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Ap r i l 25 , 2022 , I s sue 1 438 W W W . Z W E I G G R O U P . C O M


Equity value per book value

Zweig Group’s podcast has gone through several evolutions over the years – and it just had its biggest yet. The Zweig Letter Podcast

F I R M I N D E X Colliers Engineering & Design.....................4 Fleis & VandenBrink.........................................10 Fluor Corporation............................................... 12 KFW Engineers & Surveying.........................4 Shive-Hattery............................................................2 Snow Kreilich Architects................................. 6 WSM Architects, Inc............................................2 MO R E A R T I C L E S n ALEXIS EADES: Your greatest threat to excellence Page 3 n Asking questions: Julie Snow Page 6 n PAUL DAVID: Challenges in the reimagined workplace Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: The mad dash to add overhead staff Page 11 In Zweig Group’s 2022 Valuation Report of AEC Firms , firms were asked how fast they had grown by revenue and/ or employee size over the last three years. Growing firms reported a higher equity value per book value ratio relative to stable and declining firms. The median values for moderate-to- fast growth firms ranged from 1.91 and 2.06, which outpaced the overall median of 1.78. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

I can’t believe it’s been seven years since Zweig Group rolled out The Zweig Letter Podcast in 2015. I rejoined Zweig Group two years earlier, and I was trying to figure out a way to increase The Zweig Letter ’s readership. I somehow managed to convince Mark Zweig and Chad Clinehens to create a podcast for the newsletter and as an extension of the Zweig Group brand. Enter The Zweig Letter Podcast ! But, before we go any further, let me back up a minute and tell you how we got here. Before returning to Zweig Group in 2013, I fell in love with the medium of podcasting way back in 2007. Some of you may remember those were the early days for podcasts. There weren’t nearly as many podcasts available to listen to and only a handful of podcast players. Fast-forward to 2015, and we were looking for ways to increase the reach of what has been one of the longest-running newsletters in the AEC industry. By this time, I had produced several long-running podcasts and I was all-in on the effectiveness of storytelling via podcasts. I figured, if nothing else, we could take the leading article from each issue of The Zweig Letter and either have Mark read it, or he and I could talk about it. We started with Mark reading some of his most popular articles, and then we also looked at The Zweig Letter ’s back catalog for themes that were timeless and relevant to design professionals. We would batch record episodes and do four at a time in about an hour. It was a lot of fun doing those early episodes, and the outtakes were hilarious. I think I still have some of those recordings somewhere. Mark would do all of the article reading, which went great for a season. Then we decided to try some different formats. I suggested that we start interviewing The Zweig Letter ’s guest writers, as well as featuring Zweig Group’s expert advisors, and we could still sprinkle in Mark from time to time. That’s when the fun began. Zweig Group has produced so many publications, and we have content for days, maybe years. It was apparent that because of our business

Randy Wilburn




TRANSACTIONS SHIVE-HATTERY ACQUIRES WSM ARCHITECTS Shive-Hattery announced it has acquired WSM Architects, Inc., a 13-person architecture firm in Tucson, Arizona. The acquisition expands Shive- Hattery’s reach to the Southwest and broadens its design capabilities in the corporate workplace, government, education and healthcare markets. “Shive-Hattery and WSM Architects are both built on a foundation of strong client service. We remain steadfast in providing continuity in service with the best depth of talent from across our design firm,” said Shive-Hattery President Jennifer Bennett, SE, PE. “Remote work technology has made this possible where we can customize the best team for each client, regardless of whether our designers are located in the Midwest or Southwest, in

order to create a seamless experience which our clients value, appreciate and expect.” WSM Architects will operate as WSM Architects, a Division of Shive-Hattery, Inc. “WSMArchitects and Shive-Hatteryshare a strong cultural fit that is mutually beneficial for our clients and design talent,” said Paul Mickelberg, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, principal of WSM Architects. “Joining Shive-Hattery enhances and complements our values, and we look forward to being a part of a larger team to provide more design capabilities for our clients and growth opportunities our employees.” Shive-Hattery is an award-winning firm with over 100 years of experience in architecture, engineering, interior design and more

