Hot Firm or Best Firm to Work For?

Sep 24, 2015

zweig-001Conference confirms that when people like their jobs, the firm is usually more profitable; here are some things to consider.

On September 3 and 4, I had the pleasure of being at our annual Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference in Boston. What a great event! I was really proud of our people and how smoothly the whole thing went. Two days of presentations, parties, and ceremonies came together without a glitch. Combining the Hot Firm Conference with our Best Firms to Work For Conference proved to be a good decision. The linkage between a company’s ability to grow and make a profit and having good people who like working there has never been more clear. Many firms at our conference were both Hot Firms AND Best Firms to Work For – double winners. It’s absolutely critical to have the right workforce, and it’s getting harder than ever to hire and maintain them. Here are some things I would urge you to consider, if you are serious about competing for talent in this red-hot employment market:
  1. Have humble leaders who don’t have crazy perks. You all know what I’m talking about. One firm owner I met at our conference told me about how she came into a small company with about nine employees years ago that was really suffering. Meanwhile, the firm owner had a special garage at their office where he kept his company Bentley. This kind of stuff demotivates and demoralizes everyone. Humble leaders are tuned-in to these situations and work hard to not demoralize anyone.
  2. Get everyone involved in the business-planning process. Asking everyone for their opinions and input – and really trying to incorporate their thinking into the business plan – is certainly one of the cornerstones of effective management and leadership. People want to be involved and feel like they have some influence over their work environment and their futures.
  3. Institute some form of open-book management. It’s so critical to share your numbers with your employees – I cannot overemphasize it. Do it quickly, succinctly, and clearly. Give the numbers to everyone. Don’t share salary info – that is harmful. Do share info on revenues, profits, cash position, marketing stats, and more. This helps build trust between you and your people.
  4. Make your office cool. Most offices I see are not creative spaces. In fact, they might be the opposite! They are dark, dirty, messy, cramped, and filled with tiny cubicles. Collaboration is just a word or something you do electronically. That’s really crazy, especially when you consider what many firms in this business actually do for a living – in many cases, they design workspaces! Consider your office a tool – a place to help you SELL good employees (who always have other opportunities) on coming to work for your company.
  5. Have some fun. Everyone is too serious. If you do some fun stuff at the office – having something fun or funny happening – you WILL have happier people. Happier people will be positive. And positive people make good things happen. Most people in this business are just too serious. Best places to work are FUN places to be.
  6. Share the rewards. Spread the money around. Don’t be greedy. Firm owners, you know the difference in being greedy or not. Years ago, we worked with a small firm owner – he had about 28 employees. He paid himself $380,000 a year. His next highest paid employee made $75,000. They weren’t doing very well, and morale stunk. People sense huge gaps and disparity. And they really appreciate it if you share some of the spoils around the table.
  7. Get the right people in. The “right” people are those with the right attitude. They want to succeed, they’re nice, they don’t just move from one complaint or gripe to the next. They also want to learn and help out their fellow employees. Clients like them, other people in the firm like them, and you like them. They are good to work with. Competent, smart, and can-do in spirit. Good people want to work with other good people and bring them in.
  8. Move the bad apples out. The bad apples are the opposite of the right people described above. They’re negative or chronically unhappy, hard to work with, incompetent, angry, hostile, and more. Lazy, with bad attitudes, bad communicators, dishonest … what else can I say? They need to go. If bad people are allowed to stay, good people will leave.
I could go on and on: Your success is so tied to your people and leadership and management practices. It is really clear when you meet the leaders of our Hot Firms and Best Firms to Work For at our conference. The best aspect of this event is the people who come. Always an entrepreneurial, optimistic group, so many of them my personal friends – of 20 or 30 years in some cases. It is great to see these successful people in action. They’re smiling, they’re upbeat, they’re winners! And they make good things happen in their companies! MARK ZWEIG is founder and CEO Zweig Group. 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.