Mark Zweig expresses frustration about the mishandling of the sales process at design firms.

It is a hard to manage the business development (BD) effort in the A/E and environmental consulting industry.

To start with, we don’t have many good BD (i.e., sales) people in this business. Good ones are very valuable and hard to find, especially if they can actually do something that helps clients (seller doers). It seems so many full-time BD people in this business are really best at selling one thing – themselves – into a job. They tend to have short lifespans.

Seller-doers always have something else to do (i.e., doing billable work!). There are many challenges and demands placed on these people’s time. Project work will always rule. Clients come first, as they probably should. That means that selling will take a back seat. That makes it hard to get people to sell!

Seller-doers don’t usually report to the person who is responsible for managing the BD effort. Their primary home is in the line organization. They report to another line manager – probably a principal or officer in the company. Compared to a marketing director or BD manager, they have a lot more power and clout in the organization. Whose demands therefore are listened to? Line management wins every time.

We have serious accounting problems. The majority of firms don’t track the number and value of incoming project leads. Many firms don’t even track what they are selling or who is selling it. Backlog is a mystery unless an all-day meeting is held to review it. Then we have the issue of time recording. BD is always a good place to dump your unbillable time on a timesheet because it sounds better than “unbillable.” On top of it, many companies in this business charge time to BD numbers that as soon as a project is won they convert into billable charges. This distorts the entire BD cost accounting; time on jobs won is deducted from marketing, yet still a very real part of marketing costs (I don’t understand WHY some firms do this).

We are as a group afraid to recognize people for selling. The problem with attaboys or other public accolades for anyone who sells something is determining who was involved in the sale and how critical they were to it. Many fear they have forgotten someone else who was involved in the sale. So they do the worst thing possible – say nothing.

Some firms are afraid to develop people who can sell. Their fear (which has actually been expressed to me) is that if their employees can sell they will steal their clients away from them and start their own companies. The employee who can sell no longer “needs” the company. Seems pretty silly to me. How else will you be able to grow the company and create something that can survive when you are gone if you don’t teach other people how to sell? It won’t happen.

Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1068, originally published 8/18/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

Is personality a window to culture when interviewing candidates?

It’s amazing how often the word “culture” is used in the recruiting process. More often than not, a candidate’s fit with, or should I say into, the culture of the hiring organization is ranked right up there with desired experience when discussing the optimal person for the job.

But, how do you determine a potential employee’s culture? It’s certainly not described on their résumé. For a candidate, such definition should be found in the position description.

The closest mention of culture in most position descriptions is all the various ways we describe a team player. Webster defines the noun “culture” as it applies to business as, “A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.” In the broader sense, Webster defines culture as, “The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.”

Some organizations try to quantify a candidate’s culture through testing. You may have been a participant in these cultural identification quizzes. Lots of questions in the form of “what if” or “are you most likely”. I’m not a fan of this process because most of us, as candidates, are not quite truthful in our answers. I don’t mean we lie outright. Rather, we are biased into thinking about what the hiring company wants to hear when giving our answer, which of course paints a somewhat different picture of our actual culture.

In recruiting and/or hiring, I believe a synonym for “culture” could be “personality”. This is not what Webster says, but here’s my reasoning: Hiring managers don’t usually ask the candidate to describe their personal culture. It would be very challenging to put into words your way of thinking, behaving, or working. Certainly, it would also be difficult for the hiring manager to describe the company’s culture. Culture is not something you can feel, see,
or smell.

So why can personality become a substitute for culture during the recruiting process? Well, your personality is on exhibit at all times. It’s the attractive qualities (such as energy, friendliness, and humor) that make a person interesting or pleasant to be with – and that includes interviews. It’s in the level of confidence you display, the tone of your voice, or the way you dress. Do you appear nervous, was your handshake sweaty, how easily do you warm up to the interviewer or the candidate, and can you carry on a conversation? Hate to say it, but it’s defining the book by its cover. These are all outward traits of personality, not the inside cultural traits of beliefs, behavior, or thinking.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the candidate’s likeability. It goes both ways too! How much did the candidate like or dislike the interview process and the people representing the company. Did everyone in the office greet him/her as they passed by; how many people were smiling; what did the office environment look like? Or did most of the employees appear to be just waiting for the 5 p.m. bell?

