Miscellaneous Thoughts

Feb 01, 1999

As periodically happens, I have a number of issues I want to share with our readers, none of which merits an entire article. Here they are: There will never be true equality of the sexes in the workplace until there are an equal number of stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads. As long as women bear a disproportionate burden for child rearing, they will be excluded from some opportunities in some companies due to an inability to work the same number of hours or travel as much as someone who does not have that responsibility. In 1999, an intelligent person cannot feel good about themselves if they don’t know how to use a PC. I am completely convinced that those who have not yet learned how to use a computer feel bad. They know they are cut off from information that other people have access to. They know that they cannot work as efficiently or require more support staff to do their job as does someone who knows how to use a computer. And if they are smart, it bugs the heck out of them! Friendliness of flight attendants is inversely related to their age. Certainly this doesn’t apply every time, but as a generalization it seems like the youngest flight attendants like their jobs more than those who have been doing it for 20 years. Maybe they have just had their fill of rude passengers, or maybe they have too many wage or benefits concessions forced on them by company management— I just don’t know. The problem with HR managers is that they like people, not business. Good intentions and virtually no understanding of what works and what doesn’t characterizes most of the HR people I run into working in A/E firms. Obviously, there are exceptions! But the bulk of the HR people are still trying to come up with formal position descriptions and salary ranges, cook up amorphous training programs with no idea of what is supposed to be taught, and administer 15-page performance appraisal forms that evaluate all staff members with the same criteria. Folks, this stuff doesn’t work! “Process marketing” has become an accepted term in our industry. I can’t go to a company, give a talk, or attend a professional association meeting these days where I don’t hear this term. I can’t say for certain if we invented it here at Zweig White & Associates, but I can say for certain that we at least popularized it. The whole idea of using statistical probability theory and building brand name awareness in marketing for A/E firms is commonplace today. There’s hope for our industry yet! Computers will continue to revolutionize how work is done. We have everything here: LAN; WAN; Internet; intranet; online project reports, timesheets, and expense reports; remote access; shared project files; fax server— I thought we had it all. Then we cooked up an application that allows all accounts receivable data to be dumped from our accounting system into Microsoft Outlook and tracked from anywhere in the company. Not only can you sort by PIC, PM, profit center, or project number, it automatically highlights all receivables over 60 days old in red. This also picks up all invoices and their estimated dates of payment and plugs that into our cash flow forecast automatically! There are so many areas for improvement, it’s incredible! It’s still in testing but it looks really exciting! If you want to keep growing you need something new to sell. At some point it takes more than marketing to keep the revenues going up. This applies to engineers, architects, and environmental firms. We had one of our “hot firm” architectural clients in our office a few weeks back. The president expressed a concern that their process marketing program was not paying off as well as it used to in terms of giving them new leads. I told him it might not be a marketing problem— that they talk about developing new services every year but never package anything up or bring on some new capability and actually try to sell it. Originally published 2/01/1999

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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.