Product managers are some of the most empathetic professionals on the planet. We obsess over improving the lives of our customers. We dive deep into their pain points and dream big about solutions. But, how do we know whether a better product is a better business? How do we ensure user delight that generates financial outcomes? Wayfair Sr. Product Leader Gabriel Rothman shares insights on the growth-first methodology and key inputs to topline growth.

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On a growth-first methodology

No matter what type of company you work for, growth has to be the main priority. In order for your product to be successful, PMs need to drive foundational changes to the top line. With a growth-first methodology, product managers are focused on strategies and roadmaps that increase revenue growth and the number of customers. Growth needs to be both sustainable and profitable. Here is what Gabe taught us about the growth-first methodology:

“When I talk about growth, I’m talking about growth in the top-line, in revenue. My framework is all about anchoring on what’s going to drive the most foundational changes to the top line. And the reason that I come in with that approach is because I come from the startup world. In the startup world, you’re desperately iterating to launch a product that will make sense in a practical context.”

“This moment of product market fit is notoriously difficult to measure and communicate. One of the key metrics that reflects product market fit is explosive revenue growth. It shows that there’s not only a validated product but a validated business and business model.”

“A business can’t focus only on top-line growth, the growth needs to be sustainable, and ultimately profitable. Part of this approach is to be a responsible, growth-minded contributor and to take a holistic approach to what that growth looks like for the company.”

On the founder’s outward mindset

Much like founders and CEOs, product managers are responsible for a broad number of tasks. Balancing the work requirements of a product manager is a true juggling act. Prioritizing is crucial to the success of PMs and their products. The growth-first methodology is all about focusing on the most effective drivers of growth. Growth signals a validated business model and facilitates the next round of investments. This is what a founder’s outward mindset looks like:

“A Founder’s Mindset is where you don’t just think about a particular responsibility or job title, but you take on holistic ownership over the business. And so you might not get hired as a product manager, but you might be managing an operations team. And you might be doing your own product marketing and running a p&l financial sheet for the business unit that your product generates.” 

“So, what a founder will do is start with growth, because growth signals a validated business model and facilitates the next round of investment, which then increases your runway. And it gives you more time to think through all these balls that you’re juggling.”

“Starting from what are the most effective drivers of growth, you break down all your different responsibilities and think about what you have to do today, what you want to do today, but you can’t necessarily get to, and what you won’t do. You have to say no to a lot of things.”

On Uber’s use of the growth-first methodology 

When companies are focused on growth, they are looking for ways to expand their market to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. When Uber Eats expanded into grocery, it created an opportunity to sell more transactions. The growth-first methodology is all about driving growth. And by adding this new vertical, they not only expanded into a new market but also increased revenue. Check out what Gabriel had to say about Uber and the growth-first methodology:

“Grocery is an entirely new set of goods and new verticals for Uber to offer on their platform, that is going to create an opportunity to sell more transactions. You can sell new goods to existing customers, and you might be able to bring on new users.” 

“This is an opportunity for Uber to not just open up a new vertical but to open up a new vertical with higher profit potential. Before, I talked about how for growth-minded PMs, we need to take a holistic approach to the impact of our efforts. And this is an example whereby keying off of the inputs into revenue, we can identify profit opportunities.”

“Coming from the startup world, [I have the ability] to pivot very quickly and to use my resources very crisply. And that approach is part of success as a product manager, to keep an eye on where the biggest leverage is, and where the biggest impact is going to be. And to be willing to put something aside and bring forward a new project if it’s a higher point of leverage.”

On the benefits of a growth mindset

Product managers want to drive their products to reach the next level of scale, impact, and profitability. Through experimentation and data-driven decision-making, product managers can find surefire methods of ensuring growth. The growth-first methodology must align with your OKRs and with the company’s vision or else it will take a back seat. But it’s important to remember that growth can’t take precedence over everything else. These are some benefits of the growth-first methodology:

“We’ve chosen Northstar out the gate. We’ve created layers of different inputs that allow us to orient on impactful product metrics. And we have some basic heuristics for how to decide what is a good or not good idea.”

“It also creates a clear relationship to the balance sheet, which makes the impact of your work very clear. Whether you’re thinking about the top-line or costs or profit, communicating the impact of your product work in terms of the balance sheet is going to allow you to communicate to a broader set of audiences.”

“You’re gonna want to be able to talk to the CTO, CPO, CEO, COO, and CFO, and be able to explain to that entire group why the product work that you’re doing is important. And being able to connect to the balance sheet is a fantastic way to do that.”

About the speaker
Gabriel Rothman Member
About the host
Elysse Chappell-Dolby Product Manager

Elysse is a talented and dedicated writing professional with 6 years of experience creating, editing, and coaching professional and creative writing. She is an expert at managing productivity and producing concise written works. And has extensive experience writing in both professional and narrative styles.

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