TZL 1458 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

TRENDLINES Most important for work experience September 26, 2022, Issue 1458 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM

AEC professionals have a choice about where they live and work, so what makes them choose their firms? Why AEC?

T he average person will spend 100,000 hours of their life working. So why choose AEC? Architects, engineers, environmental scientists, and also the marketing, accounting, and HR professionals who keep these businesses running, all likely have the intelligence, aptitude, and means to pursue a number of career paths, but chose this one. We’re a special group, those of us who work in the AEC industry, and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of the creation of the environment that shapes our lives. The events of the past few years have only made it more apparent that those working in the industry have a good degree of choice about where to live and work. Changes in policy brought on by the pandemic have caused many firms to embrace virtual work, and consequently opened a door to hire those who might not have previously been considered due to geographic constraints or their need for a flexible schedule. So why do those working in the industry choose the firms they work at? One of the first questions on Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For employee survey asks employees about what factors are most important in their work experience. Overwhelmingly, culture is a clear top pick, followed by compensation, then professional development, and finally performance recognition. While it’s no surprise that culture is king, every person’s decision to work somewhere is a delicate interplay of all these different factors – ones that sometimes shift over the course of their career. Providing more insight into this, Zweig Group’s newest survey, AEC Workforce of the Future, asks respondents, “Does your job now match your original career goals? If not, why not?” Fifty-eight percent of female respondents and 56 percent of male respondents stated that their current job matches their expectations. For those working in jobs that aren’t the best fit, 22 percent stated they took the job because they were afraid they would not get other offers. Smaller percentages of respondents stated that needing experience was their prime motivator, followed by an even smaller group who said they took their job just because they needed money. Culture is hard to quantify, and it is a lot more than ping-pong tables and free sodas. It’s comprised of all the individuals working at a firm, their attitudes toward work, and hundreds of policies, procedures, and

FIRM INDEX Bowman.......................................................................4 Contour Environmental LLC....................... 12 Cushing Terrell........................................................6 Maskell Plenzik & Partners..........................10 MCW Group of Companies ......................... 10 Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. ................. 12 SCS Engineers.........................................................4 MORE ARTICLES n KOLLAN SPRADLIN: Consulting for the forest, not the trees Page 3 n Empowering people: Greg Matthews Page 6 n LAUREN RHODES MARTIN: Get paid or get resolution Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Being a real leader Page 11 Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For employee survey asks employees about what factors are most important in their work experience. Overwhelmingly, culture is a clear top pick, followed by compensation, then professional development, and finally performance recognition. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

Christina Zweig Niehues




NEW FROM ZWEIG GROUP WELL INTO 2022, RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION REMAINS A TOP CHALLENGE FOR AEC FIRMS ACROSS THE U.S. Zweig Group’s recently released research publication, the 2022 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report focuses on Zweig Group’s industry data on all things relevant to human resources and the policies, procedures, and benefits firms in the industry are using to entice the industry’s talent to work at their organizations, and keep staff engaged, motivated, and working productively. Hot topics in this report include how spending on HR departments and department composition has changed over the past year. Latest figures indicate

that the top areas for HR spending are HR labor (60 percent of total spend) and training (17 percent of spend). Overall, HR spending has reached a 10-year high, at a median 1.9 percent of net service revenue. Other important findings explored in the report include what AEC firms are doing about flexible and remote work policies, the latest trends in paid time off, and what benefits are most important to the workforce by various demographics (age, gender, job role). For more information on Zweig Group’s 2022 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report , click here . Zweig Group explored these findings and more in an in-depth webinar, available on demand here.

