Know Your Customers Needs

Dan Lev Almagor

Head of Product at Chario



Product is all about storytelling. A few years back, I worked as an outsourced consultant, and I had to help the company uncover what they really wanted. The problem was that even the client was not sure what their product was. Most of the time, I can help them phrase it out, but they were a bit far away from thinking about the product at that time with this client. Eventually, the company did succeed because of the tech. They were building the tech as they wanted me to figure out what their product was and how to position it.

Of course, a product helps a lot — especially in the early stages of a startup — with positioning and messaging. During the early stages of a startup, this is one challenge that should not be overlooked, as there are a handful of people taking on a number of responsibilities, which adds as an advantage as an IC. However, when you have to be a manager and an IC simultaneously, it is an entirely different hat; it is more like transitioning from one brain to another because the responsibilities are altogether different.

Actions taken

Since then, I have gained some experience, and now when I have clients to deal with, I help them figure out who their target audience is, what is the problem they are solving, and what their differentiator is from other factors. Even after trying a number of different wireframes, work sessions, and thought sessions, I could not draw a conclusion.

Eventually, the client did get some exposure in the right direction, but since they were merely developing the technology, they put most of their efforts into that area. They called it their “playbook”, although they did not have any notion of concept. Their idea was to figure out the product through the technology they were working on, where I felt I had little to no role to play.

I always explained to my direct reports why they should see things differently. On top of that, I make sure to tell them what was missing from their work. I worked with the people I worked with who needed autonomy and the freedom to work, and I let them do what they wanted. I did not hold too much control over anyone, which helped them showcase their work.

So, when they were presenting, I sat on the side and let them take the questions and criticisms. Sometimes even though I wanted to jump in and defend them, I had to hold myself back. It was more like letting the people learn and grow by themselves. Managing juniors and seniors helped me figure out that juniors were much easier to work with because they wanted help and someone to guide them. Seniors were a little tricky because they knew they could do it and tried to prove themselves.

Lessons learned

  • As an IC, you tend to be more defensive of your job. You are also much more apprehensive of receiving criticism, whereas it is a lot easier as a manager. Being a manager, I know some of the decisions I made — the good and the bad — in retrospect are the best possible way to go.
  • You do not have to figure out everything yourself; collaborate with other teams when needed. Also, you could have one idea built off of ideas, and it can be something very synergetic. Most startups today have to figure out stuff based on hunches, experience, and talking to people, but not always there will be someone to bounce up the ideas for.
  • You have to know what your interests and strengths are and be able to present them. That is a great sign of maturity, knowing what you are good at and how you can serve the company in the best possible way.
  • It is okay to fail. Learn from the mistakes and improve. Therefore, you have to fail, in order to improve, which I learned the hard way.

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Dan Lev Almagor

Head of Product at Chario

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