399 | Fast Growth Requires GrowthIQ with Tiffani Bova

Knowing how to be a leader is not something that you are born to do. You have to work at it. You have to be intentional. You have to learn. To be a leader you have to engage others to believe in your vision. You have to be good at getting others to believe in themselves. Today I’m sharing that the journey of leadership starts with one step. Tune in to find out how to be a leader.

Don't miss an episode. Subscribe to Growth Think Tank.

Featuring Tiffani Bova

Share the LOVE and TWEET about this episode.

Target Audience: Seffani is a Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. She has a podcast called “What’s Next! with Tiffani Bova” it is one of the top 100 business and marketing podcasts on iTunes and top sales podcast of 2018 and 2019 according to Top Sales Magazine. Tune in as we talk about her bestselling book GROWTH IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business (Portfolio).


Tiffani Bova: The Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

This is leaders in the trenches and your host today is Gene Hammett.

Gene Hammett: Hi, my name is Gene Hammett. I’m the host of leaders in the trenches. My question for you today is what is your foundation for growth look like? Yup. That’s a very interesting question, right? What is the foundation for growth for your business? Well, what I’ve found is it’s not necessarily your marketing strategies or sales strategies or strategies at all that is most important for the growth of your business. The most important element is the leadership alignment with the people and how the culture really supports fast growth. Those two things, the foundation, your leadership, and culture. Now I wanted to have someone special on today. I rarely find anyone who has studied growth as much as I have, so I have Tiffani Bova. Tiffani is an evangelist for a salesforce.com she also is the author of growth Iq. I messed that up a little bit, but she is a fantastic interview. We talked about some of the core things that she saw and the patterns of growth and she really talked about the importance of sequencing. Find out what I mean by listening to the full up episode, but you want to tune in to this episode if you want to grow your company. So here is Tiffani Bova.

Gene Hammett: Hi Tiffany. How are you?

Tiffani Bova: I’m good. How are you? Happy New Year.

Gene Hammett: Happy New Year to you because we talked before the new year and set this up. You are somewhat, I’m really looking forward to talking to because we think a lot in some ways. I think there are some ways we’re a little bit of controversy, which we might get into a little bit here

Tiffani Bova: Oh, good. I love that.

Gene Hammett: But I really am excited about having you because of the depth that you’ve gone to understand growth. There are very few people that have done that. You do it from one perspective. I do it from another, and we’re gonna have a great conversation here for the leaders in the trenches audience.

Tiffani Bova: Excellent. I’m super excited about it.

Gene Hammett: So the first question I want to start with, I’ve already introduced you, but I’d love for them to hear in your own voice. Tell us about you and who you serve.

Tiffani Bova: Well, you know, in all sorts of Kitty, I like to say I’m a recovering seller who accidentally started running marketing organizations and customer service organizations and then really accidentally ended up in the analyst community working at Gartner as a research fellow for a decade, helping very small businesses, startups all the way to fortune 10 companies, figure out how to go to market and improve sales performance and marketing performance and really survive and thrive in this digital age of digital transformation. And now the last three years I’ve spent as an evangelist on growth and innovation at salesforce, traveling around the world, meeting with customers and as well as speaking at events really about trying to help people feel more comfortable and confident about how to use technology to help them grow going forward.

Gene Hammett: Well, we’re going to dive into this cause you also published a book that is getting a lot of acclaims growth I.Q. Tell me why that book had to be written.

Tiffani Bova: Well, I, so I’d like to say that I may talk or not a writer. And so my challenge always was as I was on traveling around and doing keynotes around the world, over probably about a 10 year period, many of the people I was on stage with how to book and I didn’t have one. And everyone’s like, well you really should have a book. And I’m like, oh, but I don’t, I don’t write like that. And so I went on this exploratory journey of if I was going to write one, what I write about, and I started to see patterns in companies that were growing versus companies that were really struggling to grow. And what did those patterns mean? And I’ve been told, one of my superpowers is that I’m able to sort of see the big dipper and all the stars of data and sort of touch points and conversations I have and be able to really shape that into a story.

