We could talk about growth marketing all day long. After all, it’s our specialty.
To be a successful growth marketer, you must take a step back to gain a comprehensive view of your funnel and understand what your data is telling you. Growth marketers are proactive, innovative and masters of every stage of the funnel and buyer’s journey.
But today, we’re putting a new spin on our favorite topic.
Steven Khuong, Co-Founder & CEO of Curacubby, Inc., joined Growth Marketing Chat to share his wisdom, rooted in years of experience, on how CEOs can help align their teams to long-term growth marketing strategies for their organization.
He highlights key practices including:
Being authentic and transparent about your missions
Determining appropriate KPIs to measure
Hiring people who are not only good enough to do the job but also embody your mission
Enabling members of every team to become customer service agents and champions
If you watch one video today, make it this one! Steven has SO much to share – high-level insights and tactical next steps for leadership.
CAROLINE: Hi, and welcome to Growth Marketing Chat. Today I'm here with Steven Khuong. Steven is the founder and CEO of Curacubby. He also founded or co-founded another four companies. So that's number five, right?
STEVEN: That's right, that's number five.
CAROLINE: Steven, thank you so much for being with me today. Really excited to have you.
STEVEN: Well, thanks for making the time for me. I'm excited to be here and share my history of my experience with everyone. Hopefully, some of these things can resonate and help other people as well.
CAROLINE: I'm sure it will, I'm sure it will. So, I guess before we start talking really about growth, would you mind just giving us a quick overview of your
company and what Curacubby does?
STEVEN: Absolutely. Curacubby is a business automation platform that has integrated payments specifically designed to help schools and children's service providers of all sizes optimize their day-to-day business so that they spend less time on doing mundane, human, laborious processes
and focusing more time on strategy and execution.
CAROLINE: That sounds great. And this way they can probably help our children better. So, this is a pretty fantastic mission.
STEVEN: Yeah, ultimately our goal is to impact children, education, and the future of the world. We started this company, not from a classroom or from the back of a board room, thinking about the next big idea. The inception of the business really came from a personal experience. I have a son with autism, and it was during the early stages of his educational journey that we realized that we had to design a program specifically for him. So, we got together with four other families in the local area, and we started a small preschool for children on the spectrum. Children with specific disabilities. It was during that time that we've realized how antiquated systems are out there for schools. Particularly in the back office administration. We decided to build a prototype of this software and five years later here we are.
CAROLINE: Wow. That's a fantastic story. So, you know, this podcast is about growth. This is what we're going to talk about here. Something I really wanted to talk about was long-term growth. And a lot of the time, and you mentioned in a previous conversation that we had, that your long-term growth is going to be kind of unpredictable, right? You might have to pivot. I guess my question for you especially after building five successful companies, is how can CEOs help create an environment where all the teams can align to the long-term growth goals?
STEVEN: Yeah, this is the million-dollar question, right? So, we have to answer this the best that we can. I think it starts with authenticity. The leadership team has to be very honest and very truthful with all the people that are responsible for supporting the organization about the mission. What is the mission? Is the mission simply to exit the company through an acquisition or an IPO? Or is a mission something greater than that? And perhaps the acquisition, the IPO is just a symptom of the mission. So that needs to be clear. Because if it's just the business side, then you execute in a totally different way, right? You execute based on efficiency, optimization, and more process-driven things.
However, if the mission is in fact something greater than, what I mean by like, is there going to be some social change? That's a part of that mission. Is there going to be some, disruptive in the culture of that industry? That's very important, right? So, you have to, first of all, delineate it. So, one or the other one. You have to address it really differently. If in fact it is on the other side of the spectrum where you're trying to cause some greater good for humanity and society at large, then we have to be careful how we measure our KPIs. Right?
So, for example, on one side of the spectrum, if it's just on the business side, customer success can simply be measured by the NPS and the CES scores, right? But on other side of the spectrum, if we're measuring customer success, then we have to look at, are we a catalyst for change? Not only is the customer satisfied and fulfilled and they're happy with the product, but are we driving that customer
to also become an agent of change for your mission? That's very different.
CAROLINE: It is very different. It also seems a little bit more challenging to measure things if your mission is to make impactful change.
STEVEN: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. For an organization like Curacubby, we are closer to this side. Yes, we have to worry about all of these things as well, because we're early stage and without those business metrics, you can't really survive, but ultimately you have to look at here. Then it leads to the next thing. Which is in order for these things to happen you have to have great resources that can support that. Then I would say that to plan for long-term growth, it starts with a hiring process, or it starts with the team-building process.
STEVEN: So, you're hiring individuals and you're bringing them onto the team. It's not just about, are they good enough to do the job, but it's, do these folks embody the characteristics that fit into this model of this mission-driven statement? Because again, if they're only here to code and their only interest is to become a better engineer, and they care nothing about the education industry that might not help us when something drastic changes in the industry. Then this person's like, "I don't care about the education industry anyways. I'll just go somewhere else."
