TZL 1416 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S N o v e m b e r 8 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 1 6 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Marketing spending

Tips to create an authentic, meaningful connection with someone the first time you speak to them over the phone. Favorable first impressions

F I R M I N D E X Atlantic Environmental Solutions, Inc..... 12 Croy Engineering ................................... 10 French & Parrello Associates ................... 6 GEOD Corporation .................................. 4 J.S. Held............................................... 12 MFS Consulting Engineers & Surveyor . ... 4 raSmith ................................................... 2 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz KEYAN ZANDY: Up, up, and away Page 3 xz Integrity: Steven Tardy Page 6 xz SASHA UGI: Gaining greater public engagement Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: Put more positive in and get more out Page 11 In Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , firms were asked to input their marketing spending over the previous fiscal year. The chart above shows that annual marketing spending as a percentage of net service revenue. As seen in the chart, marketing spending across the industry dropped significantly as a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, more than half of firms in the 2021 portion of the survey sample expect their firm’s marketing spending to increase as the year progresses. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

L iving in a world that becomes seemingly more and more “connected” every day also means that your first connection with nearly anyone does not happen in person, but virtually. Depending on your lifestyle, this could be the case in your personal life as well. That is why it is so important to learn how to make a strong first impression when speaking with people on the phone. Today, introductions via phone and video conference are increasingly becoming the norm and, as we’ve all noticed, this trend has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Some readers may feel as if most of their introductions happen via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and while this article is not about how to look “prim and proper” on a Zoom call, these tips and best practices will still help you create a positive, lasting impression on a video meeting as well. Another reason why it is so critical to make a strong impression is that you could be missing out on huge opportunities if you don’t. What if, sometime in the future, an opportunity came along for you to work on a big project with this person, but they won’t return your calls because they don’t remember talking to you six months before? People will not remember what you spoke about, they will remember how you made them feel (if they even remember you at all). And if your first conversation was as interesting as a saltine cracker, who could blame them for not wanting to speak to you ever again? The good news is that there are things you can do to be intentional and authentic in creating a meaningful connection with someone the first time you ever speak to them over the phone. As an advisor with Zweig Group’s mergers and acquisitions team, I typically make and/or take about 100 phone calls in any given week, many of which are with people I have never spoken to before. This experience has given me many opportunities to learn what to do (and perhaps more importantly, what not to do) to make a strong first impression in these situations. Here are a few ways I have found that help to create a favorable impression when speaking to someone for the first time over the phone: 1)Come prepared. Even if it is just a quick Google search five or 10 minutes before the call, do some research on the person or people you are about to speak to. What is their name and title? What firm do they work for? How long have they worked there? Has their firm released any news lately? Do you have any mutual connections on LinkedIn? Have they written any articles recently? You get the idea. 2)Ask meaningful questions to get to know them. Your time is certainly valuable, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean you can’t

John Bray

See JOHN BRAY, page 2



ON THE MOVE RASMITH WELCOMES SAMANTHA CARLSON AS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT & PROJECT MANAGER Samantha Carlson has joined raSmith as a landscape architect and project manager to support the Site Design Group at the Milwaukee Site Studio. Carlson has nearly 10 years of landscape architecture experience including site planning, project management, and landscape plans for residential, institutional, and commercial developments. “Samantha brings exceptional design and leadership skills to complement the Site Design Group,” said Tom Mortensen, raSmith site planner, landscape architect, and senior project manager. “Her contributions will be important as we take on new projects in various market sectors and expand our client base. She has a solid background in design and understands the

dynamics of a wide variety of project types.” Carlson teaches a landscape design course at Milwaukee Area Technical College and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. She holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and studied geography at Augustana College in Illinois. raSmith is a multi-disciplinary engineering consultant established in the city of Brookfield, Wisconsin, in 1978. Its services are focused on public and private sector client needs in planning, design and construction including site planning and design, structural engineering, municipal engineering, transportation and traffic, surveying, development management, ecology, landscape architecture, LiDAR, UAS, construction services and GIS.

