Listen to Episode 4 of the Product Management Leaders Podcast to uncover strategies and tactics for building world-class products. Listen Now!
We are eager to share the eighth episode of The Product Management Leaders Podcast with you! Our aim with this podcast is to connect you with some of the top PM leaders and share their real-world strategies and tactics for building world-class products. In today's episode, Grant Duncan speaks with Bernard Desarnauts, VP of Product at PandaDoc, a Series B startup with over 500 employees. Bernard has a wealth of experience being a former SVP of Product and Marketing, a Co-Founder, and an Advisor.
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Grant Duncan 0:05
This is the Product Management Leaders Podcast in which you hear from some of the top PM leaders about their real world strategies and tactics for building world class products. It's sponsored by Voximplant, the leading serverless communications platform and no code drag and drop contact center solution. Voximplant enables product leaders and developers to integrate communications into their products, such as embedding voice, video, SMS, in app chat and natural language processing. Join over 30,000 businesses trusting Voximplant. Now let's jump into the show.
Hey, it's Grant Duncan, your host. I'm talking with Bernard Desarnauts, VP of Product at PandaDoc, a Series B startup with over 500 employees. Bernard has a wealth of experience being a former SVP of product and marketing, a co founder and an advisor. Let's get started. Hey, Bernard, thanks so much for coming on. It's great to be speaking with you today, on the product management leaders podcast. To start out, could you share a little bit about yourself in your current role?
Bernard Desarnauts 1:16
Sure. Grant, first of all, thank you for having me on the, on this new podcast, it's exciting. You can hear I'm originally French. I have particular clarity though after business school, I went to London. And then from there got by accident, I got sent to Silicon Valley back in 1991. So it was pretty early, and it wasn't, you know, wasn't what most people out of business school wanted to do. You know, Wall Street was more like top of mind at the time. So I got into tech software by accident, and fell into the you know, proverbial, you know, environment that made me just love it and all the way to where we are today.
Grant Duncan 1:56
Very cool. That's awesome. I can imagine you saw the whole .com boom and bust and everything. That's very cool.
Bernard Desarnauts 2:07
So actually, before the, I did see the .com, I was actually in the .com, I went through starting a company raising money burning it and all that stuff. But before that I was you know, in the early 90's went through the the PC boom, right PC software boom, and then the first client server before the internet when it was a bad client server, you know, see companies like Oracle, and I know many others, you know, blooming, so I felt like I've been around a lot of different cycles, and it made it super interesting to be in that industry. And then when you take the big perspective, and you still think you're still in the first inning or second inning of that, you know, when you take the broad impact of technology and software to the world, it's it's pretty fun being you know, right timing being at the right place at the right time.
Grant Duncan 2:54
Yeah, yeah, that's great. So as the VP of product for PandaDoc, can you share a little bit about how your team is structured?
Bernard Desarnauts 3:04
Yes. So PandaDoc is fast growing like many b2b SaaS companies. And our structure in our organization is evolving rapidly, rather, well, it looked like a year and a half ago when I joined, and what it is today is substantially different than how it's gonna look like in six to 12 months, probably gonna also evolve. As we scale, right? We, we were about 25 people when they started a year and a half ago, we are over 55, now, let's, you know, so we restructured we are structuring the organization, you know differently, we try to structure it to accommodate our growth for the foreseeable future, which for us, is three to five quarters, we know it's less, it's about a year, but not quite a year, depending when you are in the cycle. Today, I've structured the team around, you know, fundamentally five pillars, I've got the product management pillar, which is the heart of the team. I've got a product marketing team that has been more recently integrated into product, we used to have that team in the marketing side. And last year in December, we made the decision to move it into product. We have the product design team that is integral to our product development process, which is also part of product. And then I've got two other teams, one is around product operations, and that includes product analytics, which we are also building, as we speak. We used to rely on a corporate function. And we realized we weren't, we were needing you know, additional firepower so we were building a dedicated product analytics team. And finally, I'm I just started a few months ago a international global team, where we are spearheading the global expansion plan for the company out of products. So it's an incubation type of the project from within product. So that's the current setup. It probably will be somewhat different in six to 12 months.
Grant Duncan 5:01
Sure, that's so interesting, can you share a little bit more about what the international expansion is looking like?
