6 min read

Empowering Product Managers - Clement Kao

I want product companies to have access to resources that they can use any day of the week, any time of the day so that their product teams are always ready to tackle any situation.
Empowering Product Managers - Clement Kao

Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in career development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Clement Kao, founder of Product Teacher, located in Irvine, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Product Teacher is a product management education company. We serve three core customer segments: aspiring PMs, experienced PMs, and PM leaders.

For aspiring product managers, including college students and working professionals, we provide on-demand video courses. Our investment thesis is to provide aspiring PMs with easily-accessible, low-cost, high-impact resources to help them break into product management.

For experienced product managers (1 to 5+ years of product management work), we provide career coaching and upskilling resources. Our investment thesis is to empower experienced PMs with in-depth evergreen resources that they can use for the rest of their product careers.

For PM leaders (directors of product, VP of product, chief product officers, etc.), we provide group workshops for their teams. Our investment thesis is to provide targeted training to address skills/market mismatches in a way that doesn’t require product leaders to sacrifice their own valuable bandwidth.

We’ve served product managers and product leaders from leading tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Airbnb, Zoom, Adobe, and more.

Tell us about yourself

I started working on Product Teacher to make it easier for everyone to succeed in product management. Why? Back when I was an entry-level product manager, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I felt like I was lost in the dark. I spent weekends and late nights doing everything I could to get better, and it took way too much time and energy.

But this hard work eventually paid off. I was promoted from Associate PM to Group PM in just 18 months. My compensation exploded from $120k to $400k+ per year. Yet, as I climbed the PM career ladder, I found others had the same problem that I had at the start of my PM career: too many unanswered questions & not enough high-quality, evergreen, accessible resources.

That’s why Product Teacher publishes in-depth essays on product management. We’ve won awards from leading brands like Amplitude, Mixpanel, Gainsight, Reforge, OnDeck, and more. But we know that essays take time to digest, which is why we also offer on-demand video courses that work on our students’ schedules. Our video courses cover product management from the cradle to the grave, including resumes, interview prep, skill training, and more. These courses have helped people secure PM jobs and get promoted at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon.

What motivates me is the positive impact that I get to make in the world through Product Teacher. The world desperately needs empathetic, skilled, and passionate product managers. Product Teacher enables me to help thousands of people become those amazing PMs that the world needs.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

One of our most satisfying moments has been seeing our on-demand video classes grow and seeing the positive impact that it’s made on product managers all over the world. We’ve had the opportunity to grow monthly revenue to $10,000+ USD by focusing on helping people succeed with high-quality PM knowledge & resources.

When I first started teaching product management to others, other founders in my network told me to focus on high-ticket items because they thought there was no way for us to stay profitable otherwise. But personally, I can’t bear the thought of charging someone $6,000 for a class when I could provide the same quality at a fraction of the price. Thankfully, having compassion for our students has paid off.

Some of our most popular courses cost less than $30 bucks per person (cheaper than lunch for two people in San Francisco), and those courses have helped people earn 30%-70% more in their day jobs. Once they start earning more, they’re eager to invest further in their own professional development, and they purchase additional courses from us at an affordable price because they know that it’s worth the value.

We’ve been profitable every month so far, with no signs of stopping. And it’s been humbling to receive heartfelt testimonials from students who have successfully secured PM job offers. To be honest, scalable offerings are terrifying because you’re investing all of this time upfront, and you have no idea whether it’ll pay off. You spend hours designing the course materials, you spend hours recording, you spend hours editing, you spend hours copywriting, and you’re just not sure if it’s going to land with the audience until you actually launch. But, our slow and steady approach to creating high-quality product management resources has helped us to empower others to succeed, and in turn, our customers absolutely want to see us succeed too. I’ve always said this: “to capture value for yourself, you must first create value for others.” Nowhere is this more true than in entrepreneurship!

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

My biggest challenge has been to find ways to scale our approach to teaching others about product management. For example, with one-on-one coaching, it’s always so awesome to help individuals succeed. I absolutely love seeing the smiles on their faces when they realize a new approach that will help them overcome a difficult challenge on the job. But I always wonder how we can help even more people succeed. The problem with the one-on-one approach is that others might not have the time or the money to schedule an appointment with a coach. Or maybe they’re in a totally different time zone, and the availability just won’t work out. For example, a significant portion of Product Teacher’s readership is in Africa and Europe, but since we’re based on Pacific time, it can be challenging to meet live.

Every time someone books a live coaching session with me, I view it as a failure. I see it that way because it’s an instance where I failed to provide them with scalable resources that are valuable and easily accessible, where they’re not bottlenecked by my own availability. Similarly, we’ve run a handful of high-impact training sessions for companies, including software startups and consulting firms. I push myself to think about how to provide them with highly scalable resources where they don’t need to book time with me to design the curricula or block their product team’s calendar for multiple days for training. I want product companies to have access to resources that they can use any day of the week, any time of the day so that their product teams are always ready to tackle any situation.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Invest the time to deeply understand your customer’s pain. Remember, you can’t capture revenue as a business if your customers don’t find your offerings valuable. So, make sure you fully grasp which kinds of customers you want to serve and identify what kinds of challenges they face.
  2. Dive deep, then abstract. What I mean is that you should first focus on making one customer succeed beyond their wildest dreams and create unique value for them that they simply could not get from anyone else. From there, look for ways to scale your approach to more and more customers. By first going deep, you’ll have solid testimonials and case studies to work off of. And by going broad later, you ensure that your business can sustain itself in the long run.
  3. Don’t rely on motivation or inspiration. Manage your time and your energy with systems instead. For example, I’ve published 60+ in-depth essays on product management, and I’ve done so by adhering to a clear schedule for coming up with ideas, researching topics, drafting, and polishing. If you know that you’re more productive with deep work in the mornings, then block your calendar during those times for deep work and move your meetings to the afternoon. On the flip side, if you prefer focusing late at night, then move your meetings to the morning so that you can dig into work at night.

Where can people find you and your business?

Website: https://www.productteacher.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/productteacher
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/productteacher/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/productteacher
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/product-teacher/


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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