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JOHN BRAY, from page 1

take five minutes to be human. Make small talk that is not about the weather (this is the default topic of meaningless chit-chat; the goal is for your conversation to be meaningful). If you completed the task outlined in my first point, this will be easier. Hear a dog in the background? Ask what the dog’s name is. Where are they taking the call from? Where are they from originally? What do they do on weekends? What sports teams do they follow? You might be surprised how much you have in common with them. 3)Motion creates emotion. If you are about to fall asleep on the phone (or sound like you are), the other person will not only be able to tell, but they will likely match your same energy as well. Stand up and walk around the room. If you’re on Zoom or Teams, make eye contact. Talk with your hands. Write your notes on a big white board instead of your notebook. Project your voice (if you aren’t disturbing others around you). Go into the conference room instead of taking the call at your desk so you can move around. Motion creates emotion, and making a lasting impression on someone requires that you make some kind of an emotional connection. 4)Repeat their name throughout the call. Everyone loves the sound of their own name. Not only do people love hearing their name, but repeating it on your call will help you commit it to memory at the same time. It also proves to them that your call together is not some boiler-plate elevator spiel, and that it is important to you that you are speaking with them specifically. You don’t need to say it so much that you sound like Apple’s Siri, but saying a person’s name several times throughout your conversation will make a big difference to just about every person you talk to. 5)Smile, and don’t be afraid to laugh. When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower heart rate. As I mentioned above, the person you are speaking to will almost certainly match your energy level while on a call, it happens to some extent on essentially every phone call as a natural part of human empathy. Simply smiling and having a positive attitude on a call will be infectious and even change the behavior of the person you’re talking to as well, which will lead to a more enjoyable (and more memorable) conversation for both of you. 6)Schedule a follow-up. Send them an interesting article after you talk that pertains to the conversation you just had. Ask them if they want to grab coffee or happy hour in a few months. It doesn’t have to be right now; leave it open-ended. Even if they live in another city – people travel. This gives you a reason to follow-up later, and also shows that you enjoyed the call and would like to continue building a relationship with them. It doesn’t even have to be in-person. Just ask them if it’s OK to check in in a few months and put a reminder on your calendar. This small gesture will often be the difference between one nice call and actually making a meaningful connection with someone that lasts over time. JOHN BRAY, CM&AA is an advisor with Zweig Group’s M&A and executive search teams. Contact him at

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Up, up, and away

The disruptions we’re facing today are forcing us to get creative and evolve the ways we think and work. New opportunities are in reach if we stretch for them together.

V olatility is nothing new for construction. Weather, logistics issues, tariffs on raw materials, worker shortages, etc., are all unpredictable and bring elements of risk. Yet nothing is like what we are currently experiencing. The Associated General Contractors of America’s Producer Price Index analysis of construction materials shows that costs surged 3.5 percent from February 2020 to March 2020, and then 12.9 percent from March 2020 to March 2021. Both increases were the highest recorded in the 35-year history of the index.

Keyan Zandy

The pandemic’s ripple effect is still wreaking havoc on the supply chain. Every aspect – from the procurement of raw materials through manufacturing, loading, and shipping (via ship or truck) – has been hamstrung or bottlenecked in some way. To make things worse, natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, and winter freezes (plus the power issues those often create) have all contributed in unprecedented ways. These issues have significantly increased lead times on construction materials such as steel joists, metal decking, roofing insulation, and fasteners, and a slew of other products – on some items by as much as 40 or more weeks. And the bad news

doesn’t stop there. Labor shortages, which were already a problem, are now at an all-time high. According to an analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released by the Associated Builders and Contractors, 430,000 more construction workers need to be hired in 2021 to meet the current demand (as of June of 2021). With all this uncertainty, many of us on the construction side of the business are frequently being asked when the bleeding will stop. We don’t have a crystal ball and the solutions to these complex problems remain unclear, but some ideas

See KEYAN ZANDY, page 4



TRANSACT IONS CIVIL ENGINEERING FIRM MFS CONSULTING ENGINEERS & SURVEYOR, DPC ACQUIRES GEOD CORPORATION MFS Consulting Engineers & Surveyor, DPC , a multidiscipline, MBE/DBE/ SBE-certified civil engineering firm, announced that it has acquired GEOD Corporation , a provider of aerial photogrammetry/LIDAR mapping, land survey, subsurface utility markout, and 3D laser-scanning services. GEOD, which has been in operation for 60 years and has developed a reputation for the quality and accuracy of its services within the AEC industry, will continue to operate under its own brand as a subsidiary of MFS. All GEOD employees and leadership are being retained and GEOD will continue to maintain its offices in Newfoundland, New Jersey, while providing synergistic services with MFS. MFS offers to clients a range of civil, structural, and geotechnical engineering and construction management services. The GEOD acquisition augments MFS’s well-established land survey division, enabling it to serve customers more fully by expanding its survey capabilities to include aerial mapping/photogrammetry and subsurface utility engineering markout, and by more than doubling its team of survey professionals.