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


benefits that go into creating the systems that make an individual feel as though they are succeeding or able to achieve their purpose at work. Work is a lifestyle for many. Even for those working from home, work in the AEC industry is still “fun” with scores of an average of 4.2/5 (agreement on 1-5 scale) for employees at Zweig Group’s 2022 Best Firms To Work For Award winning firms. The AEC Workforce survey asked respondents to rate the level of importance of various factors involved in their choice of workplace. It’s clear that personal connection at work is extremely important, with the highest rating scores tied for both statements, “It is important that people at my workplace will notice my efforts” and “It is important that I have a mentor at my organization.” Looking at the environments that affect productivity, respondents rated very highly (score of 4.2/5), “I am more productive when I know other members of my team depend on me,” while “I am more productive when working by myself,” received a low score (2.9/5). Authority is important because it gives people a feeling that they have a measure of control in their lives. Authority can be a motivator to move up in an organization and gives additional purpose to work. Those feeling that their level of responsibility is high, but that they have no authority to make decisions that impact their work environment, will feel overworked, frustrated, and may experience burnout. Looking back at the Best Firms To Work For, the employee survey asks individuals to rate their agreement with the statement, “My level of authority accurately reflects my level of responsibility.” While average scores for this were high (around 4.5/5), the results examined by race and age indicate some disparity, with African Americans (3.9/5) and those in the younger age group feeling less positive about this statement than older, white employees. If you’re looking to improve recruitment or retention at your firm, look to some of the above slightly more intangible factors that are affecting your employee sentiment. Perks and benefits won’t fix a culture problem, but providing an environment where people feel that they can succeed in the way that is most important to them will. The AEC Workforce of the Future Survey is still open for participation and any scores or responses cited in this article are based on current level of participation prior to date of publication. Click here to participate in this survey, or contact us if you’d like to send it out to all members of your organization and receive a free report. Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

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A broader view of client objectives allows us to add value and, in some cases, recategorize isolated projects into stepping stones that line the path to the client’s ultimate goal. Consulting for the forest, not the trees

A s technical consultants, too often we find ourselves relegated to providing guidance for a specific project with no real context of the larger picture. Perhaps this phenomenon is based on our relationship and history with the client, or perhaps the client naturally keeps their long-term strategy close to the vest. Regardless of the reason, to be effective consultants, it is to our client’s advantage to share the ultimate goals and objectives of the organization with us, their technical advisors. A broader view of client objectives allows us to add value and, in some cases, recategorize what were once viewed as isolated projects into stepping stones that line the path to the client’s ultimate goal.

Kollan Spradlin

In order to gain insight into our client’s organizational objectives, we must first build a relationship of trust by taking a genuine interest in their long-term success, not only in the outcome of a single project. However, conversations that facilitate trust are generally unnatural to technical professionals and don’t yield immediate results. Strong relationships can take years to develop and are often built upon consistent client experience over time. Therefore, it is important to establish the characteristics that will define our services and to provide our client an experience that reflects those characteristics over multiple interactions. Those qualities will vary

depending on consulting firm and client, but some examples could be responsiveness, reliability, or innovation. What attributes will our client associate with our name? Once a level of trust is achieved by meeting or exceeding expectations over time, the real work of getting to the root of our clients’ objectives can begin. ■ ■ Getting consensus. While establishing a relationship built upon trust is a prerequisite to understanding our various clients’ strategic goals, we must also be wary of being caught




TRANSACTIONS BOWMAN EXPANDS IN GULF COAST THROUGH ACQUISITION OF FABRE ENGINEERING, INC. Bowman announced the purchase of Fabre Engineering, Inc. Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Pensacola, Florida, Fabre provides comprehensive civil engineering and land surveying to a variety of public and private clients in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Under the leadership of Frank Fabre, the company’s founder, Fabre specializes in water, stormwater and wastewater solutions, airports, land use planning for private developers and municipal agencies, and broad-based geomatics and land surveying services. “Frank and the extended Fabre team have a long history in the Gulf Coast,” said Gary Bowman, CEO of Bowman. “Our Southeast region will no doubt benefit from the addition of Fabre’s skilled workforce and diverse base of clients. We are all excited to welcome Fabre’s team of experienced professionals to Bowman and look forward to the cross- selling, service line augmentation and collaboration opportunities that will result from this acquisition.”

