Small business startup projects are mini business projects in themselves. They require planning, organizing, and financial and people skills, just as in any typical business. The major differentiating factor is that there is a finish point for a project while a business is a continuing operation.
Your small business startup project starts with your business plan. A good business plan is an action program and would identify activities needed to set up the business.
An implementation plan would list these activities in sequential order, indicating the resources and time needed for each of the activities. The key elements of a project plan are:
- Specifying all activities,
- Estimating Resource requirements and
- Estimating Start & Finish times for each activity
Project plans are prepared in differet formats. There are simple Gantt Charts where activities are represented by separate lines in a column. The length of each line is proportional to the time estimate for completing the activity.
More complex planning can be charted using Critical Path Method Charts (CPM Charts). We look at the construction of these charts in a separate article on CPM Network Chart Constuction under Business Ideas & Tools section.
Let us now look at the typical activities that go into implementing a project.
Typical Business Startup Project Activities
- The first activity is preparing the implementation plan itself. The business plan focuses on running the business (though some might include a section for implementation). The implementation project (like any other complex sequence of activities) need separate planning.
- The implementation plan would usually be too complex to serve as daily to-do lists. So you would need to analyze the requirements of the current activities and derive specific and detailed actions for each day (like meeting a certain person at a certain time).
- Attending to the activities listed in the day’s to-do list. Typically, these involve getting appointments, meeting and discussing with people, locating vendors, negotiating contracts, placing orders, chasing deliveries, arranging money, finding about rules and regulations, completing documentation, checking on progress at different fronts and so on.
- Monitoring and controlling progress by comparing actual performance against earlier plans and estimates. Both time and cost performance, as well as quality, need to be monitored.
- Arranging a final trial run of the business to identify any trouble spots or problems.
Project Management Skills
The decription of project management above should already have begun to generate in your mind an idea about the skills required. Below is a list of the important skills (or rather, work habits):
- Identifying all the detailed tasks involved in achieving certain specific results (like setting up a beautician shop in your particular locality)
- Information gathering skills to identify the specific information needed to do specific tasks, and then locating the information quickly and efficiently
- Creating daily to-do lists that would get things moving and take them as quickly as possible to sucessful conclusions (like getting appointment with the landlord of a shop space you have located, preparing for meeting the person by thinking through win-win proposals, meeting and negotiating with the person and so on)
- Keeping track of loose ends and following up till they are successfully concluded (like following up the landlord to get the lease agreement executed)
- People skills to work with all kinds of people and achieve results. Good negotiators never allow personal conflicts to sidetrack progress into unproductive arguments. They manage to find a new angle to keep things still on track and conclude the negotiation.
- Keeping an eye on vendor performance to ensure that they are keeping their commitments regarding delivery times, qualities and prices
- Constantly checking on progress to ensure that things are moving accordig to schedule. If they are not, identifying bottlenecks or problems and quickly taking necessary action to either overcome the problems or develop alternatives. The original schedule itself might have to be recast in drastic situations
- Keeping up your enthusiasm, energy and focus even if unexpected developments or difficult persons cause problems that seem insurmountable
The above list also covers the skills you would need to run the business once it has been set up. Work at developing the habits!