivated you to start a company in the first place? How did you get inspired to shape your career within experiential marketing?
In 2008 when I co-founded INVNT with my husband, Scott Cullather, it was the height of our last global recession. During that time, we felt there was a certain uninventiveness that had fallen on our previous agency and the industry at large. Despite the volatile economic landscape, we launched INVNT because we believed there was a smarter, better, faster way to design and execute experiential programs for our clients and customers. Now, 12 years later, INVNT operates across eight offices in five countries, across four continents, and we work for many of the biggest brands in the world.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I have two pieces of advice. First, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When Scott and I first started INVNT we reached out to the smartest people we knew and asked them for their advice and guidance. You will be pleasantly surprised – people will want to help you succeed. Second, be patient and prepared, since it will take twice as long and be twice as difficult as you ever imagined.
What advice do you have for businesses to get through COVID-19?
Business leaders during times of crisis need to adopt what we call the ‘LennHill’ approach to leadership. It combines the loving, accepting, nurturing dreamer qualities of John Lennon with the brutal, reality-based, quick, and decisive decision-making of Winston Churchill. Successful leaders, especially during times of crisis, need to embody this approach.
What is your secret to being an effective director, in terms of managing the company culture and values you need to make the company successful?
Listen and learn. I have been in this business most of my adult life, and even now, as the co-founder and COO of one of the most successful agencies in our sector, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t truly learn something new, which allows me to be a better leader, day after day. The only way to do that is to actually stop and listen to those around you.
Any advice for entrepreneurs on moving beyond a failure?
Accept responsibility. To quote Tom Hank’s character in A League of Their Own, “there’s no crying in baseball.” You are going to make mistakes, you are going to fail, trip, and skin your knee. Pick yourself up and get back onto the field. There’s no crying in being an entrepreneur.
Why is experiential marketing important for every business?
Experiential marketing or live brand storytelling as we refer to it is critical for every business because it’s the only form of marketing where there isn’t a barrier between a brand or an organization and a consumer or customer. There is no screen, no page, no interruption between the brand or organization, and the heart, mind, body, and soul of their target audience. Therefore, it is the most potent form of marketing on the planet.
Busy start-up entrepreneurs have lots of demands on their time and are often pulled in lots of different directions, do you have any tips for effective time management and prioritization?
Yes, as harsh as this sounds and as difficult as it is for collaborative leaders, you need to learn to say no. There are simply far too many day-to-day demands that start-up entrepreneurs face. You need to understand your priorities, the things that must happen in order to succeed, and either delegate or let go of all of the others.
Name a piece of content that you’ve seen recently that you’ve loved.
I recently read Vanity Fair’s Women on Women that my niece Tayah gave me for Christmas. It’s one of the most inspiring and insightful collections of stories about women on top I have ever read.
Where do you get your inspiration from daily?
Meditating and Peloton. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t do one or both.
How do you stay motivated?
There are two things that keep me motivated. First, setting an example of what good looks like as a working mother, wife and entrepreneur for my daughter is something that keeps me super motivated. Second, knowing I am building a lasting legacy, hopefully for thousands of INVNTrs who will come after me, and allowing them to do the things I have done in my life is extremely motivating.