Bernard Desarnauts 5:09
We, so PandaDoc to date is only available in English for and also, we derive a very large potential, you know, part of our business out of the US and the key English markets, you know, UK, Australia, Canada. And of course, we are looking at how do we go broader, not just European languages, but also Asian markets and South American markets over time. We are PandaDoc is, you know, so is really, our platform, our solution is, is in the heart of digital transformation for the SMB market, especially. So, you know, it's really a global opportunity, not just limited to the, to the English speaking market. So we decided that it was time for us to, we have enough traction in our, you know, English markets that we we are able and willing to invest outside of them. So this is part of our plan over the next years.
Grant Duncan 6:04
Nice. That's great to hear. And you mentioned that product marketing is now under the product org as well, can you give some background as to why that decision was made and how it's working so far?
Bernard Desarnauts 6:20
Sure. So Product Marketing, was under marketing, you know, for a few years, and we had a disconnect between we felt that we had to disconnect on a company level in terms of getting to market to customer the actual value of what we built from a product organization. And we believed that, you know, integrating product marketing would make the, the communication between, you know, the internal building of the product and the delivery of the software, to the actual delivering the value to customer using it a bit smoother. I also believe, you know, so realistically, there were also like, in most of my career, I managed, you know, Product Marketing as part of production, I believe in the holistic point of view. So that was part of it. And it's too early to tell how it's going but it's been about six months. But we've, we built the team, we have processes in places, we found really good eye level processes on how to work with the revenue, organization, you know, marketing in particular. So, you know, so far, so good, but you know, the jury's still out. In terms of one observation. One tip was one of the drawbacks that we've seen about having Product Marketing inside the marketing organization is for us marketing is under the chief revenue officer. And so their primary driver is is MQLs, and product marketing is not, you know, the corporate market is not necessarily designed to, to build you know pipeline and MQL. So we felt, you know, there was, it wasn't a big effort with the vision and mission of a highly functioning product marketing organization.
Grant Duncan 8:06
And did you have existing product marketers that moved into the product org? Or did you hire new people to fill that?
Bernard Desarnauts 8:15
We hired new people rebuilt a team from scratch.
Grant Duncan 8:18
Bernard Desarnauts 8:19
Grant Duncan 8:20
And you also mentioned moving product analytics into the product org for you?
Bernard Desarnauts 8:26
Grant Duncan 8:27
Is that still too early to tell if that's helping? Or have you seen benefits from that already?
Bernard Desarnauts 8:34
We moved that more recently. And it's, the team is being built as we speak. So it's really early, but we all understand the needs. So the need was simple, right? With, with a corporate function, business intelligence, data analytics, that was growing, but the given, you know, the size of our team, we were you know, our requirements were growing super fast. And their ability to deliver was kind of stable. So the gap was just growing faster. And given, you know, we were fortunate enough that we we can invest and we have. So we decided, you know, it was appropriate to start a product analytics dedicated team. We are and we completely take advantage, leverage, you know, the data infrastructure that the business corporate team is putting in place. So all of the data engineering, the data taxonomy, all of those things are centralized. And we really are looking at just the analytical part of the team, which is really about, you know, driving insights. So that piece is the one that we building specific to our product initiatives.
Grant Duncan 9:38
Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. And so what are some of the metrics and insights that you're tracking on a regular basis?
Bernard Desarnauts 9:48
So the, our primary, you know, lagging indicator is our NPS. So we, we've been tracking this for several years and we, you know, very regularly we look at it. But so as we probably know, NPS is not super actionable. So it's more of a lagging metric of what's going on. But we pay attention to it. Apart from that each, each of the product teams has their own Northstar kind of metrics. So our growth team is very focused on funnel metrics, right? Typical conversion rates and activation rates and whatnot, the rest of the product organization product team are more like into usage and you know, behavior of customers. So there's not this, we have a set, we have a set of dashboards and set of metrics that we, you know, we pay attention to. Never enough, though, you know, the funny thing is, we all want to be data driven and, or data informed at least and, you know, we have a lot of data like everybody else, but sometime we just don't have the time to, to check on the, you know, what does the data mean? And what should we do about it? And so far, so we're still still an area where we are growing and learning.
Grant Duncan 11:01
Can you share your thoughts on product-led growth?
