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Driving rapid learning and experimentation through a Growth team

November 20, 2023

4 min read

Koalafi offers convenient and affordable financing to non-prime customers, and our company mission is to provide inclusive financial products that help businesses and consumers succeed.

Over six months ago, we stood up a Growth team at Koalafi, with the initial focus of establishing stronger relationships with our customers (end consumers).

Since helping our customers succeed is a core part of Koalafi’s overall mission, we were excited to use Growth experiments to uncover new ways to help our customers.

When thinking about how we structured the team, there are a few areas in which we invested that helped make us successful.

  1. We did ample pre-work to set the team up for success

  2. Teammates were as fully allocated to the Growth team as possible

  3. We set expectations for a rapid pace of experimentation through our meeting and planning cadence

  4. The team was responsible for one clear, measurable KPI

The work starts before the team is staffed

The work to ensure the team's success started about a month or two before the first official team meeting happened. Without this pre-work, finding our groove would have taken much longer.

We spent time with experienced, high-performing Growth team members from our network who took the time to help us brainstorm avenues to set up the team for success.

We also had many conversations with Koalafi’s leadership team to ensure we were on the same page about the team’s focus and expected impact and to work through some of the anticipated challenges.

In the team’s first week, we held a pre-mortem. In a pre-mortem, you imagine a future state where your project or venture has failed, and you ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” We have found it to be an incredibly effective way to encourage a team to voice their previously unspoken concerns. It was a forcing mechanism for getting as many issues and challenges out in the open as early as possible so that the team could tackle them together.

Focus flows from staffing

The “gold standard” uncovered in growth team research was to fully allocate all team members. When we realized that would be a challenge to start, we focused on prioritizing bandwidth for the teammate that would otherwise be pulled onto other projects - our engineer. We staffed one senior, full-stack engineer on the team, and he wasn’t available to support any other projects on our overall roadmap.

The remaining three of us on the team (product, analytics, and marketing) would all hover somewhere between 50-75% staffing, but with Growth work taking priority over our other responsibilities.

Clear priority on our staffing allowed us to swarm quickly on new experiments when needed, enabling us to keep a high throughput of learning.

Create a team cadence that matches your desired pace

We wanted to move on the Growth team as quickly as reasonably possible, shipping at least one experiment every two weeks. The cadence you set on the team ends up being one of the core drivers of the pace of work, and we designed our team processes around that.

  • Internal to the team: We met at the start and end of each week to cover our goals for the week and plan for the next. While we started by planning in traditional 2-week sprints, we ultimately planned week-by-week.

  • With our stakeholders: We met with leadership every three weeks and set the expectation that we should display meaningful progress between meetings. If we didn’t have new learnings to share with our leadership team, then we’d done something wrong the prior three weeks. We also posted weekly blogs for the wider company, updating the company on what we’d accomplished the prior week and what we hoped to accomplish the next week.

Having one clear KPI that we were focused on forced creativity and deepness of learning

Part of the reason we spun up the Growth team was to focus on a single KPI, but at first, it was a hard sell that it would be the only metric the team focused on. There were so many good ideas - how could we ignore them to focus on just one opportunity?

But that’s exactly what we did. There may be different behaviors it makes sense to focus on in the future, but for the first six months, the team explored how we could expand our relationships with our customers.

We did our best to stay disciplined and focus on generating ideas and running experiments that laddered up to our core KPI. We got to a greater depth of understanding than we would have had if we had run experiments across the business. The constraint of focusing on one metric forced more creative ideas out of our brainstorming sessions.

Experiments became a flywheel, generating ideas for new experiments with what we learned along the way from each. As we progressed, we started to explore areas that were adjacent to our core focus area. While some of our later experiments didn’t drive our core KPI directly, they still supported our broader focus area and company mission.

In conclusion, we found that Growth teams are a powerful way to innovate and uncover growth opportunities that drive impact. When setting up a Growth team, be sure to focus on a core KPI, have a dedicated team with clear organizational expectations about their focus on the Growth work, and maintain a rapid rate of experimentation.

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Koalafi offers Lease-To-Own and Lending solutions. Loans issued by The Bank of Missouri, serviced by Koalafi