Five years ago, I started working as a Project Manager in an advertising agency of 200 people. Today I work at Superlab, a boutique design studio. And yet, my job is pretty much the same, no matter the size of the company. Here’s how we run our projects, some of the tools we use and one secret ingredient.

#1 Administration

Every project, in every agency, no matter how small, starts with some administrative tasks. The contract with the client must be approved and signed, shared folders on Dropbox and Google Drive need to be set up and contact details need to be collected and shared. If you sin against this principle, you will pay the bill later.

#2 Planning

Planning is at the core of my job. As PM I constantly keep an eye on our client’s deadlines and try to match them with our resources. I try to stay ahead of possible issues and find a solution before anyone even notices it. We use Teamweek for our resources planning because of its superior visualisation of available resources and easy-to-use interface.

#3 Timelogs

Timelogs, the pitfall for every agency. Nobody likes this administrative hassle, but it’s key to every agency’s financial management. However, we use time logs not to control our people, but to follow up on our progress and billability as a team. It is a financial instrument, not a performance tool. Everhour is our weapon of choice for this chore.

#4 Invoices

Like it or not, we need to make some money at the end of the month. Sure, we’re in it for the love of our craft, but without a steady revenue there wouldn’t be a Superlab in the first place. So one of my important tasks is to manage incoming and outgoing invoices. I don’t use a particular tool for this, but I have worked out a detailed budget sheet template in Google Sheets. We use this both to measure our own progress as to keep our clients up to speed, so they can manage their budget as well.

#5 Care

But the single most important thing I do, is add some love. I care about Superlab and I care about clients. I know what they like, what they dislike and I try to carefully balance their preferences with our possibilities. I also take care of our team. I make sure there’s good and healthy food on the table and I prompt everyone when it’s lunch time to avoid hangry coworkers. Crisis avoided.

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