TZL 1403 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S A u g u s t 9 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 0 3 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

HR department size

Firms need to devote resources toward business development and ensuring a steady stream of work for the future. Business development

F or most AEC firms, things are pretty good right now. While firms are busy catching up on a flood of work, adequately staffing projects, and finding ways to keep projects on time and on budget, there isn’t a lot of time or energy left to think about how to get more business – unfortunately, this is precisely the time that firms need to be devoting resources toward ensuring a steady stream of work for the future! Here are four common problems AEC firms have in optimizing their marketing and business development: 1) Business development activities are not balanced with workload. Firms “turn off” business development when they are busy with work, and don’t turn it back on until it’s too late – when leads and revenue have already dipped! 2) Firms do not provide adequate training in marketing and selling – or if they do, the wrong person is assigned to do the teaching. Only 22 percent of firms provide marketing training to all employees, most often in the areas of proposal preparation, and CRM systems use. Just 14 percent of firms provide actual sales training. 3) Technical staff does not have the time for marketing and sales activities. Utilization is the main performance metric tracked and emphasized. 4)The organization is siloed and marketing operates as a separate “support” entity from business development and project management. In order to effectively sell the firm and its services, these departments need to be tied in with the operation and culture of the rest of the firm. Firms that understand the importance of good marketing and business development are undertaking important actions daily – both in good times and bad! Here are four areas successful firms shine in marketing and business development: 1)They know how to cross-sell effectively and maintain good relationships with current clients. 2)They understand the market and have a large, well-detailed degree of information on past, present, and potential future clients. Just over half of all firms (52 percent) maintain a centralized file of data on their clients (that’s not enough). Eighty-three percent of firms have a CRM system, with an average of 9,023 names in it. 3) Successful firms begin with the end in mind – they understand revenue numbers, have sales goals, and also understand what activities will help them get projects. 4)They know their marketing metrics and use them to help predict the future. Examples include the number of website views, the number of

Zweig Group’s 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report of AEC Firms asked firms to enter the size of their human resources department as well as the total firm size. The chart above shows the average number of HR employees relative to total staff size groupings. Generally, firms really focused on expanding their HR department once their total staff size surpassed 100 employees. The percentage of the firm’s employees in the HR department ranges anywhere from 1 percent in larger firms to 6 percent in smaller firms. 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 AECOM. .................................................4 Derck & Edson, LLC. ..............................4 Dewberry................................................8 HDR......................................................10 Hill International.....................................10 Perkins&Will............................................2 PRIME AE Group. ...................................6 Sevan Multi-Site Solutions, Inc..............12 T.Y. Lin International..............................12 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz JANE LAWLER SMITH : Let’s walk and talk Page 3 xz Striving to grow: Kumar Buvanendaran Page 6 xz ABDO KARDOUS : Haven’t looked back since 1986 Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG : Getting ready for what’s ahead Page 11

Christina Zweig Niehues




BUSINESS NEWS PERKINS&WILL TEAMS WITH BUILDING TRANSPARENCY AND C CHANGE LABS TO DEVELOP NEXT GENERATION CARBON REDUCTION TOOL A team of design leaders at global architecture and design firm Perkins&Will , in collaboration with C Change Labs and Building Transparency Canada, has been awarded a grant to develop a tool that facilitates the design of low-carbon buildings. The Tally Climate Action Tool will build on existing technologies to provide open, real- time access to material and product information within design software, making it easier and faster to choose low-carbon material options. The CleanBC Building Innovation Fund awarded $460,000 to the team as part of its mission to fund projects in British Columbia that accelerate the availability and affordability of low-carbon building solutions. With an anticipated release date of March 2023, tallyCAT will provide open access to a library of materials that merges into commonly used BIM platforms, like Revit and Rhino. “Our goal is to make it easy for designers to understand the climate impacts of their material choices through a plug-in palette of lower carbon products,” says sustainable building advisor Manuela Londono of Perkins&Will. Currently, BIM platforms lack real-time information on material performance and Environmental Product Declarations – the primary way for designers to track and reduce carbon in specific products. After development, tallyCAT will be a globally available, integrated plugin for designers to access within their BIM software to source Building Transparency’s existing global catalog of EPDs. “To meet the increasing demand from clients to lower the carbon profile of their projects, tallyCAT will help teams optimize and track material quantities more accurately,” says architectural designer Jesce Walz of Perkins&Will. “And ultimately, using less material reduces both carbon footprint and cost.” The tool dovetails with existing efforts in reducing carbon impacts. Building Transparency and C Change Labs, for example, have already demonstrated success with the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator – an industry- leading tool for measuring and comparing embodied carbon in construction materials.

