TZL 1337 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S M a r c h 2 3 , 2 0 2 0 , I s s u e 1 3 3 7 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Value per EBITDA

The situation is changing quickly, but versatility and fast decision-making have become necessary. How are AEC firms reacting to COVID-19?

In Zweig Group’s 2020 Valuation Survey of AEC Firms , value per EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) was calculated for firms and sectioned off into many subcategories. The growth rate of firms was particularly interesting in this analysis. Fast growth firms had a much lower value per EBITDA (2.70) relative to the overall median (3.87), while firms who were stable (5.31), or experiencing a decline in growth (6.89) were on the other end of the spectrum. As firms grow in size and revenue, the relative value of the equity of the firms also increases. F I R M I N D E X ATSE Consultants, LLC.........................10 BSI Engineering......................................6 CHA Consulting, Inc................................4 Environmental Design Group.................10 Moody Nolan..........................................8 RLG Consulting Engineers....................10 Urban Engineers.....................................8 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MARK ZWEIG: We can all make it through this Page 3 xz Positive force: Phil Beirne Page 6 xz TAMMI NAGUCKI: Connecting through empathy Page 9 xz STEPHEN KEEFE: Intellectual property (Part 1) Page 11 Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on any Zweig Group research publication.

O n Thursday, March 12th, Zweig Group launched a survey to see how AEC firms are reacting to challenges presented by the situation surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19). As of Sunday, March 15th, 77 firms from nearly every geographic region of the U.S., size range, and AEC discipline, had responded to the survey. The majority of the respondents to the survey were firm leaders, directors, and managers with decision-making capability in their organizations. At the time of this survey, just 8 percent of firms had suspended all business travel, with the majority of firms (55 percent) conducting business travel on a case-by-case basis. Twenty-two percent of firms stated the virus has not impacted travel policies at their firm in any way. Zweig Group expects these numbers to shift rapidly as the government institutes more strict policies around social distancing in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. With many organizations across all industries encouraging or requiring employees to work remotely, more than 14 percent of AEC firms that participated in this survey do not currently allow for any employees to work remotely and had not issued any policy changes in response to COVID-19. WGI, a 600-person national design and professional services firm, was early to institute policy changes: “At WGI our number one priority is the health of our associates and their families. Our Crisis Management Team is working hard to review countless sources of information from a diverse array of experts and communicate across 18 offices in eight states in a calm, consistent, and clear voice. The reality is that there is no crystal ball that provides perfectly clear guidance on how to proceed. The data and trends are alarming and the COVID-19 pandemic is a very fluid and quickly changing situation. In real time we must evaluate the data before us and use our best collective judgement. Our goal is to implement a plan that addresses the potential serious health and operational consequences without adding to the fear and overreacting,” said Michael L. Davis, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, WGI. Firms that already have the policies and technology in place to allow for remote work have a leg up, but are still seeing some challenges related to the virus. Blackstone Consulting LLC, an environmental firm with 55 employees, currently has a completely remote workforce. Although

