It’s not just about size

Jan 29, 2018

For many, growth means losing their beloved workplace. But think again. Growth can mean increased capabilities, not increased numbers.

We talk a lot about growth here at Zweig Group. It’s a philosophy that underpins all of our consulting work. I’m sure the statement, “If you’re not growing you’re dying,” has been printed countless times in this publication, but what does that really mean?

The word “growth” turns a lot of the AEC industry off. The majority of the industry is made up of small- and medium-sized firms, and many people who work in these places imagine growth as a scenario where the firm they love is either gobbled up, or turns into a giant mega firm, and is consequently robbed of its character and culture.

There’s no arguing that growth can be about size – adding people, revenue, and locations – but it can also be about more than just increasing numbers!

One of the first ways a company can grow without necessarily adding a ton of new employees is by expanding their capabilities. This can be done through one or two key hires, or the education of an existing employee. If you see the need for a particular technical skill in your market, but aren’t quite comfortable handling it, now is the time to make it happen! I would advise every leader in every firm to make a list of things they know would save time or add value to current projects, and then think of ways they can expand the capabilities of their team to fulfil these objectives. Capabilities don’t have to be technical. You could grow your firm by having better customer service, better proposals, a higher comfort level when speaking in public, better accounting, or project information, or improved marketing campaigns.

Another way your company can grow is through the use of technology. This is one area where you simply must continuously improve and invest, or else you will be quickly outflanked by your competitors. Technology growth can be anything from embracing smart phones, to new design software, or the use of drones. If you aren’t comfortable using new technology, get educated from an outside source or hire someone who is.

Are you outsourcing all your surveying work? Paying someone else to handle all the GIS mapping? Consistently having to partner with other firms who specialize in MEP to finish the job on a project? This may be the time to “insource your outsource.” There’s no denying there are some things best left to others, but evaluate these items and consider the cost of hiring someone internally. If the cost is less, or if it might win you a lot more work to have this person (or people) on your team, do something about it!

You may have reached your full height by age 17, but I can guarantee you that you haven’t stopped growing (and I’m talking about more than just clothing size). Treat your firm the same way. If you’re the leader of an architecture, engineering, or planning firm, you cannot afford to stay in your comfort zone. Growth of some kind is necessary to stay afloat in this market – something that will become only more apparent if the economy changes in either direction!

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of marketing. Contact her 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.