TZL 1354 (web)

How much do AEC firms spend on each new hire? T R E N D L I N E S J u l y 2 7 , 2 0 2 0 , I s s u e 1 3 5 4 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Developing a legacy-building strategy requires looking within to the sources of your greatest purpose and potential. Live your legacy

W e are lucky to be living at a time like this. That may be a bold statement to many reading this as I’ve seen my fair share of articles about how 2020 has been a terrible year, with COVID-19 being only one of many reasons. However, this year, my son was born, and my family recently moved to New Orleans. As things slowly settle into place, it has afforded me the opportunity to reflect and regain perspective. In many ways, this is one of the greatest moments to be alive. Humanity has never been in a better position. There has been a Facebook post going around about the hardships and perspective of someone born in 1900 that can really help shift your viewpoint. Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty, privation, and suffering. I’d like to challenge you to reframe your reference on the world today in order for you to see the tremendous amount of opportunity that this time presents. Great leaders are shaped by their time and environment just as much as their natural or developed ability. Rather than waiting for the new normal to emerge, what are you doing to create the new normal. It makes me think of American poet, Marge Piercy’s, words, “A pitcher cries for water to carry, and a person for work that is real.” Let us reignite the passion and intensity and stop going through the motions and wasting time. This fundamental impulse is not bounded by age. It is time, not to leave a legacy, but to live one! Our mission at Zweig Group is to “Elevate the Industry.” I believe the foundational building block of this is the individual. Leadership can come from any level in our organizations and what we need now are leaders. What would you like your legacy to be and how can we bind together with likeminded individuals to push beyond the limitations that have held us back? Is your vision to build people that build the future, create a more equitable world, ElevateHer, generating better health and well-being through design, to inspire healthier communities, to reinvent how people share knowledge and use their environment, world domination, or some other colossal purpose? A quick aside for those who think I’m being too ethereal: People want to do business with, work for, and most importantly contribute to those who believe what they believe. Concentrating on living your legacy will certainly be reflected in better revenue, profit, and return to shareholders, employees, and your communities. After speaking with firms around the country, many have a one- word strategic plan at the moment “survive.” This is also the bias many leaders in our firms have during “normal” years as well. They

Phil Keil

Hiring isn’t cheap! According to Zweig Group’s 2020 Policies, Procedures, and Benefits Report of AEC Firms , firms spent on avererage $9,454 on each new hire. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication. F I R M I N D E X A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc..12 Batture, LLC. ..........................................6 Blackstone Environmental.....................12 Brinkmann Constructors.......................10 Contour Engineering, LLC.......................2 Pennoni. ...............................................10 SCJ Alliance............................................4 Universal Engineering Sciences...............2 Ware Malcomb......................................10 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MARK ZWEIG: Getting better fees Page 3 xz Giving back: Bob Mora Page 6 xz JONATHAN SAVAGE: COVID-19 and business development Page 9

xz MIKE KUKUK: Blueprint for successful transition Page 11

See PHIL KEIL, page 2



TRANSACT IONS UNIVERSAL ENGINEERING WELCOMES CONTOUR ENGINEERING TO ITS FAMILY OF COMPANIES Universal Engineering Sciences announced the acquisition of Georgia-based Contour Engineering, LLC . Through its family of companies, Universal Engineering Sciences, LLC, GFA International, Inc. , Nova Geotechnical & Inspection Services, LLC and now Contour, Universal is a leading provider of professional engineering and environmental consulting services for a wide array of markets, clients, and projects. The addition of Contour demonstrates Universal’s commitment to driving long-term growth by identifying and acquiring companies that enhance Universal’s strategic footprint, client base and services. Headquartered in Kennesaw, Georgia, Contour provides the same core services as Universal including geotechnical and environmental engineering, construction materials testing, construction QA/ QC, environmental health and safety solutions and building code compliance services. “This is an exciting new chapter for our team, we couldn’t be prouder to be joining such a well- respected company that values building long- term client relationships,” said David Hesterlee, senior vice president of Contour. “This will enable us to expand the comprehensive services and capabilities available to our valued customers.” The Contour partnership is the fourth investment

