I'm sitting in my beautiful hotel room at the St. Regis Aspen Resort now, the day after The 13th Annual Zweig Letter Hot Firm Conference and Awards Celebration.
The last several days were energizing, as they always are. Spending time with the founders, CEOs, and top principals of the 100 fastest-growing design and environmental firms is a chance to listen and learn from the people who are making it happen in spite of a weak economy – probably the worst recession we've had in 30 years.
Many of those in attendance were civil engineers who also happened to be their firms' CEOs. I have always thought dirt engineers make some of the best entrepreneurs/managers of all engineering disciplines. While they are schooled in the basics, they aren't as black and white as some other disciplines tend to be and also understand shades of grey. That can be helpful when it comes to running a business!
Here were some other notes I made from the presentations made by civil engineer/CEOs in attendance that I thought were good pointers on how to be successful in this business:
- If business is tough and pay cuts have to be made, take them at the top first.
- When business is down, spend more on marketing.
- Make decisions to cut bad offices/units quickly.
- Use open book management –good times and bad – to help create an “ownership culture” in your organization.
- Defuse conflicts of key people – it's a cancer you cannot let grow.
- Setting a vision for your organization (articulating what you are trying to become) is critical! It is the CEO's job to communicate it.
- A purpose-driven mission inspires clients, staff, and media.
- Be focused and never forget your niche.
- You may be a leader/manager, but don't forget you are also a professional. Getting too disconnected from the projects, clients, and staff is bad.
- Don't paint yourself into a corner – always have contingency plans.
I thought these were some good pointers that all of us can learn from! Enjoy our November issue of CE News and please share your feedback with us.
Mark C. Zweig