Martin Eriksson is the guest of this week Unlearn Podcast. Martin is the co-founder of ProductTank and the Mind the Product conferences that have scaled themselves and the practice of Product Management around the world. Listen to If We’re Not Winning We’re Learning with Martin Eriksson.
Learning From One Another
When he started ProductTank in the back of a London pub, Martin never imagined that his small meetup of 25 product managers would be the genesis of a community over 150,000 strong from 180 cities, or that they would be hosting 5 conferences around the world. Their goal was simply to learn from one another so they could be better at their jobs. [Listen from 1:50]
That initial meetup took on a life of its own because many others had the same need. All of their growth has been inbound, Martin relates: people come to them for help in setting up local ProductTank chapters. Martin embraced those opportunities, seeing that the more the community expanded, the more people they could meet and learn from. [Listen from 3:05]
There is a wealth of talent all over the world and we can learn much from each other.
Recognizing Opportunities and Gaining Momentum
When you recognize that you’ve built something of value that your customers love and want more of, naturally, you want to grow. Martin’s approach was to think about the next step and move in that direction. ProductTank was continuing to expand to more cities and countries, so they decided to launch a conference to get big names from the US to share their expertise. [Listen from 5:15]
Barry remarks that the power of momentum is often underrated. As you continue to do reps, you build momentum and eventually a movement. In the case of ProductTank, they were learning valuable lessons as they continued to meet and grow, such as how to work together and get the best out of one another. Soon Martin recognized the global potential of their fledgling company. [Listen from 7:30]
Making A Great Experience for Everyone
A successful conference prioritizes great experiences for everyone. The needs of attendees, speakers and vendors have to be catered for, and ample time must be given for people to learn and network. Barry asks how Martin ensures that these great experiences are part of every conference, especially as the company scales. It’s really all about people, Martin responds. They closely screen people who want to organize local ProductTank chapters or conferences to make sure that they share the same purpose. This is what has driven the strength of this community, he says. If you have the right people you can trust them to build on that experience. [Listen from 12:00]
Mission and Shared Values
One of the hallmarks of great business is that your mission statement centers around your customer as opposed to your business. Mind the Product encapsulates this in its mission statement: “Our mission is to make other people more successful by coming together to further our craft.”
Barry notes that these principles should be codified as you grow to not only attract the right people, but so that they behave in a way that protects the community and the essence of what you’re trying to create. Some of the team values that guide Martin’s company are:
- We are an empowered and autonomous team;
- We should be excellent to each other;
- If we’re not winning, we’re learning;
- Hard work should be rewarding. [Listen from 15:50]
Unlearning and Next Steps
Two important lessons Martin would unlearn if he had the chance to start over would be to think bigger and embrace the opportunity sooner and to understand his brand and the market better. Building connections among regional and international communities is a powerful part of their mission going forward. There is a wealth of talent all over the world and we can learn so much from each other, Martin says. He sees it as his personal mission to reach out into his network and lift up stories and different ideas and ways of working. That sense of curiosity and willingness to learn empowers and motivates him. [Listen from 19:35]
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