At FocusNeo we’re used to managing all kinds of sign projects, from the very largest to the very smallest. The size of a project isn’t important. What matters is that our projects are carried out to the highest standards and that the results are the best possible. We aren’t satisfied until we get a smile from the customer, a pat on the shoulder and a thank you for a job well done. The more complex the project, the higher the requirement for professional project management.
Today we chat to Christoffer Birchman, who always has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on. Christoffer has been with FocusNeo for 12 years, 9 of which nine as a project manager in the Stockholm office. During his first three years with us, he worked in the field as a sign fitter, which gave him experience that’s invaluable in his current role.
Christoffer – tell us about your role at FocusNeo
I’m a project manager and I run various projects for our big customers, such as Burger King and Pizza Hut. The projects vary from customer to customer, but in the majority of cases, I handle the entire process from site survey to illuminated sign, covering everything in terms of site inspection, planning applications, production, orders, deliveries, construction meetings, installation, invoicing and documentation. Our projects can include everything from setting up decals and vinyls to installing 30 metre high signs on posts.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variation, definitely. Every day is different. Some weeks I’m travelling a lot, but others I spend the whole time at my computer or on the phone. Sometimes I even get the chance to fly drones to make visibility analyses for clients when these are required. This kind of analysis is used, for example, to get the right height for a pylon sign beside a motorway, which can make a huge difference to the revenues of a restaurant.
Keeping so many balls in the air is an art – how do you manage to keep everything under control?
You can never keep everything under control. You always have to be prepared for something unexpected to happen. But you can prepare for what might happen and have some backup plans ready, just in case. That’s the kind of lesson you can’t learn in any school, and which can only be learned the hard way. I also try to be constantly available and to have no unread emails at the end of each day.
You always have to be prepared for something unexpected to happen.
And finally, I get a lot of support from our project management system, Access, which creates structure in my work and facilitates communication between me, the client and the relevant salesperson. Automatic reminders help me keep up if I missed something on my ‘to do’ list.
What’s the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on?
It’s hard to pick out any individual project, but big sign masts or pylons are always fun and exciting to work with. They’re always so visible and have a huge impact on their surrounding area. Another example of a fun and really challenging project for us project managers was the reprofiling of Dressmannshops a few years ago. We reprofiled about 370 stores in 7 countries in just 12 days, which was the toughest and most time-critical project I’ve ever been involved in. It was such a big project that I actually set the time of my own wedding for after the project. I couldn’t stop thinking about the project until the construction phase was completed, and only then could I concentrate on my wedding and honeymoon.
Speaking about your private life – are you the project manager at home too?
Ha ha. Yes, I am actually. As a relatively new homeowner, there’s always a new project to start or oversee. I’m not really a gardener, but in the summer I’ll be working on the garden a bit and building a stone wall. I find it tough to sit still and prefer to be busy with something.
And finally – do you have an ideal or dream project?
Definitely. To get a project to work completely according to plan, completely painlessly and with 100% delivery. Is that even possible? But joking apart, a dream project for me would be a global reprofile of a world-famous brand such as IKEA, with thousands of sites in different parts of the world and different conditions everywhere. That would be a huge challenge, but a fantastic one too.