A Checklist for Your First Week as the First PM at a Company

If you’re the first product manager a company has ever had, you’re going to be in a very interesting situation. All eyes will be on you. Can you really take this product and run with it? Do you have the chutzpah needed to set the pace for the product you’re about to take over?

You don’t want to be on some generic 90-day plan where it’s going to take you three months to deliver something. You want to really hit the ground running.

Taking over product from a founder

This can be challenging, especially if you’re taking over for a founder who was the product person. You need to really understand your expectations and then exceed them. You’re really going to have to have your stuff together for them to say “bringing on a PM was a great decision”.

In your first week it’s unlikely that you’re going to be expected to move the world, but you’re probably going to want to some kind of output out there.

The good news is that your fresh perspective on this is going to make this really easy work. The existing team has likely been looking at this product for a long time and is blind to seemingly obvious improvements that can be made.

First Week, First PMs, First To-Dos

Days 1 & 2

  • Complete any of your required training
  • Get access to all of your tools (especially your customer support tool)
  • Figure out if you’ll need anything special to create an account for your own product
  • Schedule a one week check-in with your manager

You’re also going to start a text document. This is just going to be a running text document you keep open on your screen at most times, and you’re going to note down anything that is interesting or surprising to you.

You have a fresh perspective right now. It will fade with time, so make sure you take advantage of it while you can.

Day 3

Today is the day to go through your product’s full experience. Use loom or another tool like this to capture your thoughts and your reactions as you go through your product for the first time.

Today is also a good day to get as much context on your product and your company as possible. If there’s a central place for documents, reports, and metrics, scour through that.

Another great source of information is to go through customer support logs. So if you can get access to the customer support tool, make sure you do that.

And today you also want to schedule a meeting with your engineering manager. You’re going to want to make sure that you have a great relationship with this person because it’s highly likely that you’re going to be working very, very closely with them.

If you have anyone else on your team, plan to meet with them as well.

Days 4 & 5

  • Plan and hold your meetings
  • Start writing your document for your one week check-in

It’s now time to start getting ready for your one week check-in.

That ideas document should be pretty darn full of interesting ideas, surprises and possible problems that you’ve run into.

Take some of the low hanging fruit on there and start shaping it up.Clearly define the problem(s) and what they look like from your perspective.

Write out some possible solutions to these problems you’ve come across in your first week. Don’t go to your new manager with just a list of issues and no recommended resolution. That’s not going to be a good look.

Once you’ve wrote out some solutions, include them as a read-ahead for your one week check-in. This will give your new manager some insight into not only how you think but will show that you’re ready to take the initiative to make things better.

Finally, watch as your new boss breathes a sigh of relief and goes, okay, maybe hiring a product manager was the right call.