Christina Zweig Niehues




Zweig Group’s AEC Industry Outlook & Response to COVID-19 Survey is still open for participation. This is a very short questionnaire that should take no more than 10-15 minutes. Participants will receive a free report of this survey’s findings as well as a $100 discount on any Zweig Group research publication. The best advice of all? “‘Crisis does not make leaders, it reveals leaders.’ Those firms with open eyes and a plan can address the challenges and perhaps come out strong,” said Davis. CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES is director of marketing and media at Zweig Group. Contact her at the firm didn’t start out this way, they have found many benefits to having everyone work from home. “As a nationwide consulting firm, this allows us to be in many markets, and the flexibility is incredible for employees,” said Stephen E. Manelis, principal, Blackstone Consulting LLC. Manelis also cites investments in technology for virtual meetings, presentations, and the ability to share documents, as important steps in allowing for this type of workplace to flourish, as was an intentional hiring strategy of individuals who are “self-starters” and appreciate teamwork. Another benefit of this strategy: “It’s very good for retention – we have very little turnover here,” said Manelis. The Zweig Group survey found that the average amount of workforce at an AEC firm that could work remotely was only 55 percent. Obstacles to remote work included a workforce that routinely works on-site at project locations (for example, land surveying, construction sites), and a lack of computers/equipment that could be used away from the office. Just over half of all firms responded that so far challenges presented by the virus have not led to project cancellations, with 55 percent stating that no projects had been cancelled and no cancellations or delays were currently anticipated. Only 3 percent of firms had cancelled or delayed a project, but 12 percent were experiencing client-related delays, and the other 32 percent were still considering. Manelis said that his firm has a couple of delays on projects from clients and expects a few bumps in the road as investors move to the sidelines with this uncertainty. “We’re hearing from clients that there’s some hesitancy, but it’s temporary,” Manelis said. As far as planning for an economic downturn, Blackstone’s remote workplace has a few other advantages: “Looking at our own fixed costs, knowing that we don’t have leases really helps us, but still, a lot of revenue is derived from traveling and we have to be very careful right now and do not want to contribute to the spread of this virus.” In the survey, when asked about COVID-19’s impact on the firmwide budget, firms were evenly split, with half reporting they did not anticipate any budget changes and just under 50 percent still considering changes. Sixty percent of respondents felt their revenue would be impacted in 2020 by an average decrease of 12 percent, and nearly 70 percent of firms stated they felt the virus would affect their overall business development activities in the next 12 months. Despite fears surrounding the logistical challenges presented by firms’ individual and government mandated responses to try to stop the spread of the virus, most firms are feeling OK about the economy at present, with 45 percent stating economic conditions in their market are “the same” as one year ago, and 34 percent of firms stating economic conditions are “somewhat better.” On the other end, 13 percent reported that conditions are “somewhat worse.” Small percentages reported they felt the current economy was much worse or much better. Looking forward, the bulk of respondents, 47 percent, stated they felt that the economy would be in “somewhat worse shape” in another 12 months.

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1200 North College Ave. Fayetteville, AR 72703 Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Christina Zweig | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year) $250 for one-year print subscription; free electronic subscription at © Copyright 2020, Zweig Group. All rights reserved. Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560

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THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337


We can all make it through this

A s I write this, the COVID-19 virus is making its way through the country probably more quickly than we realize. Businesses of all types are reeling, with many being closed completely right now. Ohio just announced they are closing all bars and restaurants. Schools are closed. Universities have ended class gatherings and are moving online. And A/E firms are still trying to function with most or all people working from home and projects going on hold daily. Not to mention the fact that the illness and death projections are beyond scary, with us older folks being particularly vulnerable to and affected by the disease. It’s a bad time – and not just here. It is happening worldwide. “Whether or not our businesses survive is going to be up to our response to the problem as leaders. It won’t be easy, but this, too, shall eventually pass.” Mark Zweig

So what will YOU be doing about it? As bad as it is, this virus could actually force us to make some real changes in how we do things. We travel too much, we have too many meetings, we need to do a better job managing remote workers – many of the ways we do things just aren’t very efficient. The important thing is to not wait too long to start! The sooner you act the longer you will be able to survive a downturn. And it could be a pretty big one – at least for a while. We can all make it through this. While every company’s financial situation is different, here are

some things I would advise every company owner to do: 1)No firm will be able to achieve its long-term potential without first surviving. This message has to be communicated to all employees. Whatever you do as leaders you are now going to have to communicate more with your people than you ever have before. A daily email from the CEO on the firm’s financial status and actions being taken to deal with the coronavirus situation may well be in order. People are fearful. Information will help alleviate fears.

See MARK ZWEIG, page 4

THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337

ON THE MOVE CHA ANNOUNCES PROMOTION OF JAMES STEPHENSON TO CEO OF CHA HOLDINGS, INC. CHA Consulting, Inc. , a highly diversified, full- service engineering consulting firm, announces the promotion of James Stephenson to CEO of CHA Holdings, Inc. and president of CHA Consulting, Inc. Stephenson will succeed Michael Carroll, P.E., who will transition to chairman of the board for CHA Holdings, Inc. Stephenson joined CHA in May 2019 as executive vice president and chief strategy officer bringing more than 20 years of broad strategy, financial, and corporate development experience. Prior to joining CHA, Stephenson was the chief strategy officer at a top 20 ENR ranked company, where he was responsible for structuring a five-year strategic growth plan focused on executing acquisitive growth and strategic investments that helped position the company as a leader in innovation and each of their operating sectors. “This is the right time for a leadership transition and Jim is the perfect leader and strategist to take CHA to the next level,” said Carroll.

