TZL 1409 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S Outside marketing consultants S e p t emb e r 2 0 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 0 9 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Our industry can’t afford to meet the complex challenges we face today with a one-perspective approach. Elevating STEAM

F I R M I N D E X Dewberry................................................4 Flintco.....................................................8 Fluor Corporation..................................12 Lea & Braze Engineering, Inc.. ................4 MKN.....................................................10 Nelsen Partners. .....................................8 Page.......................................................8 RJN. .......................................................2 Ware Malcomb......................................10 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz JIM TOBY: You get what you pay for! Page 3 xz Get to know them: Andrea Pender Page 6 xz MIKE NUNLEY: Lessons learned and moving forward Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: Keeping good people Page 11 In Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , firm participants were asked if they had hired outside marketing consultants for activities like strategic marketing planning, public/ media relations, and video preparation among many other things. Just over half (57 percent) of firms said they had used outside consultants. When broken down by firm staff size as seen in the chart above, we see that larger firms were more likely to hire marketing consultants, specifically once firms surpass 100 full-time employees. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

A EC work is complex and rewarding. It encompasses nearly all aspects of the STEAM fields – technical, aesthetics, design, public safety, end user considerations, environmental sustainability, and corporate social responsibility. We design and build power infrastructure, wind farms, pipelines, solar farms, skyscrapers, bridges, and roads. Recruitment and retention of the best talent is critical to the industry, as well as to optimize firm growth and performance. Yet we limit ourselves in some ways. STEAM fields have been dominated almost entirely by a uniform demographic, and by default, only one perspective. On nearly any company’s website, you can usually see this uniformity in the leadership’s demographic, and exceptions are rare. Can we afford to meet the complex problems we face today with a one- perspective approach? This uniformity is largely unintentional; we resonate with those who are like ourselves. Susan Colantuono spoke in a TED Talk about a CEO mentoring a man and a woman. The CEO said, “Looking back, I coached the female to be more confident, and the man to run the business. I didn’t realize that I treated them differently.” A tragedy, but there is something to admire about this CEO – powerful, yet humble, curious, and gracious enough to search out his blind spots. Zweig Group’s ElevateHER movement, with partner organizations like Women’s Energy Network – which is nearly 6,000 members strong today – is designed to support, educate, and create awareness around the employment disparities that minority demographics face, and is specifically focused on STEAM fields. The disparity begins at graduation. Of engineering grads, only 20 percent are women, and only half become practicing engineers. AEC principal polls show that nearly 100 percent of women principals considered leaving the AEC industry, as opposed to very few men. Women and minorities see a uniform demographic in leadership, perhaps on social media or the website, and receive an implicit message – that reaching the highest positions may be unachievable. Despite proof that diversity impacts growth, many AEC firms hesitate regarding diversity. Of surveyed principals, 91 percent are white, 82 percent are male, and only 62 percent saw a diversity problem in our industry, meaning in this population, 38 percent didn’t see a diversity problem. Growth results from diversity of thought – proof is in “Board Diversity Impacts Growth.” I believe this is a rational proxy that diversity overall spurs growth. We need a broader base of talent to develop the best solutions to our most challenging problems. It begins at the grassroots level,

Stephanie Warino




ON THE MOVE RJN ANNOUNCES NEW PRESIDENT AND CEO, PAUL COSTA RJN is pleased to announce the board of directors has selected Paul Costa to serve as RJN’s next president and CEO. Costa, a 30-year industry veteran, assumed the leadership role at the beginning of August 2021. “Paul’s leadership, client relationships, and proven performance at RJN made him the natural choice to lead RJN as president and CEO,” said Todd Leistner, chairman of the board of directors. Costa has devoted more than 20 years of his career serving the engineering needs of RJN’s clients and has most recently served as executive vice president and chief market officer. Under his leadership, RJN has seen sales increase year over year, enabling the firm to soar to record annual revenues. “I am honored to be chosen by the board as RJN’s president and CEO,” Costa said. “The backbone of RJN’s value to clients is the passion our employees have for their work, and it is a privilege to lead this exceptional and passionate team.” Costa added that it is a critical time in the engineering industry, with attention on infrastructure being at an all-time high.

