TZL 1464 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

November 7, 2022, Issue 1464 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Work-from-home ideals

ElevateHER provides a platform for AEC professionals to effect the change they want to see in our industry. Effecting change

FIRM INDEX AECOM....................................................................... 12 Bowman Consulting Group Ltd...............10 Fluor Corporation..................................................4 Kirksey Architecture............................................4 OBMI............................................................................... 6 PPM Consultants, Inc.......................................10 Project Design Consultants........................10 MORE ARTICLES n JANKI DEPALMA: Sorry, not sorry Page 3 n Making an impact: Mauro Comoli Page 6 n TODD PERRY: Welcome to the show Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Why private equity is investing in AEC Page 11 In Zweig Group’s 2022 Recruitment & Retention Report , currently remote individuals were asked what they would be willing to give up in order to maintain their work situation. Women were twice as likely as men to “agree” to the following statement: “If my firm required me to work in-office, on a full- time schedule, I would consider a pay cut in order to remain at least partially remote.” Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

J ust a few weeks ago, Zweig Group’s held its third annual ElevateHER Symposium where professionals from around the AEC industry gathered to challenge themselves by thinking about what role they and their firms can play in making the future a better and more equitable place. 2022 was the first year our ElevateHER Cohort was able to meet in person, and the venue was imbued with levity and joy. While these are not typically descriptions you hear when discussing the future – particularly nowadays – the ability for our 2022 cohort to step out of the day-to-day and focus on a shared vision of the future in a communal space breathed a spirit of hope and camaraderie into the event. This is the vision with which Zweig Group founded ElevateHER in 2018. At the heart of ElevateHER is the desire to not only look past the troubled waters of the current moment, but to visualize the bridge to a better future and begin to lay the foundations to get there. In this pursuit, we can find strength in historical context through Abigail Adams. Shortly after the onset of the American Revolution in March of 1776, Abigail was living separately from her revolutionary husband John, raising four children in war-torn Massachusetts while her husband lived and worked in Pennsylvania. While John Adams politicked in Philadelphia – espousing ideals on patriotism and public policy – Abigail lived the life of a single parent. During the Spring of 1776, the waters in which Abigail found herself were indeed troubled. The difficulties of performing her duties as a parent were only exacerbated by the fact that the Revolutionary War had broken out all around her. While the couple was physically separated, they still shared an emotional bond. At this historical juncture, Abigail Adams pursued her unique vision of the future. With war breaking out around her, Abigail wrote letters to her husband, imploring him to use his position of power to set in law a better future for women in the country he sought to establish. In these letters, Abigail wrote about the “new code of laws which … [would] be necessary for [him] to make.” Abigail asked that in the making of the new nation, John and his fellow revolutionaries “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” Looking past the present moment, Abigail was not advocating for

