Advice for a new Startup

Not really a question, but, I’m in desperate search of entrepreneurial advice and knowledge for start-up venture

19 y/o seeking advice and guidance, or just general knowledge on a website start-up venture.
Concept, design, brand, etc. all thought out and in writing, just looking for guidance and/or someone with experience in the field to evaluate idea. Any help is much appreciated. Thanks

Gregg McDonough

Student, Hopeful Entrepreneur

This may sound pretty basic, but I’d strongly recommend that you go through the exercise of building your business plan. Even if you have funding, have all of your resources on-board, etc., building your business plan is going to help you think through some of the challenges that you’re going to face and prepare you to answer the questions that potential investors, customers and partners are going to ask. If you take that and your concept, design and brand out to the street, you’ll get the feedback and insight that you’re probably looking for. Again, even if you have your funding, going through the exercise will help you to identify the kind of roadblocks that you’re likely to encounter. If you don’t have any experience with building business plans, pick up a book (there are dozens of them out there) or shell out for a copy of Business Plan Pro. (BPP is a great package and has tons of sample plans) I’d also recommend hooking up with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE office (you can find a listing of both at While they don’t tend to have a lot of in-depth expertise in web startups, they do have the foundation info for building a sustainable business model. They also run cheap (often free) courses and seminars that will be valuable to any startup. They may also be able to hook you up with local angels or potential partners. If this all seems like too much and you’re really looking to just be the “idea guy”, go and talk to your local bank manager. They’ll know who in your area might be interested in working with you. You could do this online, but eventually you’re going to need to build those personal relationships and it’s often better to do it close to home. Good Luck!”

Prioritizing PPM

In rank order, what are the criteria you use to drive prioritization of the various projects and programs in your portfolio?

Question received via Gartner Symposium Forums

1. Discretionary vs Non-Discretionary

This requires the discipline to accurately categorize your projects. “Non-Discretionary” simply means that if you don’t act, something in the organization will break. Whether it’s a process, tool, or technology, there is a better than even chance that a failure to approve the project will result in damage to your business. This doesn’t mean that you miss an opportunity or you fail to make a sale. It means that you will suffer some sort of loss or degradation of your operation. A technology refresh is discretionary unless something is very likely to fail or put you into a position where you will be harmed by not upgrading.

Most organizations don’t have the stomach to draw the line that distinctly. “Non-discretionary” becomes “politically prudent” and “Discretionary” becomes “good to do, but nobody is really pushing for it”. The problem is that if you follow that model, you’re very likely to start cutting into Non-discretionary projects when money gets tight and there’s no way of knowing what was *really* critical to your survival. By definition, a non-discretionary project is something that has to be done or some other risk mitigation takes place. It can’t simply be rejected.

2. Required timeframe (is there a critical window of opportunity or risk?)

This applies to all projects. Again, many organizations put arbitrary schedules and timelines in place which undermines the ability of the portfolio manager to understand what the “real” time constraints are. When you establish your portfolio, there needs to be a clear distinction between a “requested date” and any actual time constraints on the project. Unfortunately, most tools that I’ve worked with don’t make that distinction.

3. Benefit (or risk avoidance)

Once you’ve determined the criticality and hard time constraints, then you can start looking at benefit realization or risk avoidance. Most organizations start here by prioritizing strictly based on ROI. However, the PMO and the project teams have to address the critical time-constrained projects in the margins to keep the company running. If your house is on fire, you need to deal with that first and not worry about selecting new carpets.

4. Cost/Cash flows

This and the next category are what’s going to control the actual flow and scheduling of your projects. Once you have your prioritization sequence in place, you can start allocating your cash flows for the next month, quarter or whatever planning calendar you work with. This allocation will end up being iterative with the next category. However, it’s important to recognize that resource constraints can often be addressed with external consultants or some other form of outsourcing. Budgetary constraints tend to be firm.

5. Resources

Once you know what you have to do, the windows for doing it and what money is available to do it, resources are the final gate. If you don’t have resources in-house, consider planning for the development of new resources in-house (time permitting), acquiring staff or outsourcing as appropriate. While this is the biggest practical limitation on executing your project, it’s also the one where you have the most flexibility.

Other factors such as strategic fit, synergies between projects/programs, missed opportunity costs, balancing the availability of critical resources, etc. all come into play as the portfolio is optimized. In addition, this is a recursive process. So sunk costs, project performance-to-date, and other metrics are also included in subsequent review, but may not be part of the official “checklist”. Instead, they become factored into the other elements like the anticipated benefits, risks and risk avoidance.