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The Truth about becoming an Owner in the AEC Industry

<strong>The Truth about becoming an Owner in the AEC Industry</strong>

By Ezequiel Tovar

What does it mean to be an owner at your firm? It’s lonely at the top–or so they say.  When was the last time you asked?  When was the last time you had the opportunity to ask? In my time at Zweig Group, I have had the opportunity to meet with numerous owners and observe traits that make a principal worthy of their title, but also the realities that come with the title. Here are some truths I’ve picked along the way:

  1. They lead by example. Being a good owner means leading by example every day.  All eyes are on you. This is a crucial piece that not everyone understands until they are in a similar position.  In many situations, there isn’t a need for words, and the examples leaders set during these situations go a long way in establishing their character. Decisions and actions can tell us a lot about a person. This also means that principles are put in the spotlight every day.  They say pressure makes diamonds, but it makes coal as well.  A leader’s responses and actions will determine which they are.
  2. There is a tremendous sense of responsibility to take care of their people. People are our greatest asset in the AEC industry. Good employees are the building block of any successful firm. They make the firm function and evolve. A principal that understands that their responsibility is not only for the care and development of their people, but are also the main source of their employee’s livelihood, scales their responsibility, while also understanding the ramifications of incorrect decisions. Principals that lead wisely by assuming their responsibility fully are exceedingly more successful because they go above and beyond to support their employees.
  3. Principals that take the time to be genuinely honest and transparent with their staff will be more successful. Limited information leads to speculation and poor results. Owners that bring their employees to the table and help them truly understand the financial status of the company and the current direction of the firm will win over the hearts and respect of their people. This takes action into a whole different level.
  4. Minority Owners, principals that own less than 51 percent of the company, must be comfortable knowing that you’re not going to be at the table for every decision. Knowing you have made an investment in an entity that has the potential to grow as well as return an annual cash flow stream to the owners and firm, is an added benefit, but there are questions you need to ask to understand how to be productive to the return on your investment. Comprehending how your firm deals with corporate governance among all the owners is one of the most important things you need to know before you accept being a principal. 
  5. Principals set the tone of the company. Creating something worthwhile takes effort and consistent dedication. What if owners of firms proactively thought about how to make their employees and clients happier? How different would firms be? Principals have the power to build or tear their culture by setting objectives that don’t provide value to their employees or clients. 

Ownership is empowerment. By embracing ownership, you have the power to shape the direction and culture of your firm. You become an integral part of the decision-making process, allowing your voice to be heard on matters that impact the business and its people. The ability to drive change and make meaningful contributions empowers you to create a positive work environment and paves the way for success. Ownership is something to be earned. In order to Elevate the Industry, we need more and more upcoming principals to understand and be ready to lead by example, responsibility, honesty, and compassion.