Are you planning to fail without even knowing it?

You know the old saying… “Failure to plan is planning to fail”.

One thing I’ve noticed with many small businesses and smaller nonprofits is that they don’t even realize they are failing to plan!

There is a huge amount of internal structure that is required to run an organization successfully. The tricky part of this for the seasoned professional is that if you’ve ever observed a successful organization, you probably didn’t notice 80% of what was going on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.

There are three main areas that I consistently see small and start-up organizations failing to successfully execute. Let’s talk about those areas and see how you can set yourself up for success.

HR & Personnel

Most organizations I work with don’t bother with setting up HR structures in the beginning because they start small. Maybe you have only one or two staff members. Maybe you’re all friends who’ve worked together before so you don’t think you need any official HR policies. Wrong!

It’s critical to get all your HR and personnel structures set up from the very start. One of the biggest reasons is simply to ensure that you and your team (even if it’s only a team of one!) are on the same page. There is nothing  that will bring your work to a screeching halt faster than a misunderstanding about a personnel issue. Personnel issues are can’t avoid that. Which means personnel issues can cause major negative impact to your organization. Getting your HR policies and procedures set up ahead of time will save you tons of headache later. It can be’re talking about some difficult topics when dealing with personnel and HR. Addressing these topics head on and getting them all out of the way at the start of your organization with give you valuable peace of mind and allow you to focus your energies where they are needed for years to come.


The backbone of every organization is finances, and there are multiple systems that need to be in place to plan, manage, and functionally work with your money. One of the biggest problems I come across is teams who don’t properly track their budgets and don’t analyze and anticipate what their budget data needs will be.

It’s vital to set up some sort of budget tracking from the very start, even if your only funding is the seed money you are putting in personally. Track that money! There are a myriad of reasons and a myriad of people who will need some sort of output from your budget figures, and failing to set up a functional system from the start will result in days and weeks of lost productivity in the future when those needs start coming up. You will want to make sure you are keeping in mind every single person and agency who is going to need some sort of analysis or reporting regarding your budget figures. This includes government agencies, stakeholders, funders, or your project team members on the ground.

Setting up a functional budgeting system from the beginning will save you so much time down the road.

Document management

It seems like it’s inconsequential until you’ve been in business for a year and someone asks you for a report or contract from 9 months ago. Functional, practical, scalable internal data storage and management is crucial for functioning organizations. I can’t tell you how many teams I’ve worked with who neglected this step and then get so backlogged in getting issues  fixed that they cripples their operations for weeks or months. I cannot emphasize is VITAL to establish proper document and data management systems from the very start of your organization.

All your data needs to be stored in a way where all staff, current and future, can easily access it AND understand the internal structure.  There needs to be practical, easy to execute steps written out for each of your team members to manage their data. And most of all, your structure needs to be flexible so it can scale with your organic growth. All of this means that your solution might not look exactly the same as the solution you worked with at another org, and it might not look exactly like what another successful org looks like. This step can and should be tailored to your team so it’s as functional and helpful as possible.

A lot of this stuff seems overwhelming, which is why a lot of it gets put on the back-burner. And often times people just don’t realize the level of detailed operations function going on behind the scenes of successful organizations and businesses. Now that you know some of the basic steps the most organizations skip over, you can make sure you are doing better for yourself and your team!

Feel like you need help? Don’t know where to start? Are you a few years in and realizing that things are bit a of a mess?

Reach out! Let’s talk about ways I can make you and your team work smarter.