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Brian Balfour is the founder and CEO of Reforge. Prior to Reforge, he was the VP of Growth at HubSpot and co-founded three other startups. In today’s episode, Brian shares 10 lessons from his career, growth, and life:
• Lesson 1: Inspect the work, not the person.
• Lesson 2: Tell me what it takes to win; then tell me the cost.
• Lesson 3: Problems never end (and that’s okay).
• Lesson 4: The year is made in the first six months.
• Lesson 5: Growth is a system between acquisition, retention, and monetization. Change one and you affect them all.
• Lesson 6: Do the opposite.
• Lesson 7: Use cases, not personas.
• Lesson 8: Solving for everyone is solving for no one.
• Lesson 9: Find sparring partners, not mentors or coaches.
• Lesson 10: 2x+ the activation energy for things that need to change.
Find the full transcript at: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/brian-balfour-10-lessons-on-career-growth-and-life/
Where to find Brian Balfour:
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bbalfour/
• Website: https://brianbalfour.com/
Where to find Lenny:
• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/
In this episode, we cover:
(00:00) Brian’s background
(04:29) His Notion doc of lessons
(07:35) Lesson 1: Inspect the work, not the person
(12:39) Implementing lesson 1 and a recap of Reforge Artifacts
(16:01) Lesson 2: Tell me what it takes to win; then tell me the cost
(18:17) Why you should revisit your ideal end state often
(20:25) How planning works at Reforge
(23:50) Lesson 3: Problems never end (and that’s okay)
(26:31) The “players, coaches, captains” framework
(30:24) How AI will allow for smaller teams
(34:13) Small teams do bigger things
(34:37) Lesson 4: The year is made in the first six months
(38:20) Lesson 5: Growth is a system between acquisition, retention, and monetization
(40:44) Examples of engagement and retention problems from HubSpot and Reforge
(46:21) Lesson 6: Do the opposite
(55:25) Brian’s thoughts on category creation
(57:39) Lesson 7: Use cases, not personas
(1:01:18) The use case map
(1:03:38) Lesson 8: Solving for everyone is solving for no one
(1:11:14) There are many ways to do product
(1:16:52) Lesson 9: Find sparring partners, not mentors or coaches
(1:23:49) Advice on setting the tone for group sharing
(1:25:07) Lesson 10: You need to give 2x the activation energy for things that need to change
(1:32:02) Lightning round
• Reforge: https://www.reforge.com/
• Frank Slootman on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/frankslootman/
• Artifacts: https://artifacts.reforge.com/artifacts
• Ray Dalio’s 5 Step Process: https://commoncog.com/dalios-5-step-process-to-getting-what-you-want/
• Building effective teams: https://www.reforge.com/blog/building-effective-teams
• Scott Belsky’s website: https://www.scottbelsky.com/
• The Creative Act: A Way of Being: https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Act-Way-Being/dp/0593652886/
• A Breakdown of LinkedIn’s AI Assisted Growth Loop: https://brianbalfour.com/essays/a-breakdown-of-linkedins-ai-assisted-growth-loop
• Lex Fridman Podcast: https://lexfridman.com/podcast/
• Acquired podcast: https://www.acquired.fm/
• Unsolicited Feedback podcast: https://www.reforge.com/podcast/unsolicited-feedback
• Elena Verna Analyzes Airtable’s Shift to Enterprise and Slack’s Product Roadmap: https://www.reforge.com/podcast/unsolicited-feedback/episode-5
• The ultimate guide to product-led sales | Elena Verna: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-product-led-sales-elena-verna/
• How to become a category pirate | Christopher Lochhead (author of Play Bigger, Niche Down, Category Pirates, more): https://www.lennyspodcast.com/how-to-become-a-category-pirate-christopher-lochhead-author-of-play-bigger-niche-down-category/
• Dharmesh Shah on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dharmesh/
• The ultimate guide to JTBD | Bob Moesta (co-creator of the framework): https://www.lennyspodcast.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-jtbd-bob-moesta-co-creator-of-the-framework/
• How to sell your ideas and rise within your company | Casey Winters, Eventbrite: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/how-to-sell-your-ideas-and-rise-within-your-company-casey-winters-eventbrite/
• Target the Right Market: https://hbr.org/2012/10/target-the-right-market-2
• Douglas Atkin on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/doatkin
• How Linear builds product: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/how-linear-builds-product
• How Notion builds product: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/how-notion-builds-product
• Aaron White on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronmwhite/
• Ariel Diaz on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arieldiaz/
• Ray Dalio’s website: https://www.principles.com/
• Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future: https://www.amazon.com/Zero-One-Notes-Startups-Future/dp/0804139296
• The Wolf of Wall Street on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/70266676
• Margin Call on Prime Video: https://www.amazon.com/Margin-Call-Kevin-Spacey/dp/B005UT29Z0
• The Big Short on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80075560
• The Bear on Hulu: https://www.hulu.com/series/the-bear-05eb6a8e-90ed-4947-8c0b-e6536cbddd5f
• Halt and Catch Fire on Prime Video: https://www.amazon.com/Halt-Catch-Fire-Season-1/dp/B00KCXIHJG
• Vuori: https://vuoriclothing.com/
• Startup Dads podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/startup-dad/id1693312339
Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.