TZL 933

THE ZWEIG LETTER | OCTOBER 31, 2011, ISSUE 933

HOT F I RM

The secrets to staying Hot in chilly economy

Hot Firms share their practices, motivations, actions and thoughts for the future.

and 12 percent reported providing pro- fessional development opportunities. “By providing career-long profes- sional development and mentoring, we have developed a team that knows that the company is aligned with their desire to work on new things, to take on more responsibility, and to receive more recognition for the work they do to make us a best firm to work for,” one respondent said. They’re different. There’s no doubt though, these firms are different! Hot Firm leaders believe, for example, that a stronger emphasis on marketing and business development separates them from less successful peers. “We are not afraid to spend more re- sources on marketing and geographic expansion during a tough economic cli- mate,” one respondent said. “I am lucky that a few rainmakers decided to come on board from my competitors. These people are telling me that we are run- ning right.” Leaders also cited diversification as a differentiator. “Looking ahead for 12-18 months is the constant focus for us to be success- ful in maintaining growth. We need to be diversified in market sectors and geographically, to be able to capitalize the new opportunities,” one respon- dent said. Hot Firms are also successful because they focus on people. “We’d rather decrease expenses, not people,” said one. Actions really do speak louder than words, said another; “We walk the walk when it comes to the care we take to hire the right people and in giving them the opportunity to succeed. This means that we are strongly focused on hiring and developing graduates, rather than bringing in more experienced hires. This is more expensive in the short- term, but has shown a much greater success rate in terms of staff retention, pride in the company and the quality of work provided to our clients.”

most difficult decisions by Hot Firms

22% 6%

6%

24%

12%

By Christina Zweig Staff Writer W hat makes a Hot Firm “hot,” when most are not? Despite market uncertainty and the temptation to lay low and enter “sur- vival-only mode,” members of The Zweig Letter 2011 Hot Firm List pursued multiple strategies to grow the business. A stronger push with market- ing, diversification of clients and ser- vices, extra attention given to employ- ees, and a greater focus on bolstering expertise and innovation are just the beginnings of the many things that make members for the elite list stand out, according to an anonymous online survey of their leaders. Nevertheless, although growth num- bers reflected on the Hot Firm List may look impressive, leaders still faced tough decisions and fear the conse- quences of sometimes daring actions. Firms that submitted for the Hot Firm rankings were invited to par- ticipate in the survey. To be consid- ered for the Hot Firm List, companies were ranked according to their three- year growth rate in gross revenue from 2007 to 2010, with 50 percent of the ranking based on percentage growth and 50 percent based on dollar growth. Thirty percent of respondents to the “2011 Statistics of the Hot Firm Sur- vey” stated that the toughest decisions involved decisions about growth and investment. “Even though our industry is seeing lots of activity, it was hard to move out of the mindset of holding our ground to get back into an aggressive expansion mode,” one respondent said. Hot Firm leaders also admitted they share many of the same fears other firm leaders have. “Our biggest fear is continued stag- nation of the economy and impact of economic conditions as well as govern- ment cutbacks on available work,” one respondent said. (Thirty-eight percent of respondents shared those thoughts,

30%

Growth & Investment Personnel & Staffing

Downsizing

Bonuses & Salaries

Terminating Leadership Other

indicating “the government and the economy” to be their top concerns.) A significant number of respondents, 22 percent, cited backlogs and oppor- tunity pipelines as their main concerns, and 13 percent cited project funding. Offering some examples, some cited, “The ability of our culture to embrace a culture of change and continual im- provement” and “large projects that go south.” Getting the right people on the bus… When asked, “How do you keep your teams motivated and mov- ing in the right direction,” 38 percent of firms reported open-book manage- ment. Twenty-seven percent reported vision and planning as a method for keeping teams motivated. “At all times we keep our eye on the firm vision; have not wavered even in the poor economy,” one respondent said. “Decisions are made based on continuing our journey to reach our vi- sion. Our teammates have a better un- derstanding of where we are going as a firm and why, and how their great per- formance is key to survival, and can keep us moving in the right direction.” One quarter of respondents also re- ported that they keep their teams mo- tivated through compensation and bo- nuses, 13 percent reported culture, 12 percent reported providing an oppor- tunity to work on challenging projects,

“Even though our industry is seeing lots of activity, it was hard to move out of the mindset of holding our ground to get back into an aggressive expansion mode.”

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