“We recognize that EPDs take effort to establish and are working to make it faster and more affordable for manufacturers to declare their impacts,” says Phil Northcott, CEO of C Change Labs. “Meaningful change in this space must come about through industry-wide collaboration.” Building Transparency also recently added Tally, a Life Cycle Assessment app that quantifies and analyzes carbon locked in building materials, to its portfolio. The app helps to mitigate the carbon risks in buildings before they are built, rather than after they are constructed. The next generation tallyCAT tool will leverage the capabilities of Tally and EC3 directly within BIM modeling programs like Revit, making carbon reduction an active part of the building process. “Bringing these resources together to create an advanced open-access tool is the natural next step to fostering a better building future across the industry,” says Stacy Smedley, executive director and chair of Building Transparency. As one of the pilot partners involved with testing the EC3 tool, Perkins&Will has played a key role in changing the way embodied carbon disclosure and product specification is done in the industry. “Through this partnership with C Change Labs and Building Transparency, we can leverage our collective knowledge to transform the building industry so that low carbon materials become the status quo,” says Elton Gjata, a digital practice manager at the firm. Sustainable design has always been critical for tallyCAT’s three contributors. But now more than ever, it is a defining factor in how builders, owners, and tenants measure success. As the strategic importance of sustainability grows, the tallyCAT team is leading the next frontier through research, tool development, and design. “This grant would not have been possible without the support from industry partners and clients who recognized the need for this climate action tool,” says Kathy Wardle, director of sustainability of Perkins&Will’s Vancouver studio. “The next step in this journey is to combine our expertise in materials and the design process into a digital tool that serves the entire industry.”

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inquiries, proposal volume, hit rate, dollar value of new project opportunities identified, and so much more! If your firm is buried in work and not doing enough business development, it’s not too late – start now! Zweig Group also has a number of resources dedicated to helping firms with their marketing and business development. Check out our advisory services, this online seminar, and the soon to be released 2021 Marketing Survey Report . CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

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Let’s walk and talk

When interviewing your co-workers, peers, and clients, take a walk and harness the power of storytelling together.

I n March, The Zweig Letter ran an article titled “The Power of Storytelling” by Katie Crawford. As I read the article, I was silently affirming her points.

❚ ❚ “We understand the power a story can hold.” Yes! ❚ ❚ “Every project tells a story.” Yes! ❚ ❚ “The most genuine project stories can be found by just having a general conversation about the project.” Again, yes! But how, exactly, does a marketing professional get from a general conversation to a written story? Marketing roles in the AEC industry are often wide in scope with a range of job responsibilities. Interviewing skills – a way to get from conversation to story – should be among them. So, how do we bring ourselves to a level of comfort and experience in the role of interviewer? William Zinsser’s classic, On Writing Well , devotes an entire section of his non-fiction writing guide to interviewing. From his 1st edition to the current 7th edition, the advice is consistent:

❚ ❚ Have basic tools – paper and some well sharpened pencils. Yes, even though so many of us have recording capability in our hands at all times, Zinsser advocates “be a writer. Write things down.” ❚ ❚ Keep your tools out of sight until you need them – some people may freeze up at the sight of your posed pencil. ❚ ❚ Let the conversation warm up before beginning your questions and note-taking. ❚ ❚ Do your homework – don’t waste time asking questions about facts you should already know. ❚ ❚ Prepare questions beforehand but don’t require yourself to stick strictly to them – allow the interview to unfold. Before the interview, I would also recommend reviewing your assignment, the end-product you

Jane Lawler Smith




BUSINESS NEWS AECOM TO CONTINUE OWNER’S ENGINEER ROLE ON EDMONTON VALLEY LINE LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT EXTENSION AS PROJECT ENTERS NEXT PHASE AECOM , the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, announced that the AECOM- led ConnectED Transit Partnership has been approved by the city of Edmonton to continue its role as owner’s engineer on the Valley Line light rail transit extension. The CAD$124 million contract value amendment encompasses design and construction compliance review services for Valley Line West, which is entering construction, and additional work on Valley Line Southeast, which is currently under construction. “This contract amendment demonstrates our commitment to the city of Edmonton and the value delivered by CTP on the project thus

