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I once knew an entrepreneur so passionate about his idea for a business, he could cover several whiteboards describing it all. It would support entrepreneurs throughout the world with funding and tools as it matched them with willing investors and directed revenue to the best of the best.
As he rhapsodized about the growing features, his worried investor noted the project had been germinating for more than two years, without a start date in sight. “What’s the big hurry?” the founder replied in disdain. “This is a $6B business. It has been modeled perfectly. Nothing could possibly go wrong.”
Would you like to guess how the company ended?
Impatient at the tweaking and stalling, the investor hired additional resources and instructed the creator to go. As anticipated, the idea was magnificent. The press extolled its glory as founders responded in droves. What could go wrong? Sponsors balked, teams squabbled and the contest format to vet out the best of the best addressed an increasingly smaller audience of participants and viewers as the competition progressed. So a new team was hired improve the contest software. It worked! But every issue beyond the faulty software remained. Ultimately the organization contributed the competition software, now working, to a local university, allowing the founder to take a donation credit to ameliorate at least a part of the cost. But the “can’t fail” model for a $6B venture was gone.
It’s the kind of story we hear far too often, even from some of the biggest and most successful ventures around. Which projects do we choose? What will they require? Of our alternatives, what will produce the most revenue and position the company best?
This week I spoke at length with Dale Richards, the CEO of Swattage. He’s an MBA and a PMP (Project Management Professional) who’s managed these issues for a variety of enterprise businesses before jumping out of industry in 2016 to form a company that could provide these services for the those who need it most—early stage businesses and entrepreneurs.
Where do we begin?
While it’s not surprising—expected even—that enterprise companies have invested heavily in the teams and processes to manage their outcomes, early stage companies, invariably, have not. While most engage in some form of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) before stepping forward, it’s perhaps astonishing how many do their business analysis poorly or not at all, allowing themselves to be buffeted by each new idea or whim.
This is where Richards and his team step in to direct leaders who are unaccustomed to deep analysis and planning to determine their best moves. What is the current state and the future state of the shift the company will require? And what is the project that will bridge the gap? This is where strong project management will map out the process and steps to make the new reality real.
For example, Richards is working with an entrepreneur whose business is growing so rapidly it feels like he’s moving at the speed of light. This founder is focused on his most immediate requirements—the need to meet payroll—but he also knows that he needs to bring in process and discipline in order for the business to scale. As an outside party, Richards and his team can do that in the way that an operations or sales manager with their feet to the fire in the heat of battle could not.
Richards showed me the visual outcome of his work for the client in question. The current state of the company, not surprisingly, resembles a scatter diagram of black and red dots. In certain areas the activities are clustered, but the activities appear to be dynamic and random. The red dots show where the current process breaks down with manual or missing steps.
In the company’s future state, the process is shorter, more direct, and replete with green dots, representing the elements the company can automate to produce a much clearer and cleaner process from lead generation to cash in the bank.
It’s more than fancy flow charts—Richards notes that without effective project management, 9-10 percent of a company’s work and output is wasted. Imagine the impact that 9-10 percent would have on a company’s bottom line? Or on a national economy?
Imagine the sum this 9-10% would be for your company. Now imagine what you could do with that $100,000 or the $1-10M difference you may be able to make. Marketing campaigns, additional sales, training, or wellness benefits for employees may top the list, let alone the additional profit your organization could make.
Where are the areas that project management goes wrong? Richards notes the following points of weakness:
- Poorly defined goals
- Scope creep
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Poorly trained staff
- Unforeseen risks – government shutdowns/policy changes
- Uncooperative or disagreeable team members
Now imagine a team no longer frustrated because it has the ability to keep up with the founder’s vision. The team is able to function like a well-oiled machine. Better still, its members are able to provide meaningful input on the best ways to use the 10 percent of capital investment they are able to gain.
January 31, 2019 at 12:30PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs