TZL 1368 (web)

Engineering technician bonuses T R E N D L I N E S N o v e m b e r 1 6 , 2 0 2 0 , I s s u e 1 3 6 8 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Companies are adopting fluid work from home policies and people have begun migrating away from dense cities. Trends accelerated by COVID

In Zweig Group’s 2020 Incentive Compensation Report of AEC Firms , annual bonus data for more than 140 job titles are presented between technical and nontechnical roles. Using lower and upper quartiles, ranges of bonus payouts for each position can be formulated. For example, looking at the chart above, engineering technicians at the entry level are typically receiving bonus payouts between $600 and $2,500 while senior level technicians are seeing between $1,300 and $5,000 in bonuses. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

W ith COVID-19 cases surging in the news, continued thinking about what this means for the future of the AEC industry and the U.S. real estate industry’s future has been a constant topic of conversation in M&A strategy discussions as firms define their growth objectives for 2021. Our M&A Next Symposium, which wrapped up last week, made mention of many of the impacts that COVID has had on dealmaking in 2020, from exacerbating the courtship process to changing indicators of future performance. Before the M&A process, though, there are many strategic decisions that are made well in advance of identifying a target, and firms that plan to continue M&A growth next year and beyond would be well-served by studying how COVID could shape the AEC industry landscape and what that means for buyers and sellers. As we presented in M&A Next, there are markets that will not be able to truly recover or understand what their future looks like until a vaccine is available, which we referred to as sitting in the category of “Knightian Uncertainty.” Knightian Uncertainty, named for famed University of Chicago professor Frank Knight, refers to the lack of quantifiable information about an outcome. Risk, however, uses quantifiable data (vacancy rates, rents, returns) that provide guidance regarding the future. Some sectors have data and history allowing us to assess risk and success, while others sit in the Knightian Uncertainty category. The majority of our focus during the Symposium was on some of the market and geography trends that were accelerated by COVID, and others that were stopped or slowed. The cause of those changes are borne in both economic and cultural changes, and will reverberate for years in ways that will change the real estate market and, of course, the AEC industry. This will be the first in a series of articles that discusses these influences in more depth. Today’s article will cover some of the trends that were accelerated due to COVID. Trends that were accelerated due to COVID include work from home, migration, generational considerations, municipal/state fiscal issues, safety/health, affordable housing, racial equity, and climate risk. Work from home has been a trend since 2010, but the move from flexibility to fluidity regarding the location and nature of the workplace will impact the office market, but, more importantly, will drive other markets. This also means we have unprecedented workforce and talent accessibility. It is certainly no revelation that the AEC industry has felt constricted by a tight labor force, driving the flexibility of where and how people worked. People and families

Jamie Claire Kiser

F I R M I N D E X FXCollaborative Architects.......................4

Hitchcock Design Group.........................7

Michael Baker International. ..................12


Ware Malcomb......................................10

MO R E A R T I C L E S xz GUY GEIER: Empower your people for the greater good Page 3 xz Better together: Erin Inman Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: Nine more things to change in your firm Page 9 xz MERCEDEZ THOMPSON: Proposal fumble Page 11





BUILDING A STRONG AEC BRAND THROUGH EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE This is a two-week program of one hour each week of a live Zoom meeting with our seminar instructors. This seminar will take a deeper look at what it takes to build a strong brand in the AEC industry. This seminar includes a unique perspective that focuses broadly on the employee experience as the driver of the brand and the client experience. From recruits to the community, all audiences are examined with tangible tactics and strategies to build a brand that drives firm performance.

