At the most recent roundtable, CEOs were asked to identify their top challenges for 2008. Here are the top seven:
- Making sure we keep our pipeline full of new work in the face of economic slowdown
- Keeping cash flowing while our clients operating expenses rise sharply
- Protecting the investment that we've made in young staff by providing them with interesting work and a solid career path
- Clients seem to be taking forever to pay our invoices
- Our PMs are not getting paid enough for change orders
- Figuring out how to diversify our service offerings and client base to mitigate economic risk
- Sustaining the growth we've experienced over the last few years
Notable by its absence is any mention of the difficulty of finding qualified staff. This has been the top concern among A/E firm principals for the last few years according to surveys by ZweigWhite and ACEC. That doesn't mean the problem has gone away, although many firms are laying off staff. But it does suggest a substantial shift in thinking in light of current economic conditions--even among firms that are still doing well.
Downturns do have their benefits. They tend to force us to reflect on our core strategy and operational practices, making needed changes that might be neglected in good times. Granted, some firms take reactionary steps that are poor choices for the long term. But the best firms will often emerge even stronger from times like these. So what are you thinking about the business these days?