Discarding an entire year’s worth of results may be an even greater barrier to future success than our current circumstances.
Today marks both the scheduled release date for our 2020 Financial Performance Survey of AEC Firms as well as the deadline to apply for our 2020 awards program, and in some ways for us, the confluence of these two events also means the true conclusion of 2019. Reviewing early drafts of the survey results and the inspiring achievements submitted for awards from the confines of my home office has been surreal if not somewhat melancholy. The numbers are incredible. Industry-wide median profit last year was so strong that our brackets defining “average profit” and “high profit” would be called into question, should the second quarter of this year not have reminded us why we keep benchmarks supported by decades of research steady. AEC firms were busy, delivering another year of solid backlog and high efficiency metrics, while collections held steady and working capital strong.
Last week, a client commented that the annual bundle of surveys they purchased earlier in the year was essentially worthless to them post-COVID. Another client said they decided not to enter our Best Firms To Work For program this year because it’s not the time to compare themselves to other firms. It’s a shame. There’s so much to learn from what your firm does well and playing to your strengths during a time when many firms feel that they have less margin for error than they’re comfortable with. Discarding an entire year’s worth of results and constant improvement may be an even greater barrier to future success than our current circumstances. Further, there’s a great deal of risk in deciding to operate blindly until things get back to normal, though the optimism is admirable. There is also a lot to be said for benchmarking as a discipline or a commitment; an ongoing process that is continuously relied upon to guide strategic decisions and avoid reactionary outcomes in uncertain times while also setting forth the goals that should be cause for recognition of a job well done in times of success.
Finally, yes, 2019 is behind us, but what a remarkable year it was. If we stop celebrating the results of our hard work as an industry, we lose a powerful force of determination. Choose instead to learn everything you can about a fascinating situation that can teach us so much about what it takes to run a successful business.
Jamie Claire Kiser is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.