Four Ways to be Successful as a Contract Manager


KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Stay curious and connected to keep growing.
  • Be a resource to business clients by staying approachable and incorporating feedback.
  • Make everyone’s life easier by prioritizing simplicity where you can.

The role of a Contract Manager is to get to know the business they’re in and reflect the business’s risk tolerance, processes, and preferences through the lifecycle of a contract. 

Contract Managers are the unsung heroes in construction, as my mentor says.

The same is true for Contract Managers in various industries, whether it be government contracts, tech startups, or procurement teams. We are a framework of support for project teams and bridge the gap from project teams to contract redlines.  Our success goes beyond just redlining T’s and C’s and reviewing scopes–though we need to be good at that, too! 

In this article, I want to draw attention to four ways a Contract Manager can be successful in today’s industry.

Choose Curiosity and Connection for Growth

The old adage that you can’t pour from an empty cup definitely applies to contracts professionals in construction.  Contract Managers wrestle with a ton of information, manage a lot of responsibility, and often start in our roles with minimal training or guidance.  We need to prioritize our own continuous learning and skill building. 

In addition, we need to choose curiosity and lean in to the greater contract community for education – even if these education opportunities aren’t specific to our industry, so much still applies to our work.  That’s why we need to rub shoulders with contracts professionals for community and fresh ideas for our own industry. 

For the construction-specific contract learning, I’ve found budgeting extra time with a construction attorney (outside or in house, depending on your company) is one of the most efficient ways to get questions answered. 

I also expanded my network on LinkedIn and learn from other contracts professionals there. Come join me, by the way! And while you’re at it, I highly recommend following these contracts professionals as well: Rachelle Hare, Sarah Fox, Patricia Haywood, Korinna Poblete, Patrick Brady, and Andrew Konopelny.

Be an Approachable Resource

Another way a Contract Manager can be successful in their role is by becoming an approachable resource for their coworkers.  When you can simplify contract language and provide examples of how the language applies for their work, you’re not only improving your working relationships, you’re also raising the level of contracts knowledge and compliance for your company. 

Definitely don’t use legalese when talking to business clients!  You provide value in making the contract information easy to understand for both company decision makers and project teams.  Organize lunch and learns to illustrate the importance and impact of contracts for your company, show your work when answering contract questions, and give encouragement for coworkers starting to rely on the contract. 

I’ve found that when coworkers know they can approach me with what they call “dumb” questions and I treat that trust with respect, their contract use (or them asking me to use the contract for them!) begins to go up.

Ask for Feedback from the Business

When we’ve built up trust with project teams and decision makers, we need to also ask for feedback and be listening for friction points that could be fixed in the contract process.  Using project and business feedback to improve or prioritize redlines better is a huge way to achieve success in your role. 

I heard about a company that was trying to problem-solve project issues, they were having difficulty maintaining compliance with their contracts. In the end, the issue wasn’t that they needed more access to the contracts or even education, the project teams actually needed a pre-signature advocate with their customers to align the contract with what they could or couldn’t do on a project. 

This disconnect is where a Contract Manager can shine.  By learning more and more about our business and scopes, we can get our templates and redlines to reflect how our business runs profitably to stop losing money and wasting time on projects. 

Simplify Life for Business Clients

Lastly, a successful Contract Manager simplifies life for our business clients.  My favorite way to make life easier for project teams and management is by getting rid of dense paragraphs of information for project specifics like retainage, pay app due dates, additional insured information, or bond requirements, and turning them into simple tables. 

Tables are ideal for statements of work (or work orders) but there are other legal design ideas that would be helpful if used in construction contracts.  Another way to make life easier is by removing legalese and passive writing in any templates.  If you don’t have section headers already, or it’s been a while since they’ve been checked, see if you can add them or give them a refresh.

Consider going beyond just contract templates to taking another look at project forms like change order requests, change orders, pay apps, or standard email templates.  If you take the time to simplify where you can, the time saved for each user for each project will more than make up for your bigger investment up front.  Plus, this gives you a chance to wrangle all the variations that have likely started growing elsewhere.

A Contract Manager’s success means success for projects and our company. We must continue to grow in our knowledge and skills, be an approachable resource for team members, bridge the gap from projects to redlines, and replace the cumbersome for simple.

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you Maegan – an excellent article. I couldn’t agree more with your four points and their applicability in any industry we serve as contract professionals. I often remind my teams that when colleagues come to ask you about something that isn’t necessarily part of our job, they should recognize that it’s a sign of the value they provide when they can either help answer questions or direct them to the right subject matter experts. One of the many things I love about our jobs (sell-side, buy-side, procurement) is that we build relationships across our entire enterprise to support them, as well as our customers, suppliers and other professionals in our business. Fantastic job – thank you for sharing! Rod

  2. Thank you Meagan!

    Our role-description differs in various industries, but one thing that I’ve learned from my brief time as a Contract Manager is that we’re considered to be a “Spider in the web”. We have to collaborate with different sections within our own firm and at the same time learn how to speak the same language as them.

    Great article! Keep up the good work 🙂

  3. Excellent article thank you Maegan. I couldn’t agree more as a fellow construction industry contract administrator. I find that many of us fell into our roles and received little to no guidance. Thankfully I’m a person that loves to learn new things, so I’ve become a member of a few organizations that have certification programs and continuous learning opportunities and Contract Nerds has been my newest discovery and I love the monthly webinars and articles like this one. Construction is practically in my DNA my dad has been in the industry for 50+ years and growing up I dreamed of being an attorney, so this role is a great marriage of the two in a way. Thank you so much for this article.

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