“There’s a significant amount of synergy between Fabre and Bowman,” said Frank Fabre, founder, and President of Fabre. “We are looking forward to joining an organization that shares our work ethic and commitment to quality. I am confident that we have found the right fit for our people and our clients and I believe that our team will be able to contribute meaningfully to Bowman’s growth along the Gulf Coast and throughout the greater southeast.” The acquisition, which Bowman expects to be immediately accretive, was financed with a combination of cash and seller financing. Bowman expects the Fabre acquisition to initially contribute approximately $1.5 million of annualized net service billing. “Fabre is another exciting acquisition that is aligned with our long-term strategic growth initiative,” said Bruce Labovitz, Bowman’s CFO. “The Fabre acquisition was closed at a favorable multiple relative to our stated range and it meets all objectives for operating metrics. As is our practice, we will provide more detailed information on

M&A activities, pipeline, and guidance in connection with our scheduled quarterly communications.” Bowman is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm offering a broad range of energy, infrastructure, real estate, and environmental management solutions to customers who own, develop, and maintain the built environment. Fabre Engineering, Inc. has been providing clients with civil and environmental engineering and land surveying services for over thirty years. Fabre’s clients include counties, cities, water and wastewater utilities, land developers, engineers, architects, school districts, the Department of Defense, industries, and other governmental agencies. Fabre’s professional engineering and surveying specialists use expert knowledge and state-of-the- art technology to meet every challenge encountered. Fabre’s solutions are cost- efficient, tested, proven, sustainable, and delivered with professional and friendly customer service.

a consensus among client stakeholders. Likewise, it is prudent to reestablish goals and implementation priority as new stakeholders are introduced to the team. As consultants, we should be prepared to offer a change in direction if the established path no longer serves the client’s best interest. As we cultivate deeper client relationships, we are able to have more candid conversations about the true goals of the organization that reach beyond the scope of a single project. In doing so, we can increase the value of our services by providing a more holistic approach to a series of projects. Although the method helps streamline the path to the ultimate objective, it is important to ensure consensus among client stakeholders, assemble the team that best serves the client, and understand that some adjustment to the plan is inevitable. We must always remember that we are at our best and most valuable when we are consulting for the forest, not the trees. Kollan Spradlin is a project manager at SCS Engineers. He can be reached at “As we cultivate deeper client relationships, we are able to have more candid conversations about the true goals of the organization that reach beyond the scope of a single project.”

KOLLAN SPRADLIN, from page 3

on an information island. When establishing long-term organizational goals, it is important to solicit and intently listen to forthright feedback from all client decision- makers. When each stakeholder concern is thoughtfully considered and addressed, we will ultimately achieve greater consensus and investment into strategic objectives, and subsequently, the agreed-upon priority of project implementation, even if the group ultimately overrules some individual’s concerns. Simultaneously, this approach helps limit wholesale revisions and reworking of plans that regularly occurs when all perspectives have not been considered. ■ ■ Knowing our strengths. Once an objective and the path to success have been established, we can commence our more technical or project level work, always keeping sight of the client’s organizational or bigger-picture goals. But it’s important to not overextend beyond our technical or professional capabilities. We must understand our client’s needs and identify where outside expertise could help deliver success. There is great value in identifying and incorporating the best resources, whether they are within or outside of our firm. ■ ■ Change is constant. As advisors to our clients, we must remain adaptable to changing personnel and outside influences that may alter the target mid-course. Verifying that goals have not changed at major implementation milestones can provide reassurance that there is still

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Empowering people: Greg Matthews President and CEO of Cushing Terrell, a multidisciplinary firm that empowers creative designers to discover imaginative, responsible first-of-their-kind environments.