“We will remain vigilant in our pursuit of delivering cutting-edge solutions to our clients,” he said. “RJN has achieved much, however, we must always aspire to achieve even greater heights through the adoption of emerging technologies and the development of innovative approaches to improving infrastructure.” Costa began his engineering career after graduating from Massachusetts Maritime Academy with a degree in engineering. He then acquired a master’s degree in environmental engineering and an MBA from Northeastern University. Since that time, he has held numerous executive leadership positions within the industry. He currently serves as Collections Committee Chair for the Water Environment Federation. Established in 1975, RJN Group Inc. is a 100 percent employee-owned, professional engineering and specialty field services firm with a focus on water, wastewater, and stormwater systems. RJN’s mission is to lead with innovation, ingenuity and an unwavering commitment to the water environment, to help utility owners meet their level of service goals.

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in movements like ElevateHER – but success and acceptance as a norm and a necessity comes from the C-suite. Token gestures are more damaging than helpful; changing the board’s entire governing framework in order to drag a few folding chairs up to the board table is an example of such a gesture, as is a title without the authority that goes along with it. And pay disparity has yet to catch up – Zweig Group’s recent studies have left me wondering why companies have yet to do this of their own volition. This is a small step, but a crucial one that sends a strong message of support. Actionable, adaptable solutions are being presented in Zweig Group’s ongoing 2021 Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHer Symposium, which is a free-to- all virtual experience that began last week and runs through October 2. Data in this article was from Zweig Group’s recently released 2021 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey Report , 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , and 2020- 2021 Recruitment and Retention Survey Report ; and the soon-to-be-released AEC Workplace of the Future Report. Zweig Groups cordially invites you to attend the 2021 Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHer Symposium. Meet with peers to discuss this and other important industry issues at the 2021 In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala, which includes the iconic black-tie awards gala celebrating the 2021 winners of the Hot Firms List, Best Firms To Work For, Marketing Excellence, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures, and the Jerry Allen Courage In Leadership awards. The limited-attendance CEO Roundtable Retreat is also a unique opportunity for AEC firm leaders to engage and interact with industry peers to discuss current issues facing firms today, explore industry trends and next practices, and confront the biggest challenges they face leading their firms. STEPHANIE WARINO is a licensed environmental professional and an advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her at

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You get what you pay for!

The quality of your projects sets your firm apart from the competition, so urge your prospective clients to look beyond the costs.

A s a developer recently told me, “I like using your firm over others because I get what I pay for, as opposed to other firms where I get what I don’t pay for!” This may seem like an odd statement from a developer looking to keep costs down. However, quality and service turn into time and money. A lot of developers look at their consultants as a commodity, and if one is cheaper than the other, they think they are saving money. This is an uninformed way of looking at our profession. Sometimes going with the cheapest bid or with whoever is the quickest will actually cost more time and money in the long run.

Jim Toby

To be truly successful, the project will need a firm that will be a team player in the production of a quality plan and one that will be an advocate for the project, in addition to keeping costs and time in mind. By having the information done correctly and in sufficient detail the first time, a tremendous amount of time and money can be saved. An example is the base for any project: The topographic survey. As a civil engineer we use a topographic and boundary survey as the base for anything we design. If the survey is wrong, our

design is wrong. We prefer to use the surveys that our own staff produce, as we have trained them to get what is needed the first time. However, sometimes we are hired and inherit a topographic survey by others. The quality can vary dramatically and we will do a field check to be sure the topographic portions match the site conditions. It is not uncommon to have to ask the outside surveyor to go back to the field again to obtain all the required information necessary to do a quality plan. This could be a lack of detail, missing easements, utilities not shown, or a boundary that

See JIM TOBY, page 4



ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY NAMES JOSE SILVA HEAD OF CALIFORNIA CIVIL PRACTICE; MIGUEL RAMIREZ TO LEAD NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CIVIL SERVICES GROUP Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced the promotions of Jose Silva, PE, and Miguel Ramirez, PE. Silva has been named the civil engineering services lead for California, and Ramirez has been promoted to northern California civil engineering lead. Both employees are based in the firm’s Rancho Cordova, California, office. As an associate vice president and principal engineer, Silva leads a team of engineers and technicians across five offices. He has more than 33 years of experience in transportation planning, design, and construction. Partnering with local agencies, transportation authorities, and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) districts, Silva has worked on and managed a range of locally and federally funded projects.

