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Hiring a doer or visionary as your first Product Leader (Product Director, VP of Product, CPO)

So you are at the stage where either you think product can be done in a different way, you are spending too much time with the product team or someone (aka a VC) has told you you need to mature your processes by hiring a set of people with long CV's, big job titles and expectations to match.

As a first principle thinker, you take to google and speak to fellow founders and as a result receive an influx of data on what good, bad and downright ugly looks like in terms of profiles and scaremongering stories around what a bad hire could do to the organisation.

In the last year I have spoken to a handful of founders looking for some advice, what surprises is me is in most cases that perhaps down to not having a product function or experiencing what an effective product function looks like is that a product leader is seen to be a black/white decision. Often its they are either going to be a doer or a visionary but never in-between. I often challenge this by countering to say "Well lets take a CEO of a £10m revenue company who has seen massive growth in the last year, they are now at £25m revenue, they need to up their game and have a different set of skills as the challenges are going to be different, the same goes for any other leader"

In this short(ish) article I am going to go through a presentation I have shared with a few founders on how to frame what they are looking at, this presentation is perhaps most useful if the said founder is at a series A or B stage of growth.

If you look back at what product feels like post series A and perhaps pre or post series B the challenges are different. If you then may what people tell you about the doer vs the visionary they feel like complete opposites and never shall the two meet.

In truth if you look at what the "characteristics" of the individual you are after look like and map it to the challenges of where you are as an organisation and where you want to be you should see that actually its not the "black and white persona of doer/visionary" you are after but rather the person who has awareness and whose approach to product can evolve based on the changing environment the company is in.

So I often end these short(ish) conversations to say that a great product person (from witnessing a few in action) is an individual who can be that product chameleon, evolving product as the stages of the company grows and have the humility to understand where they are in terms of what the company needs and an aspiration to obtain the required skills which are unique to that companies growth potential.

I hope that helps with your search for your first product leader, often though one needs to chat through the above because you may feel like the struggles in your organisation are different to others so feel free to reach out

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