TZL 1404 (web)

Outside marketing consultants T R E N D L I N E S A u g u s t 1 6 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 0 4 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Think of strategy as a revolutionary process requiring continual iteration and agility. Strategic planning revolution

In Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , firm participants were asked if they had hired outside marketing consultants for activities like strategic marketing planning, public/ media relations, and video preparation among many other things. Just over half (57 percent) of firms said they had used outside consultants. When broken down by firm staff size as seen in the chart above, we see that larger firms were more likely to hire marketing consultants, specifically once firms surpass 100 full-time employees. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication. F I R M I N D E X Dewberry................................................4 GDA Architects.......................................2 Neumann Monson Architects................10 T.Y. Lin International................................ 8 Ulteig. ...................................................10 UMA Geotechnical Construction.............6 Ware Malcomb......................................12 Winstanley Architects & Planners. ...........4 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz LINDSAY YOUNG: Presentations don’t have to be scary Page 3 xz Moving forward: Brian DeSpain Page 6 xz TIM SCHROEDER: Fostering empathy through feedback Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG : Why certain numbers are important Page 11

T here is a rarity in which the broad spectrum of infrastructure that underpins industrial civilization undergoes transformational change. Some may call it a revolution. It would appear that we are standing upon the precipice of such a revolution, however. Uncertainty, uncomfortable decisions, and challenges as well as excitement, innovation, passion, and possibility are pervasive. It is being called the next industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. Never before in the history of the world has the power of the individual been so great, and as Ferdinand Foch once said, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” Through our vision to Elevate the Industry, Zweig Group endeavors to be the spark that lights individuals’ souls ablaze, driving purpose and performance for those we serve. To me, this starts within the strategic planning efforts that will act as a beacon for individuals in firms around the world, each striving to leave behind an incredible legacy. The beauty is in the vast diversity and modalities in which this will take form. Now, before we can begin talking about a strategy revolution, we must first recognize a few concepts that will allow you to be a leader today and in the future. These concepts include rethinking your business model, building your strategy within and around platforms, designing everything around clients, truly embracing technological shifts, innovating rapidly and openly, learning more from the data you have, focusing on your purpose instead of services or products, being trustworthy, and putting humanity at the forefront. With those suppositions, what is possible if we view strategy as a revolutionary process requiring continual iteration and agility? Let us examine together a few ideas that we can carry forward. These will allow us to better articulate a path forward that connects with the human souls we so desperately want to set ablaze with passion within each of our spheres of influence. ❚ ❚ Strategic planning is not generally strategic. Do you truly test the boundaries of your preconceptions with strategy making. Unless your firm is truly exceptional, we must admit that until now, most of us have been more operational in our efforts. ❚ ❚ Strategy must be subversive. As Galileo challenged the centrality of Earth, we must challenge the status quo. Are we in a Newtonian, relative, or quantum environment? “Newtonian planning” would not make sense if we are actually operating in a quantum environment. It follows then that we must confront conventions. It may not be subversion, but enlightenment. ❚ ❚ The constraints at the top. If we assume for a moment that

Phil Keil

See PHIL KEIL, page 2



BUSINESS NEWS GRANDOPENINGHELDATKNOX-HENDERSONLUXURY APARTMENT HIGH-RISE NOVĒ AT KNOX Southern Land Company, a national real estate developer of award-winning mixed-use developments and master-planned communities, hosted a grand opening event at its new luxury multifamily high- rise, Novē at Knox, in May. The community was developed in partnership with KBS, one of the largest owners of real estate in the U.S. Novē at Knox is the first and only apartment complex in KBS’ Dallas-area portfolio. The company currently manages eight best-in-class office properties in the Dallas/Fort Worth region. Novē at Knox was designed by local firm GDA Architects . The 310-unit, 19-story property boasts a variety of luxury in-home amenities, including high-efficiency stainless

steel appliances, personal washers and dryers, granite countertops, 10-foot ceilings, and floor- to-ceiling windows providing sweeping views of the city. Additional amenities available to all residents include 10,000 square feet of private open space connected to McKinney Avenue; a resort-style pool on the fourth floor with a large sundeck, outdoor kitchen, and private cabanas; a full fitness center and yoga studio; a dog park and washing station; and 24-hour concierge service. GDA Architects offers more than 34 years of experience in planning, architecture, and interior design. GDA’s extensive range of expertise includes luxury multi-family high-rises, office buildings, mixed-use developments, national corporate headquarters, industrial facilities, and interiors.

Interested in learning more

about the projects and ideas driving the AEC industry forward? Learn more with Civil+Structural Engineer Media.

