Making your firm a truly great place to work

Jan 20, 2017

We just opened up our Best Firms to Work For award entries and it got me thinking. Making your firm a truly great place to work isn’t easy. There’s always someone out there trying to entice your best people to leave and join their firm. Not to mention the fact it’s pretty easy to start a professional service firm. These days it really takes little beyond a smart phone and a laptop computer – two things most people in your business already have.

But just because it’s hard to keep your people doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, it’s essential to your very survival. You simply cannot take your people for granted. They are too critical to your success and have too many other options.

Here are some things I would recommend you seriously consider IF you want to be a great place to work:

  • Focus more on purpose and less on B.S. “Purpose” means giving your people a better reason to be there other than just pay and benefits. “B.S.” is stuff like employee-of-the-quarter programs, service awards based on longevity, and special parking places.
  • Make a distinction between high performers and everyone else. Just like everyone doesn’t deserve a medal for effort, not everyone deserves a raise, either. When times are tough there will still be people you have to take care of. But you cannot take care of them if your goal is to take care of everyone.
  • Make damn sure your leaders are setting a positive example. You all know what I am talking about here! It’s work ethic, how responsive they are, how responsible they are, how creative they are, how unselfish they are – and a lot more. Firm principals and managers who don’t “get” this idea need to be run off quickly OR they will destroy morale and make YOUR firm a crappy place to be.
  • Work on your facility. Is it a dump? Do people have to put a trashcan under roof leaks or deal with a toilet that constantly stops up? Do they have natural light? Is it a place they would be proud to show their family and friends? Is it clean and organized or a big fat mess? All of these things and more should not be problems for people to contend with today. Solve them and make your place a better place to be.
  • Work on your culture. Do you celebrate achievement? If not, you should? Are people nice to each other and respectful of everyone in the organization? If not, they should be. Do the best people get the rewards? If not, they should. Does management share financial information and trust the employees to do their jobs? If not, they should. Culture is so important! You can’t ignore it.

I’m out of space. I could talk about this subject all day because the truth is, most AEC firms have a long way to go before becoming one of the Best Firms to Work For!

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

This article is from issue 1182 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.