Improving organizational self-image

Oct 02, 2022

Improving this will not only help you attract and keep good people, but it will also bring in new clients.

Everyone keeps talking about how difficult it is to find and keep truly outstanding people in their firms. There’s a little secret on how to do that – one that I have never seen anyone write about. And that is what I call “organizational self-image.” Improving it will not only help you attract and keep good people, it will also bring in new clients.

“Organizational self-image” is all about what your people think of your organization and how they feel about it. Do they feel like they are part of something special? Do they think the company has higher ethical standards than the other businesses they have worked for or compete with? Do they feel like winners instead of losers? Do they exhibit pride in their workplace? Do they think the preponderance of employees there feel the same way they do? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” the company has a healthy self-image.

Let’s explore each of these questions and how to make them real:

  • Do your people feel they are part of something special? To make this happen, you need to tell the story of how your business was started. What struggles were overcome to get the business off the ground and growing? What awards have you won over the years? What do long-term employees say about working at the company? Get all this stuff in writing. Put it out there in podcasts and videos and on your website. Make a serious effort to get PR from local and industry media. Share all of this with your people.
  • Do your people feel you have higher ethical standards than any other business they are aware of? Leadership has to set the example here. Have you turned down a project with a client that doesn’t meet your standards? If so, promote it. Have you fired a client that abused someone on your staff? If so, promote that. Have you blown a budget because it was necessary to do something properly that was essential to your reputation? If so, promote it. Look for examples and stories where you and your people did the right thing, in spite of what could be short-term negative financial consequences – and promote the heck out of these stories inside and outside the company.
  • Do your people feel like winners instead of losers? Share the financial results with everyone regularly and cut in every employee on some share of the profits. Get on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies. Apply for Zweig Group’ Hot Firm award. Collect and share the stories of new clients and new projects won with your people – every single day. Show how you have historically climbed the ENR Top 500 Design Firms list. Spread the news about your people’s new registrations and awards won, as well as their other accomplishments. Promote all of these things so there is a constant stream of good news about how your firm and your people are winning.
  • Do your people exhibit pride in their workplace? Give out tons of swag. Provide shirts, jackets, hats, notebooks, notepads, stickers, and more to your people with your company name and logo on them. Develop an incentive scheme that rewards those who share the most good news about your company on social media. Insist that your offices maintain super high standards for cleanliness and organization, both inside and out. Do things as a team for selected charities and, of course, promote, promote, and promote! This is how you do it!
  • Do they think the preponderance of employees there feel the same way they do? Apply for Zweig Group’s Best Firms to Work For award. Apply for other best workplace awards. Manage and share your Glassdoor ratings and drive them up. Get people telling stories of something positive that has happened recently as a part of every company meeting. And if you find out you have a negative employee at any level of the organization, either turn them around or get them out – quickly. They are a cancer that can spread, and you can’t afford that.

None of this stuff is expensive or that difficult to do. You can make all of it happen. And if you do, I have complete confidence that over time, you will see a steady stream of good people wanting to work for your firm, lower staff turnover rates, higher productivity, higher rates of job satisfaction on any polling you do, and more clients wanting to work with your company. All of this comes from improving your organizational self-image. For you, as a leader, this should be at the top of your priority list. There are just too many benefits for you to ignore this! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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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.