🤩 Community wisdom – Issue 10
Bootstrapping marketplace supply, leveling up as a first-year PM, tools for tracking OKRs, assessing risk, fostering a culture of feedback, and much more
👋 Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of ✨ Community Wisdom ✨ — a weekly email highlighting the most helpful advice from our subscriber Slack community. As always, a big thank you to Kiyani for pulling this email together.
💥 Top threads this week
Bootstrapping marketplace supply
Best tools to track OKRs
Assessing risk for a project
Fostering a culture of feedback
Leveling up in your first year as a PM
🤓 Top reads and listens
Highlighting black PMs
NFX top 10 essay of all time
Growth experiment best practices
SQL courses for beginners
💥 Top threads this week
1. Bootstrapping marketplace supply
Q: I'm working on building out the supply side of an SMB marketplace. Per Lenny's article on building initial supply, we have a sales team and are working on SEO, but am wondering if anyone has found success with any other strategies or tactics to help build early supply. Would love any suggestions or ideas!
– Rachel Horowitz
Jeff: We found a few places where our supply listed themselves. We then curated a segment of that supply that worked for our marketplace and did a high touch onboarding of them. Not scalable but it got it primed.
Rachel Horowitz: Did you have the sales team reach out to the individual SMBs one by one or did you do something more holistic/scalable with the existing listing options and if the latter, what were the gives that you offered those sites to get them to help you access their supply? Did you offer them a rev share or something similar?
Jeff: our biz dev team would reach out to the supply who were listed on other sites and then our team would do the heavy lifting to get them listed/featured on the marketplace. Totally not scalable but it helped us get transactions flowing and then we would cherrypick additional supply as demand indicated need. This usually was a combo of geographic and a product segment.
Josh Bloom: We have found generating supply VIA demand a successful way to generate a sales funnel. By providing leads for free to the supply side (businesses in our case), it then gives them a 'taste' of what is available on our platform, which we then can utilize for both an outbound and inbound sales approach. This has also helped us build supply in line with increased demand in certain categories/areas, without oversupplying the marketplace.
Rachel Horowitz: Do you create supply-side listings without their consent to let the demand side know they're available on your platform and then reach out when someone inquires/requests with a "Hey we have X customers requesting to work with you on our platform would you like to sign up?"
Christian Schwarz Lausten: We had a "local heroes" expansion model where people with feet on the ground in the different geos would manually land the first 50 suppliers in their city before we opened up for demand. This helped us have great quality products "on the shelves" before opening up for customers.
Josh Bloom: @Rachel Often it's a combination of marketing/outbound sales campaigns that then allow us to have the contact details of the potential suppliers - however what we've seen is that when customers reach out directly to the businesses via our marketplace, we have generally seen a higher conversion than standard sales campaigns.
2. Best tools to track OKRs
Q: My company is looking at implementing OKR software. My top contender is Ally.io. Does anyone have a perspective on great ones?
Adam Fishman: We use Ally at Imperfect. It's fine. None of them are particularly awesome or great. It's more about what you do with them than the technology.
Barron Caster: Agreed OKRs themselves are more important. Just curious as we’re currently using spreadsheets and what we pick we’ll likely have to use for the next few years.
Adam Fishman: Spreadsheets ain't bad.
Tom Robinson: We use Notion. It’s great for linking databases across various teams and giving distinct views based on the audience. This means anyone can update and it populates across the various views. We haven’t managed to automate the data collection part yet but as a tool to ensure everyone is on the same page, it’s great.
Colleen: We used spreadsheets OKRs for a year at my last gig and tbh it was the best set-up I’ve had. No integration time, didn’t have to train everyone how to use it, and with a little automation, it got the job done well.
Zoelle: If most folks are doing well with spreadsheets but your CEO wants some bells and whistles, might try Airtable - will get him the automation/reporting/mobile etc. without making people learn totally new interfaces if they don't want to. Check out: Remote manager's toolkit: Collaborative Remote Team Hub [Caveat: obviously I am biased, as I work here, but if you want to chat about it, we do also manage our process this way etc.
Regan Davis: If you’ve never done OKRs before, invest and commit to the process, not a tool. Spreadsheets or single page slides to update is far preferred. The tool alone isn’t going to build a habit, and if that’s not there, it’s the tool that will be blamed.
