A contracts manager is responsible for ensuring that a company honours its commitments to a customer after the contract negotiation stage has been completed. Once the contract is awarded by the service buyer, it is the contract manager who will oversee the day-to-day running and administration of the contract.
When a company seeks to buy an ongoing service or the ongoing delivery of a product, there will be a “bid-and-offer” round. Interested suppliers will give the purchasing company their best price for the delivery of the goods or service, and the buyer within that company will select the most appropriate offer. A contract is then put in place between the two companies, which stipulates what the buyer is purchasing and at what cost. It will place demands on the seller in terms of what they need to do to fulfil the contract (“contract fulfilment”). The contracts manager is a person employed by the seller company who ensures that the terms of the contract are met (“service delivery”).
Contracts can exist in both the public and private sectors, and the demands of the role are unique to both sectors. In the public sector, there are often limited margins within which the service provider must operate, but the contracts tend to run for a long time and are reasonably recession-proof. In the private sector, demand for results is equally high, but there is often less competitive choice for the buyer, and buyers will typically pay more for the service than would a public sector company. Some service providers will contract only to public sector buyers.
Starting salary is often around £14,000 to £17,000, rising to £20,000 after one year of employment. Promotion structure varies from company to company, but the next step is often as a regional manager, who will be in charge of several contract managers, and this role can attract anything from £20,000 up to £40,000 plus bonus. Salaries in the public and private sectors are comparable, although there is often an increased possibility of earning a bonus in the private sector.
Many people enter a role as contracts manager by working their way up from lower roles. These “dirty hands” positions often begin at minimum wage, which is calculated hourly below;
- £7.20 for persons aged 22 and over.
- £6.95 for persons aged between 21 and 24
- £5.55 for persons aged between 18 and 20
- £4.00 and for persons under the age of 18
- £3.40 for apprentices
(source: HM Revenue and Customs).
- Ensure that terms of the contract with the client are effectively adhered to, and that goods or services are delivered in line with client expectations.
- Duty of care to site staff directly under their supervision, including provision of equipment and keeping them safe from harm.
- Work with supply chain to keep administrative teams equipped and materials available (where the contract relates to the ongoing supply of a product).
- Overcome difficulties which may prevent total fulfilment, and subsequent contract breach. This can lead to a potential cancellation of the supply or provision contract.
- Regular reporting to regional managers on site/product/service performance and issues.
- May be involved with finding and appointing site staff or service staff to administer effective contract fulfilment.
- In some cases, may be responsible for some payroll duties. Most contract managers will look after their staff time sheets as a minimum.
Although there are no formal academic barriers to entry, people wishing to join a company as contracts manager will be expected to have either a suitable qualification in a particular field, or 3-5 years’ experience within that field. Because the contract could be for anything, different product or service markets have different requirements. This is both a blessing and a curse for candidates. The need for relevant experience prevents people from moving from industry to industry, but conversely allows a change of roles within a given industry. For example, somebody with 3 years of sales experience in office copier equipment could be a very suitable candidate for contracts manager within a copier contract rental organisation.
- A knowledge of the industry within which the candidate is aiming to work.
- Ability to manage their own schedule effectively, and cover a multitude of sites.
- Ability to understand terms and conditions and written disclaimers, if they are to handle administration of the account themselves.
- Awareness of health and safety issues relating to site visits, for both him or herself, and for staff under their immediate supervision.
- Ability to manage others under pressure, and work within constraints of time and budget.
- This role normally demands that the contracts manager has a driving licence.
Contract managers can be office-based or external, and many have to handle both environments. In the case of the office workplace, it is not normally a high-risk environment, although staff should be aware of the usual trip hazards and rules applying to light lifting of boxes and desk equipment.
Depending on the type of contract, site work can put the contracts manager at significant risk. Examples may be a cleaning contracts manager who may at times have to handle potentially hazardous chemicals, or perhaps the manager working for a company which supplies components to quarry machinery, which may require end user site visits. People should always be aware of the requirement for hard hats and high-visibility vests when in these high-risk environments.
Experience of a given industry plays a key role in the successful development of the candidate’s career. In many cases, employers value experience over academic qualifications. The sequence of promotion, beginning with the lower end, would typically be: site worker, administrator, contracts manager, regional manager, business development or operations, and then on to directorial roles (if applicable). This career path is potentially lucrative, and rewards patience and hard work on the part of the candidate.
Also known as…
- Contracts administrator
- Public sector manager
- Private sector manager
- Site manager
- Service buyer
- Public sector manager
- Contracts buyer
What’s it really like?
Andy Leadbetter is a contracts manager at Ocean Contract Cleaning which operates throughout the UK, and is a major contracted service provider to district councils across England.
What made you decide to choose to get into this sort of career?
The cleaning industry is one of the most secure in the service sector. In times of recession, companies cut back on expenditure, but cleaning is a high priority service, so there is job security and a lot of satisfaction.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
There is no standard day. My main role is to oversee the cleaning standards on all of my sites, carry out inspections, order stock and consumables, enter details on the payroll system and arrange cover for holidays and sickness.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/exercise you must attend?
Site inspections form the bulk of my work, but I must also allocate time for meetings with staff and clients.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy the variety, the different people I meet and the challenges that the different sites bring. Every situation is different, and it is an enjoyable challenge.
What do you like least about the job?
The long hours, definitely. Some days, when there are problems on the various sites, you have to make sure all are running smoothly before you finish. It’s not a job for those who like to be clocking off at five o’clock on the dot.
What are the key responsibilities?
I am responsible for the day to day running of all of my contracted sites, so my main responsibilities are site inspections and maintaining standards, recruiting and training staff and ensuring they continue to perform whilst working on the contracted sites.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands, eg- A Levels?
No, experience in the cleaning industry is more important, but NVQs in a related field can help those who are thinking about progressing from a site worker role into maybe looking at a contracts manager role for themselves.
Who is the longest serving member in your team/division?
My managing director has been with the company for 25 years, and started as an area manager.
What is the starting salary and how does this increase over time with promotion?
Starting salary is £16,000, rising to £18,000 after a year; promotion to regional manager brings £23,000 and then to operations manager and £28,000 a year
If you left this position, what else would you consider/prefer doing?
I would look for other managerial roles in the service sector.
How far is it possible to progress within the organization?
Up to managing director, so lots of scope for promotion and career growth.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Start at the bottom and work up. You need to have experience of cleaning yourself before you can effectively manage cleaners.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must should possess?
They should have an eagerness to learn, have experience in the industry and be able to work alone and as part of a team.