F R OM T H E F O U N D E R
Think like a client of your firm
I f you really want to improve the quality of the work your firm puts out as well as improve the “client experience,” you need to learn to think like your clients. No matter how you do it, getting inside your clients’ brains is crucial to your long-term success.
Sure, there are some tried and true methods for doing this. One way is to go hire someone from a client organization. We have all probably done that at some point and it is a good way to get insight into what your clients really want from their architects, engineers, and allied professionals. For example, it’s common for firms that serve DOT clients to hire people out of the DOT, or firms that do K-12 projects to hire former school superintendents. Another way to get inside the clients’ heads is to bring in outside board members who come from client organizations. I have served on a number of boards of directors in privately-held AEC firms where one or more of my fellow BOD members came from a large client of the firm. Those included retired people from Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, former secretaries of transportation, and many other large buyers of their services. I can’t tell you how helpful that intelligence and linkage was to the AEC firms whose BODs they
were on. In some cases they helped secure work. In other cases, they helped set the priorities for the project and acted as intermediaries when problems developed. But there are also some other ways to learn more about what clients actually want and need. Becoming a developer and contractor myself after a long career on the architecture and engineering side of the business certainly opened my eyes. I found myself much more concerned about fees from my providers than I ever thought I would be. “Soft costs” become much more important when construction costs are as hard to control as they are. One of the most innovative ways to get inside your clients’ heads (along with a good way to spread that knowledge throughout your firm) was pioneered by the late Steve Schein at the former Sumner Schein
See MARK ZWEIG, page 12
THE ZWEIG LETTER FEBRUARY 28, 2022, ISSUE 1430
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