RANDYWILBURN, from page 1

model, best practices, and thought leadership in the AEC space, there was plenty for us to talk about, including strategic planning, HR, recruitment and retention, marketing, valuation, ownership transition, M&A, survey results, and on and on. When we started the podcast, we published an episode every week for a couple of years and then found our current cadence with a bi-monthly show. Today The Zweig Letter Podcast is more than just a branding tool for Zweig Group. It is a platform for elevating the AEC industry, one story at a time. That’s one of the reasons we decided to do a rebrand of our logo and other associated materials for the podcast. You need to slap on a fresh coat of paint to turn something old new again. So, if you used to be a listener of The Zweig Letter Podcast but stopped listening, or you’ve just been rotating out new shows, we encourage you to tune in again. Add us to your current podcast rotation and check out the direction we are headed. There is always a new and fresh topic for you to consider. If you are new to the podcast or podcasting in general, now is your chance to dive headfirst into great content. You can find us on all major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcast, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Audible, Google, Amazon, etc. Also, keep in mind that we are available on most smart speakers like Alexa. Just say, “Hey Alexa, play The Zweig Letter Podcast ’s latest episode!“ and she will oblige you. If you want to hear a topic that we haven’t addressed, we are all ears. This podcast can be as much yours as it is ours. We’ll keep pressing “record.” You keep listening. RandyWilburn is host of The Zweig Letter Podcast and a training services advisor with Zweig Group. Contact him at

PO Box 1528 Fayetteville, AR 72702

Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Shirley Che | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560 Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Group-1030428053722402 Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year). Free electronic subscription at © Copyright 2022, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

THE ZWEIG LETTER PODCAST Zweig Group’s bi-monthly podcast features AEC industry leaders and up-and-comers, in addition to Zweig Group’s advisors and experts. The Zweig Letter Podcast expands on ideas, topics, and information discussed in the newsletter. Subscribe today to learn about the latest in the industry!

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




The consequences of burnout can be detrimental, so give your mental health the care it deserves. Your greatest threat to excellence

T he topic of burnout has perhaps never been discussed with such frequency in the mainstream as it is today, with COVID-19, fluctuating work environments, and the stress of uncertainty persisting for so long. Though relevant to all, burnout is a topic particularly important for those in the AEC industry. AEC professionals often find themselves working very long hours in entrepreneurial settings, where working harder is rewarded by clients and managers alike. Rise-and-grind culture may enable workers to overperform in the short- term, but studies show that the consequences are usually detrimental.

Alexis Eades

NOT JUST A BUZZWORD. Psychological Science reports that persistent cynicism, overworking, and stress can lead to a rewiring of neural circuits in the brain, making negative thought patterns increasingly automatic. This is burnout. This explains why those experiencing burnout struggle to think clearly and control negative feelings. On a job site, this can be a dangerous mindset. When disruptions arise and unforeseen challenges present themselves, a burned out professional will be more likely to react emotionally and have trouble problem-solving. FIND A COMPANY THAT VALUES EMPLOYEE MENTAL HEALTH. Often, company culture sets the tone for

how comfortable an employee feels prioritizing mental health. Colliers Engineering & Design has implemented myriad practices and initiatives to encourage work-life balance and promote employee wellness. The firm has most recently made a change in HR policy for sick time off, adding mental health days as a formal benefit. With a Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Women’s Organization, Parent Resource Center, Wellness Committee, and comprehensive benefits packages, Colliers Engineering & Design does its best to offer its employees the resources they need to avoid burnout.

See ALEXIS EADES , page 4



TRANSACTIONS COLLIERS ENGINEERING & DESIGN AQUIRES KFW ENGINEERS + SURVEYING Colliers Engineering & Design, a national multi-discipline engineering, architectural, design, and consulting firm, has acquired KFW Engineers & Surveying, of San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas. KFW Engineers + Surveying is a full-service land development, civil engineering, and surveying firm with a focus on the Texas land development market. The firm offers comprehensive service lines for private and public clients that include civil engineering, land surveying, environmental, and GIS services. “KFW Engineers & Surveying’s geographic reach complements our existing footprint regionally throughout Texas which will enhance our existing services there,” explained Kevin Haney, PE, President and CEO of Colliers Engineering & Design. “This partnership aligns with our strategic growth through land development opportunities, while enabling us to better serve and support our Texas clients and communities.