“When Jim came on board earlier this year to oversee strategy and growth, we knew he was the right person to deliver exceptional value to our clients, effectively scale the business, and guide our staff to becoming the best firm in the industry.” “Mike is a true partner and has been instrumental in CHA’s transformation over the past five years,” said Jeff Quake and Mike Scardigli of First Reserve. “We look forward to working with Mike in his role as Chairman where he will continue to support the company in areas of strategy, organizational excellence and mergers and acquisitions.” “CHA is a great company with a rich history and exceptional staff, and I am honored to take over from Mike and build on his legacy. With support of a great financial partner in First Reserve, the company is in a unique position to accelerate growth and deliver value within our end markets. With three successful acquisitions this year and the largest backlog in our history, CHA is poised for continued growth and success,” said Stephenson. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work with the leadership team to propel CHA to be the most client-focused

and responsive engineering firm in the industry.” Quake and Scardigli said, “Stephenson is a perfect fit for CHA. He brings a wealth of relevant experience, strategic vision and proven leadership ability that will serve CHA well for many years to come. The company has made significant strides in organic growth, acquisition and talent initiatives and we have full confidence in Jim and the team to continue building on this momentum.” CHA Consulting, Inc. is a highly diversified, full-service engineering consulting firm which, along with its affiliates, provides a wide range of technology-enhanced planning and design services to public, private and institutional clients. CHA was ranked the 37th largest pure design firm in the United States in 2019 by Engineering News Record . With technical personnel and offices throughout the United States and Canada, CHA offers engineering, architectural, survey, project management, and other services necessary to complete projects on time and within budget.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 3

stuck in our homes, so now is when people can best afford to take these cuts. 6)Talk to your bank. Get the largest line of credit you can get. If you are worried about your ability to meet any covenants such as a clean up clause or debt to equity ratios, tell them now. If you are worried about your ability to repay any amortizing loans tell them so. Get any commitments you can get from them for leniency in the future now. 7)Look into SBA emergency loans. There is a $50 billion emergency loan program from the SBA for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. It is being administered differently based on where you are. Here locally in Fayetteville, Arkansas, our mayor’s office is involved. Figure out what is happening in your area and learn how you can get on the list to receive some of this money now before it’s all gone. 8)Talk with your competitors and peer firms. Establish a local group with the CEOs of other companies in this business to share information and ideas on how to respond to the current situation. It is critical we all share best practices and what our responses are to this problem if we are to come out of it with our businesses and capabilities intact. We will all suffer with the current situation. But whether or not our businesses survive is going to be up to our response to the problem as leaders. It won’t be easy, but this, too, shall eventually pass. When it finally does, I would bet the collective euphoria will be so great that the demand for what we do will be incredible. So hunker down and hang tight in the meantime. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

2)Let everyone work from home who can possibly do so. They will feel better about their situations if they can work from home and help take care of their families, and not potentially expose themselves and their families to the virus. Don’t insist on people coming in when it is not absolutely essential for them to do so. 3)Talk to your clients. Find out what their plans are. Communicate your desire to work with them and help them, as well as let them know you are dependent on the work you get from them. Find out what their cash situations are, what their ability is, and if they will be to pay their bills from you so you can plan accordingly. “As I write this, the COVID-19 virus is making its way through the country probably more quickly than we realize. Businesses of all types are reeling, with many being closed completely right now.” 4)Cut all unnecessary overhead expenses. Now is a time for austerity so we can survive. Food in the kitchen. Lights that don’t need to be left on. Renewals on service contracts. Unnecessary software. I can’t imagine what all these expenses are in your firm, but whatever you can cut, dump it now. 5)Consider across-the-board pay cuts. But make a promise to pay back the cut the next month based on your cash profits IF you have any. I am not usually a fan of across-the-board cuts, but now is not a normal time. Having a job that pays you something is going to be better than no job. And let’s face it, all of our personal expenses are likely to go down if we are

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THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337

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THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337


Positive force: Phil Beirne President and CEO of BSI Engineering (Cincinnati, OH), a consulting and process design engineering firm that’s building on the past to design the future.


