How to Hire (and How to Afford) the Right Product Manager for Your Startup
In any startup environment, hiring the right people is really the key to success. And that can be a challenge in the early years. Funds are tight. That’s why most startups tend to operate with a very small team... sometimes only two or three people.
While this approach is certainly understandable, we think that one key position - the product manager - needs to be an integral part of any startup from the very beginning. But how do you hire the right person and how do you afford to pay that person when your cash flow is somewhat limited?
Here are a few tips that can make finding that PPM (perfect product manager) easier and affordable.
TIP #1: Hire a dedicated product manager. Don’t try to split the job responsibilities among current staff.
A lot of people think it’s okay for the CEO or founder of a startup to act as the product manager. While it might be okay, it’s not necessarily profitable. Think about it. A founder will be too close to the product to be able to look at it and any flaws objectionably. This is why you need to hire a dedicated product manager instead of trying to get someone within the organization to wear two hats.
While a CEO or founder is focused on the big picture (along with every other single detail) of an organization, the product manager is focused on only two things: the product itself and how the customer will feel about the product. It is the product manager that knows the target market... the one that understands and creates the buyer personas. This role sits at the nexus of the IT, marketing, and customer service departments.
Before you hire a marketing or sales manager, you need to hire a product manager. Why? Because you want to market and sell the best possible product. And to get the best possible product, you need the best possible product manager.
TIP #2: Hire a product manager that is already skilled in the technology you’re using to build your solution.
Because the product manager works so closely with the IT team in developing the product, it’s very important that they speak the same language. For example, if you’re operating in an Agile development environment and building your solution with Java, it makes sense to hire a product manager who is skilled at both. If you regularly build custom solutions for Salesforce, your product manager should know a lot about Salesforce. Makes sense, right?
Hiring a candidate with a strong background and familiarity in the specific programming language and other tools being used to create your solution makes the development process run a lot more smoothly and is more cost effective, since there is less of a learning curve involved.
Another suggestion is to hire someone who has been the product manager throughout the entire lifecycle of a product similar to yours. We’re not saying to go out and poach your competitors for their employees, but having someone who’s gone through the whole process a few times in a similar environment can provide a sense of confidence and stability throughout the organization.
TIP #3: Find the money to hire the right product manager by cutting back on other non-essential expenditures.
An experienced product manager doesn’t come cheap. But if you want to deliver the best possible solution to your future customers, investing in that experience is oh so worth it.
Think of all the areas within your organization where you could cut back. Do you really need to blow a chunk of your initial startup money on expensive promotional items or advertising? Of course you want to build awareness for your brand prior to the initial launch, but without a great product, all of that money is going to go to waste because nobody will buy what you’re selling.
Take a really hard look at your startup budget and expenses. Perhaps you don’t really need that cool office space that screams “successful tech startup” during the first year. You might need to lease a bare-bones space outside the city or even have everyone work from home to start. How many trade shows and conferences do you need to attend in order to network? Can you narrow them down to just the ones that will give you the best bang for your buck?
The point is, a lot of these extraneous expenditures should come AFTER you’ve built an amazing product. Don’t waste precious dollars just trying to build up a buzz around your startup in the early days. If you deliver a great product, the buzz will happen all on its own.
And, as we said before, a great product starts with a great idea, followed by an equally great product manager to bring that idea into fruition.
Do you need help with a current development project or want more advice? Let us know. We’d be happy to help.