far,” said Marc Devlin, AECOM’s regional chief executive, Canada. “In just ten years, the city has advanced this massive LRT system to construction. We congratulate them and are proud to have played a part in this tremendous success. We look forward to work ramping up as we enter this next phase of the project, which, once complete, will enhance the lives of Edmontonians with affordable, sustainable, and transformative public transit.” AECOM and its CTP partners have served as owner’s engineer on the Valley Line LRT since preliminary design began in 2011. The team has successfully mobilized and continued to advance work on the project throughout 2020 and 2021, despite COVID-19 challenges. As construction on Valley Line West commences, it is expected to support post-pandemic

recovery through the creation of thousands of jobs. The Edmonton LRT Valley Line extension is a CAD$4.2 billion low-floor, urban line that encompasses a total of 27 kilometres of double track, a 500 metre tunnel, two kilometres of elevated structures, and 28 stations. The project also includes a new light rail vehicle operations and maintenance facility, five transit centres, two park-and-ride facilities, and several bridges. Construction on Valley Line Southeast is expected to be complete this year and construction on Valley Line West is expected to be complete by 2027. AECOM delivers professional services throughout the project lifecycle – from planning, design and engineering to program and construction management.

JANE LAWLER SMITH, from page 3

Stepping onto almost any college campus with certain architects and landscape architects I know, invariably turns into a lesson in architectural styles, aesthetics, and circulation. So yes, take a walk with expert eyes! With your specific assignment in mind, think about the people who are closest to the project, and invite them to visit the site with you. On any given project, the professional, depending on their discipline, will notice different things. The architect’s eyes will likely be drawn to the structure – the materials used, the shape and proportion, the details. The engineer may point out the rain garden or search for the location of the HVAC units. As the marketing professional, you may not immediately focus on any of these details, but if they are extremely well done, innovative, or integral to the success of the project, they need to be part of the story you are telling. Your experts will undoubtedly reveal them to you. If challenges like distance, or perhaps a pandemic, limit your ability to go to the site in-person, use photos or video. Having visual reminders of the specifics of the complete project will help to spur thoughts and focus throughout your interview. An advantage here is the ability to easily show the same project in different conditions – morning, noon, and night and winter, spring, summer, and fall. Seeing the same space in varying conditions can be especially valuable and impactful for certain types of projects. Additionally, whether in-person or through photos/video, seeing a space in use can be marvelously revealing and add life to your interview and writing, training a lens on the ultimate users and their experience of the space as well. One of the best things about working for an AEC firm is being able to walk in, around, and through a space you have helped to create. So, let’s do that! Let’s get out there, take a walk with our co-workers, peers, and clients, and harness the power of storytelling together. JANE LAWLER SMITH, MBA, is the marketing manager at Derck & Edson, LLC. She can be reached at

are looking to create. Are you writing content for a blog post on your company website? Are you creating an article for an industry publication? Examining your purpose will help to frame your story as well as help to choose the individuals to interview. Of course, the actual interview is made easier when working with people who are naturally inclined to engage. As Katie Crawford points out, some people may genuinely enjoy the opportunity to do something slightly different, yet still productive and project-related, during their workday. “With your specific assignment in mind, think about the people who are closest to the project, and invite them to visit the site with you. On any given project, the professional, depending on their discipline, will notice different things.” But what happens when you encounter a project expert who is less inclined to engage or uncomfortable with the process? Whether your expert is a co-worker, professional peer, or a client, taking a walk may be the key to success. In the book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, the author uses the power of a walk to uncover fascinating content and details. Although Horowitz does not include any AEC professionals in her book, I have taken many walks with architects, engineers, planners, and landscape architects. I have been rushing to the rental car at the airport and been delayed by the engineer who is admiring a rain garden or particularly well-designed detention basin. I have been approaching a conference hotel with planners who can’t help but comment on the flow – or lack of flow – that is inherent in the journey from parking garage to hotel entrance.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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.



Striving to grow: Kumar Buvanendaran President and CEO of PRIME AE Group (Baltimore, MD), a firm that creates vibrant communities by connecting people and conserving culture and the environment.


