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Effective Project Management Tips For The Small Business Owner
As a small business owner, you’ll wear many hats, a necessity for achieving growth. You’ll be a bookkeeper and salesperson, webmaster, as well as an administrative assistant and marketing officer. Expanding your business and assuring its success, you’ll also wear the hat of the project manager. But what is project management, and how does it help the small business owner?
Resources are scarce, time especially, and with spare budget also being an issue, taking on a project within your small business has many goals to meet. Alongside the essential daily tasks of running your business, you must continue to explore new avenues for product and service innovation and expansion.
On top of the things happening within your business, there are external challenges and opportunities that your small business faces. Stiff competition, along with difficult trading conditions, is just two factors to consider that hamper growth, but finding your ‘right’ customer base is an opportunity that your business is looking for.
Improving what you do and what you offer is key to continued success and growth. The likelihood is that, without realizing it, you have become a project manager.
What is project management?
A project manager is a person with the skill set to move a project through the various stages of completion from start to finish, navigating all the bumps in the road. Managing a range of resources, including people, they deliver the most complex of projects by breaking it down into smaller chunks and deadlines.
By optimizing materials and resources, they’ll often deliver a project under budget too. Your project may not be as big nor as complex, but exhibiting and using project management skills in its delivery will yield dividends. But how can we improve project delivery in a small business?
Tip 1 – Define your objectives before you start
A project with ‘loose’ goals or weak objectives will lack the ambition and drive needed to reach its conclusion. Inherent in project management training is the need for the PM to set out overarching objectives. It is not uncommon to find that every smaller sub-section or step also has its own goal too. Knowing your destination means you have a focus on the endpoint, no matter what route you take.
Tip 2 – Plan before you act
Thinking through your project is one thing, just like having a vision of the endpoint. But not taking time to plan means you are on the back foot before you start. Thinking and planning mean you see outside of the box. Take time to identify internal challenges and opportunities and external ones that could impact the project.
You need to plan the budget (what portion is being allocated to each activity?), the timetable, and set out procedures.
Tip 3 – Follow the plan
You’ve spent time and energy, creating a project plan, so follow it. With a stepped approach to project management, you have a road map of where you should be and when. Schedules can slip, and budgets can be under and overspent, and so you’ll need to be agile in your thinking and processes.
In other words, following the plan and reviewing the steps can help build the project to reach the goals you have set.
Tip 4 – Assign tasks based on skills
The project needs to happen. There are clear goals and aims. It isn’t just about how you will get there but who you need along the way. Staff members with a certain skill set may be needed at certain points, and there may be a need for other partners, too, such as financial partners or investors.
Where there is a skill gap, find the right person to fill it. If you need to brush up on your project management skills, you can do so in several ways at training venues and through online project management courses. Alternatively, you can use the free project management app.
Tip 5 – Establish milestones
Every project manager will work towards milestones. But you won’t have these unless you break down the project into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Milestones help you measure success. However, there is a skill in applying these. Setting unrealistic schedules and timetables will mean milestones are not hit.
This sense of failure, especially if it happens more than once, can stunt the progress of a project. Even the most basic of project management training will equip you, the small business owner, with an invaluable skill set that allows the successful completion of a project, no matter what it is or what it sets out to achieve.
Tip 6 – Work with reliable partners
As a small business owner, you’ll be so accustomed to working through things yourself that it may not occur to you to find reliable partners to deliver your project. Used to ‘going it alone’ or ‘doing it yourself,’ you may not think that working with freelance contractors or others will be within your budget remit or project capabilities. But there are times when we all need a little help and support.
Tip 7- Work with experts when you need to
Your business started from the smallest seed of an idea. There are all kinds of limitations and problems that will arise, but you’ll find your way around them. Some challenges are far more difficult to overcome unless you have expert help.
The same can be true when making changes to your business. It could be a rebrand project, for example, or a marketing project that pushes your business in front of a new customer base. Expert help at certain points of a project will help your drive towards the ultimate goal.
Tip 8 – Manage risk
Project managers are adept at managing risk. As a small business owner, you’ll understand the concept of risk all too well. In project management, you need to be acutely aware of the risks that could derail your project. As well as awareness, it would help if you remained responsive and agile – in other words, should or when a risk arises, you have the flexibility to meet and deal with it head-on.
Tip 9 – Communication and information
Change is welcomed… but not by everyone. What people fear most about change is how it will affect them, more so when they believe the effects to be adverse. Your loyal customers may worry that a rebrand will decrease the quality and a hike in price.
Your staff may be concerned; it means a change in working conditions, your investors a decrease in dividends. Communication and information-sharing is a key aspect of a successful project. Include regular updates in your project schedule.
Tip 10 – Review and learn
Every project will throw up opportunities and challenges. As a small business, you are in the perfect position to learn from all project management experiences, fuelling you to take on other projects, expand and grow your business to reach your business dreams and business goals.