I’m currently a solo PM in SaaS startup, going through our series A funding round. We are growing really fast, and started discussions about either hiring another PM or adding other supporting roles around me to keep up with the piling workload. As Lenny taught, PMs should have the “I got this” attitude, but when should I admit that I can’t handle everything anymore? Would be great to hear some experiences:
There are a few ways to approach this question but one easy heuristic is: one PM per team/pod/squad. So maybe a different question is: what should the company’s broader organizational structure look like?
I agree with @AngelaBlue that one PM (ideally plus a Product Designer) is an ideal heuristic. As I’ve helped to build out the Product org at my current company, I’ve come to think of this more as “one Product Team per problem” so that we’re intentionally investing PM, Design, and Engineering headcount into the right things. As a relatively early-stage company, though, you may be operating under some constraints that make that unrealistic (I’ve also been there).This is super subjective, but another good heuristic for when to expand is when you can no longer hold the breadth and depth of what you’re working on in your own head. Of course, I don’t mean that you should have total recall for all things related to the problems you’re working on solving, but when you really have to switch gears to orient on something else that’s equally as important/impactful to your business model, there’s a context switching cost that’s also a real opportunity cost in terms of problem-solving throughput. In my experience, you’ll probably hire your next PM (and probably even your next n PMs) well after they can add value to your org, so, if you’re growing fast, have a lot of opportunities, and have appropriate funding, you should start building up your pipeline now.
Also I’d suggest framing the “I can’t handle everything anymore” problem as “here’s what I could be focusing more on instead” the same way you’d treat a roadmap and engineering resource constraints. Not everything can be top priority.
I would advise not thinking about this as “I am overwhelmed, and so I’m going to hand off everything I cannot do to another PM”. Rather, look at your product as three layers: the UI layer, the core platform services layer, and the infrastructure. All of this will be surrounded by a layer of APIs. Based on where you are in the maturity model for your product, it should be clear where you should hire the additional product manager.
Thank you for these great pieces of advice. These confirm my assumption that the right time to add another PM was already a while ago, since lately I’ve had to switch gears way too often with no chance put enough focus on any topic. Therefore I could be a lot more valuable with “what I could focus on instead”. The next topic is then to work on the possible ways to split responsibilities and find the right people.
+1 to all the above. Key question: What are the specific responsibilities you need another person to take on?
Make sure to gut check that those are in fact PM responsibilities. Often, PMs will plug holes for other under-staffed departments. So if you find yourself doing a ton of data analysis/dashboarding, perhaps you need a Product Analyst. Or if you find yourself bogged down in coordinating and deploying new features with enterprise sales/clients, you may need Product Operations or a Technical Sales Manager.
@Naomi Thank you! Very good points, and exactly the puzzle we’re figuring out at the moment. PM is often the one who handles the things that nobody else does, but which have to get done to keep process running. Adding a product analyst is in the plan too, as well as moving parts of enterprise client projects to CS team for now to balance the workload.
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