During my recent attendance at the CEO roundtable for small firms at the ACEC National Conference in Austin, Texas, CEOs shared their top challenges:

  1.  Firm Growth
  2. Ownership Transition and Succession Planning
  3. Workforce Shortage

While topics like AI, DEI, and workforce shortages dominate the industry narrative, these rankings are quite fitting for small firms.

The discussions in the room were enlightening, offering valuable insights into specific aspects of these substantial challenges. However, the complexity and interdependence of these challenges may require a more comprehensive approach. This is where a Business Operating and Strategy System (BOSS™) enters the picture.

A Business Operating and Strategy System is an all-encompassing framework that equips a firm to navigate not only these challenges but also many others. Let’s delve into how a BOSS can impact the top-ranked challenge; Firm Growth.

Firm growth involves the pursuit of sustainable and consistent expansion in terms of client base, revenue, and market presence. Small firms often encounter growth barriers that can be difficult to surmount. As the saying goes, “What got you here won’t get you there.”


The impediments to firm growth are intricate and interconnected, constituting system-level challenges. They demand system-level solutions, and implementing a Business Operating and Strategy System is an efficient and effective way to overcome these growth obstacles. Here are a few ways a BOSS can help:

Creating Alignment around Mission, Vision, and Values: Larger AEC firms regularly engage in Strategic Planning to explore and document their Mission, Vision, and Values. Small firms, however, often haven’t formalized these elements at their scale. To facilitate growth, capturing the right Mission, Vision, and Values and creating alignment around them is crucial.

Role Clarity and Accountability: As small firms grow, role clarity can become blurred, affecting accountability. A BOSS addresses this issue by enhancing the organization chart, clearly defining role expectations, and ensuring people are in roles where they can thrive. It also provides a mechanism to assess all staff against the values and expectations of their roles, making this aspect of the system exceptionally powerful.

Issue Processing: While most firms discuss their issues in meetings, the most successful ones resolve them. The BOSS incorporates a system for prioritizing and effectively resolving issues, ensuring that the most crucial ones are addressed and that less time is wasted discussing them unproductively.

The metaphor of “hitting the ceiling” aptly describes the frustration and pain associated with growth obstacles. Merely working harder and addressing symptoms won’t break through this barrier. Implementing a Business Operating and Strategy System might appear daunting, but from personal experience, I can attest that it’s far easier and less painful than persistently colliding with that ceiling. It’s the key to propelling your small AEC firm toward sustained growth and success.

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