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From consultant to trusted advisor: 4 tips for program managers

February 09, 2016

Presence, relationships, and solutions are just a few tricks of the trade that create successful program managers

As a consultant and owner’s representative, many times we are viewed as outsiders to a project team – and in some cases, an invasive consultant. As a result, a program manager’s job of providing seamless service to our clients can be challenging.

Recently, my experience with a client proved this to be something that can be changed based on how we approach the assignment. A client introduced me at her board of director’s meeting. She said “This is Zach Mariacher, with Stantec,” and then added, “But Zach and his team are really an extension of our staff.”  

Wow! I was amazed and happy by this statement. After all, isn’t that every program manager’s goal? The question is, how can program managers earn this recognition and level of trust from a client?

Capitalize on a physical office location

The Stantec team is physically located on the client’s premises. We make ourselves available to provide immediate response to issues, meetings, or events. We also walk the jobsites daily to ensure quality work and confirm process and procedures are in place. That personal, on-site, face-to-face presence truly integrates program managers into the day-to-day progress of the project.

Include clients throughout the project as colleagues and important stakeholders

It’s important from day one to establish user champions and continue their involvement throughout the process. The significance of collaboration and guiding users through the design process helps them feel included in decisions and ensures they’re aware of budget and schedule expectations. We incorporate checklists and hold detailed page-turns at each stage of design. It is through these processes that we gain our client’s trust and show them we’re working toward a common goal – saving money and achieving the desired program and design.

Focus on relationships

Establish trusting relationships with the client’s executive leadership (c-suite) by exceeding their expectations. But also work to develop a trusted partnership with the local community throughout the planning, zoning, and approval process. We are entrenched not only within the client’s sphere, but the local community’s, so keeping top of mind how our work makes a positive impact on the community is a big driver for our team. 

Present solutions to the client, not problems

By offering Stantec’s global experience and insights – whether in response to a challenge or simply as advice – we can tap into the resources and depth of experience of Stantec across the country. Therefore, the client is receiving industry-leading, best practices from people they feel represent their own organization just like an employee would. It’s a win-win.

So, how do you become a trusted advisor to a client? It’s simple really – just be present, engaged, and proactive. Establish owner champions, emphasize the importance of collaboration, maintain checks and balances at each stage of the project, nurture relationships, and finally, present solutions. If you do this, who knows, you just may find yourself being presented as part of your owner’s staff – and not just a consultant.

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