TZL 1422 (web)

Janua r y 3 , 2022 , I s sue 1 422 W W W . Z W E I G G R O U P . C O M


Employee productivity

Five ways that inflation could be eating away at your firm’s growth and what you can do about it. The ugly truth about inflation

F I R M I N D E X BASE............................................................................. 10 Dewberry.................................................................. 10 Lord Aeck Sargent............................................... 6 MKN Associates...................................................... 4 Ware Malcomb........................................................ 4 Wright Service Corp............................................ 2 MO R E A R T I C L E S n RYAN GALLAGHER: How to land a purple unicorn Page 3 n Look toward the future: Joe Greco Page 6 n MATTHEW POLING: Checklists: Simple yet powerful tools Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Know your business and you’ll always do well Page 11 In Zweig Group’s AEC Workplace of the Future survey , firm participants are asked about current and future policies in their company as well as their current personal ideals. For example, participants were asked to rate their current productivity level versus their productivity level pre-pandemic. Participants that work from home expressed that their productivity level was generally higher now. Participants that primarily work at the office or on the road said that their productivity level remained the same. The other participants that worked a hybrid model fell in-between. The main purpose of this is not to compare the options one-to-one, but to understand your staff and implement policies with them in mind. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

N ow that Fed Chair Jerome Powell has officially retired the word “transitory” from describing the current inflation situation we have going on, principals in the AEC industry need to take a step back and decide what this really means for their firms. Being in the professional services industry leaves us in a strange predicament where we can’t just raise our rates the way companies in the consumer market can. Simultaneously, our firms are made up of people who do feel the effects of inflation and need raises to combat it. At the same time, rent, fleet/crew vehicles, gasoline, and powerful computers are getting more expensive. The latest number I’m sure we’ve all heard is 6.8 percent inflation for goods and services on the Consumer Price Index. While a principal might be inclined to argue that their customers aren’t “consumers” for the most part, inflation can most definitely affect your firm in other ways, such as: ■ ■ Service rates. A good portion of the AEC industry works on fixed hourly rates or a lump project cost. Think about how you come to these rates and when the last time they were increased was. While it isn’t ideal to get a client to agree to a rate increase halfway through their project, you can set the expectation that you will have to increase your rates to keep up with market forces prior to the next time they do business with you. If you do a good job and they like your firm, they’ll likely be fine with this. ■ ■ Staff salaries. While your firm’s clients may not be consumers, your staff most definitely are, and you can bet they’re feeling the effects (especially if your firm is based in a major metropolitan area). If you’re not proactive, this is one of those things that can sow real distrust between your staff and management. It’s all over the news and they can see it the same way you can. Don’t ignore this and try to stay on top of yearly cost of living raises at the very least. Being proactive about this will likely earn you major points with your employees from a recruiting and retention standpoint as well. At this point you will likely need to consider raising your rates on new projects, which should be fine, as your clients are people who are almost definitely feeling the same pressures you are. As I outline below, there are also ways to protect against inflation during a contract as well. ■ ■ Growth rate. In order for your firm to not eat into its working capital

Will Anderson




TRANSACTIONS WRIGHT SERVICE CORP. COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF TRANSCON ENVIRON- MENTAL, INC. Wright Service Corp. an - nounced a new acquisition agreement related to its proposed business combina- tion with Transcon Environmental, Inc. “We are delighted to welcome Transcon Environmental associates to our family of companies,” said Chairman and CEO Scott Packard. “The management core at Trans- con is very strong and passionate about what they do.” Wright Service Corp.’s business operat- ing systems and expertise is in consulting utility vegetation management includ- ing inspection, auditing, risk mitigation, forest management and reforestation, technology solutions, consulting and operations, commercial environmental products, plus residential and commercial landscaping and tree care. “The acquisition of Transcon is a key in-

vestment that aligns with Wright Ser- vice Corp.’s vision of accelerating growth through acquisition,” stated Packard. “Combined with Transcon’s specialized expertise in environmental planning and consulting will enable us to deliver even greater value to utility companies, corpo- rations, and agencies to develop or rede- velop infrastructure for energy, communi- cations, and mining.” Transcon founder Mike Warner stated, “Wight Service Corp. is the right company to entrust our customers and our legacy with moving forward.” Packard stated, “Mike Warner and his team have built a business with a loyal base of customers that provide a solid foundation on which to grow. We are con- fident that this acquisition will be benefi- cial to all. Transcon has a special connec- tion with the markets in Arizona, California, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.”

