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Product Management Webinar: Customer Focused

How to Build a Customer-Focused Culture with Dave Wascha 

Watch our webinar with special guest, Dave Wascha, Product Advisor and Ex-CPTO at Zoopla, and host, Janna Bastow, CEO of ProdPad as they explain how to build and sustain a customer-focused corporate culture that will help align your teams, drive innovation and increase customer retention.

About Dave Wascha

Dave Wascha started as a product manager 20 years ago working on Internet Explorer 4.0. As a result, he is a product guy at heart with experience working, consulting, and advising global companies in enterprise, consumer, search, travel, financial services, e-commerce, online and offline.

He describes himself as having a childlike curiosity and an unstoppable will which has enabled me to help companies get to the heart of what their customers really want and deliver amazing products that delight. Dave is also a father, a chef, a maker, a writer, and a cyclist.

Key Takeaways

In this session, we’ll cover:

  • The core principles that define a customer-centric organization
  • How to nurture a culture that inherently values and prioritizes customer needs
  • Practical implementation strategies 
  • How to avoid common obstacles and drive organizational buy-in
Dots watching a webinar

Janna Bastow: Big welcome. This is the product expert fireside series that we run here at ProdPad. It’s a series of webinars that we’ve been running for years. I see some friendly faces. People have been coming along for a long time now. So thanks for always being here. As we’ve been running these things every month for several years.

So we’ve got a backlog of these things. If you want to go check out the past recordings. Today is going to be recorded. It’s being recorded now. You will have a chance to share this with your colleagues later. So you will get a copy of this. You’ll have a chance to rewatch it if you want to share it around.

So that’s all good. And you will also have a chance to chat with your fellow product people and to ask questions. So make sure that you pull up the Q& A section and drop your questions in there. As soon as you want, as soon as you have a question, don’t wait until the very, very end, because I often end up running out of time.

So drop them in as soon as you’ve got them. We’re gonna be talking about how to build a customer focused culture. Today with Dave Washa. But you know, feel free to drop in questions [00:01:00] of all sorts of product management nature here today. And we’ll do our best to tackle what we can. These webinars are always with a focus on the experts that we bring in.

So it’s always with a focus on the experience and the learning that these experts bring in. Bring from their years of experience as a product leaders. It’s always a mixture of either presentations or firesides. Today’s going to be a fireside. It’s going to be me and Dave chatting. And as I said, it is going to be recorded.

You will have a chance to ask questions. So jump in there, get your questions ready. And yeah, let’s let’s get started. Now, before we get started, before we get too deep, I want to give you a chance to hear a little bit about what we do here at Prodpad. Anybody in the chat already using Prodpad or is curious about using Prodpad?

If you haven’t tried it already I can see some hands going up. Awesome. Thanks. Prodpad is a tool that myself and my co founder Simon built when we were product managers ourselves. And we just needed a tool to do our own jobs as product people, this kind of thing. Didn’t really exist. And so it’s a tool [00:02:00] that helped us keep track of all of the experiments and all of the the objectives and all of the goals that we’re trying to hit and a way to communicate with our team about what we’re trying to do in product management it was a tool to help us manage all the ideas in our backlog to make our roadmap, to manage our OKRs, to collect all the feedback from our customers, and we made it available to other product people.

And it’s now being used by thousands of teams. around the world. It’s actually free to try. There’s a free trial. You can jump in. You don’t need a credit card. We even have a sandbox version of Prodpad. The sandbox is brilliant because it’s basically a version of Prodpad. Again, it’s free. You can just jump in and start playing with it.

And it has example Data already preloaded in there. So if you want to see how things like a now next leader roadmap looks, if you want to see how good OKRs fit within a roadmap see how it looks with a big backlog, you can basically jump in. Move stuff around, play with it, show it to your colleagues, that sort of thing.

[00:03:00] And really get a feel for it in that sense. And our team is made up of product people. It was founded by a couple of product people where a couple of the product people, myself and Simon are also the founders of Mind the Product. So we’ve always been surrounded by product people.

Geeks, really and our team is made up of product people. And so, jump in, give it a try. We’d love to hear your feedback. We’d love to hear what’s working, what’s not working. We live and die by your feedback. So let us know and we’ll go from there. On that note, we’re always shipping new stuff.

We do new releases every week, sometimes twice a week, and we have done for a decade. It’s really impressive what our team can pull off. And so, some of the newest stuff that we’ve pulled off is our AI work. I was just telling Dave about some of the newest stuff that is coming around the pipeline.

But one that’s shipped is the AI coaching tool. So in ProdPad, there’s a space to capture your product vision, but the AI component of it is something that you can use to help you [00:04:00] give feedback on that vision. And once you’ve actually got feedback on that vision, it gives you input as to whether you should improve it, whether there’s things that you could do to make it better, and once you’ve got a better and better vision, that vision is used in the AI tool to help you figure out as to whether.

Ideas in your backlog match up well with that vision. So why are you coming up with ideas that, that work well and should go on your roadmap? Or are you coming up with ideas that maybe aren’t quite aligned with where it is that your company’s going? So give that a try. Think of it as like your sidekick your on hand coach within prod pad.

And let us know how that goes. And on that note, I want to kick off with what we’re actually covering today, which is how to build a customer focused culture. And we’re talking to Dave Washa who’s a longtime friend of mine in the product sphere. I’ve known Dave I guess since like early days of Of the mind, the product world.

