Karen Peacock on driving business success

SingleGrain CEO Eric Siu recently shared the mic with our COO Karen Peacock on the Growth Everywhere podcast, discussing everything from her college days to her journey from Intuit to Intercom.

Listen to the podcast in full here. Short on time? Check out the key takeaways below.

What was Karen’s career path to this point?

Karen received a BA in applied mathematics from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford. Eventually, she became Senior Vice President of Small Business at Intuit and is now COO of Intercom. She has always been very analytical, quantitative and results oriented. “That’s part of what I love doing at Intercom now, which is all about helping our customers grow, driving business growth,” she says.

“This was the product that I had needed in every single tech business I had ever run”

In her years at Intuit, Karen recalls how she found her love of driving business growth.

“For example, I started a business from zero and grew it to about $50 million in recurring revenue. I took another business, I took over at about $30 million revenue and was able to grow that to about $100 million. And then, there’s a third business that I was leading that I started at about $100 million. I was able to grow it to about $500 million in annual recurring revenue.”

How did Karen find out about Intercom?

The first time Karen saw and used Intercom was a “lightning bolt moment,” she says. “I looked at it and I realized immediately this was the product that I had needed in every single tech business I had ever run. I thought, oh my gosh, I have to be a part of this.”

“If you want to build a big business, start with a big problem”

Is there a framework for business success?

Firstly, you have to think about an important need that your customers have that isn’t being met. You also need to make sure that this need is big enough to warrant focusing your business on. “If you want to build a big business, start with a big problem. You’ve got a small problem, [then] small business,” Karen says.

Once you have that, you need to figure out how you and your ecosystem of partners can solve the need in a way that gives you a durable competitive advantage.

What has Karen learned from growing teams?

Having the right team and direct reports around you is really critical. When you are hiring, put people in the job as a part of your interview process. For example, if you’re hiring somebody to be a growth marketer, give them a take home assignment to figure out the first thing they would do to drive growth for the business. It’s good for you because you know what you’re getting and it’s good for them because they know the type of work you’re going to want them to do, Karen points out.

Reference checks are also important, especially when you are in the late stages of the hiring process. You should try to find a mutual connection or two between you and the candidate who can provide you with a confidential reference.

“Know that these references are only one or two data points, and importantly, make sure to respect that person’s confidentiality,” advises Karen. “Only do this late in the process, with a candidate who you want to hire instead of with twenty candidates.”

Is there a silver bullet when it comes to growth?

“If you step back and think about yourself as a customer, consider your favorite purchase experiences,” Karen suggests. “These experiences probably have a great atmosphere and a way to get you exactly what you want, fast.”

“You can be sure your competitors are doing this, even if you are not”

Interacting with your customers and prospects in real time is vital, and that’s something Intercom can help you do. “When someone is coming to your site, you want to be able to help them get exactly what they need while they’re thinking about it versus getting back to them when they’re no longer a hot lead,” she says. “This is the mainstream experience now, and you can be sure your competitors are doing this, even if you are not.”

Want more lessons on growing and scaling a company? Check out the book we wrote, The Growth Handbook:

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