Interested in learning more

about the projects and ideas driving the AEC industry forward? Learn more with Civil+Structural Engineer Media.

WILL ANDERSON , from page 1

more and more every year, you need to keep an eye on the growth rate of your firm. If you aren’t growing at least as fast as the core inflation rate, you’ll likely start seeing more decreases than increases in your month-to-month working capital. ■ ■ Fixed cash payments over time as part of M&A deals . While getting to the end of an M&A deal is exciting and the rewards are often bountiful, don’t let yourself forget about money you could be potentially losing through a fixed cash payment scheduled for a few years down the line. If this earn-out is not adjusted for inflation then you’re quite simply not getting the full value you agreed on. It could very realistically mean the difference between the base model C8 Corvette or that shiny new Z06 Corvette. It’s your choice! ■ ■ Lump sum/guaranteed max price contracts. After the crazy fluctuations in building material prices this past year I’m sure this one is near and dear to many hearts. With inflation expected to continue climbing, along with continued supply chain shortages, make sure you are protecting yourself in your contracts with verbiage that is inclusive to nonstandard inflation and materials rates. While a court will likely side with you most of the time if it gets to that point, who has time to go to court? Something worth noting however, is that while those in lump sum contracts may feel pressure during this time, those on percentage of construction cost contracts will automatically earn more. This may be worth looking into for future projects and discussing with your development partners. These are just a few of the ways that inflation could be eating away at your firm’s growth in the background. Luckily though, we’re faced with this problem in a historic bull market for our industry as a whole. Use this time of record backlog and infrastructure bill work to get your firm inflation proofed. Those who are proactive on this issue will likely come out the other side (when inflation slows down) able to charge higher rates, with less employee turnover, and with better margins. The tides are high in the AEC industry right now but they likely won’t be forever. Don’t let your firm get left high and dry once tides return to more normal levels! Will Anderson is a mergers and acquisitions analyst at 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.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




How to land a purple unicorn

T his is a term we use to define the rarest of creatures – a water/wastewater engineer with 10-15 years of experience with just the right blend of technical expertise, business acumen, and people skills. You may need to change out the role for your business or industry, but the experience level is the same. Firms that actively work to attract these rare creatures will be best positioned to grow and prosper.

Ryan Gallagher

The lack of qualified candidates in this age range is real and will likely get worse due to our industry’s failure to attract STEM candidates. As measured by the American Society for Engineering Education, in 2010 civil engineering degree graduates ranked number two for all engineering disciplines for a total of 12,154 out of 83,001, and by 2020 civil engineering dropped to fourth place at 13,771 out of 144,818. Our share of graduates dropped from 14.6 percent of all engineering students to 9.5 percent. Why? Our young STEM focused students are choosing to take their talents to computer science and electrical engineering which now hold the number two and three ranks, respectively. So how do we address the challenge of finding these “purple unicorns,” especially knowing the competition

for their talent will just intensify due to these trends? While I am aging out of this experience range, I am close enough to offer some insights into how I went from wandering the alphabet soup of engineering firms to settling down for a long-term commitment. I have found myself speaking from the heart, proclaiming, “This is the firm that I will retire from.” What led me to say this and how can you use this to help win the battle for your purple unicorn? 1. Put your ego aside. Whether you are an owner or a Fortune 500 company executive, hiring top talent in this age range means they may not have spent the same time in the trenches as you or may not approach problems the same way as you. Let it go. They are likely in the millennial




