Passion and Management— Both Required!

Apr 21, 2003

I know structural engineers who make over $1 million a year. I know landscape architects in larger firms who achieve a 4.22 raw labor multiplier on all the work they do. I know architects who design houses and make over a half million a year. I also know of a 10-person planning firm that has won more than 50 design awards. Each of these people is a good manager and each of their firms could be considered well-managed. But you know something? You can spend a lot of time on management— that includes philosophy, process, and technique— and still not be successful in this business. It takes more than good management. It takes passion, inspiration, and motivation. I have the regular good fortune to work with some clients who are really passionate about what they do for a living. I know I’m with someone who is passionate about what they do when they can’t help but critique the hotel we are visiting, they can’t help but comment on the structural system in the restaurant we are eating at, nor can they keep from commenting on the new highway we are driving on. These people think about their projects 24 hours a day and see their business as a way of doing what they love to do. When this love for the basic work is combined with good management, you have a real winner. People work hard, the company charges for what it does, clients are happy, workers are inspired, and the firm has adequate capital. In short, everything works. So what are some ways to make sure that your firm has both success ingredients, passion and management? Here are my suggestions: Get the right person at the helm. I am talking about the CEO or president or managing partner role. This individual has to embody both ingredients personally. He or she must both love the work and love having a successful company. If this doesn’t sound like your leader then name a new one. If you don’t have the ability to influence that process you might want to consider looking for a new job. Have you teamed up with the right leader? It’s just too critical to waste your time with the wrong one! Get the right people in each of the key management roles. You need people with enthusiasm and love for what they do in each of the key roles in your firm. If you have the wrong folks in these jobs (those who don’t really have a passion for the work OR who don’t value good management) you won’t move ahead as quickly as you should. Time for a little top-grading, perhaps? Reformulate virtually all of the internal communications in use by your firm. There must be formal vehicles to allow those who lead and work on jobs a chance to share their excitement with the other people in the firm. There must also be formal communication vehicles that allow top management to share their enthusiasm and vision for the business with all employees. Do you have this kind of information now? If not, get it. Confront any and all who disparage the nobility of what you do. Some people are always cynical. They want to act as if what the firm does isn’t important or worthwhile or good. I can’t stand this. There’s no place for those with this kind of orientation because no matter how competent they are, they will suck everyone else down with their negativity. Do you have any of these negative people? If so, confront them and their lousy, damaging attitudes today because you cannot afford the damage they will do if you don’t. Passion and management are a magic formula that can’t help but spawn success in any endeavor. Of the two, management is certainly easier to teach. The moral: hire for passion and teach the management (if they have good communication skills, that is!). Originally published 4/21/2003

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.