PHIL KEIL , from page 1

the people at the top of our organizations have it good and are relatively closer to retirement, then the incentives are aligned for them to maintain the status quo. They are also generally the ones tasked with crafting strategy. Additionally, in a rapidly changing “revolution,” things are changing so fast that experience is of little relevance. ❚ ❚ Engagement, not change, is the problem. “Change is hard” and “No one likes change” are constant refrains that echo throughout the industry. We need to engage, support, provide transparency, and ultimately responsibility to a widespread stakeholder group within strategy design and execution. How would ownership and passion change within our organization if people had some control over their destiny? ❚ ❚ Strategy design must be inclusive. This one is relatively well recognized. We must engage the entire firm. It isn’t simply about being heard, though. It is about the opportunity to influence action. ❚ ❚ Anyone can be a strategist. This is a call for those that desire change. It can come from anywhere in your organization. It simply requires that you care more for your community than for your place in the hierarchy. ❚ ❚ Diversity of perspective is powerful. Have you ever learned a new word or concept and then see it everywhere? It is as if your entire perspective has changed and your eyes have been opened. It is powerful when you can bring a diversity of perspectives to the table while designing your strategy. ❚ ❚ It is not top down or bottom up, it’s both. How do you build and execute your strategy? There must be a cross section in both the design and implementation of your plan. ❚ ❚ Strategy formation should be viewed as a virtuous cycle rather than a project. By this we mean there is no definitive end. It is an infinite and continual process. I may sound like a dreamer or perhaps unrealistic, but we get results for clients all around the world. I’m asking simply for the opportunity to help set your soul on fire, to design something grand that will truly make a difference in your life and in the world. What is missing in so many is that passion from which your pursuits originated. Let us find that purpose together and set a new standard for what a competitive advantage truly is. PHIL KEIL is director of strategy services at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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ZWEIG GROUP’S STRATEGIC PLANNING SERVICES Zweig Group delivers a real plan, with real goals, real action items, and with accountability built in to ensure your firm’s success. Our team of advisors work directly with company leadership, guiding your firm toward developing and achieving its critical business objectives. Learn more about Zweig Group’s strategic planning services here.

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Investing a small amount of time and profit on training employees on presentation skills could lead to millions of dollars of work for your firm. Presentations don’t have to be scary

M y husband is a superintendent for a large commercial construction company and occasionally participates in project interviews. This may not come as a shock, but most technical professionals have not been properly educated or trained on presentation skills. Sure, they may have taken a speech class in high school or college and presented a few times in class – but that’s likely been several years ago with no additional practice since then.

Lindsay Young

But guess who the client wants to hear from in almost every interview? The technical professionals! They want to hear from the project architect, project manager, or superintendent that they’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. Clients want to know if they will get along with these individuals and have a good working relationship for the duration of the project. It’s all about the connection made during that interview, so you want your technical professionals to be as comfortable as possible in these situations. I’m not suggesting they pretend to be someone they aren’t, but when they are prepared and comfortable, their personality will come out (more so than their nerves).

Usually, the project team assembles seven to 10 business days before the presentation and may “practice” a few times before the big day. (When I say “practice” this could mean talking it over, putting the PowerPoint or visuals together, or writing out some bullet points.) If these technical professionals don’t participate in interviews regularly, they’re probably a little rusty. (I know from personal experience of not speaking for three or four months during COVID, I even got a little rusty on my presentation skills!) When these individuals aren’t given the resources to do their job, they are limited in the results they get (aka winning work).




ON THE MOVE AARON NELSON JOINS DEWBERRY IN DENVER, COLORADO Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, announced Aaron Nelson, PE, has joined the firm as a business unit manager and the West water market segment leader in its Denver, Colorado, office. With more than 25 years of experience, Nelson has worked as vice president, regional area leader, and senior director of design operations for a national engineering firm. His areas of expertise include utilities performance, program management, asset and utility management, regulatory compliance, and trenchless rehab design. In his new role, Nelson will oversee a team of nearly 30 staff who provide water and wastewater services for clients in the commercial, state/local, and federal markets. “Aaron’s national experience for both federal and state and local clients makes him an ideal hire for this role as business unit manager,” says Dewberry Senior Vice President Rachel Vandenberg, PE. “Our Denver office is growing and our clients and staff require an experienced leader to drive development and support innovative thinking.” Nelson earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Old Dominion University and is an active member of the Chesapeake Water Environment Association, Virginia Water Environment Association, and the Water Environment Federation. Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and

