How To Deliver High-Stakes Projects With A Small Team

After months of networking, negotiating, and hoping, the first big contract with a huge client arrives. Congratulations!

If you and your team rise to the occasion, the opportunity will bring lots of revenue and notoriety to the business.

Here’s how to make sure you and your team are put in the conditions to work in the best way – to deliver the best results.

Tips to handle a big project with a small team:

  1. Establish clear communication;
  2. Always use the contract as a guide;
  3. Write everything down;
  4. Break the project into smaller steps and phases;
  5. Use your resources wisely;
  6. Have confidence in your capabilities;
  7. If you need to, seek outside help

Small teams, big ambitions

In 2016, almost 89% percent of businesses in the USA had fewer than 20 workers.

Small businesses have to compete with bigger fish, but can work with/for them, too. There is no reason why a small team should be afraid to take on a high-stakes project.

In 2018 for example, a tiny family-base lemonade brand led by a 9-year-old was able to score a deal with a retail giant, thanks to their excellent products and mission. And don’t forget that WhatsApp only had a team of 32 engeeneers when it was aquired by Facebook in 2014.

So, are you ready for the contract of a lifetime for your small team?

I’m sure you do. But before you start, make sure to read these tips on how to manage the whole project from start to finish, and make sure it doesn’t break you.

#1- Establish clear communication

When you’re in a small team and work shoulder-to-shoulder every day, communication is as easy as passing by the co-workers’ desk or tap over their shoulders.

Be careful though: when the work gets intense and you find yourself with lots of stuff to do, having to stop everything to answer an email, pick up a phone call, and explain the same project specifics over and over again will likely ruin your work (and drive you slowly insane).

Even if you work with small resources, establish a clear and straightforward communication. Never take anything for granted and make sure everybody is always on the same page: you, your team, the client, and anybody else involved.

Tools like Slack or collaborative project management tools like Trello and Basecamp will save you from endless floods of email.

#2- Always use the contract as a guide

Ever heard the expression scope creep?

It’s when a project starts to divert from its original plan, adding features and deliverables until the requirements are completely different and out of control. That’s especially risky when dealing with a big, imposing client who has a lot of power over you.

It’s hard enough to say no to a client, and even more when it’s the only big client that you really don’t want to lose.

Make sure your client understand what’s included in the contract, what is not. Explain thoroughly what any variation means for the project, and be ready to re-negotiate quotes if necessary.

That doesn’t mean that you can never say no to your client, or divert from the original project. Just make sure it doesn’t get out of control or results in a huge loss for you.

How To Gain Back Control When A Project Gets Sidetracked

#3- Write everything down

An ancient latin saying goes: “Verba volant, scripta manent”: spoken words fly, written words stay.

Making sure you have written trace of you and your team’s work will avoid misunderstandings (see point #1) and make sure everything is done correctly.

Since pen and paper are useful but not always at end, use apps and tools like Google Docs and task management apps. These apps also have the upside of being accessible anywhere, from your computer and mobile phone, and work offline, too.

Don’t forget about the meetings with your clients: you should make a habit of sending a written summary report after every meeting to all stakeholders.

#4- Break the project into smaller steps and phases

Identify the most crucial steps you have to take to bring the project to its end result: they serve as milestones to keep the work going and on track.

But you should also identify in between phases and smaller milestones. Use them as checkpoints and don’t forget: they will also help you and your team see the project less intimidating.

Could be a good idea to assign a time budget to every phase, too.

#5- Use your resources wisely

Everybody has the same amount of time, regardless of big companies, tiny startups, and billionaires. But time is a limited resource.

You and your team must always have an adequate workload to deal with. By carefully prioritizing every task, and taking note of everybody’s capacity, the work will proceed smoothly, you’ll hit all the milestones on time, and make sure no one arrives to the point of burnout.

Track the time you and your team spend on each phase – and be on the lookout for red flags.

Time tracking software allows you to easily keep track of how your team members spend their time.

#6- Have confidence

Look, if such a big and important clients have looked for you, it means you and your team are perfectly capable of getting it done.

Reaffirm your expertise by showing our client what you can do and deliver effective, high-quality, and on-time work. Foster teamwork and motivation through the whole process and don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty: by proving a confident leadership and leading by example, your team and your client, will see it, too.

Bonus tip: seek outside help

Be confident but not completely detached to reality: if the project is very high stakes and your team is at full capacity already, it may come to that point that you need some extra helping hands.

If the budget allows it, you can outsource some of the work. This also helps to build work relationship and networks which can be useful for future projects.

So roll up your sleeves, round up your team, and get ready to deliver great things!

Cover photo via Stocksnap.io

About Stefania

Project Manager at Timeneye. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and belting out tunes from Broadway musicals (although the neighbours don't seem to appreciate that).