Jamie Claire Kiser





herself, but rather for a larger swath of women. She wanted her husband to take into account women whose husbands did not share the same respect he did, writing to John: “Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use [women] with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex.” It has to be stated that Abigail is not referring to “all women”, but rather “all white women whose husbands own land.” However, using the means at her disposal, Abigail challenged her husband to speak on behalf of the 84 percent of Americans who couldn’t vote at the time. The decision to do this took a tremendous amount of courage – courage that ultimately moved her husband to act. Her words gave him the strength to enter the rooms where the new nation was being built with that perspective. Her advocacy was successful, and the needle moved toward progress when women landowners were granted the right to vote in New Jersey in 1776. While this right only lasted 30 years, Abigail’s strength and courage elevated her concerns to an arena that could effect change. In this anecdote we can find strength despite the troubled waters we currently find ourselves in. Despite many moments of courage like Abigail’s throughout American history, women are still fighting to keep pushing the needle of progress forward. The last two years in particular have been especially challenging for women in the workforce. As of 2020, the average white woman in America still made 73 cents on the dollar compared to her male counterparts. Black and Hispanic women made 58 cents and 49 cents, respectively. That was before women left the workforce in droves due to remote schooling, daycare closures, and a variety of caregiving challenges wrought by the pandemic that primarily fell on women’s shoulders. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there are still 2 million fewer women in the workforce than there were two years ago. Abigail Adams was able to use the means at her disposal to effect change. However, a large percentage of women are not afforded the same means, and don’t often have access to spaces where they can be an advocate for change. ElevateHER seeks to give women in the AEC industry access to the means of change, allowing them to connect with others both professionally and personally. You can be a part of this too, as applications are open now to join Zweig Group’s 2023 ElevateHER Cohort. You can also participate at the 2023 ElevateHER Symposium, where leaders from across the AEC industry will have genuine discussions about the topics affecting them, and extend those discussions into actionable plans. As the designers of the built environment, the AEC industry has a unique impact in that what happens within our industry affects people in every corner of the globe. As such, the ability to effect change within our industry has reverberating effects for many people. In this spirit, the 2023 ElevateHER Cohort will embody the example of Abigail Adams, who – through a thinly veiled threat toward her powerful husband – brought about change for a larger swath of the population. The ability the 2023 cohort will have to courageously and fearlessly challenge the current paradigm is again echoed by Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound to any laws by which we have no representation or voice.” Applications to join the 2023 ElevateHER Cohort are open until December 1. Click here to apply or learn more. You can also see the 2023 ElevateHER Cohort at the ElevateHER Symposium in Dallas on February 15, 2023. We hope to see you there! Jamie Claire Kiser is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her at

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ELEVATEHER SYMPOSIUM Join Zweig Group and the newly inducted 2023 ElevateHER Cohort at the ElevateHER Symposium in Dallas on February 15, 2023. The symposium will include presentation overviews of the 2020, 2021, and 2022 ElevateHER cohort’s research findings, team projects, powerful panel discussions, and DEI focused keynote presentations from industry change agents. Click here to learn more!

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Sorry, not sorry

I recently joined a Facebook group to help me navigate the labyrinth of college financial and merit aid. In big, bold letters at the front of the group there was a statement that requested people search carefully through the archives before posting a question. Pay attention to who apologizes and when, and work to create an environment of psychological safety within your firm.

I had a question, searched, but wasn’t satisfied that the answers exactly fit my situation, so I thought I’d make a new post. Hesitant, I started it with a preemptive apology – a “sorry if this has been asked before” preamble to my question. Interestingly enough, a woman later posted to the same group that she searched through the archives and there were 47 posts that started with some type of apology. Apologies such as, “This was a stupid question,” “If this has been asked before,” or “If I missed this in the archives.” Always sorry. And, interestingly, 45 of those 47 apologizers were women. This poster then argued that as parents gearing to send their children to college, we need to teach our girls to stop apologizing. Lean in, ladies! Am I right? I stopped and asked myself, “Why did I apologize?” What was I sorry about? The truth is, I was using my preemptive apology as a shield, hoping that it would

prevent anyone from countering my request for help with a rude “check the archives” response. I did not feel comfortable in this group and did not want my first interaction to be negative. I thought I’d ask other men and women, “Why do you start with an apology?” Most times, it’s a quick way to cut off rudeness, help others excuse your potential faux pas, or even help you gain connection through vulnerability. This illustrates that the apology may not actually come from a place where we are “sorry” but something else. As I started to explore this apology issue, I realized that perhaps people are not apologizing because they have low confidence. Could people (men and women) be apologizing because they don’t feel like they have the luxury of making a

Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM




BUSINESS NEWS FLUOR SELECTED FOR EXPANSION OF LARGE-SCALE BIOLOGICS MANUFACTURING FACILITY IN SCANDINAVIA Fluor Corporation announced that it has been selected by a leading biologics company to perform procurement and construction management for a large-scale biologics drug substance manufacturing facility

located in Scandinavia. The facility will produce new capacity for advanced biologics that are used in a variety of treatments including vaccines, oncology and quality-of-life medicines. Fluor has performed the planning and enabling work for this project, and construction is now underway with the facility scheduled to be operational by 2025.

