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The 5 most important lessons that The Box taught us in the first 6 months

How often did you think about leaving the company you work for and open your own business: a beer factory, a coffee shop or anything else? Additionally, do you think that owning a company makes you your own boss?

I have learned in the last 6 months that the experience gained in the IT industry was very valuable for me in applying some fundamental project management principles on The Box project. These however needed to be adapted on the “ecosystem” that we operate in. You will find below a summary of the most important facts that we’ve observed in the first 6 months.

1. Scope Management

When I took the entrepreneurship path and started The Box project, one of the first questions that popped up was “If I am the Project Manager, then who is the sponsor?” Who should validate the scope (aka what I want to do) ? Without having a product manager, an account manager or any other kind of manager around, we chose to go to an ‘expert’.

In this case for setting up the locker rooms we went to an architect. The result was that if you want to go to the toilet while someone is in the shower, you might as well get a quick shower.

In the meantime, we have learned things and applied them. We reached the conclusion that our boss, or the bosses that should validate our ideas are each one of our customers. Therefore, the last time we wanted to change something we gathered a focus group.

We have invited each one of our clients to test the new classes we wanted to introduce in the program. The feedback was good, so now they are in the schedule.

2. Cost management

In general, additional costs in the IT industry are due to scope changes, additional requirements or enhanced complexity. Most of the times, these costs are approved without a lot of challenges in meetings with the sponsor or steering committees.

The great challenge when talking about additional costs in start-ups is the fact that these costs are supported from your own pocket. Therefore you (need to) become more vigilant about new investments. In my view you should ask yourself at least the following 3 questions.

· Do you really need the new equipment now?

· How could you finance the investment?

· What will be the ROI that will be generated?

3. Timeline management

According to Wellington publication, around 37% of the projects in UK finished on time in 2018. This statistic is not very encouraging, but what do you think is the success rate for “Dorel”, the plumber, electrician or a house painter?

Based on our experience the chances that he will finish the work on time are close to 0. Theoretically we have 2 options: we do a thorough planning with small deliverables that we discuss and track daily or we add a large buffer.

The first option is not very achievable as there are high chances that Dorel will feel persecuted and choose to move to the next-door working site – as they need extra resources anyway. Therefore, most of the time we need to have a plan B in case there are delays.

For The Box, we chose to open up for customers without finalizing all the work. Some of the elements were only finished in the month following the grand opening. Basically, we put an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in front of the customer. This way we managed to avoid losing another month rent in vain.

4. HR Management

Within a company, as a project manager you can rely on a person managing the development team, a person that takes care of the hiring process, another one that manages the personal development process and so on. In a start-up you only have yourself.

The main challenges that you have to expect around HR could be lack of theoretical knowledge and practical experience, soft skills, high expectations around wages and a limited amount of money that you can pay.

The most important thing we have learned during these months is that the business will grow together with the team. That’s why we chose to focus our efforts on growing each one of use: through deep dives, technical and soft skills trainings and of course – constant feedback. There are lots of options and opportunities in this direction even with low costs.

5. Communications management

As I got out from a quite large company, my first thought was to get rid of any meeting in my agenda. Quite quickly though, we got to the conclusion that we need some recurrent meetings, in order to have traction and alignment with the team.

Shortly we started having weekly sessions around progress, deep dives etc. Now, we think that in order to make sure that our vision is consistently shared communication is the key. Through meetings, online marketing, indoor branding and of course the way each member of the team communicates with the people entering our door.

To conclude:

· If you are planning any refurbishments on the venue, make sure you add extra buffer and try to put as fast as possible the MVP in front of the customer.

· Make sure that when you approve a new investment you ask the right questions to validate it.

· Keep in mind that all your clients are actually your boss

· Invest in growing the team as it is the only way to grow the business

· Make sure that the vision is consistently shared across all communication channels


De cate ori te-ai gandit ca ai vrea sa renunti la viata de corporatist? Sa fii liber, sa iti deschizi propria afacere: o fabrica de bere, o cafenea etc? In acelasi timp, consideri ca daca ai propria ta afacere, esti propriul tau sef?

Am invatat in ultimele 6 luni ca experienta petrecuta in IT m-a ajutat sa aplic cateva principii fundamentale din project management in modul in care am abordat proiectul The Box. Totusi acestea trebuie adaptate la ‘ecosistemul’ in care ne desfasuram activitatea. Mai jos am facut o sinteza a celor mai importante lucruri pe care le-am observat.

1. Managementul scopului

In momentul in care am pasit pe usile antreprenoriatului si am luat in brate proiectul The Box, prima intrebare pe care am avut-o a fost “daca eu sunt managerul de proiect atunci cine este sponsorul?” Cine imi va valida scopul proiectului, adica ceea ce vreau sa fac? Ei bine, neavand un product manager, account manager sau orice alt tip de manager pe care sa il intreb, in prima faza am mers la un ‘expert’.