Inside Look: Punchkick Growth Team

Zak Dabbas
  • Zak Dabbas
  • May 6, 2014
Inside Look: Punchkick Growth Team

I’m often asked about the incredible growth we’ve experienced at Punchkick over the past few years. And it’s a fair question, considering our humble beginnings. Punchkick was formed during a terrible recession. We’ve had multiple offers for purchase that we’ve turned down. And we’ve managed to grow the company without any venture capital. Yet we continue to thrive. We began as a small dog in a big pond (or however the saying goes) and we’ve never slowed down. And today, we’re exactly where we want to be.

But despite finding success in doing things our own way, for a short time last year, my business partner and I tried our hand at a management style known as Traction. Punchkick had grown faster than usual, and it felt like it was time to incorporate a more formalized management style into the business. I still can’t quite explain why. Traction is an operating system for businesses—and a great one at that—but it just didn’t fit our needs. It requires the building of an organizational chart, classic-manager roles, and other non-Punchkick elements. We tried to make it work for a few months. And ultimately, instead of trying to fit our natural operating style into Traction, we just said enough—and went in a direction that was all Punchkick.

I sent the email copied below—edited a tiny bit for clarity—earlier this year.

Hi everyone,

Traction is dead. And let me just say: yipeeeeee!

I’m joking. Mostly.

Traction is an awesome operating system for 99.9% of businesses out there. It creates accountability and gets everyone involved in helping to grow a business.

But, as with any system, there comes a point where you wonder, “how much can I deviate from something before I’m not following it anymore?” And that has become the case with Traction.

Traction wanted us to create an org chart. And we didn’t want one. So instead we created a growth engine that shows all of the roles of PK and what they are accountable for.

Traction wants weekly meetings with smaller Traction teams. And it wants hierarchy. And rollout is difficult and often confusing, which creates a cloak of mystery from everyone else who wonders, “what the heck is going on in that conference room?”

Traction just isn’t flat enough. It wasn’t the key to Punchkick’s success. And last week it hit me: We’ve never played it by the book before. So why are we starting now?

Traction is dead. Long live Traction. Or whatever that means.

Introducing the Punchkick Growth Team (PGT).

Who’s on it? Funny you should ask. Anyone who wants to be.

That’s right, if you want to be a part of shaping the processes that we deploy at Punchkick, and have a hand in steering the direction of our growth, simply email me and you’re in. Here’s how it will work:

  1. Ryan and I currently have a Trello board that we work from every Monday during our “on-the-business” brainstorms and it is awesome. If you’re not familiar with Trello—that’s okay—it’s simply a web tool that manages stacks of organized note cards. Within it, we identify rocks (you can think of these as growth missions) for each department at Punchkick, as well as rocks that Ryan and I specifically need to work on. This Trello board embodies lots of the things we need to do to grow Punchkick, and it’s going to be open to everyone in the company.
  2. Within this Trello board, we have a backlog list that Ryan and I throw good ideas onto, for future exploration. Now, everyone at Punchkick will be encouraged to add their ideas to this backlog. If a backlog item turns out to be solid, and something that will help the company out, we’ll then migrate it over to the appropriate department note card list—Operations, User Experience, Marketing, etc. You with me so far?
  3. At the start of the quarter, everyone on the PGT will meet and we’ll figure out which rocks really need to get done that quarter. Together we’ll distribute those rocks based on your expertise, desire to take it on, and other factors. For the time being, Ryan and I will be the moderators for the PGT, meaning we’ll be the ultimate decision makers about whether someone is the right fit for a rock—and we’ll constantly review the idea backlog to determine which rocks should move over. Eventually, other folks will be moderators of the backlog.
  4. Following this, every week for the rest of the quarter we’ll meet for an hour or so and get updates on progress folks have made on rocks, questions that the PGT can help with, and more. You’ll also be able to get any help you might need from the Scorecard Team, the fine folks who own Punchkick scorecard items. If you don’t know what our company scorecard is, don’t fret. It’s going to play a bigger role in our lives soon. As the PGT grows, we can pivot—eventually there may be department-specific PGTs and the like. Who knows? And for now, that’s okay.
  5. If you’re busy work-wise, you can volunteer for the team and seek out a small rock. Maybe you’re slammed and would rather be involved in a future quarter. Or maybe you’re a PK monster and can handle a big rock. We might even have more people volunteer than there are rocks for. Imagine that. Whatever works for you works for us as long as you do you darndest to deliver.
  6. Remember: rocks are different from job responsibilities. Our growth engine spells out the job responsibilities that someone is always accountable for in each role at Punchkick. Rocks are an above-and-beyond thing. They get completed and closed out. And they aren’t billable. But when rocks are knocked out we become more successful and Punchkick becomes a better place to be! Rocks are YOU stepping up and helping shape Punchkick. When you’ve got a rock, you’re the boss of it. And think about that: you can potentially drive the execution of a process that you have felt was the right answer for a long time.

I’m so excited for this. No more mystery. No more uncertainty.

If you’re interested in being on the team, just send me an email.

The result? Over a third of the company showed up for the first PGT meeting. We collectively delegated rocks to team members, and by the end of March we’d accomplished magnitudes more than my business partner Ryan and I could have alone. Folks on the PGT researched their rocks and made incredibly solid recommendations. As I’ve learned and re-learned countless times in my career, passion almost always trumps experience. Best of all, change was coming from those who cared most. It’s been a win in every way imaginable.

Here’s a small sampling of rocks that were beautifully completed during the first PGT quarter:

  • Reimbursement guidelines for team member expenses (thanks Michelle!)
  • Formalized sprint planning agenda (thanks Christina!)
  • Target device list guidelines for statements of work (thanks Jason!)
  • Hiring-referral incentive program (thanks Jimmy!)

For Punchkick, the secret to success is that there is no secret. The answers to our questions almost always exist inside of everyone on this amazing team.

The trick, it seems, is to just listen.


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