Tiffani Bova: And my challenge was, well, how do I get it on paper? Easy for me to do on stage, how do I get it on paper? And so it became a passion for me putting the book together. And I wanted to do it in a way that was telling stories to get the point across versus just using data and analysis, which I think for many, it’s not the right way to share information. So I wrote a book I would want to read, which was some great advice someone gave me many years ago. And so that was really a labor of love for me. And now she’s a toddler. She’s like five months old or something. So she said she’s still a toddler, but, but really enjoying how people have enjoyed the book.

Gene Hammett: Well, they grew up faster than human years. It’s I think it’s even faster than dog years.

Tiffani Bova: You know, everyone’s already asking me, what’s the next book? I’m like, oh my God. Like, no, I haven’t. Uh, once I finished the book, you know, I didn’t read it again. And then I, I did the audiobook of it. And so that was, you know, almost 40 hours of recording for a nine and a half hour audiobook. And so I’ve now can say, I’ve read it word for word cover to cover, but I don’t know if I’m ready for another one.

Gene Hammett: Let’s just go ahead and say, cause I don’t know how, how that was for you. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life to record my book.

Tiffani Bova: It was odd. I would, I’ll just say it was just really, really odd.

Gene Hammett: Because we don’t read every word. I didn’t know that like our, our brains go so fast. We don’t read every word. But with the audiobook you have to read the script, right?

Tiffani Bova: Oh yeah. And you know me, my producer was, you know, you know, she just told up her hand. It was, it was a hold up your hand. That would be, I must’ve missed a word. Right. And so you like, even if it’s seasoned and you say season hand would go up. Like it’s very, very specific. So it’s really exhausting and tiring, but a lot of fun. A lot of fun to do.

Gene Hammett: I will say this and we’ll get into the content. Everyone tells me this, and I’ve read, listened to audiobooks too. It’s so much more fun when the author reads it. So I appreciate you did that. And I did it for my book as well.

Tiffani Bova: Well, I had to try out.

Gene Hammett: Can she do this? So I want to dive right into this. I want to start with a big idea. So you’ve been studying growth, you’ve been looking at growth for decades, from your days with Gartner, doing data research, but also in what you currently do now. So what’s the idea for growth?

Tiffani Bova: There were a few that that really came to light in those patterns that I was talking about, that I learned when I was working with companies that were in hypergrowth mode. Right? They were barreling towards an IPO and they were sort of fee or trying to get to Unicorn status that, you know, they were one of those very hypergrowth fast-growth companies. Somebody who’s been around for a while who is still growing. And then companies that were in a growth stall and meaning that they were finding it more challenging to grow or they were flat out not growing at all anymore. And the big idea that came out of the book was not necessarily the pad cyan covered cause there’s sort of 10 paths to growth. It was all about the combination of paths, number one. Number two, the order in which things were done or sequence in which they were done. Those two things were really the determining factor for me on whether companies were going to grow or not grow. So it was the combination of activities and the sequence in which they did them.

Gene Hammett: The sequence, I always think of it, it’s like the phone number, you’ve got to get the sequence right and it’s different at different times of the market. It’s different with them, different industries and whatnot. From what I’ve seen. What could you tell us about, you know, discovering your sequence?

Tiffani Bova: Well, I, you know, I use sort of, I was looking for an analogy when I was writing the book and I was starting going to start, you know like if you’re trying to climb Mount Everest, you don’t just climb it, right? You start at the base camp, you spend an amount of time at the base camp, then you go up to the second camp, you come back down, you got it. There’s, you can’t cheat the sequence, right? If you’re going to go from the bottom to the top of Mount Everest, you cannot cheat the sequence.

Gene Hammett: Yeah.

Tiffani Bova: That was one analogy. I tried and then, and then I said, well hold on a second. Let me, let me think about cooking. You know, if I laid out the exact same ingredients Julia child laid out and we were going to cook court on blue, even if we use the exact same ingredients, it would taste much better coming from her.

