Luca Beltrami

Luca BeltramiShare

Head of Product, Retailers, Faire
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Luca Beltrami
Luca Beltrami
Head of Product, Retailers, FaireJune 14

Let me start from the commonalities: You are building something that solves a user problem and creates customer value that also generates business value in the process.

The line between enterprise and SMB is fluid, though in the case of companies like Faire (and I also observed this at Airbnb and Travelnuts to some degree), SMBs often act more like consumers.

Two key differences are:

  • Where you get your insights: The research process tends to be more consumer-esque for SMBs, where you rely on user research and experimentation more than on sales teams or account management teams for insights. Often enterprise products are more likely to have a sales driven roadmap since the sale is often contingent on having/ promising specific features.
  • How you release product and measure success: The larger and more fragmented your user base (more likely for SMBs), the easier it is to launch experiments and A/B tests that give you a statistically significant result. For enterprise, it is harder to exclude large and important customers from improved experiences at random, thus you are more likely to work with betas and pilots, which will inevitably have less rigorous results. 

There are many more but these are the two that most stand out for me.

Luca Beltrami
Luca Beltrami
Head of Product, Retailers, FaireJune 14

When you are the first PM, you are straddling several priorities:

  1. Finding product market fit
  2. Scaling the team
  3. Scaling the product

The biggest failure mode is trying to do 2 and 3 before you do 1: As the first PM, your foremost priority should be to establish product market fit. Distibuting that effort across more people dilutes the effectiveness because information gets lost along the way.

Once you enter scaling, things become more complicated. Here the biggest failure mode is becoming your own bottleneck and entering what I call the doom loop of hiring: The less time you spend on hiring, the more you become a bottleneck, and therefore it becomes harder to spend tie on hiring. 

So the crux is: Figure out if you have product market fit (many great posts about how you know) and then dive into hiring before spending too much time scaling the product - even if it hurts.

Luca Beltrami
Luca Beltrami
Head of Product, Retailers, FaireJune 14

I typically suggest to try to pivot into product management by changing a few variables but not too many - so you have a few strengths to rely on.

When you start a new PM role, you are exposing yourself to potential changes on multiple dimensions (in order of likelihood):

  • Function/ craft: This one is non negotiable
  • Manager: You will be reporting to someone else with new expectations and unknown working styles
  • Team: Potentially joining a new set of teammates
  • Domain: You may need to learn a new domain (e.g. growth, conversion, platform)
  • Company: Exposing yourself to a new way of working/ company culture
  • Industry: You may have to learn a new industry

A transition into product management function/ craft is hard enough as it is - moreover you need to convince someone to give you a shot at it. The more senior you are, the higher the expectations will be. So especially if you are targeting a lateral move from a less-than-entry level starting point, I would advise you to leave as many other variables constant as possible. Typically the best route is to do a PM trial on your existing team. That way, you are a known quantity and have better access to the trial anf wil also have higher chances of success.

Luca Beltrami
Luca Beltrami
Head of Product, Retailers, FaireJune 14

Evaluate in this order:

  • Company: This is by far the biggest predictor of how much you will benefit. Fast growing companies create the best economic outcomes, and the best learning and career opportunities for their employees. Often it's better to join a company post product market fit to catch the right sweet spot between risk and residual growth. Wealthfront has a great list of career-launching companies. Be sure to evaluate the company not only for success but also for culture. Ask how they make decisions and how the product function plays a role in company strategy. Many companies are actually remarkably less product-driven than you'd think - making PMs less central to decision making.
  • People: People shape the experience of working at the company every day and they are also the people you will learn from. Try to meet as many people during the interview process as you can.
  • Role: Many people weight this way too high. You'd rather be a junior PM in a company that 20xs than a senior director in a failed company. This applies both to the economics, to how much you learn and the career opportunities you get
  • Comp structure: Make sure you enter a situation where you are not relying on illiquid comp to retain or increase in value. It's a recipe for a lot of hearburn if you don't get this right. Make sure to balance risk across your career or with your partner.
Luca Beltrami
Luca Beltrami
Head of Product, Retailers, FaireJune 14

The most important criterion for a promotion is: 

Are you consistently performing at a level that would allow you to meet all expectations of your next level.

This requires three things:

  1. A clear articluation of what it means to perform at the next level: Typically this includes a framework with levels, skill categories (strategy, vision, execution, etc) and a description of what is expected at each level for each dimension.
  2. A role with an opportunity to perform at the next level: Often this will require being in a stretch role for a few months so you get the opportunity to demonstrate skills at the next level. This is especially true the more senior you get (first management experience, more scope, etc). Clarify with your manager whether you are in a role that allows this.
  3. Evidence of meeting expectations at the next level for X months: X can be as low as 3-6 months in more junior levels, but expect that this may extend for more senior promotions as many longer term bets and bigger initiatives take a while to bear fruit.

As such, promotions are a lagging indicator of your performance

The rationale is to avoid a scenario where you are promoted into a level that stretches you too far and creates performance issues that threaten your continued success at the company - so ideally it's in your interest.

Luca Beltrami
Luca Beltrami
Head of Product, Retailers, FaireJune 14

The most important thing for a PM is to bring at least some of the skills of the PM role into their first PM experience so they can lean on some of their strengths to add value immediately while they learn the rest of the craft. As mentioned above, too many new things to learn simultaneously don't set up PM for success.

What this means depends on the type of company and the requirements of the role. The smaller the company, the more specific the skills that will be useful in providing immediate value and therefore companies will be more likely to give you a shot at a PM role.

In smaller startups, there is very little overhead, and the only way to add value is to continue to do your old job (e.g. coding if you're an engineer, selling if you're a sales person) while also leaning into PM work - and then taper out of your old role as you start adding value as a PM. If you have skills that are directly related to the product development process (Design, Coding, Data) that is the most helpful because you can work as a "team captain" within the product team.

In larger companies you can add value through a more generalist skillset such as doind analyses, preparing presentations and helping more senior PMs out with documentation.

Former consultants and bankers will either be in a better position in mid/late stage companies (best if they transition internally from FP&A or Bizops). In smaller companies their sweetspot is probably helping with fundraising.

I generally look for the following as table stakes. 

I look for one spike in:

  • Strong customer empathy and a curiosity for what makes users tick
  • Strong analytical chops and data literacy, ideally paired with business acumen
  • Strong technical acumen and the ability to break down technical problems

In addition, the following are tablestakes:

  • Crisp, concise written and verbal communication
  • A track record of executing cleanly in complex, multi-stakeholder environments
Credentials & Highlights
Head of Product, Retailers at Faire
Top Product Management Mentor List
Product Management AMA Contributor