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF TOYOTA FINANCIAL SERVICES EXPERIENCE CENTER EAST IN GEORGIA Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced construction is complete on Toyota Financial Services Experience Center East, a dealer service center located at 11625 Rainwater Drive, Alpharetta, Georgia 30091. Ware Malcomb provided the workplace strategy, interior architecture and branding design services for the 55,670-square-foot project. TFS has consolidated 29 office locations into three regional experience centers: East, Central, and West. Ware Malcomb also led the design for TFSWest, located in Chandler, Arizona, earlier in 2021. For both locations, the aesthetics needed to reflect the natural professionalism of Toyota’s brand yet align with a regional design expression. TFS helps millions of Toyota customers drive the vehicle of their dreams with flexible financing and leasing, voluntary protection products, and well-rounded auto insurance offerings. Toyota Financial Services East was designed to enhance the company culture and support both employee and

business objectives. Thoughtful space planning, natural daylighting and views throughout the office, and sophisticated lighting solutions were incorporated into the design. Creating a connection between people and nature – known as biophilic design – was imperative. A green biophilia wall covers 28 percent of the first-floor lobby wall, and two 18-foot-long biophilia walls, comprised of 70% wood pieces and 30 percent greenery, are found on the second and third floors. Preserved moss on accent walls are visible across all floors, and a series of five nature-inspired art pieces are located throughout the office space in high-visibility areas. Ware Malcomb’s in-house branding team designed a branded environment, signage and custom graphics with the main design objective to increase interconnectivity between floors to enhance collaboration. An open, sculptural staircase crafted of sustainable materials serves as the main connection between the levels. Each floor has a dedicated color scheme that gives identity to each team and is uniquely designed according to the necessities of the end users. The biophilic design was merged within the branded environment to foster positive

emotions, mental restoration, visual comfort, creativity and productivity, stress reduction and overall well-being. “Toyota has always been at the forefront of innovation,” said Mary Cheval, Principal, Ware Malcomb. “The guiding principles that came out of our visioning sessions helped us evolve their existing workplace into an engaging, dynamic and flexible environment. These new regional hubs will allow TFS to provide an elevated customer and employee experience for years to come.” Ware Malcomb worked closely with TFS and Verde, the sustainability consultant, to carefully select new, innovative, and sustainable materials that reduce the concentration of chemical contaminants and improve air quality and human health. By partnering with Verde, TFS diverted 10 material streams and at least 60 percent of construction waste from landfill by recovering, reusing, or recycling materials, and the project achieved a LEED v4 ID+C: Commercial Interiors certification. Ware Malcomb’s history with the Toyota and Lexus companies spans more than 20 years with over 100 projects completed.

4. Empower – really. There will be failures, but that is OK. By empowering staff to see through their ideas for optimization or innovation, the best ideas will surface. And when they do, they will be backed by the motivation and passion that comes from unbound imagination. Who better to sell your new internal process? They will perform better at achieving high uptake than someone who has not bought into a process but instead was assigned to be a “superuser” on a rollout team. 5. Align your brand, vision, and culture. Misalignment between these is more common than not, but aligning them will deliver passion, motivation, and organic growth. Our industry’s best leaders and brightest rising stars wake up each morning and go to work knowing they are part of something bigger than themselves and are willing to work hard to meet the goals of their company. If you want to attract these types of people, don’t overlook these three core elements of your company. The battle for these purple unicorns will only intensify as other industries continue to soak up the best STEM students. Those firms that actively work to attract these employees will be best positioned to grow and prosper. Ryan Gallagher, P.E., is a principal at MKN Associates. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

RYAN GALLAGHER, from page 3

generation (born 1980 to 1995) which means they may work or use technology differently. Embrace these differences, let go of control, and dictate goals without mandating means and methods. Let them be guided by your experience not ruled by it. In these conditions, your purple unicorns will flourish, and they will attract others to join the herd. 2. Look like them. Who is creating your recruitment content? Who is designing your website? If it doesn’t include these groups, get them involved. I sometimes imagine other companies with a group of experienced senior executives around a table talking about how their recruitment material should look, how their website should appear, or the type of individual they are looking for – and then wondering why the other firms keep attracting all the best up and coming leaders. 3. Quality returns quality. Emphasize hiring good people and then trust them. Let the processes be guiding principles not steadfast rules. Innovation comes when need meets determination. Those determined to deliver better efficiency, better quality, or better anything will find ways to move obstacles. Fight the urge to create new forms or use the words, “That’s how it’s always been done.”