made by Universal through its relationship with Palm Beach Capital. Operating from 34 offices coast-to-coast with more than 1,500 highly skilled professionals, Universal is positioned throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, and California. “We’re extremely excited to welcome Jack Rebeiz, David Hesterlee and the talented team at Contour to the UES family,” said Mark Israel, P.E., CEO of Universal Engineering Sciences, LLC. “It was evident from the beginning of our discussions that Contour shares our commitment to client service, core values and business principles – enhancing our ability to become a leader in this industry.” “Aligning with Universal is a great opportunity for our employees and clients. Finding a partner that shared the same commitment to providing quality services to our customers, is dedicated to its team members, and has a similar culture as Contour was important for us,” said Contour President, Jack Rebeiz, P.E. “This provides our employees with the support of a national organization, and our clients with an expanded network of resources and complementary service offerings.” Contour is a multi-discipline consulting engineering firm specializing in geotechnical engineering, special inspections, construction material testing services, and environmental sciences.

Driving Financial Results Webinar


Solid financial management is crucial to the success of any company, and firms in the AEC industry are no exception. This short course provides an overview of business financial management – specifically tailored to our industry – to help firm leaders make informed decisions that drive results.


PHIL KEIL, from page 1

put legacy issues on hold and concentrate on managing the near-term concerns. This generally means doing whatever needs to be done to meet the most urgent demands at any given time. This is why in survey after survey, senior executives say that setting a clear and differentiating strategy was “a significant challenge.” The most certain way to build a company whose leadership will outlast your own, however, is to focus your attention on the few things that your company can do better than anyone else and reinforce that focus in every decision you make. It will help you win market share, generate sustainable growth, and even turn around a decline. Legacy isn’t something you arrive at by copying your competition. Developing a legacy-building strategy means looking within to the sources of your greatest purpose and potential. Where do you, your customers, and your community need you to be uniquely great? Once determined, ruthlessly concentrate your time and resources in those areas. This is “strategic coherence.” It is having a single compelling view of how your company creates value in the market, the capabilities to do so, the way those fit into a system, and the way that relates to the services you provide. This is the only way to consistently create value today. Finally, once you’ve determined how you will live your legacy-building strategy, communication is key. Constantly ask yourself if your team can articulate what it is and how you hold each other accountable for keeping focus. How are you living your legacy? We want to hear from you. Stay tuned for more information and resources as we lead up to our Elevate AEC experience this year. Leadership, legacy building, and elevating the industry will be a major focus for the next year. PHIL KEIL is director of strategy services at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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Getting better fees

I have always said that the most important aspect of A/E project management and one that is rarely discussed is how to get a better fee in the first place. That makes “management” a much easier task! We have worked with firms in this business that had average labor multipliers above 4.5. It can be done, and you can do it!

More than 35 years ago, when I worked as the director of marketing at Carter & Burgess, we had a principal who sold millions of dollars of work. It was the beginning of a difficult period for the firm as the DFW area economy was just starting to get hammered. This principal was always quite proud of himself and bragged about the volume of work he sold. The problem was the way he sold was he gave the work away for such low fees anyone could have sold it. I used to tell my boss that I could sell as many dollars for 85 cents as he wanted. Then, of course, the ongoing challenge was how we could do the work and not lose money. It’s crazy. Why go through all the work and then not be able to make anything because your fees are so low?

Here are some thoughts on how to improve your fees: 1)Use your marketing and BD budget and skills to drive demand beyond your ability to meet it. Then you can let go of the clients who won’t pay you decently because you have better-paying clients who want your services. This may seem obvious but most firms don’t understand the linkage between marketing and BD spending and the long-term results you can get from it. 2)Restrict who can commit the firm to do any project at a particular fee. This is a huge problem in this business, especially for smaller firms but even in mid-size and larger firms, too. Anyone is allowed to quote fees and commit the firm. Very dangerous. You want those who understand the importance of a proper fee looking at every single fee proposal and contract before they get signed.