“Partnering with Colliers Engineering & Design provides continued growth for our clients, and employees,” stated Steven Krauskopf, PE and Co-founder of KFW Engineers & Surveying. “Together, we can leverage our depth of technical expertise by integrating surveying and engineering services and long-standing client relationships that will further develop Texas and the southeast.” The acquisition of KFW Engineers + Surveying promises to create a dynamic and positive environment, positioning the combinedentitytobetterserveourclients with more comprehensive services and continue growth opportunities within the AEC industry. This agreement maintains the firm’s senior leadership as significant shareholders of the business under Colliers Engineering & Design’s unique partnership model. Colliers Engineering & Design is a trusted provider of multi-discipline engineering, design and consulting services to public and private sector clients. Headquartered in Red Bank, New Jersey

with a network of offices throughout the United States, the firm specializes in providing a comprehensive suite of services including civil/site, architecture, transportation, governmental, survey/ geospatial, infrastructure, geotechnical/ environmental, telecommunications, utilities/energy, and project manage- ment. The firm’s talented professionals utilize the most advanced technologies to deliver customized solutions for clients. Colliers is a leading diversified professional services and investment management company. With operations in 62 countries, its 17,000 enterprising professionals work collaboratively to provide expert advice to clients. For more than 27 years, Colliers’ experienced leadership has delivered compound annual investment returns of 20 percent for shareholders. With annual revenues of $4.1 billion and more than $50 billion of assets under management, Colliers maximizes the potential of property and real assets to accelerate the success of its clients, investors, and people.

a way that feels comfortable and makes you feel good about yourself, and limiting negative self-talk. At Colliers Engineering & Design, the firm provides free bagels and fruit on Thursdays, which adds fun to the weekday. NEGATINGWORK STRESS. Sometimes, a job has unavoidable aggravations or exceptionally high-performance expectations. The mental health experts at Talk Space recommend taking the time to recognize small wins. For many in the AEC industry, it takes months or years to finish a job, which may not give the instant gratification that completing a smaller job in a shorter period does. But progress happens day-by-day. Initiated a difficult conversation that went well? Finished the resume portion of a proposal? Did a safety check before starting a day in the field? Spend time feeling the fulfillment of small wins and tasks completed along the way. Stay organized using to-do lists and schedules and keep your files up to date. According to Psychology Today , seeing your tasks written down and visually tracking their completion can strengthen your reward response, and give you a hit of dopamine, which becomes a satisfying intrinsic motivation to keep going through the next task. START TODAY. Just as an old building needs inspection, so does your mental health. And just as many job sites require routine change detection and inspection, so do you. Your greatest asset is your mind, so give it the care it deserves. Alexis Eades is a communications specialist for Colliers Engineering & Design. A graduate of Rutgers University, she has a passion for writing, learning, and traveling. You can read more from her here.

ALEXIS EADES , from page 3

AVOIDING PERSISTENT OVERWORKING. Boundaries expert and author Nedra Glover Tawwab emphasizes the importance of boundaries for preventing burnout, especially in the age of home offices and email on smart phones. Limiting hours and days of the week dedicated to work, when possible, is ideal. She also teaches that we should be proactive when it comes to self-care. Colliers Engineering & Design’s Women’s Organization hosted a Work-Life-Balance Panel discussion, where employees asked advice from a variety of panelists, included a similar message. As they said, there is value in carving out time before and after work for quiet moments, and for family and friends. Whether that is waking up early to read and sip on coffee in peace, or committing to a nightly walk with a spouse, it is important to cultivate joy outside of working hours. PREVENTING INCESSANT CYNICISM. As Simply Psychology explains, if you continually solidify the thought that Monday is the worst and Friday afternoon means freedom, the prophecy can become self-fulfilling. Make positive associations with work to avoid only associating it with stress and negativity. This may look like bringing personal items that spark joy to keep at your desk, bringing foods you enjoy for lunch, dressing in “Rise-and-grind culture may enable workers to overperform in the short- term, but studies show that the consequences are usually detrimental.”

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Asking questions: Julie Snow Founder, design principal, and CEO at Snow Kreilich Architects (Minneapolis, MN), a nationally recognized, award winning architectural studio.


S ince founding Snow Kreilich Architects in 1995, Snow, FAIA has earned national recognition as both a practitioner and academic. She’s taught architecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, Yale University, Syracuse University, the University of Southern California, and the University of Minnesota College of Design, and received numerous professional awards. Snow says that the studio focuses on producing architecture that performs against multiple measures of design success. “To serve people and the environment in the Twin Cities, as well as those halfway across the world, we assemble teams, design workflows, and ask questions of a wide range of stakeholders – stakeholders that are not usually at the table,” Snow says. “Questions challenge topics rooted in how the environment shapes and influences the human experience. The overarching goal, whether domestic or abroad, is to utilize design thinking to reimagine the built and unbuilt.”

