“Don’t guard the financial information. Don’t have secrets or hidden agendas. When you screw up, admit it and apologize.”
Every so often I have a lot I want to share, but no single topic is enough to devote a full article’s worth of space to. This is one of those times! Here you go:
- Twitter as a social media tool. I have written a lot about social media in these pages recently because it takes up so much of our collective time and mental energy. One platform that I think is too often passed over by people in the A/E business is Twitter. I really like Twitter. It’s a good distribution channel for your other social media posts and blogs created by your thought leaders. It is also a good way for people who can write a little – but struggle with writing a lot – to make a connection with influencers and those who could directly hire their firm. It can be a great news source for any topic you want to follow. You can also ingratiate yourself with clients and potential clients by liking and sharing their posts. Check it out. My Twitter handle is @MarkZweig and I share a lot of stuff from our firm, myself, and a variety of others that I think you may find valuable. I have made some amazing connections with people I could never access otherwise thanks to Twitter.
- Getting away from giving it away. Architects by and large are being asked to give away way too much to sell a job. Between outright requests for a certain number of free concepts, to design competitions with 20 other firms, design firms are getting abused by larger clients and in many cases, not only giving their best creative thinking away but also letting competitors take their concepts and run with them if and when the project turns into a real job. I encourage firms to say “no,” and instead tell clients that they won’t get the best out of the design firm that way and should instead pay for a one- or two-day design charrette where their top people work with the design firm’s best people to do something really good that is tuned into their real needs. I know for a fact that many clients will shell out $7,500-$20,000 to do that if asked to, and the results of a session like this will undoubtedly be better than concept schemes cooked up based on a rudimentary written program sent out to the whole world. But you will never get this unless you ask and are willing to say “no” if the client doesn’t go for it.
- Videos as a marketing tool. As our attention span and reading abilities decline, videos are becoming more and more popular in marketing for A/E firms. Are you using them effectively? Maybe instead of asking your best people to write, when they are reluctant writers at best, you could be better off recording an interview with them on a topic. That video, in whole or in part, can then be shared on your website and through a wide variety of social media platforms. With iPhones having such great cameras, you don’t need any special equipment if you think that is a barrier. Editing is easy with widely available software.
- It is time to kick up marketing NOW. I saw a polling of CFOs recently that said 98 percent of them think we will have a recession some time this year. Not only are we overdue if normal economic cycles bear out, but it’s also an election year and slowdowns are typical. In any case, we all know that selling work in this business takes time. That long cycle says you better get on it right now so when things slow down you have more opportunities that you are in line for than you would normally think you need. We have all been lulled into thinking this boom economy for the design and construction industry will last forever. That is making us lazy and complacent. But it won’t. It never does. So start preparing now by over-investing in marketing activities and expenditures.
- Building trust as a leader. It starts with honesty and lots of sharing. That means you have to be yourself. You can’t put on a front. And no one will trust you if they don’t like you. So be humble and self-deprecating. If someone asks you a question about something that the firm is doing or considering doing, tell them the truth. Be willing to share your thinking about options you may be considering. Don’t guard the financial information. Don’t have secrets or hidden agendas. When you screw up, admit it and apologize. If you give your word, keep it. All of those things will affect whether or not other people trust you. And that trust is crucial if you want the commitment and support of your people.
- Counteroffers are normal practice. It’s a fact that with the labor shortage in this business, nearly anyone who goes to turn their notice in will get counter-offered and pressured and guilted into staying where they are by their current employers. If you are making job offers to anyone who is currently employed, you have to prepare them either when you make the offer (or even before you do) to receive a counteroffer. Warn them that it will happen Ask why the company didn’t do more for them before they held a gun to their head by trying to leave. And warn them that once they accept a counteroffer, their employer won’t ever feel the same about them and will most likely start looking for their replacement. Get them ready to say “no” before it happens to them! And one more thing. Don’t give people too long to make a decision. No one needs a week or two to say “yay” or “nay” to your offer. The more time you give, the greater the odds they will turn you down for a wide variety of reasons.
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.