From all the speeches of Dreamforce’15, I’ve really enjoyed the one of Aaron Levie, the founder & CEO of Box. Here are two important takeaways for any product manager.
Take time to build your own convictions
One thing that comes very frequently in the entrepreneurs’ speech is that listening is really a success factor. Most of startupers focus on their product that they cherish as a child, but they just forget to put it in front of real people. And yet, prospects turning into customers are the ones who are going to turn their beloved child into a rockstar or a total unknown.
That’s why the first 5-6 early adopters are so important! You’ve got to listen and listen again until you really understand their pains. Then you’ve got to iterate as often as possible to be sure that what you are developing still answer to these very pains. Look at the way they use your product, learn and make the adjustments needed.
But even if listening is key, you have to stick to your vision rather than aiming short-term revenues, because on a mid or long-term perspective, developing a bunch of customer requirements won’t build a cohesive product.
Once you’re convinced, you got to hurry
When listening to others and collecting inputs, building your own convictions can take time. But once you’re convinced about what you intend to do, you have to hurry because there’s a great risk that you’re not the only one trying to achieve the same thing. So the difference will rely on the way you execute your ideas and the time you spend to do it. Don’t aim perfection but build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to test and validate your vision and product. You will have plenty of time if you’re luckily successful to rebuild it and scale to thousands or millions of users.
Even if it seems obvious, timing is everything because a good plan late is a bad plan. Be pragmatic when needed, without drifting from your original vision.
I’ve also really appreciated Travis Kalanick‘s vision, the founder & CEO of Uber.
Focus on a one and unique objective
Basically, Travis Kalanick simply wants to change the world by giving back some more time to everyone, time being the most precious asset of our times. How? Allowing everyone to not wait for 30mn before getting a taxi, fluidifying traffic, lowering prices, …
To accomplish that, the one and unique value Uber has to stick to is reliability. If Uber manages to ensure that the waiting time before going in a car does not exceed 5 mn, then you stick to the promise.
Of course, it’s pretty far from what we can think about Uber when reading the news showing taxi riots and describing their complaints about Uber. According to Travis, the taxi system was broken and that’s exactly why he had this idea. So it’s not this idea that killed taxis. Whatever you can think about it, what’s interesting here from a product standpoint is that the founder tries to accomplish something, to achieve a very precise objective, to stick to his initial mission, and that’s exactly what product managers should do if they want to bring something there. Focus is the key!
What is also interesting is that Uber is actually more related to the software industry than to the taxi industry, because what it offers first is a great platform. That’s why they almost invest all their money to provide the best possible user experience. Algorithms are also very interesting since they try to predict where traffic congestions will occur considering the various events happening in a given city. Once again, if Uber is not reliable anymore, the whole system will crash.
The very lesson I want to push here is that no matter problems or issues you’ve been facing with, stick to your vision and plan rather than trying to get customers at any cost (meaning here betraying your vision), because on a mid or long term, that’s the only way to design a great product, and eventually to change the world!