Bernard Desarnauts 11:05
Oh, I'd love to, that is a really good topic, because, it's really funny... It's like I even saw Gartner recently published, you know, the five bases of PLG. And their hype cycle, they put PLG at the top of the hype, you know, before the slope of disenchantment and whatnot. I don't get it, I don't buy their view, I think it's very simple. You can keep it very simply, it's like I've seen, you know, and maybe it's because I've been there for a long time in the software world. But, so, think back to the 90s, and early 2000's, most people didn't have internet, most people didn't have, you know, computers, you would sell software, you better have like a targeted list of who we'd go to and then you'd send people with a bag, right, and they go, they were called, you know, enterprise sales rep, they would go and knock on the doors of the big companies, because you couldn't make that model efficient from a cash standpoint with SMBs. Right. So it was like very much enterprise software and the oracle of the world pioneered this and made it, you know, super successful... IBM, before Oracle, and all these guys, right, the blue suit approach. With the internet came phase two in my mind, which is content marketing. So we went from a sales first, you know sales rep first approach to, oh, there's something called the internet, now, I can put a lot of content for free on this thing called the website, and I can have people learn about my product and learn about my services without having to send someone to knock on the door... So that to me, is the web two phase of content marketing, you know, that, still, most companies leverage, right, it's like SEO, SEM technique, and its content. And what we also realized in the last 10 years is with internet, because I mean, technology is big, bandwidth and whatnot, becoming much more available, like, hey, there's no better marketing than actually letting people play with your product. So instead of telling them about what the product does, just give them the product and start doing. You know, Dropbox was one of the first to be well known around, you know, freemium, but it's like premium trails, whatnot. So that's PLG, right. It's like, what I mean, to me, PLG is about product... Especially for us and SMB. So maybe the enterprise market is different. But for an SMB type market, or a mid market product where the user is key, there is nothing better than just get the user in the product, to do the marketing for you, to do the sell for you. Right. So I am a big fan of PLG, we believe in PLG, we have huge investments for us in PLG. And not just in the sense of gross hack and viral loops and gross loop for this and that, we do those. But we think about the product itself. So back to the NPS, for our target market, right, the ease of understanding of the product, the ease of speed to get into value for the customer is fundamental. It's all about user, you know, user experience. And so we are spending an inordinate amount of our resource on that type of work, which is not about adding features, but really about how do we just rethink the approach that customers can get value out of what we offer faster?
Grant Duncan 14:29
Yeah. I think a lot of companies are probably wanting to take a PLG approach, or are in the process of it. And what I've seen is a lot of companies start with some kind of onboarding as a way to kind of enter in if they haven't really done or thought about a PLG approach. Do you have any strategies or tips for product onboarding?
Bernard Desarnauts 14:55
We, you know, there's, again, depending on the segment where you you're reaching, right. There's the very well documented, you know, super human approach, you know, type approach, and then you have a lot of in product, basic checklist guided tour and all that stuff and everything in between. Again, you know, we struggle with it, I don't know if we are the best, and we tend to learn from a lot of the more visible companies that have more visible PLG playbooks, you know, the, the the Slack of the world, as you know, the the Type 4 I mean, there's a lot of really well known examples. So we try to study what they do and learn from that. And just, for me, it's all related to activation. And the term activation is, is overused, but onboarding needs to lead to something. And so one of our challenge is to define what is the actual activation metric that matters. And there's a ton of discussion on that. And that's not this is more art than science today, because typically, the, you know, the data is not going to easily tell you what is true activation. So for us, we have some basic metrics that are obvious, you know, sending a document, but that's not true activation. So we're still learning, we're still searching for what is our North Star on the activation side, which correlates to the onboarding piece, because you want the onboarding to drive to this activation as an outcome?
Grant Duncan 16:20
Yeah, that's great. So as, as a VP of Product, I think something that obviously makes your life a lot easier is when your manager, whether it's a CEO, or Chief Product Officer, or whoever it is, depending on the role and company size, understands product management and values it. What does that look like for you over your career of working with people who, like bosses, who have understood or not understood the product?
Bernard Desarnauts 16:52
Well, I mean, I spent most of my life with earlier stage companies, and they, they were most of the time, I was either one of the founders, or I was one of the early product guy where the CEO was typically the product founder. And so what I had to learn about is more how did you become, you know, when you join a team that already exists, where you were not the CEO or founder, what you have to learn is, how do you protect the vision of the founder, but then make it accessible and, and operational for the for the actual product team? And so that became, you know, what I specialized in. You know, it's like, how do you work on that two dimension where the vision is with the founder, and it's still the case, I ended up where our founders, our CTO, my boss, is really the owner of the product vision. And he thinks, you know, two and five years out, and he has some principles that he believes in and he cares about. And so my job is to work with him to bring it, okay, what do we do next quarter, right? It's not about okay, we can all agree we're two years out, we're going to be, but what do we do next quarter, next six months is you know, where my my role comes in as a VP of product. That's, you know, that's my experience so far. So I've never been in a company where product wasn't valued, maybe I ended up not being so I don't have experience on what I would have done if it was the case.