GEOD benefits by being part of a cross- discipline solutions design team that allows clients to receive engineering, surveying, and construction services from a single source. Additionally, MFS’s status as a Minority Business Enterprise, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, and Small Business Enterprise will enable GEOD to soon achieve these certifications as well, enabling it greater access to government contracting opportunities. According to Allied Market Research, the global AEC market is predicted to reach $15.84 billion by 2028. “We’re excited to incorporate GEOD’s capabilities with our own as we continue to grow our business,” said Michael Mudalel, PE, principal engineer and managing partner of MFS Engineers & Surveyors. “GEOD’s offerings and professional team are a great fit with our continual mission of providing high- quality services to clients. We look forward to continuing to serve GEOD’s client base as well as our own through both the MFS and GEOD brands, and to jointly explore new market sectors.” “MFS is known for its exceptional ability to manage large, cross-disciplinary projects

that combine engineering, surveying, and construction management services,” said John Emilius, Business Development Manager at GEOD Corporation. “The two firms are highly complementary to one another. Moving under the MFS helm will benefit our current and future clients by enabling us to deliver a broad range of A/E/C services and capabilities under a single umbrella for even greater efficiencies.” The acquisition of GEOD by MFS makes it one of the largest survey service providers in New Jersey and New York. MFS is an MBE/DBE/SBE-certified, multidiscipline civil engineering and design consulting firm that provides personalized services and solutions to meet the needs of its diverse clients. Founded in 2009, the company is headquartered in South Plainfield, New Jersey, and has branch offices in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. MFS provides site-civil, structural, and geotechnical engineering, as well as land survey and construction management services. The firm has been on NJBiz’s list of “Best Places to Work” for six consecutive years and is currently ranked at No. 76 on the Engineering News- Record list of Top 500 New York Design Firms.

KEYAN ZANDY, from page 3

installations performed by fewer people. Prefabrication simplifies the construction process and better protects the schedule, but to leverage the benefits that prefabrication offers, trades must be involved early and be given the opportunity to offer input in design. Early involvement means early procurement of materials – and it means the trades are better able to procure the exact materials they need because the project is being designed virtually, before we even break ground. This is one big way early onboarding and the resulting collaboration pays dividends for the client. ❚ ❚ Trust. Early onboarding, collaboration, and communication are great in theory, but they require something essential to work, and that’s trust. This moves in all directions, not just from the top down, but also from the bottom up and laterally, through every seat at the table. Trust needs to be built over time, so that’s not a turn-key solution, but here’s what is: An openness to the possibility, and the active decisions that provide opportunities to create it. Openness means shelving preconceived notions and rethinking the often cynical and adversarial team dynamic of a construction project, a template we assume and default to. Opportunities to build trust are created when people spend time together talking, laughing, and interacting as people. Construction projects require teamwork, and teamwork requires trust. The upside to disruptions – even those as severe as what we’re living with today – is they push creativity and an evolution of the ways we think and work. New challenges need new approaches, and if ever there was a need for new ideas, trusted partnerships, and strategic problem-solving, it’s now. The opportunities are in reach if we stretch for them together. KEYAN ZANDY is chief operating officer for Skiles Group. Find him on LinkedIn.

and solutions to offset or at least mitigate these issues do exist: ❚ ❚ Early onboarding. The first and most important piece of advice is: Owners shouldn’t wait until CDs to involve the CM/GC and the trades. Early engagement and onboarding create opportunities for the entire project team to work together in a more beneficial and collaborative way, such as through design-assist. Then we’re better able to inform the owner and guide the design team toward solutions that will better maintain (or perhaps even improve) the budget and/ or the schedule, as well as avoid constructability issues. For example, changing from an insulated roofing system to a lightweight concrete system might shave precious weeks from the schedule, but these decisions must be made sooner, not later. By understanding the client’s priorities, we can facilitate proactive solutions to the problems we know are lurking out there, waiting to impair their project. Early onboarding saves time and money, and one great example of this is through prefabrication. ❚ ❚ Prefabrication. With longer lead times on materials and fewer “hands on deck” onsite, prefabrication offers layers of benefit. Prefabrication means that materials are being manufactured and assembled offsite, in advance, instead of in the field during the critical path – and this means quicker “We don’t have a crystal ball and the solutions to these complex problems remain unclear, but some ideas and solutions to offset or at least mitigate these issues do exist.”

