Miscellaneous ramblings

Jul 24, 2017

Every so often I have a number of disconnected thoughts for our readers, none of which merits all of my allotted space, but each of which could prove valuable. This is one of those weeks.

  • Working capital. It is amazing to me how many AEC firm owners and managers don’t track this number yet it is really one of the best indicators of your immediate financial health. Here’s how to calculate it. Add your cash and accounts receivable together and then deduct your payables and line of credit balance. Look at this weekly. If it is going up, good. If it is going down, bad. No number is better able to predict your ability to cover your short-term obligations than this. Watch the trends.
  • Cultural non-compliance from a member of your leadership group. We have all experienced it. We have someone in the firm – could be a principal, director, or other key management-level employee – who is out of step with the rest of the leadership team. What it means is that his or her philosophy about business, design, client service, people – whatever – is diametrically opposed to what the rest of the firm believes. While we all need and must tolerate divergence of opinion, when someone at this level is 180 degrees apart from everyone else, other employees will be confused. Clients may not get what they thought they were buying from the firm. And the conflict and angst generated will surely be – at a minimum, stressful – and in the worst case, divisive. You cannot allow this to go on too long.
  • Flextime and telecommuting can create as many morale problems as it solves. While it may seem a good idea to let a key employee work from home so many days a week for whatever reason – or go home earlier than everyone else because they supposedly work from home in the evening – doing so can confuse and demoralize the rest of your staff. They may not know all the other person does – or may simply not believe it – and instead see it as this person getting undeserved special treatment. So what is good for one could negatively impact 10 to 20 or more other people.
  • Your facility says a lot about how you view your employees. If all the light bulbs are burned out, your windows are filthy, your reception area is a mess, you have duct tape over the carpet, and your grounds and parking lot are full of trash, you are basically telling your employees that you don’t care about your business and don’t have much respect for them.
  • Your firm’s website probably needs attention. I know ours does. They go stale quickly. We get so used to them we don’t see their weaknesses. Get some of your younger people to probe every single corner of your site to find dead ends, misspellings, searchability problems, bad information – everything wrong with it they can. And then devote some resources to fixing those issues as soon as possible. The website is the first place anyone goes who wants more information on your firm and it must represent you well.

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

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.