From the outside looking in, it’s sometimes hard to know what everyone at a software as a service company actually does. Tanda employs over 80 people, but I imagine to the outside world it’s a mystery what most of them do (that’s certainly how I feel looking at other software companies, and I feel like I should have an understanding of it!).

I’m not going to bore you with 80 position descriptions, but I am going to talk a little bit about the Growth team — or Growth Gang, as we call it. I choose the GG because I’ve been working a lot with this team lately (so I have specific examples), and also because I’ve found it’s usually a hard team to explain (so it’s worth talking about). For context, I tend to move between different teams at Tanda a lot and help out where I can. I’ve been focusing on better understanding how the GG works, as well as helping it out, for the last month or so.

The Growth Gang’s job is to find ways to help Tanda grow more quickly or efficiently. Isn’t that everyone’s job? Yes it is, but in other teams it’s easier to get bogged down by the day to day and get distracted from the real goal. Having a growth team is important because they can create a growth culture which rubs off on other teams, as well as finding and executing on growth-inducing projects themselves.

So you could say they have two jobs:

  1. Create a culture of growth
  2. Create growth

The hardest thing to create is culture, so let’s come back to that later. How do we create growth? Again, you can split this into two parts:

  1. Pick valuable projects
  2. Execute well

For execution, we generally use the Sprint methodology. We are pretty big fans of it — we’ve talked about it here (video) and here (blog) and here (workshop) — so if you want to learn more about it go and check those out once you finish reading this.

What I will talk about here is picking valuable projects. It’s great if you can execute a perfect sprint, but if you’re working on something that’s going to have very little impact what’s the point? If you think about it that way, I think being able to pick the best project to work on might be more important than how well you actually do it.

We use a few tools to help with picking projects, but I think the most fundamental thing we try to do is give the Growth Gang a really good understanding of the business. Our sales, marketing, and implementation teams are split between our Brisbane and Manila offices, and I thought it was important that the Growth Gang be familiar with both from day 1. So on day 1 of the Growth Gang (which was literally day 1 at Tanda in Brod’s case), we all flew to the Manila office and spent two weeks getting to know the team there. As a result, the GG got a good understanding of how customers find out about Tanda and go through the buying & onboarding process in all of our markets. This differs a lot by country and it’s important to not build solutions that will make life easier in one country but harder in all the others.

The big thing we learned from this trip is that Tanda’s a complex business with a lot going on. To try and make this easier to understand, we spent a lot of time thinking about key indicators of growth — simple metrics we can find that are indicative of general behaviours of successful customers. The idea being that we could then try and improve these metrics on a micro scale, and we’d expect this to result in significant improvement at a higher level (where significant improvement == more customers!). We found pirate metrics to be a helpful way of categorising these indicators.

Since setting up pirate metrics, I’ve been focusing a lot on the Acquisition step. We use Amplitude for data analytics, it makes it easy to find things that are performing well, set up dashboards so we can see if metrics change, and ultimately to gauge the impact of what we are doing.

Here’s a chart in Amplitude that I’m quite a big fan of:

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Without going too much into the details, this chart is a pretty good metric for the “quality” of a new lead, which is a pretty important metric on the Acquisition side of the funnel. It’s a “conversion over time” chart, so basically for the first half of April, about 20% of people who completed a specific task would go on to complete another task afterwards. If you complete both tasks it indicates you’re probably going to find Tanda useful (if you just complete the first task, it’s not that clear).

I had an idea for what I thought would slightly improve the quality of this. I shipped it on April 17… but didn’t update the Amplitude code properly, hence conversions dropping by 50% in the next few days. I realised this and shipped a fix on the 24th, which resulted in conversions skyrocketing.

This jump in conversions was awesome, and since then I’ve been working on improving what I think the next step in the user journey is. We are here at the moment (note the small numbers on the Y axis):

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I’ve got a few things I’m building to try and improve this, and I know other people in the team are brainstorming ideas around it too. Because we are moving further down the funnel, the impact, if they go well, is going to be even more significant.

To take a step back from this example, what worked well here is that we spent a lot of time understanding our customers, our product, and our business model. By having a good knowledge of all three we were able to find a metric that we could improve quickly and easily and would have a big impact. Then we were able to execute on it.

Other examples of projects that came out of the Growth Gang are our referral program (which focuses on the Referral pirate metric), an internal Trello/Google Sheets/Zapier Scripts mashup that we use to identify customers who are struggling and need a bit of extra help (Retention), and a redesign of our credit card input pages to make it more transparent what people would be paying and the various billing options available (Revenue).

There’s still a lot to do, and the biggest area we as a team can improve is being a bit more disciplined. Pirate metrics gives you a view across the entire business, but especially in a creative & ambitious business like ours, that means that you are going to be hit with such a huge variety of ideas. I’ve personally found it helpful to pick just one of the areas (eg. Acquisition in the above example) and iterate on that for a while until I don’t have any more great ideas.

Creating a growth culture

I think having a Growth Gang has encouraged other teams to think about growth in a variety of ways.

First, the non-subtle — the Growth Gang are very good at collecting & analysing data, and it’s been good to see them sharing their dashboards with other teams and helping them make better sense of their own metrics.

But they’ve also been more subtle about it, primarily through introducing the Sprint process at Tanda. One of the important things about a sprint is that you get people from a variety of teams involved, both as experts who you interview, but also in the brainstorming and voting processes. As well as getting more useful and more diverse inputs, this introduces sprints to people from all over the business. As a result of this I’ve seen people in dev, customer success, and business ops all running sprints to solve their own problems.

There’s always more we can do to improve on this — culture (like growth!) is never finished and you can always get better — but I think we are moving in the right direction. It’s very easy, especially as a developer, to forget that your primary goal is to help more people discover, buy, and use the software you’re building. Having a team whose job is to constantly make that process work better is a good way of being reminded about it and inspired to do it better.

To sum things up

The Growth Gang at Tanda:

  • Understands the entire business
  • Uses data to find projects where they can have a big impact
  • Prototypes simple solutions to these problems
  • Builds & ships improvements and measures their impact
  • Teaches everyone else to do the same!

Ps. The Growth Gang is hiring. Come along to our Sprints workshop if you want to meet them, or to learn more about what they do!