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What Building A C-Suite Actually Looks Like

Mary Grothe September 27 2021


Meet Host, Mary Grothe

Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions and breaking multiple records, formed House of Revenue®, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who currently lead the marketing, sales, customer success, and RevOps departments for 10 companies nationwide. In the past year, they've helped multiple 2nd stage growth companies between $5M - $20M, on average, double their MRR within 10 months, resulting in an average ROI of 1,454% and an average annual revenue growth eclipsing $3.2 million.


Don't Have Time to Listen, Read The Full Transcription.

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Mary Grothe: Welcome to the House of Revenue®. I'm Mary Grothe the founder and CEO. I love scaling companies to their first 5 million than 10, 15, and 20. If you've reached a revenue plateau and aren't sure how to get past it, you're in the right place. Listen in as we interview CEOs and solve their most pressing revenue challenges, if you want to be on our show, or want to learn more, connect with us at

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Everybody was good to me over the last couple of weeks. I very openly asked for feedback on how the new season of Revenue Radio is going. In our first season, we had a guest almost every week, at least every other week. We were interviewing CEOs hearing about their stories. All the podcasts that we do, we go on break, we have a new season launch. In launching season two, I've been recording on my own. I haven't had a guest, and I made a comment on the last episode or the one before, "Hey, I'll have a guest soon, and until then, I guess this is turning into a personal podcast." I had also asked for some genuine feedback from people, and you all are very good to me. It has been message after message after message. Pour it in. I'm surprised. But the consensus was, you don't need a guest. It's okay to do this as a personal podcast.

I couldn't believe what I was reading. In some of the emails, people were telling me how energizing and heartfelt this podcast is. I had somebody tell me that they love it because it sounds more like a personal journal with really behind the scenes. How does the CEO feel about scaling their company? What are they dealing with in and on that journey? I felt very encouraged after this past week with everyone's feedback that came pouring it. I mean multiple emails. It just makes me so happy to hear from you. I think we're going to keep it this way. The feedback was very positive. "Hey, you never know, someday, maybe I'll feel inclined to bring on a guest." But until then, I feel very strongly that you all like this. So let's just jump on in.

I started to ask myself about the topic this week of what's on my heart, what's important. If we're getting consistent feedback that people like this personal journey of a scaling CEO, then maybe I will keep on that path. I wanted to share something that I did recently, within the last six months, that I knew I had to do to get to the next stage of scale. In the first episode of this season, I talked about our journey. I don't know the exact number. It was 10, 11 or 12 employees in January, now we're at about 28 employees. It has been an incredible growth journey over the last nine months to grow to that. If you want to listen back to that episode, if you haven't heard it, I talked about having an actual panic attack about that growth.

I'm in a very interesting spot now because we have 27 employees, and we're recruiting for number 28 right now. But something amazing happened over the last few months. We started to build out an executive team. This has been something I've never done. I've watched other companies do it. But it was an interesting journey for us. Plus, I never knew the right timing for you to have all these C-level titles and, of course, C-level compensation. "Oh, man, what point? What's the tipping point to make that happen?" Well, it started with our CEO. I've shared this before, so sorry for being redundant if you've heard it. I think if you're in your journey what position do you hire? First, you must look at who you are as a CEO. Who are you? Are you a sales lead Founder/CEO? Are you more operationally minded? Are you a technical Founder/CEO? What are your specialties? You can't follow our playbook or your friend's or somebody's playbook in your CEO peer group. You must surround yourself and fill the roles around you that take the most important tasks off your plate that you're not great at.

So let me walk you through our journey and how I came to the conclusion of the roles I would need. There was a little bit of an emotional pool. At the same time, I did it because I'm sure I loved being the chief everything officer of this company, not surprising for many of you. I loved running every department. I loved knowing every employee and knowing what they needed and about their families and their career paths. There's just so much joy that has come from being so integrated with each employee on a personal level. I really am committed to making everyone's life better while they're here. That's a tall order. The more employees we got, was the big pull on my heart.