A t BSI Engineering, a consulting and process design engineering firm, the company’s mantra is “serve the client, satisfy the employee … and the rest will take care of itself.” “We’re dedicated to satisfying our customers, but also satisfying our employees so that they are with us for years to come,” Beirne says. A CONVERSATION WITH PHIL BEIRNE. The Zweig Letter: What are the three to four key business performance indicators that you watch most carefully? Do you share that information with your staff? Phil Beirne: Billability, forecasted work, client feedback (surveys, but more importantly direct project feedback), and write-offs. I think it’s a fair statement to say that all my staff know those four are my key areas of focus regarding business performance indicators.

TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” PB: Defining working “in the business” as more day to day assistance, and “on the business” to be more long- term visioning, planning, and execution to that vision, I would say it’s a 30-70 split, where 30 percent is on weekly execution and 70 percent is on planning for the business. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? PB: I try to lessen the impact or strain managing the business sometimes inflicts, and share the joys it often brings, but there is overlap. I try to minimize that overlap to the family type events the company sponsors (and leave the rest back at work). TZL: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are potential disruptors across all industries. Is your firm exploring how to incorporate these technologies into providing improved services for clients?


PB: These are two areas that are, or would be, driven out of our automation group, and we are in the infancy of investigating these technologies to serve our clients. “We have communicated to the employees, new and old, that we are all just stewards of the company, with ownership handed down from generation to generation.” 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? PB: We are very sensitive to not only what people are capable of, but where their interests lie, as in our business, most managers are good technically, less so as people managers. It is more often said that people excel at what they like. As a result, we’ve allowed, and in some cases encouraged, people to do what they like – more than what they can do, or feel the company needs. To prevent that departure, we have opened the doors more to good managers with some technical acumen in managerial positions, as opposed to good technical people with some managerial expertise. TZL: What novel approaches are you bringing to recruitment, and how are your brand and differentiators performing in the talent wars? PB: We have hired a full-time talent acquisition specialist, thoroughly explored every reputable internet social media doorway we can find, and have never forgotten the following premise: It has as much probability of success (and we reward our employees for doing so) to hire someone who is known, with multiple connections to fellow employees, than to hire off the street. Combined with our generous business ownership and profit- sharing model, these principles and that approach have made us tough to beat in the open market. TZL: What unique or innovative pricing strategies have you developed, or are you developing, to combat the commoditization of engineering services? PB: I don’t know how unique or innovative they are, but we have developed rate structures that are customized to reward (discount) our clients for directly awarded

volume or repeat business, provide shared savings on lump sum or NTE projects, and for those clients willing to sign extended, relatively exclusive contracts for our services, highly discounted multiplier based rates. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? PB: As apparent as it may be, telling the truth, and being completely honest are not one and the same. Though I like to think we all strive to be the latter, no one is perfectly honest. That said, at a minimum, to run a successful business and partnership, you have to be willing to tell the truth when asked a direct question. TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? PB: First, we acknowledge that it’s the most difficult position to master within the company, try to prioritize the company as a “project led” organization, provide the control required to the PMs, and reward them personally for repeat, profitable work. Second, try to find or position the individuals within the organization who have the broad range of experience, leadership, and confrontational abilities to succeed. Third, provide PMP, CMP, or PM Bootcamp training to further enhance their skills. “We have also communicated that barring any major economic event, we would ride through less profitable times, together, with no layoffs, but perhaps less in profit sharing, performance pay, and share value growth, which all employees have the opportunity to participate in.” TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO? PB: To have the most positive outlook and be the most positive force within the company.


