50 Tips to THRIVE in 2024

Gregory Hart
Posted on: 01/26/24
Written by: Gregory Hart

It all started in 1974. The average home price in the United States was $38,000, Barbra Streisand was at the top of the charts with The Way We Were, and Skittles made their debut! More than that, It was also when PSMJ got its start with the essential business management update for architects and engineers – Professional Services Management Journal – that is still the go-to resource for the most successful firm leaders.

To recognize and celebrate 50 years of improving the business performance of A/E/C organizations worldwide, we’re already looking forward to how we can help you grow and prosper over the next 50 years. To this end, throughout 2024, we’ll be publishing this blog series – 50 @ 50 – filled with thought-provoking questions, action-oriented tips, bold predictions, and much more to help you and your firm achieve the most possible success in the next 50 years.   

As 2024 gets underway, here are 50 quick tips to THRIVE in 2024 (and beyond) on everything from project management to ownership transition to business development:

1.    Get projects out of trouble faster by creating a Forensic Risk Register, summarizing items delivered versus offered in proposal and the cost impacts.
2.    End virtual meetings five minutes before the top of the hour. Everyone will thank you.
3.    Get your firm transaction-ready even if you aren’t considering selling.
4.    Find your tech evangelists, give them a mission, and set aside one day/week for 90 days for them to produce a set of tech recommendations.
5.    When evaluating individual performance, look at revenue factor (direct labor multiplier x utilization rate) not just utilization.
6.    If you are looking to acquire, don’t get hung up on whether a firm is actively for sale. Some of the best ones aren’t.
7.    Brainstorm your clients’ top five challenges and start a webinar series focused on these (that is pull-through marketing).
8.    Wake up 30 minutes earlier and use that time to set the tone for the day’s objectives.
9.    Stop asking for resumes from top potential talent…that’s old school and a turn-off for top performers.
10.    Stand up when presenting virtually. You’ll seem much more engaging.
11.    Manage work-from-home (WFH) days just like PTO (e.g. employees get XX WFH days/year).
12.    Start adding a Project Restart Fee to your contracts (even if you don’t always enforce it).
13.    Conduct a post-selection debrief for projects you won to find out what promises were actually bought.
14.    Set up a process for regularly conducting client feedback surveys with strategic and non-strategic clients (not just at the end of a project).
15.    Send an invoice template at project inception to flesh out any possible administrative issues that will slow payment.
16.    Instead of saying ‘no’ to a potential client, speak with your fees.
17.    Conduct 15-minute stay interviews with your top 20% employees.
18.    Schedule a monthly stand-up strategic plan implementation huddle and hold people publicly accountable for execution of their tasks.
19.    Get three of your firm’s past proposals and re-write them with AI. Any better?
20.    Have lunch with every new hire after their first 90 days.
21.    Don’t just bury new hires with onboarding paperwork on Day 1. Get them meeting, observing, and immersing in your culture.
22.    Use a ‘parking lot’ for any day-to-day management issues that arise in a strategic planning retreat (they often aren’t strategic at all).
23.    Get every Principal to list five ‘rock stars’ who you need to recruit and start marketing to them.
24.    Go deeper than college-level career fairs. Start a program with local high schools to expose students to A/E career paths.
25.    Raise your fees by 1% and profits will increase by much more than that.
26.    Want more CRM adoption in your firm? Screenshot and circulate a new project and lead list for the week and congratulate PMs and Principals on new jobs and leads in the CRM system.
27.    Find a way to get every single employee involved in strategic planning (even if by providing feedback in a survey).
28.    Pay a $250 spot bonus to any employee who goes above and beyond (and let everyone know about it).
29.    Use retainers on small (or all) projects to improve your accounts receivable collection rate.
30.    Talking to a potential acquirer? Ask to speak with CEOs of their past acquisitions. That’ll tell you everything about their culture.
31.    Don’t set a budget for pay raises. Instead, set a target direct labor rate per hour and make adjustments to each individual employee to achieve that target.
32.    Hold a firmwide half-day hackathon to foster new ideas on tech tools, bottleneck busters, and more. Look for who rises to the challenge.
33.    Offer a one-day complimentary consulting session to your top ten clients from last year.
34.    Bring on an outside Director to your Board of Directors. A good one will rock your world.
35.    Measure cultural fit before strategic or financial fit on your next acquisition. If culture is a no-go, no strategic thesis or valuation is going to make it work.
36.    Start measuring your employee Net Promoter Score twice per year.
37.    Get rid of that underperforming employee (everyone around that person is wondering why it is taking you so long).
38.    Create an internal ownership plan even if your primary goal is an external sale.
39.    If you’re serious about equity, provide training and advancement support and opportunities that cater to the individual and their needs.
40.    Get a formal valuation of your firm. It can drive strategy, transition, and other critical investments.
41.    Don’t gift stock in your A/E/C firm. People often value it based on what they paid for it. Instead, build an equity-based incentive comp program.
42.    Designate a Chief Pricing Officer to regularly review and adjust your firm’s fees.
43.    Use Facebook and Instagram to sell your firm’s culture to prospective employees (and LinkedIn to show your expertise to prospective clients).
44.    Establish a formal AI policy that serves as the playbook for your firm.
45.    Don’t offer ownership to groups of employees in batches. It should be a 1:1 invitation.
46.    Thinking of an acquisition this year? Don’t acquire more than 20% of your size.
47.    Set a target to start pricing more projects on value (but manage them on cost) even if you need to use mini-scoping.
48.    Don’t think fewer hours using tech means lower fees. A faster solution should translate into higher value.
49.    Set up a schedule for new employees to meet executives from other teams for coffee. Both sides will love it.
50.    Send handwritten ‘thank you’ notes to potential clients, hires, and anyone who goes above and beyond.

We couldn’t be more excited to see what the next 50 years holds for the A/E/C industry. In upcoming posts, we’ll be digging into some bold predictions about the future of the industry, questions that you should be asking right now, and so much more. Onward!

PSMJ Resources, Inc.

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