T R E N D L I N E S J u l y 1 9 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 0 0 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M
What’s the same and what’ll never be the same again for AEC firms’ policies, procedures, and benefits? Policies, procedures, and benefits
In Zweig Group’s 2021 Principals, Partners & Owners Report of AEC Firms , we asked principals what percentage of their time was chargeable to jobs. In last year’s report, we saw the lowest median percentage for principals’ chargeability in 10 years at 25 percent. This year, however, there was a slight increase back up to 30 percent. When breaking down the sample further, there was a 10 percent increase in chargeability between “pre- COVID” responses (25 percent) and “COVID era” responses (35 percent). Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication. F I R M I N D E X BSA LifeStructures................................10 Dewberry..............................................10 Duffield Associates ..................................2 GeoInsight, Inc........................................2 GWWO Architects.................................12 HSW Consulting. ....................................2 Hull & Associates....................................2 RTA Architects......................................12 Sasaki.....................................................6 Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc...................4 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MERCEDEZ THOMPSON: Leading with language Page 3 xz Engage, empathize, empower: James Miner Page 6 xz KEVIN TOKEN: What impact are you making? Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: Watching your baby grow up Page 11
Z weig Group just released the 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report of AEC Firms . This resource was compiled from a comprehensive survey of AEC firms as well as participants in Zweig Group’s annual Best Firms To Work For program. Considering extreme changes caused by COVID-19 over the past 12 months, Zweig Group compared pre-pandemic responses to those submitted post March 2020. Here are a few standout areas: ❚ ❚ Hiring and recruiting remains a challenge, but technology may be driving the cost of new hires down slightly. Staff recruitment and retention was the number one challenge according to Zweig Group’s 2021 Principals, Partners & Owners Report , yet spending on each new hire was a median of $5,000 and an average of $8,932; a slight decrease over the previous year’s figures of $7,750 median and $9,454 average. In general, overall average yearly HR spending per full-time employee has remained stable, at just under $2,800. An increase in work-from-home opportunities hasn’t changed firm policies on paying to relocate both new and existing employees. Zweig Group’s Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Report for Q1 2021 found that an average of 75 percent of the AEC industry workforce can effectively work remote/telecommute and 55 percent of the workforce was currently working remote. The 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report found that 44 percent of firms are paying relocation expenses for both new and existing employees, 17 percent pay for new employees only, and 5 percent pay for existing employees only. ❚ ❚ Computer use – policies firms need but we know aren’t being followed! Zweig Group’s Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Survey found that most firms reported a “slight increase” in spending on computers and equipment, as well as a change in software/IT systems/online storage over the last 12 months due to the impact of COVID-19. With an average of 55 percent of employees in the industry working remote, often using company provided computers, it was interesting to see the number of firms holding fast to policies regarding personal use of email, internet access, and other online services. Just over half of all firms surveyed have a policy limiting personal use of company provided computers during business hours, and 14 percent of firms have a policy prohibiting all personal use at any time. ❚ ❚ Changes to flex-time, vacation time, and PTO policies. It’s no surprise that people in the AEC industry used less vacation time in 2020 than in previous years. The continuation of remote work and flexible work situations has also decreased a need for seasonal flexibility. Still, the 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report showed that 25 percent of firms still have “summer hours” such as half-day Fridays or Fridays off. According to the results of last year’s survey, more firms had such hours (33 percent).