It was 

Dave Wascha: [00:05:00] 2012, I think at least way 

Janna Bastow: back. And thanks for all the support Dave throughout the years Dave’s been involved as a speaker at mind the product events, but, also getting involved with some of the smaller events that that we’ve run I’ve known Dave since it must’ve been when you were the CPTO at Moo, right?

Dave Wascha: Right. Yeah. Yep. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. Moo. com. Anybody ever used Moo cards? You always know Moo cards because they’re the ones with the really cool rounded corners and like a really nice silky feel to them, a Moo card and you got it, but also a really lovely UX experience as you go through, completely different than most other places where you get your cards printed.

And, also then moved on to be the CPO at Photobox and then later on to Zoopla and now spends his time doing advisory work with other companies around the world which I’m sure we’ll hear more about, but he’s a product guy through and through and started his product journey as he said, with Internet Explorer 4.

0 over 20 years ago. So, nice to [00:06:00] hang out with somebody in the the same sort of cohort that that I am here. I’m pretty sure 

Dave Wascha: I’m older than you, Janet, but yeah.

I’ll 

Janna Bastow: take it, Dave. Great. Welcome Dave. Everybody say a big welcome to Dave Washa. And Dave thank you so much for for coming along. Is there anything I missed from that intro? 

Dave Wascha: No, I mean, I de we’ll see where we go. I mean, I was at Moo, I was obviously at Microsoft for a long time then Moo.

Oh, that’s right. Yeah. And then I did a stint at Travelex, which is a big turnaround transformation which may be relevant for some of the people. And then photo box and Zulo, which were all really amazing product experiences. So, yeah. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. So, tell us about how you got started in product management.

Like, you got there before you could study in product management. I certainly know that it wasn’t an option when I got into it. I fell into it. So how did you fall into it? 

Dave Wascha: No, I mean, by accident, I didn’t even know it was a thing. I. [00:07:00] Studied computer science and philosophy at university. I was pretty clear.

I didn’t want to code for a living, but I really loved tech. I was always really entrepreneurial. And I was working at a software company in Raleigh where we see many of our guests are from while I was going to university, they did a lot of work with Microsoft. So I ended up having lots of conversations with Microsoft.

And when I graduated, they invited me to come out and interview. And I did, and it was Amazing. Microsoft was the coolest place in the world to work. And when I went out there but I took a job, not knowing what the job was or what the title was, I actually didn’t know that I was doing a thing called product management until I got there.

So was it actually 

Janna Bastow: called product management or was it product management under a different name? 

Dave Wascha: No, it was, I think it was probably early days. Microsoft went through some weird phases where they would only hire MBAs and things like that. And historically there had been program managers, I think, but in on the [00:08:00] West Coast tech culture of which, the time Microsoft certainly was a leader.

They started to introduce another function called product management, which was. Ostensibly less technical than program management got more into managing technical backlogs and roadmaps and product managers were meant to represent the customer. And yeah, so I did a bunch of that.

For 12 years at Microsoft in almost every division except for Xbox, which is a big regret of mine. And then I moved to the UK. I followed an English woman over here. We met at Microsoft, but she decided to quit and retrain as a veterinarian. And there were only a few places where there was something I can do in tech and a vet school in the same city.

Most of the vet schools are out where the cows are. And so we chose London and we moved out here. She’s now my wife and the mother of my two children. 

Janna Bastow: Amazing. 

Dave Wascha: I love stories like that. And then, Worked at Moo, which is an [00:09:00] amazing introduction to both UK tech and, and a startup, it was 90 people when I got there.

Richard, who’s the founder, is an absolutely brilliant guy and a friend to this day and had an amazing experience there and including meeting Janna, you and James and the rest of the crew at MTP then went on to Travel X where we did a massive turnaround, a digital push. It was a 40 year old bricks and mortar business.

Had some really fascinating, the best and the worst job I ever had was that role. It sounds 

Janna Bastow: character building. It was very character building. I’m probably going to dig in a little bit more on that and hear what you learned there. 

Dave Wascha: And then it was Photobox and Photobox was five companies actually.

So Photobox was Photobox and the French and Spanish versions of Photobox. And the, and it was Moonpig and the Dutch version of Moonpig. And so it was five different businesses, which was again, fascinating. I was responsible for product for all of them. And they were all at different stages in their life cycle.

So I had this kind of [00:10:00] Cohort a B test kind of experimentation platform to try different things out in different of the companies for product and then Zupla was the last role I’ve had recently. It was that was again an amazing experience. We went through lockdown with that. We went through furlough.

It was a tough ride but did some really fun and amazing things there. And then left Zupla to do coaching and advising and spend some more time with my daughter and my son. 

Janna Bastow: Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah, thanks for that that run through and on the subject Mu. is one of the companies that always reminds me of how a strong customer focus can be applied to any industry.

People think about customer focused businesses as either retail or tech companies who are always like rah customers. But this was a printing business. I mean, was it embedded in Moo’s DNA from the get go or was it something that they grew into or how did it work there?

Dave Wascha: I mean, it certainly [00:11:00] existed with Richard, the founder. I’m not sure he even knew it explicitly though. He’s, he’s a classic founder, entrepreneur, incredibly intelligent person. And, but you know, there’s a big difference between something that’s implicit and something that’s explicit and we’ll get into that, I’m sure as we discuss being customer focused.