private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000professionals nationwide. WINSTANLEY ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS APPOINTS LISA MCCABE HOBBS, AIA LEED AP, TO PRINCIPAL Winstanley Architects & Planners announced that Lisa McCabe Hobbs, AIA LEED AP, has been appointed to principal of the firm. In her role as principal, she will direct and oversee the design studio’s projects and manage the day-to-day operations of the firms’ two design workshops. She is a licensed architect with more than 20 years of experience in a vast array of building types, including commercial architecture, academic institutions, residential projects, hospitality, interiors, embassy, and laboratory projects. Throughout her career, McCabe Hobbs has worked on large national and international projects, and her portfolio includes both significant adaptive reuse buildings, major existing building renovations, and new construction projects. She has been using the LEED rating system since its infancy, and is passionate about promoting principles of sound environmental design in all of her projects. She has lead several LEED certification assignments. McCabe Hobbs thrives on challenging projects

and enjoys simplifying them in the process. Her ability to undertake projects that require careful and detailed planning is notable, which makes her a great leader in the firm’s design workshop. McCabe Hobbs works with team leaders to coordinate staffing, technical resources, mentorship, and peer reviews. McCabe Hobbs was one of Winstanley Architects & Planners first employees shortly after its founding and later took a sabbatical to open her own practice before returning to the firm in 2016. Some of the projects she has worked on include the St. Elizabeths East Whitman Walker Health Medical Office building, Alpha Corporation, St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Virginia, and many more. McCabe Hobbs will be focused on expanding the firm’s academic portfolio, which has been an area of focus and interest of hers since her early days of practice. The Winstanley team cannot be more excited that Lisa will provide much needed value in her new role as principal in the company. Winstanley Architects & Planners is an award- winning architectural and planning design studio specializing in projects of distinction from a design, cultural, environmental, and political perspective. With design workshops in Washington, D.C., and Miami, the firm is renowned for its ability to seamlessly integrate planning, architecture and interior design in projects across the academic, civic, commercial, hospitality, mixed-use, renovation/ historic preservation, and residential sectors in North America and the Caribbean.

much good. (People only retain about 5 percent of lecture training, but retain 70 percent when they practice by doing.) Sounds like practice by doing is the way to retain those dollars spent on training! Practicing and proper training could mean millions of dollars of work coming in the door just by investing a small amount of time and profit on training employees on presentation skills. Ask your technical professionals what they prefer, how often they want training, and what would make them feel most comfortable. I bet they are willing to put in the time if you make the opportunity available to them. Invest in your employees, because they will be the best return on your investment. LINDSAY YOUNG is president and founder of nu marketing. She can be reached at “Ask your technical professionals what they prefer, how often they want training, and what would make them feel most comfortable. I bet they are willing to put in the time if you make the opportunity available to them.”

LINDSAY YOUNG , from page 3

Investing in monthly training for technical professionals is highly recommended. At a minimum, it should take place at least quarterly. Host mock interviews in your office and have any employee who would participate in an interview be part of this training. Depending on the size of the firm, you could even split up into groups of 10-12 and practice throughout the month. You could rotate the people, so everyone has a chance to work with different people and personalities. This also promotes teamwork and builds morale within your firm. Practice makes everyone feel more comfortable. It’s also beneficial to actually hear yourself talk. Sometimes when the ideas are stuck in your head and then they come out of your mouth, it’s not necessarily what you wanted it to sound like. This is why actually presenting just like you would in an interview makes it much easier for employees to deliver. They should be comfortable and prepared. So are you wondering why I mentioned my husband at the beginning? His company doesn’t invest much in educating and training technical professionals. I hate to say it, but this lack of ongoing training is pretty common in most firms. They may hire an outside speaking consultant to come in every three or four years, but that doesn’t do

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An enriching experience full of thought leaders, next practices and the ultimate source of learning, networking, and celebration for firms across the AEC industries. This year, Zweig Group’s annual Elevate AEC Conference is in two formats: the FREE Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHer Symposium and the In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala .

Two conferences. One mission.

In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala The 2021 In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado on November 3-5, 2021. Withmuch optimism and excitement, Zweig Group is thrilled to restore the full annual in-person conference this fall; presenting the highest level of curated thought leadership, numerous networking opportunities, and the iconic black-tie awards gala celebrating all our 2021 winners of the Hot Firm List, Best Firms toWork For, Marketing Excellence, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures, and the Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award! The 2021 In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will be the industry’s top conference of 2021 with new networking and learning opportunities for leaders across the country. Trust us, you will not want tomiss this! Register now to guarantee your spot.

Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium Zweig Group has continued to evolve its virtual conference, so the FREE 2021 Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium is back with a four-week virtual experience with over 40 speakers and 30 credit hours of networking, learning, and celebrating – all in an unlimited virtual environment. From emerging professionals, project managers, to CEO’s, there is something for everyone at the FREE 2021 Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium . REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL NOW FREE SEPT. 13 - OCT. 8, 2021

NOV. 3 - 5, 2021 Denver, CO REGISTER FOR IN-PERSON NOW $1,995/attendee

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Everything we do is in pursuit of elevating the AEC industry, bringing awareness of the incredible impact that engineers, architects, environmental professionals, survey- ors, planners, landscape architects and related professional service providers have on the world. Empowering organizations with the resources they need to perform better, grow and add jobs, pay better wages and to expand their impact on the community, Zweig Group exists to advance the profession.



Moving forward: Brian DeSpain Co-owner of UMA Geotechnical Construction (Colfax, NC), an experienced design-build, geotechnical contractor with a proven record of performance in diverse soil conditions.


W ith a background in construction management, geotechnical engineering management, and strategic planning, DeSpain has guided UMA Geotechnical Construction through economic downturns while maintaining consistent growth year over year. DeSpain says, “No one person is responsible for a company’s success. It takes a collaborative effort of working toward common goals. Even through the toughest of projects, we’re fortunate to have a team of dedicated, enthusiastic, and talented people to help build such an amazing company.” A CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN DESPAIN. The Zweig Letter: I see you were recently promoted to president. Tell me about the transition. What was your role before and what, if anything, do you plan to do differently?

Brian DeSpain: Well, it all started back in 2003. I was still in college studying engineering and construction and my father approached me with the idea of buying a patent for a high-density polyurethane resin injection. I thought it was an interesting idea, so he did it. This led to him founding the firm in 2004. After college, I went to work with him. I recently went from vice president to president and he took on the role of CEO. He’s looking to retire in the next few years and I’m transitioning into full firm ownership. We’ve actually been focused on transitioning for several years now. Right now, I have nothing different planned other than continuing to move the firm forward. Today, the firm is an industry leader in the development and refinement of innovative polymer grouting techniques and we create specialized solutions to assist clients with ground engineering needs that save money and minimize downtime. As one of the first to use lightweight structural polymers to improve subsurface soils at depths



all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. BD: We’re currently looking at ways to diversify stock and are potentially looking at becoming an ESOP. We want to have more people vested. Tenured employees have a great deal of corporate knowledge. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. BD: Change management is all about sharing knowledge and acquiring more knowledge. I’m constantly attending webinars and encourage others to attend as well. When things start opening up again post-COVID, we’ll be attending trade shows, conferences, and presentations again. Learning and education are so important. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? BD: It’s all about the relationship between people. You have to have trust to have a successful transition. “[My primary responsibilty] depends on what the business needs at any given time. No matter what it is, it needs to focus on successfully driving the business forward.” TZL: Tell me about a recent project that was particularly challenging and why. How did you meet that challenge? BD: I-26 in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s the largest project that the NC DOT has ever done and we’re responsible for building a soil nail wall of 120,000 square feet. A soil nail wall is a “top- down” retaining wall constructed in five- foot lifts by drilling rows of nails and applying a shotcrete face. The nails start at the existing ground surface and are installed as the ground in front of the wall is excavated in lifts. We’ve really had to step up to meet contractor demands and have assembled five different crews to meet those demands. Mobilization and meeting safety requirements have been

greater than 40 feet, we’re uniquely equipped to deliver safe, predictable, and effective results. Our team includes industry experts in structural support, earth retention, and soil stabilization with decades of experience, and we’re dedicated to ongoing advancement in the field. “Since our clients cannot really see what we’re doing, they have to take our word for it. We need to foster absolute trust in our work. We do this through transparency and communication.” TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” BD: Balance is a happy medium. As an owner, I’d say the mix is 70 in the business and 30 on the business. I’m mostly dedicated to growth in the business markets and focused on financials. And of course, sometimes, I get involved with project management and personnel issues. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? BD: Trust is a unique thing at our firm. Since our clients cannot really see what we’re doing, they have to take our word for it. We need to foster absolute trust in our work. We do this through transparency and communication. We provide daily logs and weekly reports so the client can “see” what’s happening at all stages. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? BD: Thoughtful, insightful, and innovative. I want to make sure people are involved. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? BD: We’ve used it in the past. If you do R&D, you can write it off, so we hope to use it again in the future. We’re always on the search for innovations in geotechnical construction and talk and teach innovation. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an

