5 Tips For Product Managers From The Former Bergdorf Goodman CEO

How to be a better product manager from a retail success story
How to be a better product manager from a retail success story

As product managers we are always looking for someone to tell us how we could be doing our jobs better so that we can look even better on our product manager resume. The problem is that it’s all too often hard to find someone who can give us good advice. Is it our boss? Our competition? Somebody that we bump into at a trade show? Or could it be the 90-year old former CEO of the successful Bergdorf Goodman retail chain of stores?

Who is Ira Neimark?

Before you take advice from anyone, you should first make sure that you know who you’re talking with. In the case of Ira Neimark, you may not have heard of him, but you should have.

Ira started life out at a high-school drop-out. You might think that that would be the end of his story. However, it’s not. Instead, through hard work and just a bit of luck, he rose to become the CEO of the retailer Bergdorf Goodman.

Not only was he a CEO, but he was also a good CEO. It was under his guidance that Bergdorf Goodman transformed itself from a stuffy old department store into what it is today: a young and exciting place to shop. Clearly Ira knows a lot about product development definition

Ira is 90 years old. He knows a lot about what it takes to make a product a success. Clearly, when he speaks we all need to listen.

Ira’s 5 Tips For Product Managers

So what tips does Ira have for us product managers. The good news is that based on all of his years of experience, reporter Alexis Swerdloff has been able to take Ira’s insights and boil them down into 5 things that we all need to start doing. In the future, these should be a mandatory part of every product manager job description. Here they are:


  • First Impressions Count: How’s that career progressing product manager? Both within your company and with your product’s customers, the first impression that you make is key to your long-term career success. The key here is that you never know when you’re going to bump into a customer or your senior management. That means that you always have to be ready and make sure that you get everyone’s name correct when you greet them!



  • Every Customer Is Looking For Things To Make Their Lives Better: It really doesn’t matter how young or old your customers are, and it doesn’t matter if we’re in boom times or bust. Ira points out that everyone wants to add some excitement to their lives and at the same time make things better for them. Undoubtedly your product does this; however, are you doing a good job of telling your customer how this can happen for them if they buy your product?



  • The Clothes Make The Product Manager: Yep, sorry about this one but it’s true. As much as we’d all like to be judged by the quality of our product management skills, the truth of the matter is that all too often others judge us by how we look. The good news here is that you control this – take the time to always look sharp and you’ll be ready for that next surprise meeting.



  • Visit Everyone: Ira makes the point here that unlike some product managers, you really do need to visit everyone. This includes your competitors, their suppliers, etc. You never know what you’ll learn from these visits, but it’s always going to be useful info.



  • Know Your Customers: We have all heard this one; however, Ira adds a wrinkle to it. He believes that we need to know all that we can know about both our current and our potential customers. That’s a lot of homework, but it can really pay off in the end.


What All Of This Means For You

Ira is a success no matter how you choose to look at his life. He worked in a market that may or may not be closely related to your product. It really doesn’t matter.

His 5 tips should resonate with every product manager. Ira used these tips to make his product, a collection of retail stores, a success in his marketplace. As product managers we can learn a great deal from Ira and use his tips to make our products be even more successful than they are today.

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

Question For You: Do you agree that how a product manager looks is important to your eventual career success?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So what does a product manager need to do in order to make his / her product more profitable? As I suspect every product manager learned during the last global recession, cutting costs associated with your product is one important step. That’s a nice skill to have on your product manager resume, but it’s not enough. Once that’s done, what comes next? How about raising your product’s price? Great idea, but how does a product manager go about doing that?