Fluor’s Advanced Technologies & Life Sciences business is leading the project including support from its Nordic Technology Hub in Copenhagen, Denmark. With headquarters in Irving, Texas, Fluor has provided engineering, procurement and construction services for more than 110 years.

may be a dumb question but…”). My completely unscientific survey seemed to echo what I was experiencing with the this Facebook group. The humiliation isn’t just a single incident seared into your mind. Studies have shown that women are often punished harsher for mistakes than men, especially in roles that are traditionally male dominated (such as the C-suite, finance, and STEM fields). Similarly, a research study created a fictional political scandal around two male candidates – one Black, one white. The same scandal yielded harsher feedback for the Black candidate. Abhishek Parajuli has an interesting TED Talk that also delves into this concept. Let’s recap: Psychological safety is the freedom to make mistakes and innovate. This is the number one indicator of high performing teams. Yet, studies also show that women and minorities are judged more harshly for mistakes. How can managers step in to help? As you ask more questions, you may start to see where your company can have a “safety tune-up.” One simple thing team leaders or managers can do is use the privilege of their own status and ask the “dumb question” for everyone. I love it when a principal will stop a meeting and ask someone to explain an acronym – odds are several people are curious! For team members – remember, psychological safety isn’t just the latest feel-good buzzword, it’s a key ingredient for innovation and satisfaction. After a while, the apologizer may start to look for another place to work or may stop sharing ideas to avoid being humiliated. This could mean that you will lose a key team member. Or worse, a great idea doesn’t get expressed! If you notice someone is always apologizing, simply bring it up without shaming them. Something like, “Your ideas are great Melissa, no need to apologize.” Or, “That’s not a dumb question at all Juan, I only recently learned that too.” I am now on the lookout for these softening statements – for both others and myself. I love having a space that allows for those “crazy ideas,” which often enough are the ones that take us to another level. I delete any preemptive apologies in my correspondences. I am coaching myself to listen to these apologies in others and chiming in immediately to confirm that these are appropriate comments. Psychological safety doesn’t just happen – it needs to be intentional with everyone around. Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM, is a senior associate and director of business development at Kirksey Architecture. Contact her at

JANKI DEPALMA, from page 3

mistake? The preemptive apology is a proverbial “get out of jail” card in an environment that may not tolerate mistakes. Dr. Amy Edmonson, a Harvard Business School professor, coined the term “psychological safety,” which is the “belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.” This concept was taken further when a researcher at Google wanted to deconstruct the make-up of high performing teams and found that the best predictor was psychological safety. Do the teams feel comfortable enough to make mistakes, bring up ideas, or fail in order to discover brilliance? Making mistakes is a key part of the “growth mindset,” coined by Stanford professor Carol Dweck. Great innovation comes from making mistakes, learning, and making more mistakes. “Psychological safety is the freedom to make mistakes and innovate. This is the number one indicator of high performing teams. Yet, studies also show that women and minorities are judged more harshly for mistakes. How can managers step in to help?” So how can team leads and managers create a sense of psychological safety? Is it more lectures? Cat posters? Surveys? I’d argue a simple way is to pay attention to the apologies. Start by active listening. Who tends to apologize? When? Is it before presenting unpopular opinions? Is it during brainstorming? If you remove the idea that the apologizer lacks self-confidence, why else would they be apologizing? What are they trying to tell you? Is this a sign that perhaps your environment isn’t a space where everyone feels they can speak up without concern? I asked my friends on LinkedIn, “Have you ever been humiliated for asking a question at work and has that affected you?” This question itself requires vulnerability. A few brave folks confided that, indeed, the humiliation had lasting effects. Several said they would often wait to ask a question (maybe outside of a meeting) and a few even said they now couch their response with some type of softening statement (“this

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Making an impact: Mauro Comoli Project director at OBMI (Miami, FL), a leading global master planning, architecture, and design firm that has been creating timeless spaces for 85 years.