Grant Duncan 18:22
Sure. Yeah. Well, I think that's, that's cool. That's an great insight to think about. How do you take that big vision and put it into action in some way, as you're talking about? So how do you think about quarterly or yearly planning?
Bernard Desarnauts 18:39
It's, it's really, I mean, quaterly planning is, is a really, almost business normal reason, the ceremony of for us we're using OKR's. So the OKR is a tool that we used to help go through that planning phase, we are still learning, you know, how to make it work for us. So I can't say, you know, on a scale of one to 10, I'd say we probably a six or seven, or maybe eight depending on the quarter in terms of how we use the tool, but it's an important tool for us that we still need to make our own better. The planning is, you know, it's it's interesting is quarterly is is, is the freak, you know, we have on one side, we have our two weeks period thing, which is really comfortable for everyone in the product engineering organization, right, we have very good reason around our two weeks cycles. We have a reason around monthly update, which which we do with you know, key key leaders on we do a monthly type check in and whatnot. And the quarterly planning is the thing that we do to align with the rest of the organization because, not the rest of the organization is not, not all of them are on two week sprints and what not, core sales is not. So we use that as far as seeing. I think of it to be more of a alignment who is cross functioning more than planning for us, you know, at the end of the day, you know, this, a lot of our work from a product standpoint spans across quarters. So it's not like, we do have goals for the quarter. But at the same time, there's a lot of things that slip from one quarter to the other. And then things that take more than the quarter that take, you know, so the quality planning, I think of it as more of a business alignment and check in with the business side of the house and our CEO to make sure that we are on the right path, you know, as the strategy, you know, tweaks.
Grant Duncan 20:34
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. So for you, as previously being a co-founder or CEO, you hear people talk about like, the product lead is like a mini CEO. Do you think that's true? Or do you think there are components that it's different from the CEO?
Bernard Desarnauts 20:57
Yeah, I never personally like that, because it makes it, it makes us feel self inflated in terms of our importance, I think of a really good product leader, as a diplomat. You really think about, you know, our job is, is to align a lot of different people towards a common goal. So our job is to really come up with the story, which is our vision and create a story around it, and then align and works, we collaborate with a lot of different, you know, teams, from sales to engineering on the how we get to achieving that vision. And so I don't see ourselves as mini CEOs we do have, we do power because we control up to a point, you know, roadmap and what gets to be built, always, you know, when we have new hire, or an orientation at PandaDoc, or any other company, right? That's always the first question of people is, hey, how do you guys decide what we're going to build? And we're like, well, you know, there's the theory, and there's the science, and then there's the reality, and then each company is a little bit different. But that's really the power is the perception that we make those very fundamental big decision as to what gets to be built. But I don't think you know, the CEO analog is correct. I really think more of a, you know, diplomat, I think it's softer, and it's more appropriate.
Grant Duncan 22:18
Yeah, yeah, I think that does make a lot of sense. And especially when you think about, like, you can't just fire or hire anyone in the organization as well. There's, there are big pieces of the role that are missing,
Bernard Desarnauts 22:34
Grant Duncan 22:35
compared to a CEO.
Bernard Desarnauts 22:37
I think being a CEO, and having been a product guy, I can tell you, the pressure is very different. Right? So I am very happy to being back to just being a product guy. It's it's, you know, a very different set of pressure, of course, there's for sure, but it's just not the same, so.
Grant Duncan 22:53
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. What, what's one of the hardest product decisions you've had to make before?
Bernard Desarnauts 23:00
I was hearing that question. Because there's two, I think, where this some some time it feels like, for me, I am really a product geek. And I really have high empathy. You know, I think about our role is to have empathy for our customers and really to want to deliver value to customer. I'm like, man, so every day, every single day, I have like, my God, you know, we have a customer request. I'm like, it makes sense. It's freaking obvious. Why aren't we doing it? It's a bug. It's actually not a feature, it should work that way. We have to say no, because we just can't do it all. So, I don't have I think it's more like death by 1000 cuts more than this one big thing. To me is like, I feel like you know, I bleed every day, because it's like, you take any product in any space. And the more customer you have, the more input you're gonna get. And the more bad ideas you're going to get, but the more good ideas you're going to get. And, man, when you see the good ideas, you're like, I wish I could do this, I could do this, I could do that. And, you know, that's really the our job as a as a leader is to say, no, it's really hard. For me, it's really hard.
