Startup project management is a crucial part of business continuity—running a company is a project in itself, as are the various moving parts that make a business successful.
Table of Contents
- Startup Project Management Goal Setting
- Create a Startup Project Management Plan
- Startup Project Management Status Reports
- Key Takeaways: Use Startup Project Management to Plan Your Future
As most entrepreneurs know, startups have a tough climb ahead of them—few make it to two years before wrapping up.
Success and longevity are hardly guaranteed in a market that is becoming increasingly crowded every day.
But that doesn’t mean that startups are doomed to failure. Using project management principles as a guide, startups can achieve the following:
• Business growth
• Increased client lists
• Product development
• Product launches
• Delivery of goods and services
In this article, we will be employing the Kanban project management methodology to outline how startups can utilize project management techniques to grow their business.
The importance of goal setting in startup project management can’t be underestimated—if you want to continue into a second year, you need to set and organize your goals. As a startup, numerous opportunities come your way. But which should you focus on? And which ones don’t align with your business?
These are questions that are easier to answer once you have clear goals set for your company—without that focus, you will be floundering in the dark.
This is why goal-setting is crucial. You need to create SMART goals for your key performance indicators and metrics, which we will explain below:
1. Be Specific
If your goals are vague, the direction for your company will also be vague. You need to be specific about your startup goals so you have something to aspire to and measure against.
Avoid creating goals like ‘increase client list’. This doesn’t give anyone a metric to strive for. Instead, state that you want to ‘increase the client list by 12%’.
You also need to avoid creating ultra-specific goals that will make it impossible to achieve your targets or require micro-managing. Creating that balance will help you achieve goals better.
2. Be Measurable
Numbers are important for creating measurable goals. We mentioned how specific startup project management should be, and that is tied into measurability.
Being able to measure your progress and achievements ensures that you can learn how far the startup has come, and what still needs to be improved upon.
3. Be Attainable
Startups can be ambitious in their goals—they have a lot to lose if they aren’t. But there is such a thing as being too ambitious. If you create goals that are too high, you won’t reach them, giving you the impression of failure that doesn’t accurately represent the hard work put in by your company.
Following the first two steps, re-examine the goals you are aiming for to determine whether they are attainable.
4. Be Relevant
Goals for one startup can’t be transposed onto another—that is why relevancy is so important. Are the goals you are creating for yourself relevant to your overall mission? For example, if you want to generate more revenue, selling X number of products is a relevant goal.
On the other hand, having a presence on multiple social platforms isn’t directly relevant—it will help for brand awareness, but is not a goal in itself for startup growth. Choose your goals according to the direction you want your company to go in.
5. Be Timely
Finally, goals need to be timely. For instance, getting more clients may be a relevant short-term goal—you need clients to get your company off the ground. But that goal will change over time—once you have a core group of clients who bring in revenue—and your company needs to be flexible enough to understand this and adapt.
Additionally, give yourself deadlines for achieving your goals so you can expand your business in the future without taking too long to reach targets.
Having set your goals for your startup, your next step should be building a project management plan. With a plan in hand, you are better able to focus your company’s goals and create definitive structures for growing and developing your business.
But a project plan is also a great tool to present to potential clients to encourage them to partner with you—it shows that you have a structured vision for where your business is going to go.
A constructive project plan requires a few essential sections, which we detail below.
Executive Summary in Startup Project Plans
An executive summary is crucial when designing a plan, no matter what it is for. When someone reads the plan, they will want to know what is contained within and what they are meant to take away once they are done reading it.
This is what the executive summary is designed for—it can specify the goals of the plan and the company, and give the reader an overview of what the startup can accomplish.
You can see how the executive summary example below outlines the aims of the business and its achievements.
Creating an executive summary makes the project plan more accessible to the reader. It is best to build an outline for the summary but come back to it after the entire plan is completed so it better reflects the final plan.
Startup Project Management Timeline
We have mentioned how important it is to give yourself deadlines for your goals—and the same goes for any project you undertake. If your company has deliverables you need to produce for a client, a campaign in progress to attract more customers or a product that you need to create, you need to set a timeline.
Consider this project timeline template that clearly outlines what needs to be accomplished and by when.
The simple color coding ensures that there is no confusion about what stage the project is at and what remains to be completed.
Your startup project plan should include clear visual timelines that everyone involved can follow for better workflow and follow-throughs.
Startup Project Team Organization Chart
In the early days of a startup, there are rarely more than a handful of staff members. But the intention is generally to grow into a bigger company with more positions and more employees. Including an organizational chart in your startup project plan isn’t just wishful thinking—it’s determining your company’s direction for the future. Depending on the goals of your company, you can decide what departments you will branch out into and which positions will be required to run those sections, like in the example below.
You can then outline the various levels of management and staff that will help you accomplish your five-year plans and more. For this section of your plan, look at your contemporaries and competitors to determine how to grow your business internally.
Risk Management for Startup Project Plans
There are risks to starting a business and these should be acknowledged in your startup project management plan.
Break down your risks according to internal and external risks and look at the following questions:
• What are the specific risks your company could face?
• What impact would these risks have on your business?
• What in-house expertise can you rely on to overcome the risk?
• What are the financial implications of facing and overcoming risks?
Build a risk management plan that addresses the above questions so you aren’t caught by surprise if something were to go wrong in the future.
Creating a project plan and outlining your company goals are necessary for the growth and development of a startup. But one still needs to measure successes and failures. That is why regular status reports are necessary when managing startup projects, like the example below where a startup is updating its landing pages for better user experience.
You will already have outlined your SMART goals—with those in hand, you have metrics to measure against. Choose a period you want to analyze regularly—daily, weekly, quarterly—and build status reports based on your metrics.
It’s important to report on your progress but remember to give yourself leeway—not every month will see the same amount of success so be open to fluctuations.
When a company is first starting up, you may not want to look at outside collaborations or even project management tools.
This is an understandable course of action—any kind of collaboration will require monetary investment at a time when capital is scarce. That being said, if collaborations can ease the burdens on a startup management team, then they are well worth the investment. Startups can consider partnering with an external agency with expertise in an area that the company’s team may not be comfortable in.
Growth tools are also beneficial when building your business, and many of them have free versions with limited but functional facilities.
Startup project management planning is all about organizing your company for the future. You can use the above guide to outline where your company is going.
To recap, here are the essential steps you need to take to develop your business:
• Set your goals using the SMART goal-setting technique
• Create and implement a startup project management plan
• Monitor your startup progress with regular status reports
• Be open to collaborating with external parties or adopting software
With this guide, you have the knowhow to build your startup and aim for success.