Growing companies are often building their team and company infrastructure at breakneck speeds. People get promoted quickly and the team is stretched to the limits. Some call it “building the plane as you’re flying it.” It’s an exciting time to be at the company for everyone, even if it feels overwhelming and chaotic. But continuous growth requires a continuous commitment to scaling the company’s systems and talent. A company that rapidly hires but fails to create systems that sustain the new complexity of work will struggle to maintain a high quality of customer service and can begin to endanger the quality of their product as well. This is why deciding if you need a Chief Growth Officer is less about when and more about whether you already have this capability internally or not.
What are the qualifications of a Chief Growth Officer?
They know how to execute today but they also have their eye out on the horizon, continuously planning and building the systems for tomorrow.
“As a business scales, so does the level of teamwork across the go-to-market process and the complexity of the commercial technology infrastructure that supports those teams. As a result, the role of the growth leader has evolved from a manager of people to an orchestrator of an increasingly complex marketing and technology ecosystem. The level of complexity has become too great to be managed by conventional sales and marketing structures.” (Diorio, 2023)
The ideal candidate for this role will have practical knowledge in both marketing and sales, product development, customer service, and change management. Why? A modern B2B company can no longer afford to separate the efforts of sales, marketing, and account management. Creating a revenue organization will require changes in mindsets and workflows.
“Customer experience is fundamentally a cross-functional problem. And what I mean by that is most great companies, have done well over time. These great companies have done so by getting functionally excellent. And customer experience actually cuts across those.” (Prediction: The Future of Customer Experience, 2022)
Customers expect a seamless, connected, and personalized purchasing and delivery experience. To create this experience, the Chief Growth Officer will be creating a connected and well-structured revenue organization across the entire company. This organization will be supported by modern tools that are well selected and implemented. The tools will help ensure no customer falls through the cracks but also collect the data needed to make sense of both the revenue forecast and the continuous shifts in customer expectations over time.
The CGO is more than the head of a joint marketing and sales team. In many companies, the CEO is focused externally: crafting partnerships, securing funding, and setting the overall vision and plan. The Chief Growth Officer is the CEOs internally focused strategist who is looking at the processes, technology stack, and talent of the company to find impediments to growing and scaling. They are driving growth and they are working with the other executives to ensure their growth forecasts translate into an organization that achieves scale without sacrificing quality and relationships.
“CGOs are increasingly tasked with responsibilities that transcend existing departments. Their position includes collaborating with business operations and development, sales, marketing, and IT.” (Burtis, 2020)
How does a Chief Growth Officer benefit the businesses goals and objectives?
Someone has to be accountable for growth. Someone has to have their eye on the prize at all times, building a sustainable platform and ensuring a holistic approach to drive revenue.” (Geller et al., 2021, from the book CMO to CRO the Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive)
The Chief Growth Officer takes responsibility for the growth plan and trajectory. Because the CGO is a strategist and builder of systems, they are equipped to take on the burden of planning and organizational design. This allows the sales and marketing team to focus on their role more exclusively and multiplies the CEO's strategy and planning efforts.
Ultimately, the CGO is responsible for “responsible growth.” Many excellent metrics can be used to evaluate their impact, but three measures can summarize them:
Revenue growth: the CGOs primary objective.
Quality of the customer experience: a significant predictor of future growth and flag in the case growth is unsustainable.
Revenue per employee: an indicator that they are growing efficiently and sustainably and that the organization is thriving internally.
Kevin Neher, McKinsey’s global leader of customer experience, explains that increasing customer experience can lead to increased sales and profitability, but that B2B organizations have been slow to understand it. (Prediction: The Future of Customer Experience, 2022) Because the customer experience transcends any department, a cross-departmental executive focused on the customer experience and sustainable growth is needed in rapidly growing B2B organizations.
Part advisor to the executive team, and complete owner of the revenue strategy, the CGO can zoom out and look at the big picture by asking the following and finding answers and strategies that work together and are sustainable.
What is the growth trajectory of the company?
How do we ensure quality relationships and quality products as we grow?
How will the growth forecast impact the rest of the organization?
Ultimately, the CGO will help ensure the short-term growth objectives are met and that the company is prepared for aggressive growth year-over-year.
When should you consider hiring a Fractional Chief Growth Officer?
A fractional CGO is a great solution if you need an executive focused on the infrastructure (processes, leadership development, and new initiatives) needed to sustain growth but you’re not ready to hire an executive for this role full time. Possibly, you already have a sales or a marketing leader, focused on their area, and you want to multiply their impact by connecting your sales, marketing and customer experience team members under one strategic leader. In this case, a fractional leader can focus on building the infrastructure and the sales/marketing team can continue to execute.
Alternatively, you might be looking to embed the knowledge and practice for how to do revenue focused strategic planning and customer experience design with your leadership team. A part-time Growth Officer is a more impactful than individual trainings or one-time consulting engagements because a fractional executive is deeply embedded in your team and able to coach and pass on their expertise and knowledge through role modeling and hands-on experiences. Because of their level of involvement and accountability, they can prove the effectiveness of the methods through results – changing hearts and minds if change management is needed. They will bring your team together around practices such as crafting go-to-market strategy, revenue planning and forecasting, technology implementation, customer experience design, and process improvement while also delivering on the growth objectives – a win-win.
Lastly, you might already have a CEO who leads the revenue generation, but they might need a right-hand person specifically focused on the revenue activities. In this case, the fractional CGO can take some of the work off the shoulders of the CEO until the company is ready for a full time Chief Growth or Chief Revenue officer.
Sources of insights
Prediction: The future of Customer Experience. (2022, April 11). McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/tr/our-insights/prediction-the-future-of-customer-experience
Diorio, S. (2023, March 1). Inside The Mind Of The Chief Revenue Officer. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephendiorio/2023/03/01/inside-the-mind-of-the-chief-revenue-officer/?sh=4d4de6ce3155
Burtis, S. (2020, May 1). The Evolving Role of the Chief Growth Officer – Vista Equity Partners. Vista Equity Partners. https://www.vistaequitypartners.com/insights/the-evolving-role-of-the-chief-growth-officer/
Geller, M., Keenan, R., & Starr, B. (2021). CMO to CRO: The Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive. Lioncrest Publishing.
StratCraft prepares innovative companies to grow rapidly by equipping their leadership team with the practical tools and the essential discipline for executing winning strategies. We are doers who jump in to do the most difficult projects within your strategic plan and deliver measurable results. We want your company to grow, be resilient in difficult times, and continue delivering value to customers and shareholders for many years to come.