As product management Recruiters, we are acutely aware of the indispensable role of product management. As a startup grows, it becomes necessary to shift from on-the-fly product management to a more strategic approach, implementing best practices, in order to efficiently scale the product.
Identifying the key signs that indicate it’s the right time for startups to embrace this strategic function can be challenging for CEOs, but recognizing these signs and building out a dedicated product management function will allow a CEO to better navigate the challenges of balancing responsibilities and unlock the full potential of their product(s).
Here are the top 5 signs that signify the need to bring in product management expertise:
Sign 1: Impaired Team Velocity
If the CEO's involvement requires a slow down so s/he can catch up with ongoing research, decision-making, and gain context during team meetings, it is a clear indication that it is time to bring in product leadership. Without this, team discussions will be overrun with recaps of work that was completed while the CEO was absent, impeding the team's ability to swiftly experiment, test, and iterate. This ongoing bottleneck will detrimentally affect the team's velocity.
Sign 2: Decisions Based on Gut Instincts
As CEOs struggle to keep pace with contextual understanding, decisions can increasingly rely on subjective intuition and personal opinions rather than robust data-driven insights. Anecdotal information collected from client meetings, though instrumental in closing deals or resolving client issues, should not supersede the methodical research. If this happens it’s not uncommon for the engineering team to become frustrated, recognizing that the CEO's decisions are arbitrary and not based on methodical research and discovery conducted by a product team.
Sign 3: Uncertainty in Priorities
When the development backlog remains untrimmed or lacks clear prioritization, the dev team will grapple with the uncertainty of their next task. Ideally, a well-maintained backlog provides clear priorities, enabling them to seamlessly transition from one task to the next. In situations where there’s a lack of direction, or they start working on unlisted items, it becomes evident that the time has come to bring in a dedicated Product Manager.
Sign 4: Urgent Product Meetings
Frequent engagement in urgent product-related meetings distracts the CEO from vital company needs such as hiring, fundraising, and sales. As a result, the CEO operates reactively, prioritizing immediate demands over activities crucial for long-term company growth. This symptom serves as a clear indicator that requires immediate attention to ensure a balanced focus on strategic priorities and continued company growth.
Sign 5: Investor Insistence
After achieving Product-Market Fit (PMF) and securing seed funding or a Series A round, investors often emphasize the criticality of hiring a Product Manager to enable the CEO to focus on scaling the company. Investors recognize the significance of a dedicated Product Manager in propelling the company's growth trajectory.
These five main signs stand as reliable indicators that signal a startup's readiness to hire Product Managers and product leadership. If product management is already in place, yet these five symptoms persist, they serve as a clear indication to expand the team.