W ith a background in bridge design, and after spending time with several well-known engineering firms, Buvanendaran decided to start his own firm. His passion for engineering and solving clients’ challenges was clear. Today, PRIME AE has seen substantial growth and top rankings in national industry publications. As president and CEO, he supports a work culture that centers on client satisfaction and employee retention, and often spends time in each of the firm’s 17 offices. “If you don’t grow, you die,” Buvanendaran says. “We’re trying to build an enterprise to be the employer of choice – clients love us, employees want to work here, and we deliver quality deliverables. So, when I say ‘grow,’ I mean it both quantifiably and behaviorally. I want employees to grow as humans, professionally and personally, and to be the best versions of themselves. If we aren’t striving to grow, what are we working toward?” A CONVERSATION WITH KUMAR BUVANENDARAN. The Zweig Letter: Your online bio says you have a

“hands-on management style” and are able to recruit top talent.” Can you elaborate on this a bit more? How do you recruit talent? What do you look for? Where? Kumar Buvanendaran: It’s taken a long time to figure out how to recruit top talent. I spend a lot of my time networking at conferences, events, and meetings. When I attend certain events, I have a different agenda than my team. I am going to gain intel and find potential recruits based on reputation, experience, etc. It usually takes me months to make progress in “dating” (as I like to call it) this individual and sometimes it works out, and sometimes it does not. I tap into my network to request warm introductions on these identified prospects and am never afraid to make the ask. I consult heavily with my senior management team for input and feedback on candidates and never make these key hire investments alone. One of my recruitment strategies is to follow our business plan, align the talent with it, and lay out how they will play into that plan. Sometimes I recruit quicker than



our actual need, but I hate to lose talent to a competitor. I know the upfront investment is well worth it in the long run. So, all this makes me “hands-on.” I am constantly traveling to our different offices to touch base with employees. It’s important to make frequent in-person visits to ensure staff stay engaged and active. I’m also actively involved in proposal development (i.e., teaming arrangements, interviews), project management, client relationship and client management, staffing/new hires, business development, and operations. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? KB: We changed our telecommuting policy permanently to be more accommodating and flexible to this “new norm.” It’s a difficult adjustment and one I am still getting used to myself but I know adapting to allow more flexibility in our employees’ work schedule is critical to our survival in this industry. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” KB: It’s hard for me to separate the two, but I like the question. As president and CEO, I think I’m always doing both, whether I am cognitively aware of it, or just inherently acting in both capacities. There is always so much to do to continuously improve and just “be better” for the business. Networking is an inherent part of growing and developing business. At the same time, I focus on improving systems and processes to improve efficiencies and culture. I really concentrate on all aspects of the business. “I have spent much of my career building and fostering relationships with clients and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to do what you say you will do, and do it right.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? KB: Trust is everything. This is what makes or breaks companies. I have spent much of my career building and fostering relationships with clients and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to do what you say you will do, and do it right. Our entire

industry is client-centric and focused on innovative and sustainable solutions to make our communities better. Our clients have come to trust us because we follow through with our commitments and deliver exactly what we promise. Along the way we openly communicate, show transparency, and collaborate in a team environment while always being respectful of each other. “Sometimes I recruit quicker than our actual need, but I hate to lose talent to a competitor. I know the upfront investment is well worth it in the long run.” TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? KB: Where do I begin? There are so many skills required to run a successful practice, but some of the most important ones are adaptability, trust, entrepreneurial spirit, risk-oriented, inclusive, respectful, and the willingness to challenge yourself and your leadership. The one thing I always think about when I am asked this question is how much my role focuses on people. I am a bridge engineer by trade, so by default, I focus on process and systems – the concepts or solutions that can fix objects. But, as I’ve transitioned into the role of a CEO and president, I rarely focus on actual engineering or design work. Most of my time is now spent working with leadership and developing my team on soft skills – communication, listening, attitude, time management, empathy, etc. TZL: Since the firm’s founding, it’s gone through several acquisitions. Are there any lessons learned to share when going about acquisition research? KB: There are always lessons learned and I’m still learning lessons as every acquisition is different. Here are a few: ❚ ❚ Do your due diligence. ❚ ❚ Focus on finances, business plans, personnel, ownership succession plan, and general synergy and commitment of the management team. ❚ ❚ Ensure the key principals plan to stay on board for a specific amount of time before exiting. See STRIVING TO GROW, page 8


MARKETS: ❚ ❚ Federal ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ Higher education ❚ ❚ Historic ❚ ❚ Hospitality ❚ ❚ Interior design ❚ ❚ K-12 ❚ ❚ Recreation ❚ ❚ Religious ❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Water SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Architecture ❚ ❚ CM/CI