Christina Zweig Niehues
See CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES, page 2
T H E V O I C E O F R E A S O N F O R T H E A E C I N D U S T R Y
BUSINESS NEWS GEOINSIGHT, INC. JOINS NATIONAL ENGINEERING & GEOSCIENCE ORGANIZATION GeoInsight, Inc. , a New England-based environmental and engineering consulting firm has joined Hull & Associates , Duffield Associates , and HSW Consulting , as part of a national platform of companies focused in the industrial, real estate, energy, technology, transportation, and government sectors. The combined platform now includes over 350 staff in 24 offices, across 12 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Texas). Together, the firms offer comprehensive capabilities, including environmental site assessment and remediation, cultural resources and ecology, water resources and treatment, traditional site civil and geotechnical engineering, climate change resiliency, along with marine and coastal engineering. With the addition of GeoInsight, the combined company now also offer clients environmental health and safety and compliance services on a national scale. Gerry Salontai, CEO of the platform, explained, “GeoInsight brings additional leadership to the platform, a great culture fit and a complementary set of capabilities to further solidify our presence in the Eastern U.S., while adding a strong EHS practice to our business. This in turn will strengthen our value proposition to our clients as we continue to build a national environmental, water and civil infrastructure consulting business.” GeoInsight will continue its commitment to offering relationship-centric consulting services to clients in New England, now with an
expanded portfolio of service experience and technical depth. As Nikki Delude Roy, Vice President of GeoInsight explains, “The combined firms of Hull, Duffield, HSW and GeoInsight share a rare set of core values centered around genuine commitment to our clients and our staff. At GeoInsight, we are excited about this partnership and the ability to bring additional resources to our existing clients, as well as the opportunity to introduce our talented and committed staff to a broader set of clients across a national footprint.” GeoInsight President, Brian Kisiel offers, “This new venture offers GeoInsight the chance to bring what we do best to a whole new level. GeoInsight will continue to do great technical work while building and maintaining its long- term relationships with our business partners and our clients, which is the essence of who we are. With this exciting change, we now have the opportunity to bring expanded services to existing and new clients in new geographies.” This platform is sponsored by Round Table Capital and is their third buy and build strategy in the AEC industry. Ashley Chang, vice president and member of the founding team at RTC said, “We are very pleased to welcome the entire GeoInsight team to the platform. The strategic addition of such a strong organization is a win for all stakeholders; providing additional opportunities for employees, enhancing the service offering to clients and creating value for shareholders.” Stradling, Yocca, Carlson and Rauth, P.C. acted as legal counsel, and BDO USA, LLP and CohnReznick, LLP acted as financial and tax advisors on behalf of RTC and its affiliates.
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CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES, from page 1 Paid-time-off allotments for individuals in the industry are steady. The average employee with zero to four years of service gets just under 14 days of PTO a year, increasing with experience to those with 15 or more years receiving an average of 22.4 days of PTO per year. Due to travel restrictions, many employees entered 2021 with a much larger “bank” of unused hours than in years previous. In the COVID era, the vast majority of firms, 90 percent (and 91 percent of Best Firms To Work For) allow employees to “carry over” unused PTO from one year to the next. Pre-COVID, just 73 percent of firms had this policy. Recent figures indicate that 84 percent of firms have a maximum amount of paid time-off that can be carried from one year to the next, with an average amount of 15 days – almost a full year’s worth! CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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2021 POLICIES, PROCEDURES & BENEFITS SURVEY REPORT Zweig Group surveyed AEC industry firms on their workplace policies, benefits, HR staff composition, HR operating expenses, and other important workplace issues and challenges. The results of this study will help you benchmark your AEC firm in all areas related to benefits and compensation. The 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Survey Report of AEC Firms provides you with industry statistics on policies and procedures, so you can support your policy decisions with hard data. Click here to learn more!
© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
O P I N I O N
Leading with language
While weak language can dilute your message, assertive language fosters attentiveness, boosts credibility, and increases authority.
R ecently, I attended a virtual proposal review meeting run by a marketer I had mentored the year before. She facilitated the meeting competently, and the proposal was impressive. It was clear that her management and expertise had added value to the process. Yet, when it came time to review the action-item list, I noticed a palpable change in her voice, language, and confidence level.
Three technical narratives assigned to a single author were missing. The proposal was due in a week, and two deadlines had come and gone unanswered. At this point, the team risked compliance and client focus. “Sorry, but I don’t have these narratives yet,” she said, her cursor hovering and her voice wavering. The responsible author chimed in, “Yeah, I’ve been swamped. I haven’t gotten to them yet.” “No problem, I understand,” she replied before casually continuing down the list. Assertiveness can be a challenge for AEC marketing professionals for several reasons.
At many firms, marketers are still viewed as administrative personnel with little authority. The value of marketing might be unclear or questioned by industry veterans who remember a time when winning business looked very different. Even at firms where marketing skills are prized, marketing staff are likely up against gender, experience, and/or age biases. After all, it can be difficult for a young woman with a handful of years in the industry to firmly request an assignment from an older man who has been with the firm for two decades and holds the daunting title of principal. Then, there’s the precarious relationship between the proposal manager and the technical lead of the
See MERCEDEZ THOMPSON, page 4
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
ON THE MOVE CUNEYT FEIZOULOF JOINS SEH AS CHIEF STRATEGY AND MARKETING OFFICER Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. announced Cuneyt Feizoulof, PE, BCEE, LEED-AP has joined its leadership team as chief strategy and marketing officer. He will further the growth and expansion in current and new geographical regions and markets for the Saint Paul- based engineering, architecture, and planning company.
Since 2015, Feizoulof has been successfully delivering solutions for clients, providing career opportunities for staff and leading organic and acquisitive growth initiatives. “Cuneyt brings a powerful combination of leadership in strategic growth and large-scale engineering successes,” said David Ott, CEO and president of the 92-year-old employee- owned company. “These are exciting times as opportunities arise day by day. Cuneyt
will position SEH for growth, with a focus on sustainability and infrastructure renewal.” Feizoulof has a master’s degree in environmental engineering and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and chemistry from the University of Illinois. SEH is a multidisciplined professional services firm made up of 800 engineers, architects, planners and scientists.
