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Zapier's Wade Foster on strategy and tactics

Patrick Campbell Mar 2 2021

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.”  —Sun Tzu


There I go again, just another software CEO quoting Sun Tzu. I am basically the definition of cliché. Clichés are cliché for a reason though, and what I take away from Sun Tzu is less about the content and more about the dichotomy of his words.

What we’ve learned from successful businesses that are growing revenue, or generals that are marching into battle, or surgeons that are saving lives, is that success comes from the constant agonizing doldrums of thinking through every scenario, every reaction, and the context of those scenarios and reactions. There’s a reason leadership can be lonely—that racing that’s going on inside your head, it’s hard for anyone else to understand. 


Yet, that agonizing is for naught if not coupled with execution. You must push forward into the heat knowing that you’re likely to fail, adjusting based on these successes and failures with more discipline that can be mustered. Every decision has a tradeoff. And every decision has a consequence. 

This dichotomy of constantly oscillating between strategizing and execution is a perfect topic for our guest today—Wade Foster. Wade built Zapier to a four billion dollar valuation fully remote, with only a little over one million dollars in funding and without a clearly defined market. His journey is the definition of our dichotomy and he’s going to help us out with our own journeys.


Listen now 🎧








Here we summarize the main takeaways for you to implement or hand off to your team for implementation.


Key term

What is a growth strategy?

A growth strategy is a plan of action for overcoming current and future challenges to achieve its goals for expansion. A growth strategy could include product development, market development, acquiring assets, etc. It should also include a plan for team expansion.

Why is it important?

Having a growth strategy is essential because it makes you establish goals and think about the tactics that will help you reach those goals. And knowing how and when to expand your teams is key, because having the right people is how you’ll be able to achieve those goals to continue scaling.


Action plan:

What to do today: 
  • Follow Wade Foster.

  • Schedule a time to discuss your company’s current growth strategy and supporting tactics. Is team expansion part of that strategy? It should be.

What to do next quarter:

Implement a plan to efficiently expand your team/s into your growth strategy.

When it comes to scaling your business, hiring can sometimes be an afterthought. However, it should be part of your growth strategy from the get-go. Initially, if you’re just starting your business, your focus is understandably on your product or service, acquiring customers and keeping those customers. All of which are indisputably crucial. But having, not only the right people, but enough people to help carry out the functions needed and to care for your customers’ needs properly, is also crucial to your success.

As Wade mentions, “not hiring until it hurts,” might work early on, but it’s definitely not a long-term strategy. It takes time to find the right people, and then it takes more time to train. So, it’s important to have a growth strategy that includes hiring and expanding your team, so your business doesn’t suffer later. The right people will help your business grow to new heights.

Here are some tips to help you build a solid team:

    • Hire people with new skill sets and embrace diversity—identify the skills your company needs in order to grow, but which your current team is lacking. And remember that contrasting perspectives can sometimes help you find the best solution.
    • Create alignment by sharing the company vision and long-term goals. Be clear about what kind of company you are or want to be.
    • Create shared objectives so they know what they’re working toward.
    • Define roles and responsibilities—ensure everyone is aligned on expectations and how each role affects other roles. This will help establish an understanding of roles working together. 
    • Learn about your team members—what they love or hate. This will help ensure that your team members are in the right space and utilizing their strengths properly.
    • Establish clear communication. Whatever the project, or problem you’re seeking to solve, always ensure everyone is aligned on the strategy or framework before moving forward with the execution. 
    • Value your team. Recognize your team’s work and effort, and celebrate it.
    • Lead by example. In order for your team to succeed you need to be an effective leader, which is no easy task. Listen and communicate effectively. Encourage innovation and development. Find the sweet spot between micro- and macro-management. And don’t be afraid to seek help or training to become a better leader.
What to do within the next year:

Once you’ve incorporated a hiring plan, or process to expand your team, into your growth strategy, start rolling it out. Evaluate the areas your current team needs to improve in order to achieve their goals. Determine what’s working and what’s not. What areas are succeeding or lagging behind? What skill sets or resources are lacking or need more of? Answering these questions and utilizing the tips above, will help you look for and hire the right people to build a force of a team that will help you continue to scale.

Who should own this? 

Founders, executives, and leaders looking to grow and strengthen their business, efficiently.


Watch the full episode


Coming up next week?

Next week, we go deep on building community with Sarah Hodges.

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By Patrick Campbell

Founder & CEO of ProfitWell, the software for helping subscription companies with their monetization and retention strategies, as well as providing free turnkey subscription financial metrics for over 20,000 companies. Prior to ProfitWell Patrick led Strategic Initiatives for Boston-based Gemvara and was an Economist at Google and the US Intelligence community.

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