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A fter 41 years of working in and around A/E firms, it has become increasingly apparent that many are behind in terms of financial management. In fact, making improvements in this area is too often easier said than done. Why is that? An experienced and competent financial manager could make a huge difference in your company’s and your personal financial well-being. Improving financial management

There are several reasons. Three standouts are worth mentioning, however. First and foremost – it used to be conventional wisdom that if you went into this business you could make a decent living but wouldn’t ever make a great living out of it. While that may still be true for many firm owners (and especially smaller ones), it certainly doesn’t have to be the case. I personally know many people who make seven figure annual incomes from their A/E firm ownership and employment, and have done so in some cases for decades. While that opportunity DOES exist, the problem is if you don’t THINK you can do really well in this business, odds are that is not going to happen. So why even try? Whatever happens will happen, and no improvements in financial management will make a big difference in the results. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Secondly, you have to consider the evolution of the top financial management role in the typical A/E firm. Firms usually start out with one or two professionals deciding to hang out a shingle. At first, the firm founder (or one of the founders) takes on the role of accounting and billing and bill- paying. Then some sort of admin person is hired. This person may answer the phone and do clerical work, and he or she eventually assumes the role of bill-paying. Next, this individual either becomes a full-time bookkeeper or one is hired. Eventually, he or she either assumes all business functions for the firm – or a degreed accountant is hired for that role. And if the firm continues to grow beyond this stage, only then will they probably add a real CFO to the team, and that person will probably come from another firm that isn’t as large or successful as the one they are joining. In this scenario, where

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10


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