Better is better

Mar 12, 2018

So many firms want to be at the top of the list for growth, but to get there, you have to be good, not necessarily fast.

There is much hullabaloo made in our industry about growth and size. And it seems these are believed to be the largest measures of success for companies. The temptation to focus on growth is great as the topic comes up in nearly every conversation when peers meet.

There is a constant barrage of published lists in various industry trade magazines and local business publications. Then there are the conference panel discussions that quiz leaders on their “growth strategies,” with the larger companies getting marquis attention, of course, and thus the feeling that size matters. It’s no wonder companies aspire to not simply appear on a list, but to be on top of the list. At times, it appears everyone is in a “race” to the summit.

One must ask oneself if the measure of success is that you are bigger than a competitor? It certainly can’t be the sole measure. In fact, I take a different viewpoint on growth and size. It starts with the understanding that when people talk about “growth strategies” we need to be reminded that growth is not a strategy. Growth, rather, is the result of executing good strategy. Growth is the result of doing a lot of things well.

An analogy would be success in team sports, where it takes a combination of strategy, good coaching, a variety of skills, capabilities among the players, and the ability to execute. Like team sports, a successful company should include enduring client relationships, produce quality work, perform well financially, have a great workplace environment, advance people’s careers, be sustainable from one generation to another, and achieve good growth to name just a few characteristics.

With all the above in mind, we can now begin to think of how to build a well-rounded company that achieves success in all aspects of the business.

This starts with developing a strong vision and purpose for the company. A vision that is bold enough to look beyond the day-to-day to ultimately take the company over the horizon and seize new opportunities. This, combined with a meaningful purpose that defines why the company exists, inspires commitment and engagement from employees, centered around why they believe their work is significant while ultimately contributing to people’s lives. In combination, these create a rallying cry that drives companies to unstoppable success.

Next, establish just a handful of clear and very focused strategies to reach the vision and live out the purpose. They can create a new paradigm of performance or strengthen the company from where it is today.

Organizationally, it’s then crucial to keep the company client-centered. This can include the way you are structurally organized, but more importantly it’s about empowering your people to deliver what they do best rather than encumbering or bogging them down with needless complexity and process that frustrates both them and your clients. Those who work with clients should be at the top and should be the focal point of your organizational chart.

Operationally, it’s important to run your business like a business. Be disciplined and consistent in your approach and overall management. Ensure you are making the right decisions for the right reasons that focus on financial success in all categories. Don’t fall prey to a “lifestyle” approach that benefits only a few. Accept above median performance only as a the “low bar” in bad years and strive for “upper quartile” profitability. And use prudent cash and balance sheet management that does not put undue risk, financial leverage or debt on the company.

Live the reality that we are in a people business and that it’s crucial to recognize that company success is directly tied to people success. Take the time to hire the right people who will occupy the right seat on the bus. For those who don’t quite fit or perform, either put them in a new seat or get them off the bus. Empower the right people to excel and reward them. Move their careers along.

Lastly, invest in your future. Spend profits in the right places. Investing in new markets, equipment, and tools, and training and leadership development are key to that future. Vigilantly retain some of that precious profit in the company to build a strong balance sheet to strengthen the company today and to ensure a smooth transition in the future.

Hopefully the above will help you in your endeavor to achieve success in your company without falling prey to the race to be at the top of a list. And most importantly, remember that bigger is not better. Better is better. And if you focus on better, you will get bigger.

Gerry Salontai is the founder of Salontai Consulting Group, LLC. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.