Grant Duncan 24:11
Yeah. Yeah, that is tough. How do you think about prioritization and trade off? Like, how do you make those decisions?
Bernard Desarnauts 24:19
Well we delegate, you know, we've we've tried to empower and I mean, it's, it's, it's, you know, something is really important as we grow is, is how do you truly empower your teams so that you can focus on where you can create a symmetrical value. And so my first goal is to try to delegate as much those decision, you know, to others so I don't have to have the burden of understanding all of the the pros and cons. When I need to be involved. I really think about you know, where does it map to our strategic long term value, so does it fit this to me, as the first check, you know, is it in line with we have this vision to five years old, who we want to be when we grow up, does it support that? And is it something that allow us to continue our differentiation and our value proposition versus what we see our meet, you know, our overall market players? If you pass that thing, then it's really, the trade off comes from, you know, cost is like, what's the, you know, what's the what's the expected return versus the cost and tried to, to juggle what, what makes the most sense, we tend, I tend to have a partial bias towards smaller things that are less grandiose from a strategy standpoint, but are very pragmatic and are short enough and defined well enough that, you know, we have a high probability of success of getting them built and deployed and adopted. So if between the two extremes, I, I personally gravitate my biases towards those, you know, more intentional thing I've learned, you know, from early days of startups, right, it's like, what's important is to move is to get things done. And provided you're kind of in the right direction, it's okay, if it's not exactly where you, you know, you can always move. So that's a personal bias.
Grant Duncan 26:17
Yeah. Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. So if you would have to think about a day or a week, what's the pie chart of your time look like? What are maybe some big items you often spend your time on?
Bernard Desarnauts 26:32
People, I mean, it's 80% of my time is people. It's either one on ones or small groups, or it's recruiting right now. It's like, I probably interviewed two or three people a day. So we're hiring we just, you know, so I hired with my team hired like, 15 people last quarter, we're going to hire another, you know, ten to fifteen people, we have, like, 30, open. So it's like, just interviewing, you know, talking, I think this is the this is my role and aligning with one on one so that, you know, I can be helpful where they need help, I can give feedback some time where they don't want feedback, but I still give them feedback, and then try to stay out of their way, you know, as much as I can. So we can scale because, you know, I'm becoming a bottleneck to the organization. So I'm being mindful of that of how do I not become the bottleneck and, and whatnot. So it's combination of delegation and growing people and giving clear line of authority and responsibility. So it's, you know, this is why I mentioned earlier that the org will continue to evolve, because how do we enable us to scale because we want to be multi product company, from a single product company, we want to be global, instead of just one market, and we have a lot of exploration, how can we do that? Not being the bottleneck, it's that requires rethinking of the organization.
Grant Duncan 27:58
What are some of your strategies for working effectively with engineering teams?
Bernard Desarnauts 28:03
I've, so my first job in tech was with a company called Borland, which back then was known to be a developer first type company, was very engineering lead company was definitely not sales lead. And a lot of you know, I moved to the US a French guy, and a lot of the engineers then were also Europeans kind of thrown into the Silicon Valley. Well, then, I got to have a lot of friends that were, you know, engineers on the teams. And from there, I learned, you know, they are people first, so you want to treat them as, as people, even though they might be more introverted than the marketing colleagues, or the sales colleague that people so people means trust and respect. It's also someone used that analogy recently in an interview, so I would just concede, but it's like, it's a little bit like, you know, if you have siblings, we are brothers, how you can be with brothers, right? It's like, you should be able to have arguments and fights, but at the same time, you know, you're going to patch up very quickly, and you're going to make sure that family is first right. So that's the type of relationship that I think is healthy. We are especially looking at PandaDoc because, are my boss Sergei is also the is a CTO also oversees engineering. So we also have our bosses creates unity by default. It's not like, you know, engineering is here and product is there. So it's like, really together. And so we don't have the heat. We have respect, we have mutual respect for each other's you know, functions and roles. And it's healthy. We've had conflict, I've had conflict during my life, you know, previously with engineers and you know, you try to do your best to not make it personal, but it's, you know, that's that it happens.
