A startup is an exciting but sometimes scary enterprise. From the first light bulb moment to shaking hands with the bank manager, it’s a rollercoaster.
And one of the biggest questions people ask is ‘how to manage a startup project’?
By this we mean the nuts and bolts, the day-to-day project management. Only this ‘project’ is your business.
Here’s our top tips for how to manage a startup project
Clarity of purpose
Being clear about what you are doing, why and how is critical, no matter how detailed you have to have something written down that commits you ie your business plan. This is the anchor that you can use to make decisions and celebrate achievements, you will need that sense of achievement to keep you going when you experience any little wobbles along the way.
Time is everything
You can make more money but cannot make more time. Your time is everything managing a startup – you have a million different things to do and it all needs to be done yesterday. Your startup is all about you and so your time is the business’s most precious asset.
Managing a startup can lead you to wake up each morning feeling like you have a million things to do. You probably do but you cannot do them all that day. The startup entrepreneur needs to prioritise his or her time relentlessly. It sounds simple but how many of us actually firmly commit to it? Prioritisation is about matching your daily activity with your business goals, checking (against a business plan/model) that what you are doing is relevant and useful. Getting bogged down in minor details is a common mistake.
Don’t be afraid to think about technology tools to make your project run smoother. There are plenty of workflow management software solutions out there to help. These can show you what’s happening with your customers, where a potential bottleneck is and a whole range of other useful data that will help your business run smoother.
Software (Liquidplanner is one of many out there that I have used) can help you to schedule and track hours in a single dashboard. So you can see, for instance, if you’re over-committing to too much work in a specific timeframe. This can be really important to avoiding startup overload.
Constantly revisit your business plan
Every startup has a business plan, or at least it ought to, as we mentioned. Good management means constantly revisiting your plan to see if what you’re doing is in line with your initial expectations. Is your effort in line with the goals? Are you on track? If not, why not? It may not be a bad thing to veer from your original course, but you need to understand why you are doing so.
Money, money, money
A great startup, no matter how incredible the product or the team behind it, cannot survive long without funds and that means cash flow. You need to get a firm grip on cash flow from the outset. Two things that work for many (but not all) new service-based businesses is to make sure you get paid upfront (don’t be afraid to be firm with clients and have faith you will deliver), and avoid cheap clients. Discounts are for supermarkets, not for a startup with a specialist service.
Image by Guido Gloor under creative commons