How could a local retail boutique’s “Open House” be comparable to building a 700MW power generating station?  Well, both are unique events that happen just one time, and both have to achieve some basic [cost, time and quality] requirements to be considered successful.

It does not matter that the Open House will be held in a local retail store operated by a sole small business owner with less than ten employees, or that the Power Plant delivery spans five years from conception to going online, requiring equipment shipped from around the world and a team of hundreds of professionals contributing from multiple disciplines.

Both activities are considered projects that require resources to implement a change, and the likelihood of success of each one can be higher if deployed with a project management methodology.

It seems obvious that building a multi-million dollar Power Plant would benefit from the proficient application of project management tools, given the substantial time and cost impact.  But what about the Open House?  I’d argue that project management is even more important to the small business owner, who probably has limited fallback plans if a business-related expenditure fails to deliver the desired result.

1. Defining Success

What exactly is the business trying to accomplish?  And will this endeavor (project) meet that goal?  Defining project objectives is essential before any planning even starts, and they help guide every decision until the project is completed, big or small.

2. Garnering Support

Identifying and engaging the people impacted by changes, also called Stakeholders, can make all the difference when it comes to success or failure.  This critical project management area not only helps power plants go up in peoples’ “backyards,” but it can help ensure the boutique’s neighbors don’t complain to the BBB if every parking spot on the street is taken for an evening!  Stakeholder management profoundly affects the acceptance of change facilitated by a project.

3. Making the Business Case

Every dollar spent on the business begs the question, “will we get this dollar back and more?”  Will spending $1,000 to put on an awesome Open House return more than $1,000 in new business?  Or not…?  Maybe there are more impactful ways to spend $1,000, or perhaps spending $500 can deliver the same result.  Project management’s focus on planning increases the chances to maximize return on [any] investment (ROI).

4. Managing Risk

What if…?  Or, what if…?  Businesses of all sizes grapple with risk every day.  Fear of risks can paralyze one from executing a needed change.  Risk identification and planning mitigation strategies are integral to effective project management, because risks exist for every project!

5. Knowing the Cost

Most expenditures carry a cost above and beyond just the price tag, even for a seemingly simple Open House.  Attendees will expect food and beverages to be served (remember that stakeholder management?), but beyond purchasing refreshments, what about potential extra costs like delivery charges, bartending, servers, napkins, waste disposal or clean up afterwards?  Project management processes not only help estimate the total cost, but can also elucidate alternatives to minimize cost or decide when to pursue financing, delay the purchase or lease versus buy.

Further, setting up a realistic budget and monitoring and controlling costs to meet that budget might just be simplest and most effective project management tool a small business owner can use when every penny counts.

The profound power of project management comes from both its standardization and scalability.  Project management represents a proven approach to manage any size or scope project.  The associated tools can be applied or scaled based on any project’s unique needs and for any size business.  While the project-based strategy for the Open House and the Power Plant will be similar, each project may look quite different once the right project management tools are selected and customized, and both can deliver the desired results.