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2021 BEST PERFORMING FIRMS IN THE AEC INDUSTRY REPORT PRICE: $395 OVERVIEW: How do the most successful architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms do business? How do firms that excel in growth, financial performance, profitability, excellent workplaces, or marketing stand out from the rest? Statistics are shown for award-winning, fastest-growing, and highest-profit firms, separately from the overall sample so you can benchmark your firm relative to the most successful firms in the AEC industry. LEARN MORE OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s 2021 Fee & Billing Survey Report of AEC Firms is the standard guideline for firms looking to benchmark fees, billing rates, and billing practices, and evaluate productivity and utilization. The 2021 edition includes data on fee structures for every major market type in the AEC industry, billing rates and chargeability statistics for 33 levels of employee, statistics on consultant fees and reimbursable expenses, and more.


OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms is a benchmarking and advisory guide to industry firm marketing activities, budgets, marketing department organization, staffing levels, compensation, and investments in marketing systems and infrastructure. This report also has statistics on proposal activity, hit rates, and other useful analytics.











Integrity: Steven Tardy CEO of French & Parrello Associates (Wall Township, NJ), an engineering and environmental services firm that provides innovative solutions to clients across multiple markets.


I t was more than 30 years ago that Tardy began what would turn into a lifelong career. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Rutgers University, he worked as an intern at French & Parrello Associates and has since risen to company CEO. He received a master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, but this initial focus has now greatly broadened. “I was always eager to learn, and French & Parrello Associates offered me an opportunity to improve my knowledge base and skill set. They constantly offered new opportunities and challenges,” Tardy says. “Ultimately, my longevity at FPA is directly related to the people and work atmosphere. There’s a team environment, and the people are friendly with a high-level of integrity.” A CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN TARDY. The Zweig Letter: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients?

Steven Tardy: Trust is earned through always acting with integrity and in the best interest of the client. It’s always important to understand the needs of the client and the factors influencing their decisions. Having a client-focused approach is a core tenet to our business philosophy, and meeting and exceeding our client’s expectations has been integral to the success of our firm. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? ST: There are many skills important to running a successful practice. First, it’s important to recognize that consulting engineers are businesspeople and engineers. The importance of the engineering aspects has always been clear to me, even as a student. On the business side, financial acumen, proposal preparation/sales, and customer service are paramount and are generally learned on the job. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the customer’s needs.



TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? ST: In addition to traditional and professional benefits, our firm offers a number of work-life integration benefits that are very popular. We have flexible work schedules, and during the summer months we have “Get-Away-Fridays” where we close the office at 1 p.m. It’s our most popular benefit and contributes to our staff’s work-life balance. In addition to an annual holiday party, we have several other corporate events, including Super Bowl and St. Patrick’s Day luncheons, beginning and end of summer cocktail parties, a golf outing, and an “Employee Recognition Week” in November. “Trust is earned through always acting with integrity and in the best interest of the client. It’s always important to understand the needs of the client and the factors influencing their decisions.” TZL: Did you ever imagine that the internship you held 30 years ago would lead to a lifelong career? What’s most motivated you to stay with the firm and what do you hope today’s interns will get out of their experience that you once did? ST: I don’t recall having a long-term vision when I started in May of 1987. However, there was a well-established hierarchy, from intern to director, and advancing to the next level was always a secondary goal, with constantly doing a good job being the daily focus and the primary goal. I was always eager to learn, and French & Parrello Associates offered me an opportunity to improve my knowledge base and skill set. They constantly offered

