Corporate Business Strategy and Entrepreneurship: A View from a Client-Side Project Manager

16 December 2016

In October I presented to students from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) on corporate business strategy and entrepreneurship within the property industry.

The property industry has grown significantly in recent years, with the industry almost doubling its contribution to Australian gross domestic product in the last decade. So what does this mean in terms of opportunities available to project managers in this space?

This industry boom means there is a growing demand for highly skilled Client-Side Project Managers to manage the development process, from concept to completion. 

A typical day in the life of a Client-Side Project Manager is generally quite varied, with some of his or her responsibilities including:

  • Chairing a Project Control Group meeting;
  • Liaising with quantity surveyors;
  • Mentoring and training graduate project managers;
  • Meeting with clients; and
  • Preparing tender submissions.

There are of course more difficult responsibilities that may be faced in this role, therefore the ability to think quickly and problem solve are important for any aspiring project manager. Informing clients that their project requires more resources or funding, diffusing conflict between stakeholders, and advising a client that they may be causing the budget overruns are some of the challenges PM's might face, all of which require strong stakeholder management skills. 

Effective PMs begin by developing an entrepreneurial mindset, in doing so they:

  • Take initiative
  • Identify and chase opportunities
  • Take risks
  • Ask questions
  • Find solutions

​In a business setting, this means identifying and managing elements of both clients and markets, including information about the company and the industry (data), relationships (people and partnerships), and business (past projects and emerging opportunities). 

This mindset will also help students effectively market themselves and build trust with both potential employers and clients.

My advice to students and those starting out in the workforce is to:

  • Listen to everything
  • Genuinely empathise with clients
  • Build a shared agenda
  • Have a point of view
  • Ask great questions and return calls unbelievably fast!

It's important to recognise that in order to create highly skilled project managers, organisations must invest heavily in the recruitment, onboarding, training and development of graduates. In these initial phases, graduates are in the “investment zone” and only over time as they gain experience will they enter the “return zone”, meaning the company is now benefitting from their skills. It is in this later phase that the graduates will begin to build their reputation and can reap the rewards of an experienced PM.

From a student's perspective, some of the market challenges over the next 3-5 years include securing a job in the industry, identifying where the demand for work is coming from and choosing the right area to build a career. Some of the key market growth areas in NSW include:

  • Continued expenditure by Government on infrastructure;
  • Brownfield redevelopments (mixed use and infill);
  • Greenfield developments (residential and town centres);
  • Western Sydney Airport development; and
  • Opportunities within other states or internationally.

I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to UNSW students and am pleased I was able to share some of my knowledge and experience on Client-Side Project Management with a promising group of future project managers.   

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