Business Profile | Scott Palmer

July 2017 View more

Four years ago, Scott Palmer knew a few things about competitive athletics from his days as a college football player and quite a bit about streamlining processes and operations from his consulting work for a variety of startup companies. But it wasn’t until the North Central College grad put those two pieces of his past together that things really started bouncing.

These days, the thirty-two-year-old Naperville resident heads up operations for Spikeball, the rapidly growing company that sells the game sets and promotes the competitions that have helped make this backyard ball-and-net pastime a serious —and seriously fun—contender for this summer’s go-to beach activity. If you haven’t already seen a group of teens or young adults flying around a Spikeball net, you probably haven’t gotten out enough.

What made you want to work at Spikeball?
I was working with a lot of startups at the time, and although I liked the startup mindset, I didn’t like what I had seen in terms of volatile work environments. The twenty-four/seven, all-in philosophy just didn’t seem healthy. It’s great to be committed to an idea, but it shouldn’t take over your life. So I walked away from those experiences with a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be a boss like the bosses I had seen, and I would never create such an angst-ridden work environment. I knew that wherever I went next, it was never going to be that way.

I also kind of missed the feeling of competition that athletics gives you. So I was looking for something that might be able to tie me back to sports, and I wanted to find a company where I would be as passionate and excited as a customer as I would be if I worked there.

When Chris (CEO Chris Ruder) and I started talking about doing this, he encouraged me to come out and play Spikeball—which I had never played or even heard of—and I was totally hooked. Going to work there gave me back that competitive aspect and that connection to sports that I had missed.     

What are your responsibilities at the company?
Back when I came in, we were processing inventory one way and processing orders another way—there were just a lot of different things being used and a lot of information being thrown all over the place. My goal has been to bring everything together onto just a couple of different platforms and put new business processes in place for how we interact with customers, deal with inventory and ship out orders.

What have been some of the biggest challenges in this phase of the company’s growth and development?
The biggest challenge has just been trying to keep up with the crazy growth we’ve seen. Some companies get excited about ten or twenty percent year-over-year growth, but we’ve been growing at 100 percent every year since I’ve been here. When you grow that fast you implement a system or process or piece of software and it’s obsolete within three months.

So we have no time to be stagnant—we always have to challenge the status quo and reinvent how our processes work in order to keep up with that growth. Most businesses and platforms simply don’t scale at the rate we need to, and that can be frustrating for some people.

What are you looking forward to for Spikeball on the horizon?
We’re really excited about the growth of the sport, not only in the US but internationally as well. Our growth has allowed us to go from focusing on the physical Spikeball set as the product, to now focusing on the company as the product. In doing so, we’re able to really hone in on our people and our systems and our mentality as a company.

A Vicious Circle
Spikeball—described by the company as “kinda sorta like volleyball and foursquare but on steroids”—sells for $53 to $99 (depending on the set) and can be purchased through local and online retailers. Readers interested in tournament play can visit