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T R E N D L I N E S A p r i l 2 0 , 2 0 2 0 , I s s u e 1 3 4 1 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Principals’ career goals

Now could be the perfect time to give yourself and the workings of your firm some much needed attention. An opportunity to focus on you

E nough about COVID-19. It’s time to talk about what’s next – how can we emerge from this better and stronger? Right up until March we heard the same things from managers and leaders in AEC firms: everyone was extremely busy, having difficulty focusing on strategic plans, experiencing various operational issues but had no time to fix them, didn’t have enough focus on long- term business development. Does this sound familiar? Suddenly we’re 40 days later and the picture has changed for many. Depending on your situation, now could be the perfect time to give yourself and the workings of your firm some much needed attention. Our research shows, and the stories confirm, many of you have been so busy with projects and clients you have not spent enough time on addressing poor performance, operational issues, planning for the future, or even taking proper care of yourself and your exit strategy. If you are afforded any extra capacity during this time, here are some great ways to focus on you and your firm: ❚ ❚ Spend some time painting (the bigger picture). Now is a great time to open up the hood of your firm and look inside. Ask yourself what’s working and what’s not? Get to work defining a bigger and more resilient future for your firm. Now more than ever, employees need a vision of what tomorrow could look like and where their firm is going. Brush off your strategic plan and consider how your current situation changes things, both now and in the future. A good strategic plan includes feedback from employees and clients. Now is a great time to capture this valuable data while many are working from the privacy of their homes. This process will also keep staff and clients engaged with your business. An updated strategic plan will give your firm a competitive advantage as it considers the hurdles ahead as well as the resulting new opportunities in the market. Painting a positive and clear picture of the future has never been more important. ❚ ❚ Spend some time growing – personally and professionally. Everyone can benefit from having a good friend or advisor to help coach them. Pick up the phone and talk to these people about yourself and the business. Now might be a good time to engage a professional executive coach, but if you do, get one who understands this industry. They can work one-on-one with you or your team to help improve performance and increase motivation. Working from home is a great opportunity to have these conversations in the privacy of your home. For the past two years, the number one benefit desired by individuals working in the AEC industry was training and career development – coronavirus does not change this. It is important to keep your people engaged and their career development on track. For those working from home, online group training is a great way to virtually gather your staff together and keep your culture strong while fostering development. This is especially important now as people are isolated and not getting the “daily shot” of culture in an office environment.

In Zweig Group’s 2020 Principals, Partners & Owners Report of AEC Firms , we asked principals about their personal career goals and whether these goals had been exceeded , met , or not met at this stage in their career. When split up by specific job title, there’s a clear trend that appears as presidents and CEOs were more likely to say their goals had been exceeded while associates or managers were more likely to say their goals had not been met just yet. While goals may not be all about title, it’s noteworthy to see the aspirations of those at the bottom of the corporate ladder wanting to start that climb.

Chad Clinehens

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F I R M I N D E X Dwyer Engineering................................12 Freese and Nichols, Inc...........................2 Ramtech Building Systems. ....................4 Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani..............12 Woodblock Architecture..........................6 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MARK ZWEIG: Motivation Monday Page 3 xz Striving for excellence: Brian Peters Page 6 xz PETER ATHERTON: Preventing burnout during a pandemic Page 9 xz MATT DWYER: Applicant screening assessments Page 11




ON THE MOVE FREESE AND NICHOLS PROMOTES THREE FACILITIES SERVICES LEADERS Three leaders in facilities services for Freese and Nichols, Inc. , have taken on new roles for 2020: ❚ ❚ Vimal Nair, P.E., LEED AP BD+C, has been promoted to assistant division manager for facilities. ❚ ❚ Wade Zemlock, P.E., is electrical group manager. ❚ ❚ Adam Young, P.E., CEM, LEED AP, is group manager for mechanical and plumbing. The changes reinforce the firm’s dedication to focused and customized client service on facilities work. Freese and Nichols’ facilities practice encompasses architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing services, along with multidiscipline projects for federal and state agencies, municipal, county and local governments, higher education institutions and private companies. “All three of these proven leaders have the technical expertise and track record of excellent client service that will help us continue developing sustainable solutions that provide both energy and cost savings,” said Kevin Johnson, a North Texas division manager for Freese and Nichols. Nair is a Freese and Nichols principal who focuses on helping cities, higher education systems, and military clients develop sustainable and resilient solutions for new and rehabilitated facilities. His expertise includes comprehensive utility audits and system assessments that help drive energy savings and reductions in operations and maintenance costs. He received

his master’s degree in industrial engineering from Lamar University and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Shivaji University. Zemlock is a Freese and Nichols Associate and senior electrical engineer who has provided electrical engineering services for a range of projects for municipal and higher education facilities, pump stations and treatment plants. He is TxDOT pre-certified in illumination and experienced in electrical system design, including SCADA systems and medium-voltage distribution systems. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University. Young is licensed as both a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer. He is the senior technical professional for Freese and Nichols’ mechanical and plumbing disciplines and a Certified Energy Manager, skilled in maximizing buildings’ energy efficiency. He has broad experience in project management and mechanical/electrical/plumbing planning and design for educational, municipal, commercial and retail projects. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Kansas State University. Freese and Nichols, Inc. is a professional consulting firm serving clients across the Southeast and Southwest United States. With sustainability in mind, Freese and Nichols plans, designs, and manages infrastructure and facilities projects. It is the first engineering/ architecture firm to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

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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

