How to manage a startup: 6 tips

Owning or managing a startup can be exhausting. Here are six actions startup owners or managers can take to help manage tasks and busy schedules.

Investor working new startup project.

Image: iStockphoto/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

If you are the owner of a startup, then you know there's all kinds of work that needs to be done. From managing projects, client expectations, and employees to handling finances, emails, and addressing issues, there's no end to your to-do list. 

Each day, thousands of people start new companies, and thousands more are thinking up new ideas for a startup. The marketplace is saturated with startups, making it vital that each one of those business owners not only differentiates their product or service, but also keeps pace with their daily tasks. 

SEE: Launching and building a startup: A founder's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Startups have to be more efficient if they expect to grow, and keeping up requires these six actionable items. 

1. Set project management standards

The best way to grow your startup is to adopt established project management standards. PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) can help startups set a high standard of project management excellence right out of the gate. 

This ensures that all projects follow the proven best practices that help identify and meet business requirements, reduce waste, optimize the use of resources, and increase the chances of achieving goals.  

SEE: 20 project management books to read now (TechRepublic)

2. Set realistic client expectations

Every company must put their clients first. Your business works because there are clients who buy your products or services. If you don't take care of your clients, they'll simply choose another company to buy from. 

To manage client expectations, it is essential to fully understand their needs, have effective and frequent communication, and set realistic expectations about how you are going to meet those needs.

3. Create process documentation

It isn't enough to just develop effective internal business processes--having written documentation for those processes provides all employees with the standard they need to follow, removes inconsistencies, and reduces instances of error and confusion. 

When process documentation is readily available, especially for new employees, it creates efficiencies and reduces the need for excessive training and re-training. Process documentation also helps to set expectations around not only how to complete tasks, but also why. 

SEE: 10 tips for helping your users follow IT documentation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. Procure the right web-based tools

Every company needs tools for effective growth. It's unwise and unrealistic to think that a startup can grow without relevant and affordable tools to manage day-to-day work. If your company does not have a budget for expensive tools, look for free web-based options that can be leveraged until your business can afford other tools. 

There are many work collaboration, communication, project management, creativity, and productivity tools available online that can help your startup to grow--some are open source and other paid web-based tools usually offer a free version to individuals or startups. 

5. Identify opportunities to learn from setbacks

Having setbacks in a startup is common because almost every experience is new at some point. The good news is this also means each experience provides an opportunity to learn from any mistakes that are made. 

SEE: Quick glossary: Startups (TechRepublic Premium)

The key to learning is first accepting that mistakes will be made, then establishing a culture that encourages learning for growth, instead of punishment, when there are setbacks. It's important to document mistakes and involve the relevant people to identify the best solutions going forward. 

6. Remain open-minded to new ideas and change

Having one idea and refusing to look at its downsides can be a dangerous stance to take. If you have a new idea, ask your team or a trusted peer for their opinion to help you make the best decision. Be prepared to delay or decline to move ahead with an idea if it appears to be more downsides than benefits.

Startups typically have many tasks, but limited resources to complete each task. You can improve task management by ensuring your startup understands its customers, learns from setbacks, has the right tools and documented processes, and keeps an open mind about opportunities and potential changes. 

Also see