Waddell Group consultants have worked with all sizes of companies. One of the questions asked quite often is “why would a small company hire an outsourced project manager?” The question of hiring a Project Manager is driven by balancing the needs of investors, the experience and talent of the CEO and staff, and the market opportunity of the product.
Project managers aren’t just for the big companies
Project Managers are often seen as only useful in big companies. In our experience that isn’t the case at all. An effective PM keeps projects on time and budget, communicates status and issues to the people that need to know and generally has the project team operating as efficiently as possible. The added cost of the PM versus the potential efficiency is the reason large companies hire PM’s – both internal and outsourced. Does the same hold for a small company’s projects?
The worst thing that can happen to a small company is that they run out of money. The CEO has to be focusing on funds. For companies that are adequately funded, the CEO is always aware that the next tranche comes with milestones. In both cases, project management needs to happen, and it’s a question of who is doing it.
Manage risk and realisticness
A CEO of a lightly funded company must show potential investors a solid plan that is realistic and well thought out. This includes risks and how they’ll be handled. If you look at the plans that good project managers put together, it looks a lot like what companies looking for early funding put together. It can be very useful to have someone who has taken many products through this process and partner with the CEO on creating that plan.
For companies that are funded and focused on hitting milestones, being efficient is key. This is done by defining interim milestones, planning around them and working the plan. Knowing where the project is every day and that there is someone focusing on meeting every project objective is reassuring. This project focus is the role of Project Management – important no matter what size the company – with consequences being more impactful for smaller ones.
A small company CEO knows that if they miss a milestone, there may be significant consequences. The options include taking on debt, bridge funding, down round(s), or even stopping. Establishing milestones that are very difficult or even unrealistic to hit is a major mistake, where a more realistic plan may have been just as well received by the funders. A great Project Manager can help set up reasonable and achievable milestones and then manage the plan to hit those milestones.
Finally, no matter where the company is in the process to profitability, in many small companies the CEO or founder is a visionary who thrives on company culture, raising money, crafting a vision for growing the company, and meeting present and future customers. This skill set usually differs from the execution driven nature of Project Managers. We see the Project Managers job as a simple one: Have the CEO look brilliant by making their vision a reality through hitting each milestone on time and budget.
Need project management help? Get to know The Waddell Group
We’ve worked with many medical device start-up companies. We can provide a strategic level of project leadership on your medical device. Beyond essential project management skills, our highly experienced consultants know how to lead teams, manage in times of crisis, and influence change. We offer expertise that other firms just can’t match. Contact us today by calling 952.221.3333