OFFICE LOCATIONS: ❚ ❚ Cincinnati, OH ❚ ❚ Chicago, IL ❚ ❚ Cedar Rapids, IA ❚ ❚ Louisville, KY ❚ ❚ Dearborn, MI INDUSTRIES: Consumer

products, facilities, food and beverage, pharmaceutical/ biotech, renewable fuels, and specialty chemicals SERVICES: Process engineering, project management, mechanical engineering, construction management, owner’s engineering, feasibility studies, electrical engineering, instrumentation and controls services, civil and structural, architectural services, laser scanning, cost estimating, piping design, manufacturing safety, automation, and IT services WHY IT GROWS: By sharing the ownership, financial rewards, and responsibility together as a team, BSI has formed a strong foundation. With this foundation of trust and respect, in spite of a well- known economic downturn experienced by many of its competitors, they can, fortunately, say that they’ve never experienced a layoff for lack of work, have continuously added associates to the ranks, and grown in almost every quarter since its formation.


© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

ch 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337

ON THE MOVE MOODY NOLAN ELEVATES JONATHAN MOODY TO CEO Architectural firm Moody Nolan announced the appointment of Jonathan Moody as its chief executive officer. Jonathan Moody has served as president of the Columbus-based firm since 2016, taking day-to-day responsibility for the firm in tandem with his father, CEO and founder Curt Moody. Curt Moody will continue to be fully engaged with the firm as chairman. Jonathan, an architect, joined the firm in 2011 as a senior associate and was promoted to partner a year later. He was elevated to president three years ago, becoming one of the youngest architectural firm presidents in the United States. “I am humbled and honored to be named the next CEO of Moody Nolan and look forward to building on the strong foundation established over the past 37 years,” Jonathan Moody said. Curt Moody, who co-founded the firm in 1982 as a two-person operation, has seen the company grow to 12 offices and become the largest African American-owned architectural firm in the country. As chairman, he will continue to provide active, hands-on leadership and strategic focus. “I am not stepping away by any means,” Curt Moody said. “But Jonathan has proven himself a highly capable leader, and the time is right to tap the energy and fresh outlook that Jonathan brings to the table.” Moody Nolan also announced a new four- member Executive Team established to provide a holistic approach to the care and growth of the 12 Moody Nolan offices around the country. While the four Team members will continue in their current project responsibilities, the Team provides a formal structure to

facilitate strategic interaction among the firm’s leadership. Executive Team members are: Eileen Goodman, partner and director of interior design now adds executive vice president to her title. Brian Tibbs, partner and director of Nashville Operations now adds managing partner to his title. David King, partner and chief financial officer will remain in this position. Allen Schaffer, principal and director of sustainable design, will now divide his time between Sustainable design and his new role of chief operating officer. “The Executive Team provides a wealth of knowledge and experience that Moody Nolan can leverage when we are confronted with major decisions into the future,” said Jonathan Moody. “Together, we intend to pursue a vision based on growth, impact, design and diversity while respecting and maintaining a culture built over many years.” Founded in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio, Moody Nolan has expanded into 12 cities. With more than 230 employees, Moody Nolan specializes in corporate, education, sports/recreation, collegiate, healthcare, housing/mixed-use and public service facilities. URBAN ENGINEERS PROMOTES JENNIFER WATERS TO PHILADELPHIA OFFICE MANAGER Urban Engineers announced that Jennifer Waters, P.E., LEED AP, has been promoted to office manager of the firm’s Philadelphia headquarters. She has been with the firm for nearly 20 years and serves as an associate vice president and the deputy practice leader for environmental services. “Jen is an outstanding professional who has

quickly become a leader amongst her peers,” said Kenneth Fulmer, P.E., president and CEO of Urban. “We are excited to elevate her to office manager of our Philadelphia headquarters, and look forward to her continued success.” In her new role, Waters will be responsible for the viability and success of the firm’s Philadelphia office. She will provide leadership to – and work directly with – general managers in all areas of project management, business development, training, mentoring, and other tasks necessary for the growth of the firm in the region. Waters is a registered professional engineer in six states and has years of diverse environmental and sustainability experience. Her background includes providing sustainable solutions to complex infrastructure, residential, commercial, industrial, educational, and recreational property development/ redevelopment projects. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental systems engineering from Penn State and her master’s in engineering management from Drexel University. Waters is currently a board member of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals Philadelphia Chapter and is also co-chair of Urban’s Women’s Professional Network, an organization whose mission is “to provide professional guidance to all women within Urban through mentoring and networking.” Urban provides planning, design, and construction services for highways, bridges, railroads, buildings, transit, airports, and ports, in addition to environmental consulting. An ISO 9001:2015-certified firm, Urban maintains 15 offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, California, and Texas.