MERCEDEZ THOMPSON, from page 3
expertise. After all, they are the experts when it comes to doing the work. You are the expert at getting the work. So, where can we start? How can we add value to our firms with stronger language? First, identify where you are using weak language, being overly polite, or apologizing unnecessarily. Is it during meetings? Emails? Over the phone? When deadlines are approaching? When deadlines are missed? Then, begin replacing the weak language. ❚ ❚ Instead of, “I’m sorry, but,” try, “I disagree. Consider...” ❚ ❚ Instead of, “I was thinking maybe,” go with, “I recommend…” ❚ ❚ Instead of, “I thought we might try,” use, “My experience suggests...” ❚ ❚ Instead of, “I’m no expert, but,” try, “I am confident that...” ❚ ❚ Instead of, “I’m just checking in,” say, “I’m following up on the status of...” ❚ ❚ Instead of, “No worries,” implement, “You’re welcome.” ❚ ❚ Instead of, “I apologize for the delay,” go with, “Thank you for your patience.” Other examples of assertive language include: ❚ ❚ “Who will be responsible for this action item?” ❚ ❚ “Can you take point on this and update me tomorrow?” ❚ ❚ “To meet the requirements of the schedule, I’ll need this item by…” ❚ ❚ “At this point you’ve missed the agreed upon deadline. When is the earliest you can have this item to me?” ❚ ❚ “I believe this is the best approach.” ❚ ❚ “Any content or revisions that come in after pens-down are not guaranteed to make it in the final document.” Language is important and words matter. Many professionals assume that not being passive entails being aggressive, but in fact, assertive language is about being clear, direct, and respectful. How you communicate impacts working relationships and company culture. MERCEDEZ THOMPSON, CP APMP, SHIPLEY BDC is a proposal manager at Michael Baker International. She has more than nine years of experience in writing and marketing for diverse industries including AEC, education, and law. Additionally, she taught English courses at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and University of Nevada, Reno. Contact her at 440.328.6471 or mercedez.thompson@ mbakerintl.com, or subscribe to her blog at simplywritingblog.com.
proposal. Oftentimes, these roles are not clearly defined, and proposal development becomes a dance between colleagues trying not to step on each other’s toes. Not to mention, the prioritization of live projects and billable work can relegate proposals to the end of the to-do list, something you get to when you can get to it. Sure enough, a follow-up email went out that afternoon. The missing narratives were listed in the revised action- item list but without a new deadline. In a separate email, the marketer wrote to the responsible author: “Sorry, just reaching out to check on these narratives again. When did you say you could have them to me?” This example is not exceptional. In fact, it is representative of a trend. “Language is important and words matter. Many professionals assume that not being passive entails being aggressive, but in fact, assertive language is about being clear, direct, and respectful.” All too often, we apologize for doing our job. We are overly polite. We dance around deadlines because we want to be easy to work with. We hesitate to offer our expertise, and when we do, we are quick to let others, who know less about marketing, steamroll our counsel. We refrain from accountability. We justify our recommendations with babbling explanations and then add on a feeble question like “Don’t you think?” or “You see what I’m saying?” Our favorite words seem to be “just,” “feel,” “sort of,” and “might.” What’s the result of this weak language? Is it that big of a deal? Yes. Weak language dilutes our message. It makes others doubt our credibility. It gives the impression that we are indecisive or unqualified. Conversely, assertive language affords marketing professionals respect from their colleagues. It can foster attentiveness, boost credibility, and increase authority. It can help to differentiate roles and increase efficiency. Most importantly, assertive language can be used respectfully in a way that affirms your and your colleagues’ areas of
© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
An enriching experience full of thought leaders, next practices and the ultimate source of learning, networking, and celebration for firms across the AEC industries. This year, Zweig Group’s annual Elevate AEC Conference is in two formats: the FREE Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHer Symposium and the In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala .
Two conferences. One mission.
In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala The 2021 In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado on November 3-5, 2021. Withmuch optimism and excitement, Zweig Group is thrilled to restore the full annual in-person conference this fall; presenting the highest level of curated thought leadership, numerous networking opportunities, and the iconic black-tie awards gala celebrating all our 2021 winners of the Hot Firm List, Best Firms toWork For, Marketing Excellence, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures, and the Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award! The 2021 In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will be the industry’s top conference of 2021 with new networking and learning opportunities for leaders across the country. Trust us, you will not want tomiss this! Register now to guarantee your spot.
Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium Zweig Group has continued to evolve its virtual conference, so the FREE 2021 Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium is back with a four-week virtual experience with over 40 speakers and 30 credit hours of networking, learning, and celebrating – all in an unlimited virtual environment. From emerging professionals, project managers, to CEO’s, there is something for everyone at the FREE 2021 Virtual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium . REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL NOW FREE SEPT. 13 - OCT. 8, 2021
NOV. 3 - 5, 2021 Denver, CO REGISTER FOR IN-PERSON NOW $1,995/attendee
QUESTIONS? For group discounts or any other inquiries, please contact events@ zweiggroup.com, call 800.466.6275 or visit zweiggroup.com
Everything we do is in pursuit of elevating the AEC industry, bringing awareness of the incredible impact that engineers, architects, environmental professionals, survey- ors, planners, landscape architects and related professional service providers have on the world. Empowering organizations 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.
P R O F I L E
Engage, empathize, empower: James Miner CEO of Sasaki (Boston, MA), an interdisciplinary architecture, planning, landscape, and design firm with offices in the U.S. and China.
By LIISA ANDREASSEN Correspondent
O ver the past 10 years, Miner has helped guide the strategic evolution of the firm. Key efforts have included rebranding, renewing the firm’s commitment to being active in the Boston design community, growing Sasaki’s commercial architecture and interior design practice, establishing a firm-wide research grant program, and adding new expertise around technology, fabrication, and digital design. “I think there has been a renewed focus on community, and the workplace as an important source of community and belonging,” Miner says. “If we want to attract and retain the best talent, then I think we need to stand for something, and have our employees feel like they are part of something special, not just a place that has good projects or benefits.” A CONVERSATION WITH JAMES MINER. The Zweig Letter: Sasaki recently rebranded. Tell me
what it looked like before and what it looks like now and the thought process behind it all. James Miner: At the time, I helped to oversee the effort as the chair of the executive committee. The aesthetic and most outwardly visible changes to the brand definitely express themselves through the dynamic logo, vibrant color palette, and other signature visual identity elements, but the rebrand represents more than just a facelift. We completely reexamined our positioning, our identity, our values, and our shared aspirations to derive a new way of conveying who we are to those who don’t know us as well or know us for only one facet of our business. The underlying premise of the branding effort was to reinforce our culture of collaboration and the value that brings to our projects and to our clients. The logo itself is composed of distinct elements, which can be reassembled to create different graphics, icons or other visual symbols, which is reflective of how we work. Our value proposition
THE ZWEIG LETTER JUL
lies in bringing people together from different professional and personal backgrounds in an inclusive process that ultimately leads to better design and better outcomes. So, our new brand was designed to embody this value proposition. Our previous visual identity, which we had for several decades, featured an orange logo with supporting black, white, and gray colors. We sometimes internally referred to our logo as “Sasaki in the box” because the firm’s name was contained within a rectangle, except for the dot over the “i” which was meant to represent “thinking outside the box.” It felt staid and out of sync with the Sasaki that had emerged in recent years; and as a result, many of our communications and marketing materials read as incohesive because we kept trying to spice our branding up in our own ways. You can imagine what a hodgepodge of branding that “creativity” led to! These days, when you see a Sasaki branded piece – whether a marketing proposal, our new website launched in early 2020, GIFs on social media, signs, or environmental graphics – they are colorful and distinct, but you immediately understand them to be part of one flexible branded system. Once we got used to this branding we didn’t look back. The brand has continued to evolve with us and I don’t foresee us outgrowing it for many years to come. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? JM: Like a lot of other companies, we had a telecommuting policy in place before the pandemic. And, also like most other companies, few took advantage of it. Historically, there’s been a stigma attached to remote work – call it “out of sight, out of mind” – that may not have been intentional, but definitely influenced people’s decisions about whether or not to work remotely. The pandemic obviously shifted that since we were all forced into a lengthy work-from- home experiment that proved to everyone that remote work is not only viable, but productive. As we’ve learned, when we’re all working remotely the stigma has vanished and it’s a level playing field. Without all the travel that typically goes with our work, we’ve found that team leaders have actually had more time to engage directly with project work and with their teams. Even though we would prefer to do this in person, people are actually getting more “face time” than they were before the pandemic. Also, teams are getting more opportunities to engage with