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 4



BUSINESS NEWS LOCAL FIRM SCJ ALLIANCE PART OF AWARD-WINNING PROJECTS A project worked on by a statewide team of SCJ Alliance staff recently received two awards for excellence. SCJ’s Lacey, Centralia, and Wenatchee offices worked together on project design, outreach, and construction management for the award-winning city of Chelan projects. For more than a decade Chelan had been trying to figure out the best way to address Woodin Avenue Bridge safety issues, with its shifting and crumbling concrete, faulting electrical, and narrow sidewalks. Although structurally sound, renovations were sorely needed for this front door to downtown. The city had outgrown the narrow concrete bridge, originally built in 1927, and there was no longer enough room for all the pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicle traffic. In partnership with city staff, the Historic Downtown Chelan Association, Chelan Douglas Transportation Council, and others, SCJ designed a project that combined bridge restoration with other efforts. The Woodin Avenue Bridge Restoration Project was selected as the Project of the Year in the “Historic Less Than $5 Million” category by the Washington chapter of the Association of Public Works. Significant upgrades were also made to the adjacent Woodin Avenue Landing Park, which provides access to the downtown from the water. The Washington State Main Street Program selected it for an Excellence on Main Award in the “Outstanding Special Project” category. “By incorporating the park into the overall construction

fee proposals with you. This is very valuable intelligence. It can provide a great learning experience. 6)Ask for a better fee. Again – from the “department of the obvious” – this may be common sense but many principals in this business just won’t do it. “Ask and ye shall receive” (sometimes)! Believe me – we have worked with firms in this business – some of them which were decent-size companies (not small niche players) – that had average labor multipliers above 4.5. It can be done and you can do it! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at “We had a principal who sold millions of dollars of work ... The problem was the way he sold was he gave the work away for such low fees anyone could have sold it.” Staff work collaboratively with public and private clients to anticipate emerging needs and priorities, envision projects that enhance communities, and create designs that bring visions to life. The firm has offices in Ballard, Seattle, Gig Harbor, Lacey, Centralia, Wenatchee, and Spokane, Washington, as well as Boulder, Colorado. SCJ has been nationally recognized many times for growth, award-winning projects, and as a great place to work. project, it saved the smaller project thousands of dollars. It’s now an inviting space for both locals and visitors alike, with increased access to Lake Chelan,” said SCJ Project Manager Dan Ireland. Ireland, an engineer, is based out of SCJ’s Wenatchee office, while the principal landscape architect, Jeff Glander, is part of SCJ’s Lacey office. Engineer Bob Tauscher, who oversaw the construction, calls the Centralia office home. “In today’s COVID world, the lines are more blurred regarding the significance of an ‘office’ location,” says Ireland. “But we’ve been ahead of the curve in that regard. For years our teams have included colleagues working seamlessly across disciplines and offices, with tremendous results.” SCJ is a 100 percent employee-owned firm specializing in civil engineering and site development, transportation planning and design, environmental and urban planning, landscape architecture, public outreach, and cable- propelled transit.

2020 FEE & BILLING SURVEY REPORT Zweig Group’s 2020 Fee & Billing Survey Report of AEC Firms is the standard guideline for AEC industry firms looking to benchmark fees, billing rates, and billing practices, and evaluate productivity and utilization. The 2020 edition includes data on fee structures for every major market type in the AEC industry, billing rates and chargeability statistics for 33 levels of employee (ranging from clerks to principals), statistics on consultant fees and reimbursable expenses, and a variety of statistics related to payment collection methods and experiences. The 2020 Fee & Billing Survey Report of AEC Firms includes the following fee markets: ❚ ❚ Commercial development ❚ ❚ Corporate facilities ❚ ❚ Education (K-12) ❚ ❚ Education (Higher education) ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ Marine ❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Entertainment ❚ ❚ Federal/state/municipal ❚ ❚ Industrial facilities ❚ ❚ Multi-family residential ❚ ❚ Single-family residential ❚ ❚ Religious ❚ ❚ Environmental – public ❚ ❚ Environmental – private Visit zweiggroup. to learn more.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 3