A s president and CEO of Cushing Terrell (Billings, MT), Matthews says he’s fortunate to lead an incredibly talented team of architects, engineers, and design professionals who pride themselves on always improving. With more than 25 years of experience with Cushing Terrell, Matthews previously served as co-lead for the firm’s healthcare design studio, which gave him a keen sense of how much people matter in the design equation. His team members, clients, and partners are top priorities. “At the end of a project, we have an amazing building to show for our hard work, but it’s the relationships I’ve built along the way that truly stand out,” Matthews says. “For me, it’s always been about the people I work with to bring a project to life, as well as the people who will use the building and the benefit it will bring to the surrounding community.” A CONVERSATION WITH GREG MATTHEWS. The Zweig Letter: When did you first know that you wanted

to be an architect? Did it turn out to be what you first envisioned? Greg Matthews: In high school, I had an amazing drafting teacher who talked a lot about architecture, and I fell in love with the idea of using drawings to communicate ideas and bring them to life. During the summers, I worked for a construction contractor, and I vividly recall sitting around the rough-framed house we were building and hearing the carpenters talk about the poor quality of the drawings. I remember thinking I’d like to be part of this process and create great designs that were a pleasure to build. It turns out the summers I spent in the construction field provided me with some of the best education for my career as an architect. I was able to experience the process from a contractor’s point of view. My career has been everything I had imagined it to be – creative, collaborative, and an opportunity to envision a building and see it realized. It’s a very rewarding experience. TZL: As firm president, what’s one of your top goals for



Cushing Terrell in say the next five years? How do you plan to get there? GM: Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed the incredible impact our firm’s growth has had on the creation of new opportunities for our people, which is key to meaningful careers and the long-term retention of our talent. One of my top goals is to ensure both happen: responsible firm growth and opportunity creation. To get there, we’re looking at growth opportunities through bringing on top talent who can help open new doors, growth by investing in and building our vertical markets, growth of our firm’s knowledge through our knowledge-management-driven culture, and growth by breaking down geographic boundaries through embracing remote work. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? GM: Our design process and culture prioritize the user experience. In our client relationships, this means being responsive, communicative, and enthusiastic at every touchpoint. In our deliverables, this means considering how our clients’ clients will be using and experiencing the spaces we imagine and create for their use. Ultimately, it comes back to our mission to forever improve. We approach our work confidently, but humbly, knowing there’s always more to learn. Constant curiosity and an emphasis on research keep our teams on top of innovations, trends, and challenges, so we can always think ahead in terms of design decisions. Our clients trust us to bring new ideas to the table and to challenge the status quo. We also stand by our work. We take responsibility for each choice, outcome, and relationship. We’ve seen this result in many long-term relationships with clients who know we’ll always be there for them. TZL: You’ve been with Cushing Terrell for more than 25 years. What’s one of the most memorable experiences/accomplishments you’ve had there to date? GM: Most revolve around the feeling of creating something beneficial with a team – colleagues, clients, and construction partners. At the end of a project, we have an amazing building to show for our hard work, but it’s the relationships I’ve built along the way that truly stand out. For me, it’s always been about the people I work with to bring a project to life, as well as the people who will use the building and the benefit it will bring to the surrounding community.

TZL: Who are you admiring right now in the AEC industry? Where do you see thought leadership and excellence? GM: There are many. I’ve drawn inspiration from Henderson Engineers for their ability to pull the curtain back on industry insights and best practices in a way that feels approachable, even for non-technical audiences. Their leadership is also very present and engaged. Perkins+Will is another one I admire because they’ve managed to seamlessly blur the lines between design excellence and sustainable design, showing that they are one in the same and giving industry professionals something to aspire to. Additionally, I would be remiss not to mention a leadership collective I’m involved with, which comprises eight partner firms, all of whom I can trust to help workshop even the most difficult leadership scenarios. I learn from them every time we meet. We know there are big challenges to address and we have a responsibility to work together. TZL: Your firm is committed to social action. What’s something you’re working on now that illustrates this commitment? GM: Our offices have always been involved in initiatives that support our communities – everything from STEM programs and mentorship at local schools to annual fundraising for our favorite nonprofit organizations. Each office has its own commitments, which have become traditions. While this continues, we’ve also formalized a pro bono social action program so we can take on larger projects in new and unfamiliar communities as a firm, pulling in multidisciplinary expertise from across our locations. We officially launched the program in February, announcing that in addition to providing pro bono design services, the initiative will focus on action around diversity, equity, and inclusion; community service; charitable giving; and sustainable design. Outside of fostering community connections, our projects offer professional growth opportunities for people at different stages of their careers. We’re excited to embark on two nominated projects this year – one for the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming; and another for the American Legion in Big Timber, Montana. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? GM: Our firm culture embraces the idea