Let’s face it, culture is important. A cultural fit between the employee and the company leads to a cohesive and well-oiled organization; a group of principles and beliefs that are harmonious. It’s the desire to be a “team player” and an attitude of what’s good for the company and not just for me. Culture is a way of behavior that permeates the organization; a belief that we are all in it together, and a method of working that promotes
success.

Culture, whether it’s the organization’s employees or a candidate as a potential employee, directly impacts personality. Assuming I’m right, then the outward image of personality that can be seen or heard by the candidate and/or the interviewer is a strong indicator of culture. So, the next time you participate in an interview, whether as a candidate or the interviewer, ask all the questions that you want, but also pay strong attention to the outward signs of personality to gain insight into the inner culture.

Pat McGee is the director of executive search consulting with ZweigWhite. Contact him at pmgee@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1068, originally published 8/18/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

Mark Zweig offers five things you can do to keep valued employees who just don’t see eye-to-eye.

After working as an owner, consultant, and employee in A/E firms for more than 34 years, it’s interesting to see that getting along with one’s fellow co-workers is typically one of the biggest problems people working in A/E firms face.

That’s terrible! We should be focused on getting more work, or improving the quality of our work, or getting paid for our work. Yet those things may take a back seat to the relationship crisis de jour. It’s very stressful for your people. And let’s be honest – it’s very stressful for YOU.

It’s your job as the leader to help your people get through these things so they can focus on their REAL jobs. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Two people who don’t get along don’t trust each other. If they are both good people, the reason they don’t trust each other is because they don’t really know each other. Get them together. Make them spend time together – with you and without you. Lunches. Projects. Maybe even move their offices closer together.
  2. Two people who don’t get along don’t have anything in common. Look for common ground, common interests. Find what they both like. Try to get them doing it together. Maybe they will learn to like each other.
  3. Two people who don’t get along may really need to know how you feel about the situation. Talk with each of them. Counsel them. Get them to see the big picture. Get them to understand they are both good, valuable, and critical to the company. They also need to know that you need and want them both there. They may need to know that are both loved to overcome their insecurities. The bottom line is they need to know that you feel they both need to get along.
  4. Two people who don’t get along working together may need new roles. Perhaps these two people are blaming on another for problems such as the way the incentive comp plan works or the way projects get delivered. Consider moving or reassigning one or both of these people to new roles that minimize their interaction and conflict. Maybe this means a new department, division, or even location for one or both of them. If both are good employees, this could be well worth it to preserve them and their contributions.
  5. Two people who don’t get along working together may need counseling – individually. They probably wouldn’t be interested in doing it together. So maybe you need to suggest it or even arrange it. Perhaps you have an EAP (employee assistance program) that could be used to help out. Maybe you have an organizational psychologist you can call in. Maybe this person could make some specific suggestions to you as well. Look for resources.

Here’s the bottom line: Good people are hard to find, especially ones who know your organization and your clients and subconsultants. They are worth investing in and preserving in the organization. Give it your all. Even if you fail the characters involved will likely appreciate your efforts and concerns, and attempts to make their lives better – and maybe you’ll learn something from the experience that will help you be more effective the next time you encounter a similar problem.

Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1069, originally published 8/25/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

This over-used word can be working against you.

In one of our seminars, we ask the attendees to spend 5 minutes developing a short pitch to convince a potential client why they should hire the attendees’ firm. We then go around the room and each attendee delivers their pitch to the class. While these are being presented, Mark Zweig and I jot down notes on each pitch. We also find ourselves counting the number of times we hear the word “innovative.” That buzzword is often paired with “cost-effective” and “solutions.” It is astounding how many people will use these words to describe their firm. More than half will say they offer “cost-effective and innovate solutions.” In an industry that obsesses over the threat of commoditization, are we are own biggest enemy? When we are all saying we offer the same thing, what is the client world to think?