But Moo was. Absolutely fascinating. Cause I got to build the product function there and learn a lot about being customer focused. We were always. It always sounded funny when people asked what you did and you’re at Moo, everyone at Moo struggled with this. We’re like, well, we print business cards.

And like, that sounds really boring and and 

Janna Bastow: you made cool stickers too. 

Dave Wascha: Yeah. Well, at the deal, we did amazing stickers. It was actually sold. We sold millions and millions of pounds of stickers. And we just printed different things on different shapes and sizes of paper. But. Mu, I mean, I think it’s a great example of how even in a relatively commoditized business being customer focused can help you [00:12:00] differentiate and stand out.

I mean, the interesting thing about Mu at the time was that Mu and everyone else in the industry that was doing digital printing had the exact same printers. They were from a business founded in Israel and then acquired by Hewlett Packard. And and when I say the same, I mean literally the same.

There’s no differentiation in the capabilities of any of the printing companies to print something different. 

Janna Bastow: Right. And so 

Dave Wascha: I think it’s a really great example of how, we did things with the customer experience and with our marketing and with our community building. And with our, just our understanding of the customers to really set the company apart from the more kind of boring and commoditized versions of it.

Janna Bastow: Yeah. Yeah. All right. That’s really interesting. And so, I mean, let’s get into that. You mentioned the company the difference between being implicitly customer focused versus explicitly, I mean, how did you think about that? 

Dave Wascha: Well, the, I think in early stage businesses, a lot of the culture, a lot of the strategy is implicit.

It’s not [00:13:00] written down. It’s not it’s not something that the people are even necessarily aware of. Right. And one of the challenges businesses go through when they grow is that, people can’t pick all of those things up by osmosis and they don’t have a shared history, because they’re new to the business.

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: And I think that makes it incredibly hard to propagate. The culture that you want. And so being explicit, writing it down, talking about it I think is absolutely key and that’s one of the things that we started to do is, I think it’s probably fair to say people didn’t quite know why customers love move so much when I got there.

They just did. And so we spent a lot of time doing, I mean, intense labor, intensive research. We, Go to conferences and just watch people exchange business cards. Then we’d run up to them afterwards and ask them like questions in the moment and try to get us, get under the skin of, what they were trying to do.

And we mapped out the journey, the ceremony, we call it of exchanging business cards. And [00:14:00] it’s a ceremony that’s been happening for 800 years. And largely hasn’t changed in 800 years. So we really wanted to understand what was the secret sauce because no one knew exactly what it was.

And what we figured out over time was, and we took the jobs to be done approach, which is something that it’s a tool that I turn to quite frequently in those kinds of situations. 

Janna Bastow: That would have been pretty new back then as well. 

Dave Wascha: It was, I mean, I was very fortunate to work in the early days with Tony Ulwich who was a contemporary of Clayton Christensen and he and Clayton Christensen.

I think Clayton Christensen is the more popular Harvard professor, but Tony was one of the people that created the framework and I spent a lot of time with him. I actually met him at Microsoft. I spent a lot of time with him in the early days. So, it was very new then and we trained up the whole, all the product team and the design team at Mu on how to do it.

And that’s the approach that we took. But we finally, after all that research and analysis and, interviewing and running up to people at [00:15:00] conferences, we figured out, like, the job that people were trying to get done with business cards was, To be remembered and to stand out. And I think the interesting thing at the time was there were all these digital apps.

You could bump phones and tap phones and shake your phone and exchange contact details. But. All of those companies misunderstood what people were trying to do with a business card. They weren’t trying to exchange contact details. I mean, LinkedIn existed at the time. It was a solved problem to be able to find somebody and reach out to them and communicate with them.

So it actually absolutely nothing to do with a phone number or an email address or anything else and everything to do with. Giving somebody a gift or a token and hoping that it stands out in their mind when it comes time for them to look for someone who does what you do. So the job was to be remembered.

That’s what we figured out there. And that’s, that influenced the rest. If you look at the branding, even the branding to [00:16:00] today, the marketing communications and branding, it frequently talks about being remembered and standing out and, capturing the imagination of our customers. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. Brilliant. You could see it all the way through. I’m not sure if anybody else who’s here today is as user, but shout if you have but even all the way through to the experience of using the flow giving the the end user, the confidence that what they’re ordering is in The right thing.

So when you’re uploading your thing, you’re putting in the right area, you know what you’re getting, you can flip it over, you got a sense as to what it was going to feel like, what it was going to look like before you ordered it. And then this experience of when it arrived, it being like this this un gifting this unwrapping, gifting experience for yourself, and you just can’t wait to, get your new cards and and start handing them out.

Dave Wascha: And those things were meant to be. To be precious because they represented you, they embodied you and your brand. And so that packaging was expensive, right? It was considerable. Part of the bill of materials and when it comes, I [00:17:00] mean, and it cut into the margins, but it was so important to the brand and the proposition of Mu that we were happy to do it.

Janna Bastow: Now you said that a lot of this came from the founder, Richard. What was his background? Was he from a customer success or customer support background, or curious about 

Dave Wascha: that? He was at an advertising agency or a management, like something he didn’t last very long. Like he’s clearly not a corporate person at all.

Yeah, 

Janna Bastow: no, I hear that. 

