The Purpose-Driven Organization
By Mark C. Zweig
Many folks in our business want to act like they have a “purpose-driven organization.”
What is that, you may ask? To me it is very simply a company that exists for some reason (some GOOD reason) other than to just make a profit.
Kit Miyamoto of Miyamoto International in Sacramento (an earthquake/seismic engineering firm) gets this idea the best of anyone I’ve seen yet in our business. Ask him what their purpose is and he will tell you (without hesitation): “We exist to save lives.”
Now that is what I call a strong purpose. It helps make working 80 hours a week and living off granola bars and bottled water 2,000 miles from home in Haiti worthwhile. Or having to sit through a boring meeting or dealing with an unethical contractor worthwhile. That’s what it is all about. If you have a strong purpose, all of the frustrations and demotivators that you and your employees face are easily set aside.
We once had an opportunity to help a public utility develop a new business plan for their very large captive engineering firm subsidiary. Their top management got me on the phone for an “interview” and we got to ask some questions about what they were all about. I was told in no uncertain terms that their “mission” was to “make a 10% profit.” I don’t think they liked it when I told them (somewhat sarcastically) that I was certain that was a strong motivator for their rank and file employees, who each got up every day and raced to the office so they could help make that “10% profit!” We didn’t get the job!
It seems to me that if you really have a purpose-driven organization you have to take a stand every so often and NOT do a project or pass on working for a client who does not support that purpose. It is crucial to say “no.” It makes it all real instead of just a bunch of empty words.
At ZweigWhite, we are all about firm (and individual) success. If it becomes apparent during the project development process that we cannot help the firm (or the individuals who own and/or run it) be successful, we will not do the project. If we did, then all we would be doing is prostituting ourselves. That surely cannot be good for our self-images, nor our motivation levels.
Design and environmental firms will typically encounter many more situations than we ever will with our own business where they can’t be successful or support their organization’s higher calling. It is critical that you make the call on whether that project or client relationship supports your organization’s purpose. If not, say “no.” Be willing to suffer in the short-term until you have enough good clients and projects to work on. That willingness to say “no” will make being a purpose-driven organization real, and not just more empty clichés that would provide good fodder for an episode of “The Office.”
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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.