Silva earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California State University and is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Public Works Association, County Engineers Association of California, and WTS- Sacramento. Ramirez is an associate and senior project manager with nearly 15 years of experience in the planning and design of transportation projects, including highway, local roads, interchanges, intersections, multi-use trails, and transit facilities. Ramirez has worked for a variety of local agencies, transportation authorities, and Caltrans. In his new role, Ramirez will be responsible for leading the day-to-day operations of the firm’s Rancho Cordova office, which offers civil services across northern California. Ramirez earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California State University,

Sacramento, and is a member of APWA and WTS-Sacramento. “Jose and Miguel have been instrumental in elevating the service we provide to our clients,” says Dewberry Vice President Dennis Haglan, PE. “They both bring a holistic understanding of our client’s unique challenges and do a fantastic job bringing successful solutions to our clients in California.” 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.

JIM TOBY, from page 3

overall use for the project into account. We frequently see other firms that don’t think through what they are doing. A good engineer is one who designs a system that works flawlessly, but is not visually impactful to the project. A frequent source of frustration we run into is seeing a drainage system that takes precedence over aesthetics. Many times, we have seen an inlet or junction box in the middle of someone’s beautiful lawn, which could be intended for playing soccer or just to enjoy. Aside from being visually unpleasant, it is also a hazard where someone could get hurt. Part of our internal training is to instruct all designers to treat the design as if it were their own – a place they would use – and to review their choices accordingly. We ask them to put their architect’s and/or client’s hat on and really look at the usability of the site. Does the design make sense? Quality is most important for project success. It can have huge implications on time, costs, and usability of the project. One of our spotlight projects is the Children’s Playground at Dolores Park in San Francisco. This project used permeable fall surfaces with drainage beneath it. It works great, but no one can see it! By being creative and integrating the drainage so it is not the key feature you see, the park turned into a world class spot for children and parents to enjoy with ease, knowing that the drainage is going to work even if they don’t see it. When selecting a consultant, we urge our (prospective) clients to look beyond the costs. We do our best to be competitive and constantly check to be sure we are following our budgets, but stress that our quality sets us apart. How important is quality to the design? More often than not, the client will select our firm, even if the other firm is cheaper. Then they keep coming back again and again. This is a smart developer! JIM TOBY is a principal and civil engineer with Lea & Braze Engineering, Inc. He can be reached at

was preliminary. Imagine what can happen to a project if the boundary moves and a building that was designed right up to a setback line forces the team to change things to accommodate a smaller lot. Worse yet, what if this is not discovered until construction starts? All of this can cost a lot of money in time, redesign, or even reconstruction. This is what our developer means by getting what he does not pay for. “A lot of developers look at their consultants as a commodity, and if one is cheaper than the other, they think they are saving money ... Sometimes going with the cheapest bid or with whoever is the quickest will actually cost more time and money in the long run.” The quality of a design can make a huge impact. Almost any firm can get past the permitting process. However, what the governing municipality is looking for could be quite different than what the contractor wants. Municipalities typically review for compliance with their own requirements, however, this does not mean they check to see if the contractor has enough information to build it. This can lead to time delays, cost overruns, and extreme frustration from having to “guess” at the engineer’s intent, assuming they have thought it through in the first place. Easy to read details and construction specifics help ease the construction. The time spent on RFIs or changes to the budget due to lack of specifics or materials can have a huge impact to time and cost of construction. Aside from clarity, the best engineering plans take the

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.





An ESOP, or employee stock ownership plan, provides a tax-advantaged solution that can meet a company’s needs in a variety of situations. ESOPs can be used to generate shareholder liquidity, create a market for the shares of a closely held company, increase employees’ productivity by making them beneficial owners, and support a tax-advantageous exit strategy for departing shareholder(s). This session is an introduction to ESOPs and the benefits, risks and process involved in establishing one in your firm.

Recently SMPS interviewed over 400 C-level executives in the A/E/C space, and learned that they believe Client Experience will be the number one reason why clients choose you by 2021, not price. Client and Employee Experience Management is the key to differentiation and better business outcomes for our industry. It is an operational discipline, not a one-year initiative; and every interaction you have with your clients and employees can impact your firm in a positive or negative way.







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Get to know them: Andrea Pender Director of business development with RLG Consulting Engineers (Dallas, TX), a firm that specializes in civil, structural, survey, and forensic engineering.


P ender has more than 16 years of business development experience. As director of business development with RLG, she works closely with her clients and uses her leadership skills to mature and develop strong client and consultant relationships. “People do business with people they know, like, and trust,” Pender says. “If something is missing from that equation, they will do work with someone else. We earn this trust by taking the time to get to know our clients and doing great work. Getting to know our clients as people, not just discussing projects, is a step toward building trust.” A CONVERSATION WITH ANDREA PENDER. The Zweig Letter: How are you engaging your staff in business development? Andrea Pender: We have been doing small group business development meetings once a month. I have put together curriculum and we discuss those items at each meeting.

