It’s fun when the person who ran marketing at one of your rivals asks you some 20 years later to speak at their annual conference. It’s even more fun when it’s a fellow CMO-turned-CEO and he’s assembled quite an amazing group of people to address. I’m speaking of Brian Gentile managing director of 10X CEO, an accelerated learning environment for high-performing, venture-backed CEOs — or what I might simply call a CEO peer-networking, support, and learning group.
I’m familiar with several of these groups, know many CEOs who swear by them, and have tried a few myself. The core idea is simple:
- A lot of CEOs are first-time founders and could certainly use some help in doing their job. (Heck, first-timer or not, founder or not, it’s useful to have such a peer network.)
- The CEO job is indeed a lonely one — virtually everyone around you has an agenda of some sort, from the board to the e-staff to the rank-and-file employees.
- So it’s enormously helpful to meet with peers, outside the company, who are truly neutral when it comes to matters affecting your business.
- All the better if the organizational structure is individual peer groups that convene in an annual summit — and if they provide coaching and learning resources to boot.
I know at least a half-dozen members of 10X CEO and to a person they rate their experience highly. If you’re CEO of a fast-growing company that’s $10M+ in ARR, you might contact them to learn more.
Long story short, I was happy to hear from Brian and be invited to speak. The topic I spoke on was The Keys to Nailing and Scaling Go-To-Market. In my speech, we drill into two things:
My thoughts on scaling a startup in general:
- It’s about growth engines. The more, the better.
- It’s about people. Some jobs are harder to stay in than others as a company scales. Pay attention to that.
- And it’s about abstraction. When you start go-to-market, it’s about people and deals. When you scale go-to-market, it’s about numbers and models.
The five keys to scaling go-to-market:
- Design good experiments, so you can be pretty darn sure that something works before scaling. (Note: were you pretty darn sure the last time you scaled something that didn’t work?)
- Run a systematic expansion strategy, where you’re crossing the pond by hopping a series of lily pads, instead of trying one big, dangerous leap. (It’s not just boiling for which frogs are useful in business metaphors.)
- Model-driven scaling, breaking down go-to-market into a series of models, each of which is defined by goals, roles, and ratios. You can compare these models by calculating contribution margins for each of them.
- Metrics-driven execution, building a data-driven culture where you spend a lot of time reviewing and discussing shared data in a standard template. (See my SaaStr 2023 talk for more.)
- Dance with who brung ya, one of my more contrarian positions. Silicon Valley is obsessed with the next big thing to the point of sometimes forgetting the last. When scaling, I think it’s key to not forget the people, product, and customers that brought you to the dance.
I’ve embedded the slides below. If they’re too hard to read, go to the PDF here.
Thanks again to Brian, the 10X CEO team, and the CEOs in the audience for having me.