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Why a project manager?

why a project managerWho is your project manager?” is one of the first questions I ask when I start working with a store on a design project. I’m often given a look that says, “What do you mean?

Who is your project manager?” is one of the first questions I ask when I start working with a store on a design project. I’m often given a look that says, “What do you mean?

You’re looking at him/her!” And even though I explain with gusto the importance of a good project manager, I’m often times shut down with, “That’s not in the budget,” or “I don’t need one, what do they do that I can’t?”

So, what exactly does a project manager do? 

I know, I know. It’s a tough question for a position in the design world that is relatively new and emerging. The best way I can describe what a project manager does is by telling stores he or she is the person working ferociously on your behalf as the leader of your project, so you can focus on other things. The person there from inception to completion, walking right beside you.

A project manager has experience in many design industries and helps manage the team relationships, negotiates on the store’s behalf, organizes, keeps track of the budget and a whole slew of things you can’t even see coming, no matter how many design projects you’ve done in your store. The project manager is the detail person and strategic partner, steering your project to the finish line.

Why do I need one?

Imagine this not so unimaginable situation: your marketing manager does not like the signage package the interior designer has created. The interior designer refuses to speak to the ‘pig headed’ architect; your store manager won’t talk to you because he/she isn’t happy with your last decision and the bank refuses to release the last bit of funding you need to complete the project. This may sound extreme, but I can’t tell you how many times I come across this personality and role jumble everyday. When you’re managing different people of vastly different disciplines, it takes certain skills to navigate and keep your head above water. The project manager wears the hat of ‘decision maker,’ even if the decisions are being driven by you – the owner. They conduct challenging conversations, ask the tough questions and let you maintain the relationships you had going into this process. Isn’t that someone we all wish for, almost daily?

OK, so where do I find one?

A lot of design firms employ project managers, especially if they are medium to large sized - at least 25 or 30 people. Ask a trusted design professional, general contractor or architect if they know of a great project manager to get in touch with. The project manager maintains the relationships during the project, so often times, if you can get a recommendation, it means they did a superb job of keeping the team together and the project in line.

You may be able to spearhead a design project just fine on your own. Your project may be small, non-important and easy. But I’m going to guess that it’s not. Don’t risk a successful project by taking on this role yourself. A great project manager is worth the expense and saves you the project burnout. •


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