Sitting pretty at the intersection of product development and marketing, a startup’s growth manager plays a key role in attracting, retaining, and upselling customers. But how to find just the right pro to guide your company’s growth strategy can be tricky. That’s because growth is a complex field involving both technical know-how, business acumen, and the ability to understand a customer base’s pain points and desires.
Speaking with Lenny Rachitsky on his eponymous Lenny’s Podcast, Adam Fishman — who drove product and growth for several big names including Lyft, Patreon, and Imperfect Foods and who now serves as program partner and executive in residence at Reforge while advising a number of other companies — laid out his Growth Competency Model, which is designed to help founders identify the specific skills they need when hiring growth leaders.
The Growth Competency Model includes 12 growth competencies, which Fishman divides into four quadrants:
Growth Execution, which includes channel fluency, experimentation, and productizing learnings. These competencies are crucial to a company’s ability to realize its long-term goals. As Fishman explains, these competencies guide a growth team in adapting not only a marketing plan but the product itself to a continuously shifting channel landscape.
“It’s important to find someone with a track record of understanding how to take something they have learned that might be an experiment or something that’s very MVP and turn that into something that has hooks in different areas of the product,” he said.
Customer Knowledge involves instrumentation and data; user psychology; and creative and narrative development. Fishman points out that being able to draw a deep understanding of customers and their motivations requires a deep knowledge of qualitative and quantitative data and the methods involved in extracting them, but there’s also a significant amount of soft skill because, at the end of the day, understanding consumers is a human endeavor.
“You learn by getting it very right or very wrong,” he said.
Growth Strategy is a company’s long-term plan for how it will grow, how it will invest in that growth, and how it will continue to evolve over time. The associated competencies are:
Communication and influence includes strategic communication, team leadership, and stakeholder management.
“Influence is one of the biggest and hardest skills to develop,” Fishman said. “It can be especially hard because people come in with preconceived notions about what growth is or isn’t. … You have to be aware that growth can be viewed as at odds with really thoughtful and quality craftsmanship and product building, but it’s not.”
When assessing a candidate, it’s important to take stock of the competencies most relevant to the company’s short- and long-term ambitions.
So, now that you know what you’re looking for, the next question is – where can you find a great growth leader? Fishman is a strong believer in looking internally to transition high performers into this type of role. Those from marketing backgrounds, thanks to their execution and customer knowledge skills, are often great candidates, as well as exceptional product managers.