When we expanded, it became so difficult. As I said, "Who was going to take care of all these people?" It was easy when it was six, seven, or eight of us. I knew those people. I knew them. I could provide for them as a mentor, problem solver, encourager, and ear. I mean, I could do so much for them because I had time, ability, and bandwidth. But I don't have that at 27 employees, so building out the C-Suite was very important. As a visionary lead to CEO and a former salesperson, well, okay, whatever, I'm a forever salesperson. Let's just be honest, I still do business development for a company. I don't see myself letting go of that anytime soon. I'll explain why here in a little bit. Being that a visionary and more of that high driver, more of a salesperson mentality, I do not have a passion for detailed work. Also, I'm a high-functioning person. I've caught myself saying things like, I can get done in 15 minutes, but it could take other people four hours or four days to do. It's an interesting spot for me to be in because I can get things done very quickly. I really don't have the patience to write out a manual, create an SOP, or build infrastructure systems and processes.

I ran the company, really by myself, for about three years. Until somebody raised their hand and said, I'd like to help build our infrastructure. That was Charlie on our team. He was brought on as a VP of Marketing. Still, he has a true, true talent for operational work and human resources. He's just amazing, building on our culture and processes. Well, I took him up on it. And he started one by one by one. This guy comes into this company as a VP of Marketing and immediately kicks off his first client in August 2020. I'm sure he was a little surprised that we didn't have anything templated at that moment. We didn't have a standard deck for kickoff. I mean, we used to put a Word doc, a Google Doc. Oh, sorry. We like Google and Apple here. No, Microsoft. Okay, we had a Google Doc up on the screen in front of our clients, like a regular piece of paper. We'd throw some questions on there. We would just walk through together in our kickoffs and type in the answers. That's what was on the screen. We'd have multiple collaborators in there. You'd see everybody's thoughts and notes going into this shear document, and we created a really great conversation with the client and us on our kickoff. I'm sure Charlie saw that when he started, like, "What is this?" I see an area for opportunity.

Even though I'm a visionary. I'm a visionary at a different level. I am not a very creative, artsy person with an eye for that inspiration. I never thought we should have a beautifully branded deck with beautiful imagery, agenda, and guiding us through the conversation. I never thought of it. I am a visionary, but I think at different levels. I just prefer, I guess, being a complex problem solver and building companies. I never saw that. So one of the first things that start happening is Charlie looks at every single process in our company, from internal to external. He starts creating all this infrastructure. He starts leveling up all our internal technologies and project management systems. It's truly unbelievable the way we operate.

Now, one year later, oh my gosh, if any of our team members who worked for us back in 20, do not work for us today, came to work today and our company right now. What company is this? Trust me, I agree with you. It is real. From that employee, not even the first day of work, but the two weeks leading up to their start date. There's an onboarding guide. We get them boarded electronically into our payroll and HR system. They get to fill out their profiles they get to start understanding the lay of the land. Get a beautiful onboarding guide. They're prepared. They understand what will be expected of them for their first week. We have this great agenda. We have all these processes, and it's amazing. We never had any of that.

So for the CEOs listening to this that are in that startup to small business phase, and you're looking at maturing. If you are like me, not a detail-oriented person, I would highly recommend bringing in that COO as the first person in your C-suite. Charlie has changed everything in our company for the better. I didn't even have to ask. He's just an innovator on his own. He just comes to me and says, "Hey, I built a new deck for this," or "I built a new process." or "Look, I built our knowledge base for ourselves." We use the HubSpot suite for our revenue engine. The same ones we build for our clients. We subscribe to the service hub not that long ago as an add-on. He built out the knowledge base and built it as an internal tool. I just got the email this morning. I think, hey, check it out. I built out our knowledge base. It's just a super cool internal site. It has all the internal SOP’s decks that need to note for all employees. What is this? This is unbelievable. It looked nicer than what I had at the Fortune 1000 company I worked for. We had this whole intranet portal. This looks way better. That was Charlie's amazing side. That was our first C-suite person, Charlie.

