You were convinced by the vision of the founder and are now on-board the ship as the first Product Manager at the company. In a recent conversation with a friend, I uncovered the same problems faced by her and decided to write this to share what helped me. This was particular to my context but might be different for someone else.
As the first Product Manager you require complete dedication and passion to the problem being solved at hand. The first PM hire is almost a pseudo founder but not the founder, if you know what I mean. We’re in a world where every individual is better at somethings than the rest, and this applies to me as well. So here goes the traits, skills and tasks needed to be done as the first PM in the company.
- Get to know user problems quickly – This is important, if the company has a few users, meeting them daily and understanding would help but at a few thousand users, this is cause for bias and products can go haywire in KPIs if this is followed, rather building a regular cadence of user feedback through the website, app or email is more useful then.
- Be tactical yet strategic – You need to segment the user needs and assign its strategic value to the company/founder. Remember you are there to deliver the founder’s vision. The strategic value can change, so what worked for me is having the strategic value in buckets of time. For example –
You as the PM need to keep this handy to make decisions and get the founder’s buy in. The product wouldn’t be mature and coming up with frameworks as such would definitely help.
- Fail fast – While this is a term thrown around, I’d like to clarify what it means to fail fast here. What I mean is your method of development of features should be in such a manner that developer doesn’t feel that the feature was worked on for X hours and it will never be used. Rather have a system of rapid prototyping in place where you can validate with your users before development, in the past I’ve seen even demo of mock-ups helping.
- Instrument the right analytics the right way – This is very critical to have in place before things get complex. The right analytics gives good stories about your product and feature, instrumenting the right way is very important for determining your next steps and showing the results to founders and potential investors.
– Amol Walvekar