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SMALL BUSINESS: 3 Simple Tips For Using PROJECT MANAGEMENT To Get Ahead of Your Competition


“Definition of Plans. The successful leader must plan his work and work his plan. A leader who moves by guesswork, without practical, definite plans, is comparable to a ship without a rudder. Sooner or later he will land on rocks.”

Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

The 4th quarter has begun and the last few months of 2019 are in view. Has it been a profitable year for you so far? Did you lay down detailed, concrete plans at the beginning of the year and review them weekly?

Or did you steer your business without a rudder?

Make no mistake, you are engaged in a business and undertaking of major importance to you. To be sure of success, you MUST have plans which are faultless.

If you didn’t get the results you hoped and planned for in 2019, it highly likely you didn’t “plan the work, then work the plan”.

2020 is just around the corner. It is a chance to start a new year in a different way.

If your way hasn’t worked well. Let’s try another: Project Management.

TIP# 1 - BREAK DOWN THE BUSINESS' 5 YEAR VISION INTO 10 PROJECTS

Where do you want your business to be in 5 years? Detail the yearly revenue, the number of staff, locations of operation, the profile of the customer you serve and other factors of your vision. Spend some time and be specific. Once you have done that, break down the goal into 10 possible "projects" or areas of focus that needs to be completed to deliver that vision.

Let's consider an example: ACME Smart Business wants to expand their retail operations to go from $1M in yearly revenue to $10M in 5 years. They want to increase the number of retail locations from 3 to 12. They want to expand into a new market in another state and will need to hire between 10 to 20 people to fill customer orders.

The 10 projects could be broken down as follows: 1 - 2 projects a year that locate 2 new retail locations, remodels the site, hires the staff and trains them. Each project would have phases and deliverables that acquire/rent the new locations, refurbish them, and hires the team to manage it.

TIP # 2 - CREATE DETAILED PLANS FOR 1 PROJECT

Create the first project in detail - people, resources, processes, technology and a listing of activities. Estimate how many hours of effort / work each part of the plan takes to see if it can be delivered while also doing the day to day activities of the company. Once this high-level plan is written down - in detail - do an estimate of the costs to complete the project: labor, materials, licenses, fees, marketing, etc. I recommend adding 20% for contingency to these costs. If the project costs are feasible, then put these activities on the calendar as appointments. If the cost to do the project is high, THIS is when you want to know that - not once you are in mid-year!

I coach my clients to allocate a half-day or 2 during the week for project work. Time blocking is KEY to getting projects done. Book the activities on the calendar as you would an appointment.

TIP # 3 STEP BACK AND LOOK AT THE CALENDAR LOADED WITH ACTIVITIES

This is where rubber hits the road. Take a step back and look at the amount of time REMAINING on the calendar and see if it is enough to keep the business running while completing these projects. I also go into my calendar and mark-off ALL my known commitments in addition to the project activities: special birthdays, known travel / vacation dates, health related days for physicals for myself and my family, anniversary days and holidays.

I'm usually surprised to see that the DURATION required is longer than I expected to get the project done. That is the life of an entrepreneur. You must be chief cook and bottle washer while doing tasks to move the company forward as well.

If there is time available on the calendar, then go back to Tip # 2 and repeat the project planning steps for the second project. If there is more work than time, then hiring someone to help out may be needed to hit your goals.

I’M INTRODUCING A NEW WAY OF BUSINESS PLANNING - 3 STRATEGIC PLANS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

First of all, every business should have a business plan. A 2 page document that sets direction for the business. Secondly, I believe in having a written project plan for every goal the company wants to achieve - outside of day to day operations. These are the 2 of the 3 most important plans EVERY business should have - regardless of size. The 3rd plan is the Marketing Plan - it is essential to create this plan at the beginning of the year as well or spending could easily go "out of control" with "let's try this shiny object" syndrome.

As a business coach for small businesses, I rarely find a business owner that has all 3. If they have a plan, it is usually the marketing plan and it is usually NOT written down. The failure rate for small business is often 75% and in my experience, it is MOSTLY due to lack of financial and resource planning.

Taking some time at the beginning of the year, to plan the year could be the KEY to being in business AND GROWING in the coming year.