PDH/LU: 2 Price: $299



were moving to where they wanted to live, not where a company drew them. Whether the result was to work remotely for their company or to find a job once they arrived, the labor market made it easy for workers to have great mobility. We saw areas of the country become magnets due to quality of life, cost, and job markets. After COVID, this has been accelerated, but in different ways. Many – like myself – found themselves unable to focus in a small apartment in a dense city and retreated (temporarily, in my case) to the suburbs as the walls crept in. Lack of space and mobility in dense cities have also resulted in cross-country moves to be closer to family, within driving versus flying distance. Research indicates that we will see new cities emerge, others that have a forecasted drop in demand for the next few years, and others that will likely come back (think New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C.). John Burns Real Estate Consulting identified several “Boom Towns” to watch for high demand and rapid price appreciation, noting that these cities have pro- growth governments and industries that were least effected by COVID). Current “Boom Towns” include Austin, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Tampa. Some emerging “Boom Towns” have already started to recover from COVID and have proven successful in attracting educated, younger workers, including Charlotte, Denver, Dallas, Nashville, Portland, and, somewhat surprisingly, parts of Seattle. Climate risk has also contributed as an influencer to the migration trend, as hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes have all increased and affected various areas in the U.S. While predictions vary on how significant of an influencer this will be in the medium term, recent wildfires have already caused migration patterns that are being compared to post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana and post-Hurricane Sandy New York. This has caused cities to start positioning themselves as attractive havens for what we are seeing referred to as “climate migrants” or “climate refugees,” including less climate-vulnerable metros like Buffalo and Cincinnati, as well as less-populated areas in the interior southern states. Tying back to M&A, companies would be well-served to rethink the traditional market research process and be cognizant of new thinking regarding geographic priorities and what risks and opportunities may be on the brink of driving major change in ways that were, perhaps, not driving the conversation just a year ago, before so many things have changed in our country. JAMIE CLAIRE KISER is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her at

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The texture of varying beliefs, values, and backgrounds inform how we see the world, and are at the very core of our ability to serve our clients and community. Empower your people for the greater good

T he nature of leadership has never been challenged more than during the extraordinary events of 2020.

As the year started, and before the pandemic closed our offices, I reflected on the leadership model we foster at FXCollaborative where responsibility is shared, with contributions being made in a dynamic way from both top-down and bottom-up. This model effectively moves the business forward, while at the same time advancing and securing the firm’s culture by engaging future generations of leaders. Subsequently, discussions of social equity have moved to the forefront of every conversation, leading to a more untraditional form of leadership – one that focuses on empowering each individual for the greater good. TRUST YOUR PEOPLE. Our firm has always prided itself on our collaborative culture, one where every person’s role is valued and every person has a voice. Every team member – from firm leadership to junior designers and administrative staff – is included on our website. But as the pandemic hit

and all employees began to work from home, that collaborative culture was tested and we had to reevaluate how to maintain that culture across a firm of 150 employees scattered across New York City and the world. Critical to the success of remote working is an innate trust in your people. Through a confidence already established as a result of our heavy investment in firm culture, we have been able to further empower our employees to work together to design their individual and team workplans and identify the tasks that needed to be accomplished. While senior leadership provides guidance, mentoring, and counseling, it is oftentimes the grassroots efforts that really propel projects forward. Impressively, we have been able to not only complete work on schedule and with high quality, but we have won new work through developing creative design proposals and virtual interviews.

Guy Geier

See GUY GEIER, page 4


4 EMPOWER STAFF AND ENCOURAGE CONNECTIONS. To ensure that a firm grows and evolves, all staff must have opportunities to contribute to its ethos. We have a history of empowering our staff to launch initiatives that reflect and give voice to the diverse perspectives of individuals on the team, and proactively help to evolve the culture and policies of the firm. The framework for this model is structured to facilitate a number of voluntary, employee- led and firm-recognized affiliation groups known as Employee Resource Groups that reflect a diverse range of interests and passions. These groups bring awareness of LGBTQ+ issues within the AEC community (FXOne); celebrate cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity (FXMosaic); support women’s leadership development and professional growth (FXWomen); and continue the firm’s long-standing leadership in sustainable design (Team Green) as well as our commitment to quality and meaningful design (Design Core). While group leaders have faced some challenges in maintaining momentum during this period of remote working, their resourcefulness, bolstered by steady encouragement and resources provided by firm leadership, has resulted in new and creative programming. Our ERGs are now using videoconferencing to engage just as easily with experts and guest speakers from around the globe as with local ones. They have also shifted focus from in-person events to new virtual initiatives, such as fundraising campaigns. In addition to supporting internal programming, the firm has encouraged these groups to connect with professional organizations outside of the firm. Not only does this expand their influence, it also elevates the visibility of emerging talent and raises the firm’s profile within the industry as a whole – and sometimes beyond. For example, our firm has earned both industry and more general recognition by encouraging individuals to provide expert commentary on key topics such as diversity and inclusion, environmental issues, and legislation pertaining to the building industry. ENCOURAGE A CULTURE OF INCLUSIVENESS, DIVERSITY, AND TRANSPARENCY. An intangible asset for successful design firms is its culture. It is often more than an internal “ambience;” the culture is also an important part of a firm’s public image, attracting prospective clients and potential employees alike. Study after study shows that diversity and inclusion initiatives will improve a firm’s bottom line, but a culture of inclusiveness can also improve the way we work and “Leadership comes from every part of the firm. Collaboration amongst us all is at the heart of the design process, strengthened and enriched by the contributions of those who bring diverse experiences and views.” GUY GEIER, from page 3

