Lessons Learned from Enterprise Leaders on Growing $1M to $100M ARR

By Erika Malzberg March 6, 2018

At SaaStr Annual 2018, Zuora President Marc Diouane was honored to join a panel of enterprise leaders on stage to share their lessons learned on growing and evolving a business from $1M to $100M ARR.

Check out the video below, or read on for some discussion highlights from Marc; Godard Abel, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman for G2 Crowd; Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO for Airware; and moderator Craig Hanson, General Partner from NextWorld Capital.

“It’s hard at $1M. It’s hard at $10M. And it’s hard at $100M. It’s always hard. The biggest challenge is when you have to let go of something that you love and that you’re good at. It can be hard to make that pivot. It’s personal.” – Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO Airware

“Everyday you have to think about reinventing yourself, and do an iteration around processes or around the organization. There’s no smooth ride. At Zuora we’ve had multiple platequs or pivot moments. When I joined the company early in 2014, my first goal was to give confidence to our ZEOs [Zuora employees] that we could win. After the first year, we were too successful. It was too easy. But then we hit a wall a year later. We moved upmarket which came with a lot of different challenges: the buyers were different, product fit was different, more complexity around MSA. Suddenly we had to rethink our company processes. At every plateau, if you’re successful on solving the problem, you’ll get another year of fast scale and growth. But what is working today, is only working until it breaks. Leadership needs to see when it’s going to break and fix it before we get stalled and be hands on in the details to overcome those challenges.” – Marc Diouane, President Zuora

“Companies have to make a couple of hard pivots on their path, not just early stage companies trying to find product market fit. Even after that, you always face having to do something meaningfully different.” – Craig Hanson, General Partner NextWorld Capital

“People talk about pivots like they’re black and white: did you make a pivot or did you not. There are pivot that are black in white — like you’re either in hardware or you’re not — you make the decision and you’re done with it. That’s a hard pivot. The other type of pivot may not be as severe. You’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but expanding into new areas.” – Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO Airware

“The speed of the market is so fast, you have to be able to make decisions quickly. You have market forces, your competition forces, your people coming in every day with new ideas. The ability to keep focused on what is working is really important. You have to understand your sweet spot, why your customer are buying your tech. And regardless of size of customer, you need to stay true to this core and what problems you are trying to solve. Solve what matters the most to your customers and then, from there, scale.” – Marc Diouane, President Zuora

“The narrower and the smaller you start, the better. It’s much more fun to grow your vision then to shrink it because it was too broad to begin with.” – Godard Abel, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman G2 Crowd

“It’s not always easy. It’s not usually easy. But that’s how great companies are built — that’s how you pioneer a new market or disrupt an existing one.” – Craig Hanson, General Partner NextWorld Capital

“I’m paranoid. When everything is fine, I’ll call a meeting to discover what’s really going on. It can’t be fine. Something must not be working. You have to stay paranoid, until you’ve implemented people, processes, and a solution before moving on to the next challenge.” – Marc Diouane, President Zuora

“Positive friction is a customer who’s in our sweet spot asking for features they need that the product doesn’t have.” – Marc Diouane, President Zuora

“The hardest problem is getting your stuff to sell. Finding product market fit, making sure a competitor doesn’t undercut you. Once you solve that problem, the next problem is ‘oh my god, we’re successful.’ And then something breaks.” – Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO Airware

“Up to $1M, you should probably be selling yourself. $1-10M, you need a sales leader and a 5 person team they can manage well. Once you get to $10-20-30M, you need regional VPs, segment VPs, multiple sales leaders. The organization keps breaking as you get bigger. You have to keep breaking it and fixing it with new leaders.” – Godard Abel, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman G2

“The smaller the company, the more extreme the emotions, the highs and the lows. Whenever you hit that low, you have to remind yourself that everyone goes through that. It’s not life or death. It helps you be agile in your thinking, in your focus.” – Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO Airware

“It is better to go full on and take risks. Any wishy washy stuff is doomed for failure. Take the risks, have measurements in place to assess, but take the risk.” – Yvonne Wassenaar, CEO Airware

“People will make or break your business. The people are creating the problem or creating success. People are the key.” – Marc Diouane, President Zuora

And finally…

“Breathe.”- Godard Abel, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman G2 Crowd