It might sound counterintuitive, but there are a number of situations where a startup’s growth can get out of hand – for instance, if the founders had intended to create a ‘lifestyle startup’, rather than a huge, resource intensive scale up, then a meteoric growth rate risks putting those entrepreneurs at the helm of a business that becomes so demanding they begin to resent it.
Generally speaking business growth doesn’t happen by accident, though, so a more common situation for entrepreneurs is where a startup’s growth isn’t properly managed and directed.
In those cases founders may discover that their startup has become something they didn’t expect, not because they didn’t want to scale the business up, but because it has scaled in too many directions at once, with each new tangent competing for time and resources.
One solution to ensure this doesn’t happen is to apply project management methodologies to both the launch and the growth of a startup, helping to keep the business laser-focused on its singular mission and blind to tangents and distractions.
For example, PRINCE2, an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, is a project management methodology developed for the IT sector that can be used to manage and direct both the launch and the staged growth of a technology company.
Entrepreneurs can harness this type of methodology by hiring an in-house project manager or outsourcing the work to a consultancy or freelancer, of course, but if money is tight (and let’s face it, it usually is for early-stage startups) there is another option that could be more cost effective – one of the founders could study a Prince2 training course themselves (or another accredited project management course, for that matter) in order to ensure at least one person on the leadership team has a firm grasp of the project management process.
Beyond upskilling the leadership team, there are also a number of web-based tools founders can use to manage their ‘project’ (that is to say, their startup), and many of them are free. Here are three, for starters.
1. Easy Project
Founded in 2008, Easy Project is a Software-as-a-Service startup that offers a cloud-based project management tool tailormade for the PRINCE2 methodology. As with many SaaS companies, Easy Project offers a freemium pricing model, but the free membership plan should be more than enough for the needs of most early-stage startups, as it allows one user to manage up to five different projects, with storage topping out at 2GB.
MeisterTask offers a wide range of features, including issue tracking, time tracking, document storage and project collaboration, and its project boards are perfect for a wide range of project management methodologies. Unlike many other SaaS-based project management tools, MeisterTask’s free plan offers startups the ability to set up an unlimited number of users and manage an unlimited number of projects. MeisterTask users will also benefit from native project management apps for iOS and Android, and the free plan offers users two free integrations with other online services, such as Google Drive, Slack, Zendesk, GitHub, Box or Dropbox.
As the name suggests, Freedcamp shuns the traditional freemium pricing model, and makes all of its functionality completely free for both large companies and tiny startups. Freedcamp offers a wide range of functionality that makes it perfect for early-stage tech startups, including issue tracking, task lists, private tasks, project collaboration, kanban boards and gantt charts. In fact, Freedcamp’s feature list is so impressive that the tool is used by some of the world’s leading tech companies, including Google, airbnb and PayPal.
Whatever project management tool an entrepreneur favours, managing a startup’s growth doesn’t have to come at the expense of the company’s precious startup capital. In fact, project management methodologies can even help to lengthen an early-stage tech company’s runway by ensuring it avoids expensive tangents and is blind to costly distractions. Because although it might sound wise to ‘diversify’, trying to manage two go-to-market strategies at once is almost always a bad idea.