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


2022 Learning Opportunities

Learning is your competitive advantage. Zweig Group is your life-long learning provider of choice.

IN-PERSON SEMINARS FEB 17-18 Leadership Skills for AEC Professionals New Orleans, LA MAR 10-11 Project Management & Advanced PM for AEC Professionals Tampa, FL


Project Management 11am - 12:30pm CT

FEB 22, 24 + MAR 1, 3, 8, 10

The Principals Academy 11am - 1pm CT

MAR 30-31 Elevating Doer-Sellers Scottsdale, AZ

JUN 7, 14, 21, 28

Elevating Doer-Sellers 11am - 1pm CT

APR 7-8

ElevateHER Kickoff Dallas, TX

JUL 12, 19, 26 + AUG 2

Leadership Skills for AEC Professionals 11am - 12:30pm CT

APR 21-22 CEO Roundtable Napa Valley, CA

APR 28-29 M&A Next


Charleston, SC

Survey Report Webinar Dates & Time TBD

MAY 19-20 CFO Roundtable TBD

Register TODAY!

JUN 9-10 The Principals Academy Miami, FL

Have questions? Want more information? Interested in a discounted group rate? Interested in In-House Training?

SEP 14-16 ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium Las Vegas, NV


*All events subject to change

Zweig Group is an approved provider by the AIA



Look toward the future: Joe Greco President of Lord Aeck Sargent (Atlanta, GA), an architecture and design firmwith a history of creating environments people want to use and preserve.


G reco has served as president for Lord Aeck Sargent since 2010, but he’s been a practicing architect since 1985. He continues to be connected to the design practice which is in alignment with a company culture that embraces collaboration. “LAS recently made a conscious decision to look more intently toward the firm’s future,” Greco says. “We work hard to incentivize and provide leadership opportunities for the next generation and we prefer to do that from within the firm rather than bringing in new senior people when possible.” A CONVERSATIONWITH JOE GRECO. The Zweig Letter: As a Georgia Tech undergraduate, you received a scholarship to attend the Fontainebleau Study Program at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. What is one of the greatest things you learned from that experience that still influences you in your practice today? Why? Joe Greco: The opportunity to study abroad for an entire year

had an incredible, lasting impact on my perspective about design in general – particularly with respect to architecture and urbanism. The exposure to different cultures, languages, values, history, and design at such a formative age is something I’d encourage for any student, but especially for one in a design discipline. It brings a degree of humility, respect, and open-mindedness through a broader context that’s hard to duplicate any other way. Living a year in Paris gave me a firsthand introduction to a density and richness of urban space in a way that transcended the specifics and shaped a lifelong appreciation of cities and human interaction through design as a whole. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? JG: We are in the process of implementing a hybrid work approach that combines remote work with in-person office (and virtual) collaboration. The pandemic taught us that we can be effective working from anywhere, but also that there’s



a critical missing aspect of firm culture that is best promoted with actual, in-person human interaction. We created a roadmap for a return to the office at a “grass roots” level through a Work Future Committee. That committee took input from all levels within the firm and examined what COVID taught us about our practice, our work efficiency, and our culture and howwe could positively take and apply that knowledge going forward. TZL: Howmuch time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” JG: Lately, it’s been more on the business than in the business. The last couple of years have been challenging for a variety of reasons, but we’re very excited about where we are headed. While we’ve all persevered through COVID, it’s been much more difficult to bring our culture forward and to integrate new talent. It’s probably two-thirds on and one-third in these days. “There’s a delicate balance between having smooth, predictable transitions while offering sufficient growth opportunities for leadership and ownership within the firm year after year.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? JG: The clients’ trust is paramount. Design, by its nature, is a big challenge. We’re always inventing something new and improving upon something we did previously. Architecture is really a series of prototypes that are by definition “flawed” in some way. Most of our clients realize this, but overwhelmingly we try to make them part of our process of Responsive Design. This collaborative, multi-disciplinary process demands client engagement and usually through that process there are opportunities to align vision and prioritize and build that critical level of trust. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? JG: We’ve had a lot of very frank, recent conversations on this topic. I certainly won’t say we have the diversity/inclusion puzzle “solved” but we are taking active steps to recruit and promote more diversely. There’s a legacy aspect reflective of previous