3)Raise fees every year on January 1. Warn clients that in mid-November your billing rates will go up. Lots of goods and services go up in price some every year so people expect it. And this 45-day warning could result in a bunch of new work from those clients who want to lock in this year’s rates before they go up. And then later, when they do go up, you get paid better! Your costs for labor go up every year so fees should reflect that. 4)Reduce scope and make more of what you “normally” do an extra service. I have seen more of this from the largest architecture firms in the last few years than I ever did in the past as they figure out how to compete with other design firms and how to give their clients what their clients really want and need but still get paid decently for what they do. 5)Research the market. There are a number of fee surveys available that could be helpful to your understanding of what is normal for a project or client of the type you are serving. Use these resources and others to figure out if you are competitive. Sometimes long- standing clients you have a particularly good relationship with will share the other firms’

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Work From Home & Online Learning Opportunities


WEBINAR SERIES LEADERSHIP IS EVERYTHING – HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY LEAD YOUR TEAM AND FIRM THROUGH CRISIS AND CHANGE – LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM PRICE: $399 OVERVIEW: This is a four-part Leadership Development “Webinar and Discussion Series.” There are four key elements needed for success today: Projects, Profits, Peo- ple, and Purpose. This program is designed to focus on a number of the most import- ant “People” aspects that are increasingly critical to our success both individually and organizationally. Goal: Especially during this time of significant crisis and great change, provide essential tools and insights to current and aspiring leaders and managers to improve our individual and collective success, growth, and resiliency. THIS WEBINAR SERIES WILL BEGIN ON AUGUST 11, 2020 LEARN MORE VIRTUAL SEMINAR ELEVATING DOER-SELLERS: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS PRICE: $799 OVERVIEW: Elevating Doer-Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals is specifically developed to help design and technical professionals in architecture, en- gineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing clients and promoting the firm and its services. Led by two retired and current CEOs with extensive experience from the design desk to the board room, this one-of-a-kind seminar presents business development techniques proven to drive real growth and value in your AEC firm. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON AUGUST 5, 2020 LEARN MORE


The Zweig Letter Podcast is back! With new episodes weekly, stay up to date with AEC trends in the TZL podcast hosted by Zweig Group’s Randy Wilburn.


Zweig Group is an approved provider by the AIA & SHRM




Giving back: Bob Mora Owner and managing partner at Batture, LLC (New Orleans, LA), a firm dedicated to delivering outstanding results while creating powerful social and environmental change.


B atture is dedicated to the idea that a highly-inspired team can deliver outstanding results while also creating powerful social and environmental change. Mora leads the charge with his partner, Jennifer Snape. Mora talks about how making a positive impact on the industry and being of service to others are top of mind. “It’s very humbling to gain perspective on how much we take running water and infrastructure for granted,” Mora says. “I often wonder how our industry would be different if part of the requirement for professional licensure was working on a pro bono project helping a community in need.” A CONVERSATION WITH BOB MORA. The Zweig Letter: I see that you are an active member of Engineers Without Borders. Can you tell me a bit about your experience there? How do you go about helping engineers to identify pro bono opportunities locally and around the globe?

Bob Mora: I became involved with the New Orleans EWB chapter in 2011 and have been part of project teams in Guatemala and New Orleans. I’ve served in various official positions, but I view my role as recruiting new members, getting them involved, and identifying new project opportunities for the group. It’s really exciting to see people get on board with the idea of engineering being in service of others. I think if more engineers took steps to cultivate a mindset of service it would have a positive impact on our industry. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? BM: We went from remote work being optional for 90 percent of our firm (with people working remotely to varying degrees) to remote work being required for 100 percent of our firm. Our company’s infrastructure is set up for remote working, but there was still a learning curve for us. The 25 percent of our staff who have always worked remotely were awesome during this time. They



had no lag in production and carried us in the beginning. Everyone else has adapted quickly, and the conversation is now centered around how to safely start working at the office again while still allowing people the flexibility to work remotely. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” BM: I’m roughly 60 percent in the business, 40 percent on the business. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? BM: An authentic leader. I try to be honest and direct with our employees. TZL: What, if anything, are you doing to protect your firm from a potential economic slowdown in the future? BM: We don’t take the current market for granted. We look for opportunities to work in varied markets and with a variety of different clients. We hire people who are natural learners so we can easily capitalize on new opportunities. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? BM: Yes. It is working really well for our firm. TZL: Giving back to the community seems to be at the heart of the Batture mission. Can you tell me about a particular project that you were/are especially proud to be a part of? Why? BM: It’s really hard to pick just one project, but working on projects in Guatemala has been especially gratifying for me. A number of our employees have provided support on these projects and three of us have had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala at different times. It’s very humbling to gain perspective on how much we take running water and infrastructure for granted. I often wonder how our industry would be different if part of the requirement for professional licensure was working on a pro bono project helping a community in need. 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? BM: We work with a consultant who is assisting in these efforts. He works directly with our project managers, employees, and

