Project Management

Project Management 101: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

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Project Management 101: A Guide for Entrepreneurs
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Project Management 101: A Guide for Entrepreneurs

What do project managers and entrepreneurs have in common?

It sounds like a setup for a business professor’s joke – but in seriousness, there’s a lot that both disciplines can learn from the other! Building a business is really just a series of small projects, all of which stand to benefit from the structure project managers use in their day-to-day. Yet not all entrepreneurs have a background in project management. That’s where this article on project management for entrepreneurs comes in.

The skills and techniques project managers use can provide the structure and focus entrepreneurs need to keep everything on track. And there are a lot of things. Today, we’ll be talking what is project management, why it matters for entrepreneurs, and walking you through the 5 phases of project management as it applies to entrepreneurs. Let’s go.

What is project management, and why does it matter for entrepreneurs

What is project management, and why does it matter for entrepreneurs?

So – what is project management? It’s something we talk about a lot at Teamly. At a high level, the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people.”

For entrepreneurs, this “something of value” might be a dairy-free yogurt, a web design service, or a remote team management software *ah hem*. Anything entrepreneurs do that requires multiple steps to execute can benefit from project management techniques. Why? We’ll go into it more below, but it gives your team a better chance of completing tasks on time and on budget.

The duties and methodologies of a project manager can get quite detailed, but like entrepreneurs, their day-to-day involves setting objectives, identifying tasks, prioritizing, assigning responsibilities, estimating resources, and keeping a project on track. Not every project manager needs to be an entrepreneur. But by this definition, every entrepreneur should learn to be a project manager!

How can entrepreneurs benefit from project management?

Starting a business means taking on a lot of responsibilities. Between managing teams, communicating to all stakeholders, making decisions, etc. it’s easy to lose sight of your objective or let something slip through the cracks. So before we get into the basics of project management for entrepreneurs, let’s start with some of the reasons project management is beneficial.

  • Clear Focus & Objectives. Project management takes the chance out of operations supporting business goals. By starting with a clear focus or objective and working backward, your team will understand the end goal, the tasks required, and who’s responsible. All this together means better outcomes!
  • Realistic Expectations. Project management helps break down big goals into specific tasks and interdependencies. With this in-depth understanding, all stakeholders can begin projects with better and more realistic expectations around project completion.
  • Time & Money Saving. Saving time and money – music to your ears! Project management can help maximize productivity, reduce delays, identify redundancies, and so much more. The research even supports that companies with a formal project management approach complete 63% of their projects within budget and 59% of their projects on time.
  • Better Outcomes. According to Teamstage, 70% of projects don’t deliver on what was promised to customers. But that failure rate drops to 20% or less when project management processes are involved! There could be many reasons for this, but one of the big ones is that things like scope creep, overspending, and missed deadlines are easier to avoid with a project manager.

Still not convinced? Find out more about why project management is so important here.

5 Phases of Project Management for Entrepreneurs

5 Phases of Project Management for Entrepreneurs

If project management was simple, there wouldn’t be such a demand for project managers. But the basic skills and phases of project management are something anyone can learn. For our purposes today, we’ll use the 5 phases of project management outlined by Villanova University to give you an introduction to how it works.

1. Project Initiation

Ready to start your project? The first phase in project management is understanding (a) how feasible the project is and (b) how much value it’ll deliver. The two key documents typically involved in this phase are…

  • Business Case Document – A document explaining the importance of the project and its financial benefit to the company
  • Feasibility Study – A study determining whether the project is feasible based on goals, costs, resource requirements, and timeline.

For entrepreneurs. The project initiation phase for entrepreneurs can either refer to starting the business or initiating new projects within an existing organization. It’s a critical phase that many entrepreneurs miss. Before proceeding with a new idea or business, taking the time to make a business case and understand the feasibility can start you on the right path and save you a lot of time and money later on.

2. Project Planning

After you’ve determined there’s a business case for the project and it’s feasible, the next phase of project management is project planning. This is probably what you think of when you think of “project management,” as it’s the phase in which you plan the projected costs, scope, timeframe, and all the tasks, resources, and obstacles that could occur along the way.

