There’s no doubt that strategy has been at the forefront of the minds of product leaders in the past year. When the pandemic hit, many companies that had perfected their market fit had to deal with drastic, sudden changes. The challenge, of course, was finding ways to pivot strategy without throwing the entire plan out the window. In this week’s episode of Product Talk, Host and Products That Count CPO James Gray sits down with Safetrust CEO Jason Hart to discuss how a startup mindset can help product leaders successfully make a pivot in their product market fit.
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On 2020 and product market fit
What happens when your product strategy depends on physical office locations, and suddenly, a global pandemic no longer allows workers to use those offices? This was a common scenario in late spring of last year when nearly every storefront and office were forced to shut their doors. Jason Hart starts off by speaking on the effect the pandemic had on their own product market fit.
“When the pandemic hit, we put our Series A on hold because we couldn’t answer that fundamental question – where are we going to be in the next few years.”
“We tested a lot of ideas and we ended up settling on taking a “product market fit” to actually a “product that could be sold” fit. Then, we moved to “generate revenue fit”, and finally, a product that would fit inside a sizable market fit.”
On a successful strategy pivot
While it’s tempting to simply toss the whole cake in times of crisis, it’s up to product leaders to find the layers that can be salvaged. Jason shares how taking one small step at a time was the key to surviving 2020, especially when playing in a saturated market space.
“In our market – the identity space – greenfields and brand new customers that don’t have something already in our airspace are very rare. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure already laid. So, having a strategy that required “rip and replace” only leads to small revenues, long sales cycles, and a lot of disappointment and frustration.”
“The fundamental strategy that worked for us was building components that upgrade the existing investments and infrastructure with things that give a rapid return. Essentially, small stepping stones that give customers an instant taste of what the product could do. They didn’t have to change anything on their side to make it work, and that was the secret of being able to win them.”
On taking risks as a product manager
Not every product leader is going to flip an industry on its head. However, every product leader should try. Jason shares how a startup mindset and calculated risk are key components to great products, and great product management.
“If you were to categorize me, I love to find great product market fit. And I like to take risks in changing the market.”
“Take risk. I think that is the genesis of being an entrepreneur, and being a product manager in a startup. All too often I’ve seen product managers in startups, and they tend to come out of a large organization, and not understand that they can take risk, right? That’s what a startup does. It takes educated risk and the use of data.”
“Product managers need to see themselves as entrepreneurs. A CEO often starts as the Chief Product Officer, but at some point, the mantle has to be handed over and great CEOs know that. When I look to hire product managers, I’m looking for an entrepreneur who knows how to use data and take educated risks.”
About the host
Seasoned executive with three decades of experience envisioning, building, and operating software products and mission-critical platforms at startups to large organizations such as Microsoft. Throughout his career, James has held a diverse set of roles and developed expertise across leadership, product management, data science, IT operations, consulting, software engineering, and sales. As Chief Product Officer at Products That Count, he leads an online platform to help organizations learn the craft of product management and win as a market leader. As a coach, he leads mastermind circles to facilitate peer-to-peer learning across product management executives. As a podcast host, he interviews CEOs of companies held within Mighty Capital's portfolio. Creator of the Career Strategy Framework and an online platform that teaches and coaches professionals how to reach their full career potential. Learn more at https://www.jamesgray.io.