Unlike huge corporations that have the luxury to employ multiple managers to oversee projects, small business owners usually find themselves playing the role of project manager for most of their business activities.
With a small business, resources are limited which makes it more important to ensure that results are delivered on time and within budget. Project management then becomes very useful to guarantee that plans, processes and timelines are being followed.
But what project management skills does a small business owner need in order to be effective? Here are six must-have skills.
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There is a big difference between a boss and a leader.
A small business owner may be the boss of the company, but how he acts does not necessarily equate to being a good leader. A leader is someone who has a clear vision on what needs to be done and he knows how to lead his staff towards that end goal.
Leadership means being able to motivate team members when the going gets tough and having the confidence to make hard decisions. When a project reaches a critical point, a good leader must be able to steer his team to the finish line.
For a small business, having limited resources can mean limited people, limited time, limited budget or all of the above. A small business owner must then be innovative in handling projects. He must take advantage of new technologies that will potentially save him his precious resources.
One example of an innovative business decision was when social media company Facebook automated IT department requests by installing an IT vending machine. Instead of having an employee process request forms that requires lengthy management approvals which cost time and productivity, the self-serve machine churned out replacement computer accessories with a simple ID swipe.
This decision reduced the company’s cost of managing replacement accessories by 35%.
Using this example, a business owner must reflect if he is using his available resources to their optimum capacity and consider if there are tasks that can be automated or outsourced. He can also look at project management tools that automate manual processes.
In a small business, it is normal that almost all employees, especially the owner, multitask. But multitasking should not include duties that can be performed independently by another employee.
A business owner can easily be trapped into micromanaging every single detail. He would feel obligated to involve himself in everything including trivial stuff like the type of toilet paper or the brand of pens accountants should be using. Instead of focusing his time on more crucial matters, he is dabbling into things that hinders his own productivity. This becomes disadvantageous rather than beneficial to the company.
A business owner must learn how to delegate tasks and trust his employees to perform their jobs autonomously. He should assign tasks to team members that reflect their strengths and capability to deliver.
He must also be able to determine if there is an aspect in his business that is his weak point and delegate that task to another employee or outsource the task altogether.
As Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson said in his LinkedIn influencer post, “No one is good at everything.” According to Branson, he is able to manage being involved in diverse industries because he surrounds himself with people who have knowledge and talents in areas where he might not be so well versed.
This is a very basic skill that is essential to any project manager. Projects often fail because of miscommunication errors which can be prevented if only a manager clearly related what needs to be done at a specific period.
A project manager must create an open channel of communication between him and the rest of the team members. Throughout the project, and most especially at the beginning, he must convey to each member what his expectations are and must be clear about deadlines and deliverables.
In a small business, it is not uncommon for employees to be so engrossed in their own tasks that they fail to communicate their progress, problems or concerns. The manager must always be available to mentor, rather than reprimand employees who need guidance.
Conflicts during a project can be detrimental as they cause expensive delays and more importantly, unproductive friction between team members. Having strong communication skills helps a manager to get to the root of the problem and act as a mediator between conflicting sides.
Strong communication skills also give a manager a more powerful stance in negotiations, whether with internal employees, or external partners like suppliers and clients. This gives him an edge in being able to clearly state his position and appeal his requirements.
A successful project is often judged by its ability to be completed within the deadline. Hearing the word “delay” is probably a project manager’s nightmare. In a small business, delays can even cause the company irreversible damages.
A business owner must know how to plan his project timeline first because even if the team is very diligent, an unrealistic timeline will set anyone for failure. Every phase of the project must be scoped out properly and allowances must be allotted into the timeline.
Prioritising is also a key element in time management. The mission-critical tasks must be completed first especially if they precede other parts of the project.
A great project manager also knows how to adapt and allocate his remaining time in case of unexpected circumstances.
Small business owners are often tasked to make a lot of decisions, especially at the early stages of the company. From deciding the company name, office location, business card design, letterhead fonts, and hiring employees…these can all be overwhelming. As the company matures, the business owner is faced with more important issues that can either make or break his company.
There are many decision making techniques and tools that can help business owners jumpstart their decision-making strategy. SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threats) Analysis, Cost/Benefit Analysis, Pros vs Cons and even third-party focus groups are just some ways for a business owner to arrive at an informed and timely decision.
Mastering the Skills
It is not expected for a business owner to immediately possess all of these skills at the onset. However, knowing what these are will be helpful for him to know what skills he still needs to improve on to become a successful project manager.