“Innovative” has been a corporate buzzword for decades and our industry uses it exhaustively in just about every marketing and business development scenario. My belief is that no only has this word lost its original meaning and impact, but it can actually work against us now. Regular readers of this column will know the importance that I place on differentiation. Using words like “innovative” severely erode your ability to capture and hold your audience’s attention. Every one else is saying the same thing and the instant you look like everyone else, you have lost all differentiation. In this day and age, we must provide very powerful and compelling marketing messages in short bursts in order to compete with the incredible volume of messages constantly being piped over every medium available. Here are some ways to improve your differentiation and better capture your audience’s attention:

  • Get rid of over-used clichés and buzzwords from your marketing materials. Task someone with scanning your marketing materials and identifying where you are describing your processes with these over-used buzzwords. This will include marketing brochures, website text, boilerplate proposal text, presentations, interviews and the list goes on and on. Replace this generic text with some simple statements of what sets your firm apart using straightforward language. Talk to your audience in every medium as though they are standing right in front of you and you are engaging them in a conversation.
  • Start citing actual examples of client and project heroics. Innovative and cost-effective solutions do have an appeal if you can actually cite what they are and how you can do it for others. As opposed to using vague, nondescript language to describe your firm, start telling your audience how much you save, how much better your designs perform, and just about anything you can think of that you can quantify and cite as actual successes. Create a perspective in the mind of the audience where they can truly get a reference for your performance and the unique value propositions you offer.
  • Use primary research to become the experts. If you really want to be innovative, develop research campaigns where you can really go deep on a client or subject. There are so many untapped opportunities for you to help your clients or their industry by just doing some simple research on the client or their customers. Taking that research and then publishing it is easier and cheaper than ever with all the online resources. You can get credit for being an authority on a subject by just publishing a simple survey and then adding your own expert analysis.

Create a picture of what you want your clients and potential clients to believe about your firm and start painting that picture for them without over-used and meaningless buzzwords. Start talking to your audience with conversational and easy to read straightforward language. You must leverage every opportunity to engage your clients in the most meaningful and impactful way you can.

Chad Clinehens is ZweigWhite’s executive vice president. Contact him at cclinehens@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1069, originally published 8/25/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

Mark Zweig lists some things he has learned about the A/E/P and environmental business over three decades.

The end of August marked 34 full years working in the A/E/P and environmental consulting business. I have been a student of the industry that entire time, but have also been an owner, employee, manager, board member and consultant to firms in this business. Not everyone knows this, but my design/build/development company (Mark Zweig, Inc. – No. 3,720 in the Inc. 500 | 5000 list of fastest-growing, privately held firms for 2014) is also a provider and purchaser of A/E/P and environmental consulting services. I have designed many houses down to the smallest detail, including furniture, colors, and even the art on the walls.

So, after all that, I thought I would share some of my observations of this business (and the people in it) with you:

