Things I’ve been wanting to say

Apr 14, 2024

Unspoken thoughts about business coaching, writing skills, phone disconnection, and more.

Every so often – maybe once every two or three years – I like to write about the things I have wanted to say on these pages but haven’t. Some of these thoughts our readers could disagree with. That’s OK. We welcome your feedback and contributions to the discussion. And none of these thoughts required an entire editorial devoted to it.

So, here you go:

  • Why are there so many self-described business “coaches,” and why would anyone follow business advice from someone who hasn’t been successful in business? This has been weighing on me for some time, because not a week goes by I don’t get at least a half dozen emails or LinkedIn messages from people who want to be my “coach.” Do they ever do any research on what my businesses do or what stage I am at in this point in my career? No. So I know our readers must be going through the same or worse. It seems to me that anyone who gets laid off or has a hard time finding a job at any level of management in corporate America takes some online classes or goes to a seminar and pays a fee to become a certified business coach. And then their whole marketing plan is to reach out to business owners and get THEM as clients. My experience is that most privately-held business owners see success in business as a prerequisite to giving them any input. So that’s a hard sale. No wonder so many have only been “coaching” for such a short time.
  • Where did the notion come from that as a consultant, you cannot give a client advice on what to do or how to do it, and instead have to let them come up with it on their own so they think it was their idea in the first place? This idea seems to have come over from the “coaching” people. Somewhere in their training they are being told you cannot give direct advice and that you instead have to pull it from the client so they think it was their own. That’s crap. When I go to the doctor I want to hear their diagnosis and treatment plan. They don’t need to pull that from me so I see it as my own. Let’s get from point A to point B with the least amount of unnecessary steps and the least missteps. That is what people pay experts for!
  • While pretty much everyone in our industry agrees that the ability to communicate effectively has a huge impact on one’s success, why don’t companies spend more time and money teaching their people how to write? I just don’t understand this – an essential quality for individual and firm success in the AEC business, and we do not do any training on how to do it better. It makes no sense. It should be a real priority. The opportunity is there for significant improvement.
  • Does anyone who is at the top of an AEC firm REALLY believe that disconnecting from your phone for extended periods of time will make you more successful versus less so in this business? I read a lot of this advice. Sure, we all want (and need) a break sometimes from the electronic tether. But don’t kid yourself about WHY you are giving yourself one and what the likely consequences of that break are. Clients won’t get called back. Things won’t get done. Your people will be waiting on you. You will be less responsive and therefore make yourself more vulnerable to competitors. Disconnect if you must but do so at your own risk!
  • Why would any firm owner worry about selling down below 50 percent ownership unless they thought they weren’t carrying their own weight? I frequently hear small firm founders make proclamations about how they will never own less than 50 percent of the ownership in their firms. What are they so afraid of? All I can think of is that either they fear other owners will think their rewards are excessive based on their contributions to the business, or that they don’t understand that a smaller piece of a bigger pie could not only be more valuable but easier to cash in on than what they have now. It has to be one of those two things.

OK, my mind is cleared out now! If you have any thoughts for me on these or other topics of interest to owners and managers of AEC firms, contact me at I always enjoy hearing from our readers! 

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.