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  • Sam Decker

High-Speed Leadership: How to Carry Momentum

By 2012, Mass Relevance was proving its expertise in curating real-time Twitter content for TV shows like X Factor, Inside the NBA, the Super Bowl, and the Royal Wedding. On July 6, 2011, we powered the first live Obama Twitter Town Hall, marking a proud moment for our team (Read "The Secret Company Behind Twitter's TV Takeover")



For about a year, I pursued Facebook to do the same with their data. Every other month, I contacted my Facebook contacts via email and phone. Sometimes I just showed up at lunchtime at their Menlo Park headquarters. Occasionally, they responded and met with me. But for a year, those meetings only served to build trust.




A couple of months before the Obama/Romney debate, I visited Facebook HQ again with my co-founder, Eric. This time, we were warmly received. Facebook was interested in hosting a real-time social dashboard to show audience sentiment during the debate. To do this, they would exclusively open their graph API (“firehose”) to the Mass Relevance platform. We had to do the first event for free, which was challenging for our busy team, but they understood the significance of this opportunity. We nailed the event, showcasing real-time sentiment on CNN. This led to a long-term exclusive relationship with Facebook, dramatically increasing the value of our SaaS social curation platform for TV networks, leagues, and shows.


Long story shorter, in just over three years, we grew to 150 people, achieved $15M in recurring revenue, and merged with Spredfast.





The point: We had built momentum through nearly two years of working with Twitter and networks. From this we leaned into Facebook, creating multiple exploratory meetings. Then we were poised to capitalize on the timing and opportunity.


This is one of many stories I could share about carrying momentum.


Carrying Momentum on the Track


In performance driving, the key to gaining speed, or rather saving time, is in corner exits. For a tight corner leading into a long straightaway, you may take the corner slowly and hit the apex late to accelerate as early as possible, benefiting from increased velocity on the straight. For a long sweeping corner, you maintain momentum through smooth steering and throttle control until you hear the tires slightly 'sing'. The goal is to leverage momentum to achieve the highest speed between and into these transitions.  





Carrying momentum on a track involves several skills that have metaphorical relevance to business momentum as well:


  • Vision: The #1 skill! Look through the entire corner—brake point, apex, exit—to choose the optimal apex for the fastest exit. Prepare your body and inputs to control the car and maintain maximum momentum through the turn. Focusing only on what's right in front of the hood leads to poor timing, slower speeds, and missed opportunities.

  • Smoothness: The smoother your inputs (gas, brake, steering), the more balanced the car, allowing you to carry more speed into, through, and out of a corner.

  • RPMs: Higher RPMs provide more torque, giving the engine more power to accelerate. Maintaining high RPMs is possible by shifting before a corner, rev-matching, or heel-and-toe shifting to keep balanced and RPMs high through a corner. After a turn or transition, high torque RPMs allow for faster acceleration.




Carrying Momentum in Business


Carrying momentum in business means navigating changes, challenges, and opportunities to sustain forward motion. It requires preparation and efficient execution of transitions, much like a racer optimizes speed exiting a corner to maximize velocity on the straight.

There are key moments in an organization that are high leverage “momentum” moments, such as: 


  • Mergers and Acquisitions

  • Product Launches

  • Market Expansion

  • Digital Transformation

  • Crisis Response

  • Organizational Restructures

  • Regulatory Compliance Adjustments

  • Leadership Transitions

  • Innovation Cycles

  • New Partnerships

  • Key Clients and Case Studies

  • Research and Studies

  • New Strategic Hires


This theme encourages leaders to not only react to immediate circumstances but also to be prepared to accelerate the next phases of a project, market, or organizational change such as those above. It emphasizes leveraging energy and progress from one success to propel the organization into and through the next opportunity with increased strength.





Where Do You Have Momentum?


Do you know where you have momentum in the company? What function, program, initiative, or campaign has success “power”. Or in car terms, what has high torque and high “RPMs” throughout your company? 


You might have a robust, defensible product, powerful marketing campaigns, a strong sales team, or be well-positioned in a momentum-driven market. Maybe you’re the thought leader in a trending industry.


Every program, project, product, and initiative is a hypothesis. It should have measurable outcomes and a timeline to gauge success. If it works, scale it.



It's surprising how many company programs lack measurement and success criteria. Many failing programs continue aimlessly, while successful ones are not scaled properly. Carrying momentum requires focused attention and clear execution. Identify where you have momentum and leverage it.


Example: Recognizing Market Momentum


At my immersive reality company, Fair Worlds, we initially pitched virtual reality. Observing Apple’s focus on augmented reality, we shifted our approach and pitched an augmented reality pool configurator to an international pool products company. They became clients for five years. Had we stuck to our initial VR pitch, we might have missed this opportunity.


Example: Scaling Success


Hiring a sales team is a hypothesis. Success is measured by meeting or exceeding quotas each quarter. At Bazaarvoice, our small sales team’s success led a VC board member to urge us to hire more salespeople immediately. We scaled rapidly, growing to 100 salespeople and achieving $50M in recurring revenue before I left to start Mass Relevance. Two years later, Bazaarvoice went public.



In business, recognizing and carrying momentum is, at best, a key to success, and at worst, a missed opportunity. Just as racers maximize speed through smooth inputs and efficient transitions, business leaders can accelerate opportunities with strategic execution. 

High-leverage moments like mergers, product launches, and market expansions require preparation to maximize growth. By identifying and scaling successful initiatives, over and over again, you accelerate growth dramatically. Said metaphorically, the flywheel starts flying! Carrying momentum demands attention to what’s working, readiness to pivot from what is not, and a commitment to harnessing success for increased velocity.

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