Grow with gratitude

Dec 16, 2019

Thankful organizations will grow with engaged employees, loyal clients, trusted partners, and supportive communities.

The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs of nearly 200 U.S. companies, just reimagined the purpose of a corporation. The CNBC headline on August 19 read: “The CEOs of nearly 200 companies just said shareholder value is no longer their main objective.”

The statement signed by 181 CEOs said, “While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country.”

The Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation commits to:

  • Deliver value to customers – lead the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Invest in employees – help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world and foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
  • Deal fairly and ethically with suppliers – serve as good partners to other companies large and small.
  • Support the communities – respect people and protect their environment by embracing sustainable practices.
  • Generate long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow, and innovate.
  • Commit to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.

While this is a recent awakening for Wall Street, AEC companies are thankfully ahead of the curve. AEC companies have traditionally focused on adding value to clients, investing in employees, serving as ethical partners and supporting local communities with sustainable practices and donating time, talent, and treasure.

But is there more we can do?

A business strategy: gratitude. The Business Roundtable gives you a framework to consider other ways to generate goodwill and show gratitude. According to Merriam-Webster, gratitude is the state of being grateful, or thankfulness. Are you showing enough appreciation and thanks to clients, employees, partners, and communities? You might be surprised how acts of gratitude will help you grow your business over the long-term.

Leighton Smith, director of client service at BerganKDV, said, “You can’t fake gratitude, and you can’t systematize it if it’s not real. We say, ‘first be a human.’ And that implies that we should see the other person as one as well. This all sounds simple, but we find that stepping outside of a process and just being present can be a true differentiator (and be a good way to live!).”

  • Client appreciation. BerganKDV, a professional services company, encourages staff to thank clients. “With encouragement our accountants, financial advisors, and technologists get out of their comfort zone and check in with clients and, most importantly, thank them,” Smith said. “Saying why they appreciate them as a client is a healthy thought process that generates a very positive conversation.” At Shive-Hattery, a 425-person design firm in the Midwest, new clients receive a thank you letter from the local office leader. Later in the client experience, that leader visits the client to learn what they value most about what’s happening. How to be more helpful? What else should be known? Another simple way to show appreciation is sharing your client’s story in an unbiased way. This can be through presentations at conferences, news stories, project photography and social media. Find out your client’s business objectives and creatively help them get the word out.
  • Employee appreciation. Recognition fuels employee engagement. Beyond benefits and compensation, there are many ways to show appreciation for high-performing people in your organization. For example, on Shive-Hattery’s intranet the hashtag #Recognition highlights people going above and beyond to help clients, partners, and their communities. Why not create an Employee Appreciation Week? Shive-Hattery’s five-day celebration is something employees look forward to each year. Creating a social, celebratory culture builds relationships and supports retention in a competitive job market. Most importantly, invest in your employees. Help them create a career plan and fund their learning activities inside and outside the firm. Communities of practice, leadership, and business development programs can be fostered internally. Your non-chargeable time investment builds relationships and future value for your firm.
  • Partner appreciation. Take time to find strategic partners who are a cultural fit. As the relationship grows, look for ways to add value. Referrals are the best gift to give; sell your partner’s services to spur reciprocity.
  • Community appreciation. To create stronger communities, companies need to invest where their talent and customers reside. Shive-Hattery invests time, talent, and treasure in more than 200 non-profits across seven locations. The return on investment is tenfold with community goodwill, with engaged employees who are proud to be associated with our firm and, in the end, stronger communities to live, work, and play.
  • What about shareholders? Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson, and Ethan Willis say it best in The One Minute Entrepreneur: “Profit is the applause you get from taking care of your customers and creating a motivational environment for your people.”

Greg Kanz is marketing director for Shive-Hattery Architecture-Engineering. Contact him at

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.