Let’s go forward and be prepared

Dec 21, 2016

As a matter of personal “policy” and business philosophy, I don’t get into politics in these pages or any of the other publications or social media outlets used by me or my businesses. Just seems smart. We clearly live in a divided country. Why alienate anyone?

That said, now that the election is over, I think it is time we all make a greater effort to seek unity and move forward in a positive direction. I’d like to say this. Clinton supporters – the world as we know it will not come to an end. Trump as president may prove to be a lot more socially liberal than you expect. Trump supporters – everything won’t be exactly the way you want and expect it to be, either. Compromise and movement toward the center will probably be in our future. Ok. So that’s that – we’re done. Now we can get back to business.

What does the future hold? No one knows for sure. The financial markets like “certainty” (as if there ever was such a thing – the notion of it is pretty absurd if you think about it). But like him as a human being or not, one thing we have heard is that Trump plans to spend money on infrastructure. He does have a history of building stuff so there’s a good chance this will happen. That would bode well for the AEC industry.

We’re already looking good. Backlogs and profitability are at record highs. So if we pile a whole bunch of new work on top of this, we’re going to have to really be on our game. Here are some things to be thinking about:

  • Staffing. You think it’s hard to find people now? Plan on another trillion dollars worth of government infrastructure spending and it will be much, much worse. Better start thinking about what you will do to SELL people on working in your firm. It’s going to take a lot. If you don’t put in the time, you won’t be able to hire, and you’ll lose the good people you have.
  • Quality. Always an issue when you throw a bunch of new people into the mix – many of which probably won’t have the experience they need to know what they are doing. Lots of process will be needed. Building a culture that produces quality has to be a priority. Spending money on training WILL be necessary. Having a process to expeditiously deal with problems will be crucial. There’s a lot to do to head off quality problems.
  • Firm capitalization. Growth takes capital. You better be thinking about how you will raise the money you need to capitalize on what could be a coming boom. It probably will not all come from selling ownership to your current employees. You may need to consider new outside investors. Alternatively, you may need to look at new sources of debt capital. Debt is cheaper (always is when a firm is doing well), and there are non-traditional sources for lending that could be helpful to you. School yourself on where you can get money before you need it.
  • Benefits. Health care is going to be a bigger and bigger cost for you. Better figure out what you will be doing to contain your costs. Education is a big part of it. Smoking cessation. Diet. Exercise. Wellness programs. There are only so many things you can do to hold down healthcare costs but you will probably need to be doing every single one of them in the future based on what’s expected to happen.

So if what we think could happen DOES happen, all of us in the AEC business will have lots of opportunities – as well as lots of problems – to contend with.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

This article is from issue 1178 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

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.