Once the teams are consistently putting in the work, then you can use a tool to streamline and make reporting and connecting them easier. Here’s an example of the OKR end-of-quarter slide I made that we share with everyone at the end of each quarter. Every team gets a single slide:
There’s also a Google Sheet I use for mid-quarter check-ins (most teams do monthly or bi-weekly, that covers Score, Confidence, and Activities.
Having our own templates also let us present roadmaps OKR first — nesting the activities underneath the outcomes we want to achieve. It’s led to smoother convos with Exec team and much less focus on delivery (while not feeling like we’re trying to hide things from people)
Colleen: We used Betterworks at my last job. It was helpful because in addition to tracking ORKs it was used to manage performance evaluations, and my company tied OKRs = individual performance evals and bonuses. It also allowed you to link teams. It’s not the best platform ever, but it was easy to use and was implemented relatively quickly. No exp with Ally though myself.
Kara Skrip: Typical Kara response: check out Coda (they have pretty slick templates for OKR views/automations), and it’s more important that your OKRs themselves are good than to have a shiny tool.
3. Assessing risk for a project
Q: As a PM, when you are working on technically challenging projects, how do you record and do risk assessment with each project? I am currently on a bunch of features that have a high chance of failing at technical feasibility or in the future as there are technical risks. I am working on a framework for my team. Anybody has any suggestions?
Luca Rossi: If you use RICE for prioritizing projects, you can put a value of confidence that gets weighed together with the other qualities (Reach, Impact, and Effort). So that’s the first way you can take it into account.
Another thing we do is giving estimates, in story points, where you have three versions: best case, most likely, and worst case. If there are technical risks, these typically show up in the worst case, and then you can use the information any way you like (e.g. you can have a final estimate that is an average of the three). It seems complicated but in reality, we spend little time preparing this, like 5% of the actual project time. I think the benefits of creating estimates have diminishing returns the more time you spend on them.
Yair: I think any kind of methodology where you force people to explicitly reason about the risk involved is good. So getting people to quantify it (ideally in % terms, but if not as low/med/high) is very helpful, and over time people get better at it, especially if you're doing many projects around the same issues. Per Luca's point, it’s important to weigh that risk against potential impact (which is also risky in itself and should be estimated) and prioritize that way.
It's important to go back to these estimates when looking back at projects to "calibrate" and get everyone to improve their estimation ability.
Neeraj Kumar: Thank you so much. I love this community.
Luca Rossi: One important point, as @Yair implied, is that ideally, you should consider two separate values of confidence/risk: one about the impact (you are not sure the initiative will bring the results) and one about the effort (you are not sure you are able to do it). I don’t see this discussed very often, as most frameworks (such as RICE / ICE) consider confidence as a single value.
Tal Raviv: I like to think of it as a pre-mortem: If the project flops, what is the most likely reason it flopped? What’s the second most likely reason it flopped?
e.g. usability, discoverability, technical, legal risk, partner risk, brand risk, economic viability… etc. How can I validate those risks ahead of time? Performing a Project Premortem
Josh: Premortem is a great technique. As a personal diagnostic, when I notice myself frequently in this situation it is used as a reminder that I'm not working closely enough, early enough with my engineering colleagues. If the riskiest assumption we're testing is technical feasibility then they'll almost certainly to figure out how to very quickly validate.
Pedro: This post also mentions some great stuff that can work as a complement to the RICE framework: Ruthless Prioritization. All high functioning teams must… by Brandon Chu.
4. Fostering a culture of feedback
Q: Hello everybody! Following on from last week’s thread on management feedback systems ♻️. Has anybody got any insights to share on how to foster an internal culture of feedback?
Small team (<10)
We have all of the standard feedback structures in place (1:1s, annual reviews)
Inclusive of technical or soft skills feedback
How would one go about tightening the intra-team feedback loops?
Annalee Bloomfield: I like frequent retros – they normalize the process of giving feedback and focusing [constructively] on how the team can operate more effectively. Especially for less experienced team members, they can watch the whole team practice giving/receiving feedback (which you don't typically get to do in a 1:1).
Guy Peled: To add to @Annalee's answer, I'd also dedicate some time to break down successes.
What worked there?
How can we replicate that type of success?
Is that scenario-specific and not a lot to learn from it for the future?
If you're doing this in a group then that's a double whammy.
Contributes to safety
People can actually learn from each other regarding how to replicate success.
Demands a good facilitator though because you don't want "success theater". If there's no learning to extract then the facilitator should gently bring that to attention. Over time people will get that the purpose is to learn and not to high five ourselves.