OFFICE LOCATIONS: Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Texas, Washington, with team members in 32 states MARKETS: Commercial, Education, Government, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Residential, Retail SERVICES: Architecture, Building Performance, Building Sciences, Civil Engineering, Commissioning, Electrical Engineering, Energy Services, Fire Protection, Graphic Design, Historic Preservation, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Land Surveying, Mechanical Engineering, Planning, Refrigeration Engineering, Structural Engineering, Visualization Services


© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 26, 2022, ISSUE 1458



of maintaining a work-life balance, and early in my career, I learned the importance of this. I also know that balance is different for everyone. For me, my family is my life, and when I’m not working, I spend a lot of time with my wife and our two daughters. They understand and wholeheartedly support my career and the heavy pressures that come along with it. They also understand that my work and family time are not always separate – the lines get blurred at times and I’m working hard to be present in the moments that are meaningful for both. TZL: I see you’ve joined a program – the Carbon Neutral Firm Program. What did it take to get on board? Are there specific milestones to achieve? GM: Our involvement is the direct result of our team members serving as advocates and supporting industry organizations committed to making positive change. Through a grassroots initiative to create more sustainable materials libraries, our interior design team became involved with Material Bank®, the largest material marketplace in the architecture and design industry. Due to our commitment to responsible material sourcing, we were invited to participate in the Material Bank® Carbon Neutral Partner Program. The goals of the program are to reduce the environmental impact of shipping product samples, provide tracking and annual metrics for partner firms, and provide custom solutions and education. Material Bank® purchases carbon credits to offset emissions from every shipment, and we’ll be growing our use of the resource while gaining a better understanding of our sampling footprint. Our goal is to be mindful of the products we specify and continue to reduce and consolidate packages. During the 2021 pilot phase, we placed second among the partner firms in terms of packages saved, and we were one of the smaller firms in the program. TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? GM: During a recent Cushing Terrell leadership retreat, this was a high-priority topic. Today’s work world is vastly different than it was two or three years ago. Remote and hybrid work options require different management skill sets and tools to ensure their direct reports have what they need. Some of the tactics we’re implementing include: ■ ■ More time for managers to connect with remote individuals and teams. ■ ■ Ensuring supervisors fully understand their role and live out company culture, which embraces flexibility. ■ ■ Enabling clear and consistent, two-way communication that puts a high value on listening. ■ ■ Continuing to make career path trajectories clear and professional development opportunities available, with dedicated time and dollars. TZL: Does your firm work closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, and innovation and/or recruiting to find qualified resources?

An impromptu meeting of interior design team members in Cushing Terrell’s new Seattle office.

GM: We have an incredibly fortunate position as a design partner for university clients, which results in specialized insights and knowledge. The research we engage in as part of the design process as well as other collaborations with academia gives us a keen understanding not only of what students need in an educational environment to be successful, but also what new hires will need in the workplace to continually learn and grow. Because of these close design partnerships and our recruiting efforts, many of our own interns come from these universities. We pride ourselves on a design process that begins and ends with research. Some of our current efforts are with the University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State University, and Illinois Tech. Our teams are collaborating on learning more about everything from psychology in architectural design to how ecofeminism and intersectionality are impacting the future of retail. Universities are known for pushing the boundaries, and our relationships with these clients and partners put us in close proximity to the next generation of students who are influencing the future and pushing the advancement of design and sustainability. 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? GM: In our 84 years, we’ve had about six generations of ownership. We’re continually identifying new leadership potential and have a process to elevate these individuals. New associates are named each year, and this group plays a key role in shaping the firm’s future. From this group, associate principals are named and then principals, thus ensuring a generational transition with increasing levels of responsibility, ownership, and influence. Transition planning is not something you think about periodically. The greatest pitfall is to not plan and failing to have a program in place that helps grow, empower, and inspire strong leaders. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? GM: Empowering people.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Get paid or get resolution

D uring the regular course of their business, design firms sometimes encounter issues where they have a significant account receivable pending with a client. Small, medium, or large, firms of every size should have a regular process in place for collection of their fees.