  1. This business gives people working in it a lot of job satisfaction. People like seeing the results of their efforts in a tangible form. There is something about seeing something built – something big you can walk around on or in – that you were a part of planning or designing that you just can’t get from doing anything else. I think it is one of the big draws that keeps people in this business, and coming back to it after they leave.
  2. While architects and engineers are not necessarily all great businesspeople, they are getting better. The average firm in this business makes a 10-percent-plus pre-tax, pre-bonus profit, and a 20-percent-plus return on their equity. Not to mention the typical principal makes close to $200K per year in total compensation.
  3. We are still weak marketers. The number of firms in this business that cannot even refer to themselves by a single company name is appalling. Websites are horrible. Graphic design is terrible. Written copy is verbose. There’s way too much self-laudatory everything. We have uncoordinated business development efforts with zero management. We don’t understand search engine optimization, e-marketing, or social media. We don’t understand what influences people to buy one thing or another. In spite of the best efforts of organizations such as SMPS (and they do a bang-up job), our marketing development lags most other industries.
  4. Clients are (usually) a necessary evil but you cannot think about them in that way. Clients can be a real pain. They want what they want and they don’t always know what that is. They don’t know what you do. They call and expect an immediate response. They may not pay as fast or be as grateful as we think they should be. But the bottom line is: unless you are John Portman or Jonathan Segal, without them you are out of business. You have to make them feel important, serve them well, and keep selling them with a smile on your face, period – unless you want to find a new career doing something else.
  5. Specialization is the easiest path to success. I don’t know why higher education institutions don’t teach this (unless the teachers themselves don’t get it, which I suspect is the case). Clients pay higher prices, are more likely to seek you out in the first place, are more likely to listen to you, and you’ll not be geographically hamstrung when you are specialized. Yes, some people will feel it restricts their creativity. But the best people get creative around the constraints of the industry, organizations or project types they work on… and succeed far beyond local generalists who still believe “good designers can design anything.”
  6. No one ownership structure is universally the best. The ESOP firms are usually zealots about it. The firms with a million owners think that is best and motivates all. Sole proprietors think they need sole control for fast decision-making. Everyone is right – and everyone is wrong. And everyone is entitled to their opinions but no one ownership structure works for all firm types. Where they are in terms of their development, growth rate, needs for capital, etc., all affects what ownership structure makes sense.
  7. Everyone has costs they can cut out of their business. Everyone does. I can go in any company and look at the financials and in one day find hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, of expenses that could be reduced. Do the owners and managers want to go through the pain of doing this? Most of the time, no. But it doesn’t mean a purely rational person couldn’t do it. Insurance needs to be bid. Underemployed principals and managers cut. Excess space carved off. Unneeded assets disposed of. There are costs that can be reduced.
  8. Figuring out how to charge more is almost always more fruitful than figuring out how to reduce costs. It has always disturbed me that project management training seems to focus on over-managing a meager budget when if more time and effort would have been extended on the front-end of the project a higher fee and smaller scope could probably have been negotiated.
  9. The people who work for you and with you are, have been, and always will be your biggest problem, AS WELL AS your best opportunity. That clichéed question every management consultant loves to ask: “What keeps you up at night?” can almost always be answered with: “People problems!” People don’t always behave well. They drag their personal baggage into the workplace. They don’t get along. They don’t always do their jobs. They are unhappy with their jobs or with you as their manager or leader. They have different opinions on a course of action. All of these issues will always be there. How you respond to these problems will determine whether or not you can build an organization of wide ranging talents and skillsets that can sustain itself over time and liberate you to move on to whatever else you would like to do with your life.
  10. This industry WILL adapt and change along with the markets we serve. It’s interesting to me to see firms like AECOM buying a contracting company. Or architecture firms getting into marketing consulting. Or engineering firms getting into the software business. Or environmental firms going into the temp help business. I think it is great to see firms not putting themselves into such narrowly defined boxes as they once may have because it will be the only way we can adapt to rapidly changing client organizations. I have faith firms in this business can and will adapt (at least some of them) based on the evidence I’m seeing in our industry.

So there you have it. I could go on and on and fill up all these pages with my years of observations. Maybe someday I will put it all into a new book. But truth is, if I ever have time to write another book, I’d rather write a novel based on this business so we can glamorize the profession a little! We all need to sell the sizzle if we are going to influence young people to jump in.

Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1070, originally published 8/8/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

Think of leadership not as a single person but as a team of individuals, each with his or her own strength and talent.

For years I’ve watched firms struggle with leadership transition, particularly firms started by one or more principals with engaging personalities and a certain design flair. Who can ever replace the “name(s) on the door”? These people are known and loved by clients, staff and partners cultivated over the years. Can anyone ever walk in their shoes? Can those legacy relationships be successfully transferred?