the projects we complete – as well as our own and our employees’ overall career satisfaction. As the world has adapted to different ways of living and working in these last five months, the definition of leadership needs to be similarly flexible to address different situations and difficult conversations. “Our firm has, throughout its history, been active in advocating for change in the profession relative to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We had already instituted many policies regarding recruitment, promotion, and pay equity – but our awareness was taken to another level in the wake of these events.” Already challenged by the impact of the pandemic and the transition to remote working, more challenges presented themselves following the death of George Floyd and the resulting social unrest and call to anti-racist action. Our firm has, throughout its history, been active in advocating for change in the profession relative to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We had already instituted many policies regarding recruitment, promotion, and pay equity – but our awareness was taken to another level in the wake of these events. Building off what we already established, and with senior leadership’s full support and the commitment of firm resources (both monetary and dedicated time) to the efforts, the ERGs have led our firm’s efforts to address unconscious bias and to amplify the voices of minorities in the workplace, highlighting and tweaking any structural inequalities that might affect opportunities related to recruiting and the advancement pipeline. We have shared demographic data related to staff gender and ethnicity with all employees and the industry to create an atmosphere of transparency and to demonstrate our willingness to have difficult conversations about leadership paths and the need to be more proactive. With the encouragement of the firm, many of our employees are also engaged with outside organizations (including the AIA and NOMA) and are focused on doing the work necessary to eliminate systemic racism in the profession and our communities. I strongly believe that leadership is both bottom-up and top-down. Leadership comes from every part of the firm. Collaboration amongst us all is at the heart of the design process, strengthened and enriched by the contributions of those who bring diverse experiences and views. The texture of varying beliefs, values, and backgrounds inform how we see the world, and are at the very core of our ability to serve our clients and community.

GUY GEIER, FAIA, FIIDA, LEED AP, is managing partner at FXCollaborative Architects. Contact him through LinkedIn.

WRITE FOR THE ZWEIG LETTER Have some advice for your peers in the AEC industry? Contact Sara Parkman at for the chance to be featured in The Zweig Letter .

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.






November 17th. The world changed. Business changed. The workplace infiltrated many homes, highlight the importance and challenge of life-work balance. Poor life-work balance manifests itself through physical exhaustion, working at all hours, short temper, poor relationships, and more. Today pres- ents an opportunity to proactively create a life-work balance for your life.

November 16th. If your website was an employee, would you promote it, demote it, or fire it? After studying more than 500 firm websites, including those of the Architect TOP50, Bryon McCartney, Chief Creative Strategist at Archmark Branding & Marketing, has come to the conclusion that most firms have not identified a clear role for their website.





November 18th. We will celebrate the 2020 Marketing Ex- cellence Winners with a video countdown of the list, includ- ing celebration footage submitted from winning firms. The video celebration will be followed by a panel discussion of the top 2020 winners from various categories. Attendees will learn the latest tactics in producing award winner mar- keting.

November 19th. This program session will explore Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) as a viable and sustainable business transition alternative. The discussion will incorporate the overall landscape surrounding ESOP owned companies, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of ESOPs.





QUESTIONS? For group discounts or if you have any questions, contact Olivia Thomas at 479-713-0429, or visit

Everything we do is in pursuit of elevating the AEC industry, bringing awareness of the incredible impact that engineers, architects, environmental professionals, surveyors, planners, landscape architects and related professional service providers have on the world. Empowering organiza- tions with the resources they need to perform better, grow and add jobs, pay better wages and to expand their impact on the community, Zweig Group exists to advance the profession.




