Obsessed with start-ups, coffee, and online marketing.

That about sums me up.
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Aug 10

A Growth Lesson: Who should you hire?

Number one question, always. No matter if I’m meeting a founder over coffee, or if I opened up Q&A to a room of 2,000 conference attendees. The number one question is – but if I’m looking to hire out for growth, who should I hire?

Spoiler alert: no one ever likes the answer.

They are hoping I’ll say something like “go looking for a marketer with technical chops” or “I’d find someone with a product background that has worked closely with marketing.” To them, even searching for a hybrid, cross-team hire like that feels hard enough.

Sadly, it’s soooo much harder than that. Finding someone who sits on marketing that understands product, or someone in product that understands marketing isn’t enough to assure they are going to drive real impact along your growth curve. And if I can be brutally honest for a minute…isn’t cross-team knowledge and awareness more of a pre-requisite for any hire these days? I mean who is hiring someone who only knows their domain at a startup these days? Yuck. Anyway, I digress.

So, what are you looking for when hiring for growth? You’re looking for a t-shaped hire. Not the t-shaped hire of yesteryear, but an even higher bar. Just a few years ago you could get away with hiring for a t-shaped hire that was domain specific. For marketing, it would look something like this:

As most of you already know, it means they are deep in one domain of marketing but exposed broadly to all other marketing domains. My personal example would be that I’m a performance marketer by trade – started my days in Adwords back when it first opened, I played around in Panama, and remember contributing to the very first versions of the Adwords Editor (ahhh those dreamy days when we were all buying keywords for cents on the dolla #memories).

But then I began stacking channels. I learned SEO (thanks Rand!), community marketing, lifecycle marketing, retention marketing, loyalty and brand, and so on and so forth. With each job, I would take on a little more so I knew how to do each channel – as if I was deep in the weeds. Fast forward 14 years and I’m a t-shaped marketer.

Worth noting that t-shaped domain hires are still super useful, especially if you are early to mid-stage and have small teams, limited resources, and big goals (i.e. most of us).

But what I think is needed to really staff for growth these days is even more – I think you need a t-shaped hire that is domain agnostic.

[Looks around, shaking head] Say what?

Yeah, I think the real impact hires are ones where the deep domain is an ENTIRE domain, and the broader stretch is exposure to all the other domains. It looks more like this:

Great growth contributors don’t think as a one-team contributor, they think as a cross-team contributor. They are aware of every single lever across the business that could drive growth, and they have built the relationships across the company to influencer those levers.

If growth can happen from either acquiring more people, retaining them longer, or monetizing them more effectively – then the levers are all around us. Marketing. Product. Engineering. CX. Finance. Ops.

If a dollar could be made, or a dollar could be saved – it can impact growth. The right hires intuitively get this. They see the company as one big growth machine, independent of the team they sit with in the pit.

I freaking love these hires. I mean whoa.

Now, are there many of them? Sooo, uhmmm, welllll. Maybe not quite yet, but it’s happening. You’re feeling the shift, or at least I am. I think it’s happening with the rise of a few other macro trends like:

  • The rise of training institutions/programs like General Assembly, CodeFellows, etc.
  • A shift towards in-house training/brown bag lunches with cross team shares/training
  • The general acceptance of doing side projects when employed at a startup
  • The millennial renaissance where they are constantly seeking new experiences/striving to be better
  • The best companies out there expecting this as you apply for a role on their team

I actually believe, that we are quickly seeing a revolution where the early career hires I make tend to have more exposure than the more seasoned ones. It’s like the early career hires were never told they had to pick a domain, so it never occurred to them. I also think that tech as a field is so much more prevalent, that it’s assumed many of them will land in it in some capacity. So, the idea that they will just sample all it has to offer is an obvious one, making their backgrounds broader by default.

One thing is super clear to me though – T-shaped hires, that are domain agnostic, are critical to creating a growth culture. Here is an example skill set list I’d look for in any marketing hire on my team these days:

  • Performance and organic marketing exposure
  • Technical marketing chops – SQL, html, etc.
  • Design theory/UX/UI knowledge
  • Product knowledge – can they wireframe? Do they know how to write a product brief? Do they understand the product development lifecycle?
  • Finance knowledge – can they understand a P&L, can they forecast/model?
  • Engineering awareness – have they worked directly with engineering before? Do they understand the common tech stacks? Have a working knowledge of engineering tools, QA processes, etc.