A CONVERSATIONWITH JULIE SNOW. The Zweig Letter: Your online bio shares that you work on every project that comes the firm’s way. How do you balance design work and management? What’s the sweet spot for mixing the two? Julie Snow: Matt Kreilich, FAIA is a partner and design principal in the firm and one of us is always engaged with each project. Sometimes we’re both on it and we often check on each other. As the studio grows, we’ve been fortunate to attract studio members who are good at doing everything from finance to HR, etc. so I don’t have to worry a lot about that. I want to create. Matt does more studio management than I do. It’s a perk of being the founder – I don’t have to do what I don’t want to do. TZL: Howwould you describe your company culture? How do you work to maintain that culture?



JS: Diverse. Focused. Respectful. We strive to create a workplace where people don’t have to sacrifice their personal life for their professional life. People do interesting things in their private lives that will bring interesting things into their professional lives. We strive to maintain a 40-hour work week for all, understanding that sometimes there will be crunch times on projects, but allowing for time off when that extra time is spent. TZL: In your opinion, what’s one of the most inspiring architectural designs in the world and why? JS: I’ve been thinking a lot about social dimensions of public space. A great building space that is a model for howwe do this is the Stoa of Attalos in Athens. It’s a sort of middle space between architecture and outdoor public space that accommodates conversation and encounters. “We strive to create a workplace where people don’t have to sacrifice their personal life for their professional life. People do interesting things in their private lives that will bring interesting things into their professional lives.” TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? JS: Mentorship comes from all directions – academic, professional, and clients. I think you need to learn from everyone. I’ve learned a great deal from clients over the years. Constant learning is what keeps things – including our firm – interesting. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? JS: When I first started the business, I ran it much like my checkbook. I didn’t want to be overextended. I think I would take more calculated risks. I would also have hired more senior leaders. I had one senior leader and all the rest were young grads. I spent my time teaching and managing at the same time. TZL: Since founding the firm in 1995, what’s the most significant event/technology that made a solid impact on how the company does business?

JS: There have been many events, but three that spring to the top of mind: ■ ■ When we got the contract for the General Services Administration U.S. Land Port of Entry in Warroad, Minnesota. A Land Port of Entry project must span the distance between design excellence aspirations for architecture that represents “the finest in contemporary American architectural thought” and Customs and Border Protection’s pragmatic goal of securing our national borders. The Warroad LPOE design is attentive to the safety and comfort of CBP officers, providing a canopy that continuously covers their work area, while also providing a warm welcoming portal to the United States. The design concept began with creating a black shell which anchors the building in the vast landscape, with portals through the port lined in warm heartwood. Building volumes are inflected, increasing officers’ visual site surveillance. This is the first U.S. LPOE to employ a ground source heat pump system, which reduced the government’s purchase of energy by 50 percent. This project really made us think about public work and what it means in terms of its political, social, economic, and cultural context. Public buildings simply must represent our highest ideals of democracy. ■ ■ The murder of George Floyd. This was a moment when we had to face how inequitable our society has become. It made us look inward and outward at the professional work that we do. Among our many equity initiatives, we’re now in the process of working toward being a JUST organization. The JUST Label is a voluntary disclosure tool for organizations to measure and share their commitment to equity and social justice. Some of the metrics include ethnic diversity, employee engagement, living wage, and community engagement. ■ ■ Climate change. Architecture is playing an extraordinary role here. The studio signed on to the AIA 2030 Commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, and we’ve been developing our toolkit to get closer with every project. We are thrilled to have collaborators both in and outside the studio to explore building envelope, siting, low- and no-carbon structural systems, innovative mechanical systems, and renewable energy.





