Why the AEC business?

May 29, 2022

There are so many positive aspects of this industry, and it’s important that we keep reminding ourselves and our people why this is such a great business.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate for so many reasons. I have four daughters and one stepdaughter, each unique and perfect in their own ways. I have a great spouse and partner who cares for me and whom I respect. I am 64 and have no serious health problems and can still do pretty much anything. My mom is still alive at 101 and living in her own house. I get to work with young people and teach them everything I know about business as a college professor. I am so, so lucky.

I am also fortunate that I have spent my entire career working in the AEC industry. I want to talk about the professional services side of AEC, so for the purposes of this discussion, let’s just say the “C” in AEC stands for consulting. There are so many positive aspects of this industry. As leaders of our firms, I think it is important that we keep reminding ourselves and our people why this is such a great business.

Here are some of the reasons this is the best industry to work in:

  1. We don’t need a lot of capital to start one of these businesses. As someone who teaches “new venture development” and has a preference for bootstrapping, I have always liked service-based businesses. They don’t require a lot of cash from their founders to start one. That means you probably won’t need outside equity, at least until you can grow to a certain size and maturity. And that, in turn, means you can control your own business and not have to work for anyone else. This is a big plus for AEC businesses.
  2. We are doing something that is needed and beneficial for society. No one hires an AEC firm unless they need their help. Help with an environmental problem. Help with getting something built like a bridge, road, or school building. Help managing a capital improvements program. Help planning a new affordable housing project. Help with hundreds or even thousands of things, all of which make people happier, safer, more efficient at their jobs, healthier, and improve the quality of life in our communities. AEC firms do GOOD things. I cannot imagine what it would be like to work in any industry that does bad things, like tobacco for example. Or one that hurts people financially, like gambling. Or to be in a company that sells a product that is already available from other brands that are its equivalent.
  3. Our firms create really good jobs. We employ knowledge workers. All of the jobs in AEC firms are relatively high-paying, safe jobs where people get to work with other good people to do good things. What could be better than that?
  4. We get to regularly exercise our creativity. Creative work is important to people’s sense of self-worth and well-being. This “business” offers unlimited opportunities to be creative in the projects themselves but also in how they are done and how the business is managed. That’s great! Not all businesses can claim that. Imagine what it would be like to run or work in a chain restaurant of some sort where every single detail of what to do and how to do it is laid out.
  5. We work with extremely intelligent people. We have smart people in our companies and smart people as clients who can afford to hire us and build the stuff we create. Everything is better when you work with intelligent people. There is also a really great ethical standard with the professionals in our industry.
  6. We can work from practically anywhere. We learned this one during COVID. U.S. firms in this business have always been the best, so we can also work anywhere around the globe. There is opportunity to travel and opportunity to work from home. What could be better than that?

There are so many positive aspects of the AEC industry. It’s why I encourage all of my students and friends to try to get into it. Once you get in, you never leave! But if someone does leave, they will probably come back at some point! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

Click here to read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter!

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.