We then looked at where my time was spent, Charlie's time was being spent, and how we continue to divide and conquer. We have an incredible, I guess, element of growth in our team. For those of you unfamiliar, we scale companies for a living. We build these pods. We call them pods, their teams, these little revenue teams. They're led by a VP of Revenue, a Chief Revenue Officer with a VP title, and then working with them as a Marketing Manager and Sales Empowerment Manager supported by our DevOps Analysts and our team of Marketing Specialists. For every client engagement, we carve out a five-to-seven-person team. This pod goes to work for three clients at a time. They go on contract for about 12 to 18 months. The 2x, 3x, or four company exercises braided marketing, sales, and customer success robots. Okay, there's the pitch. That's what we do.

Well, I do business development. I have been tied into this expectation that really was coming from both me, the client, and our team. I would stay on every client engagement and act as the Chief Project Manager, Chief Executive Sponsor, and Chief Strategist for these client engagements. Well, what started happening is this year, we grew to four pods. And we had 12 clients, full-service clients full scale ahead, all of us said it, like, oh, boy, this is a lot of everything else that I'm doing. I'm also running every kickoff and gap analysis, assisting with deep dives and audits, and putting information together as this Chief Strategist. In addition to managing several team members, doing business development, and of course, all the backend stuff - accounting payroll, you know, what we do on the back end. Everything, every finite detail, like employment verifications. "Oh, my gosh, why does it take like an hour to fill out that form?" They come in waves, like, I think I had three this week, like, no bad week, to have all of these, okay? Again, for those of you, don't ignore what I said. We got to this point where I started to identify that I'm becoming a bottleneck as a CEO.

As we were looking at growing our C-Suite, my next thought was, I need somebody who can replace half of me. Take over the management of these VPS of Revenue, but also manage the clients and their expectations. As a lead strategist, there must be a smooth, professional, exciting, welcoming handoff between me selling the client and then the team picking it up. Are you that CEO who feels responsible that you must stay engaged in client work? I just met with one of our new clients, and they expressed that they were at this crazy point in the growth of their company. They don't know how they'll ever be able to step out of client work. They told me that there was this crazy fear inside of them, that all the good metrics as they are today with success rate and winning new clients, onboarding new clients, and clients getting off on the right foot. And once they get into this service component, well, they told me they're trying to step out of that. They had unbelievable fear that everything that they've built was just going to fall apart. There was a belief system that my company couldn't operate. If I'm not doing all of this, I could feel it in my heart at that moment, just screaming for the CEO, wanting to encourage it to be done. Have you heard me talk about the 175 rules? Let's talk about this real fast. Then I'll jump back into our C-Suite story.

As a CEO, you are 100. 100 out of 100. You're CEO, you're fantastic, you're super smart, you get it, you can do in 15 minutes, what it takes others four hours to do, or four days or four weeks. You're brilliant, and you take the risk. You're the Chief Everything Officer. You're amazing. You're 100. If you look at the best people on your team, they are probably only 75% of what you are on the best day. Your mid-level people are probably about 50% of what you are, and more of your entry-level people or those specialists’ level, you know, below the management level. As they're growing in their careers, they might be 25, maybe 30, 35% of what you are. So many CEOs think as I grow my team, I'm going to hire all these people. They build in their mind and potentially on paper, whether it's in the form of a quota or metrics or any way of measuring performance, accountability, or any sort of expectations. They expect them to do the job as well as they do. The wake-up call I have for you is that it is impossible. If they were 100, they'd be running their own company.