Sound like a lot? Damn right it is. Oh yeah, I also want them to have high EQ, be kind, and a culture fit.

The heart of it is this: if you want to staff a company that wins a market you have to hire the absolute best talent out there. They have to think differently, see opportunity where others see blockers, and they have to work well with every team so you don’t lose cycles to friendly fire.

So that’s what I think makes a great growth hire…a domain agnostic t-shaped hire, with low ego, high EQ, that wakes up every morning obsessed with making an impact.

I told you that you weren’t going to like the answer.

But if you think those hires are magical creatures that don’t exist, think again. I’ve met them, and they are out there – participating in forums like GrowthHackers, completing programs like Reforge, and grabbing coffee together sharing ideas, helping each other make the world a better place. They are out there, you just have to keep the bar high and do the work to find them.

Wishing you all the luck in your hiring adventures and high-fiving you from NYC, go get ‘em.




Aug 03

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.


Jun 12

Surrender to the Work

The other day I was in a spin class, 30 something minutes in, holding on for dear life (as always), just focusing on the song and wondering if I was going to make it through. It was a particularly hard class. The kind where everyone around you is also just barely making it and you find some sort of camaraderie in the fact that you might all fall off your bike at the exact same time. Well, this was that sort of class.

As we took the corner into the height of the chorus, and the instructor told us all to turn up the resistance, I was just about to do the exact opposite and lean out when I heard him say, “sometimes you just need to surrender to the work.”

Bam. Bitch slap.

This hit me hard. I’m a hard worker, this I’m sure of. I was brought up that way. My father always worked hard, my mother always worked hard. I had my first job at 15, and have been working ever since. I worked through college, through my M.A. and I’m on my seventh startup – all of which basically means I’ve been working, working, working since as long as I can remember.

This isn’t to glorify it – I just love it. I love finding meaning in my work, and it’s always been a big part of how I self-identify. But that isn’t the case for everyone. Or maybe even most people? I’ve been thinking about the balance of working hard and too hard quite a bit lately as I try to lead my marketing team. I’m a driver, but I also care. I want the business to succeed but not at the detriment of my teams’ health or happiness. This is freaking hard – as we try to build a remarkable company in a competitive space.

I think that’s why this sentence hit me so damn hard. I believe that there are seasons when you really do need to just surrender to the work. In marketing, it can be during different campaigns, or holidays, or just around the time of a new launch. But the reality is, there are times we just need to lean in and get it done. You do sacrifice during that time. It’s not always balanced, and it doesn’t always fit in a work day or work week.

And that’s what we signed up for joining a startup taking big swings. We signed up to build something impactful, and special – and that doesn’t happen without work, real work. 

As the instructor said that, it sort of echoed in my ears as the chorus hit, and wouldn’t you know it – I found another gear, I just let the work flow over me and before I knew it – the class was over and I had crushed a personal best.

Next time you catch yourself beat down from something – a project, a week, a to-do list – rather than stop and stare at it, letting it win…surrender to the work. Look at it, say namaste and just lean in. You might just be surprised.

It feels sometimes like our generation is always looking for ways to “find balance” or we’re too scared to ask our teams to just jump in with us, and work their asses off. We’re scared to say “this is going to be so freaking hard, it’s going to be exhausting and challenge us in every way, but we have to do it.” Because that’s too harsh. It’s “too much to ask.”

Or maybe it’s what’s required to be great? Maybe doing the work is exactly what separates the good companies from the best companies? The followers and the leaders? Those that wish they did and those that did. 

I mean history would suggest that’s the case. My father waking up at 4 am every day for 20 years to provide for us – would suggest it. My mom building our family but still managing to be a #girlboss at work – would suggest it. Every Fortune 100 CEO that has built something worth building – would suggest the same thing. It’s the work that matters. 

Maybe we shouldn’t try to fight the work, maybe we should just surrender to it, and see where it takes us.


Oct 30

Moving on from Porch

First off I want to thank all of you crazy cats for your texts, messages, GIFs, and virtual love. It’s been quite the week. Hell, it’s been a crazy few months.