Grant Duncan 29:52
Yeah, I think it's part of the job to some degree.
Bernard Desarnauts 29:55
Yeah. It is part of the job, I mean, we, you know products goals are not always aligned. You know our goal is to get as much value to customer as fast as possible engineering goal is to get, you know that value but also with a level of stability, quality and, and, you know, technical debt that is acceptable for the business. And so we have to be mindful that those objectives are not always aligned.
Grant Duncan 30:21
Yeah, right. Do you have, you mentioned you're doing a lot of hiring? So, plug for PandaDoc, if you're listening, go check them out.
Bernard Desarnauts 30:32
Please, please do.
Grant Duncan 30:33
Yeah, what are what are a couple of your go to interview questions that you like to ask?
Bernard Desarnauts 30:39
I have a new one that I use, always as my last question. And it's, you know, some smart guy, you know, published it on Twitter. And I thought it was really, really smart and interesting. And it's basically, there's different ways to phrase it, but it's kind of asking the person about, you know, what, what is the one misconception your colleagues might have about you? And it's a pretty hard question to answer on the fly if you haven't thought about it. And so it's been interesting. It's been really it's been very revealing in interview, because, you know, I probably have used it about 20 times now, I've not had one person who had had that question before. So people have to think about what the question means. And that's a good start. And and so that's, that's been a good question.
Grant Duncan 31:35
That's making me think now.
Bernard Desarnauts 31:39
There's talking about recently Naini Rustik published it. So it's a new one of this guy that has really a lot of really good product management product content out there on Twitter, and he has a website committee and whatnot. He published an amazing that was three or four weeks ago, an amazing list of questions, you know, that you should use for, you know, interviewing PMs in particular, and excellent article, I will send you the link. So you can feature it at some point, or potentially you can interview Naini directly, I think that was one of the best. I bookmarked it, I sent it to all my hiring people I actually shared it with HR, I think it was really well thought through a list of questions you should you can use for interviewing PMs in particular, it was really great.
Grant Duncan 32:30
Yeah, very cool. We can try to put in the show notes. Awesome. Are there any other sources or areas that you go to learn, or that you'd recommend others to check out if they're, let's say, a first time VP or an aspiring PM leader?
Bernard Desarnauts 32:47
Well, this you have everything and, and more right accessible to anyone. I tend to, I read a lot, I follow, you know, I've got a bunch of people I've curated on Twitter for a long time that I get inspiration from, you know, I was one of the first person to subscribe to Ben Thompson, for example. And, oh, I think it's been, you know, really influential the last 10 years in how to think about product, product strategy, business strategy. So there's a lot of people out there who are brilliant, you know, some are VCs, some are, you know, so make your own curated list of people you feel have a high resonance to, to what you believe in and learn from them. You know, there's, there's so much resources out there, I do have a bunch of bookmarks, I rarely go back to them, I bookmark stuff, and, you know, they're there. I know they're there, but it's like, I kind of don't even remember to go back. So I'm not a really good subject in terms of being super organized, to to have a regular, you know, learning thing, but there are people like, you know, Linnea just mentioned, you know, I think, you know, stumbled on him on Twitter, I think he talks about really smart stuff. I subscribe to his things. And usually it's, you know, it's good for the right. So there's, you know, I don't have any magic wand on that one. I think there's so much out there. But there's also It depends, you know, I think there's a lot of people who have been in the Googles of the world and big companies, and that is a very, very disciplined approach to PM. My work has always been, you know, zero to 100, you know, zero to 10, or 10, to 100, you know, and it's completely different, right? It's like processes and systems have a lot less relative way. They're very important, but they're not as important as many other things right in the quest of product market fit so right, I don't know, depends where you are, what type of company and, sure, at Salesforce you probably should listen from the guy from Google. If you actually know if you had startup with five people probably I would not, you know, read too much what these guys do, because it's never gonna be material to you. Your survival in the next you know, year or two.
Grant Duncan 34:57
Right. Yeah. Yeah, I definitely agree. Stage of company and even their kind of advice is a great point.
Bernard Desarnauts 35:05
I love, you know, in terms of resource, there's a team that is doing amazing work, especially with PLG and Growth, Reforge. Many, if not most of my PMs have gone through the, the courses. Their content is really, really good. I think they're, you know, they're really top. I think, you know, I definitely think, you know, Brian and his team are doing an amazing job there.
