Product Management in Start-ups

Growth Stage and the Product Manager

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How Your Company’s Growth Stage Impacts Product Management Responsibilities 

How can you determine which product management skills are most important at various states of your company’s growth?  For starters, simply ask yourself what your organization is trying to accomplish with its product activities.

Companies are basically trying to accomplish one of two objectives:

  1. Create new value
  2. Increase existing value

Growth Stage Matters: The Product Manager’s Role in a Start-Up Company

Let’s take a closer look at a product manager’s vital role in a start-up company.

The mission of a start-up company is to identify a market opportunity and successfully collaborate with potential customers until a scalable product is developed and introduced in the market. These tasks require heavy customer involvement and a rapid trial and error process that the product manager will be deeply involved in. One key goal is to attract a core base of early adopters for your product that can be grown into a larger mass-market customer base.

Essential Skills for Product Managers in Start-Up Companies

Because of the nature of what your start-up company is trying to accomplish, the following product management skills are vitally important:

  • Creative thinking
  • Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Conceptual and analytical abilities
  • Customer focus
  • Teamwork

While budgeting and profit and loss management are critical skills for product managers in a more mature company, they are less important in a start-up.

Where Product Managers Spend Their Time in a Start-Up

As a product manager in a start-up you will spend a great deal of time working face to face with prospective clients and new customers. This is essential to facilitate your company’s efforts to continually tweak the initial prototype so it can attract more customers.

You’ll also be working closely with the development team. Time is critical in the start-up stage and detailed processes can really slow things down. Because you work closely with both development and the customers, you can have an impact of streamlining processes and ensuring that the new product meets customers’ needs.

The start-up’s flat organization structure means you’ll probably be taking hands-on responsibility for the full range of product management responsibilities. These can range from identifying the needs of the market to developing a launch plan for the initial product. It’s a challenging position that gives you plenty of opportunity to have a strong impact on your company’s success and growth.

Growth stage matters and has a direct bearing on your role as a product manager. In my next post I’ll discuss the primary mission of a product manager in a successful mid-sized company.


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