Our businesses need the same care we are giving ourselves to remain healthy and viable in the year ahead!
I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. If something is a good idea to do, it should be done no matter what time of the year it is. But nevertheless, maybe with the holiday downtime – when everything quiets down and we have a chance to do a little introspection – it’s normal to come up with a list of things you want to change about yourself or how you are running your business.
If you are like most owners or managers of A/E firms, you aren’t alone. The problems you are facing are also being dealt with by most other companies in the business. We are operating in a period of great uncertainty. The road ahead looks bumpy – at least for a few years. Here are some things I would be doing to meet the challenges of 2021 if I were you:
- Do a new business plan. Now, more than ever, it’s time to document your thinking on what the future will be for your business. Make sure your future vision and goals are still viable. Decide what changes you have to make to reduce costs and create more efficiency. Commit to constant monitoring and reporting of how the company is doing and what the trends are showing, as well as a process for quickly making changes in the business to reflect those trends.
- Raise prices. I just commented on a LinkedIn article I read yesterday that was all about managing project budgets in an A/E firm. Now in my 41st year in this industry, my belief is we would all be a lot better off if we spent the time we are spending managing too-small project budgets looking for new clients who will pay better fees, and doing other things that will allow us to earn better fees. Getting paid well is more important than ever, especially if the overall volume stays flat or is going down. Focus on getting paid for what you know (value pricing) versus just what you do (effort expended).
- Do something for your best people to keep them going. You are more vulnerable than ever to losing good people. They are likely more mentally separated from the company just because either they or their teams are not all working in the office together every day. Maybe now is the time to make new ownership offers? Maybe some people deserve a raise even though most others in the firm may not get one and owners may have to take a pay cut. At a minimum, you had best show a keen interest in how your best people are doing and where they are mentally so you keep them on board throughout 2021.
- Put down that phone for some period of time every day. It’s become more apparent to me throughout 2020 that our phones – while truly amazing tools for finding information and communicating with other people – are the greatest single source of distraction that is hurting our ability to focus on anything that takes some mental concentration. So create some “phone-free” time every day when people know you may not be able to respond instantly to them as you have done in the past. You will get more done and feel better if you can pull this one off.
- Make a better effort to communicate with your people. Alienation, fear, anxiety – these feelings and more are widespread in your employees today. You need to be sure they aren’t misinformed and have a full understanding of where you stand and what the company is doing to meet the challenges you are dealing with. This is where open-book management really becomes more crucial than ever before and also where your people skills will either shine or evidence their deficiency.
- Commit a certain amount of time every week to talk to your clients. This cannot be overemphasized. You need to fully understand how your clients are doing and what they need your help with. You may need to make changes in your offerings. You may need to add new services and capabilities to better help your clients. Pick up that phone. Send out those emails. Set up those Zoom calls. Allocate a certain amount of time to this effort by scheduling it in your calendar.
Look – I’m sure we could all add to this list of things we need to do in 2021. I’m sure many of us have resolutions to exercise more, change our diets, and work on our bad habits, but don’t forget our companies have a life of their own. They need the same care we are giving ourselves to remain healthy and viable in the year ahead!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.