Let’s not be losers

Aug 31, 2009

In these hard times we live in, many companies in our business are not performing like they once did. No question about it— there’s been plenty of suffering to go around. Fewer projects, lower profits, and resulting layoffs, pay cuts, and benefit reductions have been the norm for many (not all) firms. But, in spite of the gloom and doom, principals of A/E and environmental firms cannot let themselves act like losers. The “loser” mentality is a cancer that can spread like wildfire through a firm and ensure that it never will regain its former stature. Here are some examples of what you need to be on the lookout for: Chatter about how bad “the market” is. Losers constantly blame the market for their woes. I don’t care about the macro “market.” What I care about is how MY firm is doing. Any firm can do well in spite of the market. Constantly blaming the market is a cop-out and puts everyone in a bad mood, creating an expectation of failure. Negativity about the prospects for winning a project that the firm has already committed to pursue. If the other firm “already has the project wired,” why are we pursuing it, then? That kind of attitude legitimizes failure before it even occurs! Unwillingness to spend any money at all for fear there will never be a profit again. Nothing says “we are losers” more than decisions such as “formerly free coffee will now cost 25 cents a cup” or “we cannot get the dent in the fender of the survey vehicle fixed because it costs money.” This is the kind of stuff you have to look out for because of the morale damage it causes. Negative comments made to younger people/entry-level staffers about their future prospects as design or scientific professionals. Nearly 30 years ago, when I started in this business, many of the old-timers used to bitch and complain about what a lousy business it was if you wanted to make any money. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. Talk like that just makes you look bad and destroys the motivation of your most motivated people. Don’t let this loser mentality prevail! Constant talk about how much better other firms are faring in this recession. This is terrible for morale, especially when it is coming from a principal. Don’t let losers like this spread their darkness throughout your firm! Nip it in the bud. Ask them what they are trying to accomplish by saying things like this. Point out how it is harmful. One of the best examples of a leader who was NOT a loser was the late, great Jerry Allen, who led the renaissance of Fort Worth, TX-based Carter & Burgess (now part of Jacobs). He didn’t care how bad the economy was and bought no excuse for firm failure. As a result, the firm went from fewer than 200 people to nearly 3,000 during the time he led it. Nothing got Jerry madder than a loser mentality! Originally published 8/31/2009

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.