Unsung heroes: 42 ways your PMs saved your agency this week

Written by: Karl Sakas

What if someone at your agency were constantly focused on making things run smoothly and profitably?

You already have that person at your agency… if you have at least one full-time project manager. PMs love creating order from chaos. And they’re not merely “work babysitters.”

As a former agency PM myself, I’m confident your PMs have already saved the day several times this week.

And if they’re good, you might not even notice. But even unsung heroes like to know they’re appreciated. To retain your best PMs, it’s important to understand how project managers benefit your agency.

Let’s explore the value that PMs bring to your agency!

42 ways your agency’s PMs save the day

From my experience—as an agency consultant, PM, Director of Client Services, and Director of Operations—here are “PM saves the day” examples that might be happening this week at your agency.

  1. Caught a budget overrun before it happened.
  2. Refused to start a new retainer until the client signed the contract and paid the deposit.
  3. Warned a department director that a new team member isn’t hitting their new-hire ramp-up plan targets.
  4. Revamped a process, saving everyone time in the future.
  5. Managed a client’s expectations about why something wasn’t in-scope.
  6. Recommended adding 40% to a sales scope, after noticing a salesperson missed a key assumption.
  7. Added an extra three days to a client-facing ETA, because they noticed your upcoming trip will probably disrupt your usual turnaround time.
  8. Saw the team was missing a key input from a client, requesting it to avoid a drop in billables next month.
  9. Identified two future changes based on the latest project debrief.
  10. Added a new example to your “estimate library,” helping your sales team deliver proposals faster.
  11. Noticed the agency still hadn’t started charging a long-time client your new rate, so that the account manager could find a way to deliver the bad news.
  12. Mediated a conversation between two employees who don’t like each other, buying you time on finding a longer-term solution.
  13. Recommended raising your agency’s baseline retainer fees by 15%, based on their work breakout (WBO) analysis of gross profit margins.
  14. Served as the backup client contact while one of your account managers was on vacation.
  15. Added extra time when they consolidated the team’s estimate, since they know two team members tend to be overly optimistic about how long things will take.
  16. Persuaded you that a prospective client needed a “nuisance fee” to justify your working with them.
  17. Called-out a pattern of scope creep across several client accounts, so your account managers could address the problem with each client.
  18. Ran a report showing a client should increase their retainer renewal by 25% instead of the 10% you were originally planning to propose.
  19. Alerted your Account Director that an Account Manager has been missing client-facing deadlines, so that the AD can address the problem with the AM and with the client.
  20. Reassured an overworked team member that things will clear up next week.
  21. Interviewed three job candidates, so you didn’t need to get involved as early.
  22. Sent a collections followup to a past-due client, after noticing the client hadn’t paid yet.
  23. Noticed a team member is under-utilized, and found more work for the team member via another PM.
  24. Prevented two team members from doing duplicate work.
  25. Adjusted the team-wide resourcing plan after a client asked to reschedule, keeping the team as billable as possible next week.
  26. Assigned a task to a cheaper resource, saving you almost 30% in contractor fees.
  27. Rejected an incomplete deliverable from a freelancer, in time to still meet the client’s deadline.
  28. Called-out an upsell opportunity for your account manager to pitch to the client.
  29. Created a productized scope for a new add-on package.
  30. Noticed a new cause of time leakage, and changed a process to prevent it in the future.
  31. Reserved time in your schedule to prepare for a big public speaking opportunity.
  32. Surfaced that a new client expected you to do something that’s not in the final SOW, enlisting the salesperson to get this sorted out.
  33. Warned that you’ll likely need to replace your PM system within the next 12-18 months, and they’ve already scheduled time to research options in 3-6 months.
  34. Recommended a new set of employee Swim Lanes, leading to your being interrupted less often each week.
  35. Added a new question to your pre-kickoff survey, helping you keep clients happier as you start projects.
  36. Used a client meeting recap to head-off a client misunderstanding before it’s too late to fix.
  37. Suggested a new billable service, after observing something that isn’t fully billable today.
  38. Insulated a strategist from a client who keeps interrupting her with poorly-timed questions.
  39. Shared recommendations to save 5-10 hours (per client!) during new-client onboarding.
  40. Reminded you about the thing you asked them to remind you about (and then you’d promptly forgotten it) four months ago.
  41. Noticed your star employee hasn’t taken PTO in five months, in time for you to take action before burnout hits.
  42. Recommended you take a one-week vacation yourself at the end of next month, because they see a lull that’ll make the time away less stressful for you.

I bet some of those sound familiar! But what if your agency doesn’t have a full-time PM yet?

Don’t have a full-time PM at your agency?

What if you don’t have someone spending 100% of their time on project management? That’s normal for agencies under 8-12 people… and risky as you grow to 15+ people and beyond.

Thinking of finally hiring a full-time PM? See my “great PM” checklist, and my PM interview questions. Agencies with 50+ people will have an entire team of Project Managers, with multiple PM skill levels.

In the meantime, check out my Agency PM 101 training. The training won’t replace hiring a dedicated PM at your agency, but it will provide an overview of agency PM fundamentals—including both shortcuts and core concepts—and you’ll get actionable tips to help you prevent problems immediately. “Deputized PM” is better than “no PM.”

Question: What’s the last time you noticed that your Project Managers saved the day?

Book Cover: "Work Less, Earn More" by Karl Sakas

Frustrated with project management?

Struggling to ensure projects are completed on time and under budget?

It’s time to reduce the overwhelm—for you and the rest of the team.

In my Agency PM 101 training, I’ll walk you step-by-step through everything you need to know to successfully tame the chaos of agency life. Start running projects more smoothly, delivering them more profitably, and finishing on time.