My first article for Hunter Headline on the topic of project management skills for business outlined how the overriding principles of project management (often associated with big developments) can be easily adapted to help any business owner.
The system’s four phases of concept, planning, execution and termination provide a useful framework to help steer and navigate your business plan.
You may be wanting to set-up a new business or expand an existing one, improve efficiency, become more profitable, increase turnover or broaden your client base.
With any of these goals, concept and planning are really important as both stages help to ensure each part of your business is working towards a common goal by detecting particular areas that may need attention.
The ‘concept’ of your business will be drawn from your strategic plan. Putting such a plan together requires the directors of the business (and in a small-medium sized business that may just be you) to be looking at opportunities and threats that may impact both positively and negatively, either within or outside the firm.
A helpful tool is the PESTLE framework with prompts around political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental issues that can affect your business. This simple method classifies and targets issues when scanning the external environment.
When considering internal factors, breaking these elements into tangible and intangible matters can help pinpoint high priority areas.
Once you have identified external and internal issues, understood the threats and opportunities along with possible strengths and weaknesses, you’re off to a great start. The next step is recognising the key elements that can be best measured and to document that process along the way.
Then it’s time to start to consider the ‘planning’ phase of just how you are going to undertake the necessary steps to achieve your business goal.
Making time to plan is crucial because it lets you work out and understand the detail of how you are going to deliver your project, and whether your proposed way is indeed feasible and timely.
It is so easy to want to rush in and commence your projects and allow well-intentioned enthusiasm to overwhelm you. Remember, the level of success in achieving your set goals will only be improved through spending productive time in the early stages getting organised and making proper plans.
Here are some important things to consider during the planning phase, and let’s use the goal of expanding your business as an example;
- Resourcing/personnel | what skill-sets are required, do you need new staff, where will you find them?
- Equipment | will you need computers, new software, IT support services, office furniture or a new company vehicle?
- Finances | do you need to borrow money and what impact will an investment have on your cash flow or reserves?
- Insurance | do you need to minimise risk or do you need to upgrade your current insurance?
- Costs | clearly identify all costs involved and their impact on your business. Will the change drive higher income through more turnover and greater efficiencies?
- Communication | who needs to know about any changes, either temporary or permanent (suppliers, customers, staff)?
- Marketing | do you need to tell people you are doing something better?
These are just a few examples and no doubt, depending on the type and size of business you own, there will be others. Think logically and carefully through each step on how best to achieve your goal and discuss your plan with others who may have previous experience or are experts in that area.
Setting goals and making changes to improve your business can be exciting and rewarding. With careful planning, particularly under the project management guided framework, inevitable frustrations can be reduced and desired changes can be made far more quickly and successfully.
Stephen Barr is a registered surveyor, certified practicing planner and owner of Barr Property & Planning. He has been involved in the development industry for more than 20 years and works with clients to combine strategic thinking with practical planning advice and development expertise.
With a background in surveying, Stephen understands the implications of crucial decisions that are made from the planning stage through to a project's final delivery. He is a former Chairman of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) - Hunter Chapter, serves on Compass Housing's state committee and is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA).