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Five project management tips

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Taking on a big project can be intimidating. Most big projects are not simple to manage. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and the workflow is never completely linear. Projects usually involve multiple people and have several deadlines that have to be met in order for the next part of the project to move forward.

Here are five tips to help you successfully manage your next big project and keep the ball rolling.

Visual Project Mangement software, DropTask.

Visual Project Mangement software, DropTask.

1. Break the project up into categories or key components. More than likely there are parts of the project that can be worked on at the same time as others, and there will be other critical components that have to wait until others are completed. Let’s say you are launching a new product. One key component of that will be packaging design, and the other key component will be product design. Each one can be worked on simultaneously, but there are also certain aspects of the packaging design that can’t be completed until the product design is finalized. So, don’t let the completion dictate the start of one project when it can be started simultaneously.

2. Map out key due dates. Record every critical due date into your calendar. Going back to the product launch example. Many different things have to fall into place to get the product to market: product finalization, packaging finalization, turning in art work to the printer, producing the product, packaging the product, and delivering the product to distribution. All of these key time sensitive stages of the product launch have to happen at just the right time. So, recording down all the critical dates is crucial to a successful project.

3. Know who is responsible for what. Each key component of a project will have a person responsible for getting that done. It’s your job as the project manager to follow up with them and make sure things are moving forward. If getting packaging printed for your new product launch is a critical step you need to ensure proper communication is made with the printer to ensure they will be able to complete their end of the project on time. Frequent follow-ups are key to make sure a project happens on time.

4. Visual Project Management. I’ve mentioned KanBan in the past for visual task management, and I recently discovered DropTask for visual project management. I have been putting both of them to good use for the project I am currently managing. DropTask allows you to visually see each component of your project, assign deadlines, importance, and people to particular tasks. The white board method works well too in a small office, but the nice thing about DropTask is you can update it straight from your computer, make notes, and communicate with other internal team members involved with the project.

5. Communication is key. The most important component of successful project management is communication! As the project manager it’s your job to communicate with the team and make sure each aspect of the project is moving forward, and remind people of critical deadlines, and offer support if needed.

Project management can seem daunting, but as long as a bit of structure is put into place, managing the project will be easy. That doesn’t mean it still won’t be stressful at times, but with timelines in place, roles defined, and a visual course mapped out, your project is sure to be a success.

Delegate using the 80% rule

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Delegating is one of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur. But in reality letting go is what we find so hard. It’s not that we don’t want to delegate, it’s that we fear somebody else won’t and can’t do as good of a job as we can. I’m guilty of this myself. In the early stages of starting Bearded Brothers I had a hard time delegating and transferring over responsibilities to my team. I feared that nobody was going to do as good of job as I was going to do, there were even responsibilities that I actually enjoyed doing, but just didn’t want to let go of, even though they were things another person could easily do.

When I was struggling to start delegating responsibilities I was even aware of the 80% rule. The rule states if you can find and train somebody to do the job at least 80% as well as you can then it’s time to delegate. Even though I knew that I didn’t want to believe it was true.

But hindsight is 20/20. Now that Bearded Brothers is growing and thriving I have delegated lots of responsibilities, and it’s one of the smartest things I have ever done as a startup entrepreneur. Learning to delegate has freed up valuable time so I am able to focus on growing and expanding the business. I still do plenty of day-to-day operations type stuff, but even a lot of that I’m starting to pass on to other team members.

It can be extremely difficult to let go of duties in your business that you value and deem as important, but the reality of it is you can’t grow your business on your own. Delegating is 100% necessary for growth, and is the best thing you will ever do as a business owner. I promise, you will see immediate results as soon as you transfer responsibility, especially on time consuming responsibilities.

Business Milestones

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Since starting Bearded Brothers nearly three years ago we have achieved many milestones, from gaining out first account in a small retail chain, to distribution in the South West Region of Whole Foods, but all those pale in comparison to our most recent milestone in my opinion.

Sure, increased sales and a presence in Whole Foods is great, but even more important is building a solid team and creating a company culture. On October first we celebrated our first team member reaching their one year Anniversary with Bearded Brothers!

We also have two other team members that will reach the one year mark early next year. I can’t tell you how great of a feeling of accomplishment this brings. Increased sales is great, but it is all meaningless if you don’t have a solid team of people surrounding you that helped you get there. I look forward to celebrating one year anniversaries many times over.

Certificate of Beardliness

Certificate of Beardliness, one year of awesomeness!

There is no I in Entrepreneur

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I remember very vividly a poster my neighbor across the street gave me when I was in Jr. High. He was a coach for the University of North Texas football team – the poster depicted four very well built football players standing boldly together with the phrase “There is no I in the word team.” At a young age I learned the importance of teamwork, and that nothing is accomplished without the help of others. The same is true for any entrepreneur.

When starting a business, even if it’s not a partnership, you are never doing it alone. Recently, President Obama was criticized by Republicans and entrepreneurs everywhere for saying, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The saying was published across the Internet as several memes like the one below. I even remember being outraged by the statement myself, having only been a year into the start of Bearded Brothers. How dare Obama say that I didn’t build this business and provide people jobs.

You Didn't Build That

You Didn’t Build That

However, I see his point more clearly now, and it was actually well stated when he said, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.” Sadly some of his words were taken out of context and the main point of his message missed.

Throughout my life I had had several influential people that have shaped who I am today, from parents to teachers, to mentors and career coaches. Without these people in my life I would have never had the boldness and faith to start the business I am so passionate about today.

Since starting the business we have had several people work for us that have helped our business grow. Currently we have three all-star team members that are helping us crush it and grow our business. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I have also learned through other entrepreneurs that it’s important to be willing to hire people smarter than you. Even though our company is only two years old I see the importance in this and I’m sure we will be making many great hires in the near future that will only compliment that current team we have in place. Having smart people on your team will only benefit you.

Businesses, while often started by individuals, don’t survive or thrive with individuals – they require a team. Most importantly, they require a team that believes in your mission and vision, and can help you grow your company in areas you are weak, or in ways that free you up to focus important tasks that help launch the business to the next level. No matter what the task is the individual performs it’s an integral part of the system that helps everything move forward. You can’t take any one person for granted on your team.

In Summary

– Your business isn’t a solo mission
– People in your past, and on your current team are helping you succeed
– Hire people smarter than you to ad some fuel to the fire
– Don’t take any of your team members for granted (always show them appreciation)
– It’s the team that makes your business thrive, not any one individual