Now that the elections are over...!

Nov 24, 2008

Regardless of how you feel about the results, the national, state, and local elections are now over. Yea! We can move on with our lives and get back to business. Lord knows many A/E/P and environmental firms need some help to get back on track. When it comes to making changes to get better results for 2009, here’s some of what I would be thinking about: Revise the business plan. Trim out all the stale references to once-popular management books and the multi-syllable platitudes that have become clichés and replace that language with words that clearly state what business you are in, what clients you serve, and what you aspire for your firm to become. Have some clear measurable goals to achieve and actions to take in 2009. Build this plan from the bottom up and then share it with everyone in the company. It should be inspirational and give all a shared sense of place and purpose. Change leadership. If the results in the firm or any area of the firm have lagged for too long, consider replacing the leader. Sometimes a change is necessary, even if the leader is a good person with healthy intentions. They may not be getting the job done for any number of reasons within or not within their control. But change is good at times and along with the risk of change comes the possible benefit of doing something different. Take a fresh look at your targeted clients and the corresponding marketing activities. What can these clients spend money on in the coming year? Does your firm do that? Do these clients know you do that? Do you have all of them identified? What should you change marketing-wise this year? What should you bring back marketing-wise that you used to do? Shore up the finances. Now is not the time to be carrying old A/R or borrowing from the bank to pay bonuses even if this has historically been a practice of the firm. Much better would be to pay some taxes if you have to and shore up the old balance sheet with a good slug of retained earnings. Maybe it’s also time to sell some stock to key employees, locate a strategic investor, or consider doing that ESOP. Don’t give crazy raises or take on expensive office space. Negotiate for the largest lines of credit you can get in case you ever need it. “Prudence” is the operative word as we head into 2009. Look at reorganizing. Along with some new leaders, you may find you also need some new organizational units. If there are barriers to cooperation that are hampering your effectiveness and profitability, stop complaining about them and instead eliminate them. Focus on the whole first— then the parts. Invest in the tools that increase profitability and responsiveness, and help build institutional value. Software from the likes of Newforma, Deltek, and BST, along with reasonable budgets to get this stuff actually working is a good place to start. Also, providing Black-Berries or other PDAs to every single employee who wants one is another great boost. It’s like getting nearly free production capacity expansion. I cannot understand why every firm doesn’t do it. Think up some new things that will help make your company a better place for your people to work. Whether that’s tools, training, unique benefits, or working environment changes that are needed, do them. Don’t get the idea jobs are hard to find and your people aren’t as important. Good people are always hard to find— they still are today! This list is just a starting point. The marketplace for any type of business usually doesn’t respond well to complacency in providers to that market. There are a thousand— make that a million— opportunities today. Take off the blinders and apply some common-sense thinking to what you need to do differently this year for better results. You can do it! Originally published 11/24/2008

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.