So you are a product person turned GM. What advantages do you bring to the table? What’s your edge in this role? Some of my thoughts below
Structured and systems-level thinking
Great product folks have a structured thinking approach to solving problems. Thinking in systems is a critical skill. This mode of thinking is immensely valuable and has broad applications in other areas like sales and marketing. As described in the last post, sales and marketing have a very quick rhythm, everything resets at the quota end period. This dynamic has a natural pull towards tactics that yield quick outcomes. You can easily slide into just executing on tactics without a reliable and predictable system of making Read More »
The difference between strategy and tactics is the most misunderstood phenomenon. 90% of the time the two are conflated. I recently read (twice, its that good!) the book 7 Powers: The foundation of business strategy by Hamilton Helmer. I highly recommend getting the paper copy of the book to make notes on and see the visuals. I plan to write some posts applying some of the concepts to industries I’m familiar with, but for today I’d like to talk about a basic framework, two sentences that illuminate the difference between strategy and tacticsRead More »
In the last post, I highlighted that SMB’s are mostly a long tail business with a majority of the market at the smaller end of the spectrum. An insight that I did not appreciate going into this market is the amount of sensitivity to price. The statement that “There are three things that are most important in SMB, price, price and price” is 100% true! With most small businesses being small and not really in it to grow this price sensitivity makes a ton of sense. So if you are a startup in this space you come across an interesting squeeze.Read More »
Small Business is the biggest market in the US and this is the best place to start a company in
This is an oft-repeated quote in many pitch decks, sorry to inform you, dear reader, it depends. After spending a decade in the SMB space, I’ve learned a few things – what follows is an attempt to describe some myths and mistakes. Hopefully, you don’t fall into the same traps!
Myth #1: SMB market is huge in the US and is underserved. This represents a big opportunity
The huge number everybody trots out is ~30M small business in the USA, the engine of growth, big big market, main street America – AMURIKA YEAAAAAH. Alas in practical terms this is a long tail market. This data set from the SUSB is the best place to start. Just by looking at the distribution of firms by employee size it is clear that this is a long tail market. There are a large number of firms that are <10 employees.Read More »
I’m a big fan of frameworks, they help us categorize and make sense of the world around us. As you are building products, frameworks help you systematically approach the process. I’ve always been intrigued by Reid Hoffman’s quote that mapped consumer social products to the seven sins. This was a great framework to map a product strategy to a core human instinct, in this case, vices.
With the consumerization of enterprise software can we do something similar? can we get derive a systematic framework that represents emotion in the enterprise world?Read More »
I’ve always been interested in figuring out what signifies greatness in PM, what makes a great PM?
A source of signal for me has been the ability to deal with ambiguity. Great PMs have this innate ability to take ambiguous thoughts/ideas/strategies as input and come up with a coherent executable plan which then they execute ruthlessly. A great PM has the superpower of bringing clarity to everything.
The anti-pattern I’d like to explore today is the Ponzi roadmap. It usually starts with the best of intentions but has extremely harmful effects as a company scales.
When a company is in the initial stages and has a small engineering and product team the planning model that emerges is what I call the pooled model. Engineering is considered a pool of resources and usually composed of full-stack engineers. The product is typically small and mostly a monolith, every engineer can work on anything and there are just a few PM’s (maybe just one). Since we are all agile, every quarter the PM comes up with a list of priorities and outcomes, engineering staffs the priority from its pool of engineers and delivers outcomes. The next quarter rolls around and we do this all over again. Engineers move on to working on different things every quarter. This makes perfect sense in a small company – but goes horribly wrong as you start scaling up.
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory – Franklin Pierce Adams
We’ve all read about how culture eats strategy for lunch. The internet is jam-packed with a million blog posts on the superficialities of culture. Its time for some inside baseball with some actual actionable things to watch out for and prevent.
It is absolutely true that the culture of the company dictates how it can adapt to change and eventually succeed. Culture is hugely important, however along the journey from a small company to a midsize company to a large public company, the culture will change. At all these stages, different parts of the company will have different cultures and norms. In fact sometimes within the same team, you will have differences based on where the teams are located and their size.
It’s been 10 years since the 2008 financial crisis. Astute observers will correct me and point out that the crisis actually started in early 2007 when the Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit collapsed. This was the first collapse of a hedge fund that was loaded up to the gills with subprime CDO’s. If you were following FT Alphaville in late 2006/ early 2007, you’d be ahead of the game. The signs were there! Some great coverage to relive and re-read
So how does this relate to you, young product manager? Some obvious and simple lessons articulated below.Read More »