Dave Wascha: And he struck out on his own. He bootstrapped mo he picked up a couple of investors. Now it’s funny to say he picked up a couple of investors because one of them was Robin Klein. Right. But he’s the chairman. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: I don’t think he’s the chairman anymore, but he’s the chairman when I was there.

Yeah, and it was just an absolute, it was the darling of the Silken Milk Roundabout For, for years. It 

Janna Bastow: absolutely was. Yeah. And it’s always curious to hear about where founders got these these implicit tendencies, right. To be more customer focused or more tech focused or more sales focused or wherever.

Right. [00:18:00] I mean, Prodpet’s very customer focused, but I attribute that to the fact that my background is as a customer support person beforehand. Right. Didn’t have a sales bone in my body, but customer support. Yeah, absolutely. I got this. And so that’s where I heavily leaned and that’s what I knew.

And that’s what was, I guess you could say implicitly built into the business. And that’s what became, I call it founder DNA, right? It’s what what makes up the business. And it’s good to have a good mix, but you certainly see that in some of these companies that that grow and naturally have, The customer focus we’d love to hear about Travelex though.

Cause sounds like it didn’t necessarily have the core customer focus or tell me more about the stories there. 

Dave Wascha: Travelex was like I said, it was the best and the worst job I’ve ever had. I’m so grateful that I had it. Also like it physically and mentally, destroyed me. So the, I can talk about this for a long time, so you’re gonna have to keep me in check here so Travelex was a 40 at the time.

It was a 40 year old bricks and mortar business operated in 39 countries at [00:19:00] 3, 000 employees in those 39 countries. Yeah. For those of you not familiar with them they are the people that rip you off at the airport when you were exchanging money. Flying out of the country. Americans may not be as may not know the brand as well as everybody else.

But they were, yeah, 40 year old bricks and mortar business and watching their EBITDA fall off a cliff. Because their users were literally aging out of using their product and new entrance into the market. Younger people weren’t using. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: Yeah. They weren’t using cash, 

They were using digital products.

And so I was hired to create the digital analogs and the digital products for Travelex to try and keep them relevant. And I got to build a team from scratch, which was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go and do it was to build a product and tech and design and data science team from scratch.

So I was employee number one. And then over the next 14 months, we built it up to about 140 people in that team. Which is [00:20:00] absolutely exhausting, but also an amazing opportunity to practice that kind of growth in a business. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: We built the, we were the second company in the country to build a bank on AWS.

After Monzo, we built a travel money card before Revolut existed called the super card. We did a lot of really amazing things. But the, and I learned a lot of lessons about transformations. The body rejected the organ. We ran into incredible amount of resistance in doing what we’re trying to do.

I now have a better appreciation. For why that was, 

The incumbent tech population at Travelex was very much focused on building on and maintaining and running a data center in Peterborough which is a town about an hour on the train North of London. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: Well, we weren’t using it at all.

We were doing everything on AWS and we were, really threatening. Threatening their relevance I really appreciate it, [00:21:00] but, I had my desk vandalized. I had my laptop destroyed. Yeah, I had someone upended a glass of water on the keyboard of my laptop and just left it there overturned and there’s scorch marks around the outside.

And so that was an amazing education in transformations and culture and the power of. Culture to resist change and things like customer focus and support it. So we did the right things in product. We did the wrong things in culture. That was one of my big takeaways from that experience.

And, yeah, I think if I ever write a book, it’ll make at least one chapter. Chapter of the book. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’d love to, to dive into that more. I mean, that whole concept of it reject the body rejecting its organ. I mean, it sounds like you were trying to transform it to being this more customer focused I’m guessing a more lean agile mindset type area of the business.

Business is made up. of individuals? So where was this friction [00:22:00] coming from? Like, who are the individuals or how is it becoming so fractious really? 

Dave Wascha: I mean, there’s a lot of things that I would do differently, had I to do it all over again. So I, when we started, we were in a old building in Hoburn.

And we didn’t have, there’s no room in the building for the team. And I happened to be coming in one morning and looked in that I was in the basement, I think, locking up my bike or something. And I looked through a door and I saw, oh, my God, there’s a whole trading floor. They had a whole currency trading floor in the basement that nobody was using.

Had the stock ticker going around outside this massive floor with like platforms on the outside. And I’m like, that’s where we’re going to put our team. It was amazing. And we hacked the we hacked the ticker so we could like put messages on it and stuff during the day. Which is really fun, but I took the team and I took them.

They weren’t physically connected, to the rest of the company. They were very much sequestered. [00:23:00] Part of that was out of necessity. Like there literally was another space and part of it was. By design, because we were trying to attract people who were excited about the new prospects of the company. And if you walked in, I mean, when I joined, they had only recently stopped requiring people to wear suits to, to work and I don’t own a suit. 

So it’s a good thing. 

Janna Bastow: They changed the rules then. 

Dave Wascha: Yeah. So, so, we were sequestering people away and, intentionally Keeping, keeping him apart and whilst we did a lot of amazing things in product, I spent a lot of my time trying to bridge the gap or trying to create a buffer between the two.

And I have a much greater appreciation in hindsight about, we didn’t win the hearts and minds. We didn’t address, there are, there were competing incentives that were conflicting incentives. Those are different. There were definitely conflicting incentives, right? Where there’s a winner and a loser and with different incentives.

Every, if you’re, the dozens of people who are [00:24:00] running that data center in Peterborough and it’s budgeting time and and they’re like, they’re asking for a new budget to upgrade the data center and the CEO were like, but wait, all the kids over in the basement aren’t using any of your stuff.

