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How Does A Start-up Mentor Cum Project Manager Steer the Start-up to Success?

A P J Abdul Kalam said and I quote — “’Dream is not that which you see while sleeping. It is something that does not let you sleep.’”  To me, this is so very relevant in a start-up journey. Statistics suggest that only 10 percent of the Start-ups survive a three-year life cycle. The reason for the abysmally low success rate is the multitude of Challenges faced by Start-ups and new projects. Let us analyse – Why do Start-ups fail – although this may not be an exhaustive list and each Start-up venture would have its own unique roadblocks and headwinds.

  • Business idea has not been well home worked or researched in a scientific way.
  • Severe competition in the Start-up Race and pressure to be unique
  • Lack of Product/Market fit resulting in poor Customer Value Proposition.
  • Team headed by technocrats and therefore commercial comprehension and support inadequate.
  • Best of business ideas can emanate from an entrepreneur who lacks experience in team management.
  • Venture running into bottlenecks when it comes to funding at various phases due to lagging behind in agreed milestones.
  • Lack of professional finance support resulting in cost overruns and consequent deadlocks.
  • Time overruns causing damage to credibility with investors and collaborators.

Well, these are just some of the bottlenecks that we can envisage.

One way not to leave this gap to chance but have assured success in managing them is to rely on the expertise of a Start-up project manager who will be more than just a mentor. He will in reality be a defector/outsourced CEO for the Start-up venture. He will be a pillar of strength all through the project and   handhold the entrepreneur end to end, through the project management and further on, even though Scaling phase.

This is how a project manager can add value –

  • Ideally the project manager would be one who has been in the hot seat of one or more successful Start-ups  and has by virtue of that experience has the tenacity to face challenges head-on and therefore will be like a pillar of strength to ensure that the ventures sails through smoothly through every bottleneck with least disruption to overall project plan.
  • Also, ideally the project manager should be one with diverse experience in all functions thereby making him a right pointer to bounce back founder’s ideas. In fact, a well-chosen Project manager can be a good substitute to a cofounder to a significant extent.
  • Where there are cofounders, a Project manager can be looked upon as a healthy umpire when there are differences of opinion and the Project manager would veto with a fair and business centric approach and ensure project does not get held up due to lack of decision.
  • A good Project manager is a good interface between the investors and the entrepreneur who will protect the interests of Start-ups in terms of valuations and possible takeover bids.
  • Finally, even to the best of entrepreneurs with high multitasking skills, it becomes almost impossible to devote due attention to all aspects of business. Hiring people for all functions at the initial stages may not be a viable proposition due to limited budgets. This is where a Start-up Project manager can fill multitude of roles as a one stop shop without causing heavy financial burden arising out of retained employee costs.

Thus, a well-chosen project manager should be one who not just mentors but actually helps implement the mentoring.  This way, he not just adds value but actually pays back his costs multiple times through his diverse and cross functionality skills.

Having said all this, it is also true that there are some Must have characteristics in a founder that no Mentor / Project Manager / Outsourced CEO can fully replace but can only help unleash them. That is – Passion to turn ambitions into achievement and the courage and grit to face the inevitable setbacks and come out with flying success stories.

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