385: Krister Ungerboeck: Growth Hacking Strategies to Accelerate Your Success in Life and Business

After successfully launching his career at Booz-Allen & Hamilton strategy consulting firm, Krister’s father tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to move back to St. Louis to apply his knowledge and experiences to help the family business.  Ungerboeck Software had just celebrated its 12th anniversary and needed some fresh ideas and new leadership techniques.

Within 3 years, Krister had helped turn around the 14 person business and grow revenue 250%.  Over the course of the next 20 years, Krister and the capable team at Ungerboeck Software grew the company over 3,000%. The team added customers in over 50 countries served out of offices in St Louis, UK, Germany, France, Australia, Hong Kong and China.

During his time as CEO, the company won 5 consecutive Top Workplace awards and had employee turnover 50% lower than the industry average.

From 2001 – 2007, Krister moved to France and Germany to drive growth in Europe and the Middle East (EMEA).  During that period, EMEA accounted for nearly 75% of the company’s revenue growth.

In 2016, Krister executed a unique exit strategy that involved retaining 100% family ownership, while passing the torch to an exceptional non-family team that he personally recruited in 2014 and 2015.   As part of the leadership transition, he formed a Board of Directors and recruited external Directors, a new CEO and VP Finance to guide the company going forward.

Ungerboeck Software continues on to great success under non-family leadership as one of a handful of large, 100% family-owned software companies in the US.

Favorite Success Quote

“What got you here won’t get you there.”~Marshall Goldsmith

Key Points

1. What Gets You Here Won’t Get You There 

One of the most common (yet foolish) assumptions in leadership and management is that “What got me here will get me there”.

Or, in other words, what it took to get your company to $1,000,000 is the same thing that it will take to get your company to $10,000,000 or $20,000,000 or more.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In order to growth hack, or rapidly accelerate the success of your business, you must be willing to take new approaches, create new positions, hire new managers, and even reduce your personal paycheck for a short amount of time.

Growing a company takes sacrifice.

You will have to delegate tasks you would rather do yourself, hire employees who you might believe unnecessary, and methodically remove yourself from the minutia that once demanded so much of your time.

So be prepared.

Rapid growth is achievable and it is a helluva ride.

But it is also one of the hardest things you will ever do.

2. Understand the Importance of Positive Feedback 

Many of the leaders that I know come from homes where positive reinforcements were either absent or unnecessary.

They were either the student with overbearing parents who burdened them with unachievable expectations, or they were the star football player, straight-A student, and Student Body President who knew they were killing it and didn’t need any reminders.

And when you are raised in either of these environments, you find that positive reinforcement and signs of approval and satisfaction are rare.

And since positivity was a rare commodity during childhood, these individuals tend to carry this trend with them into the board room.

This is when things start to get messy.

If you are trying to build a company, you must realize that a company is made up of individuals, many of whom will be like you. However, the vast majority of the people that you hire will come from wildly different backgrounds than your own, with wildly different needs and expectations.

And this is great! You want to be surrounded by a diverse group of minds and ideas who can attack challenges and obstacles from angles that you didn’t even know existed.

However, when you are unable to tailor your leadership style, particularly your ability to give positive reinforcement to employees, is when you will start to fail as a CEO or president.

You might not need positive affirmation, but your employees do. You might thrive on criticism and challenge, but many of your employees don’t. And you need to be aware of this.

Learning to positively reinforce underperforming employees is possibly one of the most difficult but rewarding skills that you can master.

And the sooner you can do it, the sooner you will elicit massive growth.

From your employees, your company, and best of all, yourself.

3. You’re Not That Smart

I hate to burst your bubble, but you are not that smart.

I don’t care who you are, what degree you have, or how many accolades current adorn your home dresser.

You are not that smart… Period.

I don’t mean that you have a low IQ or that you aren’t incredibly well versed in your craft, I simply mean that you are not smart enough to handle the vast demands required to grow a company to the 7, 8, or 9 figure range by yourself.

You need people in your corner who are smarter and better than you at what they do.

Sure, you might be an amazing product engineer, marketer, or leader, but can you set up all of the necessary servers in your IT department? Can you run the HR department by yourself? Can you specifically target your Facebook advertising to maximize your ROI while drastically cutting your budget?

If you can, then I want to take my hat off and applaud you… Because you are some sort of superhuman.

But if you are like the rest of us, then you will quickly realize that you cannot create massive growth by yourself.

You need people who are smarter than you, better than you, and hungrier than you who can meld into your brand and mission and help you accomplish your goals in record time.

Influential Books

1. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

2. High Output Management by Andy Grove

3. The Manly Separation Survival Guide


Connect with Krister Ungerboeck


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