And, they’re using this other stuff, which is like way more reliable and way less expensive. And Having done then transformation subsequent to that, in small ways at Photobox and then big ways at Zoopla, 

Janna Bastow: I’ve 

Dave Wascha: definitely led with the trying to win the hearts and minds of everybody.

As opposed to keeping some sequester team off in the corner, who’s trying to do the cool new stuff. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah, I totally hear that. I mean, ultimately, you can end up, we can end up with teams who are siloed out and have incentives that are counter to each other. Right? So 1 team. Moves up one, one direction and it, it batters down another team.

Right. And one team thinks that they’re doing really well one division thinks that it’s doing really well. And as a matter of fact, it’s at odds with the other one. Right. It’s like, speed of execution has gone up here and [00:25:00] yet quality is tanked over here. Right. And lots of different sort of levers like that can go up and down, but ultimately it’s about the business performing.

So how do you get. The team pointing at what or understanding what’s important at the business level so that they can see that it’s not about whether this team wins or this team loses. It’s about how the business itself performs so that the team stops, cannibalizing itself, which is often what happens here.

Dave Wascha: Yeah, I mean, I think we come back to like my, since becoming a coach and an advisor over the last 18 months, like my biggest theme with everybody I work with, whether it’s small, a three person company or a small 4500 person company is making the implicit explicit like, saying the saying things out loud, writing them down, because, I don’t think anyone sets out when doing a transformation to say, you know what, we should make it so that the commercial team and the product team are designed to hate each other.

And have fights all the time. Like, I don’t really believe that [00:26:00] anyone sets out to do that, but because you’re not making a lot of these things like incentives, like motivations, like priorities explicit in many cases, or if you do, you’re burying it in the bullshit, okay, like 17 KRs deep in an OKR process.

Like, like, Then it becomes, massively challenging. So making the implicit explicit is one thing, right. Which is writing these things down and acknowledging like at the outset of any kind of shift in, one of the hardest things to do is get a group of humans to behave differently.

And when you set out to do that, like, at the outset. It’s incredibly difficult to get people aligned because they are all, you’re trying to do something different. So you have new incentives and new behaviors that you want and making, at least acknowledging, hey, we understand that there is tension or these are competing.

We need to resolve them, but at least for now, let’s, acknowledge them. It’s incredibly important. So the C the chief commercial officer and I at Zoopla, we [00:27:00] stopped. Having individual one on ones with the CEO. We marched into his office one day. It was like, look, we’re both hearing different things.

And so we are just going to have our own two on one with you. So that we are all on the same page and he wasn’t doing it intentionally at all. He was a brilliant guy. Yeah. So I think a lot of that tension comes down to, you said, how do you get kind of people aligned on the same page, the tension, I believe comes down to time horizons. So different functions are optimizing or accountable for, or under pressure for different time horizons. So sales and marketing are probably, they’re definitely on a. 365 day time horizon, but they’re probably on a quarterly time horizon in some cases on a monthly time horizon. And so the decisions and the trade offs that they’re making are on a pretty short time horizon, product, in some companies, product is accountable for growth.

And if you want to drive true growth, you have to consider time horizons that are further out than a few quarters or a year. You have to make investments that you might not realize [00:28:00] the returns from, for 1218. 2436 months tech teams have even longer time horizons that they need to consider, right?

Because they might have, significant technological, the technology projects, like, single sign on or some cyber security initiatives and things like that that they are accountable and responsible for. And so you’ve got, Different functions, optimizing for different timelines and different time horizons, and they all get together to try and decide what to do next.

And then everyone’s just walks away frustrated and pissed off and everyone’s surprised and doesn’t understand it. So, I think making it explicit about this time horizons, making it explicit that we do have competing and conflicting incentives and we need to. We need to account for that, making it explicit that we might have at the outset different priorities.

Like, it’s really hard to appreciate. You may have different priorities until you write them all down. Right? If you’ve got a CTO, and she’s incredibly [00:29:00] worried about a breach, right? And maybe the company has a history of having breaches and they may be, it happened on her watch. And, And so she’s going to completely lock everything down and make sure that doesn’t happen again.

And that might be something that slows down or impedes a sale. And so the salesperson is going to be really upset about that, but it may not, we don’t need to, we haven’t made those things explicit. And so it just causes tension. Yeah. So making the implicit explicit is the short answer to your question.

Janna Bastow: That’s some really good it’s a really good tip. And I don’t think enough teams do that. I’ve never really thought about it in terms of the teams working in different time horizons. But I’ve definitely thought about it in terms of how much. How a product manager thinks about time versus a salesperson, right?

Like, so for example, when a salesperson says, Hey, did you do that idea? I wanted you to do, I came up with this idea. I, cause the client needed it six weeks ago. Have you done anything with it to the product manager? I mean, probably not, right? Six weeks is [00:30:00] not a lot of time. You’ve probably done a handful of things.

You maybe got a few things out because, you’ve had a few sprints worth, but you probably did stuff that was prioritized some months before. Whereas to the salesperson or to a support person, six weeks is agonizingly a long time because in that time, the customers Churned or is you’ve lost the deal or whatever, right.

They’re thinking in different cadences. So yeah, I like that concept of the team’s thinking at different horizons and really being, as you said, being explicit about what it is that they need. 

