Ten Project Management Tips for Start-Ups

In the life of a young business, there are seemingly countless gears that need to grind efficiently in order for profits to turn and growth to occur.

One of the most important gears in the business machine is project management. When projects move efficiently and customers and clients feel taken care of, business growth often takes care of itself. On the other hand, projects that are handled poorly on a regular basis can be a death knell, especially when factors such as poor online reviews or unsatisfactory rankings can put a permanent ding in your reputation.

As ZulaFly navigates growth and change, how have we ensured that quality project management is a top priority? Here are ten of our primary considerations in terms of operating a start-up and building a reputation for rock-star project management.

The Partner

Owning, operating and growing a small business is a journey down a path that is sometimes bumpy, often curvy, and frequently unpredictable. Picking the right partner to navigate each route can mean the difference between success and failure. Because this is a critical consideration, we will spend the most time on this one.

If you do choose to operate with a partner, or when determining a partner(s) for a temporary project, here are some helpful questions to consider:

  • Am I partnering with someone who can be honest with me through each decision and clearly articulate the customer needs?
  • Can I be honest with him or her as we develop ideas, incorporate strategies, and critically evaluate results?
  • Does this potential partner have the same energy and ambition for the business as I do?
  • What are the strengths of this partner? Do our skills complement each other, or do they overlap?
  • Are they capable of successfully leading the project and providing support to the customer?

The Plan

As Benjamin Franklin said: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. What are the plots and projections that get your project from Point A to Point B? Are you developing a game plan that you and everyone involved in the project can follow? Having the right plan with detailed deliverables, dependencies and timelines ensures everyone is working from the same script.

The Dependencies

The importance of identifying and discussing project dependencies is critical. What areas of the project need to be completed before other deliverables can be worked on? Does one half of the group need to be fully engaged so they can finish, then hand off to the second half of the group? Who is doing what and in what timeframe? Establishing and knowing the dependencies keeps everyone working in their lane and doing their best work.

The Support

Getting a project off the ground is often a huge task in itself. But how do the efforts flow seamlessly from there?

Once the project goes live, who are the internal and external support teams? Do all of the supporting members know how to handle each situation as it arises? Are there more experienced members of the team who need to take a lead in support efforts? Laying out a support plan early with input from all parties, will get you a long way in building a lasting, dependable support model.

The Communication

Clear, consistent and open communication is an obvious key to a successful project. However, this factor can also be overlooked when those on the project are not quick to voice objections or different opinions, communicate deadlines, or discuss adjustments on the fly. Frequent check-in meetings can be a great way to mitigate poor communication and eventual isolation within projects.

The Documentation

When it comes to project management, moments of urgency, on-the-fly thinking, and amendments or adjustments to plan are par for the course. While communication throughout the process is paramount, who is documenting these changes? Who is noting the moments of successful execution? Who is creating the living, breathing manual that provides a roadmap for the next project?

Documentation ensures you know where you started, how you got there, and what went right or wrong in the process… All important components to the long-term success of a start-up.

The Atmosphere

How do you set the stage for success? Meeting in the same place at the same time can often create much-needed consistency in the life of a project. However, other times it may be beneficial to get out of the office and develop plans and ideas in a more inspiring environment. Looking to provide a unique solution for a new client? It may be a better idea to get out of your “normal” space and occasionally meet outdoors, at a coffee shop, or somewhere different than the typical “thinking space.”

The Culture

This is a key factor for businesses who want to ensure all project managers understand the rules of your company’s road. Do you have a well-defined definition of your company culture? What’s your mission statement?  (By the way, this is important to develop – even for startups.)

Whether you have one, ten, or one hundred employees, the vision, values, and mission of your organization provide a North Star your team members can look to for guidance when considering the “big picture” in any project plan.

The Process

When considering the anatomy of a ‘quality project,’ not all aspects are exciting. For example: In the software industry, tedious hours of trial and error, long strategic sessions, and lengthy email threads are often the norm. Doing your best work as a business is not always a glamorous process. However, being intentional about finding ways to make the process fun can inject life and energy, keeping everyone on the team engaged. Just because a project’s process may not be exciting, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to inject moments of fun to keep everyone’s sanity in check.

The Goal

Why is the customer implementing this new solution? This may be the most important questioned asked during the entire process.  It’s important that the entire group including the partner, ZulaFly and the individuals representing different departments of the customer, are all in alignment with the goal of the project. This helps drive the discussion topics, deliverables of the project but most importantly clearly identifies for all parties what the outcome needs to be so that the project can be deemed successful at completion.  

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