generations’ disparity in architectural education and some of that is beginning to self-correct. However, the firm leadership recognizes that simply waiting for it to happen naturally isn’t enough, so we’re examining avenues for intentional outreach and engagement to try to become more representative of the population as a whole. TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? JG: We offer a generous benefits plan with a solid, recently-improved 401(k) match, a robust medical plan, and excellent maternity and paternity leave opportunities. We have good, collaborative office work environments, strong professional development, and a nice, family-friendly, highly social firm culture. Unfortunately, COVID has impacted the benefit of this last grouping significantly, but we’re in the process of getting these rebooted as we begin to return to the hybrid work-office environment. TZL: You became a principal in 2000 and then firm president in 2010. Did you strive to be president? How did that evolve? JG: To be honest, not particularly with respect to taking on the role of president. Lord Aeck Sargent had long been a very collaborative, collegial firm that embraced different voices, finding common ground and building consensus around our key business decisions. As LAS evolved from the founding partners’ structure as a company (initially adding other principals/owners – and then later at the CEO level), I felt we needed to find a way to approximate that original ethos, but as a larger firm that was continuing to grow. I wanted to use a different model, one that embraced the new broader organization. In response, we created a management team structure that was both focused on the operations of the business and was involved in the delivery of design. As someone who was deeply involved in design and in the business of architecture, this structure better fit our culture as well as my talents and interests and allowed me to maintain a connection to our design practice through having the time to remain actively engaged on projects. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. JG: LAS recently made a conscious decision See LOOK TOWARD THE FUTURE , page 8

HEADQUARTERS: Atlanta, GA NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 130 (and growing) YEAR FOUNDED: 1989, with roots back to 1942 OFFICE LOCATIONS: 6 DESIGN: ■ ■ Science and technology ■ ■ Education ■ ■ Arts and culture ■ ■ Historic preservation ■ ■ Housing and mixed-use ■ ■ Urban design and planning ■ ■ Landscape architecture ■ ■ Interior design EXPERTISE: ■ ■ Sustainable design ■ ■ Cost management ■ ■ Construction administration ■ ■ Building technologies ■ ■ Interior design ■ ■ Planning ■ ■ BIM ■ ■ Landscape architecture ■ ■ Conservation lab ■ ■ Laboratory planning ■ ■ Environmental graphic design GREEN OPERATIONS: LAS is a fully climate neutral organization, purchasing 100 percent green energy to power offices and offset emissions from travel associated with projects.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

NUARY 3, 2022, ISSUE 1422


The Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, Lord Aeck Sargent in collaboration with The Miller Hull Partnership. Copyright Jonathan Hillyer.

TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? JG: I would certainly agree. Fortunately, LAS has been at it for a while; we have some good processes in place and are now multiple “generations” in. One key is to make it a “normal” part of the firm’s business process and evolution. There’s a delicate balance between having smooth, predictable transitions while offering sufficient growth opportunities for leadership and ownership within the firm year after year. The biggest pitfall to avoid is forgetting that this needs to be an ongoing process and that many different batons need to be passed incrementally along the way. We’ve made a recent commitment to broaden the firm ownership this year and are in that process now. “LAS recently made a conscious decision to look more intently toward the firm’s future. We work hard to incentivize and provide leadership opportunities for the next generation and we prefer to do that from within the firm rather than bringing in new senior people when possible.”


