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
HEADQUARTERS: Baltimore, MD NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 450 YEAR FOUNDED: 2007 (Incorporated) NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 17
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.
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GUST 9, 2021, ISSUE 1403
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