no layoffs, but perhaps less in profit sharing, performance pay, and share value growth, which all employees have the opportunity to participate in. Combine that with the opportunities that come with a relatively unlimited growth plan to “grow along with our clients,” and we have had no layoffs, remarkably little turnover (especially compared to industry standards), and exceptional growth these past 13 years. premise: It has as much probability of success to hire someone who is known, with multiple connections to fellow employees, than to hire off the street.” “We have hired a full-time talent acquisition specialist, thoroughly explored every reputable social media doorway we can find, and have never forgotten the following

POSITIVE FORCE, from page 7

TZL: Diversity and inclusion is lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? PB: I’m not sure we suffer from this as much as our counterparts in the industry, given our current makeup, but we are always looking to invest time in hiring and developing the right individual, recognizing this is a country of Native Americans and immigrants. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? PB: We share ownership and profits across the company, which enables employees to be rewarded in a relatively unique quantitative model based on bringing in the work, doing the work, and ensuring profit on the work. We have communicated to the employees, new and old, that we are all just stewards of the company, with ownership handed down from generation to generation. We have also communicated that barring any major economic event, we would ride through less profitable times, together, with

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337


Connecting through empathy

H ave you ever tried to pull a team together for a complex project interview only to find the opinions in the room are so dramatically different that you spend most of the time in the meeting trying to find consensus? You may have an engineer in the room, along with a designer and others who bring their perspectives. You’ve undoubtedly encountered the conversation where no one in the room has given a thought about the project from anyone else’s perspective – sometimes not even the client’s. Understanding others will help you build the connections that will lead to success – in your professional and personal life. Tammi Nagucki

thoughtful, or do you show them a different side? Stereotypes are natural, and it’s up to you to brand yourself the way you want people to see you. How “The way we communicate with people today is fast-paced, often through digital channels. It’s easy to forget the other person may be coming to the conversation from an entirely different perspective.”

The way we communicate with people today is fast-paced, often through digital channels. It’s easy to forget the other person may be coming to the conversation from an entirely different perspective. It is especially crucial in today’s high tech/digital communication climate to take a step back, pause to appreciate where your audience is coming from, and structure a message in a way that makes a real connection with your audience. PERSONAL BRAND. How do others see you? If you’re an engineer, for example, do your co-workers see a linear thinker, someone who takes care of all the details, or do they see something entirely different? Do your clients see you as quiet and

See TAMMI NAGUCKI, page 10

THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337

TRANSACT IONS RLG CONSULTING ENGINEERS ACQUIRES ATSE CONSULTANTS, LLC With the turn of the new year, RLG Consulting Engineers acquired ATSE Consultants, LLC. , a professional design firm that specialized in structural design and analysis of new and existing structures. RLG acquired ATSE assets, staff, and customer contracts which will be completed under the RLG brand. ATSE was a natural choice since their basic core principals aligned with the client focused principals of RLG. “This acquisition allows us to reach our goal to increase staff size in our Peoria office to help meet the increasing demands of our national client base,” says Michael McLaren, COO and principal. “The combination of ATSE and RLG will afford the ability for us to continue to meet our growing client demands while providing the excellent client experience our clients

have come to expect,” added Allen Taylor, president, ATSE. The two companies and their employees have collaborated on many projects over the years, allowing for a seamless transition for internal and external clients. RLG maintains the reputation of a Dallas- based civil, structural, forensic engineering, and surveying firm committed to providing quality nationwide services across a variety of market sectors, expanding its base in structural and forensics engineering services. With this well-planned acquisition, RLG has absorbed ATSE employees registered in 17 states. “This acquisition will strengthen our structural engineering services and provide a large increase in RLG’s bandwidth, ensuring the firm will continue to meet the needs of today’s rapid-growth market,” says Stuart Markussen, president and CEO at RLG.

