Project Management for Small Business

small business project management

As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. You not only have to be an expert in your business niche, but also sales, marketing, bookkeeping, and even HR.

However, project management is something that often gets overlooked.

The first thought you may get is that project management only applies to construction, or for medium to large companies.

However, if you really think of it, the same techniques can also be used in small business and even in office work.

You could even say that all your processes are really projects. As such, you can have large, medium sized and small projects.

There is an assumption in small business that the owner can handle all the issues he/she is confronted with each week, or at least be able to, but a good understanding of project management skills will improve the efficiency of the business.

Managing your projects requires good planning and organization, and done well, provides you with a smoother and more complete process from start to finish.

Therefore, learning these techniques will help you save time, energy, and money. And the fact is that projects will be done better.

How Project Management Works

We have already touched on the fact that project management processes are used by big and middle-sized businesses. The truth is however, that many tasks are the same or similar, regardless of the business size.

What is a ‘Project’?

A project can be defined as a task or assignment that has:

  • A specific objective or goal,
  • A timeline for start and completion,
  • A series of steps customized specifically to realize the stated goal,
  • Constraints such as scope, resources, cost and time.

As such, it differs from the constant day to day activities of the business.

Project Life Cycle

There are three key stages in a project’s life cycle.

  1. The Planning Stage
  2. The Implementing Stage
  3. The Closing Stage

The planning stage begins with an outline of the project, followed by more in-depth planning. This includes outlining the objectives, the scope, the resources required, a budget and the timeline for completion. It should also outline key indicators to ensure the project is kept on track.

The next stage is where the implementation happens. The progress needs to be monitored with any changes reviewed against the plan and communicated appropriately with the customer or client. In fact, regular status updates with the client will help communication and client satisfaction on larger projects.

The final ‘closing’ stage happens when the project is finished and handed over to the client. At this stage, it is helpful to review what has gone well and what can be improved to assist future projects.

Project Management Challenges

Let’s take a moment here and identify a couple of issues that can sidetrack and run your project off the rails.

  1. Miss-classification. If you miss defining a project correctly and just consider it as work, you may not implement the stages we spoke of earlier which can lead to disastrous consequences and unhappy clients.
  2. A project generally has a number of tasks that have to be done in a sequence with some reliant on others. So, if you fail to identify a project and just see it as just a bunch of individual tasks, you can miss deadlines, increase frustration, increase costs, and have unhappy clients.

Project Planning Gone Wrong

Here is a prime example of project planning gone wrong.

It begins with a phone call from a customer who requires some work done around his property. The landscaper provides an on-site consultation, and an agreement is concluded.

The work begins. However, the contractor discovers issues that were not known at the beginning. To save time, he just proceeds and makes changes as he comes across them.

Upon completion of the project the customer “blows a gasket” and refuses to pay because it is not what they agreed to.

Due to the failure to communicate, the contractor must re-do some of the work, at a loss to his business both in cost and time delays for other projects.

Here is a closer look at just what went wrong.

  • There was no proper planning, setting of boundaries, and poor communication.
  • There were risks identified but not acted upon, causing both substantial time and money loss.
  • Having to complete much of the job over again pushed back on other customer’s jobs that caused dissatisfaction.
  • The landscaper was forced to pay overtime to his employees, adding to his costs.
  • An upset client caused damage to his reputation and a loss of future business.

All in all, this could have been avoided by treating the work as a project rather than work.

If a project was created for this job, the steps required in project planning would have covered all these issues in advance, making it much better for all involved.

Other articles in this series include:
Managing Smaller Projects
Project Planning
Tools for Project Management

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