For those that haven’t heard, I’ve recently left Porch. This past week they announced a shift in strategy which, over the course of the past few months, made it clear it was time for me to move on. I have a great post brewing in my fingers around the “responsibility of putting yourself on the layoff list,” which I ultimately did,  but for now let me just say a few things as the dust settles on this crazy week…

Porch has been a fast and furious ride. I learned so much there, some of it was what not to do, but most of it was “on the front lines, get in the trenches, hard as hell, dig in your heels” type work, and I am thankful for it. I am proud of the marketing organization I lead and the marketing we did. I am proud of the team I built, and only wish I could have been there for them this week. This team, and the extended 80 or so Porchies that were laid off, poured their heart into a company with a lot to offer this world. I am excited to see where they all go next, and only hope I get to work alongside many of them in the future.

It has also been a hard ride. We don’t talk enough about the hard in startups. But it’s there. Building the right product, organizing the right way, leaning in at the right time, pausing in others. Startups are hard. And I don’t think there is an honest entrepreneur out there that would say otherwise. All we can do is make the best decision through a blend of instinct and data, be kind as we make them, and do better the next day.

I am excited to see what Porch does with their recent technology acquisition and the recent talent they’ve added to the team. There are so many great people at Porch. I wish them the best of luck as they roll into this next year.

Many of you have asked me what’s next. First and foremost, I’ll be taking a little while off. I am fortunate to have the chance to pause, reflect, and really choose the next adventure with intention. It’s been over 7 startups, 100+ speaking gigs, tens of thousands of miles traveled and 12+ years of marketing since I’ve done that. It’s well overdue. I am excited to talk to the movers and shakers out there, both in Seattle and outside of it, to see what everyone’s been up to this past year and a half. I’ll also be sneaking in some time back home to Vermont because I have two cute nephews that I am dying to spend some time with. Cody & Easton – see you soon!

In the meantime, if you want to grab coffee, do a mid-day yoga class (they actually have these! I’ve always wanted to go!) or just talk startup lessons and life – let’s do it.


Jul 26

Are You a Culture Creator?

Last week my team launched a new About section on Porch.com. It’s beautiful. The imagery, the promises, the culture video – they combine to really get at the heart of what it means to be a Porchie. With the new About section came an updated Value exercise. For the past 6 months the team has been working through a variety of offsites, meetings, emails, and more to help us understand just what we stand for.

Culture. Cultureeeeee. C.u.l.t.u.r.e.

It’s one of my favorite things about startups. We get to define it, we get to build it, and if we’re really lucky we get to spend the majority of our time sharing it with the world. So much has been written about startup culture. What it is and isn’tHow you can’t compromise it. How it’s not really about the startup at all.  And one of my favorites – how important it is that you don’t f-it up.

We can all agree that getting clear on your company culture, hiring in for those that align with it and upholding it are important. You know what we don’t talk enough about? How we can live it, stretch it, shine it. The question I’d ask you is…are you a culture creator?

What’s that mean? It’s a triangulated commitment between you, your team, and the culture itself. a commitment that this is a living and breathing promise that deserves your very best.

You. Are you living it every day? Are you representing it in meetings? Are you questioning your own habits, your own strengths, your own practice on whether they align Continue reading →

Jul 21

Personalizing the System Issues: A Startup Lesson

I’m a fan of accountability. Always have been. It plays directly into my pillar around “fairness” and into my pulse line of meritocracy. I very much believe we can all do better…every second, of every day. Every failure is a moment for learning, and every misstep is an opportunity to stand up and truly stretch into a taller, stronger version of yourself.

With such a strong sense of accountability and yearning to make every day better than the last comes the shadows of that – the self-criticizing, the self-doubt, the internalizing of everything so deeply that you are constantly shaking yourself at the core. I believe this has made me a great fit for startups. This ecosystem is built on over-achievers and life long learners.

Today, over coffee with a friend, I had talked for about an hour on challenges that have been on my mind. I walked through team dynamics, miscommunications, and the outcomes that  have left me pretty confused. “What am I doing wrong?” … “How can I communicate better?”…”What’s going on with me?”…were all questions that came up.

I then quickly spoke to other, seemingly unrelated challenges I’m seeing around the office. I easily dismissed them with the appropriate startup dismissals – “people are stressed given how hard everyone is working” and “this is a critical season” and “everyone is feeling it.” She quickly pointed out to me that maybe this was all related…

Maybe “my” issues were also a result of “system” issues.

