Personal reflections

Jun 12, 2022

These are “the good old days,” so don’t take anything for granted and find something to enjoy in even the most mundane aspects of life.

I am writing this piece as I sit in seat 10C on American Airlines flight 4587 from Northwest Arkansas National Airport to LaGuardia. I’m going to a board meeting with one of our clients – a well-known architecture firm that is among the best in its field of speciality. I really enjoy the founder and primary principal. He is a very cultured and classy fellow with a wry sense of humor. He is also very gracious. I have always said the people are the best aspect of this “industry,” and this particular character is one of them – one of many I have known over the years.

Occasionally people ask what I am doing these days. I am basically retired from Zweig Group and this business at this time. I’m 64, and sold my ownership back to the company on a long-term deal about four years ago. I still write this column for The Zweig Letter, and I occasionally talk with my old friends both inside and outside of the firm. While it would be nice to take some credit for the firm’s lengthy existence, its success in the past few years has been to their credit alone. The owners and managers have really impressed me with their ability to not only keep this thing going, but to modify/adapt/evolve it in such a way that it is today more viable than it probably ever was. I am very thankful for that.

I have a lot of friends, family, and former clients who are very successful. They never slow down, and they seem to have a limitless appetite for doing more, making more money, and playing (and winning) at the “success” game. While that used to be me not too long ago – I had two businesses going at the same time, both about the same size, both on the Inc. 5,000 List, along with being a faculty member teaching entrepreneurship at The Walton College, owning a growing collection of cars and motorbikes and what felt like a whole lot of real estate (houses, apartments, condos, and commercial properties) – that’s not me today. I’m a full-time “entrepreneur in-residence” at The Walton College and I chair two local Vistage groups (Vistage runs support groups for privately-held company CEOs and others), and I have plenty of time to talk with and mentor both my current and former students. I even occasionally give talks like the one I gave at the “Fast 15” awards ceremony for The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal earlier last month. But now that it’s summer, I get to spend plenty of time rocking on my front porch and talking to my wife and the many visitors who stop by, working on our lawn, and loving on our two nearly perfect gigantic Great Pyrenees dogs. We also have a new garage/exercise room/“She Shed” going up, and a whole bunch of other home improvement projects, along with a couple of vintage VW project cars and our latest acquisition, a mid-‘70s Kountry Aire travel trailer my wife wants to renovate. I still have one cool old car, a British Racing Green turbocharged Rolls-Royce Silver Spur, that spends about half of its time in the shop (much to my wife’s chagrin). And I recently finished my new book, Confessions of an Entrepreneur, thanks to a lot of help particularly from Matt Waller, dean of The Walton College, and a fellow named Stephen Caldwell who has worked with me to get this thing finished – and it’s set to come out hopefully by the end of summer.

My four daughters and one stepdaughter – ranging in age from 11 to 34 – are each unique and successful in their own ways. My mom is nearly 102 and still living in the house I grew up in. I get to have lunches with my friends, young and old. And this summer, we plan to return to Taos and Santa Fe, where my sister-in-law and her husband live.

I’d be a fool if I didn’t realize that I’m the luckiest guy alive and life is nearly perfect. I just want to appreciate every day for what it is and not want much more than what we have. Everything could end in an instant. One of my friends, a developer and contractor, died last week of a sudden heart attack at age 51. He was in seemingly perfect health, and checked out while fishing with absolutely no warning. Bad things can happen at any time. Not a day goes by I don’t think about the people in Ukraine who were living their lives just like we are – worried about getting the oil changed in their cars, leaky spots on their roofs, the “C” their kid got in math, and what to have for dinner – and their entire world was turned upside down in a matter of days.

These are “the good old days,” and I don’t want to take anything for granted, nor miss a single minute of even the most mundane aspects of life. Like most people, I would guess, I have plenty of regrets. But I want to stay focused on the present and future, because I don’t think it’s very helpful to dwell on those things. My singular goal at this point is to pass on everything I have learned so others can avoid my mistakes – and my articles here will be a part of that effort as long as Zweig Group keeps publishing them!

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

Click here to read this week's issue!

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.