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Project Management for Start-ups

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Written by Andy Trainer– Thu 22 Aug 2013

When many people think of project management, they picture large corporations, boardrooms and large-scale, multi-employee undertakings.

While it’s true that big companies already reap the rewards that project management strategies provide, many SMBs and start-ups are beginning to realise the benefits of improving output using project management.

A project management team does not have to include twenty team members; it can be just as valuable with just one.

For complete beginners, it's worthwhile attending an Introduction to project management workshop, but if you already know the basics then learning an established framework to use by becoming a PRINCE2 Practitioner or Agile project management Practitioner is the next logical step.

Start-up-project-management

For start-ups, good project management skills can mean the difference between surviving and dissolving and although some methods do  not directly apply, many of the techniques, can help bring about more organisation and efficiency.

Let’s take a look at some techniques that you should be considering when starting your own enterprise.

Outlining a Project Brief

Similar to an initial business plan, a Project Brief should clearly and succinctly summarise everything that you intend to achieve with your business and how you’ll go about it.

Having structured goals with defined time-frames for each helps you to better see how well you’re stacking up as you go, but most importantly, having those goals defined means you are better prepared when it comes to you trying to enact them.

Take a look at these tips for preparing a project brief for more information on how to construct a Project Brief and more reasons as to why it’s so useful.

Setting Scope, Budget and Tolerances

There are likely to be two things in particular that you’ll be short of when setting up a business: money and time.

Setting the scope for these areas is essential; ask the question “how far am I willing to go?” Whether that’s with how much or how long you’ll spend on your business.

Setting yourself limits is essential because it’s easy to get caught up in the business (if you're passionate about your work then it’s inevitable).

Don’t forget though to give yourself some ‘wiggle room’; i.e. allow for the days when you’ll have to spend the evening drafting a proposal or how much extra cash you can afford to spend on an essential purchase.

And in terms of keeping track, using record sheets like Gantt Charts show you exactly how long you should be (and actually are) spending on each aspect of your business (time-wise).

Managing Quality

Reputation is a huge part of business and it’s no different for a new start-up.

Building up a good reputation is one of the hardest but most rewarding things you can do, and the best way is make sure that the products or services you offer are of the highest possible quality.

Word of mouth is by far the most effective type of marketing and providing a customer with exactly what they want, and well, will do wonders for getting your brand message spread further. For a new company, that kind of promotion is both essential and immediately beneficial.

With that in mind, it’s imperative that you have system of checks and balances in place in order to maintain the necessary level of quality.

Day-day-day or at least week-by-week you should be measuring your company’s output in comparison to the goals that you had set for it.

Be strict and honest with yourself: if it’s not up to standard, work how to make it so rather than brush over it. It might seem like a pain now, but it will save you huge trouble later.

Have checklists and a reporting system (whether that’s an online tool like Google Analytics or something more old-fashioned like pen and paper!) and keep track of anything that is too close for comfort in terms of meeting yours and your customers’ quality demands.

Most of all don’t get tempted by ‘shortcuts’ – there are no real shortcuts to quality.

Last Word

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the task ahead of you when creating a business from scratch, but with some simple project management techniques like those outlined above, you can at least break things into more manageable chunks.

If you have any other project management tips for start-ups, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

And finally, good luck and keep persevering!

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