It’s a great place to bounce ideas off of one another and see what’s working. I normally end the meeting with a challenge of some sort as well. It is really nice to see the engineers try new things – and that’s contagious for the group. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? AP: I lead by example. I have amazing co-workers who were hired because they’re great at what they do. I work hard to prepare my engineers for all of their business development interactions. I share with them what has been working, what isn’t working, and make suggestions on things they can try. We are in this together. TZL: How do you encourage personal branding? AP: Personal branding is very important. This seems to be a new phrase in our industry, but I want to capitalize on it as much as we can. Who are we? What do we like to do? Can we be known and remembered for those things? There are the typical business development activities that



people do (happy hour, lunch, coffee), but why does it need to stop at that? My personal brand includes a health and wellness lifestyle and many of our clients know and appreciate this! I’ve had several clients reach out to ask for a healthy lunch spot, a green juice instead of a coffee, and even walking meetings. They know they can count on me for something fun and different. I encourage my engineers to truly get to know one another – not just talking about work projects. We all have hobbies and interests that others might have as well. We may have some of the same hobbies as our clients and this leads to the potential of a friendship – not just a working relationship. “Business development is the backbone of building business, even if we don’t realize we are doing it.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? AP: This is huge – especially with business development. I say this on a daily basis, if not more, and have drilled it in at RLG: People do business with people they know, like, and trust. If something is missing from that equation, they will do work with someone else. We earn this trust by taking the time to get to know our clients and doing great work. Getting to know our clients as people, not just discussing projects, is a step toward building trust. TZL: How is your office cross selling services? AP: Many times when an office offers multiple services, the employee focuses on their specialty. We have been building the relationships internally across the office to help one another remember to offer the other services. This also comes out at our weekly meeting discussing projects – if there is a new project on the list many times someone in the meeting will say, “Hey, do they need civil, structural, or survey?” That is an easy reminder and another business development touchpoint to remind our clients we offer multiple service lines. TZL: How have you encouraged your staff to participate in business development activities? AP: I always say you need to set people up for success. You can’t just hope they know what to do. Train them, teach them, give them some skills to keep in their

back pocket. Once they have a toolkit for success, they have to experiment to see what works (and what doesn’t work) for them. I do a lot of activities with them at first and then when they are comfortable they can start doing these things by themselves. I might take an engineer to several lunch meetings and then when I see they are comfortable I will encourage them to do a lunch meeting without me. I have shown them that business development is enjoyable and they can do it too! TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? AP: This is a great question. My husband is actually in the industry as well. He is the Gulf States president for Adolfson & Peterson Construction. We are able to work together with client introductions, talk about upcoming events, who to get to know, and more. We actually even present together on business development. Several years ago we put a presentation together, for AIA continuing education credit, and have been presenting quite often to architects and sub-contractors. It is a great way to work together, get to know more people in the industry, and share our business development experience with others. We have learned to keep a work-life balance though. This is extremely important to keep us performing optimally at work. There is a time for work and a time for play, and that needs to be clearly defined. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? AP: My number one job responsibility is to make the RLG name familiar to everyone in our industry. TZL: What challenges are you facing? “We really are growing with business development. The engineers are much more comfortable with offering to have lunch with their clients. This is an opportunity to get to know their clients more on a personal level.”

HEADQUARTERS: Dallas, TX NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 71 YEAR FOUNDED: 1953 OFFICE LOCATIONS: ❚ ❚ Dallas, TX ❚ ❚ Fort Worth, TX ❚ ❚ Peoria, IL SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Civil engineering ❚ ❚ Structural engineering ❚ ❚ Forensics/repair/strengthening ❚ ❚ Surveying PROJECTS: ❚ ❚ Civil

❚ ❚ Structural ❚ ❚ Surveying ❚ ❚ Forensics ❚ ❚ Data center ❚ ❚ Education ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ High-rise ❚ ❚ Hospitality ❚ ❚ Library ❚ ❚ Multifamily ❚ ❚ Municipal

❚ ❚ Offices ❚ ❚ Parking ❚ ❚ Religious ❚ ❚ Retail ❚ ❚ Senior living ❚ ❚ Sports facilities