Dave Wascha: And just like, again, I think I’ve seen the, just this take the tension out of the room, like where you just appreciate.

Where that, a commercial person says, look, I won’t make my quota if you don’t build this feature. And I, and look, we, no one wants to be put in that position. But I think if only when you develop an empathy for the people that you’re dealing with and understand it explicitly, their priorities, can you start to have an actual conversation?

Janna Bastow: Yeah, 

Dave Wascha: about cross [00:31:00] functional priorities. I mean, I’ve been in situations, the extreme version of this I’ve been in, which is, I, when I worked at Microsoft, I work in massive enterprise global deals with multinational businesses that spent 2 or 300 million pounds with Microsoft. And I would go in and do support on some of these pre sales support.

Janna Bastow: But 

Dave Wascha: the salespeople were really reluctant to let anyone get involved with anything. And then they would be absolutely livid if there was something that they needed that I wasn’t accommodating and delivering. And only when I started to ride around with them in their cars and have, talked to them and did I realize like, Some of these folks won’t be able to pay their mortgage if they don’t make their bonus, or they will have to take their kids out of, the school that they’re in.

Nice problems to have, but like real significant upheaval in their lives because some young product manager like me comes in and says, Oh, I’m not going to do that. Maybe we’ll do that next quarter. We’ll, but we’ll prioritize it down the road map, not to say that what they wanted is the right thing to do, [00:32:00] but I just didn’t have an appreciation for where all this vitriol was coming from.

Janna Bastow: And 

Dave Wascha: they, to them, I just looked like this kind of and if only when you start to have constructive conversations and acknowledge those things, I think, can you, that’s when the conversation really starts. 

Janna Bastow: Absolutely, yeah this this is where it becomes really clear that by incentives, we’re talking about really practical, your bonus your take home salary, a lot of people are very rarely tied to any sort of bonus or certainly not in the sense that salespeople are.

Yeah. Now on that note, I mean, let’s talk about the difference between being customer centric and sales led. 

Dave Wascha: I don’t. This is a classic debate. It’s very hot right now. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I do think that in many ways it is it comes back to the time horizons, right? Sales led businesses are reactive. They put things in the roadmap to unblock sales to hopefully prevent churn.

But it’s very local and [00:33:00] ultimately local and incremental growth in many cases because it’s very reactive to small cohorts of customers or a single customer in some cases. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: And. These are successful businesses. That’s fine. There are really successful sales led businesses in the world.

Some of the biggest companies in the world are sales led Oracle, right? Oracle Salesforce, like those are examples of sales led businesses that are some of the largest companies in the world, so there’s nothing wrong with being sales led. I don’t think that it is on the opposite end of the spectrum of being customer focused.

It’s just a different time horizon and a different strategy for growing. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: So sales led, and I think it confuses people. I think a lot of people are PMs early in their careers, think PMing, going and doing product is always the product led piece and they get confused when they go into a small B2B business.

And suddenly like they’re being barked at by the founder and the salespeople to get these features done. And they want [00:34:00] them to commit to when they’re done and it needs to be done for the sale and everything else. And 

Janna Bastow: it 

Dave Wascha: leads to so much strife. I think again, I won’t, I’m going to stop saying this, but like making the implicit explicit, just saying that, like, we’re a sales led business and we expect you to build things that help us unblock sales and make sure that our customers don’t leave us.

I think a lot of people. Would be a lot happier if that was just an actual explicit conversation that people were having. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. 

Dave Wascha: So I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive. I do think it’s about time horizons. And and, but you can be customer focused and be a B2B enterprise business.

Janna Bastow: And I think there’s also a difference between being sales led and falling into what I call the agency trap. Right. Where it’s one thing to say we’re building stuff that helps unblock our sales pipeline. In which case when you’re doing that, when you’re building stuff that unblocks your sales pipeline, Jeff had a an interesting comment in the the chat here that says as a recovering sales [00:35:00] guy, I think there’s a parallel between the sales pipeline and a product roadmap that can help align expectations.

And I think he’s right. There’s things that you can be doing with your product roadmap that can help unblock your your sales pipeline. And make sure that you’re building the right stuff. But in those cases, what’s really happening is your sales people are like your forward discovery agents.

They’re out there helping you figure out what is it that your market needs and wants, right? They’re playing a part that the product managers. Could also be playing, figuring out what people actually pay for. The agency trap is when your salespeople go and sell whatever, right? Saying, Hey, I sold the thing, but it needs this one feature.

So we better go build it because I’ve sold it. So, let me know when it’s done. Otherwise this thing’s not going to sell. And there goes the month of July to go build this thing. And then the month of August is sold off to another client. And the month of September sold off to another client. And before you know it, you never actually have time to figure out what the wider market needs, whether it’s the big whole wide world of your market, or whether it’s, what your [00:36:00] focus sales pipeline needs, you just always end up building whatever The shiny thing is that your sales prospects needed which generally aren’t your your hottest best market that you’re aiming for is.

Dave Wascha: Yeah. I think, we, as product people, one of our favorite pastimes is standing around in the pub moaning about the commercial team. And we know we often run the risk of vilifying them, but the flip side of what you’re talking about, I see this a lot, which is product managers are resistant.

To doing anything that comes from the sales team because it comes from the sales team. And I will end up asking the simple question, like, you may not want it but are they right? Like, is the sales team actually right? Like they’re actually right. They’re well informed. Like this is thoughtful and they’re right.

