The real keys to success for an AEC business

These seven things are crucial to your success:

  1. Belief that it is possible. Nothing good will happen without believing that it CAN happen! After 38 years in this business, I can tell you there are people who don’t think success is probable, or even worse, that it is possible in this business. That’s terrible. I see the same negative attitude in some of the professors who teach design professionals. That’s really bad!
  2. High prices. High prices – not great project management – are essential to being profitable. There’s only so much you can do with a mediocre fee to get the job done well and make a profit. Management can’t overcome a low fee. But a nice, fat fee – that’s another matter.
  3. Culture of hard work pays off. Besides high fees, the other way to make money in this business is to have a lot of billable hours. And the way to get that is to have a culture that rewards those who create the “products” you sell (plans and specs). And those who make it to the top work the hours required to make everyone else feel like they should do the same. There just isn’t any way to get everyone else to work overtime if the owners never do it. Lots of hours – sorry if you don’t want to hear it.
  4. Engaged leaders who still work in their fields. That means architects are doing architecture and engineers are doing engineering. No one is just a pure paper pusher. And these people need to love what they do so they can inspire everyone else to do the same.
  5. Lots of great young people. Youth brings energy, optimism, spark, and new technological and design knowledge. We all need that. Besides, they work cheaper than people who have been doing it a long time. If you can train them and make them productive, they will be your most profitable people.
  6. A brand that means something in the marketplace. Nine times out of 10 creating a great brand doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because you made a deliberate and sustained effort to create one. It takes money and a lot of discipline – as well as a lot of introspection and powers of observation.
  7. Organization. You can’t build – and get a lot done – if you are disorganized. This applies to every aspect of the firm’s operations – marketing, finance, accounting, IT, file management, HR – all of it needs to be organized and efficient at doing what it’s supposed to do.

I could probably come up with 77 if the space were available to me, but it isn’t. So enjoy the rest of this issue and have a great week!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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Posted in Articles | August 13th, 2018 by