See GET TO KNOW THEM, page 8

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 20, 2021, ISSUE 1409


BUSINESS NEWS AUSTIN’S NEWEST HIGHRISE ANNOUNCED “THE MODERN AUSTIN RESIDENCES,” A 55-STORY CONDO TOWER Austin-based firm Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors has announced its newest endeavor: The Modern Austin Residences. The Modern will make its mark on the Austin skyline standing at 55 stories with 345 market-rate residences. The condominium tower address, at 610 Davis, is located in the Rainey Neighborhood. After working with thousands of condo buyers over the past two decades and consulting on numerous towers, Urbanspace CEO and Founder Kevin Burns has put together what he referred to as an “Austin Dream Team” of condo design, construction, and sales experts. “The design of the Modern has led us through a unique and extremely detailed process of collaboration,” said Brad Nelsen of Nelsen Partners , which will be serving as the project’s design architect. “Rarely do we have a client/ developer that shares the same level of passion and thoughtfulness on every detail as does our team. The result is a collaboration of architecture and interior design that has produced the pinnacle of residential building design in Austin.” Scott Tomhave, ice president and Austin area manager at Flintco , the general contractor of the building noted, “We are excited to be working alongside Urbanspace during preconstruction for The Modern – our third high rise condominium project together in downtown Austin. They’ve assembled an amazing team of best-in-class design professionals who are creating an environment that will resonate with urban lifestyle buyers.” Brandon Townsend, associate principal with Page , the firm serving as the architect of record, added, “We are excited to join Nelsen Partners, Flintco and the rest of the talented consultant team to deliver The Modern as part of the changing Austin skyline. Careful

consideration has been given to every aspect of the project. From locating the pool deck for ample sunlight and fantastic views; to the thoughtful finishes within the unit, The Modern will redefine classic design with timeless elegance.” Sales for The Modern will commence Q1 2022, with groundbreaking scheduled for late March of next year. Urbanspace started its sales and marketing experience more than 15 years ago with Milago, also located in the Rainey District. The Urbanspace team is excited about how the neighborhood has transformed and is proud to have played a role in it. Burns noted, “Bringing a concentration of residents to the neighborhood that had a vested interest is part of the reason that Rainey Street began to change. The Rainey District now has the best of both worlds, the connectivity to nature, the vibrant nightlife and culinary scene, and the walkability to the business district. Rainey is now going through the next phase of evolution with developments such as The Modern Austin Residences and 44 East Ave., which materially enhance the neighborhood’s fabric while helping city-wide issues by bringing additional housing to the urban core.” Urbanspace worked with Austin’s Great Streets Program to enhance the pedestrian experience around their site as part of their development FAR allowance. In addition, there will be 20 onsite affordable housing units within the community plus more than $1 million contributed to the affordable housing foundation. While designing The Modern Austin Residences, Burns was mindful to retain elements of the site that patrons have enjoyed. Container Bar Owner Bridget Dunlap, behind Clive Bar and Lustre Pearl, both adjacent to The Modern Austin Residences, will take the basement hospitality space for her next concept. “Container Bar had a good run, but

I’m excited for what’s next. This next concept will fill a niche that Austin is missing in the music/hospitality scene, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to stay in our spot.” With roots extending back to 1898, Page provides architecture, interiors, planning, consulting and engineering services throughout the United States and around the world. The firm’s diverse, international portfolio encompasses the healthcare, academic, government and science and technology sectors, as well as civic, corporate and urban housing projects. Page has more than 650 employees across offices in Austin, Dallas, Denver, Dubai, Houston, Mexico City, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Flintco was founded in 1908 and maintains seven full-service offices in Austin, Denver, Houston,Memphis,OklahomaCity, Springdale, AR, and Tulsa. We offer preconstruction, construction management, design-build, project and program management with the capability to self-perform inclusive of concrete, miscellaneous steel and excavations for foundations. Flintco applies Lean principles and practices to improve historically low labor productivity rates in construction. The adoption of an enterprise initiative called Flintco 4 LIFE – Live Incident Free Everyday – informs our approach to safety and our culture. For more than 30 years the leaders of Nelsen Partners have worked together on projects throughout the US and around the world, providing architecture, interiors, planning, and urban design services for projects ranging from mixed-use developments and master- planned urban centers, to retail developments, office buildings, residential towers, hotels, performing arts venues, and restaurants. With more than 50 million square feet of designed and built work completed throughout the world, Nelsen Partners’ breadth of experience and passion for design allows us to continue to create enduring architecture and legacy developments for our clients.

with offering to have lunch with their clients. This is an opportunity to get to know their clients more on a personal level. Business development is the backbone of building business, even if we don’t realize we are doing it. Every email that is sent, every phone call that is made, every job site that is visited is business development. We are taking it a step further by building a more personal relationship with our clients. “Every email that is sent, every phone call that is made, every job site that is visited is business development. We are taking it a step further by building a more personal relationship with our clients.”

