Growth is a Team Sport

Adam Breckler
Jul 28, 2014 · 5 min read

A startup has one primary goal above all others.

That goal is to grow.

If the startup doesn’t grow, it isn’t able to command the resources and momentum necessary to effect the change that it seeks to in-act upon customers and build a meaningful company for the long-term.

If it doesn’t grow fast enough, in-spite of success it might have, it is at risk of ceasing to exist entirely.

Whose responsibility is Growth anyways?

Growth is not the sole responsibility of the executive team. Growth is not the job of the Product team. Growth is not the job of the the Marketing Team. Growth is not the job of the Operations Team. Growth is not the job of the Sales Team. Growth is not the job of the Customer Support Team. Growth is not the job of a specialized Growth team.

After closely following the growth of 10 of the world’s fastest growing startups, Morgan Brown came to a similar conclusion:

In the best growth organizations, sales and marketing aren’t firewalled from product, and engineering doesn’t consider marketing efforts spam. All of these teams work together to unlock growth and tap into these massive opportunities. — via @morganb

Doing things that Anticipate Growth vs things that Manufacture Growth Today

Swiss Skye Ride

Most initiatives and activities can be broken down into two buckets. Those that can generate growth directly and those that anticipate growth and make processes smoother / less painful for people inside the company. These are not the same thing, and one of these necessarily should come before the other. This concept extends out to who gets hired and what roles new employees are asked to play.

It’s important to distinguish between these two types of different approaches in context.

An example would be: Building out a product feature that anticipates scaling a certain process needed at 5,000 customers when the company only has 1,000 customers today.

This type of investment made in anticipation of growth is not well placed if the feature in of itself doesn’t catalyze growth in the short run. The reason is simply because if the feature doesn’t directly lead to growth in the short-run, the company may never get to the point where it is useful at scale.

Growth is not a hack

A Brain of two Halves — Tim Easley

Growth is about constant and continuous improvement.

Growth is half art and half science.

Sustainable growth is not achieved through a single ingenious hack, but instead through small compounding actions that are taken on a ongoing basis. Growth for growth’s sake is not the goal here.

Sustainable growth is all that matters. The reason why is because growth compounds over time to reveal its full effects.

This is why it is so important to balance a culture of testing with a culture of day-to-day execution where ideally the insights generated from the tests are fueling the daily task-oriented progress being made to move the ball forward.

There is no hard and fast formula for this, but as a rule of thumb a 20/80 split seems to strike a healthy balance.

This is also described as a classic ‘barbel’ strategy in investing. It is explained as follows.

Put your eggs in two baskets. One basket holds extremely safe investments, while the other holds nothing but leverage and speculation.

This same concept applies in the context of discovering new growth channels.

Growth is hard to grasp hold of

As it turns out, we as human beings have a hard time understanding how compounding growth works. Even small changes compound in big ways to fuel growth in surprising ways.

Example: By fully or partially automating or outsourcing a daily task that takes 30 minutes every day, you can free up 10 hours a month to be able to spend on other growth-driving initiatives. Constantly finding ways to save another 30 minutes every day can leads to even greater gains in the future and so on.

Growth is created by applying leverage

Leveraging Technology — Giulia Forsythe

Unlike financial leverage, high leverage activities that lead to growth have very little or limited downside.

Example of a High Leverage Activity: Spending 30 minutes writing down a detailed specification for a process that takes you 30 minutes every day that can be outsourced to someone on oDesk for $5/hr.

Example of a Low Leverage Activity: Continuing to work on improving your own efficiency for the same task or relying on a co-worker to do the same task that can be easily outsourced or automated.

Growth is not rocket science

Brad Rnner — Flickr

Simple back of the envelope math can usually suffice in acting as a filter for deciding wether a certain activity or plan should be undertaken that will impact growth.

“By doing X, we expect X amount of customers to use this feature X times a week that will result in them saving X minutes of time and buying X more with us in the future. “

Sometimes this kind of math is hard to estimate. Usually its not.

Some startups try and reduce this concept to the extreme by measuring only a single metric.

Industries like consulting have known for years that guesstimation is an important skill set and even select for it in their interview process.

Growth is a mindset

Just like in school, or at the gym, you must train your growth mindset like a muscle that needs to be developed.

In fact, there is plenty of research suggesting that developing a growth mindset is a key to accelerated learning and is a learned trait in it of itself.

So, what are you waiting for? Go out there and flex your growth muscle!

Thanks to Joe Cardillo.

    Adam Breckler

    Written by

    Internet Professional, Currently: Founder, Prism Labs ( Previously: Co-founder & VP Product @