“We’re on the Road to Nowhere. Come on inside, we’ll take that ride.” — Talking Heads
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” — Anonymous
It is June, and construction and design work is on the upswing. Summer helps the lion’s share of this country’s economy. From the quotes above, you might think I am again getting on my soapbox about funding our crumbling infrastructure, but not this month. No, I think this is the time firms should be thinking about their immediate and near (three to four years) future.
Some essential things include a full and clearly stated ideology and definition of what the firm is uniquely about. They are:
• A Strategic Plan with tactics, milestones, performance metrics, sales or business development goals, and the methods to measure each.
• A Strategic Direction that clearly states where and what the firm expects to accomplish by following their Strategic Plan.
• A Core Purpose that states why this firm should exist at all, both today and 50 years into the future. Making money, getting wealthy, growing bigger, achieving recognition, etc. are not reasons for a firm to survive into the last of this century or into the next. IBM’s “Build a Smarter Planet” comes to mind.
• A Stated Philosophy of how your firm sees itself. As an example, my firm’s philosophy is, “We find outstanding professionals and give them freedom and support to do what they do best.” It has been in place for 38 years! I believe it has been a positive factor in seeking and retaining great employees.
• A Vision Statement that tells employees, perspective employees, your peers, and your clients the expectations you are striving to achieve. It does help for everyone to know where you hope and expect to be.
• A clear and fully defined Statement of Values that are essential, critical, and at the heart and soul of your firm that makes it tick. These need to be written out with explicit definitions and posted on every employee’s desk or wall — I would say tattooed on their forehead, but I do get carried away on values. One example from DEA: “Honesty. We must be scrupulously truthful with our clients, our co-workers, and ourselves in our professional and personal actions.” I like to think all our employees are doing their best toward living that value.
There are surely additional elements that create the personality and specialness of our civil and structural engineering firms, but if your firm has all of the above, well, you are not on the Road to Nowhere. You will be able to state clearly to all, you do know where you are going.
David Evans, P.E., PLS, F.ASCE, is the founder (1976) and a member of the board of David Evans Enterprises, Inc., the holding company for David Evans and Associates (www.deainc.com), and the author of “Achieving Zero,” a book on the life of the firm. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org