Instructional Design and Technology

This blog was created as a class project for my Instructional Design and Technology degree from Walden University. Blogging is an educational tool that can be used to share information with my fellow classmates and vice versa. I hope you find this site both informative and useful.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem” Review

Approximately ten years ago, I had the bright idea to start a business.  I was working as an emergency room nurse and I realized there was a genuine need for non-medical home care services such as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, minor home repairs, and transportation for medical appointments, especially for the elderly.  My husband and I elicited the help of another couple we were friends with and endeavored to start up this service business we would call Helping Hands: a non-medical home care and transportation service. 
We met several times to discuss the steps required by the state to start such a business and we made list after list of supplies, employee contracts, appropriate state licenses, background checks, insurance, etc.  We decided on the roles everyone would be assigned to which was aligned with each personality and area of expertise.  I would do the training of the personnel, my husband would perform the minor home repairs and provide the transportation, B. would be the business and office manager, and K. would interview and hire the employees, and everyone would recruit business clients.  We drew up a business plan and applied for the business permit and all the licenses. We found a suitable office in which to locate the business.  We were sure we had thought of every aspect needed to ensure success.  Everyone was charged and excited to get started.

After everything fell apart a few months later and we terminated the business, we realized there were several things we had overlooked.  Using the "post mortem" project review questions provided by Michael Greer (2010) in The Project Management Minimalist, it appears that inexperience in business management was our biggest downfall.  That old idiom, "What you don’t know won't hurt you", is just w-r-o-n-g!

The most frustrating part of this project was hiring and keeping dependable employees.  We had several people who interviewed well and seemed genuinely interested in the position, and then would just not show up one day.  It was very demoralizing to think people could just let you down without so much as a "goodbye".  The most gratifying part was being able to assist someone who had no other means of getting their groceries or getting to their doctor's appointment.

Another problem I identified was underestimating the amount of time and capital needed for starting such an endeavor.  B. and I were trying to run the business and continue working our regular full time jobs to supply the capital as opposed to taking out a business loan.  When we started having to fill in for employees who failed to show up, the business started taking its toll on everyone.  When K. called one day to say B. was curled up in a fetal position crying because she couldn't be in a zillion places at once and felt like she was letting everyone down, we decided it wasn't worth the emotional stress on our friendship and shut the business down.

The business was a good concept and the service deliverables would have definitely filled a need.  In hindsight, if we would have had more business experience, capital, and time, I think we could have built a profitable, viable business that fulfilled a social need in the community.   

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.


  1. WOW Sharon what a great posting! You had a wonderful business idea. Since you know what the elements were that caused the business to fail, have you thought about taking that learning experience and trying it again? There is a great need for a business such as yours.

  2. Sharon,
    I love what you wanted to do with your business. I have had the same experience of trying to establish a business while working at another job. It is difficult. While a business loan would have helped, it also increases the financial risk. It sounds as if your company attempted to provide services on demand as opposed to scheduling all services in advance. I also wonder whether providing a set of packaged services would have limited some of the unpredictability of your business. If you delivered only standard grocery "variety packs," at a set interval and price, and scheduled specific kinds of maid services, I wonder if you could have reduced the stress on workers and improved the profitability of your business.

  3. Shenice,
    I think with the right employees and 20/20 hindsight we could have probably made the business work. At the time we were trying to get started, the unemployment rate was low and it was just really hard to find dependable employees. They just seemed to have no work ethic and had no problem leaving you high and dry. In today's economy with the unemployment rate so high, it might be a different story. However, I've since moved on and have no desire or money to try again.

  4. David,
    You always seem to have such wonderful ideas. Like I said, we were novices at starting a business and just didn't have the experience needed to develop and run a business that had so much potential. Maybe if we would have had you as a business manager things would have turned out much different.

  5. Sharon,

    That was a great business plan and I hope you haven't given up on providing those services to people who could definitely benefit from it. Based on what you said, it did seem as if you had everyone lined up and the business was going to flow very smoothly. There were some glitches in your business plan and if you would have had the background knowledge in project management you would have included all the necessary components. I'm sure it was definitely a learning experience and now that you know where you went wrong you can easily continue the project if you chose to. I think you did a good job on your first try.

  6. Hi Sharon,

    Enjoyed your post! I had a similar experience with starting a jewelry selling business. I was so impressed by the management of Silpada Design, loved the jewelry, but found that I was well behind, at that point with the cutting edge of business savvy. I am much more aware and may attempt this again in the future. One of the biggest drawback was the economy and people did not want to pay for any services or reasonably priced jewelry. The jewelry was well refined but most people headed for the inexpensive product instead of semiprecious sterling. I worked alone but was part of a team who were experts at networking. Your business idea is a great one and very much needed. Maureen

  7. Sharon,
    I too think it is a great idea! I can see how the dependability of the employees became the major issue. I do think that you did consider a great deal in the inception of your business. While a person starting a business can't rely on luck to get good employees, I think you did all that was possible under the conditions. I also had a business, but knew that I needed to do the work as well and that created a limited capacity. I wasn't ready or yet qualified to hire. I feared being able to manage others while I was tied down to my primary job.