W ith more than 12 years of international experience, Comoli provides hands-on leadership for architecture and interior design projects in large-scale developments, luxury hospitality, mixed-use urban environments, and cultural destinations. “Early in my career, I thought I was too quiet and shy to be a good leader,” Comoli says. “Now, I realize that my ability to listen, reflect, and consider an idea allows me to build trust, develop a shared understanding, and express my intent more effectively. I don’t need to be the loudest in the room to make an impact.” A CONVERSATION WITH MAURO COMOLI. The Zweig Letter: Your website says that “extraordinary design can awaken new possibilities.” Can you illustrate this with an example of how a design changed a client’s possibilities? Mauro Comoli: Staying loyal to the character and culture of the places where we design lies at the core of who we are

as a master planning, architecture, and design firm. This is particularly true in Bermuda, where OBMI has such a long and rich history designing cultural appropriate architectural designs. For the St. Regis, we were very much inspired by our founder, Wil Onions’ contribution to the traditional Bermudian vernacular with steeped and stark white roofs. The plans for the St. Regis Bermuda had challenges due to its slender location, sensitive surroundings, and proximity to a world UNESCO heritage site, Fort St. Catherine. They required meetings with the government to properly construct the buildings without damaging the location or surroundings. After more than 85 years of experience in the Caribbean, our designers were confident in their ability to realize the client’s dream. The architects carefully applied design methods that would exceed the client’s expectations and respect the site. In the end, the project turned out to be a perfect mixture of the traditional Bermudian vernacular with the playfulness and allure of the St. Regis brand, all while celebrating Fort St. Catherine and the natural topography.



TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? MC: OBMI has devised an innovative workflow, with clearly identified stages, to ensure the project emerges through collaboration. We gain trust from our clients by listening to their wants and needs, being the design guardians of the project, and valuing client feedback. The driving force for our firm is to translate our clients’ dreams into three-dimensional forms, and I think the individuals, brands and developers can sense that. We want our projects to be timeless, and provide long- term value to the local community, site, and the clients. TZL: Storytelling through design seems to be at the core of what OBMI does. Can you give me an example of this to demonstrate it in action? MC: Every place has a unique story to tell. As designers and planners, we seek to discover the innate poetry of a destination. Our process is centered around storytelling, and it is the element that aligns us with the client’s vision and guides the design. We work with clients to develop a unique concept that considers future memories, business goals, the existing environment, natural topography, and cultural heritage of a specific location – threads of inspiration that eventually become the tapestry of design. For the Royal Mansour, King Mohammed VI commissioned OBMI to capture and celebrate Morocco’s rich culture and beauty through a majestic hospitality palace. As guests journey through the storied property, we redefined luxury through grand displays of local craftsmanship, immersing them in the refined grace of traditional and royal Moroccan hospitality. Capturing the soul, spirit, and essence of the culture, the transformational design presents a timeless, unforgettable, and bespoke experience that will never be forgotten. TZL: Does your firm work closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, and innovation and/or recruiting to find qualified resources? MC: OBMI works closely with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, the University of Miami, and Boston University, to name a few. Our firm is dedicated to educating the next generation of architects to design environmentally sensitive and incomparably unique destinations. Through our collaborations, we train OBMI staff in the most advanced design technologies and capture the attention of talented students

who wish to join our firm as interns and, ultimately, employees. TZL: OBMI+ is devoted to sustainable design. What’s an internal initiative that you’re currently working on? MC: OBMI+ is our internal CSR program. Our firm has more than 85 years of experience designing in sensitive environments, globally. With this expertise, sustainability has become rooted in our philosophy and process. Preserving and celebrating a site’s natural surroundings, we design with intention and consciousness – highlighting the natural wonder of each location and minimizing impact to the environment. We empower our organization to advance the programs of the UNDP and U.S. Green Building Council, among others. TZL: Who are you admiring right now in the AEC industry? Where do you see thought leadership and excellence? MC: I think the entire AEC industry deserves admiration for their proactive efforts, adaptability, and innovative thinking as society faces the biggest environmental and health crises of our time. We saw individuals, firms, institutions, and professional associations pull together to understand the shifting priorities and challenges relating to the built environment in response to climate change and the pandemic. Beyond finding urgent solutions to ensure individuals’ wellbeing and reduce disruption to normal life, the AEC industry continues to push craft and creativity to prepare for the long-term impacts we have yet to face from the dual crises by mitigating risk and building resilience. From my vantage point, the firms that adapted their business models and further invested in their people and sustainable innovation have entered an exciting new era of cross-industry collaboration. Thought leaders across AEC showcase design excellence and creative thinking beyond the industry and are at the forefront of global innovation. It’s a wonderful time to be a designer. TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that people get most excited about? MC: Well, staff wellbeing is always the priority, so we offer a few benefits that get people’s attention immediately, from in-office corporate massages, subscriptions, and meditation platforms to work-from-home options.



