Maximize vs. Optimize: What’s your Growth Personality Type?

Written by: Karl Sakas

Are you a Maximizer or an Optimizer? Your preferred Growth Personality Type impacts your agency’s growth, recruiting, profits, and quality of life.

  • Maximize is about raw return, about getting maximum revenues and profits.
  • Optimize is about ROI—seeking results relative to the investment required.

Maximization is sexy; it’s about big numbers and rapid growth and feeling like a unicorn startup. (Note: Your agency isn’t a unicorn startup.) Like a roller coaster, it’s about high highs and low lows.

In contrast, optimization is about balancing both effectiveness and efficiency. You’re still growing, but you prioritize sustainable growth. Optimization is more of a long-term approach.

Quiz: What’s Your Growth Personality Type?

Remember, it’s a continuum—Maximizer vs. Optimizer is a scale, not black and white. That said, there are some patterns to consider.

You Might be a Maximizer if…

  • You want to grow revenue more than 2X in the coming year (for instance, you want to triple or quintuple your revenue in 12 months).
  • You and your team regularly work 80+ hours a week.
  • You work with a coach primarily on sales and lead-gen, since your team will figure out how to deliver whatever you sell.
  • You want net profit margins significantly above 30%.
  • You want to sell your agency within a few years for $10MM+ but you aren’t sure about typical agency valuation formulas.
  • You believe more clients = more money.
  • Immediately hiring someone for all your open job postings would increase headcount by 25% or more.
  • You don’t like turning down a prospective client.
  • Employee turnover (voluntary) is significantly higher than 20% annually.
  • You regularly max-out your agency’s line of credit.
  • You’ve offered someone a job after just one interview, because you need someone on board now.
  • You believe that if you jump, the net will always appear—especially when it comes to finding work for the people you want to hire.
  • You don’t have a budget, because it would be outdated immediately since you’re growing so fast.
  • You’re considering asking your team to use questionable grayhat marketing tactics, to fulfill your commitments.
  • Your sales proposal-to-close rate is less than 20%… or higher than 90%.
  • You’ve grown past 40+ people but haven’t hired someone to oversee HR.
  • You can’t imagine sleeping more than 4-5 hours a night.
  • You read a lot about growth hacking.
  • You’re making a lot of money, but you can’t remember the last time you felt like you had time to take a vacation.

You Might be an Optimizer if…

  • You don’t automatically say “yes” when a client or employee requests something.
  • You’ve set revenue goals for the year, including baseline and reach goals.
  • You’ve created a revenue plan, to translate your annual goals into quarterly and monthly chunks.
  • You’re regularly looking for ways to make yourself “needed but not necessary.”
  • You regularly read about leadership, management, and other aspects of business.
  • You work with a coach or other advisor, to get feedback on how to improve.
  • Your team regularly does a debrief after finishing a project, to identify lessons-learned to help you improve in the future.
  • Your team has persuaded you to raise prices.
  • Your goal is to get maximum client results, within the context of their budget and what you can accomplish via whitehat marketing techniques.
  • You’re typically working 40-50 hours a week.
  • If you work 60 hours in a week, it’s because of a high-priority “surge” and you’re glad it won’t happen again for a few months.
  • You love your work but you also enjoy unplugging with time off.
  • You’ve ‘trained’ your employees to bring you solutions (when possible) instead of problems.
  • You’ve asked a service provider about the potential ROI, including the assumptions behind their numbers.
  • You regularly give an hours target when you assign something internally (e.g., “Please spend up to 2 hours on this and then report back.”)
  • You hired an operations-y person before your employee headcount hit 10 people.
  • Employees know that if they propose a new revenue-generating idea, they should include an estimate of the financial and personnel costs.

You Might be in Between if…

  • You identify with items from both the “Maximizer” and “Optimizer” lists.

Growth Personality Type in My Consulting

I prefer to work with Optimizers—they’re realistic about how I can help, and we can work together to iterate toward their goals. They’re still often growing rapidly—for instance, seeking to double their revenue in 1-2 years—but they execute against a plan. Optimizers don’t rely on happy accidents.

I’ve worked with Maximizers in the past; their optimism is inspiring, but Maximizers’ goals tend to be extreme and their pace tends to be unsustainable.

Often, Maximizers are unable to break away from short-term firefighting to focus on long-term goals, no matter how I try to help. This distractedness tends to hurt their client and employee retention, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Applying Growth Personality Type at Your Agency

In a future article, I’ll look at business implications based on your Growth Personality Type preference. Your preference impacts agency strategy, profitability, recruiting and team management, your stress levels, and more.

In the meantime:

  • Do you know where you want to go? If you’re not sure—or not sure any more—write an Advance Retrospective about your ideal future.
  • Are you and your business partner(s) on the same page about Growth Personality Type? If you aren’t, you’re going to butt heads.
  • Are your current actions consistent with your Values, Goals, and Resources (VGR)? And is your team on board to support you in following your VGRs?

Question: How might your Growth Personality Type impact your agency’s future?

Feeling stuck?

Wish you had an expert, confidential sounding board? Has your romantic partner told you to STOP complaining about your agency? Help is here! 

Executive Coaching helps you move forward, with advice and accountability support. And it’s custom-designed for you. Your coaching program is tailored to what you want and need at your agency, working together 1:1 and on your schedule.