Better together: Erin Inman President and CEO of Primera (Chicago, IL), a mid-size, full-service, woman-owned engineering design and consulting firm.


I nman joined Primera in 2003 where she was tasked with building a power delivery team. Since joining the company, Primera has more than doubled in size and her mission is to maintain a culture of growth through empowerment. “When I started my career in engineering, there were not a lot of women in STEM, so I’ve always been passionate about helping to change that,” Inman says. “I’m humbled to have mentored a number of women who have gone on to leadership positions in other companies and even started their own firms. I’ve also been active in numerous organizations that support women in engineering and joined the Advisory Board for Girls 4 Science when it was just getting started.” A CONVERSATION WITH ERIN INMAN. The Zweig Letter: You purchased the company from the previous owners in 2016. What was the main impetus for doing that? What was involved in the decision- making process?

Erin Inman: I joined Primera in 2003 because I loved the entrepreneurial spirit and the focus on quality at the firm. The former co-founders Michael DeSantiago and Pedro Cevallos-Candau empowered people to learn, grow, and lead. I knew that this was the kind of company where I could make a difference. This is the same inspiration that continues to drive me today and that drove me to buy Primera. When the founders started planning for their retirement, there was obviously talk of what came next. As the utilities division manager and part of the executive management team, I took part in that conversation. I took a lot of pride in the division we had built, and I was interested in taking that over completely. I talked to Michael and Pedro about purchasing my division, but they did not want to split up the company. There were offers from large firms, but after some discussion they were not planning on keeping the company together, so they asked if I would be interested in buying the whole company. I had a passion for Primera and a belief that I could help take it to the next level. After discussing it with my husband and doing some research on the feasibility, we decided I could



make it work. Honestly, things moved pretty quickly from there. The company was, and is, better together. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? EI: We’re incredibly fortunate that we’re able to work effectively from home. We made the decision on March 12 to move 100 percent of our staff to working from home. Prior to the pandemic, we offered a flexible work environment, but our formal policy only allowed people to work from their home one day per week. Because a large percentage of our workforce takes public transportation and the continued concern for community spread, we plan to continue working from home for quite some time yet. We’re currently developing a policy for life post-COVID and will probably have some percentage of employees who continue working remotely indefinitely. We have clearly seen that we can be quite productive and successful working from home. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? EI: There’s a lot of overlap between my work and family life. My husband Bill is the CEO of Hitchcock Design Group, and Primera frequently partners with them on projects. With both of us being in the AEC industry, we read a lot of the same books and have a lot of discussions about business trends and challenges. It’s great that we understand one another’s work and can be supportive of each other, but we also know how important it is to disconnect and unwind to keep from getting burnt out. We make time for ourselves and our grown children that doesn’t include or involve work. “I regularly speak to organizations that support women and girls; I think it’s important to share my journey, answer questions, and provide advice and inspiration.” TZL: Trust is crucial. How do you earn the trust of your clients? EI: Trust is essential for a service firm – internally and externally. We build trust everyday by living our purpose statement, which is to connect with our employees, our clients, and our communities. We value

relationships and they are built on trust. It starts with being open, honest, and humble. It can be hard to tell a client we aren’t the best fit for a project or we missed something, but if you want to build lasting relationships, those relationships have to be rooted in integrity and authenticity. “To develop an ownership culture, we need to be open and honest, kind and compassionate, as well as trustworthy and accountable.” TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? EI: We are using the R&D credit, and it’s working very well. Reducing our taxable income has had a positive impact on our bottom line. That impact allows us to reinvest in our firm which is critical to our growth. We’ve been able to make several key hires and expand our Mid-Atlantic office. TZL: Working with women and children to further STEM skills seems to be a passion of yours. Please give me a few examples of what you are doing on this front and what the outcomes have been. EI: When I started my career in engineering, there were not a lot of women in STEM, so I’ve always been passionate about helping to change that. I’m humbled to have mentored a number of women who have gone on to leadership positions in other companies and even started their own firms. I’ve also been active in numerous organizations that support women in engineering and joined the Advisory Board for Girls 4 Science when it was just getting started. I regularly speak to organizations that support women and girls; I think it’s important to share my journey, answer questions, and provide advice and inspiration. As far as STEM education, that is something that Primera has long supported through mentorship, volunteer opportunities, and charitable donations. After buying the company, I wanted to make sure we solidified that commitment. Last year, we launched the Primera Foundation – a 501(3)c dedicated to giving children in our communities the opportunity to impact our world through STEM. In our first year, we sponsored scholarships for two engineering students. This year, we’ve added two more and will See BETTER TOGETHER, page 8

