What it Takes to Become a Great Product Manager at a Startup

What it Takes to Become a Great Product Manager at a Startup

Product Managers must possess core competencies that can be applied in all settings, whether in large corporations or in small startups. But their roles and responsibilities will obviously different because of the differences in assets, market, and capitalization, among other factors, between these companies.

In a startup, a product manager has to be quick on his feet, so to speak, because the startup’s path is unpredictable – one day, it’s going well and the next day, it isn’t. As the startup meanders in its path, a product manager has to quickly adapt without losing sight of the company’s goal while also shaping the way forward. (This isn’t so in a large corporation where the path has already been set, the resources are aplenty, and the people know what to do)

Think of it as a product manager building and flying the plane simultaneously so there’s plenty of room for both error and improvement. Indeed, it’s a challenge that can either bring out the best or the worst in a product manager. The good news: There’s also plenty of opportunities to make an impact in a wide range of aspects – strategy, pricing, customer relations and retention, and positioning, among others – and all these with fewer resources.

How to Become a Product Manager

How then can a product manager survive the unique environment of a startup considering these factors? Here are a few tips that we think you, a product manager, should know.

Formation Phase

In the formation stage, the startup is on rather shaky ground. While the entrepreneurs are committed to the business, the business itself is still on paper in many ways – it isn’t a real business yet. There are numerous challenges along the way, from established competitors and indifferent consumers to insufficient resources, which contributes to an uncertain future, not to mention that the business team itself doesn’t have a strong structure yet.

At this time, a product manager has to prove the idea of the business and define its path, particularly the milestones that determine it’s in the right direction.  For this reason, you have the following roles during the formation phase.

When the formation stage has passed, things become easier in many ways for a product manager. The product is there, after all, so the next steps can be taken.

What it Takes to Become a Great Product Manager at a Startup

Validation Phase

During the validation stage, the startup has to determine the target consumers’ reception of the product. Yes, the product is there but will the customers actually buy it, perhaps even recommend it to others?

If yes, then the company has to move fast to take advantage of the positive reception. If no, then the company must find the reasons why the consumers aren’t too excited about it, perhaps even change directions in its product development. In both cases, you have to be closely involved since you’re the product manager.

There are also crucial roles that you have to perform as part of your job.

What it Takes to Become a Great Product Manager at a Startup

Growth Phase

At the growth stage, the startup and its product are in the Olympics of business, so to speak – both have to be bigger, greater, and faster, among others. You, the product manager, has to determine whether the company can actually give the competition a run for its money – or at least, run with them – or it’s time to quit.

Your roles include the following:

In conclusion, your work as a product manager is filled with challenges but with your core competencies and your ability to adapt, you can overcome these challenges. Indeed, you will thrive, not just survive!

 

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