The architectural and engineering professions are rife with stories of leadership transition failure. Successes are few and far between, requiring finesse and careful planning.

Many firms going through transition opt for acquisition or merger, transferring leadership to and adopting the culture of the acquiring, or stronger firm. Culture invariably enters the conversation – whether a new leader or group of leaders succeeds the previous generation or the firm is acquired or merged. Stakeholders ask, “What will this business be like going forward? Will I fit in? Will I be well served?”

Leadership transition isn’t always wholesale. If a firm is led by a team of leaders who share common values and who are facile enough to step into another’s role when there is a vacancy, there’s a greater chance of seamless and successful transition. It’s like a runner in a relay handing off the baton. I’ve seen more successes when a well-balanced leadership team is able to integrate one new leader at a time into the team.

Which raises the question, “Is a firm best led by a single leader, supported by a leadership support team, or should the leadership team be co-equals, as in a partnership”? I look at the design professions as needing several discrete talents to round out what it takes for a firm to be successful:

  • Creativity. Whether in architecture or engineering, someone drives innovation, usually a conceptual person less driven by detail or business acumen. The most successful are those who have deep respect for the other talents and individuals required to offer a well-rounded and balanced approach to what clients need.
  • Salesmanship. No firm can survive without selling work. I’ve seen far too many creatives who believe they could do their best work – if only the client didn’t keep getting in the way. A salesman is constantly focused on the client’s needs. That person is attuned to what it will take to make the client’s business perform better.
  • Management. Firms led by a strong creative are often lacking in tight management support and controls, migrating toward a successor who will maintain the status quo or simply manage things a little better. Some folks have a strong desire to create order and are more prone to doing things right than doing the right things – i.e., a manager vs. a creative. But to be successful, both are needed, and each must honor and respect what the other brings.
  • Business acumen. Some people are just better at knowing how to make money. I almost think it’s genetic, although in the nature vs. nurture argument, I usually find there’s something in a person’s background that has given them the insights and motivation to negotiate a favorable contract, manage the scope and work undertaken to fit the fee achieved, and maintain a close relationship with the client such that bills are paid on time. They tend also to be prudent about spending money, assuring the firm has the resources in facilities, tools and equipment to provide great service without gold-plating it.

I’ve never seen a single individual who embodies all of these talents in a balanced and effective fashion. In fact, the most successful models encourage creative conflict between them. Each person advocates strongly for his or her point of view, but each accepts that the other’s focus and point of view is necessary. They challenge each other until they achieve a balanced approach to everything they do.

As you approach leadership transition in your own firm, think of leadership not as a single person but as a team of individuals, each with his or her own strength and talent. Most importantly, these individuals must have a deep respect for each of the points of view necessary to experience leadership harmony and achieve excellence in our professions.

Edward Friedrichs, FAIA, FIIDA, is a consultant with ZweigWhite and the former CEO and president of Gensler. Contact him at efriedrichs@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1070, originally published 8/8/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

Mark Zweig lays out the steps you must take to create a successful organization. Also, be a real leader.

One of the most important jobs any leader has is that of building their team. Yet too often, in the typical A/E/P or environmental firm, the team is largely viewed as static. “It is what it is,” as some people like to say (too often).

Our industry has a culture made up of firms that operate as if “full employment for all” – no matter how bad you are – is the norm. It’s almost akin to a university environment where professors are granted tenure. We seem to aspire to the lowest staff turnover rate possible. We just don’t move out the people who aren’t cutting it.

