9 steps for business onboarding as a PM
Being a Product Manager outside a business hub
The Greek startup landscape, characterized by its diversity and relative scarcity, has undergone significant transformation over the past decade. Despite these advancements, the ecosystem remains in a nascent stage, posing unique challenges for product managers.
Product Management sits at the crux of Business, Technology, and User Experience (UX). This unique positioning means that transitioning into a new company, especially from a different industry, requires substantial time for onboarding to learn the new business. This is even more critical in leadership roles, where understanding the specific business language and insights is key to gaining trust and effectiveness.
I have laid out in the past the advantages of joining a fresh business, and definitely, there are transferable traits for a Senior Product person. Thankfully, there are remote options that have increased compared to the past, thus it is easier to find a similar business to join away from your hometown, with the disadvantages of working remotely in a leadership or product management role. However, integrating into a new startup can be a challenging endeavor for Product people. Often, the urgency of startup dynamics means onboarding takes a backseat; New joiners might face undue pressure to self-onboard efficiently, and efforts to understand existing processes can be misinterpreted as criticism. Additionally, finding up-to-date documentation can be a rarity.
In this blog post, I will share practical techniques that I have developed for quickly assimilating business knowledge when joining a new company.
Recognize the state of Product Maturity
If you are the first Product person, look at the CEO; If she is product-aware, she will suggest a proper product onboarding process beforehand, which will include meeting important clients, going through some operations together, sharing her notes for vision and strategy, and setting up some milestones,
If you are in that case, you are lucky. The funny thing is that in most cases when you join a startup people have done not much to help you with onboarding. In that case, you have to create your plan for extracting the required information. This is what this post is talking about.
Step 1 - Create a Customer Journey Map
As soon as possible, collaborate with key stakeholders to map out the customer journey. This exercise not only helps you understand the customer experience in-depth but also fosters collaborative relationships with colleagues from various departments. It’s an excellent way to gain insights into both the product and the company culture. I am using the Design Sprint methodology here (day 1), and it helps a lot. Remember to run this workshop ASAP (first month) so as not to lose momentum.
Step 2 - Find a Go-To Person for Questions
Identify a colleague who is knowledgeable, approachable, and willing to answer your questions. This person can be an invaluable resource in navigating the new environment, providing context, and offering guidance when you encounter challenges or uncertainties. Add regular 1-1s and syncs with her, express your gratitude, and praise her whenever possible.
Step 3 - Document Your Learning Process
As you learn new things, make it a habit to create documentation. This not only helps solidify your understanding but also contributes to the company’s knowledge base, making it easier for future new hires to onboard. Additionally, by the end of your onboarding, you can publish it internally to get feedback while you help any future employee onboarding.
Step 4 - Get access to client info
You should ask to get access to information about the clients. Account managers, briefs from pre-sales or post-sales meetings, and recordings with transcripts. Ideally, you should be assigned to some client meetings. Typically, in the client meetings you should care more about how they use the product, what needs they have, and what problems you solve; that requires some familiarity with the customer and the product.
I prefer to do a study on the domain, map the domain, and read background information before I go into these meetings; I feel I get more value if I have done my study first.
Step 5 - Map the whole picture, not the current state
Commonly, your product doesn’t cover the whole customer path. You should realize the workflows that you cover. For that reason, you can use Porter’s value chain, to understand which part of the customer journey you are addressing.
Step 6 - Aim for Quick Wins
Look for opportunities to make immediate positive impacts. Quick wins not only demonstrate your capability and build trust with your team but also give you a confidence boost as you settle into your new role.
Step 7 - BUT, Align with the Company's Vision
While focusing on quick wins, always keep the company’s long-term vision in mind. Your work should contribute towards this broader goal, ensuring that your efforts are both impactful and aligned with the company’s strategic objectives.
Step 8 - Manage Expectations
You should communicate proactively with your team and manager about what can be realistically achieved in the short and long term. Managing expectations is crucial in maintaining a positive and productive work environment, especially in a dynamic startup setting. Explain that with the help and alignment of other people, you can participate in decision-making and delivery, but you will have to touch base more frequently, align, and prioritize together during the first period.
Step 9 - Prioritize Self-Care and Patience
The onboarding process can be demanding. Remember to take care of yourself – mentally, physically, and emotionally. Patience is key; it takes time to fully integrate into a new role and company. Balancing work with personal well-being is essential for long-term success and job satisfaction.
That’s it, I have been following these techniques when I onboard a new business or product. I hope you find it useful if you are at that stage, and I am open to comments and feedback about your own ways of accelerating your onboarding.