❚ ❚ Design-build ❚ ❚ Engineering ❚ ❚ Survey ❚ ❚ Water

GRADUATING FROM DBE/MBE: We started out as a DBE/MBE firm and graduated within eight years. This is a testament to our firm’s success. I know very few firms, if any, that have successfully prospered out of graduation from any sort of small business, DBE, MBE designation. And many don’t want to graduate as it puts you in an entirely different, more competitive playing field. However, from day one my goal was use to the program exactly for its intent – as support for small/D/MBE firms to ultimately graduate out of the program and survive on their own. This wasn’t easy and we took many risks along the way. I stayed focused on what we needed to do to survive and prepared as a company for the graduation at least two and a half years prior to its impending date. So, while we’ve graduated and grown to who we are today, I never lose sight of how we got here.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

GUST 9, 2021, ISSUE 1403


BUSINESS NEWS DEWBERRY AWARDED DESIGN CONTRACT FOR FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has been awarded an indefinite delivery contract for miscellaneous architectural and engineering services at Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities throughout the mid-Atlantic. The one-year contract, with options for up to four additional years, encompasses planning and design services for potential projects at 16 federal correctional facilities in Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. Dewberry’s portfolio in justice facilities design spans 45 years with projects from coast to coast. The firm maintains 13 offices within the BOP’s mid-Atlantic region, and has previously completed numerous projects for the agency as well as state and local agencies. Dewberry has received multiple awards and citations from the American Correctional Association, the American Institute of Architects Academy

of Architecture for Justice, and the International Partnering Institute. Major correctional projects completed within the region include the Frederick County Work Release Center and the Baltimore Youth Detention Center, both in Maryland; and the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford, Virginia. Services under the new contract will support both new construction and repair/renovation projects and will include architecture and civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering; as well as environmental assessments, master planning, cost estimating, and construction administration. “The Federal Bureau of Prisons has consistently been on the leading edge of providing humane housing and successful rehabilitation in the correctional field,” says James Beight, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, a senior principal with Dewberry. “The agency has also led the corrections industry by making great strides in the reduction of inmate population

through the release of individuals who do not pose a threat to society or themselves. The focus on rehabilitation has resulted in a reduction in recidivism, returning individuals to their communities as productive citizens. The agency is known for its operation of safe, humane, and secure facilities. We look forward to the opportunity to aid in the support of its mission throughout the mid-Atlantic.” 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.

STRIVING TO GROW, from page 7

PRIME AE provided construction management and construction inspection services to the city of Montgomery, Ohio, for a new multi-lane roundabout.

❚ ❚ Don’t rush decisions. Take your time in the research and meet and greet phase. Synergy is everything! ❚ ❚ Over-ask for documentation. While conversations and dialogue are extremely helpful to understand the documentation, you need to see it in writing! TZL: How do you handle a long-term principal who is resting on his or her laurels? What effect does a low- performing, entitled principal or department head have on firm morale? KB: I’m a strong believer in “lead by example.” In this type of situation, unfortunately, you have to let the principal go. It’s a very difficult decision that requires an incredible amount of damage control to the firm, but the negative effects are far more damaging and will only allow the negative/low-performing behavior to continue. I’ve experienced this a few times in my career and it’s never easy, but as a leader, you can’t sit back and allow this behavior to continue. It will have a domino effect on the firm and employees will become less motivated, less engaged, and less interested. It really needs to be handled as soon as the low performance is noticed. 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? KB: Embrace the transition – that’s the most important thing I can say. I recently went through this as I went from owning PRIME AE to transitioning ownership to our equity partner, NewHold AEC Corp. It was a difficult decision, but once I knew this was the right decision for the company, I needed to be open, patient, flexible, and cooperative as the decision was mutual. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way?

KB: This relates to my answer about low-performing principals. Don’t allow non-performers to outlive their welcome. Cut your losses immediately. Typically, an underperforming employee’s behavior will not change and will have damaging effects on the business – particularly the bottom line and overall morale. If you get stuck in a place of loyalty or regret, you really have to rip the Band- Aid off. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? KB: Growth. If you don’t grow, you die. We’re trying to build an enterprise to be the employer of choice – clients love us, employees want to work here, and we deliver quality deliverables. So, when I say “grow,” I mean it both quantifiably – number of employees, offices, services, etc. – and behaviorally. I want employees to grow as humans, professionally and personally, and to be the best versions of themselves. If we aren’t striving to grow, what are we working toward?