HEADQUARTERS: Colfax, NC NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 73 YEAR FOUNDED: 2004 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 1 CORE SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Soil stabilization. UMA’s patented deep injection process fills voids and compacts soils to increase load bearing capacity with minimal disturbance. Residential, industrial, and commercial clients have benefited from decreased project costs as a result of using this innovative method. ❚ ❚ Earth retention. UMA’s seasoned Professional Engineers develop the most cost-effective methods of retaining lateral loads. Soil nailing, helical tiebacks, rock anchors, and mechanical anchors are among the techniques UMA uses to retain soils, stabilize slopes, and landslides. ❚ ❚ Structural support. UMA specializes in designing and building support solutions to match its customers’ plans and budgets. Helical piers and micropiles are some of the drilling services the firm offers. As a full-service geotechnical contractor, UMA can customize a plan of action using a combination of solutions. DESPAIN’S ADVICE: Surround yourself with talented people. No one can be successful on their own.


© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

UST 16, 2021, ISSUE 1404


BUSINESS NEWS THREE T.Y. LIN INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS NAMED 2020 PROJECT OF THE YEAR BY CALIFORNIA TRANSPORTATION FOUNDATION T.Y. Lin International , a globally recognized full-service infrastructure consulting firm, announced that three TYLI projects have won Project of the Year in the California Transportation Foundation 32nd Transportation Awards competition. The CTF Transportation Awards recognize excellence in California transportation in 2020, all modes, public and private sector, and from all regions of the state. About LAWA’s Utility and Landside Access Modernization Program Enabling Project (2020 Aviation Project of the Year): LAWA’s Utility and Landside Access Modernization Program Enabling Project was critical to facilitating the ongoing $5.5 billion Landside Access Modernization Program at LAX in Los Angeles, California. The goal of the combined projects is to improve travelers’ experience by reducing congestion points and increasing convenient access to one of the world’s busiest airports. TYLI served as the Prime Design Engineer for the $300 million design-build contract, successfully delivering 38 different projects over three years. LULEP was fully completed in May 2020. Key LULEP projects included new roadways and parking facilities, new and relocated underground utilities to serve LAX and the new LAMP facilities, the relocation of the Avis Car Rental Facility (the busiest Avis facility in the world), and the relocation of the Metro City Bus Plaza, among other projects. These projects were required to prepare for the construction of the new Automated People Mover system, Consolidated Rent-A-Car facility, and Intermodal Transportation Facilities.

Multiple alternatives and phasing scenarios were developed for most projects to minimize adverse impacts to the traveling public in a very congested environment around LAX. Key to project success was the close collaboration between TYLI, its subconsultants, the D-B contractor, Myers & Sons-Griffith, A Joint Venture, LAWA, the City and County of Los Angeles, LA Metro, and the contractors for the new APM, ConRAC facility, and ITF. About the South Bay Bus Rapid Transit Project (2020 Bus Rapid Transit Project of the Year): TYLI was contracted by the San Diego Association of Governments to complete the final design of Segment 2 of the South Bay Bus Rapid Transit in Chula Vista, California. The project increased convenience and safety for BRT users while bringing aesthetic enhancements to local communities. Emulating rail service, the 22-mile-long South Bay BRT runs buses in designated lanes and on dedicated guideways to provide reliable, on-time service. The system stretches from the southern part of San Diego County, near the Otay Mesa crossing of the U.S.-Mexico border, to downtown San Diego. The $20 million Segment 2 project included approximately 1.5 miles of dedicated guideway, the Santa Venetia BRT station, the Otay Ranch Town Center Station, and a new two-frame bridge over SR 125. TYLI’s designs for the stations and bridge used context-sensitive methods, holding user convenience, aesthetics, and community acceptance as high priorities. The entire South Bay BRT system opened for public use in December 2020.

About the 24th Street Widening Project (2020 Local Street Project of the Year): TYLI served as the Prime Consultant for final design services for the widening of two miles of SR 58 and SR 178, also known as 24th Street, through a residential and retail/commercial area of fast-growing Bakersfield, California. Designed to improve traffic flow and drainage, the $30 million project added one lane in each direction, with a shifted roadway alignment in the western half of the project. Widening improvements were also made at the SR 99/ SR 58 Interchange, including the construction of a tieback wall and ramp widenings. The project also incorporated significant landscape and aesthetic improvements in the residential areas. These include new city signage for drivers entering the downtown area and new sound walls to reduce noise pollution. The project was completed in December 2020. TYLI joined its project partners in accepting the awards at the virtual CTF Transportation Awards ceremony on May 27, 2021. Founded in 1954, T.Y. Lin International is a globally recognized, full-service infrastructure consulting firm committed to providing innovative, cost-effective, constructible designs for the global infrastructure market. With 3,200 employees working in 65 offices throughout the Americas, Asia, and Europe, the firm provides support on projects of varying size and complexity. T.Y. Lin International is a member of Dar Group, a global, privately- owned professional services group, and its industry-leading family of Global Infrastructure companies.

