Don’t be a Dinosaur!

May 08, 2000

Like the dinosaurs, some A/E/P and environmental firms are destined for extinction. These companies seem to be blindly stumbling down a path of self-destruction. But in this hot economy, their owners may be too content to see the clouds forming on the horizon. Let’s take a look at the various species of these soon-to-be-extinct firms: Selfasaur. This dinosaur of a company is run by people so selfish that they can’t keep anyone who’s any good employed there for any length of time. The owners gripe and complain about their woes. But when we look at their financials and see that the top two guys each made $1.5 million last year and the next person down earned $120,000, it’s not hard to understand why the turnover rate is so high. Not to mention that every partner has a new Jag, and the rank and file employees get $49 desk chairs! Bureaucratasaurus. This firm has rules, regulations, and procedures for everything. The pay review process requires that three different compensation committees approve each raise. Performance appraisal forms are 10 pages long. Go/no-go decisions take a committee of nine. If you want a new desk calculator, a six-part requisition form has to be filled out. There are 10 different levels in the technician hierarchy, each with a four-page job description. To get anything done requires a committee’s approval, forms to be filled out, and plenty of time. Non Delegatus Rex. The person (or people) who run this company can always do the job better than anyone else can. In the name of good client service, no one other than an owner is allowed to even speak with a client. All decision making runs through the big cheese (or cheeses). When they are gone, everything stops. Myopiasaurus. Closely related to the now extinct Lemmingasaurus, this dinosaur of a firm pays no attention to what’s going on in the environment. It just blindly follows the same path it has always followed. “Design-build? That’s a fad.” “Why does everyone need Internet access? We’ve been in business for 40 years and did fine without it.” “We don’t need to diversify beyond Wal-Mart. They’re the most successful retailers in the world’s history. They’ll never go downhill.” Doityourselfasaur. This dinosaur of a firm will not outsource or hire experts to solve any problem. The firm’s owners want to do everything on their own. They make statements such as, “Let’s self-fund our professional liability insurance. Do you know how much money we could save?” and “What do we need an outside appraisal of our firm for, anyway? The last place I worked at valued its stock at book value plus a six-year running average of two continuous years of profits, minus $.052 a share for bad debts. Let’s just do ours the same way.” They do everything on their own, whether they’re qualified to do so or not. Lackofocusaurus. This company cannot commit to a market or group of markets. It wants to do everything for everyone. Every job is a “go” in the name of providing good service and plenty of opportunities for employees to exercise their creativity. Hence, the firm loses money on a lot of what it does and finds its people are constantly switching gears. Raptor Kidourselves. This company ignores all signs that the sky is falling in. The year has three months left, and this firm is $2 million in the red. But the firm’s owners aren’t going to cut expenses yet. The line of credit is maxed out but “things are going to get better.” Bob in the Houston office has been losing money for eight years straight, but they have to “give him enough time to turn things around.” These companies are doomed to extinction if any firm ever was!
The point is, how does your firm compare to these dinosaurs? Are you shedding your old skin, sprouting wings, and metamorphosing into something new and beautiful? Or are you getting bogged down in the tar pits waiting for a meteor to strike and put you out of your misery?
Originally published 5/08/2000

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.