GET TO KNOW THEM, from page 7

AP: The biggest challenge I face as a coach to the engineers is time – business development activities can be time consuming! There are always project deadlines and that is a priority, but we need to stay in front of our clients all the time – even when we are busy. I have been showing them how to spend a few minutes on LinkedIn, how to quickly send a handwritten note, and other business development techniques that can be added in to their daily work schedule and not take up too much time. TZL: Where is RLG going as a company in regard to business development? AP: I think we really are growing with business development. The engineers are much more comfortable

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




The pandemic highlighted the importance of workday social interaction, protecting key technical staff from burnout, and using technology to engage with clients. Lessons learned and moving forward

T he COVID-19 pandemic was the first major challenge MKN faced after almost eight years of booming growth in a hot California water resource market. The firm had benefited from a huge need for water, wastewater, and recycled water infrastructure in central and southern California. Our design, condition assessment, planning, construction management, and project management practices were expanding with new staff, new clients, and new partnerships. Our team had great talent among our seller-doers, management team, and production staff in our seven offices, extending from Fresno to Oceanside.

Mike Nunley

The pandemic struck California in early March 2020, resulting in Governor Newsom issuing stay-at-home mandates for most non-essential businesses. As a firm focused on public water and wastewater engineering, we could continue to operate in an office setting, but made the decision to send nearly all our office staff home in mid-March. We slowly allowed staff to come back into offices in June and July of 2020, with the requirement that conference rooms or break rooms couldn’t be used to congregate. Staff could only work in offices with doors, and all staff had to wear masks when they left their offices for any reason. Many of our staff elected to work

from home to take care of children or to keep themselves safe. Our financial performance remained solid and the firm continued to grow. We were fortunate to have eight months of backlog headed into the pandemic and were able to continue executing and winning work. Our recruiting efforts continued as well, resulting in new senior engineers, assistant engineers, and construction management staff. However, looking back it’s easy to identify what we learned and how it should change our business,

See MIKE NUNLEY, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB NAMED ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO WORK AND HOT FIRM IN INDUSTRY AWARDS Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced it has been recognized with two national industry awards. Zweig Group named Ware Malcomb one of the 2021 Best Firms to Work For and named the firm to its 2021 Hot Firm List. The Best Firms to Work For Awards annually recognize the top firms in the U.S. and Canada based on workplace practices, employee benefits, employee retention rates and more, and the Hot Firm List annually ranks the fastest growing firms in the industry. This is the third and ninth year Ware Malcomb has been named to the lists, respectively. “Our firm continues to grow, thanks to the innovation and hard work of the entire Ware Malcomb team,” said Ken Wink, Chief Executive Officer of Ware Malcomb. “We continue to expand in North America and experience great momentum with new and existing clients. Many thanks to our clients and to the dedicated Ware Malcomb team members who make this firm a success.” “Being named a Best Firm is a testament to Ware Malcomb’s culture,” added Ruth Brajevich, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives. “We are extremely proud of our teammembers,

who are highly collaborative and integrated across offices. Each of them contributes substantial talent and enthusiasm to this firm and, together, they make Ware Malcomb an extraordinary place to work.” Ware Malcomb prides itself on team members who are involved, active and engaged. The firm prioritizes creating a positive, dynamic and collaborative environment for employees, with a focus on career growth and learning. Significant internal programs with strong participation include WM Active, which promotes health, fitness and wellness, and WM Community, which encourages team members to become involved in their local communities and charitable organizations, as well as the design and real estate industries. Community outreach includes fundraising events, building homes for the underserved, and mentoring young people. Zweig Group’s 2021 Best Firms To Work For Awards involve the largest employee experience survey in the architecture, engineering, environmental, planning, and construction (AEC) industry. The program honors outstanding workplaces at AEC firms and evaluates them in several categories including culture, workplace practices, employee benefits, employee retention rates,

and professional development. Their 2021 Hot Firm List honors the fastest growing firms in the AEC industry, and firms are ranked based on three-year growth in revenue, by both percentage and dollar growth. The Best Firms and Hot Firm awards will be presented at Zweig Group’s annual ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture, planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to corporate, commercial/residential developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science & technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/ institutional facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group. The firm is also ranked among the top 15 architecture/engineering firms in Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms and the top 25 interior design firms in Interior Design magazine’s Top 100 Giants.

