I love the structure and feeling of accomplishment when managing projects. Outsourcing the different components of a project, checking all the things off the list and seeing a project come to fruition.

But as someone who has done this both in-person, in a corporate capacity, and online for small business owners, there’s a huge difference in the buy-in of the players involved.

You’d think that there’d be more buy-in in the small business space, where every dollar (and every hour) seems to count just a bit more than in the corporate world. But that’s not really the case.

How to manage online teams and projects

In corporate, everyone on a team or in the organization has skin in the game. Everyone is tied to the success or failure of a project and all hands are dedicated to it.

In small business, the stakeholders look different. It’s often one business owner who hires multiple contractors to help them see a project through. There’s no ownership aside from everyone’s own part in the project. So instead of managing an in-house team solely focused on a project, I’m now managing a group of part-timers–all of whom are in different physical spaces and time zones.

In small business, stakeholders look different. This can impact the success of any project you’re managing.Click To Tweet

That’s not to say that one type of project management is different from the other. In fact, I prefer working in the small business world for so many reasons–even far and above the ability to make my own schedule and be there for my kids. It’s just that I had to learn a new set of skills when I started my business.


The Benefits of Managing Small Business Projects

Anyone who has made the shift from corporate America to small business ownership knows that there’s so much less red tape here. (Not gonna lie about what a huge perk that is!) But there are other benefits to working on a much smaller scale, no matter how big we feel like the stakes are in our own businesses.

  • Smaller scope. Because budgets and reach are smaller, the scope of the projects are smaller too. That means fewer people and pieces to manage, which can be a godsend!
  • Bigger ROI. Expenses in a smaller project will be smaller, so that means the return on your investment might be much larger than in corporate. And that’s a good thing, since the risk can feel a lot greater.
  • More agility. Things move pretty slowly in corporate because of all the players and red tape involved. In small business, projects move much faster because you can make quick decisions–rather than taking everything to committee.


Managing People Who Aren’t Employees

Managing projects online isn’t without its challenges, and working with people who aren’t employees is probably tops on that list. While you’d like to believe that everyone has the same buy-in, that’s simply not true. Contractors put too much on their plate, communication breaks down and sometimes deliverables don’t show up on deadline.

Contractors show up differently than employees. You need to know the difference if your project is going to be a success.Click To Tweet

Managing people is a skill you need to learn as a CEO or as an integrator, and it’s one that doesn’t always come naturally.

  • Use tools for communication. I love using Voxer with my own team and we keep tabs on our projects with Trello. But I also use other tools when my clients request it. The system you use doesn’t matter as much as actually using the system.
  • Require signed agreements. If someone isn’t going to buy into a system that you need them to use, they’re not going to buy into the project you’re managing. Require new contractors and employees to sign an agreement stating that they understand the communication tools that are in place and they will use them.
  • Understand the difference between a contractor and an employee. There’s a big difference here and if you need someone to work certain hours, you’re hiring an employee. That requires a whole next-level set of agreements and legal forms.
  • Have a kick-off meeting. Getting all hands on deck to kick off a project is important to establish a good rapport, ensure everyone is on the same page and to make sure that communication vehicles are in place.


Other Considerations to Note

Corporate employees have a leg-up on knowing what’s going on in their industry because they’re working in it day in and day out. Contractors don’t always have that luxury, especially if they’re working for multiple clients in multiple industries.

As a project manager and director of operations, it’s my job to maintain my skill set that conforms to any project. I need to be able to synthesize ideas and break them down into tasks. In the online space, you need to have an understanding of the market your working in. And with project training and that industry knowledge, you’re able to get up to speed just about anywhere.

Do you dream of being the director of operations or project manager for others? Be sure to sign up to be notified when the Director of Operations Certification program re-opens its doors in January 2019!

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