The “Good Project” Criteria

Many of my clients have “project-based” businesses like graphic design, conference planning, or even real estate development. I often remind these clients, “before you chase a piece of business, make sure it fits your criteria for a ‘good project’. Because if it isn’t a good project, why would you want to win it?”

How do they decide? Here are the four “good project” criteria I suggest they start with:

Will it be profitable? Consider your cost of acquisition for this project (How much time will it take to do the proposal? How likely are you to win?) and consider how much money it will take to do the project right, compared to how much you might be able to charge?

Will it make you happy? Will you enjoy doing the work? Will you enjoy working with the client? Will you be happy with what you create?

Will it increase your value as a company? Will you acquire a new skill, establish a new credential, or learn something new and valuable to your company as a result of completing this project? Or is it strictly execution of something you’ve done many times before? Business advisor David Maister calls this question, “watching your asset”.

Will it fit with the rest of your current work? On its own, the project might look great. But given the current demands on your staff time, and given what other kinds of projects are currently on your plate (or that you want to get onto your plate), is this the right time for this project?

A good project might not get a “yes” for all four diagnostics, but a “no” or too many “not sures” are a big warning sign. And it doesn’t take long to take a crack at answering the questions. This investment in time is a whole lot smaller than the investment it usually takes to win and then do the project.

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