The goal of growth-oriented entrepreneurs is, or should be, the creation of a sustainable business that will survive, thrive and grow. However, the reality is that the first few weeks and months often look more like an intense project management exercise focused on getting things up and running smoothly, getting a viable initial version of the product or service out the door and laying the foundation for the next step. Acknowledging this means that some of the following “project management tips for launching a startup” offered by Rocheleau, originally intended for web designers but applicable to many other types of startups, can be extremely practical and valuable:
- There will always seem to be more things to do than there are resources and time to do them and this means that special care must be taken to select the essential tasks that need to be completed before venturing into other areas.
- While creating a detailed business plan may be difficult at the startup stage, entrepreneurs must nonetheless invest adequate time and effort into identifying a target market share and setting some solid goals with respect to what the business hopes to achieve during the startup phase.
- Set aside time to engage in marketing and branding every day from the very beginning including a concerted effort to find where prospective customers congregate in the online world and spreading the word about the company’s new product or service. Don’t wait for them to find you—go out and grab their attention and curiosity. Make sure that a healthy balance is struck between “nitty gritty” development work and outreach into the customer community.
- While many companies swear by just getting the product “out there” and then relying on customers to help with fixes, the better course is often to be sure that every step of the development process is 100% focused on making sure that fundamental features are done well and provide immediate value without the customer having to wait for a subsequent version. At the same time, care must be taken not to get bogged down in minor pieces of the new product that will take a long time to “get right” and don’t really have a large impact on the customer experience.
- All products and services, regardless of complexity, begin with small and manageable pieces. Prior to launching the new company, sit down and collect all the ideas regarding possible features and make sure they are recorded somewhere for easy access. Then, select a handful of the most important and start with those, making sure they can be completed in a relatively short time frame to keep momentum going. In other words, strive to do what Rocheleau referred to as "breaking down larger ideas" and remember that if a reasonable timetable for completing a feature is more than a week or 10 days it might be a good idea to take a closer look to see if the team is being asked to do too much.
- Before things get started try and put together a competent team that can work together smoothly to accelerate the completion of all the initial steps mentioned above. This will save time and facilitate scaling of the business; however, in order to for all this to work the founders need to understand and apply best practices for team management.
- In addition to focusing on the initial development activities and marketing and branding, growth-oriented entrepreneurs need to keep an eye on where they want the company to be 12 to 24 months down the road and establish plateaus that represent validation of the development efforts and acceptance in the marketplace and stable launching pads for the next phase of growth. While “stability” seems at odds with “disruption”, startups that can get to a point where they can “catch their breath” will have a much greater chance at achieving long-term success.
- As mentioned above, offerings to customers should be complete and as close to “bug free” as possible; however, achieving those goals should not derail the company from working in quick development phases that get the offerings out into the market so that badly needed feedback can be gather quickly and changes in course can be made before too much time, capital and enthusiasm is wasted. As long as the offering has a solid set of core features, customers will generally take the time to contribute ideas and thoughtful criticism that they hope will lead to a new version that will be even more useful. Be sure to supplement the data you collect from your own users with research on how the market seemed to receive similar features from other firms. It makes sense to try and learn from the mistakes of others.
Source: J. Rocheleau, “Project Management Tips for Launching a Startup”, Web Design Ledger (blog), August 1, 2012, http://webdesignledger.com/tips/project-management-tips-for-launching-a-startup [accessed July 3, 2015].