Pot In NY: Every Product Manager’s Dream

by drjim on August 31, 2015

Pot is coming to New York, what should product managers do?

Pot is coming to New York, what should product managers do?
Image Credit: Dominic Simpson

Can we talk about big, untapped markets for just a minute? In the United States, the very large state of New York recently voted to legalize the use of cannabis to treat a variety of medical conditions. There are all sorts of rules and restrictions involved; however, this is a very big step forward in the legalization of pot in NY. What should product managers be doing?

The Challenges Of Selling Pot In NY

You might think that because the legislators of NY have decided to allow the use of pot to treat medical conditions that everyone is going to start walking around in NY stoned out of their mind. It turns out that the politicians were concerned about this happening also. That’s why even though they have passed a law that will allow marijuana to be sold, there are a number of significant restrictions on how this is all going to happen.

Perhaps the first item to be dealt with is to fully understand just exactly who is going to be permitted to buy marijuana in NY. It’s only going to be sick people. Specifically people who are suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS. They will need a prescription from their doctor before they’ll be permitted to purchase any pot. People who want to buy pot are going to have to have state identification cards that will show that they have permission from their doctor.

Then we get to the tricky question of just exactly where everyone is going to by buying their pot. The law states that there can be up to 20 dispensaries within the state. The state will only be handing out five licenses to companies who will be permitted to sell pot in NY. As you can well imagine, there is going to be some serious completion for those licenses.

What Product Managers Need To Be Doing

As a product manager, I just love untapped markets because it gives me an opportunity to create a brand new product development definition. The possibility for success is so high that this can be a very fun job. Yes, there is also a great deal of risk when it comes to pot in NY – the lawmakers could change their mind, your company might not get one of the five licenses, etc. However, there is also the possibility of incredible success. Did you know that 20 million people live the state of New York. What an untapped market! If you could make it here, you’d really have something to put on your product manager resume.

As a product manager who was working for one of the firms that wanted to get one of the five available licenses, right now my time would be focused on working to make my company appear to be the best candidate for a license. This would mean that I would have to be very carefully studying the current laws. Once the New York State Health Department writes the guidelines for the medical marijuana program this is quickly going to become your bible: it will tell you what you can and cannot do.

As a potential NY pot product manager, you are also going to have to be looking to the future. If you are able to secure a license, you won’t be able to compete with the other four license holders based on price. The price of pot in NY will be set by New York’s Health Commissioner. That means in order to make your product more successful, you’re going to have to focus on delivery. Well lit dispensaries, call ahead service, home delivery, and easy payment are all going to have to be cornerstones of your product offering. Yes, customers are going to want your product, but they are going to have alternatives. Get out there and sell some pot product manager!

What All Of This Means For You

Over 20 million people live in the state of New York. The politicians have recently decided to legalize the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes. What this means is that there is going to be a great deal of competition for the five licenses that will be becoming available soon.

Product managers are going to play an important role in the firms that are competing to win the five licenses that will become available. Initially it is going to be the product manager’s responsibility to understand how best to position his or her company so that they are able to win one of the five licenses. Once this has been accomplished, the product manager’s responsibilities will shift to making sure that his company is more successful that the four other firms that won licenses. This is really a basic part of any product manager job description.

New York’s landmark decision to make marijuana available for medical purposes has created a brand new legal market overnight. The success of the firms that decide to participate in this market will be determined by the actions of their product managers. Ultimately the long term success of the firms that win the five licenses will also be determined by their product managers. What a great challenge this is going to be for those product managers! Hopefully they won’t let this opportunity go up in smoke…!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What will be the best way to position a company to win one of the four available licenses?

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P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s my story: at this point in my career I’ve worked for 8 separate companies. Four of them were enormous multinational firms and four of them were startups. Three of the startups that I worked for went out of business and I’m now working at my fourth startup (keep your fingers crossed). If anyone out there is in a position to talk about what a product manager needs to be doing at a startup, I guess that it’s me.

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Product managers had to find a way to save their paper company

Product managers had to find a way to save their paper company

Image Credit

Welcome to the 21st Century. There are a lot of products that, despite having had a good product development definition at one time, have gone away in this modern age: the horse whip, typewriters, and, in some cases, paper. The arrival of computers and smart phones would seem to have made a lot of the things that we used to use paper for no longer matter. That’s the problem that a paper company’s product managers were facing: nobody wanted to buy their product any more!

Why Did The Market For Paper Go Away?

Most of us product managers assume that the market for our product will never go away. Sure, there may be ups and downs, but we don’t think that the whole market will just up and leave. However, in the paper industry that very thing sure seemed to happen overnight.

In the U.S., companies were released from having to print and distribute corporate annual reports. When this happened, companies like Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. who had built their business on supplying the paper that these reports were printed on saw their business go away virtually overnight. Clearly this is not something that the product managers were going to be able to put on their product manager resume.

Combine this loss of business with the loss of paper that was being used for record keeping and other activities and the Mohawk product managers had a real problem on their hands. Clearly they were not going to be able to change the way the world was moving, what now?

What Did The Paper Product Managers Do?

The Mohawk product managers did something very interesting. They identified a new market that they could move the company into. They realized that the market that the company had been serving was going away for good and they needed to find new markets if the company was going to survive.

While attending paper industry trade shows and talking with other people in the industry, the Mohawk product managers discovered that one part of their industry was starting to pick up steam: fine paper.

Driven by people new need to have digital photos printed on high quality paper by firms like Shutterfly, Mohawk invested in the machines and the paper that it takes to create high-end paper products. Thank you notes, resumes, and wedding invitations are other written communications that use these types of paper. Today the Mohawk firm is both still in business and they are doing just fine. The product managers were able to save the company by realizing that their market had gone away and by listening to their customers in order to discover where the new markets were being created.

What All Of This Means For You

The one thing that a product manager never wants to have happen to them is for their product’s market to just simply up and go away. However, in the world of paper products, that’s what happened. Almost overnight customers stopped buying what they had always bought. What was a product manager to do? This had never been a part of their product manager job description.

As computers and networking quickly transformed how businesses operated in the 21st Century, the amount and types of paper that were being used seemed to change overnight. Mohawk Fine Papers saw the market for their product slip away from them. Their product managers realized that there was still a market for paper, just not the types of papers that they had been producing. They switched the company to higher quality paper that is used for invitations and keepsakes and the company was saved.

As product managers it is our responsibility to make sure that we keep our eyes open and watch what is happening with our markets. When we start to see a major change, it is the responsibility of the product manager to observe where the market is heading and to make the appropriate adjustments to the company’s product mix.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: When you detect that the market for your product is going away, should you raise your product’s prices?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Can we talk about big, untapped markets for just a minute? In the United States, the very large state of New York recently voted to legalize the use of cannabis to treat a variety of medical conditions. There are all sorts of rules and restrictions involved; however, this is a very big step forward in the legalization of pot in NY. What should product managers be doing?

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