I have team members right now who are in their 80s and 90s. They have become my C-Suite. I'm not an idiot. They are so close to that 100. My goal is to not hold on to them with my arms wrapped so tightly around them and never let them go. It is to take them through the next three to five years of their lives, educate, mentor, train, develop them into that 100. That's my responsibility as CEO not to push them down so I can keep them. I can and never tell them how good they are. I have seen that with many of the clients that we get to work for. There are many CEO peers that I've met because they have a fear on the inside. They finally found somebody good, and they don't know life without that person. They don’t create this idea that "Hey, I acknowledge, I understand. I'm okay if these people leave." They should if it's best for them, and they have found something where they can step into who God created them to be and step into that next path and its journey.

The next step is we should celebrate. We should graduate them on to that. Who are we as CEOs to be disappointed, let down, frustrated, or feel this entitlement they owe us? Newsflash, they don't owe you anything you don't like. No, that's the path they want. Let them go. There's a quote out there and let me botch it for you, please something like you should treat your employees so good that they never want to leave. Train them to go anywhere, but treat them so that good they'd never want to leave. I think that's the quote. Yeah, I'm not good with quotes, sayings. I always mess them up. Any who, great philosophy.

So on that note, I was talking with this CEO. I heard this fear coming out of their mouth about everything crumbling down as they tried to work their way out of all their company's processes. My heart on the inside was pounding out of my chest, and I had to restrain myself at that moment because I just didn't feel like it was the right place. I think that it's a journey that I can go down the path I can go down with a CEO to help them understand and see that you can find the right people. When you do, you give them what they need, coach, develop, mentor, train, and create an atmosphere where they're so bought in and excited to be there. They'll give it their everything to help your company succeed. I have two additional C-Suite promotions that we have had in the last month. One of them came out of this burning desire on the inside of me is more so an acknowledgment. I can't continue to scale this company If I'm doing all the client work. I must find somebody as brilliant and can really replace me to where the client is saying Mary, Mary who?

To be honest, I looked outside of the company to start. I was looking at a very wildly, wildly talented, and successful CRO, who, "Oh my gosh, just blew me away." It ended up not working out, which was fine. I was, like, slightly disappointed, but then I could just really trust and say, "That wasn't who was destined for this role." Right there, right in front of me, we have a team member who has earned every ounce of this opportunity. From the first day that I met him, I knew I wanted him here. I saw so much potential in him. I had this crazy, amazing feeling of connection, like, "Hey, he's supposed to be here. He's supposed to be on this team." Whereas I didn't know what it was, now, come to find out 10 minutes later, this person is replacing me in client work and managing our VPs. I'm just so proud of him. I'm so impressed with the work he has done. This relentless pursuit to succeed and make sure that everybody he works with, internally and externally, his day is better because he was in it. I've never seen it done so well since I saw myself have that attitude. I'm so thankful. I'm so impressed. So Brad on our team is stepping into these zero positions. "Holy moly, I'm going to be out of client work and managing our VPS within the next couple of weeks. It's crazy."

We're going to do about 3.5 million this year, up from 2.2 last year. We're currently at a run rate of 4.5 million, but our budget for next year is looking to be just under 6, like 5.8 5.9. There's no way, no way I would ever do that. No way I would ever do that, ever without Brad in that room. So then secondly, as you all know, we launched a second company underneath our Korean revenue studio. This was exciting. This is a little entrepreneurial advice for you CEOs out there. We woke up one day and realized that we had built a company inside our company. We had a half-million-dollar brand that we had launched from infancy and nurtured underneath the House a Revenue® roof. One day, we looked at it and said, "oh boy, we really did something here. It's a different model." We can brand it within our family here, our House of Revenue®, Family of Brands, or brand. However, you want to look at it.

