This article is a bit different because I want to provide some insight into how SVPG works, and why we have chosen to set up the way we have. I also have some pretty significant news which I’ll share as well, once I’ve provided some context.
For those that don’t know, we essentially do two things at SVPG. We advise startups and growth stage companies, and we also share the practices we advocate with companies of all sizes that believe they need to improve or transform.
We hold public workshops for any tech company founders, product leaders, or product managers that would like to hear our views on how and why great teams work the way they do, and we hold private, on-site sessions with those companies looking for meaningful change.
However, if you’ve tried to sign up for a public session, or if you’ve tried to schedule a private session, you probably know that the demand far outstrips our ability to supply. The public sessions have always sold out many months in advance, and the private sessions are often booked out 6 months in advance. We know this is frustrating to many people with an urgent need for help.
As you might imagine, many people have asked why we don’t expand?
I try to explain that it’s not so much that we don’t want to grow, it’s that we believe that in order to successfully do what SVPG does, it requires an unusual blend of talent and experience. It’s both the reason for the high demand, and also why it’s so hard for us to expand.
At SVPG, unlike most advisory or consulting or training firms, we do not have “junior” partners, or associates or instructors. We don’t believe they can do what is necessary.
SVPG partners are truly unique leaders in their craft. So what’s so special about them?
There are five things:
- They are proven senior leaders from major tech companies. We don’t think there’s any real substitute for having “been there and done that.”
- They have seen first-hand what great actually looks like, in detail, at every level. It’s easy to get experience with what bad looks like; but the truly valuable experience is to know how great actually works.
- They have proven their ability to work effectively with people at every level of the organization, starting with the most senior leadership, especially the CEO and CFO. We know we have to earn the respect of these senior leaders, and this takes a unique combination of gravitas, depth, and track record that few have, even if they have great experience.
- They can consistently and quickly earn the respect of a company’s top engineers, designers and product managers. It’s no secret that top talent at product companies, especially the strongest engineers, do not suffer fools well. So the partners must have the experience, credibility and depth to engage constructively, especially when trying to convince people to change how they have always worked.
- Finally, our partners have demonstrated passion and results for identifying talent, coaching and developing people, from individual contributors to leaders of product, design and engineering.
In my experience, while there are many very strong product people in our industry, at every level, the full set described above is an extremely rare combination.
Most of the people I know that do have the above talent and experience are either looking to run product again at another major tech company, or are interested in tackling the CEO role. However, over the years, as I have been able to get to know leaders and witness their skills up close, I have approached a select few of these people about the possibility of eventually joining SVPG.
I first recruited Chris Jones, but that was so many years ago now that I really consider him more of a co-founder of SVPG. Many of you have had the chance to meet and get to know him and his deep product knowledge and the passion he brings to developing people and teams.
And then a few years ago I was finally able to recruit Lea Hickman. I have written about Lea and the industry-benchmark transformation she led at Adobe in Behind Every Great Product but if you do not yet know her story, I strongly encourage you to read this.
And now, I’m very happy to introduce you to the newest SVPG Product Partners: Christian Idiodi and Jonathon Moore.
I’ve been working on recruiting both Christian and Jonathon for several years, and it’s a coincidence that they both were able to join around the same time, mainly because their prior companies had big milestones that provided them the opportunity to take on this career switch now.
But Christian and Jonathon are unquestionably two of the very best product leaders I have ever had the honor of knowing.
If you’ve seen my Empowered Product Teams keynote talk you will hopefully recognize Christian as one of the exceptional product leaders I profiled.
Christian spent several years with two of the leading job marketplaces, where he repeatedly demonstrated his ability to bring true product competency and consistent innovation on behalf of customers into his companies. He then tackled his toughest turnaround assignment, which was to transform a very old and large financial services company, Merrill Corporation, into a technology-powered financial services company capable of consistently delivering modern, innovative solutions to their customers, and that could attract and retain the talent necessary to do this.
Christian did this by working across the company, at every level, and specialized in identifying talent, and then actively coaching these people to excellence. He has created his own product bootcamp for his own organizations because he takes new employee onboarding so seriously.
Christian has a long history of coaching engineers, designers, and product managers, as well as their leaders. Today, Merrill has become a consistent innovator and leader in their industry, and has dramatically increased the value of their company. It is one of the most impressive turnarounds I have ever witnessed – and as with every successful turnaround, credit also goes to their CEO and other key leaders, but I’m certain they would all tell you the essential and pivotal role that Christian played.
Similarly, Jonathon Moore has had an extraordinary career in product. He actually started his career as a broadcast journalist with BBC News and Sports, but he saw the future and made a career switch into the product role responsible for those major Internet properties, and led the product through major redesigns and resulting explosive growth.
Jonathon went on to introduce modern product to The Guardian, and then joined Skype responsible for their iPhone app, and after being acquired by Microsoft, he advanced to Principal PM. After this, Jonathon moved into product leadership positions, first at Hailo and then joining Trainline to lead their major turnaround into one of the most successful e-commerce businesses in the UK and their recent IPO.
Jon built an exceptionally strong team and organization, and today Trainline serves as a model of transforming to a technology-powered product company.
If you are the CEO of a major company and you know you need to transform, there are countless consultancies out there that will send you scores of MBA’s to tell you what they think you should do. But to be able to engage personally and directly with someone that has actually been there and done that, is what we are all about.
Going from three product partners to five is, relatively speaking, pretty big for us. Our long-time SVPG Partner, Martina Lauchengco, still continues as our sixth partner with an ongoing focus on Product Marketing. But this increased capacity in product partners means we’re planning on increasing the number of public workshops, and also hoping to shorten the amount of time that companies have to wait to get a private session.
If you haven’t yet read our Manifesto, it’s a good way to see what we believe is important, and we take it to heart. I’m confident that you’ll find Christian and Jonathon as great examples of these principles.
Finally, we are truly grateful that we have been able to work with so many exceptional people and teams, for so many years. Every time we get together as partners we talk about how fortunate we are to have earned the trust of so many great companies. We try to never forget that. So from all of us, a sincere thank you.