Exponential growth is a key goal for almost any emerging venture. While it may seem elusive to some, turbocharging your growth potential is a matter of approach. Start with a strong mission posture and focus, and the right leadership mindset to go with it.
Serial CEO Frank Slootman has done exactly that in three consecutive companies over an 18-year period, taking Data Domain, ServiceNow, and Snowflake public. Most recently, he spearheaded Snowflake's record-setting 2020 IPO, and topped Inc.'s 2021 ranking of "Best-Led Companies."
In his new book Amp It Up: Leading for Hypergrowth by Raising Expectations, Increasing Urgency, and Elevating Intensity, Slootman shares his proven approach to unlocking any company's growth potential to win competitive advantage. He details key steps to drive meaningful change, including these five principles:
1. Raise your standards
Too often, our daily existence feels like going through the motions, checking boxes, and getting things off our desks. Good enough has become the standard. It sucks the life out of organizations. It doesn't take that much more mental energy to raise the bar. "Expect and demand that we're excited and thrilled about what we're doing," remarks Slootman. "The standard is not passable. It should be what the late Steve Jobs called insanely great. Try applying that standard on a daily basis."
2. Align your people
The lack of alignment in organizations is everywhere because it doesn't just happen by osmosis. Humans are not known for pulling on the same oar in the same direction. If you've ever seen 5-year-olds playing soccer, you know what that looks like. "A lack of alignment results in friction and low productivity, and marginal progress becomes exponentially more pronounced as organizations grow in numbers," says Slootman.
3. Narrow your focus
Most organizations don't have much orientation. They try to progress with a million things to do, a mile wide and an inch deep. It feels like swimming in glue, moving like molasses. "Narrow the plane of attack. Instead of moving in parallel, sequence the priority. Figure out what needs to happen first, now, what doesn't at all. Park everything else on the back burner," Slootman notes. "Take things off people's plates instead of putting more stuff on. The energy and pace will pick up immediately."
4. Pick up the pace
Absent leadership will cause people to move at a glacial pace. Ever seen the inside of a California DMV? There is no purpose, no direction, no urgency, so naturally things slow down to a trickle. Slootman counsels us to start compressing time frames and question and challenge timelines at every turn. It's actually quite easy, because most people do not know why they are timelining things a certain way. They are after comfort, not purpose.
5. Transform your strategy
Most of Amp It Up is execution-centric, but there obviously is a strategic vector as well. The issue is that execution comes first. Slootman says you cannot transform strategy without optimizing execution because it is impossible to know what is ailing. Why transform strategy when you are merely a lousy executer? You will become a much better strategist as you become a better operator because it will sort and magnify the issues properly.
"Most problems tend to be execution-related, but humans prefer to tweak strategy instead," says Slootman. "Especially in places like Silicon Valley, where strategy talk is some kind of high-minded parlor game. You can go far with world-class execution, whereas you will go nowhere without it, no matter how brilliant your strategy."
Amp It Up expands these principles, and uses the examples and learning at three companies (Data Domain, ServiceNow, and Snowflake) to illustrate the ideas.
Leading for growth calls for relentlessly focusing on your mission, combating mediocrity, breaking the status quo, and making tough choices each day. But with the right mindset and dedication, leaders of all kinds can unlock their company's growth potential.