Use this time

Apr 27, 2020

Connect with your people and bolster your business so you come out of this pandemic stronger on the other side.

The days are running together. Nights are mornings. Weekdays are weekends. You have daily updates to ensure the health and safety of loved ones. A new day, a new fire to put out at work, and new information being delivered to your phone or television seemingly by the hour. In these bizarre times we are all living in, it is easy to get caught up in the negative. What will the stock market do tomorrow? When will this project continue construction? I miss my standing desk at the office. And so on…

While it is good to keep an ear low to the ground and be aware of what is going on in the world around you, it is also counterproductive to waste time spinning in your own head about what could possibly happen next in these times of uncertainty when, in reality, none of us really know for sure. True leaders are made during challenging times, and there are undoubtedly other people at your firm who could use strong leadership right now.

Instead of keeping yourself up at night worrying about things you cannot control, you should be using this time to take advantage of this situation and get things done that maybe you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Here are some ideas to help you connect with your people and bolster your business to come out of this pandemic even stronger on the other side:

  1. Survey your employees. There may not be a better time to get valuable data and feedback from your employees than right now. Without travel or the hustle and bustle of an office, you will find incomparable response rates and honesty from your employees. Find out what works and what doesn’t about working from home. Ask them what they like and don’t like about working for your firm. Whatever information you can use to make your company better now or in the future should be considered. If you don’t have the time or acumen to do this yourself, hire an advisor to do it for you.
  2. Host a sponsored webinar. This is an opportunity for you to stand out as a thought leader amongst your competitors by delivering original, relevant content in a new way. You can also take this time to strengthen existing relationships with your sponsors and build new ones as well. Get them involved in what you are doing.
  3. Hold a contest for your employees or clients. You are still allowed to have fun with your colleagues and employees right now. Do something to keep them engaged and positive. Trivia night. Best designed work-from-home station. Most creative side projects. Get creative and give your people something to get excited about.
  4. Research (and implement) new ways to train your employees. It is still important to make sure your employees are getting the training that they need. This is also an opportunity to try new methods to see if they work for your firm. Not sure where to start? Check out Zweig Group’s online learning opportunities.
  5. Get organized. Think about the following:
    • BD strategy. What clients/markets should you be focusing on right now? Where is the money still going to come from for the foreseeable future?
    • Expenses. Many companies procrastinate this. Take a long look at how your firm spends money and cut out anything that isn’t necessary. Is there anything you can permanently change about the way your firm spends money in the future?
    • Accounts receivable. Many AEC firms are comfortable with an average A/R collection period of 90 days. This is unacceptable – why would you set lower expectations for your clients than you set for yourself? Look at your collection process and A/R to create a follow-up process that fixes this issue and gets your firm the cash it needs faster.
  6. Contact people you haven’t talked to in a while to see how they are doing. Reach out to clients or former colleagues just to check in without trying to sell them anything. Lots of people right now just want someone they can level with and talk to on a personal level. Maybe you can offer some advice from your own experiences that could help them out. Maybe they are uncertain about their own future and could be a valuable addition to your team later this year. You never know unless you pick up the phone.
  7. Find out if there are certain clients or activities that can be handled remotely to help save time (and money) in the future. Is there a client who has taken a particular liking to video calls? Is there a meeting that you now realize can be handled via email? Are there employees who actually don’t need to be in the office every day? Use this time to find out how you can be more efficient in your processes as well as where you can offer more flexibility to your employees.
  8. Learn how to use Slack or Google Hangouts effectively. You’d be surprised how much more efficient than email these can be if used appropriately.
  9. Learn how to use LinkedIn effectively. Social media, especially LinkedIn, is seeing heavy traffic right now. Using this tool effectively can not only establish you as a thought leader in your field, but even get your firm some new proposals as well.
  10. Perform stress tests on your finances so you can be prepared for whatever the future may hold. What would happen if your interior design studio saw a 40 percent decrease in revenue this year? What if your healthcare projects get put on hold for six or more months? Figure out what your business will look like in possible situations so you can be prepared to communicate with your employees and guide the ship like a true leader when they need you the most. It could be the difference between layoffs and getting to retain your staff.

John Bray is an advisor with Zweig Group’s executive search and recruiting team. 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.