clients because there is no cost to adding another box on the Zoom screen, whereas before we were forced to limit the number of team members that had client interaction based on the cost of travel for in-person meetings. So, in those two ways, teams have actually been more engaged even though we are all working apart from one another. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will be adopting a hybrid work model, allowing everyone to work remotely for up to two days a week, and three days in-person. We’re making significant investments in our new office space to enable the kinds of collaboration that can’t happen remotely, and I think people are really hungry for that while also wanting to maintain some of the flexibility that remote work has afforded. With that in mind, our office will look very different than it did before the pandemic – if we can successfully work remotely for focused, “heads down” work, then our office needs to provide space to do just the opposite. Our new space will be all about collaboration and interaction between people. That will mean fewer desks (and especially desks that are assigned to only one person), and an array of different types of open work areas, conference rooms, pinup spaces, and areas for fabrication and prototyping. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? JM: Trust is absolutely essential – and not only does it have to be earned, but it takes time to both establish and maintain. With clients, I believe that we establish trust by first being curious, and by being active listeners. If there is one trait that tends to come to mind most often when people think of designers, its ego – and ego is not going to win anyone trust. Instead, we focus on listening and working together with our clients to solve complex problems. At Sasaki, collaboration has always been part of our ethos, and our leadership has really embraced that in a way that leads not only to more inclusive design, but better design. That’s the genesis of our renewed mission statement that we adopted a couple of years ago: “Better design, together.” Trust has to exist within an organization, not just with clients. The efforts we’ve undertaken over the past year, particularly around gender equity and anti-racism, have exposed gaps in trust that we needed to first understand, and then bridge. That is something we’re still working on, and it has required being more vulnerable and empathetic as a leader. See ENGAGE, EMPATHIZE, EMPOWER, page 8
HEADQUARTERS: Boston, MA
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 300
YEAR FOUNDED: 1953
NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS:
❚ ❚ Boston, MA
❚ ❚ Denver, CO
❚ ❚ Shanghai, China
❚ ❚ Architecture
❚ ❚ Interior design
❚ ❚ Planning and urban design
❚ ❚ Space planning
❚ ❚ Landscape architecture
❚ ❚ Civil engineering
❚ ❚ Education
❚ ❚ Civics
❚ ❚ Arts and culture
❚ ❚ Commercial development
❚ ❚ Corporate and office
❚ ❚ Sports and recreation
SASAKI’S PROMISE: Better
© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.
LY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
ENGAGE, EMPATHIZE, EMPOWER, from page 7
founded in 1953, and now we’re headed downtown. It’s not the first time we’ve had a discussion about moving downtown, but we never made the move because the culture shift was always perceived to be too disruptive. This time around, the pandemic provided a set of unique circumstances that made this the right time for such a move on many fronts, but the culture shift was still a major element of concern. I was trying to figure out how to navigate through it all, when it suddenly made sense to me that I didn’t actually have the right tools to get it done. There were others better equipped to hear the voices of concern, and make sure those concerns were understood and valued. By relinquishing control, I observed different styles of engagement and communication than I might have employed. It didn’t take long to realize that giving up control did not mean giving up my job or role as a leader – in fact, it was quite the opposite. I now understand that leadership can be more than about taking control or responsibility for managing change, it is about recognizing who can be most effective at leading different change initiatives at different moments in time, and providing them both the agency and support they need to succeed. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? JM: We don’t have strict guidelines. We’ve had principals named in their 20s, and we’ve been expanding the role of leadership so it’s not dependent upon being a rainmaker. The goal has been to establish a partnership that is made up of a constellation of talent that strengthens the collective and incentivizes collaboration. Under the traditional “seller/doer” model, there is a tendency to create silos because firm leaders can work independently from one another – they don’t “need” each other to succeed. But new generations of leadership want to work together, to share credit, and to build their practices together. And because of that, those being promoted to principal tend to fill a particular need within the partnership that is more about that individual’s skill set than about their years of experience or book of business. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? JM: I’ve always been a fan of alliteration since it makes things easy to remember – so here are my Three Es: “Engage, Empathize, and Empower.” TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? JM: I predict this will be an even more important question this summer and fall, as the economy recovers and people shift their thinking from staying employed to staying engaged. We’re recommitting ourselves to our values, and making sure that our actions consistently align with those values. I think there has been a renewed focus on community, and the workplace as an important source of community and belonging. If we want to attract and retain the best talent, then I think we need to stand for something, and have our employees feel like they are part of something special, not just a place that has good projects or benefits.
TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? JM: As I mentioned earlier, we’ve taken on recent efforts to focus on and better understand these issues, both in terms of gender and race. From a gender perspective, Sasaki actually has more women than men on the whole. The problem is that there have been considerably more women than men among our employees with 10 years of experience or less, while there are far more men than women among our more senior employees. This creates a gap in role models for women seeking to advance their careers at the firm, and also a sponsorship gap for emerging female leaders, as anecdotally and statistically people tend to mentor and sponsor those of the same gender in greater numbers. This mentorship and sponsorship gap has led to retention challenges and a continued imbalance between men and women at the top levels of firm leadership, in spite of the fact that we have promoted more women to the role of principal than in the past. As a result, we’re focusing on improving sponsorship across gender boundaries, making space for different voices and styles, and making it safe to acknowledge gender bias and how it has shaped traditional definitions of leadership. We’ve also committed to being an actively anti-racist organization. It’s important to state that this is a commitment that will need to span many years and decades if we are to make real change. That being said, I’m excited about some of the things we’ve started to do, especially in our work alongside the Sasaki Foundation which has centered its work around the idea that the “power of design belongs to all of us.” One way the Foundation puts its vision into action is by working closely with community partners to bring the firm’s expertise in design to grassroots projects and initiatives through its community design grant program. One project that has come out of this program has been the G|Code House in Roxbury, Massachusetts, which provides a living/ learning environment for young women of color to learn how to code and pursue careers in tech. The Foundation also supports the SEED Program (Summer Exploratory Experience in Design) which is a paid internship program for high school students in underrepresented communities to learn about the field of design. In the past, SEED students have helped to design pop-up voting places and mobile classrooms. The idea is to expand awareness of the design profession as a career choice to more people of color, thereby helping to expand the pipeline of talent for a stubbornly homogenous design industry. We also engage with middle school kids through a design mentorship program also run by the Foundation. I am excited to see these programs grow at the Foundation, and for the firm to take on similarly impactful efforts going forward. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. JM: With everything that has been going on over the past year, the biggest lesson learned is that it is essential for leaders to engage others in managing change. One example has been our upcoming office move – we’ve been in the same location just outside of Boston since the firm was
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THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
O P I N I O N
Anyone who touches other people’s lives, whether personally, professionally, or in their communities, can choose to make a positive impact. What impact are you making?
W hat impact are you making? This is a question I’ve asked myself many times, and I think it’s one that we can all benefit from asking from time to time. Most of us who live in the first world societies of constant motion can all say we have a lot to do. We’re all busy. We’re tied for first on that one. But how much of what we do with our time positively impacts the people around us in our workplace, our families, and our communities? Let’s pause our busy lives for a moment and notice the impact we’re having or not having on those around us.
People who make a difference don’t all have to be privileged, advantaged, or special in any way, or even living or working in a special circumstance. Sure, the researchers who developed the COVID-19 vaccines are making an enormous impact on society – and we need those people and are grateful for them – but anyone who touches other lives, whether personally, professionally, or in their communities, can choose to make a positive impact. Many of us spend most of our time working, so let’s start there. Maybe your organization has a meaningful mission that makes you to want to get up in the morning. For example, at BSA LifeStructures, our mission is “to create inspired solutions that improve lives.” For the majority of
our stakeholders, that is a meaningful mission and something worth doing. It is “why” we do what we do, and many of us who work at BSA feel a sense of satisfaction from the positive impact that our organization has on patients, students, and others. But if you break that down to a human scale, what is each person at BSA doing to impact that mission? What are you doing to impact the mission of your organization? If we just go to work every day (or stay at home and “go to work” like many of us have been doing) and fulfill our job descriptions, maybe that’s not enough to be truly impactful. Instead, we should be asking ourselves if we can fulfill our duties in
See KEVIN TOKEN, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY’STRANSPORTATIONPRACTICEGROWS; WELCOMES STEVEN MARBURY Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Steven Marbury, EIT, has joined the firm’s transportation practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Marbury has been hired as a staff engineer, supporting the firm’s transportation practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina. His background includes stormwater system designs for roadway projects across Georgia. Marbury earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from
Kennesaw State University (2015) and is a member the American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. “Steven brings valuable skills and experience to our transportation team,” says Dewberry Senior Associate and Department Manager Carl Gibilaro, PE. “With unique specialties in stormwater design, his contributions will allow us to better serve our clients, including the Georgia Department of Transportation and municipalities, as they seek to keep up with the region’s growth.” Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with
a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.