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




How an initial leap to the Middle East jump-started success around the globe for U.S.- based Hill International. Haven’t looked back since 1986

1 986 was a red-letter year for Philadelphia-based Hill International as it was appointed lead consultant for the Abu Dhabi government and its claims committee, marking the entry of the company on the international stage.

Its first overseas office was opened that same year in Abu Dhabi, and at that time Hill was also one of the first expatriate firms to be working in the Emirate. Undoubtedly there were risks and many questioned if it was a smart move for a then young firm to take such a step. But the opportunity that was seized ultimately helped Hill International to learn the ropes of operating in a new country. The project management/construction management company has not looked back since in the Middle East, and in the past 35 years the firm has carried out some iconic real estate/ tourism (Palm Jumeirah in Dubai); infrastructure (Doha Metro Green Line in Qatar, Bahrain International Airport expansion, the Abu Dhabi International Airport Midfield Terminal complex, the two airports in Oman and the Riyadh Metro); cultural (National Museum of Qatar and the Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand

Mosque); and high rise and residential (ADNOC Headquarters complex, Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi and Emirates Hills in Dubai) projects, to name a few. PROBABILITY OF THREE. To grow organically, there are typically three different scenarios under which Hill International “goes abroad” for business opportunities. 1) An existing client seeks to engage the services of Hill International on a project they have in hand in a new country. 2) When a major project is being developed in a new country that aligns with the services we offer, is consistent with our sectoral growth strategy, and has a significant fee that would justify setting up shop in a new country. An added advantage of such an opportunity: While executing the project in

Abdo Kardous

See ABDO KARDOUS , page 10



ON THE MOVE NATHALIE BEAUVAIS JOINS AS MULTIDISCIPLINARY COMMUNITY PLANNING RESILIENCY LEAD Nathalie Beauvais, APA, AIA International Associate, LEED AP, has joined HDR as a community planning resiliency lead. In every community and market, projects are requiring an increased focus on resiliency, equity and the impacts of climate change. Beauvais will provide climate change planning and resiliency leadership across markets to help clients develop more resilient projects. HDR As a technical expert and climate lead, Beauvais will assist HDR teams and clients with implementing performance-based risk assessment, climate change assessment and adaptation plans, vulnerability assessments, business continuity planning, greenhouse gas management plans, asset management plans and more. “Providing for resiliency as well as using the best available information is a challenge that requires flexibility and adaptability,” Beauvais said. “I am looking forward to collaborating

with the many areas of expertise at HDR to elevate climate change planning, which requires the integration of all components of the ecosystems of the built environment including the human aspect, understood via economic, public health and diversity.” Beauvais has more than 30 years of experience as an architect, planner and urban designer primarily in the northeastern United States. She brings design, technical expertise and stakeholder engagement to the forefront when developing resilient buildings, infrastructure, nature-based solutions and innovations for integrated design approaches. Early in her career, Beauvais gained expertise planning for communities in Boston before moving to France where she contributed to the development of a GIS-based, 3D software for the visualization of planning strategies for European cities. More recently, she worked as a senior leader in the resiliency and sustainability field for other consulting firms. Beauvais also worked for several years at Harvard University for the sustainable

development of the Allston campus. She is a prolific author, speaker and panelist. “Resiliency to climate change is more than a technical challenge, it is a transforming event for our built environment and operation processes,” said Transportation Sustainability and Resiliency Director Pam Yonkin. “It requires cross-disciplinary expertise to provide for complete solutions. With Nathalie on our team, our clients will be able to better enhance their environments through access to more world-class knowledge in resiliency for built assets, ecosystems and communities.” For over a century, HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities and push the boundaries of what’s possible. Our expertise spans more than 10,000 employees in more than 200 locations around the world – and counting. Our engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services bring an impressive breadth of knowledge to every project. Our optimistic approach to finding innovative solutions defined our past and drives our future.

