Editorial: The enlightened leader

Jan 24, 2013

In 2013, use the lessons learned in 2012 to have a better year – propelled by a slight breeze. Like many readers of The Zweig Letter, I’ve been working to refine the ZweigWhite business plan this past week. 2012 was one heck of a year for us. We cut our costs to the bone at the beginning of the year, our revenue lumpiness straightened out, and we pretty much made money every month of the year. Now, with a much-improving economy and some wind (a slight breeze, rather!) on our backs, we expect to do well in 2013. Here are some things we learned in 2012 that may be useful to you as you plan your 2013: 1) No losing months! I have written this before but it is worth restating: You cannot “allow” yourself to think it’s OK to lose money in ANY month for any reason. It’s just too hard to make that up later. Keep your costs low so the hurdle is one you know you can cross every month and make a profit. 2) As things get better, don’t repeat the sins of the past. The “sins” are mainly spending too much money on expensive people, on overhead people, and on things you don’t really need. I recently had an epiphany about what one of my worst management attributes is. I am an enabler. Because I care about my people, want to be loved myself, and don’t want any of my managers to have an excuse for poor performance, I try to give them what they ask for. That could be anything from a new employee that I may not feel is necessary to a new desk chair I didn’t think we needed either. Multiplied across many managers this enabling can cause a lot of problems. I am reformed. Can’t let it happen again! 3) Work to get everyone being paid for – especially your top people. Every dollar of labor cost needs to be offset by (hopefully) $2 (or more) of revenue. Tie the revenue to the people and if this isn’t happening fix the problem. That “fix” could be reassignment to an area of the business that has work, pay reduction so the person can cover their costs, or a new contract from a client that only took a phone call to secure once you were cognizant of your need for it. In any case, you have to make sure everyone is being paid for. 4) Stay calm. Whatever bad stuff happens (and happen it will this year – it always does), don’t lose your cool. Tell yourself that you have survived many negative events and ups and downs. You’ll survive this one, too. Being calm and not letting your emotions get the best of you really helps you keep your head clear so you respond the right way to any crisis at hand. It’s one of the few benefits of aging that I am really enjoying because anyone who knows me can attest I used to be quite a hothead in my youth and I am not now. Good luck in 2013, All! May you – and all of us – prosper together! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEOof ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com

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.