Tiffani Bova: And so that is that feel and the sequence of when to do this and when to boil that and when to add this and when to add that and how much and all those things. And so sequence for me was really, really important and when I started to deconstruct the case studies that I was using in the book, there’s 30 of them and when I started to deconstruct what a company was doing, when they were either growing or not growing, I started to see the things that and the order in which they did them, which started to lead me to believe that whether it was people, systems, process, product, sales, marketing, distribution, supply chain, whatever it was, if it was a little bit out of sequence, it had an impact in their success.

ADVERTISEMENT: Before we jump into the content, let me just remind you that today’s podcast is brought to you by Audible. If you like to listen to podcasts, you probably like to listen to audible books and I want to give you a free 30-day trial and all you have to do is use this URL, which is audibletrial.com/leadersinthetrenches. That’s the name of the podcast. Just go there. You can buy any book you want. I’d love for you to bide the trap of success. That’s my book that came out earlier this past year. And if you want to get the 30-day trial, just go to audibletrial.com/leadersinthetrenches. Now back to the show.

Gene Hammett: You’ve mentioned patterns more than once here, and that’s one of the things I’m looking for. I’ve done over 300 interviews with the ink 5,000 is my focus. So they’re growing at really astronomical levels and interviewed a company that is day 39000% over a three year period and just really exciting stuff. What did you see in the patterns that you could share with us today?

Tiffani Bova: Well, you know one thing for sure it was the one thing is it’s not one thing that, you know, I would get asked the question a lot like what’s the one thing we can do this quarter? It’s a turn around sales or what’s the one thing we can do to start to increase brand awareness for us or improve social media performance or sales performance? And everyone’s looking for the one thing.

Gene Hammett: Yeah.

Tiffani Bova: And so the pattern that I started as a c was that everyone was looking for the one thing and then I came behind it and realize that, look, it, it isn’t just one thing. And so, you know, there were a few paths like customer experience, sales optimization, that we’re pretty consistently showing themselves in everyone’s journey towards growth. And I think that’s would be an obvious one. Like if you can’t sell well and you’re not servicing your customers well, you’re going to have a natural problem.

Tiffani Bova: But I’d say that there were no real patterns in certain combinations of growth paths that were more successful than others because the variation happened because of the context of the company and the market, which was really the starting point of the book. Like what is the context of what is your product? Who are your customers, where are you serving, where are you selling? And so that context made everyone unique. And so whenever I work with companies that say we’ve been watching what our competitors are doing and we want to do the same thing, I’m always like, but you’re not selling to the same customers and you may not be selling that entirely the same set of products. So why would you compare yourself to somebody who may compete with you in a segment or in a particular category but not you are not the same company.

Tiffani Bova: So getting people to think differently about context and then not trying to just replicate other people’s success stories because they cannot tell the sequence from the outside. You know, that’s, you know, so if you’re looking at a competitor and you say, oh they just launched a new social media campaign and then you say, so we’re going to launch one too. But you don’t know. Before they launched that social media campaign, they shored up their e-commerce site, they changed their website, rebranded, they get four or five things. Then they launched their social media initiative. Right? And so all you see is social media. So you go and run and replicated social media and you haven’t made sure that the other things are in place and you don’t have the same kind of success. So that sequencing combination is something very hard to replicate because you don’t have the ability and access to see what they’ve actually done. You only see the outcome and the end result.

Gene Hammett: That’s pretty smart because you know it does take people from the outside trying to reconstruct a re-engineer something and they just, they can’t see everything. When I think about the research I did with the Ink 5,000 I went into it looking at growth with an open mind going, which marketing and sales strategies were most prevalent. And you probably won’t be surprised by t,his because I was interviewing different kinds of companies in different markets. You know some of them were niche players and some of them weren’t. And some of them focused on sales and some of them didn’t. And so I really never saw patterns there. But one of the things I did see patterns is, is how they had leadership and culture. What could you tell me about your work on leadership specifically?