picture” of how you do business (i.e., new technology, new skills, etc.)? Please explain. ST: A lot has changed. There were no computers or cell phones. If you were in the field and wanted to call the office, you needed a payphone and a pocket full of quarters. Then came the calling card followed by the 800 number. Next there were pagers, cell phones, and then finally smart phones. The change has been remarkable. The impact of the computer was just as significant. We went from everything being hand-drafted to the use of CAD- based drafting and design; from letter writing to emails and text messages. Needless to say, the internet has also had a huge impact. In the 1980s, if you wanted information, you either got it from a book you owned or a mentor and their accumulated resources. Now, access to information is tremendous, and this has been revolutionary to the way we market ourselves and develop business. Fast forward to today, even the pandemic has led to changes in the way our teams coordinate internally and externally using virtual communication tools, which will likely stick around for many years to come. The bottom line is technology is constantly changing, and we are constantly adapting with it. “Having a client-focused approach is a core tenet to our business philosophy, and meeting and exceeding our client’s expectations has been integral to the success of our firm.” TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? ST: We try to identify staff with management potential early in their careers and begin to gradually increase their level of management responsibilities, including staff oversight. We provide mentoring and educational opportunities in-line with their progression and potential. Being a successful manager requires experience, and that takes time

HEADQUARTERS: Wall Township, NJ NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 170 YEAR FOUNDED: 1974 OFFICE LOCATIONS: ❚ ❚ Wall, NJ ❚ ❚ Newark, NJ ❚ ❚ Hackettstown, NJ ❚ ❚ Camden, NJ ❚ ❚ Bethlehem, PA ❚ ❚ King of Prussia, PA ❚ ❚ New York, NY ❚ ❚ Atlanta, GA MARKETS: ❚ ❚ Residential ❚ ❚ Commercial/industrial ❚ ❚ Transportation

❚ ❚ Education ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ Parks and recreation ❚ ❚ Solid waste ❚ ❚ Water resources ❚ ❚ Environmental ❚ ❚ Telecommunications SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Land development ❚ ❚ Land surveying ❚ ❚ Municipal services ❚ ❚ GIS services

❚ ❚ Landscape architecture ❚ ❚ Geotechnical engineering ❚ ❚ Transportation engineering ❚ ❚ Water resources engineering ❚ ❚ Building design services

new opportunities and challenges. Ultimately, my longevity at FPA is

directly related to the people and work atmosphere. There’s a team environment, and the people are friendly with a high- level of integrity. As for today’s interns, I expect that they will take the opportunity to learn from their assignments and the opportunities offered. TZL: Since you’ve been with the firm, what’s the most significant change you’ve seen that’s really affected the “big

❚ ❚ Renewable energy ❚ ❚ Telecommunications

❚ ❚ Environmental services ❚ ❚ Solid waste engineering ❚ ❚ Landfill gas services ❚ ❚ Construction phase services ❚ ❚ Permitting services

See INTEGRITY, page 8

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 8, 2021, ISSUE 1416


Rendering of the new South Amboy Ferry Terminal, an intermodal transportation facility that will soon break ground. FPA is providing a wide range of multi-disciplinary engineering and design services for this project. Photo credit USA Architects.

INTEGRITY, from page 7

one essential factor for a successful internal transition is time. An orderly, internal ownership transition should not be a light-switch event. Our transition took 10 years for the stock sales, with payments for the stock purchases requiring an additional seven years to complete the process. That adds up to a total of 17 years. The process will be continuous, as several “new” owners are approaching the beginning of their sales period. The biggest pitfall would be to not have a structured plan with adequate time for implementation. “An orderly, internal ownership transition should not be a light-switch event. Our transition took 10 years for the stock sales, with payments for the stock purchases requiring an additional seven years to complete the process.” TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? ST: Beyond having competitive salaries and benefits, providing opportunities for growth are essential. The growth opportunities of interest to staff will vary by individual and will change over the course of an employee’s career. A young staff engineer may initially only be interested in working on unique and challenging projects; however, this may transition to advancements in title and authority, and perhaps ownership opportunities. With the help of our HR department and strategies like internal surveys and open dialogue, we’re able to keep a finger on the pulse of our staff and adapt to their evolving needs and professional ambitions.