ABDO KARDOUS , from page 9

in some locations to receive government tenders) and industry associations (like the chambers of commerce and professional or engineering councils). For Hill, a win-win strategy would be to pursue projects where it keeps its cost structure lean to have a competitive edge in the local market, while maintaining the high standards of quality, integrity, and professionalism it has extended to all its clients across the globe. Localization of human resources is one way to be cost effective by ensuring the company hires the right professionals locally that are trained and inducted into the company’s systems and processes. FACING HEADWINDS. Like any other place, challenges exist in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific for a U.S. project management/construction management firm. One of these challenges is working in a country with low corruption perception index that results in inadequate transparency in the procurement process. Another issue is currency fluctuation risks that result in a lower-than- anticipated revenue. Repatriation of funds, lack of clear regulations, and inadequate labor and safety laws are also issues that have to be dealt with. Whether we’re identifying opportunities or competing for and securing new business for Hill International, it is important to run and deliver projects successfully. The success of these projects significantly depends on the understanding and respect of local customs and practices and maintaining strong personal relations with clients to demonstrate Hill’s corporate commitment to these projects. ABDO KARDOUS is the Middle East president of Hill International and oversaw the setting up of about a dozen international offices of the company in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. He can be reached at

that foreign land, Hill also gets the opportunity to grow its business there. 3) When the company’s ongoing research determines there are certain countries/geographies that are undergoing major growth, either in a particular industry or in general. At that point we would prepare a business plan along with a market- positioning study (basically taking stock of the opportunities and competition there) and a presentation is made to senior management for approval to set up an international office and invest resources even before a project is in hand. A common denominator for a U.S. project management/ construction management firm working abroad would include good clients, reasonable fee margins, exciting and challenging projects, and a safe working environment. “Its first overseas office was opened that same year in Abu Dhabi, and at that time Hill was also one of the first expatriate firms to be working in the Emirate ... The opportunity that was seized ultimately helped Hill International to learn the ropes of operating in a new country.” While working overseas, Hill keeps a strict eye on acquisition of proper licensing in the new country, establishment of a local entity and associated formalities, meeting all local compliances, and creation of a human resources system to offer competitive benefits and compensation to attract and retain appropriately-qualified resources. In addition, there is also the need to get registration with the local agencies (like the tender board

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Getting ready for what’s ahead

I t’s been said many times before that “business dislikes uncertainty.” Well, good luck to those of you who are owners and managers of AEC businesses, because you will never be able to eliminate uncertainty! The fact is pandemics, recessions, terrorist attacks, and more can happen at any time with no notice, and without our approval. You’ll never be able to eliminate uncertainty, but there are some things you can be sure of. Keeping these in mind will help you be ready for what lies ahead.

Mark Zweig

That said, I do think there are some things we can be certain about, and keeping these in mind will help us be ready for what lies ahead. Here are some of those things: 1)This pandemic – and others – will probably be around for years to come. The latest COVID resurgence we are going through with the delta variant shows how difficult it will be to get rid of this thing or something else like it. As polarized as our culture is today and as diametrically opposed as the two major camps are, we can’t seem to figure out how to respond to threats as a unified nation. There are multiple implications for AEC business firms. They need to be ready for the unexpected – if that is even possible. Redundancy in staffing, serving a wide range of client and geographic markets, and having sufficient working capital will all be critical to surviving future events, whatever they might be. 2)Investments that allow us to work from any location is money well-spent. Now that so many people have a taste of not going in to the office every

day – and the firms they work for did well in spite of that – it’s going to be hard to go back to the way it used to be. Not to mention how this change has opened up more options for firms to hire people who are not local to any of their offices. 3)Offices will become more of a gathering place versus the place everyone goes every day all day. Larger common areas and places for big meetings will be common. There will be fewer “cubicle cities” and if there are cubes, they’ll be higher and more private. There will also be miniature private spaces for Zoom meetings or calls – akin to modern-day phone booths – and carrels that people will claim on a first-come, first-served basis. 4)The worker shortage will probably never abate. There are just too many reasons why it’s going to be an employee-driven job market. Our industry has always had a shortage of people who were designers or technical people who also had the requisite

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS GRAND OPENING HELD FOR RIVEREDGE PARK PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE, A NEW LANDMARK FOR DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT IN AURORA, ILLINOIS T.Y. Lin International , a globally recognized full-service infrastructure consulting firm, announced that TYLI joined city officials and residents to mark the grand opening of the new RiverEdge Park Pedestrian Bridge over the Fox River in Aurora, Illinois. The firm was contracted by the city of Aurora to design the signature pedestrian-bicycle bridge, which is a critical part of the master plan to redevelop the City’s historic downtown district. “T.Y. Lin International’s innovative design for the RiverEdge Park Pedestrian Bridge successfully balances diverse user needs while providing an iconic, cost-effective landmark representing the city’s bright future,” said Dan Fitzwilliam, P.E., TYLI senior bridge engineer. TYLI’s services for the project included bridge architecture, aesthetic lighting design, structural engineering, and electrical engineering. Initially, the firm developed eight bridge concepts along four alignment profiles. The final bridge design, which was developed through a series of public meetings and refinements with City staff, is a seven- span concrete girder structure with a graceful S-curve alignment. The bridge superstructure features a central beam “spine” from which two pathways cantilever on either side. The segregated twin pathways allow the faster commuter bicyclists to be safely separated from the slower pedestrians. From the riverbanks, the pathway decks gradually rise to the top of the girder at the midspan, where overlooks and benches offer scenic views of the Fox River and downtown Aurora. The RiverEdge Park Pedestrian Bridge unites the new RiverEdge Park on the east side of the