In some instances, the design firm writes the unpaid fees off as a loss. Sometimes, it agrees to a reduced amount but doesn’t receive anything in return. In other cases, the design firm continues to bill the client regularly without receiving any payments whatsoever. Some design firms have been involved in matters where invoices have been pending for so long that potential fee claims were barred by time restrictions. Another common practice: A firm performs additional services after an issue occurred on a project for which they either did or did not bill the client. Sometimes, design work done as an additional service becomes part of a claim made against the design professional. Unfortunately, not billing for services rendered may be perceived by the client – and others should a dispute arise – as an admission of at least partial responsibility. Given the time and effort invested in a project, design firms shouldn’t simply walk away from

their receivables. Small, medium, or large, firms of every size should have a regular process in place for collection of their fees. This might involve the following measures: 1. Follow up with the client regarding any outstanding invoices on a regular basis. This should be done professionally and in keeping with the contract. 2. Document any reason for non-payment. If the client is not paying you, and provides a reason for the nonpayment, that reason should be documented in a follow-up email to the client. The message should be retained in a specific folder. This process should occur each time such an exchange takes place. Often, reasons cited change by the end of a project. So, when a client tells you the reason, simply confirm it in a

Lauren Rhodes Martin




TRANSACTIONS MCW GROUP OF COMPANIES ACQUIRES MASKELL PLENZIK & PARTNERS ENGINEERING INC. The MCW Group of Companies announced it completed the acquisition of Alberta-based Maskell Plenzik & Partners Engineering Inc. Founded in 1999, MP&P has offices in Edmonton and Calgary, and specializes in electrical, lighting, communications, security, and forensic consulting engineering services for the built environment. “We are excited at the prospect of what MP&P can bring to MCW. Their innovation and expertise in power systems, lighting, communications, life safety, security,

urban development, and forensic investigations will further strengthen MCW’s presence in Alberta, and allow for continued growth in multiple service areas across Canada,” said James Furlong, managing partner at MCW. “MP&P was built by passionate, motivated engineers who have earned a strong reputation in delivering creative but practical solutions for our clients, and we see similar values within MCW,” said Ken Maskell, principal of MP&P. “We are thrilled to be joining a larger, national organization to not only provide more value for our clients, but to also take on a larger, more diverse range of projects.”

In joining MCW, current MP&P principals, Ken Maskell and Mauro Plenzik, will become principals with MCW, and all existing partners, associates, and staff will be an integral part of MCW’s operations in Alberta, providing service under the banner MP&P: Powered by MCW. MP&P is a dynamic electrical engineering firm, providing a broad range of consulting services and solutions based on innovation and experience. Foundedin1964,MCWprovidesinnovative mechanical and electrical consulting engineering, energy management, and engineering development services.

