What Jack Dorsey’s Square can teach us about good product management

Square, the financial services business founded by Jack Dorsey one of the Twitter co-founders has just released a pretty cool new appointment and scheduling product. Founded 5 years ago with a elegant mobile credit card reader and app for micro and small businesses, Square now offers an impressive range of products that streamline back-office operations for small to medium businesses in a very slick way. What they are doing is fantastic product management and a quick review of their approach offers some some great learnings for product managers.

The Square product range includes a set of products that solve complex problems for micro and small businesses in very simple ways.

  • Need an easy way to collect payments with low fees? Use Square register or reader.
  • Want to send invoices and collect payments? Use Square Invoices.
  • Want an analytics and reporting solution that makes it easy to understand what’s happening in your business and works with Xero or QuickBooks? Use Square Analytics.
  • Need to easily collect customer feedback via your receipts? Use Square Feedback.
  • Need to raise capital to buy some new equipment and easily pay it back using your daily takings? Use Square Capital.
  • Need to manage appointments effectively, automatically send reminders, and manage staff? Now there’s Square Appointments.

In just a few years Square have developed a set of products which addresses most of the issues small businesses experience – billing, payments, feedback, scheduling, and reporting. It isn’t sexy, but Square have developed an integrated set of solutions that address big issues for their customers in simple and easy ways.

Takeaway: Product Managers should focus on what drives their customers crazy and how they can simplify their lives, not what’s fashionable.

Square have a very narrow market focus and are very clear about who they are solving the above mentioned problems for. A new business, even one with Square’s funding, will struggle to grow with a broad undirected market focus. Square are clear about their customers and focus on small business – retail, cafe’s, services like hairdressing and gardening, and food-trucks (well it is based in San Francisco).

Takeaway: As owners of the product strategy, Product Managers need to listen intently to the market and laser focus on where the opportunity is.

One problem with offering Appointment booking software to small business is that 40% of small businesses don’t have websites. This makes it pretty hard to offer online bookings and potentially drives customers to competitors like GoDaddy and Web.com. To mitigate this, Square offer a free booking site with pretty much everything included. Square are unique in offering this feature.

Takeaway: Good Product Management is about finding innovative ways to solve problems that may have once appeared insurmountable and that others don’t.

One of the reasons Square has needed to broaden their product range is that their initial projections were optimistic. In 2013 Square recorded a loss of $100 million (USD), larger than the 2012 loss, and low margins of 21% on $20 billion of processed transactions. After paying the payment networks like Mastercard and Visa, intermediaries, and accounting for fraud, Square discovered that their original business case was optimistic. The new products Square have launched are subscription products and high-margin. They will assist make up the margin-shortfall, grow average revenue per customer, and increase retention.

Takeway: Good Product Managers watch the metrics and know when to admit they’re wrong and revisit their strategy.

Jack Dorsey is well known for wanting to remove any friction from complex processes, making them simpler, easier to comprehend, and ultimately, more human. This should be the aim of every great product manager.

Photo Credit