MIKE NUNLEY, from page 9

remotely, but most of our team wanted to be together. The social aspects, even for those with busy home lives or hobbies, were critical during the workday. 4)Web based meetings will continue – and should. I think many clients prefer web meetings over face-to-face meetings, particularly for talking to consultants about upcoming projects or opportunities. It puts the client in more control. For example, if the meeting is running long for them, it is easier to end a web meeting. It is much less physically awkward than “cold” business development meetings or first- time introductions. In my opinion, this trend will continue after the pandemic is over. “Looking back it’s easy to identify what we learned and how it should change our business, and maybe others, moving forward.” We were very fortunate to be in an industry that is essential to public health, and we were fortunate to be able to continue executing work remotely. Our team did an outstanding job staying focused throughout this period. The pandemic helped us prioritize mentoring junior staff, and reminded us of the importance of workday social interaction, protecting our key technical staff from burnout, and using technology to engage with clients. I look forward to taking what we have learned to improve our processes and prepare us for future success. MIKE NUNLEY is CEO and president at MKN. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

and maybe others, moving forward. I see the following lessons: 1)Mentorship can suffer in a remote environment. In- person mentorship and collaboration are irreplaceable in the growth of junior staff. You cannot improve upon field visits, impromptu discussions about project work, or getting pulled into a discussion with senior staff about one of their own projects or something exciting or strange that came up. It’s hard to share and nurture enthusiasm and passion for work remotely. 2)Implement processes to avoid burnout. We relied too much on a handful of key technical staff and risked burning them out. It wasn’t as noticeable when we were in offices together because each office tended to solve technical issues locally, then reach out to our top experts after local resources had been exhausted. Now it was just as easy for staff to reach those top experts first. While we always encouraged an open- door policy, and work across offices, it really highlighted the importance of processes that balance the delivery of quality work, training of junior staff, and protection of work-life balance for our top experts. Project managers and local office managers need a firmer grip on their projects and need to provide more technical oversight to address the day-to-day questions and minor problems. 3)Yes, engineers crave social interaction too. Most engineers are social and need to see each other, eat lunch together, and enjoy each other’s company. Few really want to work remotely full-time. If given the opportunity, and when they felt safe, most of our staff wanted to come back to the office. We learned that we could operate as a firm with staff working

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Keeping good people

I f you read any business media at all, you have probably heard of the upcoming “great resignation” we are doomed to go through soon. This is the idea that all the people who worked from home during the first round of COVID-19 have supposedly decided to look for new jobs. Whether or not the AEC industry experiences a ‘great resignation,’ there are some things you should do to keep turnover low.

Mark Zweig

I don’t know for certain whether firms in our business are going to go through that or not, but I do know that keeping good people when facing unprecedented demand from clients is top of mind for most owners of AEC firms. The question is how best to do that? There is no simple answer, nor one panacea that will solve all of your current and future staff turnover problems. I could talk about the importance of having a purpose-driven organization, practicing shared business planning, using open-book management, and investing in training until I am blue in the face. And sure – paying everyone a whole lot more could keep some people there you might otherwise lose, but that’s not always an option. However, there are some other things you can do that will most likely lead to lower turnover than if you don’t do them.

Here are some of those “other things” that I think you really need to think about to help keep turnover down: 1)Who you spend time with shows who you think is important. This may seem obvious to many of you, but some principals and managers still don’t get it. You cannot always interact with your partners, clients, and executive assistants, and ignore just about everyone else in your company. Get up and walk around and talk to some other folks. Invite someone else to lunch. Call someone who is working from home and ask them how they are feeling. Invite someone to a meeting they may not normally be a part of. Ask a lot of questions and actually listen to what people are telling you. 2)Who you promote to the outside world says who you care about. Do you only promote yourself and your fellow partners in your internal and external

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS FLUOR BREAKS GROUND ON OAK HILL PARKWAY INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT IN AUSTIN, TEXAS Fluor Corporation announced its joint venture with Balfour Beatty has broken ground on the Oak Hill Parkway. Fluor was awarded the infrastructure project in April 2020 by the Texas Department of Transportation to widen and improve U.S. 290 and State Highway 71 through Oak Hill, serving as a gateway to the Texas Hill Country. “This is a great example of our continued strategic focus on infrastructure projects in Texas,” said Terry Towle, group president of Fluor’s Urban Solutions business. “When completed, widening the corridor will improve mobility, operating efficiency and safety by easing gridlock in the area, enabling emergency vehicles to respond to accidents quickly.” Oak Hill Parkway Infrastructure Project: ❚ ❚ The seven-mile design-build project includes the reconstruction and widening of

