Product management & entrepreneurship go hand in hand. This is, at least, the way I see it. Let’s take the two extremes of the scale: on one side you have a ‘very junior’ product manager who just started doing her first steps in the product world. On the other side you have the serial entrepreneur who already founded and sold 3-4 companies.
What do they both have in common? Well… turns out that quite a few things.
To start, they both need to design something that people would want to use. Yes, the junior product manager may be assigned to design a tiny functionality in a big enterprise software, and the entrepreneur will probably work on a full blown product that should deliver a huge impact for a meaningful addressable market. Nevertheless, they both need to understand who are their target users and what are their needs and pains. They will also need to design & build their best guess as to how to address this pain and eventually to measure if they did a good job.
The process they need to go through has a lot of other similar touch points as well. For instance, it’s likely that they both will interview several people who represent their target users. It is also likely that they both will need to validate their theses or explain why & how it should address the pain. And at the end of the day they both need to take full accountability as for the 3 ‘w’-s –
Why – as in why do we need to build this? (rationale/opportunity)
What – what exactly are we building here? (the remedy)
When – as in why now is the time? (priority/timing)
Fighting on a product as if your business’ survival depends on it forces you to think out of the box and be super creative. It also forces you to really ‘listen’ to what the market has to say about your product and hence keeping you honest and on the right path when doing product management work.
But the upside for you doesn’t end here. Let’s talk for a second about what it means to be an ‘entrepreneur’ in this context. If you are working for a company does it mean you can’t embark on new initiatives that go beyond your official scope of work?
Most likely, and unless the company’s culture is really broken, the answer to the above is ‘of course you can!’. You can certainly unleash the entrepreneur within you and invent new stuff within the company you are in and make your company better than it was before. And by ‘new stuff’ don’t limit yourself to products only. ‘New stuff’ can also mean suggesting new company structure, introducing new working processes or just coming up with new ideas on how to improve the working environment.
For example, once, while interviewing a series of customers as part of my official role, I came across a pattern in their answers that made me curious about whether this pattern represents a bigger trend about where the business the company I worked for was headed. It had absolutely nothing to do with my formal scope of responsibilities but I decided to dig in the data regardless because I thought it was an important finding that may affect the strategic decisions of the executives leadership. I managed to convince a colleague who was a data analyst to assist me (again, this whole initiative was totally out of the scope of my role so I had to motivate people to help in their spare time) and we indeed came across an important trend that nobody has noticed beforehand.
You see – the entrepreneurship spirit provides you with a lot of flexibility and options to innovate and bring something new into the world. I will provide plenty of additional examples in future posts, all based on real-life scenarios.
Therefore, and getting back to the beginning of this post, even as a junior product manager you can hugely benefit from developing and honing your entrepreneurship skills. And if you are worried about how to release the entrepreneur within you, or you even believe that you simply ‘don’t have it’ – then don’t worry – I will help discover and set free those internal qualities – step by step. So stay tuned and let’s embark on this journey.