Let’s talk about… Account Management & Remote Work
In our "5 questions with…" section, we regularly introduce you to our PIABO colleagues and share their expertise in communication and PR. Today: Stefanie Künstner, Communications Director and Account Management expert.
1. Steffi, why don't you take us on a tour of your day-to-day work: Which clients do you consult? Do you have certain routines in your daily work?
When I started at PIABO a year ago, I was coming from an international network agency that managed clients in long-established, almost century-old industries like automotive, IT, and telecoms, so the digital economy as well as working with start-ups was a whole new experience for me. After a year now, however, I would say that I have a good understanding of the digital ecosystem, working with clients in software-as-a-service (sensalytics), new work (Evernote), proptech (RE/MAX, Wunderflats), and HR tech (Greenhouse). The speed in this industry is impressive and challenging at the same time – I had to redefine the words flexibility and reaction speed for myself all over again!
Well, routines – I wish I would finally develop a routine of tracking my hours on a day-to-day basis. But after more than six years of agency life, I fear that ship has sailed. Other than that, I'm almost a bit of a nerd when it comes to my email inbox. It has to be empty at the end of the day. I don't have a single unread or unsorted email! My desktop is empty, too. I catch my breath when I see some of my colleagues' mailboxes – followed by sincere admiration at how they keep track of everything! Maybe the account manager is already breaking through there, knowing: If my inbox is tidy and organized, so are my customer projects and tasks.
2. You are working remotely from Munich – how do you personally feel about remote working and what challenges do you perceive?
To be honest, I was quite naive at first, thinking: "It’s a really exciting concept, this 'fully remote' hub. After all, I spent 1.5 years more or less working from home during Covid, so now I can do that too." Spoiler: It makes a significant difference whether you switch to work-from-home "overnight" with a familiar on-site team that has grown over the years, or change to work remotely at a new agency, with colleagues who are 600 kilometers away. Nevertheless, I have never regretted the decision, because I have a great combination with full flexibility. I can work from home, have the opportunity to travel to the headquarters office in Berlin from time to time – or use the various co-working spaces here in Munich. And there's also the option of working remotely from other European countries for up to three months!
The biggest challenge for me is the lack of personal exchange with my teams beyond our daily video call marathons. Asking a quick question across the desk or spontaneously discussing a topic at the coffee machine ... at home, you have to deal with yourself a lot and also catch much less of what the other teams are working on. Therefore my advice to all remotees: Go out regularly and meet your colleagues. We communicators thrive on interpersonal contact!
3. You usually work as a supervisor or account manager on various client accounts. Why do agencies need proper project management?
In any case, not to make our colleagues' day-to-day work even more complicated – on the contrary! Our job as account managers is to make life easier for our teams. Through optimized processes, coordination and organization, we can bring structure to any client account, so that our account leads can concentrate on content or strategic consulting and don't have to worry about capacity planning, budgets, billing, timelines, deadlines, quality management, etc. In a fast-moving environment like ours – the digital economy – good organization of teams and their communication activities is half the battle.
If an agency really wants to work in an agile and cross-divisional manner, being focused on the needs and challenges of each client, it needs the corresponding framework conditions in the background. And it is precisely these framework conditions that we as account managers can create with efficient project management.
4. What do you recommend for ideal project management? Any tools, special approaches, etc.?
Unfortunately, for me, there is no such thing as ideal project management. There are countless methods, theories, tools, etc., in which you can get lost. What is most important to me personally in terms of functioning project management is: transparency, clear communication, flexibility, and a close exchange within the team. Tools, such as Asana or Notion, are only secondary here in my opinion, they serve as support, but should not be seen as a dealbreaker for a successful project. You can also still get organized with an “old-school” to-do list (e.g. with Evernote) or a simple project plan created in Excel. The key is that the entire team understands the benefits of project management and agrees on how they want to work together as a team and get it implemented in the best possible way. The goal of good project management should be that everyone involved can work together smoothly and focus on their expertise to get to the common goal as efficiently (in terms of budget, and capacity) as possible: satisfying the client.
5. You are also part of our culture team, which strengthens our corporate culture through specific measures. What do you want to see changed in the agency?
The inclusive and diverse corporate culture is something very special at our company. The countless opportunities to actively help shape things or topics that are important to you are something I've never experienced before at any of my former employers. Of course, you have to be up for it and be motivated, but in any case, no one can complain that he or she was not heard on any topic or that the employee’s input was not valued. And PIABO not only listens, but also pays attention (yes, there is a difference!), accepts the challenges that naturally arise in such a fast-growing agency, and is busy dealing with them within the culture and diversity team, among others.
Above all, the topic of remote working is close to my heart, as it is an essential aspect of the PIABO corporate culture. We now have so many great colleagues spread all over Germany (and even some of them in Europe) – it is crucial that all PIABOs really feel like they belong to one team, to one agency, no matter how many kilometers there may be between their physical workplaces.
Working remotely comes with a whole new set of challenges than one might expect from a stationary office. With the announcement of the remote hub concept, PIABO has installed a growth mechanism and, in my opinion, a clear competitive advantage, with which comes great responsibility to integrate all "remotees" not only during onboarding but beyond that on a daily basis as if we were all located in Berlin. ... which would be an incredible challenge in terms of space now.
We are still on an exciting journey, and I am happy that I can contribute to the further development of the PIABO remote company culture with my personal experiences and learnings.