Antigua & Barbuda


British Virgin Islands

Cayman Islands






Trinidad & Tobago



Latin America


North America


Envisioning and storytelling

Master planning


Interior design

Sustainability and wellness


F&B branding

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 7, 2022, ISSUE 1464


MAKING AN IMPACT , from page 7

One perk many young designers get excited about is the opportunity to design through our innovation lab, OBMI NU. They get to showcase their ideas and share their designs with principals and the public in a way that often doesn’t happen until later in their profession. It’s great to see them share their perspectives and showcase their skills. However, I have found our “Career Coach” program has greatly benefited our staff and our office’s culture. Always aiming to grow with intent, we developed a mentoring program that pairs employees with a “Career Coach” who oversees their professional growth, offering guidance and strategic resources to plan and reach their professional goals. The coaches ensure their mentees take advantage of their personal and professional development funds. Often our staff attend conferences, training programs, or even cross-industry events that allow them to elevate their skill set or explore new opportunities. TZL: Tell me more about OBMI NU. What does NU stand for? How do you determine who is going to be on the NU team? How does it operate? MC: OBMI NU was born out of the inevitable shifts in the hospitality industry during the pandemic and the willingness to foster a culture of innovation focused on design excellence. We are confident our work showcases our talent and positions OBMI as competent innovators and passionate storytellers with the desire to meet the new needs of travelers. Habitare is an example of exploring a hospitality function that catered to the exploratory traveler more interested in being isolated in a unique environment most of the times not accessible by the traditional hospitality products. We wanted to create a portable, environmentally self-contained, zero footprint hotel room that meets the expectations of the ultra-luxury customer that typically visit our other projects. The team is not limited to a particular group of employees; we invite everyone in the company to join in on brainstorming and continue to work their “innovation muscle.” We believe the collaboration of talented minds leads to conceptualizing revolutionary concepts that define design’s future. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? MC: Critical thinking, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. The ability to empathize, understand, and communicate effectively fosters genuine relationships and trust with employees. TZL: What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? MC: Early in my career, I thought I was too quiet and shy to be a good leader. Now, I realize that my ability to listen, reflect, and consider an idea allows me to build trust, develop a shared understanding, and express my intent more effectively. I don’t need to be the loudest in the room to make an impact. I also wish I had known that the best leaders don’t have to have all the answers and find comfort in that. You need to be curious. You will make mistakes and learn together along the way as a team.

OBMI’s award-winning Aera concept imagines the world’s first vertical resort.

TZL: What’s your number one concern/foreseen challenge about the future of architecture? MC: Climate change and resiliency design pose a significant challenge in architecture and all industries. Our job as architects is to find solutions to mitigate the impact on our planet in construction and ongoing building operations. The OBMI team is focused on designing regenerative, resilient projects that improve the quality of the spaces where we live, work, and play. Great design makes our communities stronger, safer, and healthier while benefiting the environment. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. MC: The mentorship program allows tenured employees to create relationships and share their knowledge with those newer in their careers, which gives a sense of responsibility to invest in and educate the next generation of designers. Most recently, we created our own educational program solely focused on hospitality design. Led by OBMI, “Hotel University” offers resources on a full curriculum of subject matters related to design for hotels and resorts. As part of the program, we provide design teams exclusive access to in-person tours and conversations with experts in development, financing, wellness, and other industries. The firsthand experiences and knowledge shared with experts are invaluable. Hotel University’s courses have further allowed our designers to foster the next generation of architects through classes at the University of Miami, Boston University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I think this has provided our team with a real sense of fulfillment.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Welcome to the show

Early successes, failures, and significant challenges, and how a young firm navigated through them.

