8 managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? KJ: I think this a great question and it’s extremely important for the success of a company. Our job as the leaders of the firm is to create the best engineers we can. That means training, responsibility, flexibility, respect, and recognition. We try very hard to let our team know how valued they are. We will always run the risk of our great people being stolen by other firms, but it’s a risk worth taking to invest in our team and the profession. TZL: Shear Structural’s Chamblee office is growing. What do you most attribute that growth to? KJ: Our growth is based on our business focus and the way we do work. We extend the principles of our partnership to the team. We give our team members leadership opportunities and an environment for growth. We have some great clients who engage us to work on some cool projects that provide challenge and satisfaction to the team. That, combined with the collaborative nature makes this a fun and gratifying place to work. BETTER TOGETHER, from page 7 “Our greatest success, without question, is the team we’ve created. We have an outstanding group of individuals who are passionate about what they do and are dedicated to their projects, clients, and co- workers.” 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? KJ: As a young firm, we definitely can relate to this statement. First, we want to keep the overworked part to a minimum. We use an innovative model to help with our work overflow. We have contract workers that provide work when needed. We have a pool of four individuals who we have worked with in past experiences who have temporarily left the profession to take care of kids or elderly parents. Each person wants to continue to work to some extent, but is unable to meet traditional office hours or work models. Two of the four work with us on a regular basis. This has been a huge success for all parties. They keep their skills fresh, earn a little money and we alleviate some of the overtime that might have been required. Second, every employee gets a yearly stipend and time off for training. We strongly encourage everyone to use their stipend. In addition, we have provided ancillary training in public speaking and business development to help have well-rounded employees. TZL: Are you seeking some kind of financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what type? KJ: We have applied for the SBA’s PPP program and are awaiting that decision. As a woman-owned business, we have also applied for the Red Backpack Fund by The Sara Blakely Foundation and GlobalGiving.
The Shear Structural team.
TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as managing partner? KJ: Purpose and direction. This is a term I used to use with my Girl Scout troop many years ago. That was like herding cats. But I found it works in all aspects of life – my daily routine, the company, and leading our team. That phrase is written on the top of a task board and I look at it every day. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? KJ: At Shear, we know we are better together because of our differences. We value the depth of experience and focus that comes from diversity. I don’t think our firm looks like most structural engineering firms. The obvious difference is we are a women-owned and operated firm. We strive to maintain diversity in our group when we are recruiting and interviewing potential team members. TZL: Since you founded the firm in 2017, what’s been your greatest challenge and what’s been your greatest success? KJ: Keeping up with the work load. That’s not a bad problem to have. Our greatest success, without question, is the team we’ve created. We have an outstanding group of individuals who are passionate about what they do and are dedicated to their projects, clients, and co-workers. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? KJ: The short answer is that we include our staff in our business decisions. Not only do we want them to feel included, we want them to be included. They have great ideas and great energy that is a strength for our company. We include our team in our strategic planning sessions and we have individual quarterly, touch base meetings to keep them engaged. These touch base meetings are not performance-related; they’re idea sharing about what we do well and what we could be doing better. We each bring personal experience from which we learn and grow. I keep a folder that I have had for almost 30 years of personal dos and don’ts. It’s an accumulation of incidences, experiences, and events that had an impact on me, both negative and positive, that I don’t want to forget now that I am in a position of influence in the firm.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER MAY 25, 2020, ISSUE 1346
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