Editorial: Who’s on your team?

Aug 07, 2014

Mark Zweig reflects on the passing of a friend and employee, and offers six tips about forming a winning team.

A week ago Sunday, one of my best friends, and also the lead carpenter for design/build/development firm, Mark Zweig, Inc., Gary D. “Jack” Kidd, passed away from complications due to lymphatic cancer. It was a real shame. The guy was only 67. Jack was one of those guys who could figure out how to do anything and never said “no.” I don’t need to remind any of you who own businesses how great it is to have someone working with you who has such a “can do” spirit. Work is more fun and that spirit can really help keep the team together and keep everyone getting a lot done. He was a third generation carpenter who dropped out of school in the 7th or 8th grade to help take care of his siblings and chronically ill mother. He worked with me for the last 10 years of his life and we had a lot of fun together. His family asked me if I would give his eulogy. I did a pretty miserable job. I’m really going to miss him! Jack’s passing got me thinking about the importance of who is on the team and the qualities and characteristics I like in the people I surround myself with. Here are some things I look for in key people:
  1. Ability to work with others. Everything we do in both of my businesses and certainly in any A/E/P or environmental firms we work with requires a team. This is not a business of stars. Projects are complex and take lots of cooperation with other people to get them done on time and within budget, and to a high standard of excellence. These are the kinds of people I want to work with.
  2. Can-do, positive attitude. I like people who figure out how to do things versus those who say why it won’t work. Unfortunately, many technical people want to adopt the latter mindset because they think they are smart or safe to be that way. But that’s not what clients want. They want “can-do” people. I do, too. They’re just more fun to work with and will make you more successful.
  3. Can handle bad news and/or setbacks without getting crushed. There will always be bad news and negative events – but we need people who don’t let these things crush them. They have to deal with them and move on. By the same token, your managers cannot just bury their heads in the sand and avoid things because they’re negative. That’s how small problems can grow into bigger ones. I like people who confront negative events now and then move on.
  4. Flexibility and willingness to shift priorities if the situation demands it. Project-driven businesses have changing priorities. People leaving can create holes that have to be filled. New opportunities may take someone to step up to the plate. I like people who do not draw tight boxes around themselves and what they will do or not do.
  5. Trust – for me and their fellow managers/co-workers. You need people on your team who trust that you are acting in the best interests of the organization and in their best interests. These are the kinds of people I want to surround myself with; not those who don’t trust me or their other teammates.
  6. Good intentions. Some people have them. Others think only of themselves. The latter group will have problems with everyone who works for them. We cannot afford that. Project-centered businesses – if successful – tend to be overloaded and understaffed. We cannot afford any behavior that demotivates the other people on the team.
Surround yourself with the wrong people and you’ll find your attitude suffers, productivity declines, and motivation wanes. Surround yourself with good people – ones like Jack Kidd – and you’ll get a lot done and make yourself and many clients happy, too! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of 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.