to look more intently toward the firm’s future. We work hard to incentivize and provide leadership opportunities for the next generation and we prefer to do that from within the firm rather than bringing in new senior people when possible. We aren’t a company that churns through people in a haphazard, knee- jerk manner and we tend to first look to try to find the right alignments for people to be successful. That isn’t to say that hard decisions don’t have to be made from time to time; it’s always a struggle to find the right balance. I’m fortunate to be leading a company with other partners who embrace the firm- first mentality and who are genuinely more concerned about the success of the firm above short-term personal gain. 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? JG: We do some of this by actively partnering with institutions of higher learning. We’re involved in some university “pilot projects” and have done a number of facilities that rethink old paradigms – especially in the realm of science, preservation, and sustainability. We’d actually like to do a lot more of it on the technology side. One of LAS’s core design markets is higher education – from teaching and research to student life and everything in between. We have several staff who are active faculty and have sponsored some scholarship and intern programs in the past. We’ve found this to be a successful way to identify young talent.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Often overlooked, the simple checklist can empower your people to coordinate more, reduce mistakes, and focus on bigger picture items. Checklists: Simple yet powerful tools

P erhaps your firm experienced a slow-down over the last year or so. If not, then congratulations on your winning strategy (or plain good luck). The question is, did you take advantage of a surplus in staffing and tackle some long-standing goals? Did you use this breather to bolster your company’s standards and practices? It would have been a perfect time to do so, but it’s never too late to start.

Matthew Poling

Compared to other industries, AEC firms tend to spend less on research and development (used broadly here to mean the creation or improvement of technology or processes). Our fees are competitive, and deadlines are demanding, leaving little time or money for R&D. Yet, taking advantage of lulls during recessions, or even between projects, can enhance a company’s future profitability, help protect against litigation, and improve employee morale. Providing updated tools, processes, and training is imperative for every firm. Take, for example, the checklist. Often overlooked, the simple checklist is a proven tool for better outcomes, which is why they are used extensively in medicine and aviation. In his book The Checklist Manifesto , Atul Gawande describes the 1935 demonstration flight of the Boeing Model 299. The plane was a favorite in the

running for the next long-range bomber for the Army. Shortly after takeoff, the plane stalled and crashed, killing two of the five crew members on board. The ensuing investigation revealed that the experienced pilot had forgotten to release the gust locks, which hold certain flaps in place while the plane is on the ground. Instead of additional training, those involved created a checklist, possibly the first of its kind. The history of the Model 299 was later solidified as it evolved into the B-17, but the initial tragedy in its development was never forgotten. Perhaps your company already has checklists. Is the usage rate high? Are they regularly updated? Do you promote checklist training and discussions? In addition, a culture of improvement can be extended

See MATTHEW POLING , page 10



ON THE MOVE GOVERNOR ROY COOPER APPOINTS NATALIE MACDONALD TO NORTH CAROLINA BUILDING CODE COUNCIL Dewberry, a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Natalie MacDonald, PE, has been appointed by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to the North Carolina Building Code Council. She was appointed alongside four other individuals in the building industry. MacDonald, who has four years of experience, is a mechanical engineer in Dewberry’s Raleigh, North Carolina, office where she works on heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) distribution, chilled water, and hot water systems. She has worked on a variety of building types, including, K-12, higher education, healthcare, and government facilities. MacDonald serves as the president for the Triangle chapter of the American

Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air- Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and previously served as vice president and Chapter Technology Transfer Committee chair. “Natalie has made such an impact on the engineering industry in her short time since graduating from North Carolina State University,” says Dewberry Senior Vice President Shepard Hockaday. “Her dedication to advancingwomen and girls in STEM, contributing to professional organizations, and volunteering her time to young engineers are just a few examples of her commitment to the industry and her community. We’re thrilled for Natalie as she takes on this additional role of supporting North Carolina through her involvement with the North Carolina Building Code Council.”

MacDonald earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University (2017). She was named a Woman to Watch in HVAC in 2020 by Engineered Systems Magazine and has held many leadership positions since joining ASHRAE in 2017. Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.

