A Growth Practitioner’s First 90-day Plan

Find and Transit into Your Next Growth Role Successfully

Photo credit: flickr

When I joined my current company Acorns in September 2016, I came with a plan.

As the first person in the team dedicated to user retention, I viewed myself as the first Product Manager of “Growth”, a new role many fast-growing startups such as Uber and Airbnb have adopted to drive growth.

As I do with any previous jobs, I am eager to contribute and learn. But this time, I also tasked myself of something both challenging and exciting:

My goal for the first 90 days is to take the initiative to establish an growth experimentation process, promote a growth culture, and demonstrate enough results to get buy-in from the organization.

December 1st, 2016 marks the completion of my first 90 days. In those 90 days, by working with an amazingly talented team of engineers, designers, analysts, and marketers, we identified critical growth opportunities, launched multiple experiments across user journey, and significantly improved some key metrics. What I feel most happy about is that the team is now excited about growth experiments and want to do more.

Reflecting back, I think the most important success factors are extremely supportive executives and a very open-minded and collaborative team. Without these, even the most perfect plan wouldn’t work. But I also like to think the first 90-day plan I created prior to the job also helped.

So in this post, I would like to share it with you all.


Why does a growth person need a first 90-day plan?

The idea of a first 90-day plan came from when I work as Product Manager, Growth at GrowthHackers.com.

GrowthHackers.com is a leading growth community, where I fell in love with the discipline of “growth” and practiced it day in and day out along with an incredible team including Sean Ellis , Jason Meresman and Anuj Adhiya. From that experience, I became a firm believer of the “growth evolution” which brings traditionally siloed marketing and product teams together and takes a much more holistic and focused approach to achieve growth, through fast experiments and testing.

But because this discipline is still new, in the community and through personal conversations, I also witnessed all kinds of struggles from the growth practitioners:

  • Former marketers or PMs don’t know where to start on their new “growth” role;
  • Professionals who want to adopt the growth best practices in their organization feel a lot of resistance;
  • Newly started growth practitioners get a lot of pressure when the initial progress is slow ;
  • Or even worse, some people joined a company and only find out that the culture is not fully supportive of the idea of “experimentation” and “growth”, and got stuck in a tough position.

So I say to myself, why not use my new adventure as an opportunity to explore a way to help growth practitioners with transitions and new beginnings?

I want to develop a hypothesis of which kind of company is ready to hire a growth role and what activities a growth practitioner should focus on in their first 90 days to maximize the chance of success, then form a plan to follow through, collect as much information as possible along the way, and finally, compare my result with my assumptions and learn from it.

So I am using the methodology of “growth” to approach this project. Why not? Life, after all, is one big experiment :)

Photo credit: Internet

The First 90-Day Starts Before your 1st Day

Preparation for your first 90 days should start prior to your 1st day in your new growth role, in fact, it should start before your first interview with the hiring company.

Why? Because you need to make sure you find the right company first, and you want to learn a lot about it. Otherwise, your first 90-day plan wouldn’t matter. You can do this by using the Interview Checklist and the Learning Plan.

  1. The Interview Checklist

The interview checklist is aimed to ensure you do the due-diligence on the employer to maximize your chance of finding fit and success in your new growth role.

Admit it, we all ask questions such as “What’s the culture like in this company?” during an interview, but we take the answers very casually. That’s a big risk for a growth person. Because the discipline is so new, employers could have a wrong expectation or don’t know what it takes.

You really should take the opportunity to interview the employer: meet all the key stakeholders, and ask very specific and hard questions.

The Interview checklist looks like this, you can download a copy here

After asking the questions on this list, you should be able to understand questions like:

  • Does the management team have correct understanding and expectation for “growth”?
  • Is the organization is ready to welcome this new growth team or role?
  • Will you will have the right resources to support you?
  • Do you have the right skill set to help grow the company?

Some warning signs you should look for in the conversations:

  • Unrealistic expectation: for example, the growth person will bring guaranteed free viral growth, or numbers will jump magically without spending engineer hours
  • Any indicator that functional teams are very siloed and are not welcoming the idea of cross-functional collaboration
  • The growth person has no access to engineering resources and there is no plan to make that happen in the near future
  • Unclear internal goals and metrics, lack of savviness needed to embrace a data-driven experimentation process
  • The company’s current growth focus and core driver is not in your area of strength (this is not an absolute requirement, but a better alignment will increase your chance of success)

The Greylock Partners has published a great article around this, which you can check out here.


2. The Learning Plan

The learning plan is aimed to help you think strategically about what to learn and learn as much as possible about the company, both before you start and shortly after you join. It will ultimately become your important “background information folder” to help you navigate through your first 90 days.

I stole this idea from the book “The First 90 Days”. It pointed out that:

Many people failed in their career transition, not because of their lack of capability, but because of their failure to learn, and mostly, their failure to plan to learn, which is to figure out in advance what are the important questions to ask and how to best answer them. “

They jump too fast to take actions without collecting enough information to make a right assessment of the situation. That is a costly mistake for any career, but especially so for a growth person. Because growth is by nature result-driven, failure to learn will lead to lack of result, which leads to loss of trust and makes everything 10 times harder.

My Learning Plan consists of three parts: the past, the present, and the future. It covers the main areas you should know as a Growth Practitioner, but you are encouraged to tweak it as needed because every company and every role are different.

The Learning Plan looks like this, you can download a copy here

Remember the goal of the learning plan is not to find all answers immediately, but to identify all the critical questions to ask. But once you have your Learning Plan ready, you can begin to fill in the blanks via internet search, the questions you asked during the interview and from the informational meetings with teams after your start.


Summary

Quick recap, in this post, we talked about:

  1. My personal story of using a first 90-day plan to transit into a new growth role

2. Why every growth person needs a first 90 day plan?

3. Your first 90 days start prior to your 1st day, and you can use the Interview Checklist and the Learning Plan to navigate through this period of time

I know what you want to ask, where is the “First 90-Day Plan” then? Don’t worry, Part 2. It is another long and informative post with a detailed plan for you to follow in your 1st week, 1st month, and 1st quarter, to maximize your chance of success in a new growth role.

Finally, if you like this post, click the Heart to recommend it so more people can see it. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Linkedin to see more content.

Update: Check out Part 2 of this post “A How-To Plan for a Growth Practitioner’s First 90 Days” . It is published via StartupGrind publication, and contains a detailed plan for what to focus on in your first week, month and quarter in a new growth role, enjoy!