I listen to the startup podcast from Gimlet media fairly regularly. Last week’s episode was groundbreaking in a lot of ways.
What a fantastic episode. It’s raw, personal and honest storytelling. Its great tape edited to produce an even greater story. It was so poignant, it made me cry. Alex Bloomberg’s personal journey felt so relatable since I went through a 360 survey not too long ago.
While I did not get as deep with the analysis of my own survey results, it was clear that I had work to do. I could not carry on the way I was. I needed to develop my time and team management skills. This is not something I enjoy. I’m much better at managing my own work than the work of my team. I’m still trying to get better at this skill that I really did not care for, much to the detriment of my team. I’m also getting better at stepping back and really holding more people in the team accountable for outcomes.
Finally, I also remembered how I had written off Alex Bloomberg’s effort in my post 2 years ago. I’m happy he did not listen to me. I’m happy I did not bet any money on a negative outcome for hearstartup, which is now Gimlet media and it doing over $10Million in revenue and employing 40+ people in Brooklyn. I still dont think they have a big exit ahead of them but they are onto something.
Picking winners is hard.
The longer you stay at a job the weaker your muscle to hustle gets. This makes you less and less suitable for leading a startup.
As you get comfortable in a job or go up the corporate ladder, most of what you do it write emails. You set up processes to control and monitor the day to day so that you have time work on the plans tomorrow. You rarely:
- Meet customers, especially the unhappy ones
- Try to promote yourself or your product
- Face criticism, skepticism publicly
- Cold call and talk to strangers
- Get beaten, get up and go at it again (muscle)
You also don’t realize how much effort and time it will take establish new products or services.
Most long time employees, looking to start a company need to be honest about their ability to hustle. They have to realise that they will not be able to make the same amount of money they will with the amount of effort they put in their jobs, especially if you have been at the same job for a while.
Most employees, me included, do not appreciate enough the monetary reward/effort ratio and moan about our jobs more than we should.
Lean* is on a roll. I read lean analytics on a plane last week and was able to get through about half of it and I liked it. I’ve recommended it to product owners on my team so that they can get a quick summary of the best practices for analytics. They have laid out the book as an “Analytics for Dummies” book.
I think the first half of the book is useful to get grounded but here are the things I did not like:
- Focuses only on web analytics
- Does not really discuss measuring feature use even for a web app
Here are the things I liked
What to measure
You can track many metrics, its important to collect as few metrics as you can and only the ones that you can control. For example – many product managers are not in charge of pricing or marketing or the GTM. So… should you measure customer acquisition metrics?
Picking the right metric is more important than almost anything else.
Trust your gut
Eventually product mangers and entrepreneurs get paid for their judgement and not just for doing what people are telling them to do today. This is the only skill to hone and then measure results and course correct.
I have to share this really creative video from Vooza on what makes their startup tick.
Read a really inspiring article today on lean writing and self publishing in the New York Times on Hugh Howes.
I see that the CrankyPM is also using a similar methodology to write her book and has already raised 50% above her modest goal. Seems like lean is the way to go.
Lean is the new buzzword in product management. I’ve been hearing about this consistently since the launch of three great books that inspire you to quit your job and build something of value. I list these books later in the post.
The Lean approach to startups and product development, learning launches are not new. Enough books have been written about this since at least 2008 and even before then, we had been trying to write software incrementally. They have become a bit of a fad and have developed a cult following.
While lean methods are great for $100 startups and small ideas, I agree with multiple product managers that its not “it”. Here are arguments on both sides of this method:
This said, its clear that as a PM you now have to demonstrate you have lean skills for product development and validation. I think this is a good skill to develop if you aspire to be the best in your field. If you play the “lean” beer bingo during a GM all hands today, you will be drunk in no time.
Here are the books I referred to at the beginning of this post.
- The Lean Startup
- $100 Startup
- 4 hour work week
These are great reads and provide a great primer on how to go about building your business. I have to warn you that its much easier to read the book than to build a business. And,