We All Make Our Own Beds

May 22, 2000

“What goes around comes around.” “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” “You reap what you sow.” “To get love, you need to give love.” These adages (and many more) all reinforce the thinking that, in life, we make our own beds and pretty much deserve the good (or bad) luck we have. Well, guess what? Business is just a part of life. The same rules apply. If you want good things to happen, you have to do good things. That’s just the way it is. And one needn’t look far for examples of A/E/P and environmental consulting firms on both ends of the spectrum that are reaping what they have sown. Let’s take a look at this phenomenon in some typical areas of the business that can either work for you or against you: Subconsultant and supplier relationships. This is certainly one of those areas that some firm owners and managers seem not to understand very well and that can have a major impact on the organization over time. For example, prime firms that don’t pay their subconsultants (after their clients have paid them) quickly develop a bad reputation. This hurts their future ability to put a competitive team together. They have to spend more time with lawyers and less time selling and doing. They hurt their future borrowing capacity by ruining their credit. All bad stuff. Firms that treat their subs and suppliers like gold and pay their bills promptly often get more favorable pricing. They generate goodwill in the community. Their suppliers and subs bring them clients. And they never have problems putting teams together. Employee relations. If you, as the owner of a firm, treat your employees like some sort of extension of your household help, you’re going to have problems. If you demean people, put them down, attack them personally, insult their intelligence, or rip them off in small ways, you’ll pay the price. Your firm will have a higher turnover rate. That costs you money in recruiting and lost revenue due to ramp up time for new workers. Even cost per hire goes up, as these companies ruin their reputations in their local markets and become known as lousy places to work. And I won’t even get into what demotivated or angry workers can do to service quality. Firms that treat their employees well, however, find it easy to attract new workers. Their recruiting costs go down. Lower turnover means less break-in time for new workers. Ownership transition. This is one of those areas where you reap what you sow, for sure. If you never share information with your people on how the firm does and how much the owners get to take home, is there any wonder no one wants to buy the stock? Or how about the firms that don’t sell any stock to anyone (because the owners want all the profits) until the very day the owners want to leave? Doesn’t work real well! The fact of the matter is that making it possible for some of your key staffers to buy stock is an investment in the firm, one that pays you back at exit time in many ways. There’s someone (or more than one) who can take over. They know how to run the firm and the value of the stock. That makes the stock easier to sell and makes it more likely that you will get paid what you’re owed over time. Client development. If you are one of those design or environmental professionals who only calls clients when they potentially have a job for you to do, you’re acting kind of selfishly, don’t you think? Or if you are one of those people who never gives in to a client on the small stuff, why should the client do anything for you? Clients need to be taken care of. They need to know that you really care about them. Nothing is worse than giving clients the impression that you only want to use them. It’s not the way to be successful today! In order to reap tomorrow, you have to give today. That means calling clients and going to see them just to keep the relationship alive. It means doing favors and not acting as if you are selfish. That’s the way to gain someone’s allegiance over the long haul. The dividends will be paid out for years after the actions. I don’t think it’s just wishful thinking on my part that those who do good deeds are rewarded and those who do the wrong thing get their comeuppance! The last time I checked, architects, engineers, and scientists weren’t exempt from the “golden rule”! Originally published 5/22/2000.

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.