river with existing neighborhoods, redeveloped parks, and trails. The bridge also allows non- motorized commuters to connect across the river to the recently improved, multimodal Aurora Transportation Center. 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. SEVAN RANKED AMONG TOP FIRMS ON ENGINEERING NEWS-RECORD’S 2021 AWARDS LISTS Sevan Multi-Site Solutions, Inc. – a leader in innovative design, program management, construction services, and data analytics – has earned spots on the recent award lists by Engineering News-Record . Sevan was ranked No. 21 on ENR’s Top 50 Program Management Firms list and No. 44 on the Top 100 Construction Management- for-Fee Firms list. This marks the fourth consecutive year that Sevan has earned a spot on the Top 50 Program Management Firms list and the 3rd year in the Top 100 Construction Management-for-Fee Firms. “This distinction is an incredible honor and industry staple that highlights our team’s exemplary commitment to our clients and partners,” said Jim Evans, president and CEO of Sevan. “It is wonderful to be recognized again by ENR, alongside so many great global program management and construction companies.” The lists recognize firms finding new momentum in their business, and rankings are based on annual revenue. ENR conducts annual surveys that assess key segments of

the construction industry and ranks companies within those segments. In 2021, Sevan was recognized as an Employee-Rated Great Place to Work for the 8th consecutive year. In 2020, Sevan ranked No. 124 on the Financial Times FT 1000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies and made the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest-Growing Companies for the 3rd consecutive year. Visit our website to learn more about Sevan, our 2021 award rankings and acquisitions. Sevan helps iconic, global brands optimize their multi-site construction and facility programs in the U.S. and internationally. We are headquartered near Chicago, Illinois with 400+ employees and an international office in London. The vision of Sevan Multi-Site Solutions is to be the best in the world at delivering innovative design, program management, construction services, and data analytics to organizations with multiple sites. Sevan has a passion for sustaining people, the environment, and its clients’ businesses. Sevan rolls out multi-site initiatives efficiently, predictably and transparently. Applying breakthrough technology solutions, Sevan optimizes construction of new builds, rebuilds, remodels and renovations. Sevan has licensed architects in 49 states and D.C., Canadian provinces, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Sevan has professional engineers on staff and general contractor licenses in more than 25 states. Since Sevan’s inception in 2011, the team has refreshed more than 21,000 retail stores and 14,000 restaurants. The team has also completed more than 28,000 surveys, totaling to more than 700 million square feet.

6)Marketing and branding will become increasingly sophisticated. Just having a good website and doing regular social media postings is nowhere near enough to keep up today. Real video production capabilities, creating podcast series, doing original market research, and even measurement of brain waves of those who are observing marketing messages will be things most firms in this business will be doing in the future. Marketing is not standing still. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at “It’s been said many times before that ‘business dislikes uncertainty.’ Well, good luck to those of you who are owners and managers of AEC businesses, because you will never be able to eliminate uncertainty!”

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

communication skills to succeed as consultants in client- facing roles or managers of other people. But now our schools aren’t turning out nearly enough architects and engineers and surveyors to meet an ever-increasing demand for their skills. And we are facing unprecedented needs in so many sectors – water and wastewater, power, transportation, housing, health care, and many more. If there is any silver lining to this labor shortage cloud it’s that AEC firms have been able to raise their prices. 5)Debt-laden firms are going to be hamstrung because interest rates will go up. Borrowing money has been ridiculously cheap for a long time. I don’t see how it can continue. If firms that are used to borrowing money at 4 percent to 5 percent interest are suddenly finding themselves paying 10 percent or more (and we have had higher rates than that in the past) because inflation is running away, it’s going to be a big drag on profitability and growth for the firms that have a lot of debt.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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