O P I N I O N
F orty years. That’s “four zero.” And it’s how long I have worked in, owned, studied, and observed A/E firms. It’s a long time. There are 10 things practically every firm in this business should do but won’t. If you try these things, your firm will be more successful. Things you don’t do in your firm but should
Over that time, I have given out lots of advice to literally thousands of firm owners and managers. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t provide “stock” advice. I never liked boilerplate and every situation is different. That said, there are 10 things practically every firm in this business SHOULD do but won’t. If you would just listen to me and do these things, I have no doubt you and your firm would be more successful. These are NOT things that most firms are doing and there will be lots of reasons you and your partners can tell me why they won’t work. But trust me – you are wrong! Here are those 10 things: 1) Overhaul your bonus program. Most bonus programs in this business are purely subjective. It’s also conventional wisdom that “good” people get more bonus money than duds. Makes sense on the surface – give your best people the most and your worst people little to nothing. But what that really accomplishes is it lets your managers off the hook. The real problem is someone isn’t performing, not
that the rewards are going to the wrong people. They need to do their jobs as managers. By having a formula-driven plan that rewards everyone for the firm’s cash basis performance, the rules are clear. If you are there (working for the firm) you share in the spoils. If you get a share and don’t deserve it, you either reform or get run off. The goal is a high performing staff – period. 2) Pay out bonuses monthly or quarterly. Once a year is not often enough for the program to motivate people. There’s too much time between the action and the rewards. The less time that elapses between the performance and the rewards, the better. Understand this and listen to me! 3) Throw out your performance review process. Performance appraisals are generally awful. No one likes them – not the employees who are the recipients, nor the managers who have to do them. What does it tell you when an employee has a 5.9 out of 7 on “attitude?” Nothing. And you cannot tie salary changes to performance appraisals.
See MARK ZWEIG, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER OCTOBER 26, 2020, ISSUE 1365
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