First step: focus

My daughter has started a business. She's seen a huge interest in homeschooling and is now focusing on it full-time. With a market of 3+ million families, she's got a target rich environment. Everyone we meet knows someone with homeschool kids.

The challenge? Focus.

As with any job she has more to do and only so much time. Where to begin?

I've given her a new rule: allocate one day per week to each of the Pragmatic 'P's. Problem, product, promotion, place.

Monday is for problems: Interviews, reading, reviewing existing research, planning new research. Honing her buyer and user personas.

Tuesday is for product: Updating, reviewing, assessing the products she offers.

Wednesday is for promotion: Participating on blogs and discussion forums, writing ebooks, evaluating promotional opportunities, attending trade shows and events.

Thursday is for Place (sales): distribution strategy, evaluating wins and losses, comparing the sales cycle to the buying cycle.

In other words, a product manager or entrepreneur should not spend every day in sales mode or development mode but be sure to spend time planning and researching too.

In my first job as a product manager, I was based in Virginia but my developers were in California. Once a month, I traveled there for a week of development planning and review meetings--what we'd now call demos and retrospectives. They'd show me what they were working on, solicit my ideas on the prototypes and initial designs; I'd tell them what I had learned from the market since my last visit. Updates on wins and losses, current revenue for the quarter, results of interviews and surveys.

And with that, I would leave them alone until next time.

In the remaining three weeks I'd allocate a week at corporate to work with marketing, support, finance, whoever and a week allocated for sales calls and customer visits. That left a week in my home office to do the writing part of product management.

Whether you do this on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, successful product managers focus on every aspect of the business of their product(s). Don't get caught up in sales support or working with development to the detriment of the rest.

What techniques do you use to focus on the business?


Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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