Hi, I'm Nicholas Gottlieb.

I make things grow online. I also enjoy surfing, sailing, bluegrass, and seeing the world.

Nicholas Gottlieb

I write about product, growth, software, and startups.

Building A Growth Team - Part 1: Defining a Growth Charter


Growth Charts

I often get asked by founders of B2B SaaS companies how they should go about building their company’s first ‘Growth Team’. This is not an easy question to answer as what a growth team is chartered with achieving, where they fit in the org, what the team makeup looks like vary so widely from company to company.

In order to hopefully provide a helpful framework to think about this challenge, I’m writing a multi-part series on building out a growth team. The parts will include:

  1. What is the growth team’s charter?
  2. Where does the growth team fit in the org?
  3. What will the makeup of the team look like?
  4. Hiring the right people for the team

Step 1: Defining A Growth Charter

Growth Charter

The first step to building a growth team is to figure out what exactly that team will be chartered with accomplishing. Obviously they will be tasked with growing the business, but what type of growth objectives they will be pursuing should be well defined. In order to figure this out you need to look hard at your business model and go-to-market strategy and decide what the most important growth drivers are for the current stage of your company. Is it optimizing a self-serve product funnel? Getting SEO traffic for a specific category of keywords? Or maybe building a user community? You may have a set of go-to-market hypotheses that you want this team to test in order to decide which one deserves the most investment in time and resources. What the specific charter defines will vary widely from team to team, but it’s important that you go through this exercise in order to set the team up for success in whatever they will be tasked with accomplishing.

A very common growth charter I see for early stage, self-serve SaaS companies is to reduce friction in the sign-up and upgrade process (in order to grow MRR). When I joined CircleCI in 2013 as the first growth hire, this was exactly what I was tasked with doing. At the time the company was made up solely of product engineers, and the idea behind creating a growth team was to accelerate the growth of a self-serve product that already very clearly had product market fit. At first this involved very low-hanging fruit such as tweaking some of the CTAs and fine-tuning the GitHub OAuth permissions, and eventually involved larger initiatives such as shifting from a 14-day free trial to a freemium model.

For early stage companies that are taking a more ‘enterprise first’ approach, the charter of the growth team may to figure out how to generate MQLs, or even to figure out a product that will address a new customer segment. Regardless of the goals in the charter, the charter should not be over prescriptive on how the goals are to be accomplished, but should focus on the goals themselves. Of course you as the founder will have tons of valuable context and opinions you will want to share with the team once it’s formed, but you also want them to have the autonomy to try things you may not have thought of.

In the next post on building a growth team, I’ll focus on where the growth team can fit in to the rest of the organization.