Are there any commonalities between running a small company and managing a project? Does performing one enhance or detract from your skills for the other?
I have been concentrating recently on the promotion of our company and thus have not taken a Project Management role for a while. I was wondering whether I was in danger of losing my knowledge and competencies in this area. However on reflection I realised that not only am I enforcing the principles of Project Management, but I am learning a lot of new, transferable, skills as well. I may not be managing the company by utilising the framework of Prince2 or any of the other popular methodologies commonly used, but I am adhering to many good practices.
By standard definition a company is not a project. A project is a finite process with a definite start and end. We had a definite start on company formation, but there is no scheduled end. There are milestones to strive towards, which include revenue and customer satisfaction, but prior to each milestone being reached a new one is created. This is not good practice for a project, adherence to committed dates is one of the chief success factors within Project Management. However it is a necessity for a Company, to enable it to continue its growth.
The milestones still define the expected outcomes and success criteria incorporating measurability of web visits, application downloads, and workload. The tasks required to achieve the milestones are recorded and planned for, in the same manner as project tasks. The costs are estimated, collated and managed along with the overall budget for the company. In reality the budgeting side of the company is far more stringent than most projects I have been involved in. It is not surprising that financial monitoring is far more critical, when the costs directly affect the profit of the company, and your own personal financial position.
The roles and responsibilities, although not recorded, are clear. There is a limit to how much confusion can be created in this area when it is a small company. Several roles are merged to create multi tasking, multi functional team members. People’s strengths can be played to whilst their learning needs are quickly addressed with an almost sink or swim mentality. You build up your knowledge on areas where it is weak in an effort to survive, not within the company, as may happen in large corporations, but as a company. Knowledge sharing and communication within the company is key. It isn’t always controlled and recorded, but it happens nonetheless like an unwritten rule.
External communication to customers or potential customers become paramount. With online promotion and networking becoming a regular activity. Skills in assuring the customer of your capabilities and the benefits of the finished product or service can become more critical than determining their requirements. Promoting the company’s brand and building the company reputation creates skills that not many Project Managers utilise regularly. Generally the finished project speaks for itself with regards to meeting the customers expectations. When running a small business those customer expectations are not always known, beyond your own common sense attitude, and the skills of selling coming to the fore.
Issues and risks are dealt with on an almost daily basis, and any possible mitigation put in place. Changes and new requirements are a matter of daily life and managed according to their priority and impact, without any need for large meetings and formal discussions. Any changes or requirements deemed for the future are merely recorded for later implementation.
In short running a small company is similar to managing many small concurrent projects or one very large multi functional one. Either way it draws on many skills beyond those taught for Project Management with a desire to succeed being driven by more than just a successful career.