A Lesson in Growth: Nothing is Precious

It’s feels like something that people who build things should intuitively know. If we, as entrepreneurs, founders and builders, wake up every day to build something the world has yet to see then at the heart of that drive exists a singular truth: “everything is replaceable, everything can be made better.”

Yet, when it comes to our own companies, products and hell…even our teams, we fall prey to a common pitfall among early stage companies – we get hooked on something that isn’t working, and we beat our heads against a wall hoping it will.

If you’re lucky you only lose months to this, but it’s more likely you’ll lose years. And some companies will lose it all. They will sink their entire company because they had the inability to let go of something that failed them.

This past year and a half I’ve been fortunate enough to lead marketing at ClassPass, and it’s a role I am incredibly thankful for. I’ve seen what a high growth company looks like from the inside, and I’ve played a key part in helping that growth engine grow stronger.

And you want to hear a little secret? Things are messy up in here.

You want to believe it’s a beautiful well-oiled machine. That we’ve got flywheels, and viral loops, and high fives tossing around all over the place. And, well, yeah, we’ve got some of that. But we’ve also got burning questions, face plants, and redirects. We’ve got cultural growing pains, and we’ve got a lot of big swings that rest on our ability to make the best decision with the information we have at the time.

My CEO, Fritz Lanman, once said to me: “You know Joanna, nothing is precious.” We were talking about the way one of our referral programs was set up (an incredibly healthy one, my third highest converting channel to be exact) and he was dead serious – if it netted out bad for the consumer, or if it ultimately didn’t work with the new social experience we were building…we’d kill it. We’d make the hard decision, we’d change it up, and we’d move on.

Nothing is precious.

Last year we had to sunset the product that made ClassPass famous. I’m not even being dramatic. Tens of thousands of fitness lovers fell in love with the ClassPass Unlimited plan, but it didn’t work for our business. It had our product teams internally hoping people worked out less, and it was at odds with our company’s vision.

So after attempting many things (price hikes, launching new successful plans, and testing every feature you can imagine) we made the decision to sunset it. We chose to not let something that was once considered precious and beautiful bury the very company that built it.

When I think about the fastest growing companies in the world, the ones we all admire – I think you see time and time again they are ruthless in revisiting what they offer, who they offer it to and how they do it. They know that they are more than just one product or one feature. They have a commitment to re-evaluate the value they offer this world and push the limits at every turn.

They know at the heart of every great company is the belief that nothing is precious.

So, what is it? What is it you and your leadership team should get in a room and get honest about? A partner that is disproportionately using your resources? A product that has no clear path to profitability? Maybe it’s a hire that once was a great culture catalyst, but their time has passed and they’ve become toxic.

Whatever or whoever it is that is holding your company and team back from greatness…they aren’t worth it. Everything has its season and the season has come to let it go. Nothing is precious, so get moving. Make the hard decision and move on.

It won’t be an easy day. Hell, it could be a horrible week or quarter. But the company will be stronger for it. So, go, make the decision, cut it loose. And if you need someone to remind you it was worth it, and that was the exact move you needed to make…you know where to find me. We can raise a glass to bold moves and having the courage to know that nothing is precious.

Good luck & go get ‘em.


1 Comment
  • Samuel Balsama

    Exactly the post I needed to read during a burning moment of transition for my company. We’re, what I refer to as, a legacy startup. A once lively brand that has long seen its brightest days. I joined to help reinvigorate it and saw tremendous success early on. But unless the entire team is open to deviate from past strategies and recognize needs to pivot, that growth will eventually plateau and fizzle. The importance of team mentality and having the right team has been the most important lesson of the last year for me. There’s only so much growth one person can bring to a brand. It truly takes a good team that is willing to buy in to important decisions to really build something special and successful. Thanks for the post!