The ins and outs of start-up growth teams

Six months ago, I was going about my workday creating campaigns, measuring brand (doing what marketers do) when our co-founder Adam Yap came along and said, “I’m starting a new team, a growth team; do you want to lead it?” Just like that.

I’d heard about the rise of growth hackers but I didn’t actually know what a growth team was, or whether I wanted to work in one. I accepted anyway and started building HealthEngine’s growth team. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Growth teams: what are they anyway?

Growth teams look at the complete funnel of the customer journey, including acquisition, optimisation, retention, referral and revenue. If you think about these elements and who is responsible for them in a typical business, it’s often a mix of marketing, sales, support and product teams. But, the major issue is that these teams don’t always work perfectly with each other as they often have different objectives and goals. This is what a growth team solves, you have a bunch of people with cross-functional skills and they all have the same objective, growth. The team is usually small, extremely focussed and constantly pushing to learn and test new growth strategies.

This said, to get the most out of a growth team you need to have sussed your product market fit, or defined your true north. If you don’t have either locked down, then you aren’t quite ready for a growth team. There is a bunch of reading you can do, and tools you can use to help achieve these things. For example, take a look at Startup Marketing’s “Product Market Fit” and GrowthHack’s “North Star Metric.”

Growth team roles

Growth teams are cross-functional and usually include a blend of marketers, engineers, designers and data analysts. The idea is to have all the skills in the team so you aren’t relying on other functional departments and teams to action work. This speeds up workflow, learning and ultimately growth for the business. While these are the roles, not every “marketer” for example will be a suitable member. Understanding the traits of the different roles is paramount to creating a dynamic, successful and enjoyable growth team.

Growth team DNA

With the above in mind, recruiting the right team members can sometimes be tricky. Through my experience I’ve learned there are a few absolute essentials needed to enjoy working in a growth team. These are:

Driven by impact: In growth, you have to love the numbers. You’re not motivated by designing something beautiful or working on a big project, it’s the love of seeing what you did move the needle (or not in some cases).

Urgency: You have to get things done, not perfectly but quickly — it’s the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) approach. You have to think what’s the least amount of work needed to test an idea and then build on it. You can’t afford to get bogged down with perfection.

Voracious learners: Always reading and if you don’t know how to do something, learn. It’s a hands-on role. You need to be very versatile to work in growth, a jack of all trades and a master of something as well.

Resilience: With a high volume of testing ideas there are a lot of failures. The growth team celebrates failures, so long as we learn from them. When you have idea after idea, and they continue to fail, you have to be committed to the learning and of course, continue to come up with more ideas. This isn’t always easy but certainly makes celebrating the wins so much better.

Tara Heath, Growth Manager, HealthEngine