I strongly recommend Paul Graham’s Growth in its entirety. It highlights the phase every startup goes through whether inside a larger organization or an independent entity: The only essential thing is growth.
As it turns out, the tactics for what got us here are not the tactics to get us there.
We’re competing against ourselves without a signal other than “launched” or “not launched.”
We’re competing against ourselves with a signal as to what our metrics are week over week.
Post-launch is a highly competitive time period even more so than the period leading up to launch. In this end, it’s a bit like curling. With launch, we’ve slid our rocks toward the target area, and this is where the real activity begins with us collectively sweeping the path to influence our ability to succeed with both this rock and the ones to follow.
Growth is a problem of a different kind to launch. We have clear metrics and week over week signal as to how well we’re doing towards that goal. As a team, our goal is to grow 10% week over week on core operating metrics. This is our defining metric for success.
We hit the metric == success. We miss the metric and failure for the week.
Tools for managing growth
To manage towards this outcome we need to set expectations as a team, our priority for any action should be the extent by which it helps us hit our weekly growth metric both now and in the future. If you find yourself fixing bugs that is eating up you and the team’s capacity to work on growth initiatives—then resolving the root cause is a probability.
The challenge is finding new ways to solve the root cause while finding an opportunity to hit the week’s growth numbers.
As a team there a few tools we’ll have to stay aligned.
- The Weekly growth report. A report that highlights your funnel and everyone can analyze and interpret how we’re doing.
- The Weekly Recap. With each report, the recap is the high level points on how well we’re doing and whether the key approaches from the prior week had the desired impact. This also includes the hit list of critical issues impacting our success.
- Weekly Performance huddle. A discussion with the entire working team to discuss the weekly recap, discuss implication for priorities and declare the tactics we’ll take to drive to this week’s growth.
- The 90 day leverage roadmap. What are the set of tactics and activities looking forward over a three month period we expect to explore in to drive week over week growth. This is effectively a hypothesis road map.
With these tools, it’s important for us to have the same context.
Our job is growth. This is a mind shift for most teams. We plan our work, but our success isn’t measured in points delivered, but in our ability to hit our weekly priorities. If we deliver on our weekly metrics with zero features launched that’s a great week, if we miss our weekly metrics with lots of features launched, it’s a signal we bet on the wrong activities.
Growth is our vc fund. Growth requires more team members, more support to explore new opportunities, more happy hours and more opportunities to celebrate success. Growth is both our social capital and financial capital for future investment. When we manage for growth we’re building our own virtuous cycle for resources and support needed to fund the next round of growth.
When you need more capital without growth, you inherit not just additional capital but active capital which requires its own set of overhead to manage. By managing towards growth, the team closest to the problem writes the playbook.
Operating assumption is that we’re wrong. Every system and feature we build may be torn down in a month or two weeks’ time. We need to be prepared to double down and fortify approaches and systems that work, and be prepared to replace systems as soon as we have a better approach.
Whether it’s switching API providers, combining APIs in diverse ways, competing external APIs against internal solutions. A problem solved today has strong value, but should be incorporated under the expectation that it will be replaced with something better and that no part of our system has permission to waste our time maintaining it. A delicate balance—but a balance that’s easier to maintain when our job is growth.
Adjust course as soon as agreed. In usability testing, there is an approach called the RITE method (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation). “Central to the RITE method is the notion that as few as one participant can complete a usability test session; problems are identified and fixed, and then another participant completes the same tasks with the updated system”… the focus is on identifying issues as early as possible, huddling as a team to develop an approach to the problem, and intervening with a solution as early as possible.
The rite method is inherent to operating a business. When it’s clear an approach won’t provide the growth outcomes desired, we intervene, resolve and place our new bet. Our job is to deliver outcomes of growth and as a team we need to rally towards this goal and continue to adjust priorities to achieve this outcome.
Weekly growth is good growth, big bang growth is not sustainable. It’s not valuable to drive 50% growth in a single week after three misses, then it is to drive 10% growth in four consecutive weeks (no your math isn’t wrong, 50% growth over four weeks is a higher value than 10% compounded over four weeks). When you aim for initiatives that drive big growth in each week you’re betting on high risk high reward initiatives. You’re in decent shape when that works, but your goal is shot when one of your big bets turns out to be a dud.
By focusing on targeted weekly goals we’re forced to truly learn through small initiatives which levers work as opposed to making big bets on unproven levers and eating up our timeline for success.