While A/E firms may be nice places to work and bastions of civility in a hostile world, I don’t think this type of culture breeds business success. We need much more emphasis on performance and a greater willingness to change our team members to attain it. Here are some thoughts for you on building a higher performing team:

  1. Define the goals. Everyone needs to know what they are aiming for. No matter how obvious this may seem to you, odds are it isn’t to everyone who works for you.
  2. Measure results against goals. Share this information with the entire company. It reinforces those who are doing well and it puts the spotlight on everyone who isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with a little peer pressure to succeed.
  3. Confront the non-performers. Do it in a nice way and with a spirit of helpfulness. But by all means, do it.
  4. Lay out a timeline and clear expectations for what the non-performers must do to turn it around. Again, helpfulness and a spirit of optimism about their ability to turn things around are essential.
  5. Reassign or replace the non-performers as needed. Stop rationalizing as to why you cannot do it. Explain to your staff and clients how you are making a change and who will be taking this person’s place – either temporarily or for the long-haul.

Dead weight, non-performers not only drag you down and keep you from achieving your goals but they also drag down everyone else in your organization. There just isn’t any room for them because the lowest performer sets the de-facto standard for performance. You want a high performance team – then raise the standards.

One more thing. Look in the mirror. Are you doing your job to the best of your ability and to an acceptable standard? If not, ignore steps 1 through 5 above and start working on yourself – FAST. You set the example. Leadership is never a game of “do what I say.” It is rather one of “do as I do.”

Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1071, originally published 8/15/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Sept. 18, 2014) – Zweig Group is excited to announce that Randy Wilburn is re-joining the firm to help grow the executive search division.  Wilburn, who first worked for Zweig Group in the firm’s executive search team in the 1990s/2000s, was an owner in the firm. Randy left the firm when it was sold in 2004 to a private equity group. Now that Zweig Group is back in the hands of the original founding partner, Mark Zweig, Randy is re-joining the firm to help them build a key part of their business.

“It’s pretty exciting for me to come back to Zweig Group and the management consulting and executive search field. I can take what I’ve learned over the past decade and apply it into the AEC framework,” said Wilburn.  “I am looking forward to again being a part of what I have always viewed as a great organization.” 

Since he last worked at Zweig Group, Wilburn became an author, speaker, consultant, trainer, and business coach.  He is one of the nation’s leading experts on a variety of topics including leadership skills, strategic planning, and small business development. One of his programs, Bootstrap Bootcamp, incorporates a holistic approach to small business development by focusing on the individual first and the business second.

“We are delighted to have Randy back with us,” said Mark Zweig, Zweig Group founder and CEO.  “He is going to have an immediate impact on our business as he knows this industry well. Randy is a proven performer as he understands how to find people to fill critical roles, an important service for our clients” 

Wilburn has been featured in Business Week, and The Boston Globe, and the Blog of Timothy Ferriss, Author of the NY Times Best Seller, “4 Hour Work Week,” in addition to being a former spokesperson for Elance.com. He also spends time inspiring young people and entrepreneurs with motivational talks that focus on encouragement and leadership development. He is a graduate of Howard University and The Summer Leadership Institute at Harvard University. He is a certified business coach and a teacher in Biblical Entrepreneurship through the Nehemiah Project.

It’s lonely at the top and hard to find someone who will listen and provide useful advice, Mark Zweig writes.

It’s been said before that it’s lonely at the top. There’s a lot of truth to that. When you’re the boss, who do you talk to? More importantly, perhaps, is who can you talk to who will give you good advice?

This is a very real problem and not a simple one for most people leading successful AEC firms to solve. Here are some of your options:

