AEC leaders, owners, and executives are often flooded with decisions. With so much time spent pursuing work, managing operations, and keeping a firm running smoothly, how can they be sure they are making a positive impact on customers and the workforce? Regardless of plans or lack thereof for the next 30 years, there are key steps senior decision-makers can take today to ensure they are positioned for a better future tomorrow.
 

 
Unanet Infocenter

What Is a Legacy In AEC?

A legacy is any important action or deed that, when completed, creates a lasting positive impact on a person or group. Leaving a legacy means that good things happen in a company because of positive leadership and making the right decisions. For an AEC firm, “leaving a legacy” means that your positive influence is remembered, honored, and still being experienced and felt by others long after you are gone.

How to Leave Your Legacy

You don’t need to hand down your family business to future generations to leave a mark on the industry. An impactful legacy can be felt by others regardless of the end result. Whether you close up shop, change business strategies completely, grow, retire, or “plan to not have a plan,” the actions you take and the decisions you make right now are creating your legacy—like it or not. Below are simple steps you can take today to influence your legacy tomorrow.

1. Start with a purpose

If you’ve been thinking about how to leave a positive legacy, start with a purpose. Think of your purpose as the foundation on which your legacy is built. Why do you exist? Your company purpose—or mission statement—should guide every business decision you make. Most importantly, it should encourage and inspire others to think and behave in a similar fashion. This mission statement will influence the company-wide culture, which helps define the future legacy.

2. Outline your strategy

Having a solid company strategy in place can guide your decisions now and in the future. Outlining and defining goals, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and what it will take to achieve them can shape the legacy you leave tomorrow. Remember that in the end, you’re not just building your own legacy; you're building a legacy for your clients and employees—the people who serve as the framework for your firm’s success.

3. Focus on people

Every aspect of the legacy you’re building involves people—both customers and employees alike. Ask yourself if you’re focused on relationships and on helping clients and workers thrive. You’re in the businesss of projects, and people are at the center of their success or failure. Put relationships and people first and good things will surely follow.

4. Practice being a positive influence

Leaders must know who they are, what they stand for, and what they believe in to have a positive impact on their team and the customers they serve. A good leader learns from their mistakes by acknowledging them, learning from them, and making changes that encourage growth.

5. Create a Memorable Customer Experience

Your best customers will never forget a positive experience with your company. This can create opportunities for growth across your organization. Conduct regular customer and industry surveys to gain insight into trends, attitudes, and opinions of your audience. Generate high-value AEC research to help firms become more efficient. Also, continue to provide superior service in a professional and friendly way. Take the time to make customers feel appreciated by checking in on occasion or offering help. Most importantly, know your business better than anyone else. This will enable you to make smarter decisions that impact your employees and customers, making the best use of their time and effort.

6. Cultivate a Culture of Growth

Prioritize your growth and sales pipeline, as these are the factors that will directly impact your bottom line. According to Unanet’s Fall 2021 AEC Inspire Report, firms are prioritizing profitability above all other key performance indicators.

If you are continually focused on growth, employees will follow your lead. You may start to make more creative decisions that enhance the experience create for your clients and prospects. You’ll be focused on nurturing relationships, which can allow your firm to win more pursuits and gain more repeat work. Having a growth mindset isn’t just about profitability, however—it's also about fostering the right environment to retain talent and providing opportunities for your employees to learn new skills.

7. Value Your Employees

The resource shortage in AEC is becoming increasingly detrimental, especially amidst a global pandemic. But what about the employees you already have? What can you do to retain the existing talent that is helping your firm meet exceedingly difficult business goals?

Research has shown that low employee engagement can have crippling effects on company profits. High employee morale can result in more productive work, better go/no-go decisions, and higher sales. When a company values its employees, the response is a workforce that responds with loyalty, kindness, and a willingness to help the company reach its goals. This creates a ripple effect on customer loyalty and client success, making partners more likely to be motivated to work with you.

Additionally, positive employees can become vital for recruiting and retention. During the lifecycle of a business, owners and executives should constantly be thinking about how employees will affect their operations over time, and how firm-wide belief about the company will shape its legacy.
 

8. Embrace Technology and Data

Like it or not, the industry is constantly changing. Leverage the right technology that is designed to support AEC business growth and development. Connecting technology and data can help a business respond more quickly and effectively to challenges or bottlenecks in processes or systems. In the AEC Inspire report, only 54% of companies reported using data regularly/daily. Despite more widespread adoption, the research suggests there are several barriers to gaining insights from existing data, including accessibility issues and missing or inaccurate data.

Read the full report here.

Data can fuel AEC leaders' ability to personalize experiences, conduct market research, and make cost-effective, data-driven decisions. But leaving an impactful legacy starts with having the right technology and systems in place so you can gain insights into the state of your business. Being able to import, collect, and monitor historical company information into a new ERP or a CRM that’s purpose-built for AEC can allow your firm to live on and thrive long after you’ve built your legacy.