KEVIN TOKEN, from page 9
same. This concept is somewhat selfish because if you help someone do something you learned to do, it allows you the time to go on to other things. But in the end, it really is a positive impact on someone else and can be a huge benefit to customers. One of our senior engineers (Seth, for the sake of argument) has held a significant healthcare client’s confidence for a very long time. During his time with that client, he has helped build great confidence and trust in himself and the firm. In the last few years, Seth has identified his successor with this client. The young engineer he identified (Roberta, for the sake of argument) and the client have both been informed that this young engineer is, in a defined time period, going to be the engineer the client relies on going forward. Roberta is working with Seth on projects, getting to know the client, and getting training on all the various engineering areas where she will need to be knowledgeable. The impact this transition will have on Seth and Roberta is immeasurable as Seth gets to go on to other things, and Roberta gets to grow with the customer. And the customer benefits, too, because Seth won’t go away entirely until everyone agrees that Roberta is ready. And in the meantime, multiple points of view impact the solutions developed for the customer. 4)Recognizing that something can be better. Another negative result of our “busyness” is the fact that we tend to do things the way they’ve been done because we don’t want to take the time to change it for the better. But someone who wants to make an impact can look at things differently. By recognizing that a process or a situation could be improved and then taking action to improve it, the impactful person has potentially improved things for many others and for an extended period. Recently, one of our principals mentioned to a client that the process of developing a project could be made more efficient by using a different piece of software. The client agreed to try the new software but didn’t know how to use it. Our principal arranged training sessions for multiple people on the client’s side. As a result, the project should be more efficient, more accurate, and the trained people have a new skill that they can use in other instances. As we start to hit the play button and continue with our busy lives, I ask you again, what impact are you making? Take notice of the impact you are having on those around you and compliment those who choose to make a positive impact on you. KEVIN TOKEN is chairman and CEO at BSA LifeStructures. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
such a way that makes life better for those around us or for the customers we serve. I’ve observed many ways that people positively impact other people or organizations, and in this article, I’ll identify four of those many ways. 1)Attitude. We all choose the attitude that we bring to each day or situation. People who make a positive impact have chosen to have an energetic, upbeat, helpful, and “can-do” attitude. In my company, we are fortunate to have multiple administrative people who never say no, who seem to have boundless energy and capacity, and who are willing to do anything for anybody. Each of them brings up new ideas and offers help instead of waiting for someone to ask. I can’t speak for everyone else, but they have impacted my life by making me more productive and happier in my job. Seeing a bright smile and knowing that if I ask for something, it will get done with joy, quickly, and correctly makes my life better. And it’s infectious. If I interact with a positive person, then I’m in a better mood, and I can more easily be positive with someone else. Think about the impact we can have on a customer or a peer just by coming to the game with the right attitude. “We should be asking ourselves if we can fulfill our duties in such a way that makes life better for those around us or for the customers we serve.” 2)Knowledge share. Even the least experienced of us have learned something that would help others be more effective. It’s easy to “get busy” and decide that it’s easier and quicker to do something ourselves than to teach someone else to do it. But if we take the time to teach, it will positively impact others. And as a side benefit, we’ve now empowered someone else who could help us get things done in the future. In our planning group, one of our senior planners has recognized the need to share knowledge and organize a class that meets periodically to share some of the principles he’s learned over the years related to healthcare planning and programming. Those people and the clients they serve will all be positively impacted by this one selfless act. Iron sharpens iron, after all. 3)Promotion of others. As we accomplish our own goals and rise up through our career ladders, it’s important to remember to turn around and help someone else do the
© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
F R O M T H E F O U N D E R
Watching your baby grow up
A s parents, our goal is to raise children who are completely independent and able to stand on their own. As business owners, our goal should be much the same. Seeing the firm you started or used to run be successful when you’re gone is one of the greatest accomplishments you can hope for.
Most owners of AEC firms (again – I define the “C” as consulting for the purposes of this article) are wired that way, although I can’t say all are. I did have one famous “starchitect” tell me some years ago that he didn’t care if his firm survived once he was gone. He said he wasn’t sure he wanted any buildings with his name on them that he hadn’t personally designed. But thankfully, he is an anomaly. Most people aren’t like that. For most of us, seeing the firms we started or used to run be successful when we are gone is one of the greatest accomplishments we can hope for. So what does it take to actually make that happen? Here are some of my observations and experiences: 1)You have to be able to separate yourself and your own identity from the business. This is never easy. It helps to have a strong family and other interests. If you are a workaholic and your
entire purpose in life is running your business, you – and your business – will probably have problems getting out of it. This is fundamental. Work on your workaholicism as a first step! 2)You need to be able to recruit and retain good people. Without good people, your “baby” will not thrive on its own. To get really good people, you, as the top person in the business must be highly involved in recruiting yourself. You have to have a pay scheme that attracts and retains good people. It also helps to have a viable ownership transition plan that you can talk in specifics about – not generalities – with both new and existing employees. Getting other people to become owners in your business before you are gone is an important early step. 3)You need to learn how to delegate. There has been a lot written about delegation both here in The Zweig Letter and elsewhere, yet many design professionals really struggle with it. I can’t tell you how many