If you’re convinced, then you might wonder where to start. I recommend these steps: 1. Assign a taskmaster. Someone needs to drive the discussion or decision-making for areas of focus, methods for creating tools, sharing tasks, etc. 2. Establish rules for creating, checking, and updating your tools. Place them in a shared location where they can be accessed and updated. Determine how to indicate version history, record changes, etc. Determine how they are vetted and approved. 3. Start with areas of life-safety and potential litigation. This could include jobsite safety, common code requirements, quality control reviews, etc. 4. Shift focus to areas of highest use or need. Which tools will be used frequently and provide the biggest gains in efficiency? Create or update these first for the most impact. 5. Consider one-off or less common areas of need, if you can maintain the necessary quality control over the development of these tools. 6. Continue to engage your people and revisit the process. This is an evolving task that should improve over time, but it will require the “buy-in” of your staff. 7. Focus on more important things and enjoy the returns on your investment. Matthew Poling is an associate with BASE, based out of its Florida office. Connect with him on LinkedIn and contact him at

MATTHEW POLING , from page 9

to software and many other design or construction tools. If you’re frequently “reinventing the wheel,” a standardized process of creating and reviewing tools could save you time and lead to fewer errors. For example, years ago I noticed that our engineers would often start from scratch when they began a certain type of analysis model. Other times, they would generate a template from a previous project. In the first case, time was wasted by applying our custom settings for definitions, printing, etc. In the second case, there was less transparency over which settings were carried over. As a result, I created a template file that has since saved many dozens of hours of work, with the added benefit of standardizing our inputs for better control over the process. In the past, I’ve heard criticism of over-standardization. It often came from people who, in the same breath, might have touted the advantages of the slide-rule, nostalgic for “the way we’ve always done it.” Fear of your people turning into non-thinking automatons is inaccurate and misses the point. First, our industry is getting more complicated every year. Provided they are not “black boxes,” tools that are done well can actually provide valuable instruction, while helping to reduce mistakes. Second, tools created for the most repetitive tasks empower your people to focus on bigger picture items, coordinate more, and do extensive quality control. “Often overlooked, the simple checklist is a proven tool for better outcomes, which is why they are used extensively in medicine and aviation.”

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




T he residential real estate market here in Northwest Arkansas – like most decent places to live in the United States – is booming. Availability is low and prices are climbing rapidly. Good deals are snapped up the day they are listed. If you really know your business, you can make money in any market – even one as crazy as this. Knowyour business and you’ll always dowell

Everyone I knowwho has made a lot of money in real estate did so by buying cheap from banks when the market was slow, holding and improving their properties, and then selling them when there is a boom. Because prices are so high, and it’s hard to get any work done because of our local skilled tradesperson shortage, along with other reasons (like fear about COVID-19 and its likely effect on the economy), we decided to get out of the speculative redevelopment and construction business a couple years ago. Obviously, that exit was somewhat ill- timed. While we were able to get out with our shirts still on, we didn’t realize the profits we could have made if we held out longer and sold now. But looking in the rearview mirror has never been my style and it’s not the point of this article. As I mentioned in a previous article here in The Zweig Letter , my wife and I recently decided to move from suburbia back into the downtown area. What first got us thinking about it was an opportunity to trade our

house for another one we used to own in the historic district. It was a great house, redone to a super-high standard, and featured in several magazines. We had sold it to a friend about 10 years ago and it no longer met his needs. That trade opportunity eventually evaporated as our friend decided he really wanted to move into another house he owned, but we struck a deal to buy his house for a price when ours sold. We only had so much time, though, before he would have to sell his house to someone else. We put ours on the market and it sold quickly. Then our out-of-town buyers backed out. Because I am a creature of habit and have checked our local real estate listings daily for many years, I just happened to see an old house in town go up on the market. I sent the link to the listing to my wife. Because I was in meetings for several days going forward, plus I teach at night, I couldn’t go look at it.