HEADQUARTERS: Chicago, IL NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 230 YEAR FOUNDED: 1987 OFFICE LOCATIONS: ❚ ❚ Chicago, IL ❚ ❚ Lisle, IL ❚ ❚ Munster, IN ❚ ❚ Cedar Rapids, IA ❚ ❚ Louisville, KY ❚ ❚ Chadds Ford, PA ❚ ❚ Grapevine, TX

❚ ❚ Tysons Corner, VA AREAS OF EXPERTISE: ❚ ❚ Buildings ❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Utilities ❚ ❚ Business consulting

A VARIETY OF DISCIPLINES: ❚ ❚ Mechanical, electrical, plumbing (M/E/P) ❚ ❚ Structural, civil, telecommunications and power engineering ❚ ❚ Protection and controls

❚ ❚ Commissioning ❚ ❚ Energy services ❚ ❚ Architecture ❚ ❚ Sustainability ❚ ❚ Life safety ❚ ❚ Lighting

❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Power delivery ❚ ❚ Project and construction management WHAT THEY VALUE: Knowledge, relationships, collaboration, and people

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

MBER 16, 2020, ISSUE 1368


BETTER TOGETHER, from page 7

provide mentoring and internships. While we are still in our infancy, I’m excited about the opportunity to help expose more and more women and children to STEM education. 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? EI: Shortly after I bought Primera, I enlisted the help of an outside consultant to build very robust hiring and performance review processes that work hand-in-hand and center entirely on people. It’s important to me that we are all great people managers. We developed a list of 25 character traits that define what makes us “Primerans.” Those traits drive all aspects of our recruiting and professional development. For engineers, technical skills are critical; but as “Primerans,” soft skills carry equal weight. To develop an ownership culture, we need to be open and honest, kind and compassionate, as well as trustworthy and accountable. The focus on soft skills has been an adjustment, but we’ve seen people become more self-aware and growing into really good people managers. It’s completely changed the kind of conversations we’re having. That’s fantastic. 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? EI: When I bought the firm in 2016, I did a valuation. After that, we’ve been doing them annually since 2018. As part of Primera’s succession planning, we set out on a slow transition to employee ownership. Our ESOP trustee hires a valuation firm every year to do an independent valuation. The independent firm looks at our last five years of financials, revenue, EBIT margin, backlog, budgets, forecasts, opportunity pipeline, and competitors. “I want to empower people to think and act like owners, and I have really started to see that take shape over the past two years as we have kicked off an ESOP program and started practicing open-book management.” TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO? EI: Empower people to lead. TZL: Has the culture of the firm changed since you purchased it? Has it remained the same? Please describe the greatest changes that have taken place since then. EI: Primera’s culture was a big factor in why I decided to buy the firm. People have always been the most important asset, and I did not set out to change that. I would say that the culture has evolved in the last four years, but it’s still centered around people, kindness, knowledge, and teamwork. The greatest change is that I set out to take the entrepreneurial spirit and really ingrain it into our culture.

Primera staff enjoying their annual volunteer time off together.