ownership to improve communication and leadership within our firm. TZL: What measures are you taking to protect your employees during the COVID-19 crisis? BM: Primarily, we’re requiring staff to work remotely. The office is closed. We are grateful to have work and clients right now. Our work is minimally impacted by remote employees, and we feel obligated to work remotely as a small thing we can do to help our community. We are currently looking into a product that would be installed in our A/C system which purifies the air and sanitizes hard surfaces in the building. This is the same system installed in hospitals. We want to have a solid plan in place and upgrades complete to our office, so employees can return with a feeling of safety. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? BM: This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. Every company decision we make is about future generations. We don’t believe in the concept of tenured staff. We greatly appreciate employees who decide to stay at Batture, but if an employee is done learning then they aren’t a cultural fit anymore. Every employee needs to have desire to improve whether they are a young engineer learning how to design or an experienced engineer learning how to better mentor and teach young engineers. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. BM: Yes. We often discuss how our company is changing and how it needs to change as we grow. A three-person firm is vastly different than a 16-person firm. “It’s really exciting to see people get on board with the idea of engineering being in service of others. I think if more engineers took steps to cultivate a mindset of service it would have a positive impact on our industry.”








❚ ❚ Civil/infrastructure

❚ ❚ Structural

❚ ❚ Water management

❚ ❚ Land surveying

❚ ❚ Coastal

❚ ❚ Landscape architecture

A COMMITMENT TO GIVING BACK: Batture is the only civil

engineering company to be

accepted into the business

program at Propeller, the New

Orleans non-profit that works

with companies with a social

See GIVING BACK, page 8


© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

LY 27, 2020, ISSUE 1354


The Batture team celebrating the firm’s fifth anniversary.

GIVING BACK, from page 7

TZL: Batture has two owners and managing partners. How do you and Jennifer divide your duties? How did you come together to create Batture? BM: When the firm was smaller, we both literally did everything, but as our company has grown our roles are starting to refine. My current role is CFO/HR and Jenny’s is CEO. We’re both involved in marketing and business development and are hands-on with developing employees and working on projects. I opened Batture in 2014 with the goal of bringing in a business partner pretty quickly. Jenny and I originally met through EWB and got acquainted working on projects while employed at different firms in New Orleans. Around the same time, Waggonner Ball (a local architecture and planning firm) started the “Living with Water” movement in New Orleans with the publication of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. Jenny and I were constantly crossing paths as two engineers who were passionate about water management and the ideas presented in the urban water plan. In 2016, Jenny wanted to open a firm and we both had the same idea of teaming up as partners. As trivial as it sounds, a big reason for us partnering was so we could each take vacations while the other one took care of the business. We shared the same vision for what an engineering firm could be and the same desire to build a New Orleans firm specializing in water management. Jenny is one of the best engineers I know. We get along really well as friends, and we have a high level of trust between us. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO? BM: Listening.

Our goal is to be transparent on how we see the business evolving and keep an open dialogue within the company. We often remind employees that we are novice business owners and ask for their patience with us and ask them for feedback and ideas on how to improve. TZL: How has COVID-19 affected your business on a daily basis? BM: We have gotten so much better at communication and not interrupting each other throughout the day. I still call people out of the blue more than anyone (and they answer because I’m an owner), but most of us are sending a message first to see if the other person is available. We are developing the habit of setting our status in Slack (in a meeting, walking the dog, do not disturb, etc.) and checking people’s status before messaging them. We are spending more time on video chats and phone calls. There are lots of virtual screen shares within our company and with clients to walk through our design process. TZL: What unique or innovative pricing strategies have you developed, or are you developing, to combat the commoditization of engineering services? BM: For private developments, we offer land surveying, landscape architecture, civil engineering and structural engineering. While we do make exceptions, we try our best to offer all those services or none of the services to a client. The idea is that we can offer the services at lower fees when we do everything because our risk is spread thinner. There is a cost savings for the client and time savings on coordination meetings between disciplines. By offering the services together it also limits the client’s ability to shop for other prices. Most importantly, this scenario allows our employees to work together and to achieve more than they can individually.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Uncertainty in the marketplace will be with us as we move forward, but you can be successful if you adjust your game plan and expectations. COVID-19 and business development

