ABOVE AND BEYOND, from page 7
is 27 years old, but has clearly demonstrated a knack for managing projects, then she is a new PM. Now, the more PMs we have, the more loose we tend to get in how we all manage our projects, each with his own best practices. We have set a company goal for 2020 to develop a PGA PM Handbook, which will codify the minimum best practices for how we manage our projects. This tool is intended to simplify things for our experienced PMs and help guide and comfort our new PMs. Our Handbook will be very flexible, allowing PMs to apply their own approach within the framework provided. It will also be a living document, as client expectations are everchanging. TZL: How has COVID-19 affected your business on a daily basis? GG: We have remained very busy, so it hasn’t affected us at all in that sense. The business part is getting done – submittals being made and proposals being submitted. It takes a few more messages or emails, but we are getting it done. The lack of daily personal interaction has been the toughest part. A large part of our culture is built on what kind, helpful, and fun people we have. Much of that can be communicated in Teams’ messages and GoTo meetings, but you do miss something. We have several folks who are going above and beyond to create virtual happy hour events and birthday celebrations, which is carrying us through and helping us to maintain that culture. However, we look forward to being able to do those things with one another very soon. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? GG: I was 29 when Hiren Patel and I started PGA, so I come from a different perspective answering a question like this. I understand that experience is important, but setting some threshold on experience or relationships is too arbitrary. When you got it, you got it, and a good leader can see that quickly. I am still in my 30s (37 now), Hiren has only recently entered his 40s, and three of the six new owners are in their 30s. At no point was experience or “book of business” a consideration. We invited these new owners due to their commitment to PGA and to our clients, day in and day out.
plan that will allow more of our key tenured staff to see rewards for their efforts. This reward is in addition to an already robust benefits package that helps all PGA employees feel very rewarded for their work. 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? GG: We only recently had our firm valuated, in preparation for our initial selling of ownership units at the end of 2019. We used a valuation group within the outside accounting firm that we use, since this was our first one and we wanted a benchmark for how we stack up against the multiples provided in Zweig Group’s Valuation Survey . We used these benchmarks to develop our own Z-Formula, averaging Zweig multiples for full-time equivalent employees, net service revenue, EBITDA and profit. We plan to move ahead by valuating the company yearly according to this formula, periodically having a full valuation done when the company experiences any major changes, or whenever we feel like springing for one. TZL: On the PGA website, it says that your firm is passionate about saving clients’ money. What are some ways in which you do that? GG: We are civil engineers, by-and-large, and our primary clients are government clients. That means we partner with them to be good stewards of taxpayer money. We continually look for ways throughout the design process to be innovative, even if that means some redesign later in the schedule than we would like. Integrity is one of our core values, so we might also have opportunities to explain to a client why some aspect of the scope they’ve assigned to us isn’t necessary, or how we might otherwise reduce our own efforts to reduce their design costs, yet still deliver the final deliverable that they need to build their project. TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? GG: We are doing our best to hire more PMs. Outside of that, we’ve always looked to grow the next generation. In this case, if a young P.E. shows potential and a PM can delegate some PM duties, then we do it. If that young P.E.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 13, 2020, ISSUE 1352
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