For most small businesses, running lean, somewhat ad-hoc operations is the norm. That’s one of the reasons that small businesses are able to remain so nimble and can take advantage of changing market conditions faster than their larger competitors. That doesn’t mean, however, that larger businesses don’t have some advantages too.
To begin with, larger businesses almost always have greater financial resources than smaller ones. That allows them to create economies of scale that lower their costs and allows them to achieve higher profit margins. They also have access to more human resources and can focus their efforts on more business goals simultaneously than can their smaller rivals.
There is a way, though, that smaller companies can retain their natural advantages and still overcome the financial and resource superiority of their bigger counterparts. It all boils down to efficiency and the maximisation of every asset a small business can bring to bear on each strategic goal they have. As it turns out, there’s a whole field of study dedicated to doing just that: project management. Here’s an overview of the concept and the specific ways it can benefit any small business.
What is Project Management?
To understand the field of project management, it is first necessary to understand the business definition of a project. According to the Project Management Institute, a project is “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” Naturally, it follows that project management refers to the body of knowledge, techniques, and best practices required to execute business projects with the smallest amount of resources, the greatest chances for success, and to generate the maximum benefit for the business. In short, project management can allow a small business to do more with less, and compete with much larger organisations on an even footing.
A Force Multiplier
Since project management is all about efficiency and driving results, it is a field of study that should be of great interest to small businesses. It’s the perfect remedy for the conventional, somewhat disorganised tendencies of a typical small business. Those tendencies, according to a recent survey, are the primary reason that three in four small business owners cite for productivity problems in their companies. At the scale that small businesses operate, any loss of productivity could jeopardise their existence, or at the very least hamper their ability to capture their market.
With proper project management techniques in place, a small business can cut down on things like cost overruns, wasted man hours, and below-average contract satisfaction. When business goals and day-to-day operations are tuned to the best practices of project management, the small business can gain the operational efficiencies associated with larger organisations, without sacrificing flexibility or market agility. To be more specific, project management techniques allow a small business to:
1. Improve Responsiveness to Customers
In a small business environment, resource constraints often make it impossible for each customer to have a single point of contact with the company. While that’s not an insurmountable obstacle, having a project manager can help to cut down on key customer service metrics like response times, the average time to resolution, and after-service follow-ups. They make that happen by operating as the central information point, and can dynamically assign resources to guarantee the best outcomes. They can also provide strategic direction to make sure that the business always meets or exceeds overall customer service goals.
2. Create Interdepartmental Go-Betweens
In a typical small business, each employee wears many hats. While that flexibility can be valuable, it can also lead to chaos within the organisation. Project managers, by contrast, don’t belong to any single department and serve as vital go-betweens to bridge the gaps between often-competing operational units. That allows professional staff to stay in their lane to do what they do best, while the project manager orchestrates their efforts and brings in help from other employees as needed.
3. Prioritise Customer Tasks
As the central point of contact for clients, project managers are able to triage customer requests to keep employees on-task and on-schedule. That means that the skilled employees that are doing the underlying work won’t be needlessly redirected into less-important tasks, and will waste no effort on meaningless mid-stream changes. Instead, the project manager can work with the customers to set both priorities and boundaries. They form a crucial buffer and communications channel between the small business’s employees and the customers they’re striving to satisfy.
The Bottom Line
Put simply, effective project management (and project managers) can help a small business to eliminate waste and perform their core functions in the most efficient way possible. Depending on the size and complexity of the operation, they can have as many dedicated project managers on staff as they need, or even have existing managers take a project management course online to gain the requisite skills. Just by adding the tools of a professional project manager to their business arsenal could make all the difference in the world, and help today’s small business become tomorrow’s next big thing – overcoming the competition to reach the top of the mountain in whatever industry they service.
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