Alexandra Zubko: A simple way to build the “feedback muscle” is to wrap up every meeting 5 min early and ask “what worked well; what could we do differently next time.” It is hard to maintain but it establishes the expectation and builds comfort with the process.
In 1-1’s, I also like to create standing agendas. For us it’s: what’s giving energy; what’s sapping energy; what feedback do we have; personal development and then content/ problem solving as relevant. Finally, if you’re remote (as we are), I’d also recommend creating a process whereby people can just jump online quickly and provide some feedback 1-1, much as you might in-person. It’s harder remote as it doesn’t feel as spontaneous esp with video tools like Zoom. So we use whereby.com as it’s super simple to jump online - no plug ins, no lengthy log-in processes. I also recommend having everyone read Radical Candor!
Ravi Dev: +1 on @Alexandra Zubko what works well/didn't work. The leaders on the team need to be very vocal about feedback on themselves or the team as a whole. Focus on coaching...not feedback. Coaching is actionable while feedback can oftentimes be sort of vague. Coaching should be equally positive as it is negative.
Walter Budzian: All feedback is not created equal. To create a culture where feedback is welcomed and encouraged create a model where the feedback is "informational" instead of "judgmental." That doesn't mean positive vs negative feedback. Informational feedback provides sincere positive feedback that acknowledges work done and factual non-judgmental feedback about problems. When there is praise, you want to be sure to be sincere and specific, acknowledging unique contributions and not just compliance. Praise that focuses on compliance can end up being de-motivational as it's perceived as controlling.
When the feedback is about problems, it should be communicated as 'just the facts' without criticism or judgment. It's important to get the perspective of the person you're delivering the feedback to. Chances of the feedback being internalized and acted upon are much higher when the problems are posed as blameless and an opportunity for collaborative solutions.
It's a big subject. The best literature on the topic I’ve found comes from the work of Rich Ryan and Ed Deci in self-determination theory. Here's an oldie but a goody to get started on that rabbit-hole.
Taly Matiteyahu: Leadership's response to feedback is super important (in the moment and after-the-fact action, if the feedback might have suggested it necessary). As a former Netflix'er, where feedback was highly encouraged and we had many outlets and systems and processes for it and plenty of conversations about it.... people's fear of retribution or of feedback being taken poorly often kept them from sharing really valuable feedback. This is a place I would say is 100% top-down driven. it could be helpful for leadership/managers to share feedback they've received in team meetings or 1:1s with subordinates now and then and talk about how they plan to take action based on it... as a reminder that the feedback is welcome and should keep flowing.
5. Leveling up in your first year as a PM
Q: Hi all! Any advice on how to level up quickly during my first year as a Product Manager? I’m interested in courses, books, words of wisdom or any other resources.
– Shea Fallick
In general, I think the best way to improve is to search out what you don’t know and be clear about the limitations of knowledge with yourself. In addition, seeking out additional responsibility or asking where you can be helpful or learn are great starting points.
4 months into my first product gig I felt like I had a solid handle on my responsibilities so asked the Head of Product how I could be more helpful. That quickly turned into being given a small frontend team and really became a source to learn and experiment much quicker than if I had just waited. But always gotta balance that with patience. Being challenged and failing is one thing but I find you want to ensure you’re not too over your skies. Of course. I’d also talk to as many stakeholders as possible. As PM we are supposed to be interpreters and communicators of many things (especially data) but building up a good sense of people is invaluable.
🤓 Top reads and listens
1. Highlighting black PMs
2. NFX top 10 essays of all time
3. Growth experiment best practices
Eric Kim: Good read on growth Experiments (feat. @Tal Raviv) for sharing your insight): How the Best Tech Companies Run Growth Experiments | OpenView
4. SQL courses for beginners
Bruno Pardo: These are the three websites I would use as a beginner to learn SQL:
Mode Analytics: I like how it is structured (Basic - Intermediate - Advanced)
SQL Zoo: I used it to practice a bit.
W3 Schools: Whenever I forget how to use something I review it here.
As soon as you know the basics, I would start writing simple queries from your company’s data.
5. DNC’s Substack
Noah Chestnut: The DNC's grassroots fundraising team publishes a great substack and I enjoyed their quick retro on how they set up their org / operation (in lots of ways ... a campaign is a startup). Does this bring in money or votes? Newsletter 17.
Bonus - if you are looking for creative folks (esp marketing folks)... there are lots of great people now available BFP Digital Directory - For Employers.
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Lenny and Kiyani 👋