Parallel positions

TAKE The Lead

Not everyone can be an entrepreneur. But a project practitioner is well-suited for the role.


Entrepreneurial role models such as Richard Branson, Carlos Slim and Sunil Mittal draw admiration the world over for their ability to think big and achieve game-changing greatness.

I've met numerous project managers who have helped such entrepreneurs deliver the next big idea, and the same project managers dream of the day when they can become independent, successful entrepreneurs changing the world with their own ideas.

And still, they are not convinced they can. They fail to realize that their job duties and skills greatly resemble those of the aforementioned entrepreneurs. After all, a new business venture requires a group of people solving a problem amid great uncertainty. Sound familiar?

Project managers perform like entrepreneurs as both are directing a temporary, risky and complex endeavor.

By recognizing the similarities in entrepreneurship and project management, project practitioners can focus on developing the skills and characteristics needed to be successful in both worlds:

  1. Leadership. Completing business endeavors and projects while getting people to follow the same vision requires polishing leadership skills, such as influence and communication.
  2. Self-motivation. Entrepreneurs do not need anybody breathing down their necks to stay focused and sharp on the end goal. The best project practitioners don't, either—they establish the desired goal early in the project and constantly revisit it until the project is completed.
  3. Resiliency. The possibility of succeeding beautifully or failing miserably in a business endeavor or project is always present. And at any given moment, you could feel as if success or failure is imminent, but resiliency can carry you through ups and downs.

    Entrepreneurial blogger Sean Newman Maroni wonderfully describes working on a start-up, and his description mirrors the ebb-and-flow experience of managing a project: “There will be times of great triumph, where you feel like you can take over the world. Then, perhaps merely hours or even minutes after the highest of highs, you can fall into the lowest of lows. You could get a call from an investor getting cold feet, or you could watch as a focus group tears apart your work. Without the ability to bounce back, it's going to be hard to dig yourself out of those sinkholes.”

  4. Comfort with uncertainty. Every aspiring entrepreneur should feel at ease in the ever-changing and chaotic world of a start-up. Those who have meticulously read and follow the risk management Knowledge Area in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) understand preparing for the unknown on a project cannot be overlooked. And this makes them well-suited to embrace the uncertainty and risks of launching a business.

Treat every project as your very own business start-up and devote passion and tenacity to the effort, and you, too, can change the world. PM


Roberto Toledo, MBA, PMP, is managing partner of Alpha PM Consulting and Alpha Consultoria, and a speaker, trainer and consultant who works across the Americas. He can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter as @robertoledo.




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