blueprint rolls
Home buttonServices buttonSeminars buttonArticles buttonResources buttonContact us button


Learning the Ropes

Dear Dave
My partner and I are in our mid-fifties. We have a 20-person firm. A couple of years ago we began to seriously look at how we were going to transition out of our practice over the next several years. We found our second-tier next generation staff really did not have what it would take to keep the firm going if we went with an internal transition. They were excellent technically, but lacked the ability to generate work and were thoroughly untested when it came to business management and leadership. Following a series of discussions, they themselves agreed with this. We also felt a firm our size was going to have an increasingly difficult time of competing against larger firms for the type of work we do.

We have maintained a long-term marketing alliance for a number of years with a similar but much larger firm on the opposite end of the state from us. Over the years we have done many projects together and we knew each other well. At the suggestion of an advisor we were working with, we approached them about the possibility of merging our two firms. They would gain an office on our end of the state along with an excellent staff, and our firm would benefit by being part of a larger organization with the necessary management and leadership skills in place for the future. They agreed a merger made sense and the very friendly transaction was finished up a couple of months ago. My partner and I are now happily vice presidents of the combined firm.

Here’s my question. Now that we are merged, we are discovering details of their operation we were not aware of in spite of our long-term relationship. Mostly, it’s a lot of small things such as how they invoice, CAD standards, file procedures, various project management practices and so on that we feel could be done better. We are anxious to make contributions to our new firm, but being new kids on the block we are not sure how to go about bringing up suggestions for what we feel would be improvements. How should we handle this?

Dear MM

My advice is to cool it for a while. It’s important for you to be seen as paying your dues before you jump in and start asking for major changes to processes and procedures they may feel are entirely appropriate. If you wait for a few months, you will have learned all the more about why they do what they do and, as a result of waiting and learning, earned the right in the eyes of the old-timers in the organization to make suggestions. For now, keep a list of items you feel could use some attention. Once you’re firmly part of the family, say six months or so, begin to bring up your suggestions in a positive way expressing benefits to be gained by changing, and not in a way that seems as if you’re being critical of what is being done. If you see something that absolutely can’t wait, then by all means go ahead and bring it up right away, but if it can wait, let it.


Wahby and Associates