Is It Worth It? Building a Model for Strategic Engagement ROI

I’ve been a strategic advisor to professional services firm leaders now for two decades, and have helped a hundred organizations (and many hundreds of individual leaders) to level up their game – and their results.  So, it’s not hard from my vantage point to see the direct connection between our engagements (strategic planning, growth strategy, leadership experience, team engagement) and the transformation of business they deliver. Dream. Plan. Do. Win.  I don’t need to be convinced. Still, I understand and appreciate the concern (and even skepticism) of many firm owners and executives.  Most have experienced less than ideal results in these projects.  Poor process, […]

Of Endings and New Beginnings Alike

A few years back, one of my professional mentors, David Newman (of Do It! Marketing fame), suggested that all of us in a mastermind group send out a message to our communities with a year-end offer. The basic idea was to take advantage of a handful of possible motivations for action:  capturing otherwise unused budget funds, acceleration of payments for tax mitigation, and/or alignment with year-end (or new year) planning cycles. Candidly, I was skeptical.  Most of our clients and prospects are independently owned professional services firms – architecture, engineering, planning, scientific.  These are not the typical businesses of corporate America, driven by quarterly […]

The Professional Employee Experience Today – Part 1

Across the markets of design, planning, and the technical professions, labor remains scarce – and true talent even scarcer.  Moreover, population demographics, educational trends, and a hyper-competitive employment environment suggest that this will not change – perhaps for decades.  In the professional firm, people are – and will be – the key. So, keeping the company’s staff focused, fulfilled, and engaged will remain job #1 for all executives.  Many are doing quite a lot in this area, but – despite the effort – real progress isn’t always obvious.  Note, in particular, Gallup’s annual survey of employee engagement (across the whole American workforce) – which […]

Something Amazing This Way Comes

Each year about this time, I am yet again reminded of just how short our time is.  This year will soon end as the others have – whether I’ve accomplished my big goals or not.  Lots of things to do, and less and less time left to do them.  Projects to be finished (and some still to be started) and much, much more.  I’ll be on airplanes nearly non-stop for six more weeks, along with family and community responsibilities too.  The holiday season is ahead of course as well – and we’re also waiting now to welcome a new grandchild into our family! Ironically, it’s […]

Pushing Hard for the Extraordinary – Right Now

What does it take to be a truly extraordinary professional firm?  What does performance and success look like for those who push beyond the current baseline to 2X?  And what about further still – the transformative success of 5X or 10X.  Who are the extraordinary leaders of these professional firms right now, and what are their secrets? I can certainly report on what is not extraordinary today.  It’s not about being busy – even busier than you’ve ever been before.  While still a blessing, virtually all firms (most average, and even below average businesses) are busy today.  And it’s not about winning more work than you […]

A New, 21st Century Golden Age

Running a professional firm (even a really good one) is exhausting.  There’s a constant expectation to perform, grow, and improve.  Each day is a journey – and often a battle.  Encouragement is necessary, as is courage.  So, here’s a little different thought for today – on what may very well lie ahead:   “I believe we’re now in a golden age for the professional design and construction industry.” Although I’d like to own this take, credit must first go to my friend and colleague Gerry Salontai – who served it up a while back at a GeoProfessional Business Association Crystal Ball (Futures) Workshop we were involved […]

A Prescription – for Trouble?

Everywhere you listen in today, there are conversations about work from home.  New virus cases are waning, vaccine progress is accelerating, and pandemic restrictions are rapidly loosening.  Business leaders are wrestling with the path forward – what work should look like in three months, or six – or next year.  From what I see, most of these efforts are off track. Here’s what I think:  If your work from home discussions today include the word policy  – you’re probably doing it wrong. Let’s unpack this a bit. Before the pandemic, I’d noticed for a while a shift in how some viewed the firm and work.  In assessment-related discussions […]

“I’ll Call You in Ten … “

Many years ago, I worked with the leaders of a mountain west engineering firm on strategic planning – crafting a new vision, brand image, and business plan for the organization.  On that day, the subject matter at hand was responsiveness, and specifically the client service level performance level the gang would pursue. Their debate centered around the promise of “returning all calls within one business day.”  Some thought this performance was doable; others were convinced it wasn’t. My thought was that actually achieving that standard would be excellent – but that the message itself wasn’t much different from other competitors. Lots of professionals have trouble envisioning real-time […]

“We’ll See You on the Other Side.”

The Apollo 8 Saturn Five rocket launched from Cape Canaveral on December 21, 1968.  Baby boomers like me remember in particular the anticipation and excitement of this mission: it would be the first manned flight to travel to the moon and back. And indeed, after nearly three days in space, the Apollo crew of three approached the Moon, and prepared for lunar orbit.  Anticipating the upcoming point that they’d be briefly out of sight (and fully alone) on the far side, Mission Control relayed that the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI-1) move was ‘a go,’ and that the astronauts were “riding the best […]

Reimagining Strategic Planning Today

When the late, great recession first arrived, most companies set aside their long range strategic planning efforts altogether.  In the beginning this was simple survival; urgent matters came first.  Later a persistent unease (or fear) of uncertainty paralyzed many a leader and organization.  I spent the next five years railing about how wrong this thinking was – provoking firm leaders to tap again into the powerful, overarching questions of mission, vision, and enterprise strategy –  those highest level objectives that really matter most.  “In times like these, more planning is needed, not less,” I implored.  And indeed, eventually, most leaders did again reengage with strategic planning.  We’ve been […]