We launched Revenue Studio. Well, when we launched it, both Charlie and I were putting forth as much effort as we possibly could. He and I are just super spread thin. Good intentions. Not enough time-bandwidth capacity for the right execution. I think we've been a little bit of what's the word I'm looking for? We're just fortunate on House of Revenue® because House of Revenue® is reaching a little bit more maturities or a little spoil. We have forgotten to acknowledge that Revenue Studio is really a startup. Product-market fit, still navigating that we don't even have a go-to-market fit on it yet. I think we were treating it as a slightly more mature company because we're a little bit jaded and spoiled with how we have it. It has revenue. We gave it our best effort for a couple of months.

Then, we just looked at each other and said we're failing this team. We don't have the internal processes. We don't have definitions. We don't have the SOPs. We don't have our pricing packages down. We don't have somebody who needs to come in and love this baby. Grow it into a toddler into a K to take its audit journey. Well, Heather Smyth is on our team, which is just a freakin force. "Oh, this woman. She's so talented. I was very intimidated when I first met Heather." I know she listens to this podcast. She'll be like, what? From the moment I interviewed her. I felt a very strong admiration for her but in the form of intimidation. She's so polished, and she's so smart. Yet, she's very calm and calculated. She's super creative. I mean, she's brilliant in brand strategy and marketing. She understands business. She's very entrepreneurial. She gets a go-to-market strategy. She's worked for a ton of startups. She's just been on the journey with so many founders.

Well, when I first met her, I was intimidated by her. I just saw so much power inside of her, and I didn't know how to align my energy with hers in the beginning. She's a force, and I really took a backseat with Heather. For the first few months. I think I'm just going to observe and figure out my nuance with her because I just had so much admiration out of the gate. I've never met anyone like her. Then, I saw her working with our clients. The professionalism and the quality of work are ahead of what she's producing. I'm like, "Geez, everything she touches turns into gold. Who is this woman?" So finally, it took us a few months to get into the groove. She's going to listen back to this and be like, really, Mary, I had no idea you felt this way. Yeah, surprise. Took us a few months to get in the groove.

Finally, I was able to align my energy with hers and figure out my place with Heather. How do I take her to the next level? I just wasn't sure how to do that. She lights up my day every time I see her. I walk into the office, and it's an immediate smile on my face. I love sharing an office with her. Every time I see her, I'm just so thankful to know her. I'm so thankful she's in my life. I'm so thankful she works for this company. She took on Revenue Studio as our CMO. We talked about everything that she touches, talked about watching it turn into gold. I've been so impressed. I'm so thankful to watch her take this infant into our company. This little baby and watching her ready with her leadership and her professionalism. Okay, all these words, sorry, I'm super gushing. It's incredible.

This is the start of our C-Suite. I have another C suite announcement premature because this episode is going to launch. I'm going to tell you about our last C-Suite additions in the works right now, which are not announced yet. I'll tell you about it because I have more gushing news about that one. You'll have to join me in congratulating the recent Brad and Heather for stepping into these roles. This is what a C-Suite looks like. I was able to identify how am I holding the company back? Where am I being the bottleneck? And it's not even like a bottleneck, like oh, "This can't get out the door till Mary approves it," not like that.

Holding back the quality CEO just because you were the smartest one when you started the company. You were super brilliant in the first couple of years. I hope you found smarter people than you, more brilliant, and more talented, especially in their respective fields. You have found a way to create an environment where they're motivated, inspired. They feel like they have a home. They show up like it's their own company. They know that they don't have your arms wrapped around them holding them down or that stupid thing of fear that some leaders plant inside of their people. Let's not do that, okay? You don't have to do that to your people. Find that talent inside of your company. Find those shining stars. Elevate people into these positions. Create an environment for them to succeed. We will do 5.8 or 5.9 million next year. I am speaking it into existence. I just got goosebumps. We will do it because we have the right people who have the right heart, the right mind, the right brilliance. They have it all. Okay, I have the greatest C-Suite. Good luck in building yours.

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Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you're interested in being on our show or want to learn more about how we can help you scale your company, connect with us at or with me Mary Grothe spelled G-R-O-T-H-E on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

Connect with House of Revenue® on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

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