Core Small Business Skills – Operational Management

As a business owner and entrepreneur it is important to develop a set of key management skills upon which you can build your business. Even more so when you consider research into Australian small business failures, has identified that in 90% of cases, a lack of management skills has been a key reason for small business failure. Operational Management skills have been identified as one of the core skills required for small business success, and I would go so far as to say that they could be a deal breaker. So let’s look at the operational management skills you need to run a successful small business.You need to build operational management skills in order to develop the systems and processes by which you deliver your products and services. The more efficient and effective they are the more ‘productive’ your business will be. Core operational skills include planning, management, communication as well as effective systems design.Operational and Project Planning SkillsThe ability to develop operational plans which focus on the day-to-day running of your small business and to develop and manage project plans for specific bodies of work are essential skills for business success. The best operational and project managers ensure that have identified,in as much detail as possible, what is required when and allocating appropriate resources to get the job done. They are also fanatical about identifying risks and issues upfront and managing them so that they have little or no impact on the task at hand.Monitoring and Reporting SkillsSmall business owners need to be able to assess their small business’s performance against its objectives and to develop and distribute a series of reports that indicate the level of that performance to key stakeholders on a weekly basis. Keeping an eye on your progress highlights any emerging issues and allows you to effectively manage the situation. This ensures that the reins of business are always in your hands and in your control. You need to be able to create a set of operational key performance indicators (KPI’s) that drive the behaviours and values you want your business to embody, create a set of operational performance ‘dashboards’ and develop a system that captures the information that feeds into the operational dashboard.Effective Business Communications SkillsStrong communication skills are vital. In many respects, it is the oil that keeps your systems’ gears meshing nicely. You need to be able to inspire your troops to act in concert with your strategic intent, whilst delivering the communication to the troops about what needs to be done, when, where and why in an effort to keep your operations running like a well oiled machine. Strong written, verbal and non-verbal communication can be the difference that can take your small business from good to great.Systems Design, Development and Implementation SkillsEvery entrepreneur should be aiming to build an effective small business that operates without them. After all, most entrepreneurs build their business with the hopes of working only when they want to, not because they have to! The only way this can be done is to design, develop and implement systems that replace the business owner. Systems design requires the ability to observe, analyse and design solutions to systems problems. Having the ability to design systems is vital throughout the life of the business because all successful businesses will be in a constant state of re-design in order to keep abreast of the ever-changing demands of your customers and the context within which your business operates.Developing strong Operational Management skills are essential to the day-to-day running of your business. Continuing to hone them is important as these particular skills will be required throughout the entire business life cycle, but the effort you put into developing these skills will pay handsome dividends when it comes to your day-to-day small business success.

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How to Communicate with Your Team Members

Your team is only as good as the communication it enjoys. If you are able to communicate effectively with your team members, you can eliminate many of the most common headaches and pitfalls that affect projects. However, if you’re unable to implement effective communication, then you can expect to suffer through setback after setback during the course of a project. How do you communicate with your team members?
Keep an Open Door
In any management situation, having an open door policy is important, but it’s doubly true in the world of project management. Keeping an “open door” isn’t as difficult as you might think, either. Essentially, you just need to ensure that your team members know that whatever they need to talk to you about, whatever questions they might have, or whatever problems they’re experiencing, they can bring them to you. Your team needs to know that they can come to you with anything, and that you’ll actually listen, which brings us to the next point.
Listen, Listen, Listen
If there’s one problem that’s common to managers in virtually all situations, it’s the inability to actually listen. This is very important – if a team member brings something to you, stop what you’re doing and listen. Make eye contact while they’re speaking. Stop thinking about the million other things you need to be doing and actively listen to what they’re saying. Chances are good that whatever it is has some bearing on the project, and you owe it to your team members to listen if they’re going to go to the trouble of bringing it to your attention. Listening can be harder than it sounds. You’ll need to:

Make eye contact
Pay attention
Sum up their point(s) before answering questions or offering advice
Provide real answers to their questions and take action right away
Meetings aren’t exactly everyone’s definition of a good time. Chances are that your team members won’t be all that enthused about weekly project meetings, but not only can you change that perception, you can use meetings to your advantage. However, you’ll need to make sure that you can 1) keep the meetings as brief as possible and 2) keep things on topic. By keeping your meetings brief, you not only encourage your team members to say what they need to say quickly, but you show respect for their time as well. By keeping the meeting on topic, you avoid running over time, but you’re also able to keep the conversation focused on finding solutions to the problems at hand, rather than veering off into other areas.
Be Available
Keeping an open door policy in the office is important, but you need to go beyond that. Project problems and the need for communication can occur at almost any time. Make sure that your team members know that you’re available when they need you, even if it’s outside of normal office hours.
By following these simple tips, you can enjoy better communication with your team members and see better success within your project.

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Vital Help for New Project Managers

Are you stepping into the role of project manager? If so, it’s a whole new world out there, to use a time-honored turn of phrase. While your education, training and certification program gave you the tools and skills to handle quite a few things, there are some things that can only be learned through experience. Rather than going into it unprepared, knowing some important elements ahead of time will help ensure that you’re ready for what’s to come.
Realize It’s Your Responsibility
One of the first things you need to understand is the amount of responsibility that will be on your shoulders here. No matter what type of project you’re running, its success or failure will rest directly on you. Whether your project is a smashing success or a dismal failure, it will reflect on you. Even if the project fails because of things outside your direct control, it will be your ultimate responsibility. Understand this from the outset and you’ll do better.
Beyond Your Team
Project managers have to work closely with their team and others involved in the project. However, as the PM you’ll have to deal with people that the project affects who might not technically be part of it. It’s important to understand that some of these people will take a dim view of project management and you as the project manager. This is particularly true for client projects, where the client is spending their hard-earned money to pay you to manage the project. Realizing from the outset that you’ll meet with both approval and disapproval based strictly on your role is vital.
Foster Participation
Touching once more on the theme mentioned above, you’ll have to deal with a wide range of different people in your project, from team members to managers and executives. One of the most important tips for new project managers is to ensure that you make participation as simple and easy as possible for those involved. New software can help make this painless – robust systems allow everyone the ability to communicate, share thoughts and ideas, record data and transmit documents/records while in their office, or even when on the road if you use mobile technology. By taking steps now to ensure easy communication, you help streamline your project while keeping everyone in the loop.
Know Your Stuff
As the project manager, you’ll be expected to know a little about everything within your project. You cannot afford to be a specialist. You have to be a jack-of-all-trades. You need to ensure that you’re familiar (at least passingly so), with every team member’s area of expertise, understand their roles, understand what the project is about and what it is supposed to achieve. Know a little bit about a lot of different things – you’ll find that your job is much easier if you do.
With these simple tips, new project managers will find a smoother transition into their new roles. While there will still be snags along the way, your chances of success are much higher.

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