Tiffani Bova: Well, I’m going to start with culture because you nailed it. Okay. When you think about something like a blue ocean strategy, right? Like we’re going to go and innovate and do something no one’s ever done before. And when someone’s growing at the rates like you just described in the inc 5,000, they’ve sold son, they’ve, they’re solving some unmet need. They’re doing something someone wasn’t doing or they’re doing it better. The challenge that you have if you just try to go and do that is you may not have a culture that is innovative, meaning like you don’t reward failure. You don’t allow people time to think. The metrics and KPIs don’t actually foster that kind of behavior. Or even if you’re going to do something like we’re going to become a customer-led company. What are metrics are not customer led, right? Are Our metrics are very internally focused. And so the culture of the company has everything to do with innovation. You know, I will use say where I work now obviously I work at Salesforce, uh, as the uh, growth and innovation evangelist.

Tiffani Bova: And I would tell you that there’s no accident that we’re one of the most innovative companies in the world and we’re one of the best places to work pretty much globally. Like, and so if you look at those high performers on the ink 5,000 or the fortune 500, you’re going to start to see that they’re also landing on the best places to work lists. Because if you have a culture where everyone is really rowing towards the same vision and they understand what they’re doing every day and you know, you of treating your employees really well, they’ll treat your customers really well, they’ll go the extra mile even if they’re doing things like working four day work weeks or remotely working. It really has everything to do with the culture because if your people are happy, your customers are happy. So I think you nailed it. I think it would be interesting for you to ask that question in the Inc 500, right? Is, do you think culture is a competition for you? And I’m going to guess many of them would say yes.

Gene Hammett: I will tell you that when I got into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect but, but after hundreds of interviews, they’re proud of their gross levels. But the number that they’re most proud of was their retention rate.

Tiffani Bova: Yeah, exactly.

Gene Hammett: And mainly, and this is one of the areas where we kind of butted heads a few weeks ago when we talked, I said, you know of this, this research and oh sort of over 300 interviews right now, 94.1% say a leader’s job is to put employees first versus customer first. And now I do believe it’s a hard decision and it’s very closely and so the way I kind of describe it is its employees first, but you have to be customer-centric, but you have a little bit different take on that from, from your perspective of growth. Right.

Tiffani Bova: I would agree with you saying that, right? You have to be employee-led and customer-centric. I think that’s a great way to show how they’re tied together. I feel like it’s the same coin. You know, that your customers will only be as happy as your employees and without one or the other.

Gene Hammett: Yeah, I mean certainly the extreme you can’t run a business without customers and the revenue that, that supplies.

Tiffani Bova: That’s Right.

Gene Hammett: But you know, it really clued into me when I was talking to Kat Cole from focus brands. Do you know Kat? I don’t, I don’t know focus brands. They have all these food chains like Cinnabon. Have you ever eaten a Cinnabon?

Tiffani Bova: Yeah, not lately. But yes

Gene Hammett: As she’s described, it’s a treat. It’s not an everyday kind of thing. But you know, these people are on the front lines that, you know, we hope that they washed their hands if they want to care about their work and so that they washed their hands and I’m like, that’s really important. Right? Those employees, they didn’t care about what they’re doing and they just showed up to get a paycheck. They don’t care.

Tiffani Bova: Right. And I think that that, and now that’s the other side of that, that what question you asked, which is leadership. And so, you know, she has to allow the employees the freedom to sort of be their best self, but most successful. But that comes from the reward and metrics and things that they track. And so it can’t just be, you know, for example, you know. I’m running a call center and what’s important to me is time to answer the first call resolution. Yeah. And as a customer I’m like, I don’t care if you answer the phone quickly, I just want it. I just want to talk to somebody who can help me. I mean, I don’t want to have to wait an hour for someone to pick up the phone. So there are limits to how long I’m willing to wait. But answering it really quickly and then transferring me five times does not give me a good experience or you answer it really quickly, you’re going to resolve my problem.

Tiffani Bova: But then you do something like, well, the maximum call time for a call center agent is 15 minutes. And so they’re not allowed to stay on the phone with me for 30 to solve my problem.

Gene Hammett: Yeah.

