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The Startup Product Manager

I recently read  The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blanks and Bob Dorf and I would highly recommend it to any Product Manager.  It’s not a book that you read from front to back  rather it is a guide that you flip through as required. Therefore, a paper copy is highly recommended over a digital version.

The authors take new entrepreneurs through the critical steps of building a new business using examples, flow charts and checklists. I enjoyed flipping through the whole book. However, the two areas that were most interesting to me were the Customer Development Process and the Business Model Canvas. I applied the Business Model Canvas to a new business idea I have and it was very helpful and simple to use.

The book also prepares Product Managers (PM’s) to understand and appreciate the process of building a new business. There are many valuable lessons in this book for PM’s such as the fact that ideas need to be tested by “getting out of the building” and new products must be iterated quickly.

Product Managers are entrepreneurs minus the fact that they do not themselves take on financial risk. However, their job is to maximize the financial return on the owners’ investment. Professional and experienced Product Managers take this role very seriously; they care about their products and about ensuring the market needs are met.  PM’s sometimes are in charge of a brand new product or of entering a brand new market with an existing product. In these scenarios, they must understand that they are working with untested hypotheses and can use the tools in this book to help in the process of understanding new customers and searching for the correct business model. By getting out of the building, PM’s can:

  • Get to know the potential customers, their uses, needs, buying criteria, etc..
  • Ensure the product solves a high value problem
  • Find out the right product feature/pricing mix
  • Determine if the product will scale

It is only through a process of customer feedback-error-learning-iteration and with the understanding that failure is part of the process, that a new idea can develop into a successful profitable product. Product Managers should definitely read this book and apply as much of it as they can in their day-to-day.