and effort. We like to expose staff to management topics early in their career to develop them as quickly and completely as possible. TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? ST: Yes, I’ve had several mentors. I was fortunate to be mentored by a very talented, old-school engineer right out of college. His name was Sam Kleinberg. Sam set a framework for my technical development and encouraged me to explore my passion for engineering across a diverse range of disciplines. Later, I was mentored by Jim Heller, Argo Parrello, and Larry French – three of FPA’s founding members. Jim and Argo not only helped me further my technical knowledge, but also taught me about the financial aspects of running a business, as well as related legal considerations. Larry French educated me on business development and political matters. TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? ST: We valuate the firm yearly. We use the principal’s reporting method, which considers the firm’s book value, yearly revenue, and earnings before distribution. The valuation, which is prepared by in-house staff, is based on a five-year weighted average of standalone calculations for each of the past five years. 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? ST: We have just completed an internal ownership transition, from the original owners to other staff. The

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Inform and involve as many community members as possible to gain support and ensure project success. Gaining greater public engagement

G aining support from stakeholders, elected/appointed officials, and the public is foundational to a project’s success. Guided by a public participation plan, outreach and engagement strategies range from traditional methods (such as Public Information Open Houses) to digital-focused tools (such as email marketing) to innovative techniques (such as text message surveys). Ultimately, the goal is to inform and involve as many community members as possible – spanning diverse age groups, nationalities, and income levels – to facilitate conversations.

Sasha Ugi

❚ ❚ Website. Websites work 24/7 as an advocate for your project to inform, promote, and engage – so you don’t have to. Whether utilizing a dedicated page on an existing website or developing a new micro-site, webpages are an ideal way to keep project information current and comprehensive for around-the-clock public access. ❚ ❚ Media outreach. Positive earned media, which can be gained by outreach to local and industry media outlets, increases your chances of getting your project in front of the public eye. To start, generate a media list of local and/or relevant

That’s why we’re sharing popular outreach methods so you can determine the best uses of your time and budget, and get the most bang-for- your-buck. Plus, we’ve added a few of our favorite ideas, best practices, and resources along the way. To get started, we recommend focusing on the three Es – educating, engaging, and envisioning. Let’s take them one at a time: 1)Educating. Establishing a reliable and trusted resource for sharing project information is key to consistently educating the public about goals, concepts, engagement opportunities, and progress. A few of our go-to methods to help gain traction include:

See SASHA UGI, page 10



SASHA UGI, from page 9

the community. Start by creating a survey to garner comments on the proposed project and/or solutions (SurveyMonkey is our favorite survey tool). Add to it using community engagement platforms, such as Social Pinpoint, which enables you to create an interactive mapping tool as a part of the survey. These maps let users drop a point at their location of concern within the study area and provide comments. Another technique for driving engagement is to incentivize the user to take the survey. One idea for achieving this is to work with local restaurants to distribute a QR code with a link to the survey. This QR code can be printed on table tents or small cards and placed at tables. Once the survey is completed, the diner receives a percentage or dollar amount off their purchase. You’ll need to reimburse the restaurant from your project budget, but in return, you’ll reach residents who may not respond to traditional forms of outreach – and you’ll give them something to do while they wait for their food. ❚ ❚ Text messaging. To help achieve equitable engagement, we typically pair online surveys with distribution via text message. This approach allows input to be gained from technologically savvy citizens, as well as residents who lack access to and/or a comfort level with other outreach methods. “Gaining support from stakeholders, elected/appointed officials, and the public is foundational to a project’s success. Guided by a public participation plan, outreach and engagement strategies range from traditional methods to digital-focused tools to innovative techniques.” 3)Envisioning. This final strategy builds upon educating and engaging the community. You’ll need to help the public envision how this project will positively impact them – whether by improving their commute, quality of life, safety, and/or multi-modal options. ❚ ❚ “Walk-n-talk” events. Conducted by walking the study area, these casual conversations between your consultant team members (specifically the project’s engineers who understand various complexities of the project) and stakeholders, residents, and elected/appointed officials can help determine potential concerns, challenges, and improvements to better inform the potential design. ❚ ❚ Interactive visual storyboards. Break down a project and its various stages, components, and intricacies by visually depicting the experience. Sharing 3D images and renderings of the final proposed project concepts can go a long way in helping others understand and envision the final design. SASHA UGI is the director of communications and marketing at Croy Engineering. She can be reached at

newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and blogs. Then, during the project’s process, craft press releases on key milestones and/or engagement activities to distribute to these media contacts. If you’re able to, collaborate with your client’s communications team to leverage any existing media relationships to spread the word even more. ❚ ❚ Social media. A no-brainer for reaching people these days, social media encompasses many platforms – whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and, for those brave enough, TikTok – and software to help you take advantage of each one. While we could spend pages on this topic alone, we’ll leave you with our team’s favorite tool to leverage: Geofencing. Facebook geofencing marketing allows you to target specific audiences based on their location within a geographic area with a tailored ad message – a perfect solution for reaching people in or traveling through the project area. ❚ ❚ Email marketing. There are numerous email marketing software companies to choose from (MailChimp and Constant Contact are two popular, cost-effective options) and use to send mass emails with project information. While you may need to generate your outreach list organically, make sure an existing database isn’t around from previous projects and/or studies in the area to help give you a head-start. ❚ ❚ Marketing materials. There will always be a need for printed materials – fact sheets, flyers, and posters – to disseminate information. Ultimately, these marketing materials should be clear, concise, and visually appealing, as well as placed in public locations near the project, such as libraries and grocery stores. ❚ ❚ Pre-recorded presentations and videos. As attention- spans shorten, videos can be an effective tool for capturing audiences. This can be achieved by posting a pre-recorded presentation for viewers to watch at their convenience or creating a video from scratch with project information and highlights (if choosing this route, we like using Adobe Spark, Canva, or Vimeo). 2)Engaging. While Public Information Open Houses and public forums have been a staple to a project’s public involvement process in the past, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the use of these gatherings as a method for engagement. While these events remain an important component to the overall engagement strategy, let’s take a look at some other methods for gaining feedback, ideas, and input: ❚ ❚ Standalone engagements. Set up chalkboard/whiteboard stations at strategic locations (such as libraries and parks) to capture ideas and concerns from the public. These contactless intercepts enable citizens to provide comments at their convenience with the safety of social distancing and minimal in-person interaction. Plus, these boards can be easily reviewed and updated at various points during a project’s process. ❚ ❚ Pop-ups. As they make a comeback, local festivals and fairs are a great way to interact outdoors with those who live in the project area by hosting a booth. In addition to your study materials, bring swag items or coupons to help incentivize festivalgoers to stop by your booth, learn about your project, and provide feedback. ❚ ❚ Surveys. A common way to gather feedback, surveys can be your team’s secret weapon when it comes to engaging

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B y the time you read this, Zweig Group’s annual mega-conference that is today known as the ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will have just been completed. I imagine we may still have some of our people and attendees who spent the weekend in Denver traveling back home this morning. If you make a conscious effort to input more positive information, you’ll become more positive yourself. Put more positive in and get more out

Mark Zweig

I mention this event because it is just a fresh example of putting more positive in so more

this idea is. There is just too much negative information out there that if you input it all, you will probably become very negative. But if you make a conscious effort to input more positive information – guess what? You become more positive yourself. And that is only going to help you get through your day and week, inspire others, and accomplish more. It will also impact your perception of risk in any decision you have to

positive stuff comes out. What do I mean by that?

The preponderance of conference attendees are “winners” whose AEC firms are outperforming most everyone else in their business in terms of growth, profitability, and the quality of their workplaces and leadership. Just being around those people will give you a mental attitude boost. It’s like that first cup of coffee I make every morning around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., after which I can get to work on whatever it is I have to do that day. It’s really quite a simple idea, and the older I get, the more aware I have become of how important

make and your resulting risk tolerance. Aside from going to conferences such as

ElevateAEC (there isn’t another like it, truthfully!), what else can you do to make yourself be more positive? There are many things. Just last week, for example, we had some buyers back out of their contract to buy our house. We

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



TRANSACT IONS J.S. HELD ACQUIRES ATLANTIC ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS, INC. Zweig Group, a full-service AEC management advisory firm, announced its client Atlantic Environmental Solutions, Inc. has been acquired by J.S. Held , furthering the firm’s efforts to support clients on complex environmental and regulatory matters, especially in the Northeastern U.S. Jamie Claire Kiser, Zweig Group’s managing principal, served as AESI’s lead advisor on the engagement, with support from senior analyst Andrew Chavez. “AESI President Michael Novak and the AESI team are in high demand with the clients they serve, and demand is only growing as the industrial sector booms and the nation continues to place a higher level of prioritization on environmental health,” Chavez said. “With this being J.S. Held’s 7th acquisition of 2021 and 20th transaction since the beginning of 2018, they’re experts in efficiently integrating staff and the combined entity is well- positioned to continue it’s growth throughout the northeast.”

