the job much less fun and more stressful than it had once been. In early 2008, management at Prein&Newhof decided that it was time to hire someone to manage the business functions of the firm. A job opening was posted; I applied for it and was eventually hired as the company’s first business manager, managing the overhead functions – accounting, facilities, human resources, IT, etc. “Our company motto is ‘Seeing Farther.’ By this, we mean we want to step back and take a big-picture view of things, looking beyond what is directly in front of us.” I came to Prein&Newhof looking forward to taking on a new career challenge. At the same time that I was hired, the company was beginning a five-year management transition plan in anticipation of the retirement of five key principals. I had the opportunity to work closely with Jim Cook, the president at the time, as well as the other principals. I also worked with the next generation of leaders who were being groomed to take over team and company leadership. In 2010, I was selected to serve as corporate treasurer and in 2018, president. Having a non-engineer as president of an engineering firm is not typical, but because of our officer team, we’ve been able to make it work well. We work closely together and share responsibilities. As a non-engineer, I can handle many of the non-technical aspects of running the company, freeing time for the billable professionals on our officer team to do what they do best. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? TN: One of our top CAD designers has worked for us remotely from South Dakota for more than 15 years. However, before COVID-19, remote work was not something we encouraged or supported to any degree. We believed that daily in- person interaction was the best way to build and maintain culture. However, the necessity of working remotely when our state government shut down office work made us quickly adapt. The technology we had in place and which we added since the shutdown has been invaluable in helping
us to stay connected and accomplish our work from home. We have found that while we can accomplish a lot away from the office, we need to be together in person, even if only for short periods of time, to be able to effectively mentor, manage projects, and maintain our culture. Having seen how remote work is feasible, we are certainly more open to accommodating future employee requests for remote work. TZL: How far into the future are you able to reliably predict your workload and cashflow? TN: We can reliably predict workload about six to nine months into the future. COVID-19 has created more uncertainty among our clients regarding the timing and/or viability of projects, which has made workload forecasting more challenging. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? TN: Family is important. We emphasize the importance of family to our colleagues by paying them time and a half for all overtime worked, which we view as additional time away from their families. We encourage them to take time to be present for their kids’ activities. We don’t seek work outside of our geographical footprint which would take employees away from home; we want them to be at home every night. Technology makes it such that it is difficult to separate work and family time. We want to be responsive to our clients and colleagues, so we will do work from home that previous generations would not have been able to do. That often intrudes upon or interrupts family or personal time. I think a certain amount of separation is necessary to be successful at work and family – which is something we want for all of our colleagues. particular reason, is important and necessary to our success, and should be treated that way.” “Every employee in our company is there for a
HEADQUARTERS: Grand Rapids, MI NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 150 YEAR FOUNDED: 1969 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 6 offices and an environmental laboratory SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Airports ❚ ❚ Asset management ❚ ❚ Drinking water ❚ ❚ Environmental ❚ ❚ Funding ❚ ❚ Geotechnical ❚ ❚ GIS ❚ ❚ Laboratory ❚ ❚ Landscape architecture ❚ ❚ Marine and marinas ❚ ❚ Non-motorized trails ❚ ❚ Roads and streets ❚ ❚ Site development ❚ ❚ Stormwater ❚ ❚ Structural ❚ ❚ Survey ❚ ❚ Wastewater VALUES: Develop relationships, invest wisely, build expertise, take responsibility and support community
See SEEING FARTHER, page 8
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PRIL 5, 2021, ISSUE 1386
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