Whattttt. Synapse fires. Boom. Bam. Maybe they are?

I think in startups there is such a focus on being “all in” and that has huge implications on our bar setting. It directly correlates with a promise to always do your best, to always do better. The flip side of that is if things seem hard you quickly assume “you aren’t doing your best” or even worse “you are failing at everything” [enter dramatic music here.] Continue reading →

May 17

The Correlation Between Intellectual Honesty and Great Companies

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a great company. This is, of course, not an easy thing to answer. A lot goes into building a great company. There is product, culture, and community. In those there are promises, actions, and connections. In those there is integrity, authenticity, kindness, and the so on and so forth. Then there is a market, a need, real value. There are ripples that turn into waves that change lives.

Like I said, a lot goes into building a great company.

While I’m not yet at a conclusive answer, I can honestly say my year at Porch has brought me a lot closer to one. I feel so fortunate to be in the eye of this remarkable startup storm. We have so many great things in the works, and the team building all of this is just…so damn special. Sure we’ve got our challenges, but we’re better for it. We are dead set on trying to be a great company and I am learning as I go just what that means.

One thing that stands out to me lately is this concept of intellectual honesty. I read an article about how “great testing requires intellectual honesty” and it got me thinking – damn, that’s hard. Intellectual honesty means “you make arguments you think are true, as opposed to making the arguments you are “supposed” to make and/or avoiding making arguments that you think are true that you aren’t “supposed” to make.” Basically – it means you’re willing to rock the boat, shine the bright light, and say “that thing” that no one else wants to say.

This is…uncomfortable. Risky. Hard.

This is not…easy. Taught. Appreciated.

Well, maybe it is appreciated. I think great companies appreciate intellectual honesty. I’ve seen this at Porch. The past few weeks I’ve pushed on some big things and asked some hard questions. I’ve actually blown up a few email threads…not because I want to. Or even because I had to. But because I believed an argument needed to be made for the greater good. Greater good can be the customer, the team or even the bottom line. There are lots of “greater goods” that demand that sort of risk.

Lesser companies punish people for those risks. They shut you down. They ignore your concern. They silence it with sentences like “we’ll get to that later” or “good point, but we’re just too far along to rethink that.” Great companies stop. They pause. Acknowledge the point made Continue reading →

Jan 04

A Declaration of Interdependence

A New Year. I, for one, am ready.

Like many of you I have spent the last month putting things in motion, hoping that as Jan 1, 2015 came around I felt “ready.” Rested, healthier, excited, and ready…to live bolder and bigger than the previous 365 days. And I do.

I actually wrote down resolutions this year for the first time ever. Not ones to do with losing weight or getting promotions or to get more sleep but soul promises. Goals for myself that would make this next year worthy of the gift it is. My list is around seven themes and all of the resolutions are around things I can do for myself. Yes, many of them would benefit others…my team, my family, my relationship. But they are ultimately resolutions that I want to help me be better.

This got me thinking – something is missing.

I just started reading the book “Innovating Women” by Vivek Wadhwa and a sentence stuck out within the first few pages. He wrote, “This is not just a book; it’s a flag planted in the ground –a declaration of interdependence by the hundreds of women who contributed to this crowdcreated volume.”

I love this concept — “a declaration of interdependence.” That is what was missing.

This isn’t a new concept, in fact it’s been around in project management and organizational development for years, but for some reason it feels perfectly suited for this new year. As you kick off this year and make your promises to be better, to be kinder, to be healthier, why not also declare interdependence in these goals for “better” and “bolder” living?

As an entrepreneur, especially as a female executive in her early thirties, it can be easy to focus on investing in yourself. We are programmed to push ourselves, albeit for the better of the group. This year I resolve to invest in others and their goals more. I declare to intentionally intermingle my success with theirs. I promise to find out more of what you’re chasing, and what you need to wrestle it down and conquer it in 2015. I want more of me going to you.

It’s an interesting twist in new years resolutions – to resolve to help others accomplish theirs. A declaration of interdependence, who’s up for it?

#cheersto2015 #letsdothis

Aug 13

Perseverance as a Practice

I’ve thought a lot about perseverance over the years. It’s one of those words. The kind that takes on a new meaning every time you feel it, or wish you had more of it, or see it in others.

