This week on Product Love, I sat down with Mike McDerment, co-founder and executive of Freshbooks. Freshbook is an invoice and accounting software. Before Mike founded Freshbooks, he worked at his own design firm. Mike and I talked about a lot of fun things, like what to look for in your CPO hire, or how he built a secret competitor.

Your CPO Hire – Revolution or Evolution?

When it comes to hiring product leaders, Mike asks founders: “Are you looking for a revolution or an evolution?” Does your team need someone who has a strong vision, and accomplishes that? Or do your team need an executor who can commit to an existing vision? Ideally, you want someone who could flex both.

We all know that great product leaders are very familiar with their customers. In fact, they should probably be the customer’s champion. Your next CPO hire has to be someone who is willing to spend time with the customer and speak to their problem as if it’s their own.

Secret Competitor

Mike and his co-founder had initially built the first version of Freshbooks in 2003, so it was due time that they had to rebuild it. There was a need to modernize the software, and a desire to hold themselves up to their own standards, so they recreated a new offering. The only thing was, they did this under a standalone company so no one knew it was them.

Mike created a secret competitor that had its’ own documents, domain, logo, everything. It served as a place where they could experiment and run risks without having to sacrifice their core brand at Freshbooks. They ran it as a testing playground until they had enough empirical data to prove that this was the superior offering.

If you want to learn more about how they built their secret competitor or the 7 ways Mike almost killed Freshbooks, check out the episode above.

About the Author

Eric Boduch is the chief evangelist for Pendo. Previously, he served as the CEO of Brainstorm SMS Technologies LLC (dba SMaSh, Inc.) and was the co-founder and CEO of several other companies. Eric holds a Bachelor of Science from The School of Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Electrical and Computer Engineering and is a graduate of its Executive Management Program.