Create Your Future

Nov 07, 2005

Driving my two-tone blue ‘59 Edsel Ranger down 71B near my house the other day, I saw a great bumper sticker. It read, “Why try to predict the future when you can create it?” That’s a profound idea. And it reflects my exact philosophy about business planning. Create your future. I see this idea at work every day. For example, there is an urban condo explosion underway in downtown Fayetteville. The units are selling quickly, even before the structures have come out of the ground, at unfinished prices that are double or more per square foot than what a subdivision house seven minutes from downtown is selling for. Yet, if you looked into the research data available, it would all tell you that there’s no way the demand could be there for such expensive condos. What’s happening is the AVAILABILITY of these units is literally CREATING a market for them. There were no such alternatives a short time ago. There’s a tremendous amount of single-family and suburban condo product, but nothing like this. Now that there is, buyers literally materialize, almost from thin air. I’ve seen this same phenomenon in A/E firms. The majority of companies do pretty much the same thing as their competitors. Pricing is all very similar between comparable firms. And what is the result of all this “clustering” of similar firms, services, and pricing? The companies’ futures go up and down with the market. The masses ride the wave up and ride the wave down. How about the firms that decide to be different, those that package their offerings differently from the other companies, those that charge more for what they do, those that do different things from their counterparts? They can do well even in a saturated, or worse, declining market. With interest rates on the rise, inflation, high energy-prices, government budget-deficits, and a population already straining under a growing tax burden, it seems likely to me that there will be some slowdown, even if only temporarily, in the A/E and environmental consulting “industry.” This will be hard on the mass of companies that not only do a poor job of predicting the future, but make no real attempt to create one for themselves. It will create opportunities, however, for companies that dare to be different from their peers and don’t follow the pack. These firms will hire differently, pay differently, and use innovative tactics to engage their staff members more fully. They will have a wider array of non-traditional services and employ a broader range of project delivery methods. They will market themselves in creative ways and be charging clients differently for their services. In short, they will MAKE their own futures and create their own clients. This opportunity is available to every firm. However, 99 out of 100 companies in our business will not take advantage of it. Inertia, management complacency, corporate cultures that penalize risk taking or non-conformity, too many owners who cannot agree on direction, and more will all serve as the barriers to change. So where does your firm stack up? Are you on the path to creating your future? Or are you simply trying to predict it? Originally published 11/07/2005

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.