Grant Duncan 35:29
Yeah, that's cool that so much your team has gone through it.
Bernard Desarnauts 35:32
Yep. And especially especially we don't, we, that's a rule that I have is we subsidize, we pay half of it, but we don't pay all of it. So our PMs pay, half of the tuition, which is not cheap, is a few $1,000, a couple of $1,000. So they really have put their, their money into the, into this education piece. So it's usually very, seems like it's been really effective for us.
Grant Duncan 35:56
So for someone at your level, I think people sometimes wonder, how do people at your level get hired into their next job? Can you share a little bit about what that's looked like for you? Or for others You know?
Bernard Desarnauts 36:10
Yeah, I think, you know, at the end of the day, you know, the, your network is 80 or 95% of it. So, your network, your history, your, you know, friends of friends that go from job to job, that's when real really quality opportunities materialize, and some are unbelievable. And recruiters after that are basically, you know, exit recruiters search guys are important that they, they tend to work, you know, it's it's, I don't know, I've never been successful with with that never got a job that way, I always got my job from. You know, personal networking or, or just serendipity.
Grant Duncan 36:52
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.
Bernard Desarnauts 36:54
I'm not, you know, there's, there's, I don't think there's a special secret here, I think the what I've realized, as we do a lot of hiring is I have never thought about this until recently, like maybe a few years ago, like how the last, the job you currently have, or whatever you've done the last two years, trumps everything else is like, literally, you know, some of the search we do we have, you know, hundreds of applicants like anybody else, and you literally have only three seconds to make a decision as to, and you basically scan the name, the title, and where they are today. And you're like, yes, no. And it's, it's really fascinating how much, you know, people have very well constructed link teams and resume, but they don't answer those things very clearly. Or they put a lot of things right. It's like you see the resume, who is expert at these, these, these, this and this and that. And you're like, okay, not what I'm looking for. So I, that's my experience, something super radically simple, about, you know, what I am. And what I'm doing currently, and just focus on that.
Grant Duncan 38:05
Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's kind of how your LinkedIn headline is structured right now. Right? Yeah, product led growth, VP of Product at PandaDoc, very clear. What you're great at.
Bernard Desarnauts 38:17
What I, what it's actually, I don't even know if that's what I'm great at, but this is what I want to do now. So I was like, I got to the point where I can at least articulate what I want to do what I'm happy with. Like I said, you know, I don't want to deal with being a CEO, again, I don't want to have a quota. I don't want to, there's a bunch of things I don't want to do. And I love to build product with, you know, a bunch of guys and delivering value to customers. So that's what I want to do.
Grant Duncan 38:44
Yeah. Yeah. Makes sense. Sounds like a good gig that many people listening probably want as well.
Bernard Desarnauts 38:51
Yeah, it's, it's, I think there's nothing wrong with it. To me, it's an amazing job. I mean, like, we are in the creator community. I don't think of us as entrepreneur, but we are in this creator community. And I have zero artistic talent in terms of music or art. So to me is like this is my craft is product, software product, and I love being a creator in that space. I feel that that's an amazing blessing.
Grant Duncan 39:18
Yeah, yeah, I think it's totally a valid form of creation and a creative community.
Bernard Desarnauts 39:24
Grant Duncan 39:25
So so switching up a little bit, how do you explain to your family or to non tech people what you do for a living?
Bernard Desarnauts 39:40
To this day, I've been doing it for 25 to 30 years and I still don't do a good job with it. It's like,
Grant Duncan 39:45
Is this the hardest question I've asked you?
Bernard Desarnauts 39:48
It's I don't think it's the hardest but it's it's it's really one that you know, it's I suck at, I just don't not good at what you do. And it's like, of course my mom asked is what does PandaDoc do and she has like, no clue. And I've tried to explain it. She says, she makes me have to say, okay, I understand but I know she doesn't understand, right. So it's not just, you know, I think, you know, tech is still, you know, this is what if you think that fundamentally right tech is still in the first inning, it's like, it's still this weird thing you know, right? There's all of these memes on Twitter and other place read of what you think you do and what you actually do and all that. It's it's so in my mind, like, when you ask the question is like, I don't know. I mean, what does this product guy do? Come on, it's hard to explain sometimes. Well, I kind of work with designers and marketing people and these, we kind of decide what we want to build. And then we've worked with engineering to kind of get it built. I mean, yeah, I don't know, did you hear good answers to that question?
