How to Identify Your Future A/E Firm Principals

PSMJ Resources, Inc.
Posted on: 07/09/19
Written by: PSMJ Resources, Inc.


The first step in identifying future principals in your architecture or engineering firm is for you to consider what characteristics your firm
needs in future principals.

That's right! What your firm needs in a successful principal should take precedence over any consideration of individuals.

The typical characteristics of your future principals should be the skill sets most beneficial to your firm's success.

Some of these characteristics can be related to the size of your firm.
Small firms generally require the most successful principals to be very versatile. Some marketing, some production and some administration (such as hiring and reviewing staff) may be parts of the job description for a successful principal.

In larger firms, principals may be more specialized in successfully performing their job. Also, how a firm contracts its projects may be a factor. A firm that uses extensive subcontractors may need a principal who can manage remote staff (the subcontractor) more than in-house management.

A firm’s technical and market specialties may also play a role. A firm doing a variety of work all in one geographic area may need principals who are better at community networking and relationship building. A firm that specializes in a particular project type in all geographic areas needs principals who are more focused on associations and particular technical skills for success.

The first step can be described as defining the success factors that will describe a successful principal.
Then you should make these criteria known to your staff. That’s right! You should provide this as the job description for promotion to principal.

After all, you cannot expect your staff to develop (or showcase) these skills unless they know the factors that will help them get promoted to principal.

Once you have this, you are better prepared to evaluate those future principals in your firm, and to have an objective basis for elevating (or not elevating) them to the role of principal.

A/E firm principal is a position with specific duties that contribute to the growth of your firm, and should not be a personality or likability or seniority-driven selection. 

You should have a broad description of what skills will define the successful candidate for the job. Only in this way will you minimize the possible errors that will hinder your firm’s future because the selected principals do not have the skills to make the firm successful.

Choosing the wrong principals can be a traumatic experience as well as a costly experience. Remember, define the skill sets useful for a successful principal and then let your staff know what it needs to do to rise to that level in your firm.


PSMJ_2019-Senior-Executive-Forum_MV-editedIs your firm's growth plan a vague wish, or a clearly defined map you can actually use? Every firm has goals–whether written or nebulous ideas in the minds of top principals. But only by converting those goals into a plan can you unleash growth forces and direct your energy efficiently.  Without a structured, documented, and communicated plan, your firm is rudderless.

Frank Stasiowski

On September 16-19, a select group of senior A/E/C firm leaders from across North America will gather in beautiful Martha's Vineyard for Breakthrough Growth  Planning  Strategies:  A PSMJ Senior Executive Forum,  a frank and open exploration of the decisions that drive growth and how to make the winning call every time, led by PSMJ Founder and CEO Frank A. Stasiowski, FAIA. But, you won’t just be hitting those nails with the same old hammer. In this completely confidential and candid setting, Frank turns traditional thinking on its ear.

Register Now!

You also might be interested in these blog posts by Frank A. Stasiowski:

Why Value Pricing is the Only Way to Survive

Classic Mistakes: 3 Steps To Lose a Client

What’s So Special About Writing a Proposal?

How to Maximize Profits With Value Pricing



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