After burning out on two consecutive businesses, Dave Rogenmoser and his two partners, JP Morgan and Chris Hull, decided to start over again.
They jumped into another project but quickly experienced too much hassle and stress again. This time, however, they turned to Scaling Up for answers. The result? In a 36-hour session, they created a business that’s both scalable and fun to run.
Scaling Up was recommended to Dave by another entrepreneur in his network, Chandler Bolt from Selfpublishing.com, on multiple occasions. But he left it on the shelf for a time until it became evident that he needed to approach his business in a different way.
The Scaling Up methodology led Dave to get a completely new business off the ground:
“I think at the end of 2016, exhausted again, we just kind of said: if we keep going like this, we don't really want to do this anymore. This is too much work and too much hassle and stress. And so we said: well, let's just try this Scaling Up thing for three months and just see how it goes.”
Over the course of three days, Dave and his partners went through the book chapter by chapter to build their new company and its operations. A year and a half and 13 more employees later, they invested in coaching as well.
The biggest gains according to Dave?
More clarity, improved communication, better alignment, more freedom, and less stress.
“I think without Scaling Up, we probably would have left that three-day retreat not really having any clear outcome. But even if we did, I don't think we would've had the structure to go make it happen.”
Growing a business from scratch with Scaling Up
Dave credits the Scaling Up methodology for taking Proof from ideation to operations. Without the framework they wouldn’t have gotten so clear on their business idea and their vision, he believes.
To create their long-term vision, Dave’s team relied on the the One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP) and 7 Strata of Strategy worksheet. He remembers how the tools helped them move much more quickly with Proof: “We basically did a complete pivot. Right away we kind of knew Proof was going to be a big hit. We could see the big vision and were able to shift really confidently in that. I think these resources helped us do that because they helped us structure our thinking around it.”
After their three day retreat with the book, the team decided that they would pick just one new habit from the framework every month.They would go through that one as a team and focus on it.
“It was really fun and we could see an instant transformation from that.”
Finding more freedom by adding structure
When looking at any traditional big corporate organization, many startup founders see the exact opposite of what they envision for their business. They want to do things differently, run their business on their own terms and not play by somebody else’s rules. Fun, excitement and speed are what they’re after, not the typical rigidity they’ve seen in the corporate world.
That’s exactly why Dave initially kept his distance from a framework like Scaling Up.
“This is corporate, I thought, and we want to be lifestyle entrepreneurs and do it on our own terms. We don't want to do any of that kind of corporate stuff like regular meetings or mission statements or principles.”
What he discovered instead was that the Scaling Up methodology brought more freedom and fun into their startup, not less:
“I think we operated with a lot more stress before. I always thought lack of structure was freedom but I actually found a lot more freedom in the kind of “rigidity” and framework we learned from Scaling Up.“
Dealing with the added complexity
Any startup going through their first big growth cycle will know that rapid growth comes with added complexity. When Proof started applying the Scaling Up methodology, it was just the three founders and two other employees. But even with only two additional team members, they felt the need for more clarity. Scaling Up instantly brought that to their organization.
The OPSP (One-Page Strategic Plan) and 7 Strata of Strategy tools had helped Dave and the team solidify on paper what kind of company they wanted to become. But it was the Rockefeller Habits Checklist and the FACe tool (the Function Accountability Chart) that were key to warding off any harmful complexity or distractions to their goals.
“Even just listing out like what are the seven or eight core functions of the business and who's responsible for them was really, really helpful because we never really defined the business like that.”
Staying aligned with a growing team
Staying aligned as a company with a growing team is often one of the first major growth challenges startups face. When your team grows, it becomes harder and harder to communicate effectively across all functions and business levels. In this regard, Dave recalls, the meeting structures were most transformative for Proof – and they still are today.
Dave: “We just didn't have any sort of mechanism to regulate conversations and figure out what was going on in the business. So one of the early things I remember being life-changing was the daily huddle.”
He elaborates: “Just walking through what we'd been doing, what the priority would be for the day and anywhere we're stuck was massive for us. All of a sudden we just had a lot more context to the business and could grow better.”
And the daily huddle wasn’t the only meeting that became part of Proof’s routines early on: the quarterly and yearly meeting were adopted quickly too. They now do the monthly meeting also.
This meeting structure in combination with a razor-sharp clarity on your company’s goals and purpose can be a true game changer for alignment: “We didn't have any sort of BHAG or principles before that could kind of guide us and energize and align us. This was super transformative for us.”
Energizing the team and surpassing goals
As you’re scaling up, it’s important to keep rallying behind shared goals with your team. This aids focus and helps your team stay energized. Therefore, celebrating successes is a part of the Scaling Up methodology and covered with “themes” in the OPSP. A theme is a short-term goal that is to be celebrated in a pre-defined way once it has been accomplished.
Proof used multiple themes along their journey, but one they did early on was particularly fun and successful according to Dave. The goal for this theme was to increase the monthly recurring revenue (MRR) to 50K – and this seemed massive to them at the time. As a celebration, they would get a company Tesla.
Dave: “We printed this poster of 50K with cars on it and had this big monitor underneath it. And every time we would hit another thousand dollars MRR, we'd add a new line and do a little dance and celebration. It laser focused everyone on this one specific goal.”
The team at Proof ended up crushing it by hitting 80K MRR in a few months time. “Everyone still talks about that. Just how fun it was and how focused we were at that time. So we started doing those themes every quarter.”
How Scaling Up helps in different company phases
Proof uses the different elements and tools of the Scaling Up methodology according to the changing needs of their fast-growing business. Because although Dave thinks many of the tools and techniques have contributed to Proof’s current success, he also believes some were less applicable during certain phases.
The strategy-setting sequence in the early stages of their startup for instance. “We felt like a quarter was too long for our team. Too much happening, and we'd find ourselves halfway through the quarter already changing strategies. Like a lot had shifted. So I started breaking them down into basically half of that, what we call “blitzes” that are just six weeks long.”
And there were other tools and techniques that Dave initially did not deem helpful for reasons of size. However, less than 2 years in, Proof could already benefit from some they thought they weren’t “big enough” for before. The power of one (improving something by just one percent to create big results) for instance: .
“One percent of not that much money is not a huge deal but one percent of 5 million, big deal. So some tools probably work better for us as we get bigger.”
Decreasing stress with a clear operating system
Dave credits Scaling Up for helping and guiding them through much of their journey: “Without Scaling Up, we never would have been able to design Proof from day one in such an impactful way. We never would've been able to take that vision from those three days and begin to implement it practically. And we never would have gotten to that 50K MRR goal. And that goal was probably what got us into Y Combinator, which I think just took us to a much different direction.”
He definitely recommends Scaling Up to other startups: “And to anyone who is feeling like a lot is going on but doesn't quite know how to add the structure, how to decrease their stress or doesn't quite know how to get the ideas from their head into their team.
I think that's what it's done for me: it's given me a very clear system to operate the company.”
Proof is the world’s first customer-centric marketing platform, showing 100% real people taking real action on your site. In just 12 months after its launch, Proof Notifications had been installed on over 10,000 websites. After Y Combinator’s Demo Day, Proof raised $2.2MM from venture capitalists including YC and several notable angel investors.