Today, we’re starting Series Two of our candid, one-on-one interviews with product management professionals.
In the spotlight today is Adam Bullied, a product management professional who recently transitioned to the role of CEO for content marketing performance platform provider SqueezeCMM.
What advice does Adam have for aspiring Product Managers? And what’s it like to truly be a CEO rather than a metaphorical CEO? Read on…
Adam, thanks for chatting. Tell us, how did you first enter product management?
I was writing the documentation library for a large enterprise e-commerce product, and helping customers deploy it.
As I came to understand the product, I become aware of its shortcomings. Working through them directly with customers gave me ideas on how the product could be improved, so I started to come up with suggestion after suggestion.
My boss saw what I was doing and told me I could transition into product management. When he explained what that meant, it sounded extremely exciting and refreshing so I jumped right in.
Some people talk about Product Managers functioning as “mini CEO’s”. But you’ve actually transitioned from product management to CEO. How well does the mini CEO metaphor stand up to reality?
More in theory than in practice — at least from my experience thus far.
There are many similarities on paper, especially if you’re a Product Manager who is responsible for P&L and the overall business of the product.
What’s the biggest difference?
Being a CEO means everything stops with you, and you have direct line responsibility. Your decision is the decision.
When you work within an organization or a business unit, you always have someone to turn to — someone from which your goals and objectives are coming. And you typically don’t have direct line to all the different functional groups involved; they’re operating on their own and squeezing in what you need them to provide for your product.
Where is there legitimate overlap between CEO and Product Manager?
At least two areas: First, both CEO and PM need to understand each functional piece of the business. You don’t need to be the expert in each of those areas. But you do need to understand marketing, financing, development, sales, etcetera, to understand how they operate in concert.
Second, both CEO and PM need to keep an eye on the vision of the product and the strategy for achieving it. You can’t keep yourself down in the weeds for extended periods of time or else you will lose sight of the direction, and whether you’re charting the appropriate course.
What was the process like, transitioning from PM to CEO?
I’ve always wanted to be a CEO. The transition is probably different for everybody. For me, I felt ready.
Being within startups for over thirteen years provided me with many insights into certain ebbs and flows — and also things to keep an eye on. In addition, early-stage startups primarily need to be product-driven, so my background lends itself nicely towards that.
What problem does SqueezeCMM solve, and for whom?
SqueezeCMM was founded based on the recognized lack of a clear, easy-to-understand way for content marketers to directly measure what they are doing.
All too often that measurement is tied up with IT, requires dev integration, or some complicated understanding to tie everything together.
With content marketing taking the front-seat in many strategies, it’s imperative that the folks responsible for creating, curating, and publishing the content can easily understand how it performs so they can make recommendations and adjustments as quickly as possible.
What positive and/or negative trends do you see in product management?
One thing I see emerging — especially with the advent of “lean” everything — is analysis paralysis. Metrics are obviously critical, but you need to know what’s important and what’s not, otherwise you’re going to bury yourself in cohort analyses and spreadsheets, and not ship anything. Early days, getting product out the door is most important.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
You have a lot to think about as a Product Manager — and a lot to do. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and start buckling under the weight.
Remember: You don’t need to do everything all at once. No one expects you to be Superman. You don’t need to carry the weight of the company on your shoulders. Just pay attention to what’s going on and focus on one thing at a time.