Project Managers: Who They Are, What They Do, and Why Your Business Freakin’ Needs One

When you go into a store or a restaurant, take a look around – who do you see working?

Are the employees all just hustling about and doing their thing, or is there a manager on duty keeping everything running smoothly?

Odds are, there’s at least one person in the joint whose sole job is to make sure that everyone else is doing what they need to do, the way they need to do it. They’re a taskmaster, a quality control inspector, and an all-around point of authority for pretty much any little thing that comes up.

Point is, I’ve written recently about the importance of building a team that you can depend on, but almost every entrepreneur starts with the same question:

“Who do I hire FIRST?”

That’s the conundrum, isn’t it? Verrrrry few people just so happen to start out with enough capital to hire multiple people at once right from the get-go – if you’re one of them, well hey, good for you!

Who do I hire first?

If you’re like me, though, and you’re bootstrapping that business on your own every step of the way, your first hire is probably going to be your ONLY hire (for now, at least).

This is where a project manager comes in.

(And that probably sounds like the LAST thing your business needs right now.)

You think that you need a graphic designer. Or a developer. Or a person to write blog posts every now and then. Your business doesn’t need another boss – that’s what YOU’RE there for!

Except that when you start hiring other people – even if they’re just freelance – your job goes from managing your business to managing your employees.

All of a sudden, you’re putting all of the things YOU want to do on hold, so you can manage what OTHER people are doing. Setting deadlines, proofing work, uploading, testing, blah blah blah – these are all things that start dominating your schedule. It can seem like you’re just as behind on your goals after hiring someone as you were before!

That’s why if you want to actually grow your business, consider making your first hire a project manager.

What does a project manager DO, exactly?

I didn’t always have the team I have today – in fact, I used to have no team at all! It was just lil’ ol’ me, keeping every single gear in motion every single day.

And while that feeling of total control is exhilarating, and can give you a real sense of accomplishment, it limits how much you can grow.

Remember when I told you about my big, game-changing hire? She was a project manager – and if it weren’t for her and the work that she did, you might not be on this website today!

That’s because a PM does two things: They manage your employees/freelancers (if you have any), and they manage YOU.

A Project Manager Manages Your Team

Remember all those people you’ve been wanting to hire to do this or that for your business? (Even just freelancers?)

How much of a timesuck is it to write and post job listings, read applications, conduct interviews, and so on – and then STILL not know if you made the right choice?

And then, once they’re working for you, you’re the only point person they have. Every question goes to you. Every rough draft and proof goes to you. You have to give them all the deadlines and instructions, then make sure they meet them. And that’s allllll time you DON’T get to spend doing the things you want and need to do on your own.

A PM handles day-to-day team management tasks so that YOU don’t have to.

A good Project Manager

They keep things organized, delegated, and moving along so that they’re finished by deadline without you having to worry about them. A good PM is like a computer program that’s always running in the background – always doing what it’s supposed to do without you ever having to really think about it.

And if you don’t have anyone working for you?

A Project Manager Manages YOU

Remember, my first PM was an early hire – I didn’t have any full-time employees for her to manage, and it was some time before I did!

What she DID manage, however, was ME. Running your business AND keeping close tabs on every single project you’re working on is next to impossible sometimes – after all, as an entrepreneur, you have a lot of balls in the air just by definition.

When you hire a PM, keeping track of those projects and staying on task with all of them stops being a problem. Everything becomes uncomplicated, and you have the freedom to do what you need along with someone holding you accountable for it. Think of it as a combination of organization and outsourced discipline – someone to keep you in line, keep you focused, and make your goals and duties totally clear.

Who SHOULDN’T Hire a Project Manager?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m dishin’ out this advice because it worked for me and I really think it’s a smart, practical, uncomplicated way of approaching this “who to hire first” quandary. But – BUT – not everyone realllly needs a PM.

Project Manager vs Assistant

If yours is the type of business that will never, ever require another employee – and you are content with your current level of success – you probably don’t need a PM.

And that’s okay! Being a one-person show really works for certain fields. Maybe you’re a freelancer yourself – a for-contract writer, for example, or a graphic designer. Maybe you’re a one-on-one consultant who has a good thing going and doesn’t want to mess with it by trying to expand. Nothin’ wrong with that!

If that’s the case, you should consider an assistant instead. The difference? An assistant typically has a specialized skill set that can fill in a blank spot from your own repertoire – a technical assistant, for example, can help you do things like load your newsletters into programs like MailChimp and optimize blog posts on WordPress.

Fortunately, knowing what type of assistant you need is pretty simple – you likely already know the areas in which you need help.

But how do you hire a PM?

Hiring a Project Manager: The Ultimate Catch-22

I’m sorry to say, I’ve been recommending to you a course of action that isn’t necessarily an easy one.

The thing is, the right project manager CAN make your life a lot easier, whether you’re a solo entrepreneur trying to grow or you’re laying the groundwork for building a team. But how do you hire someone whose job is to help manage your business? How do you know ahead of time who’s the right fit? It’s a Catch-22 situation if ever there was one – your PM can help you hire and manage people, but you still have to hire and manage THEM.

I really feel strongly about this, though, and lately, it seems like everyone is asking for tips about how to hire the right person. So I went and did something about it!

I recently created a little something I like to call Hire Your First Project Manager, and it’s going to answer every last question you’ve got about hiring one of your very own.

You’ll learn about what qualities to look for, where to find them, what you do with them once they’re on board, and a TON more – plus you’ll get all kinds of downloadable bonuses and goodies, just ‘cause.

Anyway, you can check out this page right here for all the details. In the meantime, though, let me know your questions in the space below! Have you ever worked with a project manager? Had a good or a bad experience? Let’s hear about it – every opinion matters!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.

Comments

  1. I can’t wait for your webinar Laura. I’ve only been following you for a few months, but you’ve quickly become my top 2 people I can’t wait to hear more from. Your webinar couldn’t have come at a better time. See you June 24th!

  2. Rebecca says:

    What time does the workshop start/end?
    Is this geared towards remote PMs? Thx!!

    • Kristina | Team LKR says:

      Hey Rebecca – on June 24, 2014 the live workshop will start at 1pm Pacific time (4pm Eastern) and go for about two hours, including the Q&A. The course is geared toward any small business owner/solopreneur looking to hire a project manager, and while many things can be applied to hiring a project manager both in-person and virtually, it’s geared more toward hiring a virtual/remote Project Manager (that’s how we run- as we’re a distributed team!) :) Hope this helps!

  3. Hi,
    I was given your URL by a client to read and I am so excited to that you are promoting Project Management to your following. I am developing a PM training program for small business owners and having someone explain what project management is and why it is important was great to read. Thank you.