When you’re trying to grow your business, you can never delegate it to one person and hope to succeed -- growth is a competency that must be baked into the DNA of the company. It has to matter to everyone to really work.
This is where most organizations get it wrong. They relegate the responsibility to grow to an individual or perhaps a small team. Larger companies put the onus on sales and marketing. But in most cases, growth is seen as the provenience of a select few, and not core across job functions, roles, titles and departments.
This organizational mindset is the critical difference between breakout startup hits such as AirBnB and Uber and the rest of the world. After years of working with companies such as Dropbox, Eventbrite and Lookout, as well as studying today’s fastest growing companies, I’ve learned that this type of success does not come from a single person or team. The companies that win big are those that believe that everything they do is to support and drive growth.
Finding the right growth. There are two types of growth: sustainable and unsustainable. Unsustainable growth is simply viral growth for growth’s sake. It’s the one-off hits that are nothing more than flashes in the pan. When your company gets a surge of traffic to your website, or a video that strikes a nerve, it’s no doubt exciting, but these hits rarely create any lasting value. While viral stunts can catch fire quickly, they typically flame out in similarly spectacular fashion.
We need to change the way we think about marketing and growth in order to create more value from it. Sustainable growth should be measured not by page views and email signups, but rather by how much value we deliver to how many people. This is the metric that successful companies care about. Everything else follows.
When thought about in this way, it’s easier to see that growth is not the responsibility of any one person, but rather a company-wide imperative. Dropbox and Upworthy are built on this core belief -- every person at those companies understands that the goal is to deliver value to as many people as possible. Mass is the mission. Dropbox doesn’t rely on a mythical "growth hacker," and Upworthy has a growth obsession across their business. Both organizations are focused on delivering value in their entirety.
Becoming a high-growth organization. Unfortunately, companies can’t simply wake up one morning and decide that they’re a high-growth organization. It’s a process. If your company is thinking about hiring a “growth hacker” or building a growth team, you’re headed in the right direction. But don’t fall victim to the mirage of the lone wolf who is going to save the day.
Instead, use new hires as the first step toward building your company’s unique growth engine. Encourage people to think like growth hackers, no matter the department. Try new ideas, run experiments, see what works. If you have a team focused on growth, how do you get everyone playing for the same side? Eliminating internal blockers to growth from naysayers is job one at this stage. And if you’re emerging into a world-class growth organization? Focus on the one metric that really matters -- value delivered.
When done right, growth is inclusive, not exclusive, and the companies that find lasting success are those that get everyone focused on creating and delivering value to their customers in a scalable and repeatable process.