We all tend to believe that being a CEO at a startup is more than a role-playing game; it’s a highly demanding position, in which it’s required to do simply… everything.
Most of the times, this is true.
However, most startup CEOs either don’t realize just what value a product manager brings to the table because they don’t know what a product manager does, or they believe they can juggle all of the business tasks along with developing the product they’ve so lovingly conceived and now want to bring to life.
So, what exactly is a product manager? A product manager is someone who can process the vision of the CEO into a real product that is cost-effective and useful to the consumer. This is the person who has to firmly say, “No, we are not going to add that ‘one more’ feature at this point,” especially when adding that feature would dilute the product and keep it from getting to market in a timely fashion.
A People Manager
A product manager is in charge of the final product, but ultimately is a person in charge of other people. The product manager oversees the developers, designers, and even marketing and sales representatives. As such, a good product manager should have experience managing diverse groups of people and dealing well with the challenges that come with that territory.
A Customer Manager
Even though product managers have to make gut decisions regarding product development, they should also be customer-focused and get out of the office to actually talk to customers. The customer knows what he or she wants out of the product; so asking for customer feedback is essential to stellar product development.
A Metrics Manager
Along with being able to listen to customers and make gut decisions about product development, a skilled product manager will also know to track the metrics about product performance and usage, along with other metrics, when working on product development. Keeping a close eye on these metrics, analyzing them, and getting involved in marketing, sales, and conversions is crucial to a successful startup launch.
Those are the three most important qualities for a good product manager, but there are others that are just as important. A product manager is involved in business-related decisions regarding the product, so they need to be business-minded and driven by the business. This is crucial in determining how to price a product, something a product manager should be involved in because of his or her intimate familiarity with the product and the opportunities for applying business models and marketing tactics to that product.
Finally, a product manager should be tech savvy. They don’t have to be engineers, but they should at least understand the lingo and have some passing familiarity with the technology. Product managers need to understand enough about the technology at use to know the possibilities and limitations of that technology, and to be able to understand what the engineers and developers are talking about in technical discussions.
All of these roles are essential to be filled, and a product manager is the right choice to fill them. When a startup is scaling fast, a passionate product manager can help share the vision of the founders and be a prime factor to the success of the business. Building a solid product management function into the business has been recognized as one of the most important steps in the development of a successful startup.