MARKETS: Diverse portfolio of both public and private work SERVICES: Full-service architecture and design studio


■ ■ Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award ■ ■ Design Distinction Award from I.D. Magazine ■ ■ National AIA Honor Award

■ ■ Progressive

Architecture Award

■ ■ Holcim Bronze

Award for sustainable construction

■ ■ GSA Design Award

■ ■ AIA Architectural Firm Award


© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

PRIL 25, 2022, ISSUE 1438


A Snow Kreilich Architects staff ski outing earlier this year.

project, not a one-size-fits-all approach. To serve people and the environment in the Twin Cities, as well as those halfway across the world, we assemble teams, design workflows, and ask questions of a wide range of stakeholders – stakeholders that are not usually at the table. Questions challenge topics rooted in how the environment shapes and influences the human experience. The overarching goal, whether domestic or abroad, is to utilize design thinking to reimagine the built and unbuilt. We ask, we listen, and we creatively respond to complex questions. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? JS: It’s funny. I don’t really want to be a leader. I want to be an architect. I lead out of necessity. I find patterns and try to be inspirational and transformational. TZL: Does your firmwork closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, and innovation and/or recruiting to find qualified resources? JS: Many studio members teach at the University of Minnesota and Matt and I lecture at numerous other universities. Part of our idea in creating ASK is to explore new technologies, innovations and create shared experiences with academics. We’re working on creating more relationships in this area and have a board member from the University of Minnesota. We believe that working with professionals in academia will allow us to do more innovative and interesting work.


TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? JS: I think I’ve had a thousand little failures along the way that have all taught me something. I think the greatest is to go with your gut. There have been instances when I took on a project that I was pretty sure was not the best move, but I figured I could make it work. I ended up having to back out during the project when it would have been smarter not to take it to begin with. Pay attention to the writing on the wall. TZL: In looking ahead, say five years, what big changes do you anticipate implementing in your day-to-day operations? JS: Now, that we’re slightly post-COVID, I think we need to reevaluate having people come into the office more often. Like many, we made it non-mandatory. We have 40 employees and today there are three people in the office. We have many young designers and I think they need that culture of collaboration – a studio culture – where you hear and see and learn things. In addition, we founded and are continuing to support a non- profit arm of the business – ASK. ASK is made up of architects, engineers, scientists, designers, builders, community activists, mothers, and children, among others. The scope, typology, and structure of any project team can be reorganized and optimized to work at various scales and typologies. We assemble diverse teams based on the specific needs of a

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




H uman resources departments are still caught between a rock and a hard place trying to recruit and retain staff while continuously adapting to the work landscape that was altered two years ago with the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic has been a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine how we do our jobs and how we run our companies. Challenges in the reimagined workplace

The biggest challenge for AEC industry leaders today is having employees return safely to the workplace in a way that does not cause a mass exodus of our workforce. The pandemic changed everyone’s way of doing business in March of 2020, sending most employees home to work remotely in the short-term. It also changed every company’s vocabulary. Words like quarantining, isolating, masking, and social distancing overshadowed discussions on proposals, project deliverables, productivity, staff development, and team building. Employers also had added responsibilities managing time for employees to quarantine or care for family members home from school/daycare. Most employers had to create policies and processes to address vaccinations, testing, and masking requirements in the workplace.

Employers have been trying to stay the course, but managing shared expectations, productivity, employee stress, staying connected, and striking a balance when it comes to how and where work is done has redefined the AEC workplace. Why? There are several reasons. We’re in one of the tightest labor markets in years. Firms need to retain great talent and find more, but there are more jobs than people and team members are getting multiple weekly calls from recruiters trying to entice them away. To top that off, we’ve had to deal with the “great resignation,” with baby boomers retiring in record numbers. In my 25-year career in human resources management, recruiting has always been a challenge, especially in a strong economy. However, it is usually

Paul David, PHR, SHRM-CP

See PAUL DAVID, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS AECOM JOINT VENTURE TO PROVIDE ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING SERVICES IN SUPPORT OF U.S. NAVY ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, today announced that its joint venture with Michael Baker International has been awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to provide architecture and engineering services in support of environmental compliance programs with the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command. “We’re proud to continue our 95-year partnership with the U.S. Navy, delivering mission-critical solutions that support its wide-ranging and specialized

needs,” said Karl Jensen, executive vice president of AECOM’s National Governments business. “Every day, our technical experts demonstrate our firmwide commitment to environmental, social, and governance priorities, and we’re excited to team with Michael Baker International to perform this important environmental compliance work with the U.S. Navy.” Under the five-year contract with a $75-million ceiling, the Baker-AECOM Environmental Compliance joint venture will deliver comprehensive services, such as studies, plans, specifications, designs, reports, and cost estimates, for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Department of Defense installations as well as

federal agencies. This work supports NAVFAC’s environmental program and its mission to provide high quality, timely, cost effective, and efficient solutions through conserving, protecting, and restoring the environment and natural and cultural resources for future generations. The contract with NAVFAC Atlantic encompasses four facilities engineering commands: NAVFAC Washington, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic, NAVFAC Southeast, and NAVFAC Europe Africa Central. NAVFAC manages the planning, design, construction, contingency engineering, environmental, and public works support for U.S. Navy shore facilities around the world.

