Seven things the best CEOs do

Sep 17, 2023

See how you stack up against the best in the industry – and remember, it’s never too late to change your behavior.

I have been lucky. Because of the kind of work I’ve done my entire life, I have worked with, met, observed, and heard about how the BEST CEOs of AEC firms do things.

If you want to be the best – a legend – someone everyone will want to work for and with, and someone everyone will still be talking about when you retire or are no longer with us, listen up!

Here are some specific things – not a bunch of generalities and buzzwords – that the best CEOs do:

  1. They strike a bold vision and they share that vision with everyone else. Some specific examples:
    • “We may be doing tilt-wall buildings in industrial parks right now, but we’re going to become the number one firm for seismic retrofitting.”
    • “We may be a 30-person company today but we will be a 300-person company by the end of this decade.”
    • “We may have 90 percent of our work coming from architects this year but in five years we are going to have 90 percent of our work coming directly from the end users.”
  2. They don’t do things that separate themselves from everyone else in the firm. Some specific examples:
    • The CEO has a reserved parking place.
    • The CEO dresses more formally than everyone else.
    • The CEO has a private admin assistant no one else has.
  3. They set an example for the behaviors they expect from everyone else. Some specific examples:
    • The CEO is one of the first people to arrive at the office every day.
    • The CEO helps clean up the conference room after a meeting and pushes all of the chairs back to the table.
    • The CEO makes collection calls on old AR when they are supposed to without fail.
  4. They demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice. Some specific examples:
    • The CEO is the first to take a pay cut if pay cuts are deemed necessary.
    • The CEO is willing to move out to a temporary office if their office is deemed necessary to hire someone else at a high level.
    • The CEO is there at times on weekends helping out when other people have to work long hours to meet a deadline.
  5. They are accessible and responsive. Some specific examples:
    • The CEO doesn’t go dark all evening or weekend in terms of responding to calls and emails.
    • The CEO doesn’t have someone else as an intermediary setting up all of their calls and meetings, but instead does it directly.
    • The CEO is the first to respond to group emails.
  6. They help people out when they have problems or issues they can’t resolve on their own.
    • The CEO gets involved in HR situations where individuals aren’t getting along but should be.
    • The CEO is willing to run interference with a client who is proving to be difficult to work with.
    • The CEO is willing to get involved with recruiting and make phone calls directly to potential job candidates when a critical position is not getting filled.
  7. They make the hard decisions that need to be made. Some specific examples include:
    • The CEO will confront the founder who is interfering with other people’s work.
    • The CEO will move out a non-productive or destructive principal if necessary.
    • The CEO will be willing to move the company to different office space if the other principals who own the building are charging too much rent.

Am I painting the picture here for you? How do you stack up on the points above? It’s never too late to change your behavior if you can honestly look at yourself in the mirror!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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.