Why the Fascination with Hot Firms?

Sep 11, 2000

Sure, you can learn from a fool. But how much more can you learn from a smart person? That’s why we’re focusing this special edition of The Zweig Letter on hot firms— firms that have been able to grow more and grow faster than the rest of our industry. In this issue, we’re announcing our exclusive Hot Firm 2000 ranking of the fastest-growing U.S. A/E/P and environmental consulting firms. How do these firms do it? Is it because they’re better marketers? Can they hire better people faster than everyone else can? Are they more profitable? Did they do it all through mergers and acquisitions, and if so, how have they integrated those companies into their own? How about leadership? Do their leaders spend more time mentoring? Do they share financial data with all employees? What numbers do they track in the first place? How do they pay their people? Is one group pitted against another, or is everyone eating out of the same pot? How many owners do they have— a lot or only a few? There are no hard and fast rules for hot firms. Growing an A/E/P or environmental consulting firm is every bit as much an art as it is a science. No two situations are exactly the same. But one thing is for sure— you are bound to get better ideas, better answers, and better solutions to the problems we are all facing by listening to those who have actually done it. My experience tells me that much of the success enjoyed by hot firms can be directly traced to the owners’ desire to succeed. They’re hungry. They’ve got something to prove, either to themselves, or perhaps more likely, their former employers. They’re energized. And they’re optimistic— they believe that they can overcome any obstacle that is put in their way and succeed! Once you have this kind of spirit working for you, the other problems are minimized or simply go away. But that said, don’t think these hot firms got where they are by accident, or rode a wave they had nothing to do with creating, or just sat back and waited. These companies all take action. They make decisions, generally good ones, and make them quickly. They respond to opportunities, but not to so many that they can’t cash in on each one. They are focused, even if not on a particular market or markets. They have a plan that functions as a blueprint to follow and ways of doing business that remain relatively constant over time. The leader (or leaders) of a hot firm has to be someone who can sell the vision of what’s possible to the other owners and employees, then demonstrate through performance that it is within reach. These leaders have to keep everyone interested, too. That requires different tactics at different times. Sometimes it takes humor, at other times bravery, and at still other times, introspection. So read on and learn from those who are making it happen every day. Originally published 9/11/00.

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.