For entrepreneurs. There are many different project management tools and frameworks, but here are the steps you can follow for a simple project. The basic steps are…

  1. Outline all your tasks. As long as you’ve already clarified your goals and have a business case for the project, the first step in project planning is to outline all your tasks – or the small steps that contribute to the completion of the project. At this stage, it’s important to prioritize the most important tasks and cut tasks that don’t add value.
  2. Create a list of tasks in the order they need to be completed. With a complete list of tasks, the next step is creating a list of tasks in the order they need to be completed. Doing this helps you understand the timeline and availability of resources, dependencies, and other critical parts of your project long before it’s started. Some project managers will use a scale of 1-5 or a “low” to “high” priority scale to understand the importance of each task.
  3. Manage your resources. One of the most significant parts of managing your resources is assigning team members to the tasks. This is a crucial step to ensure that work is fairly and realistically distributed! It also helps the team share responsibility and agency for the project outcomes. Other examples of managing resources are understanding what equipment, machinery, space, or other limited resources are involved in production. Doing this helps you identify bottlenecks and more accurately estimate budget and time for project completion.
  4. Estimate how much time it will take to complete each task. Once the tasks have been delegated and resourced allocated, the next step is estimating the time each task will take to complete. This is so important because it gives you a timeline for your team to work from! Be realistic and give yourself a buffer, as it helps manage expectations and keeps the team motivated with ambitious but achievable timelines.

Of course, as the project grows in scope or complexity, you might consider adding steps into this planning phase to ensure all your bases are covered, but consider this a great starting point for any project.

3. Project Execution

Once you’ve got a plan, the work begins! As the name suggests, project execution is when all your prework comes to life, and the team works on the tasks created in the planning phase.

For entrepreneurs. Project managers call it project execution, but an entrepreneur might call this work. In this phase, you and your team are working toward the deliverable.

4. Project Monitoring & Control

Throughout the project, you want to keep an eye on how things are going and make adjustments as necessary. This phase is called monitoring and control.

For entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurs – especially new businesses – monitoring and control can make or break a successful project. It often is ongoing during project execution to ensure that tasks are being completed on time, within budget, etc. By monitoring the project along the way, you can ensure you stick to deadlines and update timelines and resources as needed.

This also provides critical information for future projects so you can better estimate scope, timelines, and resources for next time!

5. Project Closure

Wrapped up the project? This is the time to evaluate and document the experience. Doing a debrief allows you to make improvements and avoid redundant challenges before starting new projects.

For entrepreneurs. Any entrepreneur knows that the work is never done. So you might look at this stage as an opportunity to pursue a new project or to improve existing projects! Create scalable, repeatable systems.

Project Management Software & Tools for Entrepreneurs

Project Management Software & Tools for Entrepreneurs

Perhaps the best part of being an entrepreneur today is that some softwares and tools can help streamline your processes and fill in any knowledge gaps. You don’t have to know how to make a Kanban board or be a Scrum Master to get started! And project management software for entrepreneurs gives you fields to fill out and steps to follow so you don’t miss anything.

But there are also so many project management software for entrepreneurs to consider. Notion, Teamly, Monday, Asana, Trello – where to begin?

When picking a project management software, some key factors to consider are…

  • Who is it for
  • Pricing
  • Platform and integrations
  • Complexity and ease of use
  • Credibility
  • Customer service
  • Features

We’ve written some comparison articles for alternatives to Monday, Notion, and Asana that you might look at before deciding on the tool that’s best for your team. And if you happen to be looking for a tool for your remote team, Teamly is an all-in-one tool that can support your workflow and task management! Get a free trial.

Conclusion

A day’s work is never done for an entrepreneur. There’s an impossible list of skills to learn to succeed. But as you are well aware by now – the core strengths of an entrepreneur are communication and knowing when to delegate.

With a basic understanding of project management, you can either undertake the steps yourself or hire a project management expert to support you as you roll out these new processes for your team. Learn what you can, but build a team you trust. That’s when you’re bound for success.

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