A s we wade through the uncertainty that COVID-19 has caused in our industry and many others, business development efforts are as important as ever before. Business development isn’t just about bringing in revenue to our firms, though that is ultimately the goal. Genuine business development efforts create a relationship between the firm and the client that involves trust and respect. During difficult times, this relationship is more important than ever.

Jonathan Savage

value the relationships you have with them, so talk to them! Clients will be relying on you to help them solve their problems, whether they might be financial, logistical, or technical in nature, and “We’ve been through difficult times before, and we’ve gotten better as a result. So, what’s your game plan for today, and how will you be successful?”

How do you leverage your business development efforts during and following the pandemic? 1)Busy before COVID? Be prepared for more. Be prepared to adjust your business development approaches to: ❚ ❚ Change/shift BD plans: Redefine your projected leads, wins, and time allocations appropriately and be prepared to justify your numbers. ❚ ❚ Scale back travel and events: Since these are likely to be cut for some time, don’t rely on them to provide prospects and opportunities 2)The world has changed, existing client relationships are still critical. Your clients still




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF KÄRCHER HEADQUARTERS FACILITY IN AURORA Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced construction is complete on the new North America headquarters facility of Kärcher located at 6398 N. Kärcher Way in Aurora, Colorado. Ware Malcomb provided architecture, interior design, civil engineering, and land surveying services for the project. Kärcher, the world’s leading provider of cleaning technology, consolidated their manufacturing from campuses in Englewood, Colorado, and Camas, Washington, to create a new 380,000 build-to-suit headquarters facility featuring approximately 275,000 square feet of warehouse, R&D and manufacturing space along with 100,000 square feet of office space on a 23-acre site. The new facility is located in the Porteos development near Denver International Airport. “This new state-of-the-art facility is designed to allow Kärcher to operate more efficiently, optimize its manufacturing and production capabilities, and improve its customer experience – all while positioning the company for future growth,” said Matt Chaiken, principal of Ware Malcomb’s Denver office. “We worked closely with Kärcher to ensure every element of the project – from the civil engineering and land surveying process to the architecture and interior design –

met the company’s immediate needs and specifications, as well as its long term goals,” said Chris Strawn, principal of Ware Malcomb’s Denver Civil Engineering office. The building interior features a grand, open three-story staircase with decorative linear lighting and cable railings. A gray color scheme with bright yellow accents is used throughout the common areas and within architectural lighting, reflecting Kärcher’s corporate colors and the color of the equipment the company manufactures. The design team sourced materials that were textural in nature to give the interior space further dimension. Office and conference room fronts used a furniture glazing system that helped keep construction on schedule and on budget, while providing for future flexibility. The building’s exterior envelope utilized integrally insulated, painted tilt-up concrete panels with reveals. Storefront and curtain walls were also used for the office area. The exterior utilized the same colors as the interior to reflect Kärcher’s corporate branding, including a yellow parapet cap. The civil engineering design and land surveying services for the 23-acre site was accomplished with balanced earthwork through the grading and drainage design along with the associated parking lots, loading areas, drive lanes, and utilities required for the building. A subdivision plat was also prepared by the Ware Malcomb

land surveying team. Water quality was provided on-site in a pond that was designed at the south end of the project to meet the city’s requirements for the current and future buildout and connected to the area’s regional detention facility. The general contractor for the project was Brinkmann Constructors . The developer for the project was SunCap Property Group. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is an international design firm providing planning, architecture, interior design, branding, civil engineering and building measurement services to commercial real estate and corporate clients. With office locations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/ educational facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as a Hot Firm and Best Firm to Work For by Zweig Group. Kärcher is the world’s leading provider of cleaning technology. The family owned enterprise employs more than 13,000 people in 72 countries and more than 127 subsidiaries. More than 50,000 service centers in all countries ensure continuous and comprehensive supplies to customers all over the world.

