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The Most Important Question to Ask When Recruiting a VP Product

Ever since Simon Sinek told us to "Start with Why” in 2009, it seems everyone has jumped on board and is asking the question: WHY? And it's no different in the search industry.

As a Product Management Recruiter, I love to hear the vision of a Founder/CEO and discover the inspirational reason why they are in business. For example:

  • Helping the underbanked access capital to launch businesses and employ others in marginalized communities
  • Creating a healthier world by reducing greenhouse emissions produced by office towers
  • Increasing the life expectancy of humans living in remote communities through digital health tools

Knowing the reason why our clients are doing what they're doing, fuels me to press on through tough days when a search faces roadblocks to achieving a successful hire. Somehow, I can't help but feel like I'm part of their team and helping solve the problem.

However, the more important WHY I need answered is the one that will direct my actions and determine who I will (or will not) pursue on behalf of my client, and that why is: "Why Now?" 

When I think back to all of the VP Product searches we completed in 2020, all of our clients had been in business between 5-20 years and had operated without a VP Product. Yes, you read that right, in one case 20 years!

You want a VP Product? Why now?

Understanding the reason why a Founder/CEO has decided they now need to hire a VP Product, is step one to understanding the search I am about to commit my time, and our team's, too.

The answer is usually one of two reasons:

  1. They want a real product management organization, with product management best practices. This is almost a philosophical approach to the reason why someone is hiring and often happens when:
  • They need to reimagine how the product is released
  • Organizational transformation to apply greater integration of release strategy (product marketing & GTM) with the actual job of shipping product
  • Pivoting the business from being sales or engineering led to being product-led 
  • Sometimes the reason can even stem from the influence of an outside party such as a new investor who begins to influence the organization

  1. They need a specific outcome. Common reasons look like: 
  • The product isn't working, customers are churning/not renewing
  • Launching an integration (API) strategy to augment the investment of building everything
  • International expansion requiring new languages, currencies, standards or ability to scale
  • Compliance to accessibility standards or other industry-specific compliance and/or safety standards
  • Legacy tech stack requiring a complete rebuild 
  • Releasing a mobile app version 
  • Recent investment means they can execute on the next part of the roadmap

Why the WHY NOW is so important

As you can see, a Product Management Recruiter needs to understand the "blue sky thinking" reason why a company is in business and the problems they are trying to solve. But it is even more important for them to fully understand the WHY NOW?  

As a Product Management Recruiter, understanding this helps me to direct search efforts; targeting people with the experience required. It will influence how I craft the message we take into the market to stir up interest in your opportunity. Knowing the WHY NOW will help streamline the process and shorten the time it takes to get to the person you wish to hire. 

We are nearly three months into 2021 and already we are engaged in VP Product and CPO searches with enterprise B2B SaaS companies. If 2021 is the year you decide to pull the trigger on a VP Product hire, please ask yourself not only why but why now! This will help you focus your search and save time, effort, money, and a lot of future frustration. 

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