Small Business Project Management Tips to Keep You Sane

Professional project managers and even small business entrepreneurs know that running or starting a new business, client account or project can be nothing short of crazy. There are a lot of factors, risks, and specifications to take note of and consider, not to mention plan a marketing strategy, risk response plan, business plan, and procurement process. So how does one project manager or entrepreneur deal with it all and still be successful?

1.)  Put Together a Business Plan or Prototype. When you are first starting out as an entrepreneur or project manager, you need a plan of attack. How will your business function? Where do you see yourself in five years? What does the outcome of your project look like? What are the stakeholder requirements? To answer all these questions, it’s best if you put together some type of business plan or strategy or even build a prototype so you can better gauge certain factors or what the outcome of your business or project will look like.

2.)  Think Creatively. We’ve talked many times on how creative thinking is an asset to any small business or project. What stands a business a part from its competition? What makes your project successful for your customers? How does your creative problem solving skills help the overall outcome and success of your project? All these questions can be answered with creativity. Thinking outside the box will surely lead to over project management and entrepreneurial success.

3.)  Seek Professional Advice. If you are brand new to the world of project management or starting a business, do your homework. Do some research on some proper project management methodologies and strategies or do some field or market research within the industry of your business. You can also interview other professionals and seek their advice. A lot of business and project management success comes from networking and working with others. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

4.)  Sleep. Yeah, right. Seems impossible…especially for new project managers or entrepreneurs. However, this is also one of the simplest (sort of) and most important things you can do. When your head hits the pillow each night, this is when you need to shut off the floodgates and focus on getting a good night’s sleep. Easier said than done, right? Of course this isn’t always going to be easy, but remember that you will function much better, enhance creative thinking, and be able to make better decisions and think more clearly with a good night’s sleep.

All in all, becoming a project manager or entrepreneur and running your own business is certainly a huge challenge and doesn’t fall short of its responsibilities and challenges. However, if project managers and entrepreneurs take the time to incorporate the above tips into their methodologies, success will become much easier to achieve. Of course there will be risks, challenges, and obstacles, but there will also be success and a great sense of accomplishment. Becoming a project manager or starting your own business might just be the hardest yet most rewarding thing you do.


Project Management 101

Project managers come in all different shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Project managers’ experiences, skills, and backgrounds all differ. Some project managers manage only a few projects at a time that last for several months, while other project manages manage up to fifty projects at one time that only last for several weeks. Regardless of what spectrum of project management you are familiar with and currently work in, here are some project management 101 tips that can benefit any project management role in any industry.

Many believe that project management is a complex and difficult role, and it can be. Professional project managers know just how difficult and challenging project management can be at times. However, with the right tools, tips, and attitude, any project manager can be successful.

  • Planning. The key to successful project management begins and ends with planning. Tasks, budgets, and resources all require proper planning. Planning may involve running reports, allocating resources (including restructuring, recruiting, etc.), assigning and monitoring tasks, and reviewing and analyzing budgets. Project managers can plan and organize these tasks however he or she sees fit. This may include tracking them with reports, spreadsheets, or even setting calendar reminders.
  • Risk Management and Response. One major element to project management is risk management and response. Each project, regardless of how large or small, simple or complex, comes with its own sets and levels of risk. As a result, identifying, categorizing, and developing a risk response plan is necessary. The type of project, and ultimately the type of risk, depends on the how the risk is categorized and the best response plan. For example, for many projects that work on tight deadlines, schedule is often categorized as a “risk”. However, schedule in itself isn’t a risk, but weather delaying a construction project, which would impact the schedule, is the actual risk.
  • Resources. A project manager’s and even a project’s overall success is only as successful as the team working behind it. Allocating and recruiting resources as necessary is a great way to put together a fully functional and competent team to ensure a project’s overall success. Gathering the best resources for the project can be lengthy and even costly, so planning this stage up front, or as soon as possible prior to the start of the project is the best course of action. This will allow time for training, troubleshooting, and for the team to get acclimated and organized.
  • Organization. One of the most important areas of project management is organization. If a project manager isn’t organized, then the team isn’t organized, and ultimately the project isn’t organized…which are all ingredients for a recipe for disaster. Staying organized is crucial. This doesn’t necessarily mean tidiness (although it certainly helps!) but organized in having specifications documented, filed appropriately, open communication, and having a good handle on schedules, deadlines, and specifications. Also, if team members see that the project manager is organized, then the team will become organized.

In conclusion, these tips are all crucial areas of project management. Project managers cannot function or deliver quality products and meet stakeholder requirements without identifying and allocating the above areas. In addition, regardless of how experienced a project manager is, where or in what capacity he or she works, or what industry or organization, these key project management tactics will help any project manager be successful.

What Should Project Managers Do When Projects Fail?

We’ve all been there at least once. The moment you get that phone call or email, and the project first turns the corner, and starts on the downward spiral to failure. What do you do? What is the best course of action when projects start to fail?

Unfortunately professional project managers, regardless of knowledge, experience, or background, all experience failure from time to time…and we hate it. While we can’t always predict failure or avoid it, there are tactics we can do to help it. Some of these tactics include some of what we already know, such as putting together risk response and management plans, holding regular team planning meetings, and practicing good document control.

However, there are things that can come up and happen at the last minute that can send a project down hill. Here are some best courses of action on how project managers can deal with failing projects:

1. Don’t Panic. When you receive a problematic email or phone call from a customer, team member, or sales rep, the first thing you should not do is panic. This can be difficult, especially if the person on the other line or that has written the email is emotional in some way. Your response should be calm and address the situation.

If you don’t have a solution right at that moment, at least respond to the email or phone call and let him or her know that you are looking into the situation and will get back to them as soon as possible. If needed, take a time out and go for a walk to help clear your mind. While you may think it’s not the best time to take a walk, giving yourself a minute to calm down and think about the situation could be your best asset. Addressing the situation with a clear head and a fresh state of mind can really help.

2. Check the Schedule. Once you have addressed the concerns, informed the customer, sales rep, and team, the next step should be addressing the schedule. What stage is the project at? Where is the project? How will this change impact the schedule in terms of project milestones and deliverables?

3. Devise a Solution. Once you have taken care of the first two items, now it’s time to put together a solution. Again, what is the concern at hand? How will it impact the schedule? How will it impact deliverables? Sometimes a solution cannot solve all three of these items. For instance, making a change in the late stage of a project may impact the schedule and risk on time delivery of a particular product, which could lead to an angry customer. However, it is best to work with the customer to see if negotiating on any level is possible.

All in all, there may be many reasons to cause a project to fail. They may not even be necessarily linked to a customer, there could be internal factors as well such as staffing, technology, or even lack of resources. However, these typically can be addressed during the risk management and assessment stage at the beginning of a project.

By practicing the above steps to address a failing project, and keeping these in mind while you are working, you will be able to address the signs of project failure and respond to them immediately. The customer and your team will thank you for it, and will ultimately lead to overall project success.