Growth · Growth hacking

What’s the right structure for a growth team?


April 6th, 2015

I’m advising a company that is  ready to build a growth team - yes, they have product/market fit. I wonder what are the key functional areas (marketing, engineering, analyst, etc,.) that should be part of a growth team? And how should it be structured in terms of reporting, etc?

Bill Kelley

April 6th, 2015

It really depends on a constellation of factors. If you are planning on pursuing investment, there's a traditional structure most angels/VCs want to see. If the product has a small number of customers/large margin, you need to swing the team toward sales/customer relations. If it's a large number of customers/small margins, you need to swing toward marketing. If the product is unique in its niche, you need a smaller dev team than if it is in a crowded market. 

You need to cover all the functional areas, but your choice of who provides input on an internal vs. external basis is subject to the company's product attributes and market landscape. 

You also need to shape the team around the strengths and weaknesses of founders. At Apple, the first person to have the title of president was an operations/production person because other key bases were covered, and the founders recognized that their Achilles heel was the experience of managing the shift from product development to building product in quantity and getting it out the door. 

By design and due to the availability of key players, the early structure is rarely correct for a more mature company, so plan to reassess functions and team members in 18-24 months. This shift in team mix is one many startups recognize and acknowledge by setting up stock/option/warrants to fully vest quickly.   

Norman Liang Building growth for consumer mobile products and services

April 7th, 2015

I suggest three members at least. Someone focused on the channels(marketing campaigns, creative), an engineer who can focus on the infrastructure (tracking/analytics), and an analyst (reporting/operations) who can focus on the reports. It depends also on the focus and type of channels. I usually suggest starting with free vs. paid channels and setting targets up. It should report to either the CMO or the COO. The analyst should be totally focused on knowing intra-day, daily, weekly, and monthly summaries by channel.

Arthur Veytsman Founder at Immerss, 6x Entrepreneur & Angel Investor. Building relationships with Angel Investors worldwide.

April 7th, 2015

@Lucas, @Bill nailed it.  I just want to add one suggestion.  I've built teams for 3 different companies at various stages and it was really hard to properly match personality of employee to the job until you actually try and see he/she will succeed or fail.  About 5 years ago I was introduced to this wonderful tool called Predictive Index.  It helps leadership to profile each employee separately and as a team and allows to match personality of the job to the employee pool.  The tool was developed by US military back in 60s and there is nothing like it on the market.  If you want to learn more I'll introduce you to my guy. 

Rob G

April 6th, 2015

what market are they going after (consumer, SMB, enterprise)? What are they building (in general) - SaaS, mobile app, hardware, ??? 

Stuart Long CEO - Progressive Leader & Growth Catalyst

April 8th, 2015

Not understanding the size of the company or direction it's next to impossible to give the right structure. Yet confluences that should intersect is a role who can code/develop/test and/or assemble the minimum number of resources to build a quality product. Equally important is a role that mostly market facing and can truly capture the markets interest, demand, needs and desires and translate that that into a structure the development role can work synergistically with. After this you'll need a leader that see's the playing field and has a strong financial background and if not, then a financial advisor. At least these at a minimum. Depending on the market, either expertise in channel development OR direct sales would be expertise in your direct channels via sales and any type of electronic commerce. Dependent upon financial sources, I'm a fan of boot strapping and keeping dilution to a minimum. This requires a group of people that enjoy working together in complex and demanding situations without ego and incented in a plan towards the growth of the company.

Julien Fruchier Founder at Republic of Change

April 8th, 2015

Bill nailed it. Especially when he says "It really depends on a constellation of factors."

"If you are planning on pursuing investment, there's a traditional structure most angels/VCs want to see." I'd like to understand what that looks like from you perspective. Can you expand on this please?

Paula Malady Principal Consultant at CRT Management Consulting

April 8th, 2015

I agree with Bill - to be proactive you need to hire an operations, jack of all trades sort of person. Preferably someone who understands how to track progress, results and help project a future trajectory in real time.  Many entreprenuers usually search for people who are industry specific, or have worked for entrenched coprorations;  I believe this does not provide your special genius the platform to be truly innovative both structurally and technically. Someone with enough breadth and experience that can be considered, adapted and applied to your vision which will leverage what is truly unique in a practical, long term way.

Scot Gensler Strategic Operations & Business Development Executive

April 8th, 2015

I think @Paula adds a thoughtful dimension to the answer. To expand on it, and complement @Bill's comments above, key question is how much of your go to market strategy you have fleshed out. 

Do you already know whether you want to close 20 huge deals in the next year or 1000 small ones, the vertical(s) you're targeting, how you're pricing, whether customer signup is automated online vs. complicated outside sales, proposals, contracts and implementations, etc.? 

If the answer to most or all of that is not so much, then I'd want to bring in a senior, highly entrepreneurial exec (Co-founder/CXO-type) that's dangerous enough across all of it to help you figure it out. That person can help you decide the makeup of the next handful of hires and chart a realistic path to getting there. If on the other hand, you have a lot of that nailed already, then you hire people that have proven the ability to both thrive in a startup environment and execute against the specific realities you've identified.

Michelle Judson Owner and CEO at Changewear Inc.

April 8th, 2015

Thank you for this discussion.
I would agree that there needs to be at least three people in key positions.

 I am currently the only person starting my company. I have done all pieces of the company. Patent and intellectual property, marketing, R&D, design, production, sourcing, raising capital and even crowd funding. It is a lot. 

 The problem I see is to take on each piece of the company requires being in 100%.  To be pulled in different directions not only weakens the other parts that need to continue to move forward, but also there is not the laser focus that needs to be there at all times. 

I am actively looking for co-founders at this time for these reasons. Having a team that can each take a part of a critical phase like like marketing/sales, creative director/manufacturing and fiscal/analyst is fundamental.  

Norman Liang Building growth for consumer mobile products and services

April 9th, 2015

@Lucas the main factor here should be the type of investor. The structure and people doesn't matter as much as the goals and targets. In general I would argue to have at least a consultant come in to design a plan for profitable growth that balances out free and paid channels for new users. Note that my experience comes from consumer, social applications distributed on Internet and mobile. Other industries and investors might not understand the term "growth" so I would focus on a more traditional name of operations and marketing.