I n my last article, “Permission to Launch ,” I discussed my firm’s initial founding. If you think about it, anybody can plant a flag and give it a go, with little clue about what it will take to succeed. However, reality quickly sets in: the combined stress of convincing clients to give your new firm a try, recruiting staff, purchasing insurance, developing procedures, completing projects, making payroll, collecting AR, managing HR and legal issues, and ensuring you don’t run out of capital, and so on are not for the faint of heart. But time waits for no one, and the headaches quickly multiply when you launch your business. Welcome to the show!

Todd Perry, P.G.

When I think about it, the excitement of founding our firm, the adrenaline rush of winning work, solving client issues, developing something from scratch, and considering what we might become down the road did soothe the startup pains and propel us forward. We were so busy the first three years that we did not have time to look down from the high wire. Our startup adventures were many. We routinely ran up to six months behind on our monthly financials, which is unthinkable now. Our bank called us in because our receivable’s average age (over 120 days) was called into question as collateral. We developed a seven-point plan to present to our bank to quell their concerns, and it worked. I cannot tell you the exact number of all-nighters we pulled, completing

reports, conducting 24-hour pilot tests on remediation sites, or the drudgery of catching up on back office work. If we had known what it would take to succeed, we would not have thought it was possible. We made some great hires during this time, but we also learned the hard way that there are many unique professionals out there, and some will not like your culture or the demands of consulting, and those disconnects will take you backward. I really could go on and on, but here are a few key things we did learn: ■ Organization is critical. In those early days, we were as disorganized as you could imagine. If we had adopted organizational processes and

See TODD PERRY , page 10





the Bowman organization and we will immediately support each other and maximize our collective utilization. PDC’s well respected and long-standing market presence will add both depth and breadth to our mix of business and will promote our strategic initiative to expand our base of revenue both into Southern California and with key public sector and utility clients.” “Bowman’s business model aligns well with ours and we are excited to be a part of the Bowman family,” said Greg Shields, CEO of PDC. “Our team has built a unique operation over our nearly 50-year history, and this business combination will facilitate the acceleration of our growth and create new opportunities for our team. We are grateful for the opportunity to lead Bowman’s entrance into Southern California and look forward to expanding our reach over time. Culture was a very important criteria for us in this process and we are confident that we have found the right fit.” Bowman expects the PDC acquisition to initially contribute approximately $14 million of annualized net service billing and be immediately accretive. “PDC is another meaningful advance of our long- term strategic growth initiative,” said Bruce Labovitz, Bowman’s CFO. “The

PDC acquisition meets all objectives for operating metrics and was transacted well within our target multiple range. The structure of a convertible note with an above market option price aligns with our belief that the markets are undervaluing our equity relative to our future earnings and cash flow potential. As is our practice, we will provide more detailed information on M&A activities, pipeline, and guidance in connection with scheduled quarterly communications.” Since 1976, Project Design Consultants has been involved in shaping communities through professional design services that include civil engineering, surveying, planning, and landscape architecture. Headquartered in San Diego, California, the firm’s team of professionals assists clients that include public agencies, utilities, and community developers. PDC works with customers to manage change in ways that transform communities and create opportunity. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Bowman is an engineering services firm delivering infrastructure solutions to customers who own, develop, and maintain the built environment. Bowman has more than 1,500 employees and more than 60 offices throughout the United States.