See MARK ZWEIG, page 12
THE ZWEIG LETTER JULY 19, 2021, ISSUE 1400
BUSINESS NEWS PIKES PEAK SUMMITVISITOR CENTER CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING The new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center, following three years of construction, celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, June 30. Colorado Governor Jared Polis joined Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Frank Beum from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service in commemorating the historic event on the summit of Pikes Peak, a National Historic Landmark. At 14,115 feet above sea level, it is the highest altitude visitor center in the world. “The City of Colorado Springs and many other stakeholders have long been committed to the task of building a new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center that is truly worthy of the majesty and magnificence of Pikes Peak and the luster of its history,” said Suthers in his ceremonial address. “We now have a visitor center that William Palmer, Spencer Penrose and the generations of Pikes Peak advocates who have come before us would be proud of. Today we commence a new era in the history of Pikes Peak and of Colorado Springs.” The celebration also recognized the reopening of The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which has taken visitors to the summit of Pikes Peak since 1891. The Cog, America’s highest railway, reopened in May 2021 after a three-year, $100 million rebuild. Visitors can experience breathtaking views on a new elevated pathway and overlook designed to help protect the summit’s fragile tundra, digitally interactive displays, plus
retail and fresh menu options, including the famous high-altitude donut recipe used since 1916. The new visitor center is sited to withstand the extreme environmental conditions of the summit. Nestled into the mountain, exposure to winds that can exceed 230 miles per hour is minimized, while the mass of the building provides sheltered outdoor areas to enjoy the views. The new building was designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement. It also strives to achieve the Living Building ChallengeSM (LBC), a two-year certification process, as a highly sustainable, net-zero energy building. Currently, no other buildings in Colorado are fully LBC certified. The entire site was also designed to meet the latest Americans with Disabilities Act standards. It was constructed by GE Johnson (Colorado Springs) and designed by GWWO Architects (Baltimore, Maryland) in collaboration with RTA Architects (Colorado Springs) as architect of record. The visitor center and 19-mile highway is operated by Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain (PPAM), an enterprise of the City of Colorado Springs, through a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. The total project cost is an estimated $65 million, funded in part by revenue bonds and reserves from PPAM, which generates revenue through highway toll fees and concession sales. The new visitor center is part of the 38,000-square-foot Pikes
Peak Summit Complex, which also houses a Colorado Springs Utilities communications facility and the U.S. Army’s High Altitude Research Laboratory. “I am proud to say that the Pikes Peak Summit Complex embodies the USDA Forest Service goals of harmonizing the environment, restoring natural resources and incorporating the cultural values of our Native American Tribal communities,” said Beum, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region regional forester. “Visitors worldwide can now enjoy this beacon of American history in a new and wonderful way.” The new building replaces the Summit House, which had operated since 1964. The very first summit house was constructed in 1873, and an original wall from that structure has been preserved on the summit. It had welcomed guests like Katharine Lee Bates who authored “America the Beautiful” following her visit to the summit in 1893. GWWO Architects is an award-winning, story- based architectural design firm specializing in cultural and educational facilities. For more than 45 years RTA Architects has created award-winning architectural and interior designs for the Colorado built environment, specializing in healthcare, education, retail, and commercial properties, delivering beautiful functional environments that serve the unique needs of their owners and occupants.
names – they modify them post-founder departure or in preparation for the founder’s departure. You have to be really careful here that you don’t lose your identity as a company or any brand equity if you do this. I say proceed with caution on this one! Founders and CEOs, I don’t want to minimize the difficulty of doing this. I know it is really hard to ease out of something that has been such a big part of your life and identity. But think how great it will be to see that business growing and thriving without you! I can tell you from personal experience it is incredibly gratifying. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at email@example.com. “I know it is really hard to ease out of something that has been such a big part of your life and identity. But think how great it will be to see that business growing and thriving without you! I can tell you from personal experience it is incredibly gratifying.”
MARK ZWEIG, from page 11
times I have heard from leaders in this industry that they want to delegate, but no one is as good as they are at “X.” I always tell these people that they have to get past that. Sure, no one will be as good as you are at something you have done for years at FIRST . But they may actually be better than you after a little while. 4)You need to document and codify your systems and processes. Whatever it is you use to run your business needs to be fully defined and described and shared with everyone. And it should be followed or changed if you aren’t following it. You cannot have it all in your head but not known to anyone else. This is super critical to your ability to step away and have the business still thrive. 5)You have to create a brand and promote the other people there to your client base and what they are doing long before you exit. This will get your market thinking the business is not all about you. And if that brand is strong, the business will have a lot of inertia that will help them overcome the loss of your involvement at some point. This is really important and cannot be started soon enough! 6)You may want to consider a company name change or perhaps a name modification. Again, you don’t want the perception that the business is all about you. This is how many companies end up with the bland “alphabet soup”
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