TZL: Are you seeking any financial assistance during the pandemic? JS: Like many other firms, we received a PPP loan and anticipate seeking forgiveness. We have a line of credit, but we’re concerned the line would not be sufficient to support us through a severe, long-term economic downturn. The PPP loan gives us confidence to maintain staff levels, particularly in this tight labor market, with the hope of a quick recovery. TZL: You joined Fishbeck in 1996 as a structural engineer. Since you’ve become president of the firm, what’s the most important decision you’ve made to date? Why? JS: Shortly after transitioning into the role of president, our executive leadership announced a firm name change. The firm name was Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc. for nearly 30 years. It was spoken and abbreviated in many forms, and there was growing concern that, as we pushed into new markets, we were creating brand confusion. As a result, we rebranded the firm as Fishbeck. The timing for the change was perfect. It allowed us to show broad support for both retiring senior leadership and emerging leaders, as well as helping to unite and integrate staff from a newly-acquired firm. “Fishbeck has always practiced flexibility. Life happens and, at times, everyone needs the ability to work from home. The last year has proven remote work can be accomplished longer term, and this has been appreciated by our staff.” TZL: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are potential disruptors across all industries. Is your firm exploring how to incorporate these technologies into providing improved services for clients? JS: Fishbeck has always been an early adopter of technology that benefits our industry. We were early adopters of AutoCAD many years ago, as well as Civil3D, BIM modeling, augmented reality, and drone scanning in more recent years. AI may be the next big disruptor. To understand this disruption potential, we’re researching AI in two different ways:
benefits over short-term gains. The work we do today shapes the world we live in tomorrow. “Every project provides an opportunity to learn. We use these lessons to look toward the future, designing and implementing solutions for the next generation.” TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? JS: Fishbeck has always practiced flexibility. Life happens and, at times, everyone needs the ability to work from home. The last year has proven remote work can be accomplished longer term, and this has been appreciated by our staff. We’re currently evaluating how we can implement additional flexibility in a post-COVID-19 world. There are certain challenges that would need to be overcome. Things like training inexperienced staff, the ability to sketch solutions on a piece of paper, the learning that happens by overhearing senior staff discussing a technical issue, sharing client concerns, and maintaining culture, and all aspects of training and mentoring the next generations. If we are not careful in how we implement and manage remote work, there may be detrimental impact years in the future. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? JS: Work and family are separate for the most part, but it’s difficult to stop thinking about the firm. My wife is a great sounding board as I address issues and develop policies. TZL: Trust is crucial. How do you earn the trust of your clients? JS: There’s no such thing as a perfect project. As frustrating as it is that issues arise on a project, especially during construction, we use them as opportunities to build trust. Clients want a firm that is willing to help work through an issue. Our approach is to quickly solve the problem with the appropriate stakeholders, then work out the financial implications when the dust settles. We have gained more trust and confidence through these challenges by being proactive rather than building walls.
HEADQUARTERS: Grand Rapids, MI NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 488 YEAR FOUNDED: 1956 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 14 SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Architecture interior design ❚ ❚ Brownfield/remediation services ❚ ❚ Civil engineering ❚ ❚ Construction management ❚ ❚ Construction/field engineering ❚ ❚ Environmental compliance ❚ ❚ Mechanical/electrical/structural ❚ ❚ PFAS detection/mitigation ❚ ❚ Transportation engineering ❚ ❚ Water/wastewater engineering ❚ ❚ COVID-19 related services CORE PURPOSE: To help people realize their visions while benefiting society. CORPORATE CULTURE: Live well, work well, be well. Fishbeck believes in the benefits of a corporate wellness program and has woven it into its culture. It’s been recognized for best practices in work-life balance, diversity, and multiculturalism, employee communication and recognition, education and development, and community initiatives.
See AUTHENTIC, page 8
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UARY 15, 2021, ISSUE 1379
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