This entire playbook reflects experiences collected while working at multiple companies, all of which have been ScaleUp businesses with sustained growth. Depending on the stage or scale of growth, some Product Management principles might differ, so we think it’s worth defining the type of companies we are addressing:
Companies, both B2B and B2C, typically go through several stages each of which comes with its own characteristics. We don’t want to go into the details of each phase here but only highlight some key aspects.
Founders are responsible for defining a StartUp’s vision, mission, and long-term goals. For that, most input into strategy and roadmap will come from them. In fact, some of them will act as Chief Product Officers — regardless of whether they have that title or a different one. Additionally, the company is small enough to allow founders to directly engage with everybody.
Once a working solution for a customer problem has been found, it is important to address product-market fit (PMF). This implies that not only do customers want the product but also that appropriate strategies for Marketing and Sales are in place and the product can be built, sold, distributed, and operated in a profitable manner. Hence, the responsibilities of Product Management go far beyond just building features:
Typically, companies are going through various stages in terms of financial investors. And while there are no strict boundaries and lots of variations in that process, a ScaleUp company will usually have way more demanding investors. They will challenge strategy and execution; they will require more formal decision-making and specific reporting structures; they might even participate by way of Boards of Directors. Specifically for the Product Management leader, most notably a Chief Product Officer, will have to be able to speak up, convince, and win that group.
At an early stage, it is important that founders are aligned around their core vision as well as key values that are important to them. Not much formalization is required, everything fits on the proverbial napkin.
Once the company has grown to be a ScaleUp, it’s essential to precisely define its mission, vision, and strategy. Even beyond that, communication of the strategy and how it impacts the roadmap becomes a key responsibility of the Product Management team so that these are fully transparent to every single employee. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
More on that topic in part 2 of this playbook.