O P I N I O N
L et’s face it. Even though there are tens of thousands of companies that make up the “industry,” most A/E firms of any one type (MEP, architecture, civil/survey, etc.) are actually pretty similar. Answer these questions and many more, or you will, at best, be a decent copy of a firm or firms that do as well or better than you already do. Real differentiation in your A/E firm
They used to have a name based on a founder or founders, but today it’s just letters that represent the founders’ initials. The prices they charge their clients are comparable. The scope of services they provide is about the same. What they pay and how they pay their employees is fairly consistent across firms. Their management structures are similar – they have principals and project managers and various specialized design or technical people. They probably have a board of 50-year-old – or older – guys that spends most of its time looking in the rearview mirror. Management tracks and promotes “utilization” as its most critical performance metric. They win one out of 10 jobs they go after by putting out a whole lot of proposals and qualification documents and waiting for “their turn” at the feeding trough. They have a marketing intern who handles “social media” who pre-COVID posted lots of pictures of employee birthday parties and baby showers, but now posts pictures of computer monitors for Zoom meetings with virtual happy hours and employee dogs at home instead.
You get the idea. Then you take this giant pool of similar companies, each of which has at least one
principal or top manager who espouses the latest flavor-of-the week pop management or marketing idea using a million cliches like “pivot,” “best practices,” “out of the box thinking,” “level 5 leadership,” and more, and no wonder everyone’s profitability, growth rate, staff turnover rate, and client satisfaction levels is so consistent across similar firms. But is running a business in this manner really the way to break through and create something wholly different and unique that excels at what it does and achieves a completely different level of success from its peer companies? I think not. And if you think I am picking on architects and engineers when I paint this picture, don’t think it’s much different in any other industry. There are usually a few leaders and then a whole bunch of followers.
See MARK ZWEIG, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER NOVEMBER 30, 2020, ISSUE 1369
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