Firm owners must have a clear vision, build a solid culture, and celebrate achievements big and small to be good stewards.
Earlier this year, I delved into the concept of what smart AEC owners do to be good stewards of their firms. To recap on the definition of stewardship, Merriam-Webster defines it as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” In other words, stewards lead responsibly by making wise decisions that will propel their firm to new heights. In a world of constant change, it is crucial that principals never forget this.
As I observed more firms throughout this year, I have given more thought and believe it would be beneficial to add more points to my original list. By expanding our understanding of what it means for principals to be good stewards of AEC firms, we can contribute to the growth and prosperity of our industry. A good steward:
- Presents a vision not only for their people, but also for the company. A good steward understands that their people are the lifeblood of the firm. They are not just employees but individuals with aspirations, talents, and the potential for growth. A steward has a clear vision for their people and is committed to nurturing their professional development. They provide opportunities for skill enhancement, mentorship, and career advancement. Imagine having your employees get better in business development, leadership, and project management each and every year because you have set a vision for them. Having a personal, precise vision laid out for your people creates a path that helps people succeed and shows your willingness for them to grow. But in order to sustain that, your vision must be conveyed in a clear, defined manner that empowers people to better understand the where, when, what, why, and how. Being intentional in placing the firm’s location in the future gives your people the confidence that leadership has a North Star to navigate the firm in good and tough times.
- Builds the culture of their firm. Creating a solid culture takes effort and consistent dedication. Principals have the power to build their culture up – or tear it down by setting objectives that don’t provide value to their employees or clients. Culture is the fabric of your firm’s DNA. It shows what is valued and what is not. It demonstrates to your people what is allowed and what isn’t, it allows people to feel a sense of belonging, or it makes them want to look for another opportunity elsewhere. Setting the tone of your culture is intentional work. It requires as much energy and dedication as climbing Mount Everest. But once you reach the top, you’re not done. There will always be another mountain to climb. Taking the time to weave the fabric of what it means to your firm will provide many dividends in return. Pretty soon, you will see others who emulate you and project the same principles and energy that you set forth.
- Understands the importance of celebrating achievements and milestones, both big and small. We are busy people. We have a tremendous amount of work going on right now and for the foreseeable future. Having a moment to pause and reflect will allow you and your people to recognize and appreciate the hard work and dedication of the team. This will foster a positive and motivating work environment that encourages continued success. This culture of recognition and appreciation further enhances the sense of purpose within the company. A good steward uses these celebrations as opportunities to set new aspirations for the future. They inspire their team to reach even greater heights and continue their pursuit of excellence. By fostering a culture of celebration and recognition, they create an environment where everyone feels valued, motivated, and eager to contribute their best.
There are many more things that go into being a good steward, but these three points provide a good baseline and pulse check to see how you and your firm are doing. Let this list be a motivator, not a deterrent. There is a heavy burden on owners these days and by giving that extra push to the finish line, the rewards and sense of accomplishment will be well worth it.
Ezequiel Tovar is an analyst within Zweig Group’s ownership transition team. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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