Time management is a challenge that all start-ups consistently face. No matter how great the idea, business plan or team is, poor project management can doom a startup. Marissa Brassfield is a consultant in the startup domain. While serving as the Senior Editor for Trendhunter.com, Brassfield was responsible for managing a team of writers and editors as well as producing large volumes of high-quality content. The strategies and streamlining processes she learned there led her to found Ridiculously Efficient Incorporated, which helps startups prioritize tasks and inspire team members to accomplish tasks, improving their efficiency and maximizing their potential.
Certain “best practice” personal efficiency habits apply to all market sectors, and can improve the performance of any individual or group. Says Brassfield, “I tell all my clients to figure out what your ‘super-hero’ power is. What one thing are you better at than anyone else. […] When building a team, it’s important to pick people who don’t share that super-power, because that balances it, and helps share the responsibilities.” Figuring out what strengths each person brings to the team is a simple, but important task.
Then make a to-do list to identify which tasks are ones that “only you can do,” and which tasks, “are ones that someone else on my team might be best for.” In a startup environment, people tend to “wear lots of hats” and multitask, and “you get in the habit of just taking on whatever you have time for, as opposed to what you might actually be best at doing.” Taking a look at that to-do list helps determine which tasks you’re best for, which tasks a team member is best suited for, and which tasks should be outsourced.
Using freelancers to accomplish tasks such as research, writing, and appointments can help free up your time to focus on the tasks you are best suited for. Says Brassfield, “Figure out what your time is worth. Everyone has an idea of what their hourly ‘rate’ is.” Freeing up time in your day can be immensely valuable when outsourcing tasks with pay rates below what your time is worth. Internet freelance sites provide a great resource for finding talent, according to Brassfield. Over time, you can build a relationship with contractors, in effect ‘adding’ them to your team without the costs associated with actually hiring someone.
One of the largest hurdles to jump is when a solo entrepreneur hires their first employee, says Brassfield. “The solo entrepreneur is used to doing everything by themselves, from finances to marketing to project management.” The temptation for an entrepreneur is to hire their first employee for one specific task, like marketing. However, Brassfield believes that the first hire needs to be a project manager.
“You as the solo entrepreneur probably started this business because you are really good at something, and you wanted to build your product or service around it. By necessity, you’ve had to take on all these other roles that may be outside your area of expertise.” If you hire a project manager, you can assign them to oversee the tasks that are outside of your “wheelhouse,” freeing up your time to build your business. She says, “get obsessive, not distracted.” Entrepreneurs should give themselves the freedom to be obsessive about the tasks they are good at and not distracted by all the minutia of running a startup.
Everyone has a time they are most focused, productive and effective, so it’s also important to figure out when that is for you and your team. If you can make sure “peak” times are devoted to utilizing those “super-powers” and schedule meetings and calls during non-peak times, you can maximize your efficiency.
Another best-practice involves delegation and communication. “When you delegate a task, make sure you ask when you should follow up about that task. […] This sets the expectation that you will follow up, but it prevents you from micro-managing your teammate, which is a huge source of hassle and strife.” It also respects the teammate’s schedule and makes the follow-up process collaborative.
If startups can incorporate Brassfield’s best practices and other effective project management skills into their daily routine, it will help take them to the next level and avoid common pitfalls that many startups experience. Figure out your team, figure out where your time is best spent, and you’ll be positioned for success.