We should do this. They’re often closer 

Janna Bastow: to the customer than the product people are. So what are they going to say? Which 

Dave Wascha: is inexcusable, but yes, I mean, very true. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. So, listen to your sales people. Don’t necessarily build everything that the customers ask [00:37:00] for. But certainly take their their feedback on board.

So, okay. How do you know when a co a company truly values its customers? Like you go in to advise companies and do you work with a wide variety, any sort of key KPIs or any sort of rules of thumb that you look for in a company? 

Dave Wascha: I mean, I, it’s, I suppose it’s easier to see some patterns when maybe they’re less focused on it.

But I mean, I think a lot of companies focus on NPS. So they run like a product market fit survey, which I think is confused the shit out of so many early stage businesses. Oh, why is that? The. So, so first 

Janna Bastow: of all, what is a product market fit survey? I 

Dave Wascha: can’t remember the name of the guy who. 

Janna Bastow: Sean Ellis.

Dave Wascha: That guy, yeah. And the 

Janna Bastow: product market fit one, it’s the one where you ask how disappointed would you be if you Okay. 

Dave Wascha: Yeah, so it is. He wrote it and I just watched all these companies adopted, which is how disappointed would you be [00:38:00] if this product didn’t exist? 

Janna Bastow: Right. 

Dave Wascha: And I think it’s just so fraught with so many problems.

It’s given so many companies false positive signals and false confidence because I think it’s a false positive generation survey. First of all, you tend to ask those questions of people who have already opted to use your product. So you’re already self selecting out all the people who didn’t choose to use your product.

I was talking with the company the other day and they said, well, we’ve already got 47 customers out of this market. And I said, right, you might have all 47 of the customers that are ever going to use you. So first, you’re asking this of a population of people who have already chosen.

Secondly, they know that it’s you asking and humans don’t like to, they don’t like dissonance, right? We like we like to be social. We’re social animals. 

Janna Bastow: And 

Dave Wascha: so humans don’t like to say, I don’t like what you’re doing. And so there, this is any kind of discovery PMs on [00:39:00] the on the call or any UX researchers, like know this very well.

Like it’s really hard to get people to give you objective input and feedback. So you’re asking people who are already using your product, you’re asking them to, to give you critical feedback. Which they’re going to be reluctant to do. And the thing though, that I find most often is that they are asking these questions of customers that are not paying for the product.

And the question you should ask is if we started to charge you for the product, would you still use it? I think that is the best measure of product market fit. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: So, So, yeah, I think, be weary of sending out PMF surveys and getting back lots of strong signal. Cause I think, there’s this, it’s really dangerous for early stage businesses to think that they have product market fit when they have like 65 percent of product market fit.

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: So how do we get on that? I said, 

Janna Bastow: what is some of the the ways that a company, you can [00:40:00] tell a company actually values its customers. And I think you were going to say, here’s ways that they, you can tell they don’t value. Sorry, 

Dave Wascha: running a product by fit survey doesn’t mean you don’t value customers.

Yeah. But I do think a lot of companies delude themselves. Same with NPS surveys delude themselves into thinking that they are customer focused. I think the real measure is. Are they considering the customer in all of their decisions? I’m not suggesting that the customer wins and all that’s not realistic.

But are they considering, are they making tough choices, right? There’s always a trade off and it’s always a balance, sorry, that’s not really fair. You are asking people to give you money for something that you’re building and you’re also trying to manage your costs. So in a way, a lot of companies are incented to try and do less, I suppose, for customers.

Then they absolutely have to. Whether that’s, intentional or not so, I think I’m always surprised at a couple of things. 1, if I see something that just doesn’t seem equitable, but in my favor, right? I mean, I, I [00:41:00] think in 1 of the early talks, I talked about Zappos, right?

Which is a famous case study in e commerce in America. And they gave you 365 days to return your shoes and they allowed you to order four different sizes because you weren’t sure which ones would fit and like all these, the entire industry was incented against the expense of long windows for returns.

And, it was paid for people to return the items as well. And they completely changed the norms and the behaviors of what people expected from e commerce. But that’s because they were taking a really long view and that didn’t seem equitable in favor of me, the user. And so at the end of the day, they’re a business that’s out to make a profit, right?

We always have to remember that. I also really like companies that have a sense of humor. So, there’s a business wiggle in the UK, it’s a sports business, but it started off life as a bike. They sold bikes and if [00:42:00] they sent you a bike in a box that you had to put together, they would throw in a bag of candy.

Cause they knew that you needed the energy to, cause you’re going to be putting the bike together for the next four hours. And I just, I love that. Right. It’s, they didn’t have to do it and it costs them money to do it. And you can’t make a business case for putting. That’s right, Steven, you can’t make a business case like, no product managers, went into some project management office review and said, I’m going to make a business case for the expense of adding 2 pounds of candy to every set box of, bike that we ship out.

Janna Bastow: That reminds me of the Cano model and the delighters. Right? The things that you put less investment in, but have a bigger payback. And some of these cases are things like the was it DoubleTree? When you check into a DoubleTree, they give you a warm cookie. It’s so good. 

Dave Wascha: And I don’t know how you codify that.

On a business case, but so that’s one thing. I think another thing is like, I’m very strict with early stage [00:43:00] businesses that their backlogs should be one of two things, either things that are reducing friction for acquisition or things that are reducing churn, right? If you, if they, if your backlog tickets, aren’t one of those two things, you’re not doing it right.

