business” rather than “on the business?” JP: Too much time! With the shortage of qualified professionals in our industry, it has been a challenge to recruit qualified seller- doers. I have a grand vision for working “on the business” and can never find enough time to work on and execute those initiatives because some clients only want to work with me directly or current staff doesn’t have the experience, technical knowledge, and relationships to backfill my “in the business” role. There’s also a huge void in our industry for mid-level professionals as a result of the Great Recession. Many of the professionals that would be in the 10- to 14-year range never came back to our industry and this has created a significant human resource disruption. We have to spend more time working “in the business” mentoring so we can bring up junior level staff quickly with the expectation that they mature, act, and perform like mid-level professionals in a short timeframe. “With the safer-at-home orders implemented, it was either have our teams work remotely or shut down. With our client commitments and much of our work deemed essential, we quickly adapted to the situation.” TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? JP: Frankly, there wasn’t much of a choice. With the safer-at-home orders implemented, it was either have our teams work remotely or shut down. With our client commitments and much of our work deemed essential, we quickly adapted to the situation. While there have been some challenges and bumps in the road, we’ve learned the good, the bad, and the ugly of working remotely. The good is we can do it with a degree of success! The bad is sometimes IT challenges can hamper productivity and efficiencies. The ugly is the unknown and how long this could drag out. TZL: When you identify a part of your business that is not pulling its weight in terms of profitability or alignment with the firm’s mission, what steps do you take, and what’s the timeline, to address the issue while minimizing impacts to the rest of the company?
JP: We do not have profit centers or unnecessary competition between services lines. However, if an individual or business group is not pulling their weight, it’s the expectation that anyone within our company live up to our core values, which includes courage. That means the courage to question actions inconsistent with our company’s core values and pledge. The timeline for rectifying the shortcoming depends on the gravity of the situation and will vary accordingly. TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? JP: To keep a general pulse on our firm’s valuation we typically keep tabs on recent M&A activity and look for comparable firms to gauge our valuation estimates. Another tool we use is Zweig Group’s Valuation Survey data and Z-Formulas. TZL: What financial metrics do you monitor to gauge the health of your firm? JP: Financial metrics that are reviewed on a weekly basis are project budget versus work completed. On a monthly basis, we review work billed versus unbilled. Certain client contracts require monthly billing and others are based on completed tasks. This needs to be looked at carefully so that we can take certain actions to complete tasks ahead of scheduled dates (by end of prior month) if they are scheduled to be completed at the beginning of the month, as that part can be billed. The overall work backlog is also reviewed on a monthly basis to evaluate how much work is anticipated for the next 12 months versus our capacity and available resources for that timeframe. Above all, the overall profitability of the projects and the firm are continually reviewed and evaluated. TZL: What unique or innovative pricing strategies have you developed, or are you developing, to combat the commoditization of engineering services? JP: The public agency clients we work with are supposed to make professional services consultant selection based on qualifications; however, we’re finding many of them are looking at the bottom line dollar and handling selection more like a construction bid process. To avoid the commoditization of engineering services, we make a strong effort to demonstrate our value proposition and provide a compellingly better solution to solve their engineering challenge. In several instances, this has involved turning things upside down, approaching the project from See SEEKING EXCELLENCE, page 8
HEADQUARTERS: Fullerton, CA NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 38 YEAR FOUNDED: 2006 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: ❚ ❚ Orange County, CA
❚ ❚ Pasadena, CA ❚ ❚ San Diego, CA ❚ ❚ Utah County, UT SERVICES:
❚ ❚ Civil engineering ❚ ❚ Water resources ❚ ❚ Stormwater ❚ ❚ Environmental ❚ ❚ Project and construction management MARKETS: ❚ ❚ Government ❚ ❚ Water ❚ ❚ Energy ❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Environment ❚ ❚ Land development CERTIFICATIONS: ❚ ❚ Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) ❚ ❚ Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) ❚ ❚ California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) MBE ❚ ❚ California Small Business (SB) ❚ ❚ Small Business Enterprise (SBE) ❚ ❚ Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) ❚ ❚ And various other local certifications
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NE 15, 2020, ISSUE 1349
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