with the contract. These firms become less of a natural target should problems arise, because a mutual respect has been created. DOCUMENTING AMOUNTS DUE IS HELPFUL IN CLAIM RESOLUTION. Billing for all services rendered and documenting amounts due are also critical should a claim arise. Notably, creating the paper (or email) trail helps establish that the money owed your firm is indisputable. There are various exclusions related to fees in your professional liability insurance policy. However, if it is clear from documented correspondence that the client agreed the money is owed during the project, then if a claim is made it becomes easier to argue that a waiver of fees due should be part of the settlement agreement and count as indemnity dollars against the deductible. While there are no guarantees fees waived will be honored by the carrier as “real” contribution, documentation strengthens the argument that they should be treated accordingly. This reduces the likelihood your firm will have to both pay its deductible and contribute the unpaid fees as part of a claim settlement. Alternatively, if the carrier won’t consider this, it makes for a much stronger case for an exchange of checks at the settlement. Finally, design firms should avoid compromising a fee without getting something in return. If a client wants you to write off part of your fee, get an agreement with them that ends your relationship and settles all known issues to date. It can be an informal release that sets the terms of the agreement (technically, a settlement) and can protect you from becoming involved in frivolous litigation in the future. If the amount in controversy is large enough, you may want to involve your carrier or consult a lawyer regarding language. Ask them to make sure the document is simple and free of legal jargon. It should indicate that all parties agree that the fee forgiven is the final resolution of all known issues on the project. Lauren Rhodes Martin is a risk manager and claims specialist at Ames & Gough. She can be reached at lmartin@amesgough. com.


short email so you have a history to dispute the new story, should that occur. This creates a record and prevents clients from changing their story. 3. Assess interest on unpaid fees as stipulated in your contract. If your contract calls for interest on unpaid fees, assess it regularly. This has been put in the contract, agreed to, and is in there for a reason. It also can be negotiated away if you are inclined to do so later. However, it is harder to make a case in any negotiation over payment for if you have not included the interest charges in your invoices. 4. Don’t overlook charging for additional services. You are entitled to be paid for your designs, especially when the reason for a redesign is unclear. If you provide it at no charge, a “fact finder” (often a person outside the industry) will not understand that you did it for the good of the project. The contractor undoubtedly will have submitted a change order. If you’ve done the design for free, it may be assumed that the absence of a charge was from a sense of responsibility. UNBILLED WORK, A POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGE IN DISPUTES. Keep in mind, other professionals do not provide services for free. Furthermore, nearly every judge, juror, or even arbitrator has had experience with other professionals. Yet only a handful of them may have experience with the design community. While a design professional may recognize the reluctance to charge for additional services as a common practice, a fact finder won’t hold the same view. When work is performed without compensation, it is hard to convince an objective outsider that your firm didn’t have responsibility for the issue. Designers are problem solvers and strive to help solve problems. Nonetheless, firms should be paid for services that lead to that resolution. In deciding whether to bill for additional services, design firms might consider how their billing practices might affect the perception of their firm. Generally, clients treat designers differently who ask for payment professionally and in keeping

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Being a real leader

I have my friend, Matt Lewis, vice president and general manager of Lewis Automotive, come speak to my small enterprise classes at the Walton College each spring. Matt came into his family business about 15 or so years ago and has been very successful. If you want to be an effective leader, you must help others, build trust, and set the best example every day.

He likes to tell the story about how, early in his career, he held a meeting with his salespeople, and then how afterward, he saw “the meeting after the meeting” out back – one that would be led by someone who was usually the person who had worked there the longest. Matt made it his goal to win that person’s support by helping them. Whatever it was they needed to facilitate a quicker sale, he did it. Wash the car, get the paperwork and manuals together, find the keys, anything necessary so the salesperson could move onto their next customer. He wanted that salesperson to know he was there to help. And then he hoped they would spread the word to the other people there that he wasn’t just an entitled family member. It was a good strategy, and it worked. I tell this story because it demonstrates what an intelligent leader does. They don’t just issue orders and expect others to follow them. They instead earn

the respect of everyone else. There are thousands of books out there on leadership – and probably millions of articles on the same topic. I won’t bother getting into all the names of one approach or another – some of which have turned into tired cliches (“level 5 leadership,” “servant leader,” etc.). But you can boil down the essence of leadership to three things. First, to win the support of others you have to help them achieve their goals (even if those are simple goals such as what they need to accomplish in a single day). Second, you have to build trust. And third, you must set a personal example for what you want other people to do. Skip any of these three and you will have problems. I have already given an example of helping others

