A software update for Kindle is bringing features that really ought to have been around from the beginning: real page numbers that match what’s in hard-copy versions of books, a public notes feature that lets you share your thoughts with the world, and an end-of-book section that lets you share messages about the book with your social network. Taken together, the update makes the Kindle more user-friendly for the book club set–whether meeting up in person or online.

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In this video, Mark C. Zweig discusses how ZweigWhite’s database of 40,000 companies allows for a broad, yet specific search of A/E/P and environmental consulting firms looking to buy or sell firms.

By Mark C. Zweig

I thought it might be fun to reflect back on my 30-plus years of working in this business and assemble a list of fundamental laws none of us can get around. Here they are:
 
1) To do the work, first you have to GET the work. There’s no way around this. It is the reason why people who can sell and do will always be more valuable than those who can just do.
 
2) No matter how glamorous the project, you cannot spend more on the marketing effort to get it than the fee it brings in. Seems obvious but some people forget it. The only exception to this rule is if doing this project leads to 20 more just like it that will be profitable because they have no marketing costs associated with them.
 
3) You make your money on junior people who work many hours. Think about it. These people don’t waste time sitting in unproductive management meetings. Everything they do pretty much advances the project. When they are salaried, and work many hours, their hourly cost rate plummets, which jacks up their effective multiplier. It is not uncommon to see real raw labor multiples of 4-6 on junior people who work 50-60 billable hours a week.
 
4) You lose your money on senior people who don’t sell, do, or manage (effectively). They cost a lot to start with, and then when they aren’t productive or doing the selling or management jobs we are paying them to do, you lose even more. On top of it, they kill morale for the junior folks, who are expected to work their tails off.
 
5) If you don’t open the books, your employees will be wrong about how successful (or unsuccessful) the business is. They will either think you make more than you do and are ripping them off or they will think the situation is so bad that someone is going to come and lock the doors any minute. Neither is in your best interests. Transparency in the books is the only answer.
 
6) Those who read too many management books may be more dangerous than those who read none. The “management junkies” are always pushing for one more meeting or one more committee to study something that they learned about while reading their latest management “flavor of the week” book. The problem is that none of these things ever turn out to be the panacea that those who advocate them build them up to be. That destroys management’s credibility and the ability to lead the firm. There’s a reason for the popularity of Dilbert and The Office.
 
7) You can’t train people to be honest or ethical. If someone proves to have no ethical compass, no matter what, you aren’t going to fix them. Move them on before they move up to a higher post and get into a position where they can do even more damage.
 
8 ) Your name is your most important asset, not your people. Many folks don’t like it when I say this but it is a fundamental law. You can have the best people in the world, but if your reputation is damaged you won’t be successful. If your reputation is intact, you can run out of money, or work, or good people, but rise again to play the game another day.
 
9) Without good people, you can’t provide good service. Good service is the cornerstone of any business that competes with other businesses that do what they do cheaper. It is the only antidote to price competition. Plus, it is essential to keeping a good name and getting repeat work. You cannot afford to get all new clients all of the time.
 
10) A/E firms are best run by people who do what the firm sells. That means that they are run by architects and engineers and planners and scientists who also happen to be business people as opposed to business people who aren’t any of these things. There are a few exceptions to this law but they are as rare as hen’s teeth!
 
11) You cannot motivate people to do what they aren’t naturally inclined to do. You can demotivate them, however, by bad manners, bad management practices, too much bureaucracy, and leaders who set a poor example in the areas that they are pushing other people to handle properly.
 
12) Overhead is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Overhead that makes you more competitive— recruiting capabilities, IT, marketing, etc., can be good. Overhead that costs you— too much/too luxurious office space, vacation houses, boats, planes, fancy cars, season tickets that go to employees vs. clients, etc., is bad.

Want to hear more from Mark Zweig – and each week?Read more.

By Ed Friedrichs

I admit, I’m of a generation that grew up and spent the early part of my career without a computer, to say nothing of the Internet, e-mail or Facebook. Every time I read about how many people are following Ashton Kutcher’s tweets, two thoughts occur to me: first, who has time to follow all of this stuff?, and second, who cares? So I took Chris Parsons of Knowledge Architecture, clearly part of a generation or two removed from mine, to lunch the other day to find out.

I finally feel enlightened and thought I’d try to pierce through the hype about social networking by telling you how Chris shifted my stubborn, stuck-in-its-ways brain to reveal where the value lies.

Having long been a strong advocate of old fashioned, human-to-human social networks, I doubted that electronic media could accomplish the same thing. Seemed like sound bites on steroids, but no depth. “Where’s the beef?” I asked. Chris referred me to Steven Johnson’s excellent book, Where Good Ideas Come From (and animated talk on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU) with a statement from the book, “Chance favors the connected mind.”

