What Makes A Great VP Product?
With VC Investment in the Technology landscape at record highs, more and more businesses are on the hunt for an experienced VP Product to take their product, product org and scalability to the next level. The problem is, in the absence of a CPO, or a product-minded Co-Founder … how do you know what ‘good’ looks like?
Setting aside differences in personality and EQ skills, we have identified 4 things that make a great VP Product:
This should be at the heart of what they do. A VP Product role still requires a level of versatility – they should still be just as comfortable in the weeds as they are managing larger teams or selling a vision to the Board. They will drive a relentless focus on the user problem, using this as influence across Engineering, Design and Business teams.
They should have a track record in implementing rock-solid frameworks and methods into scaling organisations, whether that be smaller, tech-first start-ups, or businesses looking to transform to a more product-led model. Ultimately, execution is all about value creation, and the VP Product will be most happy if they are making an impact for the business, and therefore, the user.
2. Product Culture and Influence
A great VP Product is passionate about product-thinking and fostering the right culture to empower teams to solve customer problems. True product growth comes from unlocking customer value through your technology, understanding their pain points, and iteratively solving those via cross-functional ways of working. Developing a product culture allows the VP Product the right level of influence over their teams, and the wider organisation.
They are passionate about creating excellent product experiences, and they inspire through their vision and story-telling ability. A true product culture will align teams to the company mission, improving your ability to hire people who buy into this, and are working towards the same goal.
3. Product Strategy & Vision
This is important as the VP Product should expect to contribute to a product vision; they rarely own it. As for product strategy, a great VP Product should own this end-to-end from Day 1, with support from the wider team as they get up-to-speed.
An effective VP Product knows what buttons to press with their Founders/C-Level team to influence vision and direction, but fundamentally, they know how to take a vision, and develop a product strategy and roadmap that gets everyone there.
Very quickly, they should be comfortable selling, presenting and championing that vision to internal and external stakeholders. They will foster strong alignment amongst all teams via a killer product strategy, steering their own Product teams to achieve the Founder’s vision.
4. Building a Team
Like any senior role, one of the most important pillars is their ability to attract, hire and develop top talent. They should have proven experience in hiring, coaching Product Managers, and setting clear pathways for their team. Be mindful of retention rates, and always ask them what their org structure looked like when they started, compared with where it is now.
A great VP Product should be prouder of the team, culture, and legacy they have built, as opposed to the commercial achievements they delivered. They should speak about building empathy within their teams, producing new levels of empowerment and value creation for your customers.
Paul works with ambitious Founders and innovative, high-growth B2B & B2C technology companies across Europe to build their Product leadership and teams from Manager to VP-level.
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