I’m Finding Myself Getting Mad Lately…
Although I have been generally getting calmer with age, I’ve found myself getting mad lately— mad at design professionals who will NOT do what they should do to build a reputation for themselves and the lasting business that goes along with that.
I’m talking about short-term thinking. That’s a quality I’ve never admired in people— especially those who own businesses— and super-especially in people who ought to know better.
These short-term thinking architects, engineers, and scientists seem to have an inability to learn from their own mistakes and those of others. They just keep doing the same things over and over. Then, when their businesses turn to crap after they’ve lost their best clients and employees, they blame it on everyone other than themselves.
Typical of the behavior of these people is that they don’t pay their bills. They use the money owed to their subconsultants and vendors to finance their operations, something that is sure to get tongues wagging and others to fear doing business with them.
They also typically pride themselves in being tough negotiators. They buy everything as cheap as they can and brag about how they beat up all suppliers and subconsultants to get the lowest price. Then they expect extra services and super treatment even though they don’t work at their end to merit it.
These same people also cut costs on the very things that affect the quality of the services their firms provide. Labor is a good example. They won’t pay what they should pay for the best talent and, as a result, their ranks are filled with “C”-grade employees whose attitudes are sure to shine through. Clients always get mistreated in the end and reputations suffer.
Marketing, too, is a cost to be minimized in these companies. Brand-building marketing activities are virtually non-existent, and instead, a “feast-or-famine” business development strategy (or lack of strategy) is employed. This makes it really hard on the company and especially hard to replace a good client who leaves for greener pastures. There is no sustainable marketing effort that they can imagine actually using in their firms.
These firms generally have short-term thinking principals with a bad attitude toward their employees. The owners act like unaccountable gods who will tell you (if you ask them) that everyone in the firm is replaceable.
I learned as a consultant to this industry that when I was unfortunate enough to get a client who thought like this that there was little I was going to be able to do to help them. Even if they had some design or planning or scientific talent, they didn’t “get it” when it comes right down to it. When I tried to help them, they always came on with the idea that their firms were different. Many are out of business now.
No one can escape the actions of their past. Short-term thinking is not rewarded in the long haul. Conversely, a good reputation will carry you, even when you may not deserve that treatment at the time. If you’ve been behaving badly, it’s never too late to change. Don’t make me mad— make me proud!
Originally published 10/08/2007