Though the firm’s employee base has increased, the organization’s structure will remain the same and there will be no changes in the roles of RLG’s top officials. The company is confident about the acquisition benefits and anticipates future growth to follow. Founded in 1953 by Raymond L. Goodson, Jr., RLG Consulting Engineers specializes in civil, structural, surveying, and forensic engineering. For more than 66 years, RLG has been recognized as one of the top engineering firms in Texas for their ability to attract and retain a talented, experienced team. Known for thorough and meticulous work, RLG has designed major projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and throughout the country. The staff includes professional engineers holding licenses in 47 states, graduate engineers, and registered professional land surveyors.

TAMMI NAGUCKI, from page 9

❚ ❚ Do you understand everything you need to understand to connect with this person/group? ❚ ❚ Do you understand or at least appreciate the experiences of your audience?

others see you is your personal brand. Your personal brand also affects how people connect with you. CONNECTING THROUGH EMPATHY. At a basic level, humans desire to be understood. “Feeling understood prompts you to relate more fully to others, to show more willingness to be open and vulnerable with them.” As Carl Nassar (“The Importance of Feeling Understood”) astutely observes: “When we feel understood ... we show [others] our true selves – flaws and all. In turn, they are more likely to be vulnerable and honest with us. This helps us connect ... on a deeper level, improving the quality of our relationships” (from Psychology Today ’s “Feeling Understood – Even More Important Than Feeling”). Genuine connection happens when you begin to understand someone from their perspective, not what you want their perspective to be, and then fully appreciate them. Understanding others will help you build the connections that will lead to success – in your professional and personal life.

❚ ❚ What details are you missing? ❚ ❚ What history are you missing?

COMBINE LOGIC AND EMOTION. Once you’ve considered the variables of communication above, you are ready to respond in a manner that builds a connection. Take a minute to absorb the intel you’ve gathered and formulate a response that indicates your understanding of their situation. At this point, the information at your fingertips is both logical and emotional. Combining these two gives you a fuller picture and leads your audience to feel understood. Building this trust is crucial for the connection to be genuine. Play out the scenario in your head, first – test run the message. Consider the possible reactions from your audience. Have you conveyed the message you intended? Have you received the verbal or non-verbal response you expected? This process of empathizing will lead to lasting connections and trust. Trust and understanding are the two critical ingredients to successful communication. Build a connection with your audience through understanding and empathy so they trust you and your message. TAMMI NAGUCKI, CPSM, is director of marketing at Environmental Design Group. Contact her at “It is especially crucial in today’s high tech/ digital communication climate to take a step back, pause to appreciate where your audience is coming from, and structure a message in a way that makes a real connection with your audience.”

Pause to appreciate: ❚ ❚ Their background ❚ ❚ The current situation ❚ ❚ Their emotions ❚ ❚ How they communicate with you, and why ❚ ❚ How you fit in this scenario ❚ ❚ How they view your involvement ❚ ❚ Your history with this person/group

❚ ❚ The choices you have to react ❚ ❚ And put yourself in their shoes.

Ask questions:

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337


Intellectual property (Part 1)

I n view of the complexity, laws, and government institutions impacting intellectual property creation and enforcement, civil and structural engineers can easily lose sight of the basic premise that IP, such as patents and trade secrets, ultimately boils down to legal property. Like any other form of property, the law operates to determine legal ownership of patents and trade secrets. If innovators find themselves on the wrong side of these rules, the law may deny them legal ownership of what should have been their IP. If innovators find themselves on the wrong side of these rules, the law may deny them legal ownership of what should have been their intellectual property. Stephen Keefe

PATENT OWNERSHIP. Federal preemption of patent law is nearly universal, with the law generally requiring a registration issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to show patent ownership. In general, civil and structural word in intellectual property such as patents and trade secrets is property.” “Civil and structural engineers should remember that the legally operative

If engineers can’t legally show they own what they believe is their IP, whether by registration or some other means that courts will recognize, they won’t be able to enforce what they believe is their property. Civil and structural engineers should endeavor to avoid ending up in this unfortunate position. A few IP ownership best practices and pitfalls follow, which civil and structural engineers can consider keeping in mind in managing their enterprises. This article covers ownership issues in two of the main legal pillars of IP: patent and trade secret. A second article in this series will cover ownership issues in trademark and copyright.