ENTERS CALIFORNIA THROUGH ACQUISITION OF SAN DIEGO FIRM PROJECT DESIGN CONSULTANTS Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. SOUTHERN announced the purchase of Project Design Consultants. Founded in 1976 and headquartered in San Diego, California, PDC and its 65 employees provides civil engineering, surveying, planning and landscape architecture to a variety of public and private clients throughout Southern California. Under the leadership of Greg Shields, the company’s CEO, PDC provides engineering services that manage change and add value to infrastructure projects involving public works for municipal agencies, utility service providers, urban and suburban mixed-use developers, hospitality and entertainment venue owners, and commercial and healthcare facility operators. “PDC presents a compelling opportunity for Bowman to advance our market expansion and service diversification initiatives,” said Gary Bowman, CEO of Bowman. “California is a new frontier for us, and we are fortunate that Greg and the PDC management team will be leading the effort. The team of professionals at PDC will fit right into

■ Being slow to address issues. If I could time travel and not disrupt the space-time continuum, the following words are worth their weight in gold. You will find areas moving in the wrong direction in every facet of your business at different times. The quicker you move to address those issues, the better off you will be! It is truly some of the most challenging work and decision-making we faced, but the benefits multiplied once we corrected the issue. ■ Leverage your support network. I would slip this in on my time travel mission too. Almost every issue you will face has been encountered by other businesses before, and there are many ways to address them. Your banker, insurance agent, attorney, friendly competitor, trade association, business group, management consultant, etc., has solutions if only you solicit advice. These professionals have overcome or seen others solve similar problems and can help. Don’t be afraid to seek advice! In our next article, “The Propensity to Consume,” we will discuss the concept of “profit forgives a multitude of sins” and how success can affect your firm in both positive and negative ways. Stay tuned! Todd Perry, P.G., is a principal and senior geologist at PPM Consultants, Inc. Contact him at

TODD PERRY , from page 9

technology quicker, it truly would have helped reduce many of our early stresses and failures. ■ Delegation is key. As environmental professionals, we are a very talented lot. However, we thought we had to micromanage everything. Some of us were very slow to delegate responsibilities and tasks, which would have significantly diminished our early pressures and bottlenecks. ■ Hiring is an art. In those early days, if we had a staff opening and the resume looked good, they were hired. Looking back, if we had been more diligent in taking time to ensure our culture was aligned, their work ethic matched expectations, and the work product was high quality, we would have avoided some major self-inflicted setbacks. Be clear about your expectations and leverage tools like personality profiling and recruiting software to help ensure quality hires. ■ Invest in talent. It is pretty simple: when you genuinely find talented individuals to join your firm, you will never regret stretching your budget to make it happen. Sometimes it’s hard to justify, but if everything aligns, you will never regret making the hire.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




I have always felt our industry was undervalued and have mentioned it several times in these pages over the years – and evidently, I was right. Private equity firms that used to have no interest in AEC firms are now putting their money into companies in our industry. Private equity firms that used to have no interest in AEC are now putting their money into companies in our industry. Why private equity is investing in AEC

For those of you who don’t know the difference in venture capital versus private equity, venture capital firms invest in start-up companies. Private equity, on the other hand, invests in growing, established companies – and ones they think they can build through investment of additional capital and management expertise. Why would private equity be interested in investing in firms in this business? I can tell you why: 1. AEC firms generate a high return on invested capital. The typical firm in our business – if well- managed – can generate a 50 percent or higher annual return on equity. Some do even better than that. Now before you say, “Wait a minute – we only make a 15 percent profit. Nobody makes 50 percent,” read again. I said return on equity. How can that be? Let’s take the example of a company that does $10 million a year in net service revenue and makes a 15 percent profit of

$1.5 million. If their book value or owner’s equity is $3 million or less (which it will be if they do a halfway decent job of billing and collecting their accounts receivable), they generated a 50 percent or higher return on equity. The calculation for return on equity is $1.5 million divided by $3 million. A 50 percent return on equity is hard for many industries to achieve, and the private equity people know that. 2. AEC firms have trusted relationships with their clients that could be leveraged to sell something else. Because architects and engineers have a reputation for being highly ethical, our clients trust us. That trust could turn into opportunities to sell other, non-traditional services to those same clients. Insurance, risk management, management consulting, software as a service – I could go on. But if

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG , page 12



ON THE MOVE AECOM ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF KRISTY PIPES TO ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, announced the appointment of Kristy Pipes to its Board of Directors. Pipes brings to the Board extensive management, financial and accounting experience, having held several senior leadership positions throughout her career, including most recently as managing director and chief financial officer at Deloitte Consulting, a global management consulting firm. The appointment became effective on October 1, 2022, and Pipes became a member of the Audit Committee upon her appointment to the Board.