When I think about it a few things flash in my mind:

…I remember my dad getting up so early to go downstairs and keep the coal fire burning to heat the house and then heading to a job he hated to make sure his family was taken care of and happy – day after day after day…for years.

…I remember my family after my mom passed away and how no one wanted to really get up, or be awake, or do anything- for a long time. But we just did things. Ate meals, cleaned the house, left the house and saw friends. We just did things to move forward.

…I remember my graduate degree and working at the coffee shop in the morning, going to classes, and working nights as a hostess, and just going, until you couldn’t because that is what I had to do to pay for school.

…I remember watching a friend of mine go through so many rough things with her family for years, and just seeing her be the mom and the sister and the aunt and the cousin. She just did it day after day for years.

…I remember all the startups I’ve built and those my friends have built. The ones that made it. The ones that didn’t. Not much difference in the work you put in, the early mornings, late nights, and dreams you dreamt, and sleep you lost. It’s just our way…our days and our nights and the way of things.

When I was younger I thought perseverance was something you either had or something you didn’t. I used to think Continue reading →

Jul 15

Joining Porch.com!

Two weeks ago I announced that I had wrapped up my time at BigDoor, a leading loyalty software provider here in Seattle. It was a day of many emotions. I feel so lucky to have spent the past year working with such a scrappy, dedicated team. I was able to jump head first into the world of loyalty and retention and growth work with some of the top brands in the world. I am just so damn thankful for all the lessons I learned and what we built together.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I am so excited about my new opportunity. In a lot of ways it’s the type of opportunity I’ve been waiting for Seattle to have – a big consumer play backed by a brilliant team that truly believes in data and growth hacking. Throw in that it involves the visual web, online communities and actually has real-life value for those that use the service and I honestly couldn’t help but jump all in.

And that is exactly what I’m doing. In a week I’ll be jumping in as VP of Consumer Marketing at Porch.com, the home improvement network, and fastest-growing startup in Seattle. And frankly I’m over the moon excited.

Why Porch?

For about a million reasons to be honest, but let’s start with the big ones.

The Team

If you live in Seattle (or any of the tech cities to be honest) you’ve probably noticed that Porch.com has been snagging up top talent from some of the best companies out there to join in their mission of helping people love their home. I feel very lucky to collaborate with them and learn from them. After sitting down for just one day with their team I could tell this team was rare…passion, kindness and smarts all over the place.

The Mission

The past few years I was fortunate to spend a lot of time honing on what really matters to me and what I really want from my career and life. Recently I wrote about how I want to have a “beautiful impact” on this world. This to me means I pour my heart and soul and the hours of my day into a product I can get behind, design, share and one that truly makes life better.

Porch.com is that already, in many ways, and will continue to grow into it even more as we share it with the world. It solves a real problem, one that our CEO has talked at lengths about solving. We are helping home professionals do what they love, and homeowners love their home. I mean wow.

Funny enough, I spent a lot of time on my porch as a child. It was the place my family celebrated everything – from birthdays to “ice cream sundaes for dinner” nights, to graduations. My childhood is peppered with family memories on the porch. In fact, before my mom passed away we spent many afternoons on that porch talking about how much she loved it out there. Dad had it built for her so they could watch us grow up in the backyard and play in the pool.

A porch to me represents everything good…family, traditions, laughter, safety, comfort, peace of mind, and spending time together in something you’ve built as a family. Hell I get teared up just think about it.

I am 100% behind spending my days sharing the mission of Porch - love your home. We have very big plans for Porch and the value it will have for homeowners…more on that later, but get excited friends. I know I am.

The Challenge

My journey in marketing has been, unexpectedly, quite funnel like. So meta, huh? I started in performance, moved into engagement, ended up in retention, and fell in love with brand. I’ve gone from running campaigns to launching integrated customer journeys. I went from selling keywords to becoming obsessed with the visual web and what it has to offer.

I am a growth marketer, driven by solving the hardest problems with testing and data. I believe in viral marketing as a practice not a fluke. I believe in using our channels to activate and unlock growth at every turn. I believe that today’s best marketers have the platforms, and the guts required to build bold, beautiful experiences that catch fire and add real value to the consumer.

Porch.com combines so much of what I love. I’m coming on to Continue reading →