This isn’t easy, but it will ultimately make you more successful – not just as a business leader, but in life itself!
A good chunk of The Zweig Letter’s subscribers are AEC firm founders. And if they aren’t founders, many might as well have been, because they have transformed companies that were started as something completely different from what they have become today.
These leaders bear a unique responsibility for the futures of their businesses and all those who dedicate their working lives to the company. They are faced daily with making critical decisions, nearly always with incomplete information. They are under constant scrutiny from “Monday morning quarterbacks.” And while they may be well-rewarded financially, they may also get little positive feedback from anyone for the things that they do get right.
I have founded or been a co-founder of several businesses myself. Besides the company that started out as Mark Zweig & Associates, that became Zweig White, and is today Zweig Group, there was my design/build/development company, Mark Zweig, Inc.; a baby products company, Good Parents, LLC; a company that had its own proprietary method for teaching reading, The Easy Reading Clinic, Inc.; and a new moped and used motorcycle shop, Southern Cycles. It has all provided me with a unique perspective.
My point is this: I have been in your shoes. I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to be successful, and I know what it’s like to fail. And in every case, I have also moved on PAST that success and failure. Yes – you read that correctly. I have moved on past my success – not just moved on past my failures.
Not to say moving on past your failures is always easy. It isn’t. But it’s easier than moving on past your successes. Failures are things you don’t want to repeat. They have negative consequences.
Sure – it seems like all of the business and life “coaches” want to talk about how great failing is – “fail early and fail often” – and a whole lot of other pop business and psychobabble stuff. Yes, failure can provide a great learning opportunity. Burn your hand on a hot stove and it hurts. You don’t want to repeat that. But the fact is, you DID burn your hand. It would be nice not to do that in the first place. I would prefer to learn from the failures of others if I can. That is how we get smarter and avoid making costly mistakes other people have already made. But forgive me for getting sidetracked here on one of my pet peeve subjects!
I want to talk about moving on past your SUCCESS. Success is great. It strokes our egos. It makes us money. It provides us with other opportunities.
But it (success) can also be a trap. It can be all-consuming. It can lead to burnout. It can destroy our personal relationships. It can keep us from living the “rich” life we all sought out when we first pursued it. It can stunt our personal growth. It can lead to hubris. And it can also keep our companies from making necessary changes to adapt to an increasingly dynamic world.
Here is my advice to successful firm founders and transformational CEOs of firms in our industry who want to get past their success:
- Acknowledge there is more to life. You are more than what you do and what you earn. Or at least you can be. Accept that and embrace that. It will keep you more open to change.
- Develop your successors. Pick those who are truly worthy of holding the keys to your business and spend time with them. Promote them. Encourage them. Put them in the spotlight. You have already had your time there in it.
- Be a teacher. You have learned some very important lessons that got you this far. Don’t guard that knowledge as if giving it to someone else is a loss to you. Share it selflessly.
- Give up your need to always be in control. You will never truly be able to hand off your piloting duties unless you let someone else try flying the airplane. People have to experience doing things themselves in order to actually learn how to do them correctly. Learn to enjoy watching the game versus playing in it.
- Develop some other interests. Yes, it’s great that you are good at what you do. And it is a truly worthwhile endeavor to grow and run a successful AEC firm. But how about learning some new things you aren’t so good at doing? That can be very enjoyable and enriching.
- Reconnect with the people you care about. That could be your clients and your employees – but it could also be the family members and friends you have neglected for so long while being overcommitted. Life is short. Our time on this earth is limited and you never know when the clock will run out.
Getting past your success isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. It will ultimately make you MORE successful – not just as a business leader – but in life itself!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.