But as you grow and become more successful, I think if you start to have a few things in the backlog that are neither of those things, they’re just the delighters. And I like that phrase, but I think it’s probably overused because but like, I see this like in FigJam a lot. I think FigJam’s got lots of nice little fit and finish features that just make life easier.

And you discover them over time. And and suddenly like, yeah, that’s great. And I wouldn’t have chosen, Figma for that feature and I’m not going to leave because they don’t have it, but It’s just, somebody’s thinking about me and I really like it, but that’s a luxury of a growing business, not an early stage business.

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So we’ve got a question here from Steven. He says at what point do you know that it is time to make the implicit explicit? And who [00:44:00] does it and how, 

Dave Wascha: I can’t emphasize enough how early and often it should happen. Like I often now call like chief product officers that I work with, like you are the chief alignment officer.

And making the explicit explicit, I, it can’t happen early enough. I would take. At an underfunded, underpowered team that is aligned over a team of 10 X engineers with all the budget in the world. That was misaligned at this point. And so, and the only way to get aligned to that degree is through making the implicit explicit, which is writing down, writing your down your plan, not a strategy.

Sorry. Not a vision. But writing down your plan and talking about it and discussing it and debating it and agreeing on it. And then when something comes along, that is not aligned with the plan. You say, well, here’s the plan and that’s not in the plan. So let’s talk about it. We’re not going to be dogmatic and say we can’t do it, but like, what new information do we have that would lead us [00:45:00] to conclude that we should do this new thing because we agreed on this plan and we wrote it down. So I was even early today, it was on the phone with a seven person company and I asked the three founders all to answer the same two questions. And in neither case, did all three of them give the same answer. And that’s very common. And that’s a seven person company, three founders who grew up together.

Like, I mean, what other situation would you think that people wouldn’t actually be more aligned? So, sorry, I clearly I’ve got a lot of energy for this question. I think you said it was Steven who asked the question, but it cannot be early enough writing it down. And repeating it.

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is why I love roadmapping as a process, right? I don’t see the roadmap as a a fixed document. I actually see it as a process, right? Your job is to talk to the people around you collect basically what I call their assumptions. About the problems to solve and what they could see on the space the steps that you might be taking in the space [00:46:00] in front of you and then put them in a space, right?

This roadmap that you know, you’re going to destroy, but what you’re really doing is saying, here’s where I think we’re going to go, right. Based on what I’ve heard from all of you, we’re going to go here, and here right now, next, and later, just keep it really simple. Make it out of crayon for all I care.

Right. Do not get. Really tied up into making this in the most beautiful thing ever. What you’re going to do is just get feedback on it, right? Make something super, super simple because the whole plan is to get feedback on it as soon as possible and strengthen that strategy. And if you put this in front of somebody and you show it to your boss, you show it to somebody on your team and they go, wait, that’s not how I understood it, like, bam, right there.

Like you have found an alignment problem and you can fix it before you spend all this time making this beautiful roadmap and running everybody in the wrong direction. 

Dave Wascha: It’s so well put. I mean, I couldn’t agree more that the point is the discussion. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah. 

Dave Wascha: I think too often. In a business, the exec team or whatever, somebody will say [00:47:00] when, I want the road map for this quarter by Tuesday, and then teams run around doing it and they spend more time working on the formatting of the slides and things than they do actually, and they’re missing the conversation and they’re missing the assumptions and they’re missing the incentives and the conflicting incentives and the motivations and everything else.

So I couldn’t agree with you more, Jenna. Literally write it on a piece of paper with a pen. Don’t worry about finding fancy tools for it. But have the conversations. 

Janna Bastow: Yeah, absolutely. All right. So, just conscious of time I want to wrap up and point out that we’ve got a little bit more to share with you before we go.

We have a, if anybody’s looking to move to a now, next, later format we have a guide on how to ditch your timeline. So, grab. This, or just head to prodpad. com slash downloads. We have this and lots of other guides on how to do so. I want to see you all back here on the 30th of July. Same time, same [00:48:00] place.

Myself and my CMO, we’re going to be chatting about how to train your customer teams to get out there and gather truly useful customer feedback that you can use as part of your backlog and help you build the right products. And following that there’s more to come. We’re going to have Adam Thomas joining us.

He’s going to be talking about the five deadly sins of strategy, and that’s going to be August 15th. Again, that should be August 15th, I think, same time. But mark your calendars and we’ll get that out to you. And just final note for anybody who is ProdPad, as I said in the beginning it’s free to try, but we also run it.

Demos. So if you want to get somebody to to walk you through and show you around hit up prodpad. com slash demo, and we’ll show you through. But in the meantime, I want to say a huge thank you to everybody who’s turned up today and ask ask their questions. And a giant thank you to Dave.

Dave, thank you so much for coming along. Everybody. This has been Dave Washer. We’ve had a great [00:49:00] chat today. Dave, how can we how can we find you? Is there any final sign off points to make? 

Dave Wascha: I’m not massive on the socials and everything else. LinkedIn messaging is probably best. 

Janna Bastow: All right, everybody go find Dave, say hi.

And thanks to Dave on LinkedIn. In the meantime, thank you all for coming along, Dave. Thanks. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Good catching up with you. Take care and bye for now.

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