This article is for the entrepreneur who never has a shortage of good ideas and knows how to hustle. It’s for those who have a desire to lead a team of do-ers and visionaries but is also feeling the weight of the exhausting entrepreneurial-grind.
I am a product manager myself. I am also a self-declared entrepreneur. I have tried my hand at dozens of side hustles, ranging from caffeinated brownies to appointment-only mattress stores, and online financial coaching classes. As someone who can relate to you, I’d like to urge you to consider for yourself a new and fulfilling career path.
What if you could ditch the grind, the hustle, and the loneliness found with trying to do it all yourself? What if you could find yourself taking new ideas from concept to design, build and production? Here are 6 reasons why entrepreneurs make for great product managers, and why you might want to become an “Entrepreneur Product Manager."
They have a natural understanding of product strategy
Savvy entrepreneurs deploy a multitude of frameworks and problem-solving toolkits in order to make their vision a reality. Most, if not all of these applications are not unfamiliar to product managers. These include things like jobs to be done, business model canvas, SWOT analysis, and blue ocean strategy dives.
Product development strategy is not a list of features or initiatives for a new product or existing product. Rather, the whole point of product strategy is to integrate as many views of your product together to effectively communicate how the product creates and captures value for its users. An entrepreneur would not only understand this but naturally seek it out and be drawn to it.
Their teamwork will make the team work
One of the most common misconceptions about entrepreneurs is that they are lone rangers. Bucking it up themselves until the job gets done. Whereas in reality, every successful entrepreneur out there would tell you that great things are never achieved by a single individual.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments towards organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results.” -Andrew Carnegie
Entrepreneurs have the uncanny ability to see individuals on a team and use their individual strengths together to achieve things that no one would be able to accomplish by themselves. This is where we find one of the most foundational requirements for product managers.
The Entrepreneur Product Manager’s ability to pull cross-functional teams together is a gift for any product team. They have the ability to gather individuals with unique strengths, and then collectively drive them towards achieving the objectives of the company. This creates shared ownership of the product. Indeed, you may even find the Entrepreneur Product Manager cycling the product owner role around the product team in order to create this shared ownership.
They desire great products
Entrepreneurs will look at a product and find what the role of that product needs to be in order to fit the market it needs to serve. They'll find this type of market-fit regardless of what type of product it is. Alternatively, one of the many roles of product management is to familiarize themselves with the market and be able to understand their needs, wants, and desires.
In the long term, if the product does not solve a pain point for the user, then what good is the product anyway? The Entrepreneur Product Manager has an innate desire to build great products. Products that serve a market well by solving the unresolved pain points experienced in the world today.
They’ll put extra money to work
It’s rare, but not unheard of, for a product team to have some extra cash available to them. In these moments, what leadership does with the cash is crucial to the success of the team. Seasoned product managers understand that adding more developers to a team doesn’t always mean more results. Sometimes more cooks in the kitchen just lead to the team tripping over each other.
The Entrepreneur Product Manager would help a team benefit by applying their keen sense of putting money where it matters most. Perhaps into a strategy session for alignment, team outing for morale, or consulting services for outside expert opinions.
They focus on the big picture
The product vision drives the team forward, which cannot be forgotten when looking at the big picture. An entrepreneur lives and breathes the big picture. If anything, an entrepreneur struggles to seasonally pause and spend quality time in the weeds of a project.
Meanwhile, a product manager’s role is to maintain that big picture perspective while working closely with the craft experts in the weeds - the designers, developers, and stakeholders. What this means is that the Entrepreneur Product Manager gets to enjoy focusing on the big picture. It also means they don’t need to be THE one who has to also work in the weeds.
They have a wide variety of skill sets
An entrepreneur will work through a seemingly never-ending list of side hustle ideas. This gives them a unique ability to be a “jack of all trades'' type of individual. As seen by this article, an entrepreneur understands strategy, teamwork, product/market fit, fiscal responsibility, and the ability to see the big picture.
Additionally, an entrepreneur has probably played the roles of marketing, sales, accounting, and customer support in their past endeavors. A product manager tends to never repeat the same day, and benefits from having a wide variety of skill sets to work with. Therefore the Entrepreneur Product Manager finds themselves perfectly equipped to take on any project in front of them - regardless of a specific team’s unique strengths or weaknesses.
The case for the entrepreneur product manager
So there you have it. My argument to entrepreneurs everywhere, particularly one of the 99% yet to make their dream $1,000,000 startup exit, is to consider product management as a career.
Even if you desire to one day own a company that barrels its way to an IPO, then take a moment and consider being an Entrepreneur Product Manager. I’d wager to say the odds of you getting stock options in a pre-IPO company as a product manager are dramatically higher than attempting to build a company yourself. Take your unique abilities, the skills and desires that make you fit for the wild, wild west of entrepreneurship, and apply them to product management.