I want to empower people to think and act like owners, and I have really started to see that take shape over the past two years as we have kicked off an ESOP program and started practicing open-book management, which teaches employees about our financials. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? EI: Throughout my career, as a woman in a male- dominated field, I’ve frequently found myself the only woman in the office, on the project, or in the meeting. It can be intimidating and uncomfortable. No one should have to feel that way. Primera was founded as a minority- owned firm, and I’m proud that our staff is more than 50 percent minority and women. Even with that, I knew we still had work to do. The events of the past few months have shed a new light on that. From a personal standpoint, I’m focused on becoming a more inclusive leader and making our culture more inclusive. I’m committed to being better, and I’ve shared that commitment with the staff. I’m making myself personally accountable for walking that talk. We’re launching an employee-led D&I committee to help to ensure it’s ingrained in our firm. We’re also actively looking for opportunities to use our annual volunteer time off to directly impact the inequities in our community. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? EI: We’ve put a lot of time and money into our hiring process to ensure that the people we hire are a good culture fit. While we know turnover is inevitable, we work hard to create a culture where people want to stay. Last year, as part of our plan to create and foster an ownership culture, we started playing the Great Game of Business. We not only share financials, but our employees are engaged in forecasting our revenue and expenses every week. We want everyone to understand how we make money, how each individual in the company can impact the financials, and how they share in the profits. It goes back to my desire to empower our people. A fundamental principle of the Great Game is that people support what they help create. It’s radical transparency, but it’s a hard thing to give up once you have it. We also constantly revisit our benefit offering to ensure that we are competitive. We offer a very flexible work environment, sabbaticals at milestone anniversaries, wellness programs, social events and opportunities, volunteer time off, and more.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Best practices may be safe, but they won’t differentiate your firm. Make these changes and your firm will stand out. Nine more things to change in your firm

I f there is one thing working in the real estate development business has taught me, it’s that rarely does the shortest path to success lie in following “the other guy.” Yet, that seems to be what most A/E firm owners are hellbent on doing. Firm owners are obsessed with wanting to know “best practices,” which by their very nature are proven techniques and tactics used by other firms. Best practices may be safe, but won’t necessarily be differentiating.

Mark Zweig

2)Send out a minimum of 1,500 press releases a week. I know this sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t that hard. Get PRNewswire or some other service that makes it easy to build a really good press list. Get all the email addresses for print media editors, podcasters, broadcast, and electronic media people who put out stuff your target clients read, listen to, or watch on a single list. Include your local newspapers, national news media, and professional society and trade association publication editors. Have at least 500 names on that list. Then three times a week, send them something. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be notice of an award you have won, a new project you are working on, a project you finished, or quotes from one of your firm’s leaders or experts in something. Do this every single week for a year. That’s 52 weeks times three releases going to

The response to my October 25th article in The Zweig Letter , “Things You Don’t Do in Your Firm but Should,” got me thinking about what else firms could be doing that they aren’t. Here are some of those things: 1)Raise all of your billing rates. If you want to have the money you will need to pay to get really good people, you need to charge more. If you want the cash necessary to be able to afford to give your people the training they really need, you need to charge more. If you want to have the money to afford the best IT systems, you need to charge more. This is so fundamental. The key in business – especially for smaller businesses, but larger ones, too – lies in filling niches better than anyone else and charging accordingly for your real expertise. Get out of the race to the bottom with your competitors price-wise.

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



ON THE MOVE WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES PROMOTION OF LYNNE ORLOWSKI TO STUDIO MANAGER Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced Lynne Orlowski has been promoted to studio manager of the firm’s interior architecture and design practice in the Phoenix office. In this role, Orlowski leads and manages the office’s interior architecture and design studio and manages select projects. Orlowski brings 10 years of in-depth interior architectural design knowledge to the Ware Malcomb team, contributing strong design influence, team leadership and commitment to client service. Orlowski joined Ware Malcomb in 2015 as a job captain and was quickly promoted to project manager. Orlowski has worked on a variety of office, healthcare, industrial,

and retail projects. Her work on corporate office designs throughout the Phoenix area has been honored with numerous industry awards including NAIOP Arizona’s Best of and JLL Spaces Showcase awards programs. “Lynne’s positivity, energy and leadership have enabled her to build a strong team of talented interior designers,” said Kevin Evernham, principal of Ware Malcomb’s Phoenix office. “Her dedication and attention to detail have elevated Ware Malcomb’s service offerings in the Phoenix metro area, and we look forward to her continued growth and leadership in this dynamic market.” Orlowski holds a bachelor’s degree in design, interior design from Arizona State University. She also holds the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification.

