So you—or maybe yourself and a friend or two—are eating pizza one night, probably complaining about something (e.g., "...yeah, the way they do it stinks. They need to implement it like this..." — fill-in the blanks for 'they' and 'it'), and then, without warning, you have an epiphanic episode. A sudden revelation that overcomes your senses (and perhaps sensibilities). In short, a light-bulb moment when a beacon of brilliance illuminates your path... you must follow it. No, you're not dead and pursuing the light at the end of the tunnel. You're going to create a startup.
If the idea truly takes you over, then the next few years will be hectic... and the next few months will be pure chaos. Of course you will, ultimately, love every minute of it. After the stresses of funding and the headaches of planning, you will actually be ready to start taking on customers. Your tight-knit team is in-place, you've rented out an awesome converted loft in a cool part of town, the PlayStations are hooked-up in your new company's "Relaxation Room," and your mission statement is all in lowercase and full of quirky inspirational phrases. You get the idea.
Then Reality, that multi-horned beast waiting patiently in the shadows, steps in. If your new venture is like other startups, here's what he tells you:
- You have x months left before you're broke.
- Everyone on your team (all 4 of them) have to do the equivalent work of 20 people.
- If you're successful, then your team needs to expand. Fast.
From a project management standpoint, this trio of observations reveals the following:
The whiteboard won't do it. It's great for meetings, but the survival of those long planning sessions can't be subject to the whims of the nightly cleaning crew. A formalized project management methodology, even if not strictly implemented, is needed if your company is going to traverse the obstacles ahead.
You need a project management solution that is accessible (e.g., SaaS), scalable (you won't be a tiny team forever), affordable (funds will be tight), and viable (gets the job done the way you want it done).
As a founder or co-founder, you can't let the magic you felt on that pizza-eating night fizzle away (the time when you decided to create a startup, remember?). One of the major factors in your success, or failure, will be whether or not you can impart your startup's message/mission to your team and your clientele. The Message should be an integral aspect of all projects; if everyone is on the same page, then deadlines will be met and, most importantly, customers will be happy.
The Wearing of Many Hats
Given your team's probable size, it's a reality that everyone will be responsible for issues outside of their area of expertise. This also applies to project management. If you implement the Scrum method, for example, then use this to your advantage by exposing your team members to all the Scrum roles. If you use a different method, then perhaps a revolving Project Manager hat is in order. Since you're all in the same boat, why not expose your team to project management techniques so that they can handle increased responsibilities down the road?
Speaking of increased responsibilities: as your startup grows, your small team will likely metamorph into future Chiefs, Directors, and other Senior Management roles. Their project management exposure from the "early days" will be invaluable as your company matures. Eventually you will reach a point where advanced project management skills are needed (coupled with the reality of Time being the ultimate resource); in other words, you require a dedicated Project Manager. As a founder, it's critical for you and your inner circle to impart the knowledge you've learned to your PM. Pass the baton, Jedi, you can't do it all!
Are you a company founder? An integral member of your startup's inner circle? Share your knowledge with our community via a Comment below!
Your dedicated blogger, Brian, is currently studying German (challenging!), reading "Benjamin Franklin" (by Walter Isaacson — good!), and drinking a Brandy Alexander (John Lennon's favorite!).