Thinking of Ending a Project You Started? Read This To Learn How To Do it Right and Avoid Ending it Next Time

Some people are good at starting projects, some are good at running them, some are good at growing them, and some are good at maintaining them.

Which one are you?

I’m very much a starter. I like to try new things and start new projects all the time. The problem with that is: I tend to have too many things going on at the same time.

Do you have a similar problem?

Tomorrow, I’ll be suspending activities on a project I was proud of: Viking Boutique. It was the world’s first and only story-driven store. It was a very entertaining store where potential customers reacted really well to my ads.

The problem was, no one bought the products. They only cared about the funny stories I was writing.

After reading THE DIP by Seth Godin, it was clear that Viking Boutique was in a dip.

During a few journaling sessions, I came up with different plans to get it out of the dip, but I never executed on them. I tried really hard, but I could not come up with a simple enough plan to execute with the resources I had available.

Maybe it was just a dumb excuse.

Anyhow, below is how I start, run, and (sadly) kill projects.

I’m hoping that will give you a good idea of a project’s cycle and how NOT to get too attached to a project you can’t easily dig out of a dip.

This is only from my experience having done many projects and had to kill them. These are lessons I learned that may or may not apply to everyone.

 

Starting a Project

I’m personally not a big fan of traditional business plans. It may be because I’m a starter and like to get my feet wet as soon as possible. That’s likely not the best way to go, but nonetheless, I know the steps below are important to kickstart a project successfully.


Step 1. Identify the skills required to run the project

I’m surprised most people don’t even think about the skills required to run a project. I’d argue this is one of the first steps to understanding if a project is feasible or not.

For Viking Boutique, I asked myself:

  • What skills does it take to start and run an online store?
  • What skills do I need to be a credible Viking?

I have a page full of skills required to make it a success. Not half of them I had to start with.

A few months before making the store live, I focused on slowly building up the skills I figured I’d be able to acquire fast enough.

The rest comes from Step 2 below.

Reflection: What skills does it take to run my project?


Step 2. Identify the resources you’ll have available for the project

Human Resources

Brainstorm a list of people you know who have some of the missing skills required to make the project a success. Or people you know can acquire the skills. List the skills next to each person.

Don’t limit yourself to people you think could accept. List EVERYONE you can think of, no matter how accessible they might be. You could be surprised how some people may say “yes” to you even though you think they would say “no”.

Follow the tips here to help you get a “yes”

Reflection: Who can help you with this project?

Financial Resources

Brainstorm a list of costs required to start and run your project. Also, brainstorm your sources of money. Don’t limit yourself to the money you currently have. Figure out if there are grants or loans you can apply to — whether reasonable or not.

When comes time to create your budget, decide which sources of funding are easier to get to have enough money to cover the costs of the project.

Remember this one thing: What’s the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

What set of features constitutes a product you can actually sell and make money with, ideally without even spending money? Think outside the box. There are many options to kickstart projects without even spending a dime.

I started Viking Boutique without spending any money. Most projects I’ve started actually never cost me money until later in the cycle.

Reflection: How much is the project going to cost and where can you find the money? Can I do an MVP without spending any money?


Step 3. Identify a time and date where, if you haven’t reached a defined milestone, you’ll kill the project — no questions asked

That’s a hard one, but a very important one. It’s important because it gives you clarity on the expectations of the project and makes the decision of ending the project easier.

I put Viking Boutique online in February and decided that if by July, it couldn’t at least sustain itself with me spending only 10–15% of my time on it, I’d have to kill it.

I knew my milestone. In theory, it wasn’t even hard to reach. My ads worked great. They were performing way above industry average, yet no one bought. The entertainment I provided was great, but people didn’t visit for the products, so they never bought anything.

In retrospect, it’s not that surprising. I could pivot and focus more so on selling then entertaining. Surely I’d be more “successful”. But I’d hate doing it. Ultimately, I didn’t want to spend 10–15% working on a project I wouldn’t be proud of and love doing.

Because I didn’t reach my milestone in time, I’m killing the project so I can better focus on other projects that are reaching their targets.

I learned so much and have no regret. The skills I learned are certainly going to be useful for other projects.

Reflection: What’s a reasonable timeframe where I can sustain the project long enough to be “successful”?

 

Running a project

This is what I consider a weakness of mine and something I’m constantly working on. I always try to surround myself with people who either can help me run a project or are mostly independent. Regardless, doing the three things below will help you run the project successfully and hopefully not lead you to end it:


1. Set goals and milestones frequently

I always set weekly and monthly goals and milestones. When you set goals, be specific, identify key metrics, define feasibility & relevance, and set a deadline. In short, always create SMART goals.

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