Chris said he follows the tweets of people he finds interesting (maybe 18 in total and not one of them is a politician or lives in Hollywood). Each shows admirable restraint (unlike starlets and teenagers who find it important to share their every movement, bodily and otherwise, during the day). In fact, he said, if someone he’s following starts tweeting too frequently, even though he may think the person is quite bright and capable of brilliance, he’ll drop him or her.

So, he’s following ideas, not people’s activities. What he finds most beneficial is a tweet that contains a reference to a blog, a web site, or a person that builds on the thread of the idea the person he’s following is working on. This allows him to dive deeper or actually contact and speak with a human being for contextual information on the subject at hand. This finally solved the mystery for me. Twitter could be much more than random twaddle and actually put you in touch with an interesting person— real human-to-human conversation after all. Twitter can be a streamlined way of helping me to follow an idea to reach deeper meaning in something that interests me or, more importantly, is helpful to the work I’m doing.

Chris used the long tail concept to make his point.

The left side of the above graph is like the old days of television— three network channels that everyone watched. That’s all you needed to know to talk to your friends the next day but it certainly didn’t allow you to deep dive into a subject. The entire graph is like TV or the Internet today— lots of information with the stuff on the right side of it highly specialized and of only marginal interest to anyone without a passion for that specific subject. The problem is, it’s terribly difficult to get at things on the right end of the graph. The stuff you want is there somewhere like that special channel among the 500-plus that are beamed down to you through your satellite dish, but how do you find it? Especially if you want to talk to a live human being who knows something that would help you?

So, back to Twitter. If you find someone who is thinking about your topic and you follow their tweets, they may help you find others to track until you’ve zoomed in on your expert knowledge base, your own “Two Degrees of Separation” network (see my article titled “Accessing Expert Knowledge” in The Zweig Letter, issue 887, Nov. 15, 2010).

Chris further enlightened me on Facebook (great for friends and family stuff but he doesn’t use it for business) and LinkedIn (great for connecting with people— who do I know that knows someone I want an introduction to? Or a LinkedIn business page that shares a chain of ideas and connects me to the people who put them there).

So, there you have it. Social networking translated for the generationally challenged. Thanks, Chris. I get it now.

Ed Friedrichs is a frequent (and a favorite!) feature in the The Zweig LetterWant to read more of Ed?

Find out how

“We provide the entertainment. We try to make our presentations not only information but also, intersting.  So, sure – we have a cocktail party after the first night which is something that people always enjoy. And it’s a good mixer.” – Mark Zweig

Press Release: February 16, 2011

Economists are pointing to a halting recovery in the nonresidential construction sector, holding back on their earlier predictions of a recovery this year. The Zweig Letter, ZweigWhite’s weekly management journal, reported in its January 14 issue that economists who follow the design and construction industries now are saying that a recovery is not expected until 2012.

According to at least one survey held by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the U.S. nonresidential construction activity will decline slightly this year, but is expected to recover in 2012, led by the hotel and retail sectors. The institute’s semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast projects nonresidential construction spending levels to drop by 2% this year, but an increase of 5%, adjusted for inflation, is expected by 2012. The projected decline marks a deteriorating outlook. A similar survey in July 2010 pointed to a 2011 recovery.

“The key factors that have prevented an accelerated recovery include historically low lending rates for real estate projects, the lingering effects of general overbuilding and an unfavorable bond market that has hampered the ability for municipalities to get the requisite funding to build new schools and hospitals,” Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, told The Zweig Letter. “Conditions should improve later this year and gain momentum as we move into 2012, particularly for hotel, retail, and office building projects.”

However, economist Jim Haughey, director of research and analytics with Reed Construction Data, is a bit more optimist about a recovery in the sector.

“Looking at the recent trends,” Haughey said in the Jan. 14 issue of The Zweig Letter, “nonresidential (construction) starts have picked up quite sharply from the falloff at the height of the financial problems last year…. The nonresidential construction pipeline is gradually being rebuilt. In recent credit trends, we’ve seen that investors have started buying bank real estate loans at deep discounts, and by deep, I mean as much as 50% or 60%, in some cases. This is providing the capital for a very small expansion in new project loans.”

The AIA projects construction of industrial space to fall 11.8% this year, but rise slightly in areas like health care, church and recreational facilities.

ABOUT ZWEIGWHITE

Twice named to the Inc. 500 list of best firms, ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. ZweigWhite is owned by investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and MZ Ventures, Inc.,with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs. For more information, visit www.zweigwhite.com or call (479) 582-5700.

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“I’m never satisfied. Maybe that’s not the way to be happy. But, I’ll tell you one thing – it certainly helps in business to never be satisfied.”

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