Grant Duncan 40:51
I think what I've heard before that seemed good is using some sort of analogy. And usually it's related to like the industry or product that they're doing in some way. So I mean, your diplomat analogy, can can maybe work here.
Bernard Desarnauts 41:08
So the one analogy I've used recently with my team, when we were talking about, actually our Q3 OKRs. And I used the analogy of the restaurant. And I was telling them, you know, this is there is the what you serve to the dining room. And then there's what you cook in the kitchen. And obviously, there's not a one to one relationship between the two, there are things you might be cooking, that might never come to the dining room. And, and think so you could think of, you know, product guy a little bit as a cook, because we take a lot of ingredients, and we work with a lot of different products and pieces to create something.
Grant Duncan 41:48
Yeah, yeah, I think that works. Especially if you're like the master chef working over other chefs too.
Bernard Desarnauts 41:54
Yeah, yeah. Could be there. You know, I can, I mean, I'm a foodie. So I can relate to that.
Grant Duncan 42:02
Nice. So if you could solve any one PM problem, I give you a magic wand, what would that be?
Bernard Desarnauts 42:11
I'd love, to me, it's like this, you know, the topic of scaling. And the topic of being able to do more with less is always the one that I is the most, which, most critical riddle how we get higher, much more value for the business, you know? So it's this notion of scaling is like, how do we handle? And it's, it's the trade off between how do you delegate, so that you can scale you have to maintain an organization integrity, so you don't end up with a bunch of silos and a bunch of people doing things in a vacuum of a common story? That's a tricky one. And I wished you know, there was magic wand to help make it you know, easier to get the absolutely right people in each place, which you never get, you always have some people and are not quite in the right place and whatnot. So it's like, but how do you create that magic of everybody understands the long term and everybody's in the right place, so that you can do a ton more than your limited based on, you know, the realities of execution today, that would allow us to say yes to a lot more of the good ideas from customer that would allow us to say yes to a lot of good ideas from our CEO and our sales leaders and marketing leaders and whatnot. And those are, you know, what you strive for. Is how do we create more that has impact on the business? And for which is typically, you know, driving customer usage?
Grant Duncan 43:45
Bernard Desarnauts 43:46
If you had one of those magic wands, I will be happy to take it.
Grant Duncan 43:51
Yeah, I'd love to mail it to you if I had it. Although I might make a duplicate first.
Bernard Desarnauts 43:56
Grant Duncan 43:59
Any advice for first time PM leaders,
Bernard Desarnauts 44:03
it's tough. The transition from a PM, IC to a PM leader is tough. It takes time, and it doesn't happen overnight. And you have to be humble, you have to stumble, and but you have to keep faith in yourself. And so keeping faith in yourself is truly having a north star around customer value, I think this this is really. But it's not easy at first, right? There's gonna be you don't know, right? You're going to be micromanaging the PMs on your team, you're going to make all of the mistakes we've all made. And so it takes a bit of time. It's just you know, be a little bit patient and be gentle with yourself. I think it's it's like, sometime you know, PMs tend to have you know, type A personality, at least in my around me a lot of PMs that become leaders tend to have type A personality. They're, they're impatient, they're, they want big success fast. And maybe sometime you know, in some of this transition phase from one, because being a pm is not easy when you come from doing something else before nothing, I've had, I think that the transition from a contributor to a true PM leader is, is, is challenging. Because you feel like you're losing control of things. And it's like, okay, what am I supposed to do all day long? It's not easy.
Grant Duncan 45:24
Yeah. Yeah, that's a great point.
Bernard Desarnauts 45:26
No, I said, Just be patient and be gentle on yourself.
Grant Duncan 45:30
Yeah, that's great advice.
Bernard Desarnauts 45:32
So well, thank, thank you, Grant. I don't know if you know, I had good answers to all of your good questions, but it was fun to go through them anyway.
Grant Duncan 45:43
Yeah, no you had great answers. I think listeners are gonna really enjoy this. So thanks so much for coming on today. Bernard.
Bernard Desarnauts 45:50
Sounds good. Take care. And thank you for having me. Bye, bye.
Grant Duncan 45:53
Yeah, you as well. Bye. Thanks for listening to today's podcast, and thanks to our sponsor, Voximplant as well. If you're looking into how to improve your communication and customer engagement, check them out. Lastly, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review and tell your friends, so that others can find it more easily. Have a great day. And feel free to reach out to me, Grant Duncan, if you have any questions you want asked in our next episode.