Editorial: Revitalization of the firm

Mar 09, 2011

By Mark C. Zweig
So many people today in this business are just getting tired of the grind. The last three years haven’t been fun— with more competition, reduced profitability, delayed or cancelled projects, stalled ownership transition plans, and layoffs of good people being the norm. We went through the same thing here recently at ZweigWhite. It’s time for revitalization. Here are some ideas for you: 1) Come out with something new. I cannot over-emphasize to all of you how critical this is. What services are you subcontracting out? Can you bring them in house? Maybe you should buy the firm or firms you are already working with. Save money on consolidated overhead and joint marketing efforts. But even if you don’t buy, maybe you can repackage something you already do in a new and innovative way that allows clients to get a taste of your service and expertise at a low cost. This “taste” could lead to a much bigger project later. 2) Hire some new, experienced people. There is nothing like getting some new people in who are known in the fields and markets you serve— people at the top of their game, with a solid reputation. It can shore up your ability to get work in a soft market real fast. Experienced people are more willing than ever to make a move. Don’t get cast offs— get those who are still working but dissatisfied by directly recruiting from your competitors. If someone does decide to join your firm, they will be doing so for the right reasons— not because they HAVE to— and will last longer on the job. 3) Hire some smart, inexperienced people. New people, fresh out of school, who are smart and motivated, will put the pressure on you to give them meaningful opportunities. That’s good! It means they will expect you to grow your business. Young people bring energy and enthusiasm, and represent your future stars. Plus they have no bad habits that you will have to undo, unlike some experienced staffers. Get them young and mold them in your hands. 4) Move. New surroundings can be motivational to all. Get into a space that has more stuff close by. Everyone will appreciate it. Find a space with more windows and better gathering areas. I never understood design firms— they should know better— not providing space with natural light to their employees. Gathering areas are also critical. Is there a space other than the conference room where employees can meet for lunch or coffee? There should be. 5) Discard archaic systems and processes. Whether it is the non user-friendly accounting system, the marketing database that only one person in the firm knows how to use, or the ridiculous expense report submission process. Dump it. Ditto for meetings you have always had but no one wants to participate in because they have outlived their usefulness. Dump ‘em. Bureaucracy is a huge demotivator to busy people who have deadlines set by external clients. Eliminate it everywhere you can. 6) Share successes and celebrate all victories. Whether it is a bell you ring when you get a new project or a thanks that comes in from a client that you send on to all employees, don’t underestimate the importance of reinforcing successes. Share company performance numbers also. People need to know every day that what they are doing makes a difference AND that they are part of a successful organization that bolsters them.

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.