Project manager or entrepreneur?

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Are you a project manager or are you an entrepreneur? The chances are thats a question that you havent asked yourself until this moment. But it is a question that you should be asking yourself, according to Vince Hines, managing director of APMs career development partner, Wellingtone Project Management.

Speaking at APMs 'APM Presents' event, which took place in London on 16 October, Hines highlighted three key skills that project managers have in common with entrepreneurs.

They are the ability to drive a team, a willingness to take risks and being prepared to take responsibility.

Hines certainly has a point. These are indeed three key skills that project managers do share with entrepreneurs. And probably there are project managers reading this right now who feel that running their own project is rather like running their own business. They have to manage the budget, recruit staff, come up with ideas to solve problems, manage conflict, keep their customers (stakeholders, in other words) happy and invariably resolve IT issues. They work long hours, are run off their feet all day long and hurtle from one deadline to the next, all without taking a breath pretty much in the way that an entrepreneur would do.

But those project managers reading this article who also run their own businesses know that being an entrepreneur brings with it extra challenges that project managers who work for large organisations wont have to cope with.

For a start, entrepreneurs tend to start small which means they have few resources, few if any staff and often a limited pot of money. While many project managers will often, rightly - argue that they are expected to do a lot with very little, this is not quite the same as starting out with next to nothing.

Then there is the question of risk. When you work for yourself, there is no safety net. If you are sick or injured, you dont have any back-up. If your business which is essentially your project goes wrong, there isnt necessarily a Plan B. Someone in senior management isnt going to suddenly parachute you onto another project. You are senior management.

Finally, dont forget about financial reward. When youre an entrepreneur, you get to reap the rewards of your efforts in a way that you wont if you are a project manager who is employed by an organisation. Having said that, however, it is important to remember that financial reward is not the only factor that motivates people most of us are also motivated by being able to make a difference as well.

So are project managers really that similar to entrepreneurs? In my view, yes and no is the honest answer to that one. But being a project manager is probably a very good foundation for going on to become an entrepreneur.

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Posted by Sally Percy on 24th Nov 2014

About the Author
Sally Percy is a business journalist and the editor of Project magazine, the official magazine of the Association for Project Management and the 'voice of project management'. Sally has written for a broad range of business and financial titles and has also made radio appearances.

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