AESI offers environmental investigations, due diligence assessments, compliance consulting, litigation support, and remediation services. The firm’s clients include municipalities, industrial real estate firms, mixed-use multi- family developers, REITS, and general contractors, as well as those in the insurance, legal, and utilities industries. Following the acquisition, AESI’s team will join J.S. Held’s Environmental, Health, and Safety Practice, to further enhance this dynamic and growing team of consultants across North America. “AESI has been growing consistently for the last 24 years,” Novak said. “We are very excited to join J.S. Held as they provide the platform and support to help us advance the long term careers of our employees and to meet the needs of our expanding list of clients. There are many synergies between the two firms and we are eager to continue to grow with J.S. Held.” J.S. Held is a global consulting firm providing specialized technical, scientific, financial, and advisory services. The firm has more than 100

offices across the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East. AESI joins the J.S. Held team of more than 1,200 professionals around the world. AESI clients will now have access to J.S. Held’s suite of specialized services, including forensic architecture and engineering; property and infrastructure damage consulting; construction advisory services; global investigations; surety services; equipment consulting; restructuring, turnaround, and receivership; economic damages and valuation services; forensic accounting; and environmental, health, and safety services. Zweig Group is the leading research, publishing, and consulting resource for the built environment. The firm provides strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, marketing, business development, market research, financial management, project management, recruiting and executive search services nationwide.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

about 3,700 square feet with a two-car garage that has no doors on it. Where will we go with all of our stuff? And how would we get everything done – or at least SOME necessary things done (like painting rooms, upgrading the entire electrical system, and having bookcases and closet systems made and installed) – before we move with only eight days between the two closings? Plus, we would have to paint the porch floor, touch up all walls from all the art we just removed, and then clean everything in our old house after our stuff was out, all in that same eight days. But now, because our buyers bailed – we have TIME . That will actually reduce our stress dramatically. There is one more thing that will help most of us be more positive – and it’s a sensitive subject. But the fact is, during COVID-19, many of us were sitting around in our houses, reading and watching the news all day and night. And the news, in case you haven’t noticed, is pretty much all negative. I won’t list everything bad happening in the world, but let’s all agree that there is plenty of it. Bad news sells. So they feed it to us 24 hours a day. I think it is important to be well-informed. All of us are impacted by events – they affect our businesses and us personally – so we need to know what is going on in the world. That said, do we need to input four or five hours (or more) of that every day, or would we be better off to limit that to 30 minutes a day and pump positives in for the rest of our time? I’m not suggesting ignorance is bliss, but we cannot ignore the reality all of this negative information will have on our psyches, either. We are only human. So, how are you doing these days? Are you really able to see the good in everything – or is your outlook bleak? I am choosing the former versus the latter. And it makes pretty much every day a good one as a result! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

already have another one under contract to buy – and with the buyers of ours closing only eight days after we are closing on our new one – I was feeling good about the move. The timing was perfect, I told myself. So when I learned our buyers – who were moving back here from Austin – decided they couldn’t make the move, I was initially upset. We just paid a huge tax bill from last year a few weeks ago that resulted from selling so many depreciated rental properties (the investment property merry-go-round is hard to get off of once you get on), and having dual housing expenses plus a big moving expense is not something I was looking forward to. But by the next day, I was feeling good again. The key to that change in mental state was from two things. First, my wife was not upset by the whole thing at all. Being around her was very helpful. Same thing with my real estate agent. He wasn’t worried about finding new buyers. Just as is the case with the ElevateAEC crowd, never underestimate the value of surrounding yourself with positive people. Choose your friends wisely! Secondly, the result of doing some accurate accounting of the positives and negatives associated with the new situation was very helpful. The negatives were obvious. Our current house isn’t sold and we could have dual overhead for a while now. What if our house never sells? Then what? But instead of thinking about that, I have chosen (that’s right – it is a choice) to see the good side of what just happened. And the positives outweigh the negatives. Our current house is modern and well-designed with more than 5,500 square feet of useable space and a three-car garage, along with a newer detached storage building. The new house – while in a superior location and with a great lot – is old. It was originally built in 1870 and has only

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