What it Takes to Lead a Hot Firm

Sep 18, 2006

Being the leader of a Zweig Letter Hot Firm isn’t for everyone. Believe me, I know plenty of these characters personally (and they are “characters!”), and while they come from many different age groups, racial backgrounds, sexes, and socioeconomic backgrounds, there are a few common threads. Here they are: They are passionate. A Hot Firm leader has to be passionate about this business. They need to love it. Anything less and the stresses of collecting accounts receivable, dealing with other principals, and selling enough work to keep the growth alive would be too much to bear. No one can successfully lead a Hot Firm without passion for this business! They can remain calm. I won’t say that Hot Firm leaders don’t get excited. They can and do. But, when necessary, they can keep their emotions in check and put on a game face for the crowd. A leader who remains calm in the face of adversity helps the rest of the team do what they need to in order to get the job done. They aren’t loners. Hot Firm leaders don’t get there on their own. Though they may have strong ideas about how things should be done, they are not control freaks. They are trusting in nature and allow other people to have some discretion in how they do their jobs. And they are good at picking people for the team in the first place, as well as comfortable seeking out the advice and input of others with backgrounds and experience different from their own. They are good at forming relationships. Hot Firm CEOs are masters at developing long-term relationships with clients, subconsultants, regulators, and more. This is how they get more work, complete successful projects, and, in general, secure their company’s future. They are tenacious. Hot Firm CEOs don’t lie down at the first sign of resistance. Minor defeats and setbacks don’t stop them. If the first attempt to get work from a new client that the firm really wants to work with fails, they will go back over and over again. If they have an employment offer turned down from someone who really impresses them, they’ll go back to that person, sometimes years later with another offer. If there’s an internal initiative they think is important to the firm’s future yet other principals don’t quite get it, they won’t give up until winning over enough of them to make it happen. Tenacity is the Hot Firm CEO’s middle name! They have supportive, understanding families and balanced lives. Hot Firm CEOs could not jump on planes every week, miss taking the kids out trick-or-treating on Halloween, and go into the office on weekends without supportive families. Running a high-growth professional service firm takes a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy and the rest of the family has to be understanding of that for the Hot Firm CEO to be able to do his or her job. They are optimists. I’m not going to say Hot Firm CEOs don’t ever worry— they do. But they believe that, with the right preparation, anything is possible. They are not, in general, lying awake at night in fear over a changing marketplace. They know their firms can do well in spite of whatever is happening in the external environment. They believe in the benefits of growth and believe that their firms will continue to grow, no matter what. Originally published 9/18/2006

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.