There’s a lot of good books on starting a business… But not a ton on growing or scaling.
Amp it Up by Frank Slootman is a great one.
Frank doesn’t start companies—he grows them. He took over the Snowflake data management company when it was worth $4 billion and now, after leading it into the largest software IPO ever—it’s valued around $85 billion.
There are 2 key questions the book asked that inspired me to think about AppSumo’s trajectory differently:
- If you can ONLY do one thing to help your business the rest of the year, what would it be and why?
- How could we do this project in ½ the time?
I love the idea of using these questions to increase the focus and pace of our company.
But that’s not all I took away from this book.
Below are some other things that stood out to me. They may not make sense outside the context of the book, so I encourage you to pick it up and give it a read.
Amp It Up Book Review: Key Takeaways
- Try applying “insanely great” as a standard on a daily basis and see how far you get. People lower their standards in an effort to move things along and get things off their desks. Don’t do it!
- Alignment becomes an important concept as a business grows and there are many moving parts.
- Work on fewer things at the same time, and prioritize HARD!!
- ASK: If you can only do one thing for the rest of the year, and nothing else, what would it be and why?
- ASK: What’s the one thing we should be doing urgently that we are not doing for some reason?
- Ask: What are you doing that’s of marginal value and crowding the better use of your time and people?
- Good leadership requires a never-ending process of boiling things down to their essentials. Spell out what you mean! Clarity.
- Develop an eye for talent and make it a cornerstone of your management focus going forward. Look for hunger, attitude, and innate abilities.
- BET on the conviction of others.
- ”I wanted to eliminate uncertainty and doubt by bringing in some sure-fire executives that I had worked with at previous companies.”
- If we know something isn’t working, why wait? As the saying goes, ”When there is doubt, there is no doubt!”
- Good leaders explain that none of us are ever truly safe in our roles for any length of time. Very few things are off-limits in the battle for the customer.
- It feels safer to inch forward rather than take bold leaps.
- ASK: How fast can the company grow if we pull out all the stops?
- I have never OVERdone it, but I surely have UNDERdone it.
- Theodore Roosevelt’s “There is no effort without error and shortcoming… Face is marred by dust and sweat and blood!”
- Don’t settle for respectable mediocrity!
- Set a big goal, not an incremental goal.
- ASK: With managers, what would we do if we lost this person?
- Have a list of prioritized candidates for each critical role. Keep tabs on ongoing status, and candidates we would seek to engage as needed. DO NOT rely on LinkedIn or recruiters. The active job seekers are unlikely to be the candidates you really want. Recruiting never stops!!
- The basis of all successful teams is TRUST. In a high-trust team, people call each other out—without reservation—for the good of the business. Hold each other accountable to the TEAM.
- Lead by example—publicly admit and declare a fast failure.
- Focus on the problem and possible reasons rather than just focusing on the solutions. Build a reputation as a rapid course corrector.
- What’s NOT forgivable is refusing to recognize, acknowledge, and take action on hiring mistakes.
- Calibration sessions: Each department head presents to their peers, profiling the performance and potential of their direct reports.
- Customer grievances are best solved by establishing ownership, reducing internal complexity, and removing bureaucratic intermediaries.
- Everyone’s incentives should be fully aligned with what’s good for the customer. Frank Slootman moved technical support underneath the engineering team. Made for a better customer experience.
- Know your sales productivity metrics before you add more sales headcount. Find a way to increase those productivity metrics before you add headcount!
- Debrief the last 12 months to highlight problems and how we can fix them. One big challenge of early-stage selling is insufficient demand.
- For a biz to break out, it needs a ton of differentiation.
- Goals are powerful—they change behavior!
- When in doubt, you should lean in and try to grow faster! We are all prisoners of our past to some extent.
- When meeting with the board, prep carefully with your team in advance, go in and tell them what you think vs. asking them what they think. Start a meeting by filling a vacuum, instead of creating one.
- When someone proposes a timeline for a project, ask them how they could do that project in half the time. Encourage urgency!