Our Product Management Recipe
As the Walker & Company Product Management lead I’m often asked
“You’re physical goods company so what exactly does the Product Management team manage?”
Well, 2 things here:
- Walker and Company isn’t technically a physical goods company; we’re a health and beauty company. It just so happens our flagship product, Bevel, is a physical good. If a software-only solution comes up that may solve a unique problem for people of color, we’ll definitely consider it.
- On the “what we manage” part, the way I think about it is “If it touches our code, it touches our team.”
This includes our existing commerce platform (getbevel.com), bevelcode.com, walkerandcompany.com, mobile and desktop web experiences, in addition to future brand and product offerings that require engineering support.
Now, back to the Walker & Company Product Management formula:
I believe that listening is the single most important thing a Product Manager can do. This is especially useful at Walker & Company.
Listening to the customer
We have to listen. More importantly, we have to listen to what they’re really saying; almost inbetween the lines. We’re a health & beauty company and some may think that health & beauty is subjective. Truth be told, we’re solving problems that are often objective. For instance, Razor Bumps IS an issue. How best can we help our customers in different humidities, different seasons, different income classes? We’re lucky that our customers reach out and let us know their thoughts. Sometimes they have all the answers — we just have to listen.
Listening to our peers
With most of our launches, every team has some role in making it a success; Engineering, Creative, Marketing, Finance, Customer Success. The best way to understand how best we can help them is to listen. A product management pitfall is to interject and prescribe. I do believe there’s a time for that, but only if you’ve listened enough to really understand the thing we’re trying to solve.
Listening to our CEO
Finally, there’s the CEO. In a startup, it’s super important to understand the company’s mission and the CEO’s vision. Tristan is somewhat of a Product CEO, which means he has a grand vision and a million ideas on how to make that vision be a tremendous success. Product Management’s job is to help Tristan execute against his vision, but also make sure that of the million ideas the very important ones get priority. You really can’t boil down what those are unless you’re listening with an open mind.
At a startup, every decision counts — you shouldn’t always say Yes, but you can’t afford to always say No.
The Product Management team has to touch a lot of things. We interact with the Finance team to go over accounting and reports. We interact with the Marketing team to go over A/B tests, success metrics and marketing plans. We interact with the Creative & Engineering teams to offer requirements that will help them understand the problems we’re trying to solve. All this in a world where software meets hardware and supply meets the consumer.
There is no single product manager that is going to be an expert in managing all of these things.
To a certain degree, this doesn’t matter. In W&Co’s current stage, we need to be constantly learning on what new resources, tools and strategies can best get the job done for a specific task.
My professor Dr. Richard Evans said it best when we first walked into his Senior CS course. Paraphrasing a bit, but:
“Everything you’ve learned in school so far — throw it out the door.”
I think some of that holds true with product management. Come into products, projects and companies with an open mind to learning something new.
Product Management requires us to “Execute. Execute. Execute!”…but it isn’t largest piece of our day. The more we listen, the more we learn and the easier it is for us to execute.
If you’re thinking that the Walker & Company Product Management formula doesn’t make sense because it equates to 110% then you’re wrong.
One of our Walker & Company values:
“Respect: Our community requires and deserves our respect”
We have a lot of work to do to gain (and give!) that respect, so a little more effort goes a long way.