Neil MacLeod spent two decades helping companies solve some of their most entrenched product problems before he hung out his own shingle. Now, he’s helping clients solve their way to success under his own banner Hold Fast Product.
“The Midwest is very familiar with agile coaching and implementation of process,” he said. “What I do is the upfront work, the discovery work identifying what the most effective solution to the focus problem might be.
“The other thing that I do is the go-to-market preparation, execution and launch. A lot of people have gotten good at execution, but not very many people are good at strategy and launch and measurement. Knowing your positioning, knowing the key value proposition and knowing how to measure success are all things people seem to skip. That’s my focus.”
Brave New World
Digital product consulting may be defined as comprehensive services that seek to help clients bring value to the business and its customers. MacLeod’s potential market is broad, as the strategies and principles he applies are relevant in almost any field for companies of almost any size.
“It doesn’t really matter what you do from an industry-specific standpoint, I can help you figure out what problem to solve,” he said. “I happen to have a background in logistics and digital marketing and that tends to steer me in a certain direction. But it doesn’t mean that I would at all be afraid of tackling manufacturing or banking or any other industry where I didn’t have previous application.
“What I’m going to give clients is a process and a framework to efficiently determine which bets to place and how to actually figure out which problem to solve very rapidly using prototyping and proven concepts that are done in a week as opposed to a quarter or a year in some cases.”
An Omaha native, MacLeod graduated from Burke High School in 1989 and from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in ’94. After graduation, he moved around for nearly a decade, ultimately running a small temporary housing company in Denver. Family matters brought him back to Nebraska where he signed on with what was then called InfoUSA, now Data Axle USA, where he remained for 17 years.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to build my career in product there,” he said. “I also coupled that kind of progressive curve with some pretty cool introductions via education. I was given the chance to go to Harvard University for a week for executive education with Clay Christensen who wrote “The Innovator’s Solution” and “The Innovator’s Dilemma” which are a couple of the seminal books on product.”
Path to Entrepreneurship
One of MacLeod’s foundational clients was Werner Enterprises, a relationship that inspired him to launch his current venture after he left InfoUSA.
“I basically did an entire digital transformation with [Werner] over the course of about three and a half years,” he said. “That’s when I decided I’d love to apply that knowledge and help other organizations, especially the ones that aren’t as familiar with what ‘product led’ means.”
MacLeod said another thing he’s addressed since Hold Fast began last September is how to help equip established companies to counter encroaching competition from startups.
“The startup community is typically digital savvy,” he said. “What the startup community is doing is going in and trying to disrupt and carve out market share by applying the latest, greatest technologies and taking some of those traditionally mid- to large-sized businesses’ market share away.
“I’m finding that organizations have figured out that they needed to invest in technology probably in the ‘90s and now they’re finding that they have not kept up. They have not applied the best and most recent technologies to solve the problems that are there today. What I’m trying to do is help those businesses stave off that competition, stay innovative and actually prepare for the next generation of success more effectively than they did before.”
MacLeod is equally flexible when it comes to defining his work style and preferences. He said while he uses and appreciates Zoom and Google Teams, at the same time he favors in-person meetings where he is able to connect with clients personally. He said this is particularly effective when dealing with clients who are new to his methodology.
“I’m an in-person kind of guy,” he said. “The reality of the situation is I think you can build personal relationships a lot more effectively face to face. So my preference is to do onsite, in-person meetings at least once a month. At these meetings, I get the opportunity to work with functional teams, get my hands dirty, and show them how I’ve done things in the past that have worked effectively. I love to help mid- to large-sized businesses understand how they can improve and how they can do things better.”