  1. Spouse. If you are one of the lucky few, you have a spouse who is a good listener, has good business instincts and can provide you with worthwhile advice. But for most – even those with loving and caring spouses – you won’t get that. You’ll be getting input from someone who has a very limited perspective, largely based on what you tell them. They will often tend to be biased toward you, and be completely family-centric versus company-centric borne from their role as a family care provider. Not always the best advisors.
  2. Parent. Parents tend to fall into one of two categories. Either they support you no matter what you say or do, even if it’s stupid, because they love you; or, they don’t support your decision making at all and treat you as if you were still a child without a lick of sense, even at age 50. There’s a third group that’s out there, too, of parents who worked the same job for 30- to 50 years and don’t understand self-employment or entrepreneurial ventures and think you should have stayed at whatever job you had out of college. In any case, unless your parents owned and grew a business similar to yours, it’s probably hard to get good business input from them.
  3. Business partner(s). Good business partners can be good sounding boards. They also may have unique insight for you based on their experience and role in the firm. The problem is that if you are higher level in the ownership or management pecking order, they may not be honest with you. You have to have some confident partners whose input you respect. But not everyone does. Many of us inherited our partners and didn’t pick them.
  4. Someone who works for you. See above. You are still their boss. No one likes to tell the emperor that he or she has no clothes on.
  5. Business or personal “coach.” There are many of these self-proclaimed coaches out there. The biggest problem with many of them is they haven’t demonstrated that they are successful business owners. Therefore, most business owners really don’t listen to what they say. And why should they?
  6. Management consultant. See above. Again, lots of consultants out there but how many really understand the AEC business and how many run successful businesses themselves? If not, how can these people be your confidantes and trusted advisors? Not to say that catharsis can’t be good for you but it would be nice to get some meaningful input and insight that really helps you deal with a myriad of problems that go along with running your business.
  7. Psychiatrist/psychotherapist. Most psychiatrists don’t do psychotherapy any longer. They just prescribe drugs. And most psychotherapists just let you blather on about yourself as long as you pay. They may have insights on dealing with people that could help you but probably won’t have any real business input.
  8. Your mentor. Hopefully, you have one. Someone who has been successful and who really understands you and where you’ve come from and want to go. If you don’t, I suggest you try to find one!

Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1072, originally published 8/22/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

smallIMG_9491Portfolio: Mascot delivers the good news

Internal newsletter modeled after internal mascot an award-winning success.

By Christina Zweig
Contributing edito
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ECS Carolinas, LLP (Chantilly, VA), placed first in the Internal Marketing Category of Zweig Group’s 2014 Marketing Excellence Awards with their fierce, wolf-inspired, quarterly internal newsletter.

The award-winning campaign has helped the firm better connect with employees and build a sense of community.

Everything from the name (Wolftracks), pictures, footers (wolfpaw prints), and inspirational stories arcs back to one overall theme and the firm’s internal mascot, the wolf. All aspects of design and layout were created in-house by the ECS Carolinas, LLP marketing department.

In the early stages of development, the marketing team reached out to a select group of employees across the company. This group provided suggestions on topics they would be interested in. The marketing group’s strategy was to create a newsletter that would incorporate the internal mascot in a professional yet fun manner. They also wanted to make something that wasn’t too technical and had personality. The team envisioned color, quotes, and randomly placed shout-out facts in a piece that had flexibility and wouldn’t get stagnant. Mostly, they wanted to create a newsletter that ECS employees would want to open and read.

“The goal in creating our internal newsletter was to build and reinforce purpose, community, loyalty, and morale. It was designed to focus on the people who will read it and to simply connect with them,” said Julie Smith, marketing assistant.

The marketing department takes the lead for each issue. But while they choose page topics, content comes from branch managers, business development staff, administration and technicians as well as safety and human resources staff. Topics run the gamut, including leadership, inspiration, noteworthy projects, office spotlight, congratulations, and a safety minute. Special features include topics such as “testing the limits,” benefits, Q&A, collaboration, community, call to action, “class of 2013,” and creativity. The newsletter is written in a friendly, informal style, with multiple voices used. The newsletter is distributed to over 300 staff members in 11 offices.

Results. The vibrant eNewsletter is now distributed quarterly and involves current employees and their projects. The firm’s Marketing Excellence Award entry stated, “Once the first edition of WOLFTRACKS was distributed, the marketing department received over 25 personal emails or phone calls expressing gratitude for creating the newsletter.”

While the content initially focused around ECS Carolinas, LLP employees, requests came in for other non-firm employees to be added to the distribution list.

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1073, originally published 9/29/2014. Copyright© 2014, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

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