What is a Growth Manager? And How to Hire One

While every company aims to grow, not every company takes the time to build a solid foundation with a growth manager.

If you study the development of a few thriving companies you will realize that many of them have a skilled growth manager associated with their sustainable success. In fact, not only a growth manager but a complete growth team.

Growth doesn’t mean anything if it cannot be sustained in the long-term. User acquisition hacks can bring thousands of individuals to try your product as new users. But they won’t grow your company if you cannot retain them. 

Sustainable growth is achieved through a strategy that involves the entire customer lifecycle — awareness, acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, and referral. And growth managers are the ones who build the ground for this holistic strategy that leads to long-term growth. 

What is a Growth Manager?

A growth manager is responsible for identifying a company’s growth opportunities and managing its team’s effort to fill in these opportunity gaps. The growth manager sets goals and leads the efforts to reach these goals.

This happens through methodical processes that involve the following steps:

  1. Work with different departments to identify growth opportunities throughout the entire company
  2. Come up with different ways to seize these opportunities
  3. Define priorities based on impact, confidence, and easiness
  4. Work with the engineering, design, and product team to implement tests quickly
  5. Evaluate the results and make adjustments
  6. Structure a process based on the results

This systematic process is what makes growth managers different from growth hackers. 

Most growth managers have a growth hacking mindset. However, not all growth hackers have the abilities necessary to become a successful growth manager.

A growth hacking mindset is what creates the motivation to be constantly experimenting. Nevertheless, different from growth hackers, growth managers use structured growth plans instead of shortcuts. 

Product Development Before Growth

Even though every company aims to grow, not all companies are ready for it. 

Before you start investing in growth, you must invest in product development until your target audience loves your product. 

If you hire a person to dedicate to a full-time growth position before you achieve product-market fit, all the efforts will be in vain. Your customers won’t pass the acquisition phase — even if you have the best growth manager in the world. 

Also, keep in mind that you must dedicate a reasonable budget to the growth team. It takes a lot of resources to make experiments. Be ready to understand that most experiments fail, and that’s okay as long as it leads to conclusions.

How to Organize a Growth Team 

There’s no right or wrong way to structure a growth team. Every company has different organizational structures and different needs, and that should serve as a base to organize the growth team. 

Some companies have an entire team dedicated to growth. This is a good alternative for mid-sized to large companies that have already established a product-market fit and want to accelerate growth. A growth team typically have different mixes of the following roles:

  • Growth manager, who acts as a leader 
  • Growth engineer, who focuses on implementing experiments
  • Growth marketer, who tends to be T-shaped
  • Growth product manager, who is responsible for the experiment roadmap
  • Growth designer, who is fast at the implementation
  • Growth data analyst, who drives insights from experiments

Other companies have growth specialists spread across different teams. This means having a growth manager on the marketing team, for example, working closely with people from other teams. 

How to Hire a Growth Manager

Growth managers live and breathe data analysis and problem-solving. This means that growth managers must be a blend between an analytical and creative person. 

Finding an individual who has the right set of experiences is a challenge, but there are certain things that you can do to put you in the right direction. 

One of the ways to locate a good fit is to look for entrepreneurs. Building a company from the ground is already an indicator that the potential candidate has some of the characteristics necessary to be a successful growth professional. Being an entrepreneur demonstrates that the individual has grit, leadership skills, holistic business knowledge, and the ability to move fast. 

Keep in mind that a failure does not discredit the valuable experience. Sometimes, it makes the individual even more capable. 

Being an early employee of a fast-growing startup is also a good indicator that the candidate will potentially succeed as a growth manager. Startups require employees to have a self-starter personality.

Incubators are excellent places to find these people. 

Another way to find competent people is by joining credible professional communities. This can mean joining a growth Facebook Group or attending local growth marketing events. 

Just keep in mind that evaluating a candidate to fill in the growth manager position in your company depends on how you expect to organize the team. 

If you are hiring a growth manager to lead an entire growth team – similar to a Head of Growth position – the candidate should have a few years of experience managing people with different expertise from development to design. If you’re hiring a growth manager to execute more than manage – similar to a growth marketer job description – the person should have deep knowledge in digital marketing and business development.

Characteristics of Successful Growth Managers

Even though the characteristics of your ideal growth manager are determined by your company’s particularities, there are a few traits that you should look for when evaluating candidates. Successful growth managers present the following characteristics:

Experimental mindset. Growth managers’ enthusiasm about testing hypotheses must motivate engineers, designers, and product marketing people to implement experiments. 

Experience taking action based on data. Data is the fuel to a company’s growth, so being able to attribute meaning to data is key for the growth manager’s success.

Experience working with cross-functional teams. Growth needs multiple people with different expertise, so the growth manager must understand how to integrate efforts. 

Broad knowledge of marketing. The ideal growth manager has a T-shaped type of knowledge, which means having a broad understanding of many topics that range from SEO to paid advertising to Google Analytics to landing page design, then deep knowledge in one or two.

Product management knowledge. Understanding how the users interact with the product is a big part of the growth manager’s job description.

Ability to deal with failure. A growth manager must understand that most experiments will not bring the expected results but that they can still bring a positive experience.

Project management experience. Being in charge of a growth strategy involves leading multiple initiatives simultaneously.

Ability to move fast. In most cases, implementing an imperfect MVP fast is better than taking a lot of resources to implement a perfectly crafted hypothesis.

Experience building structured procedures. The end goal of every experiment performed by the growth manager is to create a process that will help the company grow.

Holistic business knowledge. Growth managers must evaluate growth opportunities across the entire company, which requires a broad knowledge of different departments.

Experience leading people. The growth manager will not always execute growth initiatives, so it’s key that your candidate has an excellent track record managing other people’s efforts. 

The Growth Manager Job

If you’ve achieved product-market fit, the next step is to pursue growth that has a foundation of longevity based on the entire customer lifecycle. 

Hiring a growth manager, who is often the first growth-dedicated employee of a company, is the best way to ensure that you’re planting your company on solid ground. A successful growth manager will work tirelessly to find creative ways to drive acquisition, engage users, and retain customers. 

When you crack the egg, growth managers are data-driven pros with a creative touch, who take every opportunity to transform leads into brand champions, and ultimately make the company grow.

If you bring in a talented growth professional, with the right skill set, who optimizes the efforts of your entire company, then you’ll be happy you made the investment.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is a business strategy consultant and founder. He's written several world-recognized books on software configuration, speaks Spanish, ballroom dances, and owns The Product Company and Squibler.