Our plan included an “encourage” phase, where we encouraged remote staff to begin working one or two days in the office to start the transition from home-as-primary to office- as-primary and ramp up time back in the office. It also allowed staff time to adapt and reset to a new routine and/or schedule for the next phase – the “expected” phase. While we valued the benefits from the in-person collaborative work environment, and that work performance is generally optimal as a face-first firm, we also recognized the benefits to our team members having some flexibility in where they complete their best work, fulfill commitments, and deliver results. The “expected” phase also included rolling out a remote work policy which highlighted work options such as ad-hoc, hybrid, and primary remote. The hybrid working model, where workers split time in the office and home weekly, has been popular with employees. But it’s a challenge getting work done in each department. You need to have the right people in the office to have availability to do the work. Some roles also involve equipment or duties that cannot be done well remotely. Success in developing and maintaining flexible work arrangements requires a shared commitment by both employees and managers. It includes open communication, clear expectations, regular check-ins, and availability. If expectations are not being maintained, then changes in work arrangements are required. Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, once said, “Change before you have to!” If you do, you’ll most likely come out ahead in the business of tomorrow. Remote work is changing the business world. At F&V, we’re turning this pandemic into a once-in-a- generation opportunity to reimagine howwe do our jobs and howwe run our company. PAUL DAVID, PHR, SHRM-CP, is the human resources director at Fleis & VandenBrink. Contact him at

PAUL DAVID, from page 9

in pockets. Nothing compares to the variables at play today that are affecting all positions and industries. The pandemic has affected everyone in the workforce. Baby boomers are exiting at a faster rate than schools can produce technical professionals to replace them, and young professionals are leaving due to personal/family reasons such as limited daycare and/or online schooling for children. We at Fleis & VandenBrink, like many other consulting firms, have come so far in dealing with the ever-changing way of doing business. But we’re still making tweaks to get the best workplace model to retain valued employees, and recruit even more talent. Most companies recognized that as 2021 progressed and OSHA and/or state laws and regulations allowed for employees to return to the office, that employees had adapted their lifestyles to working remotely, and the world of work had changed. Employees seemed content with their home workspaces. Whether it was getting a new pet as your home officemate or welcoming a newborn, the flexibility of working wherever, and – at times – whenever, without cubemates, noises, or interruptions was ideal for a lot of staff. Many employees relished not commuting to work, and in most cases, getting an hour of their day back for themselves. They also savored the opportunity to roll out of bed 20 minutes before starting their day, brewing a cup of coffee, and making themselves presentable from the waist up for Zoom or Teams call. At F&V, we recognized in May of 2021 the need for a reset plan to ease staff back into the office and that individuals would have initial safety and childcare issues/concerns. We also communicated to all employees our belief that we are better as a firm when we are together, in the same place.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




It’s time to take a good hard look at what everyone in your business is doing for you. The mad dash to add overhead staff O ne byproduct of the incredible success most AEC firms have enjoyed for the past decade or more has been the piling on of non-billable (overhead) staff in just about every corner of the business.

It’s not that some of these people can’t make great contributions to the firms they work for. They can, depending on the specific individual’s personality and capabilities, and what area of the business they work in. In-house recruiters can find the people the business needs to grow. Good marketing people can drive new clients to the firm. The best financial people can collect your money faster and give everyone the numbers they need to responsibly run their areas of the enterprise. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, when companies find themselves with more business than they can handle and more profits than they are used to making, they will look for ways to spend it on things they think they “should” be doing. For example, some principals may think that they are so busy, and

get so many calls and emails, and have so much busy work, that they should hire an administrative assistant. That’s all well and good until it results in emails sent to the principal on Friday not being responded to until next Tuesday. Or how about all of the admins who get dragged into doing personal errands such as buying birthday presents for grandchildren or picking up their boss’s dry cleaning? I can’t say it wouldn’t be a nice luxury to have such a person doing whatever I wanted them to do, but how does the addition of this person truly help the company? Marketing departments have certainly grown like mad in the last decade. It’s no longer good enough for AEC firms to have a few highly motivated, diversely-

