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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

"Should I fire my VP of Growth?"

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

I was chatting with a dear friend who runs a startup. He was exasperated, "I gave him budget, tools, headcount. He's doing lots of stuff, but none of it is moving the needle. It's been more than a year."

"Before I answer," I responded, "let me ask you one question."

(It's hard to know if the problem is the employee, or the company. If it's the company, then switching the VP of Growth won't solve anything.)

My friend's company haven't found their "big growth levers" yet, it's slow going, and expensive. So I need to understand if they're on the path to figuring it out. Hence, my question:

"When something fails, how does that conversation go? Does he tell you what he learned? What he'll do differently next time? Is each misstep making you smarter and moving you closer to success?"

My friend looked down and shook his head. If the strategy you have isn't working, and nobody's learning from it... then it isn't magically going to start working.

Before you blame your VP of Growth

Look, it's nearly impossible to hire a successful Head of Growth before you figure out your growth playbook or at-least find one big (profitable) lever. Generic tactics like paid ads will only get you so far. It's tempting to try to hire somebody who will "figure it out" but that rarely works. Most of the time when VPs growth fail, they're not "set up for success" - meaning that they're in a no-win situation. Here's a few things you can do to set them up for success, or at-least make sure they're not doomed to fail:

  1. Remember, the goal is to find your big levers, not just pull the small ones harder.

  2. Marketing tactics alone are almost never a big lever. Levers inevitably cut across functions. Are your teams working together on this, or pulling in different directions?

  3. Big levers are seldom obvious, they come from specific unexpected customer insights. Is your team learning? How often do they challenge your strategy with new information about the market?

  4. Bullets before cannonballs - are you able to identify risky assumptions test big ideas quickly without spending a lot of money or engineering?

  5. Identify your rate-limiting step, and focus the entire team on it - is everyone focused on the most impactful work?

This all starts with learning - if the current strategy isn't working, and you're not learning... then it's down to hope, which is not a strategy.

What's the best way forward?

You could keep hiring, but that's going to cost another year and another million (salary, equity and budget). Or you could apply to our 10-week coaching program and we'll work together to find your big growth levers, pull them, and align everyone around the most impactful work, and get you learning.

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