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 and 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.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

6)Hire a female outside BOD member or advisor. I’m not trying to stereotype or generalize here but let’s face it, guys – especially us older white guys – when put in a group don’t always see everything we should, and we don’t always make the best decisions. Get a woman on your board – someone who is strong and successful at doing what they do – and my guess is your highest level discussions will go down some new paths and take you in some new directions from where they have traditionally gone. And that could be pivotal to your future. 7)Get rid of most of your non-billable activity codes. The more of these you have, the more time people will charge to them. And what do you do with all this information on non-billable activities that you track anyway? Think about all the time wasted by people filling out their time sheets trying to figure out if they should charge their time to “corporate business development” or “project development,” or whether their training in how to use a particular piece of business software is considered “technical training” or “management training,” or some other such nonsense. Who cares? All you need is PTO, holiday, marketing, training, and “other non- billable” or “unclassified time.” That’s it. Keep it simple! 8)Train your people in how to properly use email. I’m talking about the need to respond quickly, the downside of wasting everyone’s time with “reply to all,” why using “out of office assistant” when we all get our email on our smartphones wherever we are connotes a lack of service, and more. People need training unless you just enjoy seeing time (and money) wasted every day on email. 9)Have the CEO or managing partner write a daily internal email to all employees. This is something I would do, especially now when so many people are working remotely. Tell them all the good news you can along with your thoughts about the company and its future. Keep it short, optimistic, and pithy. People will appreciate being kept informed and feel like they are part of something. Those are my thoughts for now – check in next week for more! And please email me with any questions or comments at MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

a list of 500 or more, or 156 releases a year. Once you get in the habit you will find you can do these quickly and the result will be a lot more name recognition and resulting new project opportunities. 3)Overhaul your website. Most of them are pretty bad. Besides the stale graphics and sterile employee mugshots, they do little to differentiate one firm from another. Yet your website is the first place 90 percent of potential new clients will go to learn about you. So make it interesting! Make it interactive. Add a weekly poll. Show all of the press you are getting. Pepper it with client testimonial quotes that float into the screen. Feature clients. Share the original thinking of your key people with links to your blogs and podcasts. Have videos from the field. Show people using facilities you designed. Do something that changes daily and gives people a reason to go back. 4)Make all new company vehicles unique and immediately recognizable. Why do so many firms in the business invest in company vehicles for their managers and let them get whatever they want within a certain budget? Or why do they have vehicles for their field people and then get the most boring white pickups with either black or blue lettering, so theirs look like everyone else’s in the same business? It’s not good marketing. I would have all my principals in some kind of unique car or SUV in a color that not everyone else picks. What’s new? What’s weird? What reflects your taste and philosophy? My field vehicles would be pink, purple, electric blue, some shade of green, black, or brown, instead of boring white, silver, or grey, so ours would be immediately recognizable as my people moved around town or visited a job site. I’m big on wraps, too. 5)Make “revenue factor” the most critical performance metric you monitor and track. Revenue factor is defined as net service revenue divided by total raw labor. You can do it for the firm overall, or any office, division, or team. It’s so simple. It tells you everything and is not easily manipulated, as are utilization (just charge hours to a job, billable or not) and labor multiplier (don’t charge time to a job you are actually working on to “protect” the multiplier). I don’t know why firm owners don’t put a stop to this by simply looking at the ratio of revenue to total raw labor cost, billable or not.

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Proposal fumble

When you underestimate the proposal and fail to invest in its development, you risk losing money and wasting business development resources.

I n the world of bid management, winning more work calls for relationship building, opportunity qualification, sound positioning, and persuasive proposals. Relationship building is the soul of the long-term investment we call business development. Opportunity qualification eliminates projects with low-win probability. Positioning involves planning and executing a capture strategy for a specific opportunity with the goal of client preference. Done well, these critical elements increase win rates.

Mercedez Thompson

Loathed and deserted, but not inconsequential is the proposal itself. When I began working in AEC, I often heard that winning work happened before the RFP. Industry veterans said this matter-of-factly, and I nodded along, despite holding one tiny qualm. If the proposal didn’t matter, why hire me? What my time in AEC has revealed isn’t that those seasoned leaders were wrong but that they were only half right. Clients do make decisions and establish preferences before the RFP. But the proposal is not a charade, and it’s time we stop pretending it is. When we underestimate the

proposal and fail to invest in its development, we risk losing thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of business development. It’s like hooking the big one and then breaking the line while we reel in, starting a touchdown dance at the 90-yardline. The proposal must justify the client’s preference. It must confirm the selection. If it fails to do its job, we could not only lose the work and our investment in business development but the client’s trust. After all, a client who tells you exactly what they want but doesn’t see that





