A word from a CEO #97

Individual growth vs. company growth

Hi all –

If you’ve been reading my newsletter for a while, you’re likely familiar with some of my thoughts on company growth vs. individual growth. It’s hugely important — so I wanted to revisit it with you today. There are three things I often see happen.

The first is company growth > individual growth. If a company is experiencing hypergrowth (as Drift has) — that company will likely end up growing faster than the individual. And over time, if a person is not able to keep up and stay ahead of that growth (which is understandable) — then a gap will form between the two growth paths and the company will have to bring in more people who have the necessary experience to fill the gap. This is normal. It shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing.

Now, at a slower-growing company (which is also normal), the company might grow more slowly than an individual (individual growth > company growth). So in this case, a growth-oriented individual who is growing faster than the company will typically leave that company and go somewhere else to find a growth opportunity.

The last scenario is individual growth = company growth. Ideally, a person’s growth rate will always stay slightly ahead of the company’s growth rate. That way a person can continue to jump into bigger and bigger opportunities because they’re able to anticipate and adapt to the needs of the company.

However, this almost never happens.

That’s why stories about founders/CEOs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Sara Blakely are so fascinating. Not only did these people start great companies — they’ve done something almost impossible. They’ve been able to continue to scale throughout massive hypergrowth. In most cases, even if a person is able to grow fast enough to keep pace with a hypergrowth company, after a year, two years, five years, or ten years, at some point the company’s growth or the individual’s growth starts to flatten out. Growth flattens out and once again you have a mismatch — either an individual grows faster than the company, or the company grows faster than an individual, and either way a change needs to be made.

I share this with you because I only learned this through a lot of pain. Because usually when you’re going through this, and you don’t have enough context and history, you as an employee think, oh, the company is just bringing in new people because they’re older or more senior and that means existing employees aren’t getting a fair chance.

And when this happens — when a company is growing faster than the individual, and the individual doesn’t get that next promotion and the company brings in someone from the outside — a lot of people will think that’s it, there’s no way I’m getting promoted now. So they leave. And I totally understand that.

But instead, what you need to do is think in abundance and say, wow, this company is growing faster than I am. Is there an opportunity for me to set myself up for my next promotion? So even if you miss that first step, think of what you can do to achieve a step function in personal growth so you can stay ahead of the company when it takes its next step function. And you can take advantage of the person who just came in and learn from them so you’re ready to take that next step.

I want to make something clear. This should not be interpreted as “your company will outgrow you” or “you will outgrow your company.” There is always an opportunity to learn from others, to seek out mentors, and to continue to thrive in your current position and/or company.

Remember the importance of mentors, be a curious learning machine. That is how you thrive.

Who are your mentors?

Stop Killing your Growth

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