“I am pleased to welcome Kristy Pipes to our Board of Directors,” said Douglas Stotlar, AECOM’s chairman of its Board of Directors. “Kristy’s notable experience, leadership and broad range of Professional Services industry expertise will bolster our efforts to advance our strategy as we focus on holistically advising our clients and capitalizing on increasing long-term demand for critical infrastructure, sustainability and resilience.” From 1999 until her retirement in 2019, Pipes served in various roles at Deloitte Consulting, including her positions as managing director and chief financial officer. She currently serves as a director of Public Storage, as a director of ExlService Holdings,

Inc., and as a director of Savers Value Village, Inc., which is an operator of retail stores. Previously, Pipes was a director of PS Business Parks, Inc., which was a publicly-traded real estate investment trust until acquired in July 2022. AECOM, is the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, delivering professional services throughout the project lifecycle – from planning, design and engineering to program and construction management. On projects spanning transportation, buildings, water, new energy and the environment, our public- and private-sector clients trust AECOM to solve their most complex challenges.

6. The general public thinks we need to make more investments in public infrastructure. We have even passed a huge infrastructure bill at the federal level that will provide additional funding for years ahead. That means lots of money will be flowing to build and improve roads, bridges, airports, public transportation, water and sewage treatment, power generation and distribution, and much more. These are the kinds of projects that make up more than half the revenue of AEC firms. When you combine high demand with an industry-wide shortage of people who can do the work, you have a very good situation for those firms with capacity. Private equity firms can see this. There is a bright future ahead for our industry. Hopefully by now you can see why private equity has discovered our industry. It’s going to present a whole new range of opportunities for those who are building companies in our business to cash in on their equity at some point, sooner or later. As someone who has worked with firm owners in this industry for 42 years and spent the last 18 years teaching entrepreneurship at the college level, I find this very exciting indeed! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at “Private equity is going to present a whole new range of opportunities for those who are building companies in our business to cash in on their equity at some point, sooner or later.”

MARK ZWEIG , from page 11

the private equity group has made investments in other B2B companies, their investment in an AEC firm could potentially benefit those companies as well. 3. The AEC industry is ripe for consolidation. We are a huge, fragmented industry of more than 100,000 small companies. Many of these firms have aging owners and struggle with ownership transition schemes that work and will allow their owners to get their value out when they want to go. That creates an opportunity for someone who has the capital to buy them out. Not to mention the fact that many clients of these firms – especially larger ones – prefer one-stop shopping where they can deal with larger AEC firms that can meet all of their needs. That creates an opportunity for industry consolidation, and one in our case that has a very long runway ahead. Private equity loves these scenarios. 4. AEC firms can successfully grow through acquisition. Over the years, buying and successfully integrating other AEC companies has become the norm rather than failing at it. Firms in our business are getting better every year at this. Private equity will seek out those companies that have proved they can successfully buy other firms in the same business because they can use these companies as growth platforms for further investments. 5. The risk of spectacular failure is really low. Very few AEC firms go out of business entirely. Sure, some may have a bad year or two, and could be impacted by a recession with resulting lower growth and profitability – but complete failure is rare. That reduces the risk for the private equity buyer and they like that.

M&A NEXT SYMPOSIUM Reserve your seat at the table as Zweig Group’s M&A thought leaders share insights and provide deep learning about current and “next” practices in the world of M&A. This highly interactive event is designed to provide M&A education and practical application through roundtable discussions, thought leadership from expert panelists, and focused networking to connect leaders from across the country. Join us in Savannah, Georgia, April 27-28. Click here to learn more!

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