Last Update: November 12, 2016
Unfortunately, most startups have limited experience with the nuances of project management. Fortunately, the more you know the less potential you have for slipping into mistakes that could cost you thousands of dollars in lost time, energy and resources.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from project management professionals whose industry expertise has helped to grow unknown startups into the largest companies in the world.
So if you’re just starting up or looking for ways to refresh a small business that has plateaued, here are a few project management tips to keep in mind.
1. Plan ahead
An hour worth of planning is worth ten hours of doing.
If you strategically and methodically plan what you are going to accomplish, then the back-end of your project will run so much more smoothly. You will also find that planning ahead saves time — more than you may think. The business reality is — saving time, especially during early-stage startup days, is a competitive advantage.
Planning ahead also helps you to stay on task and focus on the things that matter most.
2. Start early
The sooner you begin, the more quickly you will progress.
Procrastination is a large obstacle to entrepreneurial success. I have heard countless, well-meaning, would-be entrepreneurs say they would love to start their own business, but a lack of motivation or fear hampers their ability to begin.
Instead of starting small and working their way to the phase or project, they fail to do anything at all. In short, they opt for a “safe” 9 to 5 job, clock-in and clock out at the end of the day. If you are truly passionate about being your own boss, you will start right away on the idea you feel could gain the most traction in a timely manner.
3. Be approachable
Too often entrepreneurs have egos they themselves have difficulty fitting into.
It can cause alienation between a leader and their team or co-founders. Being unapproachable in business is a liability for a few reasons. First, it undermines communication which is absolutely essential for any team to succeed, let alone a fledgling startup. Second, it can inadvertently cause friction between team members. Unity is essential for smooth processes and quality outcomes. Finally, approachability means good ideas will be more rapidly shared and implemented. While that may not mean automatic success, it does help to spur iteration more rapidly.
4. Oust trouble makers
Problematic members of any team can squash the success of a project in no time flat — especially in the startup world.
Early-stage startups generally have a couple of members. If one person on your team doesn’t pull their, weight, ensues irreconcilable problems with other team members or prove difficult to work with, it’s best to get rid of them quickly rather than drag out the process.
Compare it to a band-aid. If you tear it off slowly, it hurts more and causes more damage. Rip it off and move on. You can’t afford to have people on your team that will undermine your success. Things can unravel quickly. Take care of business and move on.
5. Stay focused
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs tend to see everything as an opportunity and they thus can have a difficult time working on a single project that may get legs and eventually take off. For those who have this problem, project management software can help to keep you focus on the most important steps within the process.
It’s important to remember that your goal is the ultimate end and that other ancillary ideas should be shelved until it comes time to exit or shift to the next iteration of your project. Focus can be difficult, but to succeed it is absolutely essential.
6. Take ownership of the reigns
New entrepreneurs often have a hard time grasping this concept: the buck stops with you. If you are the CEO, you are the one on the guillotine so to speak, especially if you have investors who are tired of seeing you wast important time and resources they have put into your company.
You are responsible for both the success and failure of your small business. This means that having an attitude of ownership is essential to maintaining a mature perspective if something goes wrong.
7. Get quality advisers
For most entrepreneurs, the toughest challenge to overcome is a lack of experience. This often surfaces in the work produced and how optimally you operate your small business. Finding and harnessing the power of excellent mentors can be very helpful as you get your business off the ground and take it to the next level.
The business advisers you get can help to take your business from something very small into a completely scaled model with massive cash flow.
8. Take consistent daily steps
Success is more of a habit than an event. Any project you begin will require daily commitment. If you fail to extend the boundaries of your project regularly, it will stagnate. When referring to daily steps, it simply means that your plan should have daily components to execute so you don’t leave things behind or fail to include something. Ultimately, big projects become very small if you are consistent in the work.
9. Be reserved
Many entrepreneurs are not realistic enough in the assumptions they make about what will happen to their businesses and how rapidly their companies will grow. The reality of the situation is that companies like Facebook are an anomaly, at best.
It’s important to be optimistic and enthusiastic about your business, but take a reserved approach towards growth estimates. Managing expectations will help you to realize growth in a more natural and healthy way. It’ll also help your sanity when things don’t explode like you thought they would.
10. Pivot quickly
Keep your projects and business on track, but when things don’t go according to plan and time indicates that your idea may not be as good as you originally thought, it may be time to cut your losses, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to quit.
Many small startups that eventually make it, look nothing like the original intentions five to ten years later. Truly brilliant entrepreneurs pivot off of their ideas and expand into new, evolving territory.
Ivan Hale is the marketing manager for ProjectManage.com. He is passionate about project management as well as entrepreneurship. He loves to ski, hike and spend time watching football with his dog.