Empowerment by Design Series: Maximize ROI by Maintaining Discipline

Employing a clear “go/no-go” decision-making process will help maintain discipline and lead to greater ROI.

by Steve Whitehorn

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in the Empowerment by Design series by Steve Whitehorn of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc., providing A/E professionals with practical tips for a more successful, profitable practice.

During the worst years of the sluggish economy many firms took absolutely any work they could get in order to keep afloat. As the economy improves architects are finally beginning to see the projects flowing in, and again, the temptation is the same — grab up any projects possible in order to grow the firm and increase the bottom line.

So why should a firm resist the temptation– isn’t all work good work? The short and the long answer for firms concerned about their ROI and reputation is no! The principle for both fat and lean times remains the same: maintain discipline.

Exercise a simple go, no-go decision-making process to maintain discipline and adhere to the firm’s objectives.  Go/no-go is a term that comes from the tool and die trade, and refers to a simple gauge tool used to test a workpiece- there are only two outcomes: go or “go/no-go”.  When selecting work for a firm the two most important considerations to test with “go/no-go” strategy are client selection and project selection.  The criteria evaluating clients and projects must be grounded on the firm’s goals. Here are some pointers for maintaining discipline in your practice.

Establishing Goals

Firms should establish clear financial and reputational goals and stick to them. Principals should have a shared design philosophy, and a clear vision of how the firm should present itself in the marketplace.  Determine the firm’s financial goals – make the 1-year and 5-year plans. Be pro-active and creative in meeting financial goals but above all maintain the discipline to stick to the firm’s established standards.

Client Selection

Establish common ground with potential clients – make certain they share the firm’s values and motivation. Does the owner have the money to do project, and realistic expectations? Is the contract reasonable and have timely payment terms? Does the contract make the architect responsible for contractor performance, or design changes? Is the client known to be litigious?

Project Selection 

Project selection should be based on a thorough ROI evaluation based on both financial and reputational goals. Is this a project that fits within our firm’s creative vision? Has the firm done this kind of work before? Do we have the capacity? Can we do a good job and meet our financial goals?

If a firm has established clear goals and maintains the discipline to stick to those goals, making a decision on a project can be as simple as “go/no-go”.

Steve Whitehorn is the author of the upcoming book, Empowerment by Design and creator of The A/E Empowerment Program.® He is also Managing Principal of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc., which helps its clients create a more significant legacy and empowers them to achieve greater impact on their projects, relationships, and communities.

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