U.S. 290 from approximately the east end of Circle Drive to Loop 1 and State Highway 71 to Silvermine Drive in Travis County, west of downtown Austin, Texas. ❚ ❚ It will serve as a key route to Austin for the residents of Oak Hill, Lakeway, Bee Cave, Dripping Springs and other growing communities west of Austin. ❚ ❚ The project will widen from two to three main lanes for through traffic in each direction as well as add two to three frontage road lanes in each direction. An overpass for the U.S. 290 main lanes over William Cannon Drive will be built, along with direct-connect flyovers between U.S. 290 and State Highway 71. ❚ ❚ Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations will be built along the entire corridor, including 14 miles of shared-use path, one-and-a-half miles of sidewalks, new landscaping, tree plantings and corridor aesthetics.

❚ ❚ Construction is scheduled to be completed in late 2025 with up to 600 craft workers and subcontractors working at peak. Fluor has been continuously designing and building infrastructure projects in Texas for nearly 20 years and is currently delivering the I-635 LBJ East Project and the Southern Gateway Project in Dallas. Fluor recently reopened the 183 South project corridor to tolling traffic in Austin. Fluor Corporation is building a better world by applying world-class expertise to solve its clients’ greatest challenges. Fluor’s 44,000 employees provide professional and technical solutions that deliver safe, well-executed, capital-efficient projects to clients around the world. Fluor had revenue of $14.2 billion in 2020 and is ranked 196 among the Fortune 500 companies. With headquarters in Irving, Texas, Fluor has been providing engineering, procurement and construction services for more than 100 years.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

rumblings of firms in this business that either have now, or are planning to issue mandates that everyone come back to the office just like we did before COVID. I think hard and fast rules like this will backfire on you. You will lose people that you otherwise may not lose if you don’t give everyone you can the flexibility to work from wherever they like – especially those who proved they could be productive working that way. I know many may disagree with me, so ignore me at your own peril! 6)Your personal interaction style is beyond critical. Do you frequently interrupt other people when they are talking? Do you make people feel inferior when they ask questions? Are you subtly sexist in any way that you treat members of the opposite sex? Are you always looking at your phone in meetings? Do you accept all phone calls no matter what you are doing? I have committed ALL of these crimes myself in the past, but have hopefully learned something over the last 63 years and am trying to do better. If you do any of these things, you had better change or you are going to lose some of the good people who work for and with you. 7)Being secretive works against you. There are some people in AEC firms who work at the principal level and who just love knowing things that they keep from the very people who will be affected by those things. Why do that? It weakens trust with everyone else. Don’t do it. Share everything you can about your business, and your plans, and what is happening with your clients honestly and openly with everyone you can. No one likes surprises, and secrets lead to surprises. None of these seven points may seem that profound in and of themselves. But doing all of them will improve your chances of keeping your best people – those who have proved themselves as valuable contributors over time, those who have a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge, and those who would be costly and difficult to replace. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

marketing communications and social media? Or do you go way down into your ranks to look for accomplishments of other people that you can tout. Doing the latter has a lot more value than you think. 3)People want feedback, so give it to them! I am on the record plenty of places as someone who is no fan of the typical performance appraisal processes that are considered good management practice for firms in this business. That said, your people desperately want feedback on how they are doing. So give it to them! Use positive reinforcement every chance you can. And for your best people who can take it (real honesty, that is), also be willing to tell them what they may not want to hear but need to hear if they are doing something that is holding them back. Your ability to deliver negative feedback and not destroy the other person’s self esteem but rather have them think you truly care about them is critical to keeping really great people working there. That was done for me many times by my bosses and I am grateful for the feedback I no doubt needed to hear at the time I got it. “None of these seven points may seem that profound in and of themselves. But doing all of them will improve your chances of keeping your best people.” 4)Promises you make have got to be kept. I’m talking about promises to sell someone ownership – and promises to promote someone – and promises to meet or call someone that you may make. Not keeping any promise you make, whether intentional or unintentional, will really hurt you. It leads to people thinking you don’t care about them. This happens too often in our business. I have heard countless tales of good people who quit because promises made to them weren’t kept. 5)How flexible you are is crucial. I’m already hearing

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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