Founders of a new business can come from a variety of backgrounds but typically they will fall into one of two buckets, Industry Experts or Manufacturing and Technology Experts. The main reason for this is that someone who works in an industry understands the challenges the industry faces and the existing options for tools and products to solve the challenge. As a result, they are easily able to spot a gap and opportunity for a new business to fill. Alternatively, a technology export such as a developer has the capabilities to create new software products and needs to just figure out what space they feel comfortable in applying their abilities to create new software offering. Manufacturers are in the same boat in that they have the ability to create new products but need to find the market opportunity to generate the business.
Typically, the challenge that both types of founders face is the same, once you made the decision to try a new business, managing products and the process of product planning from start to finish is a challenge and requires planning that will make or break the success of the business venture. The founders strength is not being a product manager but in seeing an opportunity and having part of the equation needed to execute a new business plan to launch a product. To ensure your new product has the best chance of success, founders need to learn the basics of managing products. Here are 3 tips to managing products as a new founder of a business.
1. Start with a high level product roadmap: You know there is an opportunity now you need to figure out to get from step 1 to product launch. You already know this requires a number of smaller steps in a long process to build a product and business. The first thing you need to do as a founder to start managing products is to lay out your initial product roadmap. This product roadmap should be high level and defines in the proper sequential order the features your product needs in a rough timeline to implement and build your product. This will help you understand the features you plan to include for your product launch and how long it will take you roughly to complete your product.
2. Turn your product roadmap into a product release map: There are two product roadmaps you want to maintain, a high level strategic product roadmap which you can use to ensure you have the full vision of where your product is going over the next 5 years and the large steps required to get there. In order to accomplish your strategic product roadmap, you then need to create a lower level release roadmap which groups your work into small deliverables. This would be your release cycles or sprints and you can decide to do weekly, monthly or whatever frequency works for your team to create the product. The small release roadmap allows you to manage the product creation at a micro level with everyone aware of what needs to be done within that release cycle while understanding the impacts of each release on the macro level of your overall strategic product roadmap. The two work in tandem to keep everyone on the same page of why you are working on the items within a release and understand if there are any delays or issues, the impact to the overall vision.
3. Get Feedback From Everyone: While you need a plan to get started, your plan should be tested constantly by asking for feedback from your potential market segment you consider potential users. Even if you are an industry expert, you are also too invested in your own product to be a fair judge in what you are doing. Ask other industry experts what features are needed to make the product useful for them and validate your thoughts for the product plan. Take a look at competitors that are offering similar products and ensure your product roadmap includes the features needed to remain competitive and above the existing options. Mostly, get your ego out of the way with the managing products. While you are the founder and the product is your baby, the quickest way to fail is to not listen to people around you and hear what their thoughts are on features and product. Update your product roadmap often to ensure you are up to date with the changing world you work in and inclusive of feedback in your plan.
While managing products and becoming a product manager is a new skill for founders to tackle, it can be done by simply managing the vision of where you want to go, breaking the vision into smaller deliverable and steps to accomplish the vision and always validating your ideas and product roadmap by watching competition and completing as many user interviews as possible to build the best possible product.