Tiffani Bova: So now the employee will say, and I’ve had this happen and it wasn’t 15 minutes, it was 30 where the service agent actually had to hang up and call me back every 30 minutes. And so, you know, because the metric was I can’t be on the phone longer than 30 so not only they weren’t empowering the employee to have be customer-centric, right. To serve me and just keep me on the phone. Because if they had, they would have been deemed in their metric. And so those two things are in conflict.

Tiffani Bova: So, you know, you did put me first as an employee, you’ve given me a nice place to work, you’ve given me all the tools, you’ve given me days off. Do you know what I mean? All of that. Yeah. But then you’re not customer-centric, you say your customer-centric. But the metrics were sort of a conflict with that. So you know, I think that’s where leadership really has to be willing to think differently about how they measure and manage with things like net promoter scores or C-sat that does two things, right. It allows the employee to do what’s best for the customer and also get measured on that as well.

Gene Hammett: When I want to go back to this research 10 because it was, I don’t get a chance to talk to is really anyone else that has done as much research on growth is I have. And so I’m just pretty excited to be talking to you today. But one of the things around leadership was they really inspire a sense of ownership across the people. And that sense of ownership doesn’t have to be profit sharing or even commissions or anything like that or anything that that really tied to money. It’s a way they feel about the work. And you mentioned a couple of those things. One of them is, you know, letting them fail and so are you, did you see the same kind of sense of ownership is a valuable part of that culture or leadership experience for growth companies?

Tiffani Bova: Yeah, I think this is, I coined a term many years ago when I was at Gartner called the seller’s dilemma. And I selfishly, you know, took it from Clayton Christensen’s innovator’s dilemma. I’m like, what would resonate with people? And that was how do I transform a sales growth engine while at the same time running the business, right? The cars going around the track at a hundred miles an hour, I have to hit numbers, a payroll, I have, you know, publicly traded, whatever it might be. And so can I stop that engine long enough to transform the business however I need it to be transformed. And I feel the same way when you start thinking about what are the metrics that need to be looked at is as a leader, allowing your people, depending on where you are in the organization, allowing your people to have time to transform, learn, fail, and keep going specifically in the growth engine, which tends to be sales, right?

Tiffani Bova: And so how can salespeople fail when we need the revenue? Right? So what are the ways that you can do that? Now I get it that some companies don’t sell the way I’m describing here. It might be totally online and there are no salespeople or they sell through third-party franchisees or you know, whatever the case might be. But I think people should, uh, you know, we’ll understand that whatever that engine is that’s generating revenue, how do transform that and innovate that without disrupting revenue and be willing to fail. And so you can’t just bet, you know, do a student body left, you know, and say we’re going to completely change the way we do things. It’s about these very small pivots over time where you’re testing, failing, iterating or testing learning and you’re not necessarily failing but you’re testing and learning and continuing to pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot until you find it versus doing 180 degrees turn all at once, which I’m not a fan of. I’m not a fan of the sort of the big bang change. Very much a fan of, of leaning into them, that kind of change.

Gene Hammett: And that’s one of the areas at which I talk about because you know, we know that when employees have problems, if they bring the problems to their, their leadership or management, that’s kind of old school. Like we were told not to do that, like, you know, was really analyze the problems and then bring us solutions. And then I ask my audiences and whatnot is like, well what if you train them, not just bring you solutions but bring you a test to actually use to see if that is the right solution. Like, think of the next step. Because that’s what has to be done is those small iterations toward growth is through testing. And so you just mentioned that when you talk about fast-growth companies, I would imagine you saw some stuff that was maybe counterintuitive to growth and I’d love to know what that is.

Tiffani Bova: One of them was slowing down to speed up.

Gene Hammett: Okay.

Tiffani Bova: I think everyone is trying to do it faster, faster, faster. Instead of saying hold on a second. Like we need to take a pause. We need to take a beat, we need to one, make sure our employees and our teams are able to absorb all this change we’re doing simultaneously. Do we need some time in between projects? Do we need to let everyone sort of, you know, re-gas themselves, right? And get a little bit of time in order to go and attack. The next thing you’re going to do that slow down to speed up is something that I think is super valuable. And there’s, you know, his story that you know, or the, the question and I think it was really raised the thing was by Abraham Lincoln, but you know, if you and I were going to compete on who could chop down more trees, you know, in the course of an hour, uh, and you just started chopping, chopping, chopping, chopping, and I spent the first 15 minutes sharpening my blade.