JONATHAN SAVAGE, from page 9

❚ ❚ Change your approach: Have a daily “game plan,” particularly when working remotely. Children, pets, and relatives can steal your focus, so adjust accordingly. ❚ ❚ Always be professional: Treat every call and opportunity to talk to your clients as a “face-to-face” meeting. Dress and act appropriately, even if you’re working from your dining room. There are three types of clients that often emerge during difficult times and economic downturns. ❚ ❚ “Rock Solid.” Clients that pick up the phone when you call and immediately accept meeting invitations from you. ❚ ❚ “Good Friend.” These clients provide you and your company opportunities on a consistent basis. They are always in your corner, but you need to regularly maintain the relationship. ❚ ❚ “Duck/Dodge.” These folks may be new or infrequent clients, but lately they are approachable. Approach these clients (reasonably) and you may be surprised with your results. Uncertainty in the marketplace will be with us as we move forward, but you can be successful if you adjust your game plan and expectations for success. Remember, we’ve been through difficult times before, and we’ve gotten better as a result. So, what’s your game plan for today, and how will you be successful? JONATHAN SAVAGE serves as vice president at Pennoni. He can be reached at

to understand their issues. Solving problems solidifies your relationship even further, especially when economic times are tough. 3)You don’t need face-to-face meetings to win work from new clients. The approach to winning work has now changed dramatically. Get used to opening/closing on opportunities remotely even as entities reopen, and plan on addressing: ❚ ❚ Available operations capacity: Many firms have lost or will lose staff, leading to slow responsiveness and/or lack of quality, and offering them additional capacity will win work. ❚ ❚ Cost savings opportunities: Measures and technologies that improve the “bottom line” for your clients will open some eyes going forward, in a difficult economy. 4)Working remotely and developing daily game plans. Speaking of remotely, business development staff is often not used to a “working from home” culture. So, what adjustments should you make? “Genuine business development efforts create a relationship between the firm and the client that involves trust and respect. During difficult times, this relationship is more important than ever.”

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Develop a culture in which employees have a greater stake in the company and more opportunities to reap the rewards of capital ownership. Blueprint for successful transition

F inancially successful employee-owned AEC firms – especially small- and mid-size firms – have been a mainstay of the consulting industry for many years. I have been fortunate enough to work for three employee-owned firms and have experienced personal financial growth from each one. The firm I worked for after college and the two firms I have founded or co-founded were 100 percent employee owned. Each of us in this industry can earn a decent wage through salary and bonus, but to acquire more significant wealth, personal financial success, and a return on our investment of blood, sweat, tears, and billable hours, equity ownership is essential.

Mike Kukuk

Blackstone Environmental, Inc. is a small, growing firm headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, with offices in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, that provides environmental engineering and consulting services. In this article, I’ll provide an overview of Blackstone’s philosophy and some creative ways we support employees in becoming owners. One of Blackstone’s core values is employee ownership. By giving employees the opportunity to own company stock, we develop a culture in which employees feel ownership and empowerment. As employee owners, we have a greater stake in the company and more

opportunities to reap the rewards of capital ownership. As an employee-owned firm, we set our own course, gain employee commitment, and directly benefit from our financial success. Employee owners exhibit pride of ownership reflected in several ways, including strong work habits, efficiency, and conservation. These attributes help ensure quality work and provide a significant advantage in promoting company growth and productivity. As owners, we all benefit from each other’s efforts. BENEFITS OF EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP PROGRAM. Internal