MOVING FORWARD, from page 7

top priorities and we’re lucky to have long-term employees who have made the job easier. We’ve really had to ensure we have the correct people with the right skills for the job – people who can handle dealing with the unique topography of the region. We’ve seen a lot over the years and have the knowledge behind us to move forward. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? BD: Being agile. It all depends on what the business needs at any given time. No matter what it is, it needs to focus on successfully driving the business forward. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? BD: We’re working on a tier system for field employees. For example, there will be six levels on a track from tech to foreman and then supervisor and a few points in between. We’re hopeful that this tier system will allow employees

UMA building a 120,000-square-foot soil nail wall for I-26 in Asheville, North Carolina – the largest project the NC DOT has ever done.

the opportunity to grow at the rate they want to – say over the course of one to three years. Some will go faster than others and that’s fine.

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Grow your team’s empathy by embracing a culture of feedback, realigning your perspective to view feedback as an opportunity, and becoming coachable. Fostering empathy through feedback

C lient experience is founded on employee experience. At Neumann Monson Architects, our path to improving client experience started with internal changes to our review process. For years, we had relied on a traditional, top-down employee review model, but in 2013, we implemented a new system that reflected a non- hierarchal structure. In doing so, we created a culture of feedback that increases our team’s empathy. By embracing feedback, we have taken our firm in a new direction and enhanced our commitment to our clients.

Tim Schroeder

DIRECTOR REVIEWS. Traditionally, our reviews reflected a top-down management structure with employees receiving annual reviews from the principals. This process was widely unpopular and generally ineffective at helping employees grow. At our 2013 firm-wide retreat, we decided to reverse the process and called for an anonymous bottom- up review of the directors. For the staff, this was an important opportunity to voice concerns without fear of retaliation. For the principals, this was an opportunity to learn how we could improve. The staff created the survey with the help of a retreat facilitator. As the results reflected, the staff did not hold back in their responses. The principals decided to meet outside of the office, review the feedback, and discuss how we could change. As we wrapped up, we received a video

from the staff holding up signs saying, “We believe in you.” This represented a turning point for our firm. The principal review was a moment of catharsis, and through this process, we were able to develop a more open dialogue and foster a culture of empathy. 360 REVIEWS. Setting an important precedent, the principals agreed to act without defense and commit to palpable change. At our next firm-wide meeting, we openly addressed critiques and our plans to move forward. To reinvent our internal review system, we implemented 360-peer-reviews where everyone receives feedback from the principals, as well as a cross-section of their peers. Like the principal reviews, we began the process anonymously to ensure everyone felt comfortable

See TIM SCHROEDER, page 10



ON THE MOVE ULTEIG NAMES AVA DRAYTON AS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CLIENT SOLUTIONS Ulteig , a leading provider of comprehensive engineering/ design, program management, technical services and field services, announces the appointment of Ava Drayton as senior vice president, client solutions. Drayton is a results-oriented leader with a track record of success throughout her 30-year career in sales and marketing strategy, strategic partnerships, key account management and business development for global organizations. Her experience aligns well with the elements necessary to lead Client Solutions at Ulteig, which encompasses the key functions of business development, marketing and corporate communications. “Ava is an accomplished leader with the right combination of experience and expertise to develop high performing teams and innovative initiatives, all while cultivating fundamental cultural values,” said Doug Jaeger, Ulteig president and CEO. “As Ulteig’s strategic plan focuses on transformative growth, we will benefit greatly from Ava’s knowledge of evolving markets and leveraging technology to expand our influence within the Lifeline Sectors of power, renewables, transportation and water.” A resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, Drayton most recently served as Vice President Americas, Systems Sales and Key Accounts, Process Solutions for SPX Flow where she was responsible for strategic sales and global business strategy revenue growth. Drayton has held senior leadership positions at several other organizations, including General Electric Company and Dow Chemical Company.