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



TRANSACTIONS RIMKUS CONSULTING GROUP, INC. ACQUIRES CONTOUR ENVIRONMENTAL LLC Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc., a worldwide provider of engineering and technical consulting services, today announced the acquisition of Contour Environmental LLC, a leading environmental services company that provides a diverse range of scientific and engineering expertise for clients in the southeastern U.S. The acquisition enhances Rimkus’ growing Architectural, Engineering, and Construction Services group, strengthening its global environmental site assessment team with expertise in the areas of natural resources consulting and wetlands delineation. “Technical expertise underpins our success, and the addition of Contour to our growing Rimkus team enhances our ability to meet increased market demands for proactive solutions in the environmental assessment area. Their customer focus mirrors that of Rimkus, making them a perfect match for our company,” said Curtis Brown, chairman and executive director, Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.

“The Contour team understands the importance of a performance-driven attitude, making them the preferred partner to complete complex projects. Like Rimkus, they are true experts in the environmental markets they serve, allowing them to help our clients to understand potential environmental risks and think outside of the box to find the most practical, cost-effective solutions to project challenges. With an unmatched expertise in the Southeast region, we look forward to what we can achieve together,” said Robert Kocher, CEO at Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. Based in Acworth, Georgia, Contour serves the specialized needs of real estate, lending, educational, governmental, and residential clients. The company offers a diverse range of scientific and engineering expertise, including natural resource consulting, environmental site assessments, wetland delineation, subsurface investigations, underground storage tank assessments, water assessments, and mitigation planning services. “We look forward to joining the Rimkus

network and the company’s remarkable team of experts to help our business achieve its full potential. Growing our passion and reaching new milestones, such as this merging of teams, remains paramount to the continued success of our company and valued clients,” said Dana A. Spotts, president of Contour Environmental. In addition to the acquisition of Contour, Rimkus has completed 13 acquisitions worldwide since 2020, growing their network to more than 1,400 employees in more than 110 offices globally. Through the acquisitions, Rimkus has enhanced its existing practice areas to stay ahead of its global customers’ requirements and invested in solutions that enable the company to remain a leader. Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. is a worldwide provider of engineering and technical consulting services to corporations, insurance companies, law firms, and government agencies. Contour Environmental LLC serves the specialized needs of real estate, lending, educational, governmental, and residential clients.

divulging the secrets of others. If you tell those to anyone else you aren’t demonstrating trustworthiness. The third aspect of leadership is setting an example for the behaviors you expect from others. Some may say that setting an example is the single most critical aspect of leadership, although helping and building trust are essential as well. For example, last week in this column, I wrote about timesheets. In the AEC business, we live or die based on those timesheets. And it is often a battle getting everyone to do theirs on time. If the leaders themselves don’t do their timesheets in a timely manner, there is no way the people who work with them are going to do theirs on time. The same thing applies for business development calls. Or hours worked in the office. Or how to treat other people. Setting the right example means you can’t retire on the job. And you have to be cognizant of the fact that the eye of scrutiny is upon you. Setting an example also requires competence. Being good at doing something – like knowing your discipline, managing projects, selling new work – is also critical. No one likes to be led by someone else in doing something that their leader can’t do themselves. So how are you faring in terms of helping others, building trust, and setting the best example? If you want to be an effective leader, practice all three of these things every day. And if you do so, I predict great results! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

achieve their goals. That is a simple but fundamental idea. People are having a problem – fix it for them. People are overwhelmed – take on some of their work. People need tools, or software, or something else – get it for them. People want to learn new things – make that possible. “How are you faring in terms of helping others, building trust, and setting the best example? If you want to be an effective leader, practice all three of these things every day. And if you do so, I predict great results!” So that leaves building trust and setting a positive example. Trust comes from a couple things. One is being honest. Tell the truth. Tell it like it is and don’t sugar coat anything. But even more important than that may be not keeping secrets. The term frequently used today is “transparency.” It’s one reason I’m such a fan of open-book management. When the rank and file employees see all of the numbers, honestly presented, on the state of the business, they don’t get the feeling that management is hiding anything from them. That is essential to building trust. But so is being trustworthy. This means not

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