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS FLUOR JOINT VENTURE BEGINS WORK TO RECONSTRUCT CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY’S NORTH MAIN CURVE TO SPEED SERVICE Fluor Corporation and its joint venture partner Walsh Construction Company broke ground to rebuild and straighten a section of Chicago Transit Authority’s North Main Line Red and Purple Line track structure, a portion of track on the historic Red and Purple Modernization Phase One Project that has been slowing traffic for more than a century. When the North Main line was constructedmore than 100 years ago, the tracks were built around the Vautravers building, a historic greystone built in 1894, creating a curve in the tracks that slowed train speeds for millions of riders over the years. In late 2021, the joint venture raised and moved the entire building about 30 feet so the tracks could be straightened, thereby marking a significant step in major revitalizations to the CTA’s rail system. When completed, the new track will be able to accommodate more trains and passengers per hour and allow for increased train speeds.

“As was shown with the recent passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, existing American infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and upgraded, not just repaired,” said Thomas Nilsson, president of Fluor’s Infrastructure business. “That is exactly what our team is doing with the RPM project. Design- Build solutions will be an ideal project delivery method going forward. We are working collaboratively with CTA to make sure that the Red and Purple lines remain in operation while at the same time making this vital upgrade that will improve safety, operations and speed up service across the entire transit system.” Along with removing the curve in the tracks, the Fluor joint venture will build a new closed-deck track structure with sound walls on the North Main line that is expected to reduce train noise for residents and pedestrians in the neighborhood, which includes Wrigley Field. The new elevated tracks will create a brighter, cleaner, safer pedestrian environment at street level. As part of the RPM project, the Fluor joint venture is also installing a new

signal system on 23 track miles that will improve train flow and service reliability. The RPM Phase One Project is the largest reconstruction in CTA history, modernizing and replacing 100-year- old rail structures and rebuilding four stations. The project will improve access by creating American Disability Act- compliant platforms and stations as well as increase capacity, rail reliability and service for riders throughout the entire system. Theproject is scheduled tobecompleted in 2025. Fluor Corporation is building a better world by applying world-class expertise to solve its clients’ greatest challenges. Fluor’s 44,000 employees provide professional and technical solutions that deliver safe, well-executed, capital-efficient projects to clients around the world. Fluor had revenue of $14.2 billion in 2020 and is ranked 196 among the Fortune 500 companies. With headquarters in Irving, Texas, Fluor has been providing engineering, procurement and construction services for more than 100 years.

amount of time the typical firm principal spends working on billable projects. While I don’t have the exact data here in front of me, I have worked in this industry for 42 years and would guess that principals are about half as billable now as they were when I started out my career. Some people may think that’s great and that we have come a long way. I see it as the opposite – principals are getting further and further away from what their firms actually do for their clients, and that does not bode well for the future. What I am suggesting is you take a good hard look at what everyone in your business is doing for you. That includes adding up all of their costs – not just for labor, but also benefits, computers, space, etc. – and comparing that to the revenue they bring in (that the firm wouldn’t have gotten otherwise), and the money they save for you that you would have otherwise spent. If there isn’t a positive difference, you may want to consider dealing with the problem(s) before we find ourselves back in the midst of a slowdown. While I am VERY bullish on the long-term future for companies in this business, I’m not sure we won’t have periodic recessions to contend with. Rising interest rates, reduced consumer confidence, lower tax revenues, supply chain woes, and wars, could all contribute to creating another recession that will affect us. I hate to give up any ground taken during the good times just because we didn’t plan for the not-so-good times! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

skilled marketing coordinators who can write, edit, and make documents and presentations look good. Now it seems like everyone employs full-time social media managers, full-time videographers, full-time podcast producers, and full-time CRM system managers. It’s $70K here, $95K there, and then another $125K or more annually for the manager who corrals all these people and attempts to get them to do their jobs. “Sometimes, when companies find themselves with more business than they can handle and more profits than they are used to making, they will look for ways to spend it on things they think they “should” be doing.” And there are many other purely overhead jobs larger firms have created in this industry over the past several years. Heads of strategic planning. Special IT people who are supposed to train design and technical staff on how to use the latest software. Facilities people who manage furniture purchases and field complaints about the HVAC. “Director of special projects” has always been one of those titles for people you don’t knowwhat to do with, but don’t want to fire, either. Don’t even get me started on the insidious erosion of the

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