See STEPHEN KEEFE, page 12

THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337

STEPHEN KEEFE, from page 11

the best practice for memorializing patent ownership. Entrepreneurs may follow similar best practices in assigning their patent rights to legal entities they own. Innovators may also establish more advanced ownership regimes using domestic and foreign legal entities, taking care that such regimes comply with U.S. and foreign laws such as patent, corporate, and tax law. TRADE SECRET OWNERSHIP. Civil and structural engineers face a different paradigm for ownership with trade secrets as compared to the other IP forms such as patents. Whereas ownership in the other IP branches typically revolves around obtaining registrations or putting ownership assignments and agreements into place, most of the heavy- lifting for showing ownership of trade secrets happens internally within organizations and in court during enforcement. Although trade secrets can cover everything from secret formulas and technology to customer lists, actually owning trade secrets typically rests on internal IP processes that organizations put into place and regularly execute. Whether enforcing trade secrets in state court or under the Defend Trade Secrets Act in federal court, trade secret ownership depends on the measures that innovators can prove they took to protect their secrets. When plaintiffs come into court alleging that another party stole their trade secrets, judges will expect that these plaintiffs made special efforts to protect the information alleged to merit trade secret protection. Although these processes vary based on the factual circumstances of each case, they often include a combination of confidentiality agreements, marking systems, procedures for controlling and limiting access to information, and other “reasonable measures” taken to protect information. Accordingly, ownership and enforcement of trade secrets can depend more on the steps that organizations take to protect the asserted trade secret than the intrinsic market value of the protected information itself. CONCLUSION. Civil and structural engineers should remember that the legally operative word in intellectual property such as patents and trade secrets is property. Innovators should consider following some of the exemplary best practices mentioned above to try to ensure that what they believe to be their patents and trade secrets actually are their legal property, which they can enforce in court if necessary. STEPHEN KEEFE, P.E., Esq., is a principal attorney of Stephen L. Keefe LLC. After graduating from West Point with a degree in civil engineering and serving in the U.S. Army, he earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Columbia University and practiced as a structural engineer in New York City and Virginia for six years. He served as a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, received a Juris Doctorate from the George Washington University Law School, and has practiced patent and IP law for over 12 years at leading IP law firms and as in-house corporate patent counsel. He can be contacted at skeefe@

engineers must first have an issued patent to even contemplate asserting the legal patent right to exclude. But, the rules of ownership do not stop there. As enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, ownership first vests equally in each inventor of a U.S. patent. Inventors must contribute to at least one issued patent claim to have that ownership initially vest in them. Because inventorship plays such a critical role in patent law, naming the wrong inventors or failing to include inventors on a patent can form the basis for challenging and invalidating that patent. Also, an inventor who believes that he or she was omitted as a named inventor on a U.S. patent may bring an action to have patent inventorship changed to include him or her. “If engineers can’t legally show they own what they believe is their IP, whether by registration or some other means that courts will recognize, they won’t be able to enforce what they believe is their property. Civil and structural engineers should endeavor to avoid ending up in this unfortunate position.” In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the law views each named inventor as having equal ownership of a patent, including for example the right to license or assign the patent or bring a patent infringement suit. Chaotic situations often arise when joint inventors take uncoordinated or inconsistent actions regarding their patent, such as purporting to assign full rights or grant exclusive licenses simultaneously to different third parties. These types of mismanaged ownership arrangements can lead to acrimonious, costly, and ultimately counterproductive litigation. To avoid these types of legal woes, each and every inventor contributing to at least one patent claim should be identified on a patent. Each and every inventor of a U.S. patent, particularly in situations involving joint inventorship, should execute an assignment or some other agreement determining the desired legal ownership of a patent. For example, corporate inventors often execute assignments at patent filing that transfer all patent rights in a given patent to a legal entity associated with their employer, whether it be an operating company or a holding company. Although employment agreements may stipulate that all IP created by an employee belongs to his or her employer, such employment agreements have been successfully attacked in litigation. Having each and every inventor execute an assignment at patent filing and recording that assignment with the USPTO forms

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THE ZWEIG LETTER March 23, 2020, ISSUE 1337

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