Product & Startup Builder

Filtering by Category: Building Teams

Engineers Make Terrible Product Managers

Added on by Chris Saad.

Now that I've made you angry. Here's what I actually mean.

Even the best product thinking engineer should not be placed in the position to be both a product manager AND an engineer on the same product/project.

Product management is often about saying NO. It's about long term, big picture thinking. It's about the what, when and IF something should be done. It's about stakeholder discussions, consensus building, visual design, marketing, customers, business considerations and more. It's about picking which hill to take, bringing the right team together and motivating them to get it done (to use a military metaphor).

Engineering, on the other hand, is mostly about saying YES. It's about getting the job done. Solving problems. Figuring out HOW something WILL be done. It's about being deep in the details of the code and trying to find your 'zone' to make magic (a zone that is easily interrupted by meetings!). It's about being the person the product manager can depend on to actually run up the hill and plant the flag while they're off picking the next battle field (to continue the military metaphor).

These are totally different head-spaces and roles. Often they work well together. Sometimes there's a healthy tension with one side pushing the other to "do more" or "get more focused" or "be more specific" etc (in both directions).

Someone with an engineering background might actually be an excellent product manager when placed in that role (and they often are!) but asking ANYONE to do both roles is often asking too much.

Originally Posted On Facebook

You Get What You Pay For

Added on by Chris Saad.

In most cases, you truly get what you pay for.

Time is often the most precious thing of all. I find myself willing to spend more and more money to save time or improve the quality of the time I spend.

Whenever I balk at the price of something premium, my beautiful wife reminds me "Would you expect a company to pay a recent grad the same amount they pay you to do the same job? Why not?"

She's right. Paying to fast-forward to the future - especially for a company - can be the difference between wasting enormous amounts of capital, life force and time on a failure and winning the proverbial lottery.

Hire great people. Listen to them. Ask them the right questions. Hustle.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Great Collaborators Should Challenge Your Thinking

Added on by Chris Saad.

In your startup, you should be looking for collaborators who challenge your thinking. 

This does not mean they are 'assholes' or devil's advocate just for the sake of it, but rather they are sure to delineate the risks (so that they can be managed), help reveal blind spots, and fill in the blanks in terms of your own skillsets and capacity. 

In some cases these people should make you a little uncomfortable because they're giving you new data and areas of focus that you hadn't previously understood or considered important. 

It's important, though, that those people are able to 'disagree and commit'. Once you make the call, they should get on board and work their heart outs to make your decision and vision a reality.

Originally Posted On Facebook

You Need To Hire When...

Added on by Chris Saad.

Don't hire until you're absolutely ready to hire. Building a team to run an imaginary business just burns time and money.

You know you need someone to join your team when...

1. You, or someone on your team, is underwater and the tasks hitting the floor are holding the business back.

2. You don't have anyone on the team who is good enough to complete an essential and immediate task at the level of quality/effectiveness needed.

For example, don't hire a sales person unless you have a product to sell - and you've personally figured out how to sell it with the first few sales. Don't hire a growth marketer until you have a self-serve product ready to onboard and retain users. Don't hire a community manager until you have a product worth building a community around.

Noticing a trend? Build a PRODUCT that people want to use and is ready to scale before scaling your team.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Use Internal Updates To Drive Alignment

Added on by Chris Saad.

Internal stakeholder updates can make all the difference between alignment and chaos.

Be sure that your investor update emails (and internal stakeholder updates of all kinds in fact) start with clear charts to show key KPIs and include Highlights, Lowlights and What's next.

Ensure each section is concisely written with bullet points that contain key facts and implications without too much fluff.

Be sure to be real so that your stakeholders can help you when possible and aren't blind sided if things go off the rails.

Originally Posted On Facebook

Recruiting Is A Real Art

Added on by Chris Saad.

It’s a cliché these days to say people are the most important part of any company. But it’s absolutely true.

Hiring strong people, particularly product managers, is a real art. 

Prior to my experience at Uber, I considered myself pretty poor at interviewing and recruiting candidates. 

However, seeing how Uber does it up close, and going through many, many, many interviews as part of the hypergrowth the company was experiencing, really gave me new insights into how to do it well.

One of my favorite compliments I received after leaving Uber was how effective a team builder I was.

Even though people can really make or break a company’s success, I find that most startups really don’t know how to recruit for key roles. So these days I’m increasingly helping the startups I work with think through how to describe their job requirements, find and reach out to candidates, and build interview loops that really test for a great fit with the company’s needs.

It’s so rewarding finding amazing people to supercharge the dreams of founders.

Originally Posted On Facebook

How To Evaluate And Compensate For Your Weaknesses

Added on by Chris Saad.

When evaluating and compensating for your weaknesses, I suggest taking a multi-faceted approach:

  • Be sober and honest about your weaknesses - but also be fair/kind to yourself too. Don’t, however, allow yourself to be crippled by neurosis (i.e obsessing)

  • While you may never turn them into strengths, lean into improving your weaknesses - at the very least you will understand them better and minimize blind spots

  • Don’t minimize the importance of things you can’t do just because you can’t do them. Recognise their value and...

  • Don’t obsess about turning them into strengths. Focus more on your natural/unique ability and hire/surround yourself with people you trust who make up for your weaknesses. Be explicit with them about their role in your life/business and ask them to help you handle that aspect of things.

Originally Posted On Facebook

How Did Uber Scale So Fast?

Added on by Chris Saad.

My friend just asked me how Uber scaled so fast. My off-the-cuff answer:

  • Huge ambition/vision/appetite - this animates and motivates everyone and everything 

  • First principles thinking - this leads to ignoring legacy constraints and encourages new innovative thinking/solutions

  • Fearless execution with ownership/accountability at the edge - which allows everyone to move fast without waiting for permission

I’d also add...

  • Bias towards action - move fast. Have the meeting this week, not next week

  • Hire strong operators that, in-turn, hire strong operators. 

Of course, these are some of the same things that got it in trouble too.

Originally Posted On Facebook