Ultimate guide to project management for startups

An incredible 660,000 startups are registered in the UK every year. (And that figure is roughly the same in the US.) 

That’s equal to 70 businesses created every single hour

The bad news is…

60% of them will fail before they reach their third year

It’s highly likely that you’ve heard that statistic – or one very much like it – before. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you may have heard it tons of times! 

But the more exposed we are to facts and figures, the less impact they have on us. It becomes water off a duck’s back.

So, let’s look at that statistic again. This time, really letting it sink in:

60% of businesses will fail before they reach their third year. 

That’s scary! 

But, of course, there are many ways for you to prevent this from happening to your new business. One of which is effective project management. 

Project management can be quite a deceptive term. It’s about so much more than just managing your projects. 

Effective project management reduces time wasted on errors (and re-work caused by those errors), and as a result improves your team’s productivity and your company’s profitability. 

On top of that, when projects are managed efficiently, communication is improved – both internally and externally – meaning clients are happier and will hopefully use your business time and time again. 

So the benefits are clear, but how do you get started with project management?

In this article we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about project management for your startup.

1. Setting goals

It’s likely that you have a lot you want to achieve, and fast. 

When you’re starting a business there are so many moving parts – from contacting investors, to opening a company bank account, to scouting for a location.

One of the most simple ways to manage all of these goals would be to create a to-do list. According to our 2021 project management survey, 95% of people feel having a list of tasks to do each day is good for their mental health.

Project.co stats

But of course, paper to-do lists have their drawbacks – the main one being paper can easily get lost, damaged, or eaten by the dog. 

A digital to-do list can have all of the same benefits, without the drawbacks. 

At Project.co, we have a free to-do list template that makes it easy to start managing your tasks on your devices (Project.co works on any device. You can use it on the web or download our app – for desktop and mobile)

The template comes pre-populated with a couple of tasks to help you get started, but it’s easy to update these and add your own. 

You can view your tasks as a standard list: 

Project.co tasks

Or with the calendar view, so that you have a better idea of when you need to complete each task: 

Project.co calendar

Tasks can be dragged over a couple of days or moved on if you need more time. 

Within each task you can add notes and other important information, such as files or documents: 

Project.co task

And whenever you complete a task, just check it off! 

Project.co

This to-do list template will help you to manage your goals and plan ahead, so you can always keep your startup moving forward.

Then, as you grow, you can add more people to the project and assign tasks to different team members: 

Project.co tasks

2. Finding a team

Speaking of growing, finding and building the perfect team of employees is an important first step towards building the wider company culture of your startup.

While looking at past experience and skill set is essential, when hiring your early team it’s also crucial to look at an employee’s potential future as well as their past. 

According to Anna Stenberg, founder of executive recruitment agency, WES, when hiring for your startup you should:

“Look for candidates who want to be part of your journey, who have an entrepreneurial mindset and understand what it means to build a plane while flying it.”

You should consider this – in addition to the type of company culture you want to create – when attracting your ideal candidates. 

In order to assemble the perfect team, you’ll need a strong recruitment and onboarding process, and project management can help with this. 

Our free recruitment pipeline template gives you everything you need to get started, including a tasks section, where you can schedule interviews: 

Project.co recruitment pipeline

The Kanban view also makes it easy to move candidates along the recruitment pipeline:

Project.co kanban

A files section, for storing CVs and other relevant documents: 

Project.co recruitment pipeline

And a chat space, where you can discuss potential candidates with other decision makers: 

Project.co comment

When the hiring process is complete, we also have an onboarding template that will help your new employees to settle in:

Project.co dashboard

According to a report by Glassdoor, organisations with a strong onboarding process can improve the retention of new hires by 82%.

And, because there’s no limit to the number of projects you can create within Project.co, you can open a new onboarding project for each new team member. 

Here, they can work their way through the onboarding process – from watching training videos to working on their first project – ticking off tasks along the way. 

Project.co

All of our free templates are completely customisable, so it’s easy to update tasks, timelines, and more to suit your startup’s unique requirements. 

3. Managing budget

In those early days of building your business, every penny counts. 

It’s important that you know exactly how much money your business needs to stay afloat, and how much everything is going to cost. 

In the beginning, your outgoing costs are probably going to outweigh your revenue. However, you should have a plan in place that enables you to track when you can expect to start making a profit.

Project management can help with this by allowing you to track the time spent on your projects. When you know how much time you’ve spent on each task or project, it can help you calculate your profit. 

In future, time tracking can be used as a benchmark for discovering which projects are profitable for your business, and which you should probably stop working on.

Each project within Project.co has a time tab that you can use to input the allocated hours you expect to spend on any given project, and then the actual hours spent. 

Project.co projects tab

This is a great way of measuring your profitability at a glance. If the actual time spent was less than the allocated hours – perfect! If not, it’s time to evaluate what went wrong. 

Project.co

By keeping a close eye on your budget you’ll be able to make informed decisions on important things such as, when to hire more staff, when to work on new products or features, and how much you can afford to spend on marketing and promotion. 

4. Prioritising communication

Open and transparent communication is key to the success of any startup. 

After all, you’re bringing together lots of people with different personalities and interests, and asking them to work together to build on the success of the business. 

And the constant need to “make it work” in order to keep the business afloat isn’t just stressful for you (the boss), it’s also stressful for your team – who may have families to provide for or mortgages to pay for. 

Creating open channels for communication and ensuring everyone is on the same page is the best way to ensure your projects run smoothly. 

This starts with deciding on what your preferred channels of communication will be. According to our 2021 project management survey, 67% of businesses communicate with their clients by email – making it by far the most widely used channel.

Project.co stat

But email isn’t ideal for many reasons. For starters, inboxes can get crowded real quick – and it can be difficult to find critical information when you need it. 

In addition, email communication is siloed. This is fine for the most part, but can become an issue if someone is out-of-the-office unexpectedly and has important information locked away in their inbox. 

A project management tool, like Project.co, can help you to keep all of your team communication in one central place – accessible by everyone, anytime.

When you open a new project, you’ll see a discussions tab. This is the place where everyone involved in the project can chat, share ideas, and also share important files. 

Project.co discussion

All messages are time-stamped and dated, making them easily searchable. And, by switching on email notifications, everyone involved in the project can receive every message directly to their inbox. 

Project.co notifications

Not only is this ideal for internal communication, it can also be used externally with your clients. 

You can invite clients to projects under the people tab: 

Project.co people tab

From there, they’ll have access to the discussions tab where you can keep all project communication centralised. 

This results in increased transparency, no more missed messages, and improved customer satisfaction!

5. Creating a standard

As the excitement of starting up begins to even out into the normal humdrum of everyday business life, you’ll need to ensure that the way you manage your projects is scalable. 

This way, you can continue managing everything efficiently as you grow. 

A project management tool can help you to do this because they’re already built with scalability in mind. With Project.co, you can manage your projects in the same way with one person as with 100+ people on your team.

Plus, you can create unlimited projects for every use case – from your own personal to-do list to a complete product roadmap. 

And every project is customisable and able to adapt to the unique business requirements of your startup. 

Final Thoughts

Starting your own business is tough, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Those long hours you put in. The late nights. The blood. The sweat. The tears. 

All of it will be worth it, but it doesn’t have to be so difficult. A project management tool can make your life so much more organised, and so much easier!

Try out one of our templates to get started.