Trust your partners

Sep 17, 2018

After being a part of the AEC industry for more than 38 years now, I have witnessed a problem too many times – one that hurts both the company and the people working in it. That is a lack of trust between business partners.

I don’t know exactly why it develops. I’m sure there are many possible causes. But one thing I do know for sure – it’s a terrible cancer.

Sometimes the lack of trust results in an all-out major war between two or more partners in the firm. That can lead to partner separations or a break up. No one wants to witness this or work in a firm going through it. It is like being a child in the household of warring, fighting, divorcing parents. Lots of stress and uncertainty and no fun at all!

But more often, this lack of trust isn’t always that apparent. It’s just simmering under the surface. It manifests itself in not letting the other guy do the job that’s assigned – whether that is a project-related assignment or a role in the firm’s organizational structure that they are supposed to be filling. And this results in lots of problems.

  • Anger and frustration. The person who is being second-guessed isn’t going to be happy about it. And he or she may throw up their hands in frustration at some point.
  • Quality issues. When it isn’t clear who is doing what, odds are someone will make an assumption that something is being handled that may, in fact, not be. This creates potential quality problems!
  • Time wasted. When someone is waiting for someone else to review something before it can be implemented or be considered done, time is wasted.

So how can you build trust? The best way to do this is to renew your friendships with each other. Being owners in a closely-held company is not too different from being married. Just like in a marriage, the relationship suffers if you don’t spend time with one another. Get to know one another personally. If you only see each other at work, and you work in a project-related business, then you may have let these relationships lapse. Then some little thing can happen and mistrust ensues. And then you have a downward spiral that is hard to get out of!

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.