the bandwidth to read 10 30-page documents? You don’t, and neither do your clients. Our goal isn’t to make the client read our proposal but to make the client understand our key messages. I call it the 3x3x3 rule. Let’s assume clients will remember three key messages as long as they see them three or more times in the three minutes they’re likely to spend skimming your proposal. Use this rule to steer decisions about content and placement. Challenge your reviewers to spend three minutes or less in a document and tell you what takeaways they were able to glean. Do those takeaways align with your win strategy? If not, you have work to do. ❚ ❚ Which brings us to the final point: Your proposals are ineffective because they’re not “skimmable.” When my sister was applying to her college internship, I gave her the culmination of my professional wisdom in a single sentence: If you want something from somebody, make it easy for them. Again and again, I read proposals that dare the reader to dig out the core messages, as if a mid-day treasure hunt is just what our clients crave. Effective proposal writing comprises clear, concise, and persuasive content that is easy for the reader to find. In another training exercise, I lead proposal writers through client evaluations, asking participants to locate material an evaluator pulled from the proposal to the scoring sheet. In nearly every case, the client cited content from the first three sentences or a call-out box of a given section. “Proposals are persuasive marketing documents that convey the advantages of a firm’s services to win competitive business. While the proposal does explain and inform, it first and foremost persuades.” Winning proposals make it easy on evaluators by giving them what they want right away. They employ theme statements, headings and subheadings, call-out boxes, and a compliance matrix to guide and flag the reader. For the audience, this is a gamechanger. If you made my life this easy at the proposal stage, you’re more likely to make it easy during the project itself. The clearer you make a message, the faster a decision can be made. The more seriously you take proposal development, the more likely you are to increase profits. MERCEDEZ THOMPSON finds and shares a firm’s unique stories to connect with clients and build business. She is a proposal manager at Michael Baker International, where she leads capture planning and proposal development for company strategic opportunities. Before entering the AEC industry, Mercedez taught writing at the University of Nevada and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She earned her master’s degree in English from Indiana University and her bachelor’s degree in literature from Ohio State University. You can find her on LinkedIn or her blog at

reflected in your submission will probably regard you as negligent. If you bid on work for public clients, the stakes increase. Oftentimes, public organizations require formal evaluations that go up the ladder before contracts are awarded. The client’s technical lead cannot simply come to the table and say, “This is the team I like best.” “The proposal must justify the client’s preference. If it fails to do its job, we could not only lose the work and our investment in business development but the client’s trust.” As such, I help businesses use language to win work because I know that better writing makes for better business. A responsive proposal goes beyond compliance to show an understanding of the client’s underlying needs or concerns. It uses persuasive writing and design to demonstrate how we will help clients achieve their business goals. Usually, I witness AEC firms underestimating and underinvesting in proposals, then calling in an expert far too late on a doomed rescue mission. Aside from recognizing the critical role proposals play in boosting profits, this is what firms need to know. ❚ ❚ Your technical staff are trained to write poor proposals. Generally, their skills lie in engineering, mathematics, and science. They are highly logical and detail-oriented problem solvers. Furthermore, they are taught to record and share their solutions and innovations in a report format. This report has a clear structure: background, equipment, approach, results, and conclusion. Consequently, technical staff not only write this way but think this way. The catch? This is the opposite of an effective proposal structure. Proposals are persuasive marketing documents that convey the advantages of a firm’s services to win competitive business. While the proposal does explain and inform, it first and foremost persuades. Its structure looks more like this: conclusion, results, and approach; background and equipment are tacked on at the end, if space allows. Is it any surprise your technical staff fail to produce persuasive, winning proposals? Persuasive writing presents content according to clients’ needs with the most important messages first: the benefits. This is a reversal of the process most technical staff are taught. Firms that invest early in professional proposal services are more likely to submit persuasive bids and increase win rates. ❚ ❚ Your proposals have the wrong goal. When I’m training proposal coordinators, they are often surprised by my declaration that the goal is not to make the client read the document. This is a hard pill to swallow. Let me put it this way: On top of your full-time responsibilities, do you have

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