Drayton has won multiple awards for exceptional performance and has leveraged her expertise for executive training and mentoring programs. She was selected as a Professions Fellow by the American Association of University Women. Drayton earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Howard University, her master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University and an Executive Master of Technology Management from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School/ Penn Engineering. “It is an exciting time to join Ulteig as it undergoes impressive growth and transformation across North America,” said Drayton. “I am looking forward to building on the strengths of the Client Solutions team and trusted client relationships to drive the business forward.” An employee-owned company, Ulteig delivers comprehensive engineering/design, program management, technical services and field services that strengthen infrastructure vital to everyday life. Ulteig connects people and resources to develop compelling, integrated solutions across the Lifeline Sectors of power, renewables, transportation and water. Ulteig leverages its expertise throughout North America with a wide range of public and private clients. DEWBERRY WELCOMES CHRISTOPHER GUDDEMI TO GROWING NORTHEAST ENVIRONMENTAL BUSINESS UNIT Christopher-Guddemi_Cision. JPGDewberry, a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Christopher Guddemi, PLS, LEED AP, has joined the firm’s

Parsippany, New Jersey, office as a senior project manager. Guddemi joins the firm to support the growth of the northeast environmental business unit and manage the natural resources permitting process on projects in the public and private sectors. He brings 20 years of experience in natural resource permitting, land surveying, and site planning. “Christopher brings years of experience and a versatile set of skills to our department,” says Dewberry Associate and Natural Resources Department Head Brian Sayre, CFM. “His industry knowledge, management skills, and project versatility will serve our clients well.” Guddemi earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Ramapo College. He is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies, New Jersey Association of Floodplain Managers, New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors, and the Society of Wetland Scientists. Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.

TIM SCHROEDER , from page 9

address concerns before problems arise. Initial feedback was unflattering, but this process helped us notice our blind spots. Together, we worked through the clients’ feedback and coached each other to act without defense and commit to addressing shortfalls. Soliciting feedback greatly improved our level of service. Between 2015 and 2018, our Net Promoter Score climbed from below the industry mean to a perfect 100. Today, we continue to maintain a Net Promoter score in the top 1 percent of 300 firms worldwide. FEEDBACK AS AN OPPORTUNITY. In the words of Sheila Heen, “The power of feedback belongs to the receiver.” Our commitment to client experience would not be possible without internal changes to our review system. We embraced a culture of feedback, realigned our perspective to view feedback as an opportunity, and became coachable. Through incremental change, we grew our entire team’s empathy. With empathy at the heart of our process, we can become better teammates and better stewards of our client’s vision. TIM SCHROEDER, AIA CDT LEED AP is president with Neumann Monson Architects. Contact him at

giving feedback. As the process developed, we removed the veil of anonymity to allow for clarifying comments and discussion. This system allowed individuals to learn from their team members, helping everyone become more adaptable, interdependent, and unified. “Through incremental change, we grew our entire team’s empathy. With empathy at the heart of our process, we can become better teammates and better stewards of our client’s vision.” CLIENT REVIEWS. The success of our internal reviews inspired us to implement a similar process with our clients. We began using the Client Feedback Tool from Client Savvy. Rather than soliciting feedback at the end of a project, the Client Feedback Tool tracks stakeholder expectations throughout a project’s lifecycle, allowing the team to

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I t’s one thing to track and report on the right metrics, and then share those performance numbers with your people. But not everyone understands WHY those numbers are so important. Not only do you need to monitor and report on the right performance metrics for your firm, but you also have to explain what these numbers mean to your people. Why certain numbers are important

Knowing the “why” is critical if you want your people to drive those numbers in the right direction. Following is a review of a couple performance metrics AEC firms (and the “C” stands for consulting in this case – not construction) regularly use, how they can be manipulated, and why they are so critical. 1)Utilization. Utilization is defined as raw direct labor (in dollars) divided by total raw labor cost. It is expressed as a percentage, and serves as a measure of how much time your people are spending on projects that clients are theoretically paying for versus how much time they are spending on other stuff that clients are not paying for. When utilization is low, it can mean any number of different problems exist. There could be too many people working on client projects that the company has. That can mean the firm needs to lay off some people or quickly get more work that clients will pay for. But those aren’t the only reasons utilization can be low. It could also be low because the firm has too

many other things that employees are required to do – activities that are not paid for by their clients. Too many internal meetings, for example, can drive utilization down. Too much bureaucracy can also drive it down, such as cumbersome time sheet and expense reporting, or overly difficult forecasting or manpower allocation systems that take too much work to maintain. Vacation, sick leave, and sabbatical policies can also be too liberal and drive down utilization. People may not have enough time in the day to charge to actual projects by the time they do everything else that is required of them. Management could also be contributing to the low utilization problem if their culture and practice says higher-paid people only manage other people and don’t work on and charge their time to projects. That will drive utilization down disproportionately, because those people have higher salaries than the average employee and add to the denominator in the utilization equation more quickly than a lower-paid person would.

