The story and the science

Dec 11, 2022

Tom Godin

What stories is your firm telling, and, more importantly, how are they being received?

was recently in Dubai on business. My travel partner and I had a few hours to sightsee, so we took a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world at 2,722 feet. It’s an amazing feat of architecture and engineering and an appropriate activity for the two of us since we were working with a design firm there.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was in Chicago, attending the NCSEA’s Structural Engineering Summit. Adrian Smith, the lead designer of the Burj Khalifa when he was with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (coincidentally the design firm behind the Sears Tower in Chicago – another famous tall building), gave one of the keynote addresses. He talked about the design, of course, and how it was inspired by the geometry of a Middle Eastern flower and by classic Islamic architecture. The building has a story. And he talked about the structure itself and the engineering challenges and solutions. There’s the science.

This amazing building sits right at the intersection of story and science – and so do amazing design firms.

At Zweig Group, our mission is to Elevate the Industry, and one of the ways we do that is through science – providing data, analysis tools, and our applied expertise. The science helps firm leaders make sense of the complexities of operating a business. How much should we pay people? How much is too much to spend on rent? What is the right utilization target for a senior project manager?

The science is necessary, but it is not sufficient to elevate a business. You need stories too. What stories can you tell?

  • To your clients or prospective clients – what is your answer when asked: Why should they pick you, to do this, right now, in this place?
  • To your employees or recruits – what is your answer when asked: Why should they work here, doing this, right now, for you?
  • To your shareholders or rising stars – what is your answer when asked: Why should they invest their money or keep their money, right now, in this business?

We’re approaching the end of a calendar year, and for most firms there’s a lot of science going on – year end reviews and compensation adjustments, bonuses, financial year wrap up, and, of course, project work. I encourage everyone reading this to take a few minutes and inventory your stories. How do they sound? More importantly, how are they being received?

If you find yourself needing help with the science or the story, please get in touch. Until then, happy holidays.  

Tom Godin is a strategic planning advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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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.