STEVEN: That impacts your natural long-term growth.
CAROLINE: Right. I guess what you're saying is that the interest of people when they join, can enable them to be more or less flexible with what's going on in the industry. If you've really care about education, and you're really focused on the mission, then changing path is going to be easier for you because you care about the outcome at the end of the day. Is that what you're saying?
STEVEN: I agree with that. If you look at the past 16 months, you think about COVID and the pandemic and how it's impacted schools and education. For some of our team members, if they didn't care about that, they could have just like, "Hey, this is too much, it's too stressful. I want to be somewhere else." Right? But fortunately, we have a group of individuals that are, they genuinely care about the industry that they work in.
They genuinely care about our customers. So therefore, that impacts how we build our products, how we think about pivots. And then within their emotional structure, they're also able to accept that as just part of the process. Like, "Hey, things are going to change, and we don't know how COVID is going to impact education for the future. But we feel like as a company we're here and we can be impactful, and we can be a catalyst for the change that we want to see." So that's why when you're hiring and building teams, it's really, really important to get individuals that can see the greater mission.
CAROLINE: Right, right, right. I guess I have one more question. What can the CEO and the leadership team do to make these changes and this flexibility easier for the team members?
STEVEN: Yes, yes. To the extent that we can involve every single department to be a customer success agent, you're going to have a better outcome for the company. What I mean by that is that so often when we think about teams and growth and pivots, we only think about the functionality of these teams. Okay, you're in product, so, you write specs. You're engineering, you write code. You're a support agent,
you answer the tickets. Right? I don't think that works well long-term if we think about enabling every team member to be flexible. Because, at the end of the day if that's all that they're doing, they're always going to be reactive. So, we encourage every single line function to be in touch with the customer. So, for example, if you're an engineer and God forbid you released a bug into the software, and it impacted these five customers. Me as CEO, I would want that engineer to not only fix the bug, but to talk to the customer about the bug. So, they can understand how that impacted the customers. Now you're ahead of the curve. Because now you're not only addressing the problem at hand, but you're also creating an opportunity for someone in engineering, who is less likely to have those customer conversations.
You're creating an opportunity for them to understand the nuances of the market. Because no amount of scrum meetings or product meetings can get you that close to the customer. When you pick up the phone, you call the customer and you say, "Hey, I'm the guy responsible for releasing the bug. I'm so sorry that this happened." It does two things. One, it shows they care and the responsibility that we have as a company. And two, it shows the customers that we want each line function to be intimately connected to their business.
CAROLINE: Yeah, yeah, and all of a sudden you turn a bug into something very positive. Obviously, it doesn't have to be that thing, but yeah, it's really exceptional advice. And I don't think it happens at a lot. I've never seen this really happen at any company. Would be like really curious to see how that works, but yeah, really great insight here.
STEVEN: Yeah, it's not a common practice. And I would imagine it'd be more difficult at larger organizations. But even to this day, our CTO will reach out to a customer and say, "Hey, I am the CTO and co-founder of the company. I recognize that there are some issues that you're experiencing. But as the co-founder of the company, I would love to understand personally how we can fix it, but more so I would understand how it happened in the first place, how we can prevent in the future. Oh. And by the way, what are the opportunities that, you guys could be experiencing? Cause we want to be in touch, not only when there's problems, but also when there's opportunities." So that's a really nice kind of a growth hack for us.
CAROLINE: That's amazing. And then your entire team is really, your customers and your teams are actually really close and know each other. Knowing the customer is the best you can do for any department.
STEVEN: Yes, yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree with that more. It's really difficult to replicate that sentiment as you grow over time, but as close as you can stay to that philosophy, I think the better off you are. Especially in high growth, high momentum, high-velocity companies.
CAROLINE: Yeah. A couple of companies I've worked at, both huge companies and very small companies, had these tours when you started... And one of them was an automobile manufacturer, so they would send… All of their employees would have to work in the plants and then work in the shop, where they sell the cars. To be able to understand how people bought the cars. Actually, I worked at a startup. We had to take a tour with a customer and go in the building see the installation and all of that. I thought it was pretty interesting. It's at least one touchpoint with the customer at the beginning of the job.
STEVEN: Yeah, no, I agree with that. I really agree with it. You learn so much more when you're out there. Proactively out there reaching for even… I would even consider other departments within the company as customers as well. So, it's not just the external customer, you've got customers, internal customers. The same philosophy applies internally.
CAROLINE: Yeah, yeah. That's very true. That's very true. All right. I think we're reaching to the end of the time here, but thank you so much for
joining and participating. I really appreciate it.
STEVEN: Caroline, thank you so much for having me.