3 Reasons Product Managers Are the Secret to Unstoppable Startup Growth Behind the veil of every thriving startup lies an entrepreneurial-minded product manager who aids founders in assembling an awesome team, capitalizing on product-market fit, scaling growth and more

By Matthias Wagner

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Behind the veil of every thriving startup lies an entrepreneurial-minded product manager who aids founders in assembling an awesome team, capitalizing on product-market fit, scaling growth and more. Product management is an art and profession all its own, and founders who try to oversee product development while juggling other aspects of a growing company will eventually reach a tipping point.

This doesn't mean CEOs never think about the product. Obviously, CEOs should be focused on developing the product they dreamed up in the beginning but along the way, there will come a time when they need to refine their focus and have others oversee the product.

Here's why you need a project manager to spearhead your product development:

Related: Are You a Great Leader or a Competent Manager?

1. Product managers translate your vision.

We all know the stereotypical visionary CEO: high on dreams and often low on reality. This type of CEO can switch gears quickly and leave others wondering what to work on.

A good product manager acts as a buffer between the CEO and the team. She will hear the vision and translate that into actual non-vanity metrics that will grow the company. She will set the right goals for the team to reach the CEO's vision that you may never have considered.

Most importantly, she'll be honest about feasibility and the pace of innovation. Every CEO wants the world changed yesterday. A PM will keep your team on track, knowing that every incremental change will contribute to the final vision.

2. Product managers keep the project focused.

Founders of fast-growing companies are strapped for time. They need to hire excellent talent, manage culture, craft the strategy, handle press, secure funding and more. The faster and more disruptive a company, the more easily a CEO's focus can be pulled away from the product.

This is where a great PM steps in. In many ways, a PM acts as a mini-CEO. She understands the vision but doesn't get bogged down by sales, financials or regulations. She can zero in on building an innovative product that solves real customer problems.

Related: 5 Signs It's Time to Fire a Company Manager

3. Project managers are the glue that holds your team together.

Nontechnical founders often underestimate the difficulty in managing and communicating with engineers, rallying their team around a common goal and executing.

Product managers aren't just technical, though. The best PMs also know how to work with people -- and get the best work out of the team. They create space for everyone to be heard -- from customers to engineers and the CEO -- and can impart their experiences with product culture to others. And because skilled PMs can motivate and reward employees, your team will feel empowered and challenged to take your company to new heights.

PMs are in a better position to manage the product development team than leaders who are stretched in every direction. But to make this dynamic work, you have to hand over real ownership of the product. That doesn't mean you should step aside, though. By setting up regular review meetings, you can stay up to date on progress and learning and provide feedback.

Never forget that the PM's job largely revolves around communication -- not making key decisions -- so the entire team should be responsible for successes and failures.

Maybe you've reached a point where your attention is too divided. Don't let your product suffer as a result. Search for a capable product manager who can help take your product to the next level, and you won't regret it.

Related: The 3 Hires I Wish I'd Made Sooner

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Matthias Wagner

Entrepreneur, Product Manager and Consultant

Matthias Wagner is a serial company starter and product manager, using creativity and technology to disrupt the status quo with products that people love. He has built more than 10 companies, founded San Francisco-based Kaktus Lab and consulted for a number of innovative companies, including Node, KeepSafe and Ranku. Matthias teaches enterprises how to be more innovative and startups how to launch products that customers love.

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