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG , page 12



ON THE MOVE AMES & GOUGH APPOINTS SANTINA RAGONESE AS SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER IN BOSTON Ames & Gough, a leading insurance broker and risk management consultant specializing in serving design professionals, law firms, associations/nonprofits and other professional service organizations, announced the appointment of Santina Ragonese as a senior account manager in the Boston office. Ragonese, who has more than 10 years of experience handling property/casualty insurance for design firms, joins a team of Ames & Gough professionals serving the risk management and insurance needs of architectural and engineering clients. Previously, she was an account manager for five years with Smith Brothers, an insurance broker in Glastonbury, Connecticut and earlier held the same position at Maloney & Company LLC in Guilford. “As design firms throughout NewEngland and the northeast expand their business

in the recovering economy, many look to Ames & Gough for specialized expertise in navigating increasingly complex risks, including heightened professional liability and cyber exposures,” said Brett Gough, chief operating officer, Ames & Gough and head of Boston operations. “Santina’s extensive experience working with AEC firms complements our capabilities and makes her an excellent addition to our team. We’re pleased to welcome Santina to our firm and look forward to her contributions to our clients and our business.” Prior to her roles in insurance, Ragonese worked for nearly a decade in mortgage banking with Royal Bank of Canada in Boca Raton, Florida. She earned an undergraduate degree in business administration from Southern Connecticut State University Ragonese has served as a volunteer for numerous children’s health organizations, including Yale Children’s Hospital, Connecticut Parent Advocacy

Center in Niantic, Connecticut, and as a Connecticut Legislative Advocate for Children with Disabilities and Complex Medical Needs. With more than 1,700 architects, engineering firms, and other construction professionalsofallsizesasclients,Ames& Gough is the leading specialty insurance brokerage and risk consulting firm serving the needs of these professionals. Ames & Gough also has established itself as a committed, superior resource for law firms and associations and nonprofit organizations in need of professional liability, management liability, and property/casualty insurance and risk management assistance. Established in 1992, Ames & Gough has offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; and Washington, D.C. Clients throughout the U.S. are served by a team of more than 40 professionals and staff located in the four offices.

immediately for 60 percent more than we paid. While we are not doing that, it does feel like we made a good decision. My point is this: If you really know your business, you can make money in any market, even one as crazy as this. While I thought that all the opportunities were gone and we would have to wait around for the next recession, I was wrong. Because we know the market around here so well after years of study, we saw opportunity where no one else had. It got me thinking that ALL businesses are like that. AEC firms are the same way. While undoubtedly many will only do well in a hot market, some can do well in up markets AND down ones. A big part of that continuous success is that their owners know their business. They knowwhat clients are worth working for, and who will pay a decent fee. They knowwho they want to hire next when they get a chance. They know their own people well, and who should be in what role and how to keep those people happy. They know the government officials and regulators they have to regularly deal with. They know their competitors and what they do well and not so well. They know the numbers of their business and how to make the adjustments necessary to keep the machine profitable. And they knowwhat is likely to happen in the future because of their commitment and experience. Know your business. Dedicate yourself to its success. Focus on it. Think about it. Work on it. Spend the time you need to spend to make it sustainably successful. When you do that, my experience tells me that you will keep getting lucky and see the opportunities that still exist all around you. Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

But my wife decided to and she told me I needed to go see it. Several days later, we both checked it out and agreed we wanted the place. It literally brought tears to my eyes thinking about what a great family house it could be. The timing wasn’t great – we had just paid a huge tax bill and our existing house wasn’t sold yet – but we decided to make an offer anyway and ended up having that accepted. The house needed work but had such great potential. We were surprised no one else saw that and beat us to the punch, especially in this market filled with speculators all looking for an easy buck. We bought the place and then our own house went under contract and everything worked out. would have to wait around for the next recession, I was wrong. Because we know the market around here so well after years of study, we saw opportunity where no one else had.” The best part of the deal is that our new house – because it is on such a large site in a great location that we immediately cleared after 40 years of benign neglect – is worth far more than we paid for it. Because of the fact we have two extra completely buildable, conforming quarter acre lots facing a side street, our real estate agent told us he could sell it “While I thought that all the opportunities were gone and we

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12

Made with FlippingBook Annual report