Management Sampler

May 05, 1997

Every once in awhile I feel compelled to unload a few disconnected thoughts that might be of value to our readers. This is one of those times: Company cars: When it comes to picking company vehicles, I always get involved. I like cars as much as I like architecture, engineering, and science. At our firm, we have four BMWs, a VW Passat Wagon, a Saab, and an Explorer. For the money, though, I don’t think you can do much better than a Ford Taurus. It’s always been my rental car of choice, even though the new wagon I bought back in 1990 was a lemon. Even if you don’t like the looks, the reasons to use Taurus’s in your fleet are that they aren’t very expensive to buy or maintain, Ford is giving pretty good leasing deals right now, and the cars are extremely functional as basic transportation. Another reason is they won’t offend your municipal or government clients like an S-Class Mercedes could. If you think your clients won’t object to a foreign car, and you don’t want to spend buckets of money, I would consider the Saab 900. These cars can be leased at very attractive monthly payments, they look good, are safe, and have cavernous interiors. For those who need all-wheel drive, I’d go with a Jeep, Explorer, or Expedition before one of the GM offerings. GM just doesn’t impress me with their paint quality, rust-worthiness, or reliability. Laptop computers: I don’t know about you, but I hate those thumb pads that are supposed to replace a mouse. My new laptop has one, and it’s taken me months to get used to it. I even prefer the little stick shift my last laptop had to these goofy pads! Stockbrokers: Why do these people call me three or more times a day? The last thing I’m going to do is invest money with someone who’s cold calling me. It’s ludicrous. I don’t know what to do about it other than have our receptionist pre-screen for me. Has anyone else got any creative ideas? Long distance phone companies: We just got slammed (again) in our California office. One long distance carrier authorized us to be switched from our present carrier to a new one without our permission! Watch out for this. Management consultants: With a few exceptions, those who specialize in serving this industry are a pretty sorry lot. Typical of the consultants who serve A/E/P and environmental firms are the marketing consultant who complains about not being able to get enough work; the strategic planning expert whose own business plan fails and who goes out of business; the financial expert who writes books on how to make money, yet whose own firm has a negative net worth; or the ownership transition expert who has no other owners in his firm. The bottom line is that many of these people simply aren’t qualified to do what they do. Yet our industry is so inclined to look for industry experience in our consultants and advisors, we don’t think about what really qualifies these people to advise us. Good cordless phones: It is my understanding that there are now cordless phones available from Lucent Technologies that have a range as long as a mile. These could really be handy if you dine in a lunch room in the building of your basement, or if you have multiple offices in a campus-style environment. Snow days: We just had one here last month after getting 30” dumped on us, one day after it was 63 degrees. Not much you can do about it but give everyone the day off. Service agreements/extended warranties: The only office equipment I would buy this for is a copier. The only car I would buy one of these for is a GM product. Let’s face it— the reason companies provide these things is that they make more money on them than they lose. Computer networks: I sat next to a guy on a plane the other day who works for Digital Equipment Corp. We started talking about computers and offices, and I told him how proud I was of our network link-ups at the conference table. He told me that’s old hat. In their office, any computer can link into the network without a cord! I mentioned this to Fred White, our resident technology expert, and he confirmed that this technology is now available and perhaps even affordable enough that we can use it in the new office space we are planning for our seven-person San Francisco office. Originally published 5/05/1997

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.