Click Rain announces new CEO

By Jodi Schwan

Click Rain founder Paul Ten Haken is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by vice president of sales and marketing Natalie Eisenberg.

Ten Haken, who started the Sioux Falls digital marketing firm in 2008, said he’s looking to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures and “to see what doors open once you become a free agent.”

He plans to step down as CEO on Sept. 5 and will serve as chair of a newly formed advisory board while continuing to represent the firm as it pursues new business and in community affairs.

“I think a lot of founders overstay their welcome,” he said. “Because they’re the founder, it’s assumed they should still be the CEO. I took the company from ‘A’ to ‘B’ … and I really enjoy the growing and startup phase, but I think it takes a different type of leader to take the company from ‘B’ to ‘C.’ ”

Eisenberg came to Click Rain in March 2016 from Lawrence & Schiller. She and Ten Haken met several years ago while collaborating on marketing for Sanford Health.

“I knew right away when Paul and I had our very first conversation about me coming on board that it was going to happen,” she said.

“I felt like this was meant to be. I remember telling a couple people I thought I could really add to the success, and over the last year and a half the dynamic of the team we’ve put together has strengthened.”

When Ten Haken told his partners earlier this year he was planning to step away as CEO by the end of 2017, they restructured some in preparation and vetted internal and external CEO candidates, he said.

“We all looked at each other as partners and unanimously agreed the next CEO is not in our existing partnership group,” he said. “We unanimously agreed Natalie was the best leader for our company. These conversations have the potential to fracture a company and create rifts, and we’ve had zero of that. There’s just been unanimity and consensus, which I’m so thankful for.”

Building a business

When Ten Haken left Sanford to start Click Rain in 2008, the firm became the first locally to focus solely on online marketing.

He remembers creating a MySpace page for a political campaign because “Facebook wasn’t a thing yet.”

“I saw the trend happening, and I didn’t get a good feel for anybody in the market that was doing this,” he said.

The Great Recession turned out to be a solid time to start his business, as companies cut marketing budgets and focused on mediums that could quantify reach.

Avera was his first major client and continues to be one today.

“They’ve been an amazing partner,” Ten Haken said.

Regency Hotel Management also is a longtime local client. In recent years, though, business has expanded to larger companies in other markets. Click Rain is one of several agencies that supports Iowa-based Wells Blue Bunny and recently helped relaunch Pizza Ranch’s website.

“With that level of client … the demand is higher,” Ten Haken said. “They demand an experienced agency level of product and service, not so much a startup, so that’s where we’ve moved in our mentality. We’re proven. We’ve done this before. And we’re going to continue to deliver.”

As the number of companies offering digital marketing services has ballooned, “it pushes us to be more and more innovative,” Ten Haken said. “How do you continue to push the envelope with tools and strategies they didn’t know were at their disposal?”

That’s largely what’s behind the firm’s recent focus on promoting its marketing technology.

“What we deliver is just deeper. It’s more technical,” Eisenberg said. “It’s starting to narrow the gap between marketing and IT and in some cases operations and sales. It’s not just marketing anymore. It’s technologies that tie businesses together in a really smart and efficient way.”

What’s next

Click Rain has grown to 35 employees and will introduce a c-suite level of executives with its CEO change.

“As we keep growing, we’re going to need people with titles that carry weight and give credibility when you’re working with larger clients,” Ten Haken said.

The Click Rain executive team

The executive team will include:

  •  Eric Ellefson, partner and chief operations officer.
  •  James Krueger, partner and chief marketing officer.
  •  Chris Prendergast, partner and chief strategy officer.
  •  Carissa Schoffelman, vice president of administration.

Schoffelman’s position is new and will help focus on retaining the Click Rain culture, which Ten Haken describes as faith, family and work.

“Carissa has an amazing heart for the culture we’ve built,” he said. “Her being at the big table will help champion that.”

As for Ten Haken, who will turn 40 in November, the future is a fairly open slate.

While he considered a Sioux Falls mayoral run, he will not be on the ballot.

“It still is appealing,” he said. “But it’s not why this is happening.”

He chairs the board of the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship and said he looks forward to getting back to growing businesses. His passions of entrepreneurship, faith in the workplace and his nonprofit mission program, The Dispatch Project, likely will guide his future decisions, he said.

He points to a book, “Halftime,” for helping him realize it was time to move on.

“The tagline is ‘Moving from Success to Significance,’ ” he said. “So you can call it midlife crisis, but it’s not. It’s halftime. It’s (figuring out): What does the second half look like?”

Want to stay in the know?

Get our free business news delivered to your inbox.

Click Rain announces new CEO

Click Rain founder Paul Ten Haken is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by vice president of sales and marketing Natalie Eisenberg.

News Tip

Have a business news item to share with us?

Scroll to top