Should I stay or should I grow?

Apr 29, 2019

The word growth is often associated with the bald pursuit of profits, but it’s really about the health of your firm and your staff.

With an awkward tip of the hat to The Clash, let’s acknowledge that for some, the idea of corporate growth can be a nebulous concept that can carry a negative connotation. Alternatively, for progressive AEC firm leaders and thinkers, it’s oftentimes one of the goals that we strive for.

Our premise is this: The opportunity for expedited personal career development within an AEC firm is tied to corporate growth.

I’ve often said that for an ambitious young professional in a landlocked and saturated market area within a stagnant AEC firm, it is extremely depressing to realize that your personal career advancement is directly tied to the unfortunate death, retirement, or termination of your supervisor. That’s just not an exciting place to be for someone who is wanting to grow and advance in their career.

On the other hand, firms that are dynamic and growing, opening new offices, acquiring new companies, expanding their service area into new geographic areas, or opening new lines of business, are often creating opportunities for their existing employees. Those opportunities include, and are certainly not limited to, climbing the management ladder or taking on more responsible client service positions.

Why does this matter? In our space, we are experiencing extremely low unemployment. Recruiters are relentlessly pursuing our best employees with handsome offers. If we fail to provide opportunities for personal career growth within our firms, our rising stars will be very tempted to leave and pursue those opportunities elsewhere.

Corporate growth is often associated with the monetary reward of a growing company, but there is a strong case to be made for focusing on corporate growth as a retention strategy by providing opportunities for employees to achieve their career aspirations. We believe that the professional AEC workforce of the future will demand this type of approach and that firms with a reluctance to grow will suffer in the areas of recruiting and retention of key employees – the future leaders of the firm.

Mitchell Fortner, P.E., is president of KSA. He can be reached at, @mitchfortner on Twitter, or Mitch Fortner on LinkedIn.

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.