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A Summary of

Scale-up Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned Over 9 Years as HubSpot’s CEO

Brian Halligan
Think Growth
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Employee net promoter scores as manager evaluation

  • Once a team has lost confidence in a leader, it’s nearly impossible to get it back
  • Team morale rebounds if they are replaced with a capable leader
  • Management is vital in scale-up

Hierarchy of needs

  • Focus on enterprise, then team, then self
  • Failed leadership usually over-focuses on team

Prevent potholes

  • Potholes (problems) are usually systemic
  • Put a system in place so you don’t make the same mistake twice


  • In startup mode, not all divisions have to work
  • During scale-up phase everything has to work at the same time
  • Not making decisions gets expensive
  • Changing your mind in scale-up phase is troublesome
  • Once a decision is made a good team gets behind it

Fast and balanced

  • Do things right more than fast
  • Balance short-term pressures with long-term bets

Documenting strategy

  • Trying to do everything can be dangerous
  • MSPOT document/strategy limits this appetite

CEO as chief explanation officer

  • Company meetings keep everyone on same page
  • CEO job is to explain vision clearly
  • Job is to make the right decisions, not the popular decision

Bus analogy

  • Leader has 3 responsibilities: clear directions, right people, enough cash

Employee culture

  • Spend months to craft a great culture
  • Helps retain great employees
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