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES EXPANSION IN CANADA Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced that the firm has opened a third office in Canada. The office, located in Ottawa, at 1420 Blair Towers Pl, Suite 104, Gloucester, Ontario K1J 9L8, will serve to support Ware Malcomb’s growing client and project base across Canada. Ware Malcomb first entered the Canadian market in 2007 through an acquisition, and Principal Frank Di Roma has successfully led the growth and diversification of the firm’s business in Canada since 2010. “We already have a strong presence in Toronto and Vaughan. This third office solidifies our Canadian presence and allows more

accessibility to clients seeking our expertise,” said Di Roma. “It’s an exciting time for our region, and we look forward to the opportunities and dynamic projects ahead of us,” said Christina Kolkas, Director, Interior Architecture & Design. Specializing in architecture, planning, interior design, branding, civil engineering and building measurement services for commercial real estate and corporate clients, Ware Malcomb has completed more than 1200 projects in Canada and currently has active projects in six provinces across the country. Select recent work in Ottawa includes: two projects with Avenue 31, providing

architectural design services for a multi-storey industrial facility and providing architecture, interior design and branding services for a 100-acre, six building industrial park; and a project with Broccolini providing architectural design services for a one million SF distribution centre. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture, planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to its clients throughout the world. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

often as utilization and labor multiplier data, it is, in my opinion, the most important number of these three to understand. It shows what kind of revenue a firm can bring in relative to the cost of its biggest expense – labor. It’s sort of like a selling price versus cost of goods sold number in a manufacturing business. It’s much more difficult to manipulate than utilization or labor multiplier, because costs are what they are (you can get that from payroll) and revenue is what it is. The one way it is subject to manipulation is when management is able to decide how much revenue is earned on a particular project for a given period of time. Sometimes large, complex projects are billed to clients at various percentage of completion milestones, and those milestones are not always easily identifiable. So, if an individual PM “decides” a project is 35 percent complete, 35 percent of the revenue for that project is recognized and counted. If it is months later when top management figures out the project was really only 25 percent complete at that time because 75 percent of the work was yet to be done to finish it, the revenue factor will then take a hit. But if project managers are over-accruing revenue on new projects by then, the manipulation may not be so evident. The game continues until there are not enough new jobs to over-accrue revenue on, and then a day of reckoning occurs. Still, in spite of this potential problem, tracking/reporting/ reviewing revenue factor is, in my opinion, super-critical. And although I have said it before, I will tell you again: I was taught the wisdom of tracking and reporting revenue factor from the late, great David Robertson, whom I worked with as a consultant back in the early ‘90s when he was at that time CFO at RS&H in Jacksonville, Florida. Theirs was a fantastic story of an incredible financial turnaround of the company that was buying itself back from a publicly-traded company. But that is a story for another day! The bottom line is this – not only do you need to monitor and report on the right performance metrics for your firm, but you also have to explain what these numbers mean to each of your people AND be on the lookout for manipulation if you want the exercise to be fruitful. It’s important stuff if you want your firm to be successful over the long haul! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

In any case, hammering on utilization rates is something most companies in this business either regularly do, will do in the future, or have done in the past. Some companies even post this information on individuals for everyone to see. The problem with “utilization shaming“ is twofold. First, not every employee is in a position to do anything about their own workload of billable projects to charge their time to. And secondly, while hammering on utilization continuously can give you a temporary burst of higher utilization, it can also lead to lower labor multipliers because individuals who don’t want to look bad simply charge their time to what should be billable projects, whether or not they are actually accomplishing anything that advances the project. That’s just gaming the system to look good as individuals, but doesn’t help the firm at all. 2)Labor multiplier. Labor multiplier is defined as net service revenue divided by direct raw labor. The important aspect of labor multiplier is that it’s a reflection of what clients really think the services your firm provides are worth. That drives the numerator in the equation up. But it is also a reflection of how good of a job management is doing with organizing projects and getting people into the best roles they can relative to their cost versus what clients will pay for those people’s time. And, it is a reflection of the firm’s marketing, selling and negotiation skills, and savvy related to the contracts they are able to get their clients to sign. The problem with management over-emphasizing labor multiplier is that it, too, can be easily manipulated by intelligent employees and project managers. To increase it, all one has to do is work on a job but not charge their time to it. This practice is known as “protecting the multiplier.” Of course, it is a fundamentally dishonest thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen regularly in firms in our industry. There have been extreme examples from the past of companies whose top management insisted that no project would fall below a certain labor multiplier number or the axe would fall on the manager. They got the labor multiplier numbers they insisted on but also tended to see their utilization numbers decline, so the net effect of their multiplier “push” was zero. It looked like they got paid well for their time but didn’t do enough of it (low utilIzation). 3)Revenue factor. This number is defined as net service revenue divided by total raw labor, whether that labor is billable or not. While not tracked and discussed nearly as

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