A Project Management Approach to Entrepreneurship
Starting a business should be one of the most energetic and creative activities for any founder. Designing, talking, convincing — these are the most common tasks that an entrepreneur wannabe is thinking of. Once they start the process, they would need to plan, structure, and decide. The work starts to resemble a project manager’s work.
Though entrepreneurship and project management are distinctive areas with different competencies, Taavi Tamberg, Arvi Kuura, and Reet Soosar have researched that “project managers are expected to act as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs”. Could entrepreneurs learn something from project managers and transfer some of their competencies in their work?
Here are some examples, taken from Nathalie Udo and Sonja Koppensteiner’s research:
- Knowledge of concepts, methodologies, practices, and vocabulary of the profession
When you start cooking something, you gather the tools and ingredients. Similarly, starting a business needs a good understanding of the terminology and the different information that is required by investors. Maybe in the field of entrepreneurship, they are not named like this, but for sure you can find some academic research and books on this.
- Knowing the purpose of the business
Even though the founders do not have all the details figured out yet, having a clear purpose is crucial. Questions like where the business is headed and deciding on long and short-term goals are important to answer. There is a possibility that what the founder initially imagined will change in time, but defining the purpose and following it is important.
- Knowledge of processes, methodologies, and tools & techniques
In project management, as in entrepreneurship, there are tested ways for structuring data. This is one piece of information that partners and investors are expecting the founders to know. Even if it is about a business model canvas or a pitching deck, they are known in the entire venture capital pipeline.
As processes, there is always the question of how much time should founders stay in planning or how quickly should they go to test the market. How much should stay and define different plans or just sketch something and give it a shot? This is also a recipe that differs for every founder.
- Ability to recognize resistance and overcome it
Wishing to bring something new or something improved in the market is understanding that resistance is part of the game. There will be potential resistance on all sides, from the competition, suppliers, and even potential customers. Having strategies for this could be a lot of help for start-up enthusiasts.
- Communication — the ability to provide information regarding tasks, plans, schedules, strategies to stakeholders
Using a methodology in project management gives you the clarity and structure of tools and ways to communicate. In entrepreneurship, this is something that has to be settled and decided by the founders. Here are some of the questions that should be considered:
- How much should they reveal?
- How should they create the stakeholder’s grid?
- How often should they engage in communicating with them?
- Who should communicate from the start-up side?
- Ability to keep the project moving toward successful completion in face of aggressive schedules and discouraging developments
In projects, people are under pressure to meet deadlines and deal with the scarcity of resources. In building a startup, founders could take the structure and the discipline from project management, create templates, and use them in iterations. Yes, iteration is part of the entrepreneurship game also. However, the creative process can be formalized more and get inspiration from project management by creating steps to follow, milestones to overcome, and deadlines to reach.
Some aspects of project management can be transferred to entrepreneurship. A good idea is an idea in practice, even though it is not in the best shape. Plan, schedule, distribute roles, and structure information. Starting a business can look like the most complex project, so it is important to adapt to some of these techniques.