See MIKE KUKUK, page 12



ON THE MOVE WESLEY HEVENER, P.E., JOINS AMT IN PARKERSBURG A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that Wesley Hevener, P.E., has joined AMT’s Parkersburg office as the West Virginia director of structural engineering. In his role, Hevener will lead structural design efforts in West Virginia and drive organizational growth in neighboring states. He will also lead National Bridge Inspection pursuits on a national scale. Prior to joining AMT, Hevener served as the Project Manager for the Kimball Slab Bridge and five district-wide Bridge projects for District 1 in West Virginia. Additionally, he served as the project manager and lead

bridge inspector for the Veteran’s Glass City Skyway Bridge in Toledo, Ohio, as well as the Admiral T.J. Lopez, Fifth Street, and 35th/36th Street Six-Year Inspection projects. Hevener brings more than 17 years of experience in transportation, bridge, and structural design to his new position and holds both an MBA and a master’s degree in civil engineering from West Virginia University. “Wes’s expertise and passion for structural design make him an excellent addition to the AMT team. We look forward to the project success and business growth he achieves in West Virginia and beyond,” notes AMT President and CEO Michael Wiercinski, PE, PLS.

A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. has a deep appreciation for establishing vision and achieving goals. Client-focused since the firm’s 1955 inception, AMT has evolved into a multidisciplinary engineering and design consultancy with more than 20 offices throughout the eastern United States. As an ESOP managed and 100 percent employee-owned firm, AMT employs highly qualified individuals who are experts in their respective fields to oversee, perform and manage our business practices. These team members are driven to positively impact the communities where they live, work and play.

MIKE KUKUK, from page 11

❚ ❚ Shares valued annually through a modified version of the Zweig Group’s Z-2 formula; ❚ ❚ Investment/redemption account where the company deposits all stock sale proceeds, as well as contributes a monthly cash contribution (this helps cash flow future redemptions); ❚ ❚ Direct-share purchase financing program with the company acting as a bank; and ❚ ❚ S-Corporation designation with employee owners benefitting from both stock price appreciation and quarterly dividends to shareholders. “Through theses strategies and other business practices, we are well on our way to achieving an orderly and successful internal ownership transition of the firm.” PLANNING NEXT STEPS. To enhance our existing program and further pursue success of our planned ownership transition from the founding owners to the next generation, we are planning these additional amendments in 2020: ❚ ❚ Contract with a business planning and valuation firm to review and critique our program; ❚ ❚ Perform the first outside valuation and business appraisal of Blackstone, which will provide a new valuation formula specific to Blackstone; and ❚ ❚ Initiate paying a small portion of bonuses in company stock versus cash. Through theses strategies, and other business practices, such as prioritizing long-term objectives, recognizing opportunities, retaining top talent/future owners, and mentoring the next generation on successful business operation and succession planning, we are well on our way to achieving an orderly and successful internal ownership transition of the firm. With more than 35 years in the environmental engineering field, MIKE KUKUK is president, CEO, and principal at Blackstone Environmental and has overall responsibility for the company. He founded Blackstone in 2010 after retiring from a firm he co-founded in 2002. He has been called a “serial entrepreneur” for starting two separate companies from scratch. Contact him at

ownership transition is the practice of transitioning ownership from one group of employee-owners to another. There are different ways to accomplish this; Blackstone is completing internal ownership transition over time. It works like this: From the company’s perspective, stock is offered to satisfy the following essential needs: ❚ ❚ Raise capital to maintain our financial strength and support growth; ❚ ❚ Provide employees the opportunity to benefit from our financial success; ❚ ❚ Replace lost capital due to normal retirement redemptions and termination of employee shareholders; and ❚ ❚ Develop a culture in which employees feel and act like owners. From the employee’s perspective, the purchase of Blackstone stock offers these key benefits: ❚ ❚ Achieve a high level of commitment and satisfaction from functioning as an employee and owner and participating in the financial benefits of our hard work and success; and ❚ ❚ Serve as an attractive investment and provide employees a means of accumulating significant equity holdings over the years (although there is no guarantee of performance). Of common interest to Blackstone and employees, is the desire to set our own course and maintain internal control of the company. DEVELOPING AN EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP PROGRAM. Blackstone was incorporated in 2010 (celebrating a decade this October!). In 2013, with the help of the Salontai Consulting Group, attorneys, accountants, and others, we offered our first shares of stock to employees. Our stock program attributes include: ❚ ❚ Open-book financials supplied to all employees; ❚ ❚ Unique quarterly bonus program, based on profit, to get cash

in employees’ hands more frequently; ❚ ❚ Annual stock sale to select employees;

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