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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

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