Gene Hammett: Yeah. We know who would win.

Tiffani Bova: Right? And so you would chop, chop, chop, chop, number one, you’d get tired. Number two, your blade would get dull. And by the time you got tired and your blade got dull, I’m just probably starting to chop down the trees. I can do it a lot longer and my blade is sharp or saw work less, you know, not, not as hard as you have. And I potentially am going to chop down more trees than you. But intuitively it would be like, oh, we have to race to chop down trees. I’m just going to start chopping down trees that sorta at versus saying hold on a second. Like what’s the best way for me to give myself the best chance of success? Well if my blade is in sharp, if I’m tired, you know if I don’t pick the right trees. Right. That whole sequence conversation. So I think slow down to speed up is counter-intuitive.

Gene Hammett: I just recorded a video, I do some solo episodes for the show and I just recorded on that same topic because it kept coming up and you know, in your own life, you’re just told me you took off four weeks from traveling on planes you needed to slow down so that now you can go into the new year with the intensity to get things done. So that’s a perfect example as well.

Tiffani Bova: Yeah. And this is my lean and weak. Like I didn’t just, you know, get right back on a plane. Right? You kind of have to say, you know, I need to get back into the groove and then you have to give yourself, you know, the time. And I think that you know, as entrepreneurs and small business owners that may be listening, you know, it’s also allowing yourself to completely eject from the business. And the only way you can do that as if you’re a strong enough leader that has empowered everyone around you to make the right decisions, whether you’re there or not there, which means you have the ability to bounce out of the business. Because if it only works when you’re there, then you haven’t created a culture and a leadership team to make yourself help be successful.

Tiffani Bova: That’s another one of the key disciplines of my, my research in hypergrowth. So Tiffany, thank you so much for being here at meters in the trenches. If our audience wanted to check you out, check out the book and make sure you mentioned where they could do that.

Tiffani Bova: Yeah, so they can buy growth I.Q Ads, you know, Barnes and Nobles or any brick and mortar bookstore pretty much across us as well. Online at Amazon and 800 CEO read and other places and then it’s going to be making its way across the pond in the UK, Commonwealth. It’s publishing in February of this year and that it’s going to continue on on its journey and it will be publishing in Spanish, Portuguese, simple Chinese, Chinese and Vietnamese I think in the next 18 months or so she will be making her global roadshow I guess. Then also I have a podcast. What’s next with Tiffany Bova and you can follow me on Twitter at @Tiffani_Bova.

Gene Hammett: Well, thank you for being here talking growth with me and it’s been a pleasure to have you as leaders in the trenches.

Tiffani Bova: All right, thanks for having me.

Gene Hammett: What a great interview. We just, I just felt like talking to one of my best friends when we were talking about growth because it lights her up as much as it lights me. A devotee is such an expert in this and working at Salesforce, her experience out in the field. Also working with other companies at Gartner is just an amazing experience to be able to have time with her today on the podcast for you. So if you have any questions about growth, make sure you check out other episodes. We have. We have many tips on hypergrowth tips, but also if you have a question, I’d love to know what that is. We’ll do more episodes just for that. Just email me [email protected] and that is how you best get in touch with me. As always, lead with courage and I’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

In this episode we’ll cover:

  • Foundation of Growth
  • How to Market and Improve Sales performance
  • Growth and Innovation
  • Fast Growth Companies
  • Discovering your Sequence
  • Impact of Success
  • Improve Social Media Performance
  • Work on Leadership
  • Employees First versus Customer First



And lastly, please leave a rating and review for the Leaders in the Trenches on iTunes (or Stitcher) – it will help us in many ways, but it also inspires us to keep doing what we are doing here. Thank you in advance!

If you want more from us check out more interviews:

Transformational Leadership
Productivity Tips
Best Selling Author Interviews