Episode 12

Becoming a product company with Jason Knight

Jason Knight takes the Problem Busters through the ins and outs of Product. What is Product as a function and why is it so important? What do businesses stand to gain from becoming "Product companies" and why does doing it your way matter so much?

This episode answers the "what is Product anyway?" question and will leave you with a solid understanding of the product-driven mindset that permeates modern companies and has resulted in the products you love, and the apps you use every day.

Jason is a straight-talking Product leader who hosts the One Knight in Product podcast, and we talk about how to start a podcast, what is involved in podcasting and why we all love it so much.

About the show:

Problem Busters is a show that explores solutions to the biggest and the smallest of problems. Hosts Jonathan Goodwin and Oliver Happy discuss making the world a better place with guests from far and wide.

About our guest:

Jason Knight is a Product Leader, Podcaster and speaker. He is Product Director at RegTech startup DueDil, and is host of the popular One Knight in Product podcast. Jason lives with his family near London.

Show mentions:

  • Starting out with 19 years in big corporate, from research, to analytics, to product management and now product leadership
  • Transitioning to a Fintech startup
  • 02:15 Doubling down on the growth journey and ensuring you don't go stale by keeping learning and getting to understand things you didn't understand before.
  • Podcasting as an interesting ride - and a way to talk to interesting people. A way to talk to up and coming product leaders
  • Podcast: One Knight in Product
  • 03:00 Anyone could start a podcast. Anyone can! As with most things, just go for it, try it and get started.
  • Apply the Lean startup terms to learning podcasting - test and learn. Just get started with a cheap mic, plugged into your laptop. You will meet some really interesting people.
  • Book: Lean Startup
  • There are now well over a million podcasts out there in the world.
  • 07:45 It being easy to set up a podcast means that many people have. That also means there are many - and it's hard to get attention of people who you want to have tune in. It can be an emotional rollercoaster
  • YouTube as the second largest search engine on the planet and a great place to get into podcast promotion and discovery
  • 09:00 One Knight in Product as a podcast focused on Product Management themes
  • Inclusion and Diversity as important topics in our world today
  • Themes in Product, things people are struggling with and focusing on.
  • 10:00 Aspirations of becoming a Product company don't always match with reality of a business. Need to find your own way.
  • 11:30 Top down, setting of culture is vital for becoming a product company. Having the correct mindset and alignment is absolutely critical.
  • Enabling the culture and the cross-functionality and the teams that are needed to have discussions and make difficult prioritisation decisions.
  • 12:30 What is a product? Something that solves and important problem in a scalable way, for as many people as possible, in a profitable way.
  • 16:40 What is a product company vs. what is a professional service company?
  • A product is something you can buy in a standard way, a professional service is a service that is customised for you.
  • As a product person, you will be asked to do a lot of things and many times you will have to say no
  • You cannot rely on your customers to identify the biggest most important problems in your market - because they only care about their own problems.
  • 19:30 The difference between a large corporate and a plucky startup in culture and being product-led.
  • Starting with a simple piece of technology and backfilling with human effort is a valid first step, a valid business model. But you must then step beyond this in order to become efficient and therefore scale in a sustainable way.
  • Scaling in people is slower than scaling in process and technology.
  • Becoming a product business is not the only way, it's just different.
  • Growth is fueled by getting the right people in, people who can multiple their own effort by building the tools you need to scale rapidly.
  • It's not always worth automating things, and that's fine. But generally, things can be improved and focusing on this will lead to things working better and faster across the board.
  • 26:30 Tools now allowing not only simple, but also complex tasks can be automated.
  • 28:00 Making an amazing product is always the north star, but there are plenty of successful products out there that aren't amazing - but they solve a need.
  • You don't have to be the best technical product, but you have to be the best general product
  • Find something that you can own and own it in the market.
  • 30:30 Common pitfalls to avoid in Product.
  • There needs to be alignment across the company. Avoid disconnects. When you start to see disconnects between teams in a company, they need to be reconnected. The alternative is to be pulling in different directions.
  • It's easy for Product people to refer to Sales and other divisions as "the business". This needs to be bridged. We are all part of the same company and need to be on the same page.
  • Trying to get product thinking into all elements of the business is really important.
  • 24:00 How to get product alignment across the business. Product people have to demonstrate leadership here. Run experiments to prove/disprove a point and demonstrate it to anyone who is misaligned.
  • You need to have leadership level alignment at the very least.
  • Book: Inspired by Marty Cagan
  • People don't have to get along all the time, or even agree all the time - they need to be aligned on the direction, on making important decisions and following them through.
  • It's very easy to please the current customers because they are want are in front of them. But it's important to treat your portfolio as a portfolio and put money aside for key tasks.
  • Salesforce.com as an example of a Product business that also has a successful professional services business alongside it.
  • 41:00 One thing Product people need to realise is that we work for real companies. With real politics and ideas. It's not just for people to bend to our will. This is a discussion.
  • We are talking about people working together better.
  • You want people to recognise each others' needs, and be as aligned as possible,
  • I don't think I have many heros, I'm not into idolising people but I respect many.
  • Steve Jobs, Elon Musk.
  • I respect a lot of Product people, Marty Cagan, Gibson Biddle, Jacky Bavaro.
  • Greta Thunberg
  • Anyone who isn't Boris Johnson
  • Movie - the climb
  • Book - just work by kim scott (defeating bias, prejudice and bullying in the workplace)
  • Book - Empowered by Marty Cagan
  • I have ultimate respect for Greta Thunberg for the efforts she is going through to raise awareness of the climate emergency
  • BLM Black Lives Matter and the Me too movement. These conversations need to be had.
  • Episode: Educate for Climate with Hakim Evans
  • Better is better, so while these movements take time, I like to think that at least the fact these conversations are being had, and people are being held to account, that things will get better over time.
  • Tech that is improving my life right now: Laptop, a fancy microphone for the podcast.
  • Tools for podcasting: Squadcast, Zencastr, editing tools.
  • Canva for online design and creating pictures, free
  • What one thing would I like to change in the world? Racism, sexism, homophobia would be wonderful to turn off.
  • If we could somehow make the default reaction when confronted with a new idea, to be open to that idea (rather than putting up barriers). So many problems in the world come from not listening to and accepting other people's ideas.
  • System 1 thinking (what you do automatically) vs. System 2 thinking (what you do consciously).
  • The idea of things getting better by each generation.
  • Not everything new is bad or scary
  • We need people to have the ability to understand other people's point of view.
  • Jason's podcast: www.oneknightinproduct.com
  • Twitter: jsnknght.

Logo and concept by Christy O'Connor

About the Podcast

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Problem Busters
Highlighting people with ideas

About your hosts

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Oliver Happy


Oliver works in tech and builds things that help improve people’s lives. He hosts indie podcasts Old Fox Young Fox, Problem Busters and Gone Workabout. Oliver is a Kiwi, travels a lot, eats a lot and loves sharing good ideas. He is determined to leave the world in a better state than he found it.
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Jon Goodwin

Jon Goodwin works in financial tech implementing clever solutions that help simplify business processes every day. His passions include science, engineering and dreaming up solutions to common problems. In his spare time he is a multimedia producer & friendly co-host of two podcasts the Bouyon Boys and Problem Busters.