At any startup, the VP of Product role is the most important position. Hiring a strong VP product – he / she has to be a good leader, a brilliant designer, a great analytical thinker.
VP of Product has to be a great communicator and a great negotiator.
To find the right person for this role, you need to have a clear vision of your company, your company’s goals, and your company’s values. Then, you need to find the right person to lead your product team.
The first step is to hire someone who has all the required skills, but this is not enough. You need to find someone who really cares about your product and will make it his or her own.
Developing a strong product vision
Once you hire a VP of Product, you need to set the product vision. Your VP of Product should lead the effort and come up with a clear short-term.
You will need a long-term vision for your product.
This vision needs to be realistic and tangible and should focus on things like traction. Also growth rate, number of users, revenue per user, engagement level, etc.
This is also an important opportunity to align your company’s mission and values with your product’s mission and values.
Your VP of Product should define key metrics that measure success in achieving your company’s goals.
Increasing customer usage, engagement levels, monetisation rates, unique visitors/month or users/day/year (depending on what business model you are pursuing) are some examples.
In order to get people involved in the process of defining product goals.
You can do a couple things: show team members the current progress toward the goals and ask them what they think about it; run surveys; discuss the ideas at weekly meetings so that everyone has a chance to voice their opinion (and feel accountable).
Make sure that everyone agrees with and understands the goals before moving forward. Once your product team is aligned around these goals it will help create clarity around their work, so which will result in higher quality output.
The next step is to create a product roadmap for the next 12 months (or less if you have a shorter time horizon). The vision statement should be reflected in this product roadmap.
And it should include product goals, metrics, and features. The VP of Product will lead the effort of creating the product roadmap together with product team members.
This process can be challenging because it requires managers to set priorities between features, short term and long term goals, and business objectives.
For example, one feature might bring you more revenue right now but at the same time it might decrease engagement levels or retention rates.
This is where your VP of Product comes into play. He or she needs to balance all these things and get everyone on board with the plan.
Create a culture that focuses on achieving your company’s goals
Another important part of building a strong product organization, is to create a culture that focuses on achieving your company’s product goals.
Understands how these goals are related to other functions in your organization (like marketing & sales), And how each team member can contribute to bringing them closer to reality.
But before we explain this idea in more detail let’s talk about what kind of culture you want to build in your startup.
There are three main types: growth focused, financial profit focused or people centric culture (also called purpose driven).
These are not mutually exclusive so any startup can have elements from all three types — that is why they are called “types” of cultures.
Growing your business
Growing your business is not only about achieving product goals but it is also about achieving the vision for your startup which is different than the vision for your product.
The main purpose of this chapter is to help you achieve your company’s vision and achieve product goals in order to make the biggest impact possible.
The financial profit-focused culture is focused on taking shortcuts in order to achieve short term goals as fast as possible.
It usually includes: cutting corners, ignoring long-term consequences, cutting corners when hiring people, etc. This type leads to a lot of problems when trying to build a strong product organization.
Why? because it creates a gap between what people do and what they say — they do one thing and say something else (even lie).
They are motivated by money and creating value is not their priority.
More importantly, this culture undermines trust because there are no clear goals and priorities.
So people don’t know exactly how to contribute. And creating trust among team members is very important for building a product organization from scratch or making it more effective.
An example of this type was described in the book “‘Built to Last” by Jim Collins. He talks about companies like Circuit City, Compaq Computer, Digital Equipment Corporation, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company etc.
All of them failed because their management did not care about customers or products or employees;
They were interested in short term gains (aka profits). This lack of focus led to their downfall even though at some point these companies were financially successful.
A growth-focused culture has a deeper sense of purpose than just generating immediate profits;
It aims to pursue larger goals that will lead to sustainable growth over time.
The focus here is on creating long term value — both for users and employees. This type is focused on the long term (at least 3-5 years) and tries to avoid shortcuts that can negatively affect the company in the long run.
More example of a growth-focused culture was described in Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup” .
Its all about companies like Apple Inc., Intuit, Nike, etc.
Building something new
All these companies have managed to stay relevant in their market for years.
Why? because they understand that building something new is not about doing what worked before but it is about experimenting, learning and iterating quickly so you can learn from your mistakes as fast as possible.
Building a people centric organization means that people are treated like customers. The main focus here is on engaging employees by helping them build careers.
By creating an environment where they feel proud and happy to work every day.
You need to make them feel important while giving them room to grow. An example of this type is Zappos — an online shoe store that delivers great customer service by putting employee happiness first.
While all three sound good, you probably want to build a growth-focused at your startup.
It is better aligned with what startups should be focusing on: creating lasting value, it will help you create a strong product organisation which will result in creating products & services that users love.
which will lead to more revenue generated through higher customer loyalty levels.
Lower customer acquisition costs and higher profit margins per user, compared to competitors who do not have a solid product organization.
But before we dive into how to build a strong product team, let’s make sure you know some basics about how teams function.
So you know what works best for your situation.
Find more in our article Tips to Build Great Team Culture in your company.
Here is David Shacochis, VP, Product Management Talks About Gartner’s View on Digital Transformation.