Are Product Managers Future Entrepreneurs?

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Prof. Rahul Abhyankar, Director of ICPM Programs at the Institute of Product Leadership summarized it well in his message to the Graduating Class, “Product Management is more
of a mindset change than merely skillset.”

Product Management has many definitions but most experts will agree that its essentially the art & science of delivering delighting solutions to real market problems and doing it rather predictably.

So if a Product Manager is supposed to

1. Get Customer Insights

2. Validate a proposed solution

3. Develop a Business/Monetization Model

4. Develop specifications/requirements for teams to build a delighting solution

5. Help launch and figure out the GoToMarket Strategy

how is it different from what an entrepreneur ends up doing?!

How Product Managers need slightly different skills than a startup entrepreneur

a. Leadership Skills – Conflict management, stakeholder management, influence building. Product Managers have to influence multiple stake holders for decision  making, leadership skills are more critical.

b. Internal vs External – Product Managers have to spend more time internal to the company compared to an entrepreneur who might be completely customer/market focused (funded startups have Boards to answer as well but time investments are lower)

c. Plumber vs Oil Digger – As a Product Manager you have potentially lots of resources that one needs to be aware of and know how to leverage (existing customers, brand, sales force, budgets etc.). So the key thing here is to “connect” the right pipes in the organization so oil falls in your bucket as opposed to dig for oil (find early adopters, investors etc.)

d. Risk Appetite– Emotionally a Product Manager might be less attached to the business as personal wealth is not at stake (reputation is on the line though!). A good product manager should have the right passion for the product and a good entrepreneur knows when to quit and pivot based on market feedback!

While there are differences in skillsets, the end goal for both seems to be aligned –
delivering value.

So is it fair at the end to say that Product Managers are Future Entrepreneurs?
If you want to hear an answer to that, then this question will be asked to 10+ senior product industry veterans on Jan 30th at the Graduation Party for ICPM Class of Fall 2012. Come grab a beer with them if you are in Bangalore!