CHAD CLINEHENS, from page 1 Our company is doing a “Virtual Happy Hour” each Friday which has been a great way to stay in touch and keep everyone on the same page. Our M&A team is doing a weekly book club, currently discussing a chapter a week of George Christodoulo’s A Guide to Mergers & Acquisitions . Gather your people together virtually for more than just work meetings. They need it! As with every crisis or disaster in history, people are coming out of the woodwork offering an “elixir” for this time. Try to minimize the distraction of the COVID webinars, endless conference call roundtables, and constantly changing projections in the news. Spend real time on you, and use this time of altered work structure to accomplish extraordinary things. Just coming off the Easter holiday, I’d like to offer you an “Easter egg” – if you call me at 501.551.2659 and share how your business is doing and how you are going to focus on yourself, I’ll send you a copy of George Christodoulo’s A Guide to Mergers & Acquisitions or our Guide to Ownership & Succession Planning , free of charge. Both are great books to help you define a future for yourself and your company. Now is the perfect time to work on yourself and give others in your firm the gift of resources and attention focused on them. Maybe we will make these Easter eggs a year-round thing! CHAD CLINEHENS is Zweig Group’s president and CEO. Contact him at

Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560

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.

A MESSAGE FROM ZWEIG GROUP’S PRINCIPALS Click here (or visit to view a message from Zweig Group’s principals, Chad Clinehens and Jamie Claire Kiser.

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Motivation Monday

I f you follow any of the popular business social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Facebook, you’ll see lots of people posting about #motivation and #motivationmonday. It seems everyone is either an expert on motivation or someone who needs motivating. “Satisfaction with the status quo leads to complacency. Complacency is the enemy of motivation.”

articles like this have achieved a certain amount of material success. We are likely employed, either in a business of our creation, or in a good, clean white collar job in a successful enterprise or institution where we earn an above-average income. We have nice houses or apartments to live in with unlimited clean running water and good heat and air conditioning that works instantly. We may even have house cleaners that come in every “Motivation comes from dissatisfaction with your current state. If you aren’t dissatisfied in some way, you won’t be motivated to do anything differently.”

Mark Zweig

Motivation comes from dissatisfaction with your current state. If you aren’t dissatisfied in some way, you won’t be motivated to do anything differently. It’s like being diagnosed with high cholesterol. Human nature being what it is, most people don’t change their diet for fear of the future diagnosis. They change it because of the current diagnosis. In other words, only when the problem is right there do they get the motivation to do something about it. Human beings clearly aren’t very good at looking down the road at what problems COULD develop. We tend to only deal with the stuff that is right there in front of us now. The problem is that the motivation to do something different may come too late to really create a different circumstance and solve the problem. Most of us who are sitting around reading

See MARK ZWEIG, page 4



BUSINESS NEWS RAMTECH WINS BEST OF SHOW AND TWO AWARDS OF DISTINCTION AT THE MODULAR BUILDING INSTITUTE’S 2020 WORLD OF MODULAR CONVENTION Design-build commercial modular construction firm Ramtech Building Systems of Mansfield, Texas, announced that the company received their first Best of Show award and two Awards of Distinction at the Modular Building Institute’s 2020 World of Modular annual convention and trade show. Ramtech received the Best of Show award and an Award of Distinction in the Relocatable Office category for a modular office building that the company manufactured and installed at the Fort Hood, Texas, operations center of Dominion Energy. The design-build project was a joint venture between Ramtech and Wilmot Modular Structures of White Marsh, Maryland. The project design criteria required high end finishes, sustainable materials, energy saving practices, and the ability to relocate and expand the building in the future. “Winning the Best of Show award from our peers in the commercial modular industry is an honor,” said Matt Slataper, president of Ramtech. “It’s a testimony to the dedication of our people and the collaborative team approach that we bring to every project we do.”

The second Award of Distinction was in the Permanent Special Application category for a 1,080 square foot in-plant employee breakroom, developed for Martin Marietta at the company’s Midlothian (Texas) cement plant. The facility was constructed using traditional modular construction with atypical 10-foot- wide modules in order to fit within an area surrounded by the extensive piping and rigging of one of the cement plant’s kilns. The project required a small on-site construction footprint to minimize the impact on Martin Marietta’s existing operations. Because most of the interior and exterior finishes and the mechanical and electrical work were done in Ramtech’s manufacturing plant, the facility was installed on a weekend and finished out in under two weeks. The 2020 Modular Building Institute Awards of Distinction program included hundreds of entries in categories for relocatable, permanent, and renovated modular buildings, as well as for marketing and promotional pieces. The Awards of Distinction competition includes more than 30 categories for relocatable and permanent modular buildings, and facilities that were renovated for reuse. MBI member companies may submit entries that are reviewed by an impartial panel of

industry and non-industry construction and code experts, architects, and engineers for architectural excellence, technical innovation, sustainability, cost effectiveness, energy efficiency, and calendar days to complete. Since 1982 Ramtech Building Systems has been providing innovative relocatable modular buildings and two types of permanent modular construction for commercial companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and healthcare providers throughout the Southern United States. As a vertically integrated design-build construction company, Ramtech provides full in-house design, a manufacturer direct product, and complete site construction services all within a single-source solution. Ramtech can offer facilities built using permanent modular construction on both a pier and beam or concrete slab foundation. Both options combine the best of off-site manufacturing and on-site construction techniques to produce a building faster and with less cost, but identical in the look, functionality, and life expectancy of a completely site-built structure. By emphasizing a value engineering approach, Ramtech has successfully completed more than 4,000 diverse projects of all sizes.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 3

fat, dumb, and happy, there are plenty of things to worry about. That means there should also be plenty of reasons to motivate you to do things differently, because everything in your life could quickly change and things may not be so great. ❚ ❚ Stop thinking so much about yourself and start thinking about other people. You may be looking at the world through the proverbial “rose colored glasses.” Even if you aren’t actually worried about your own situation, what about the other people who aren’t so fortunate? How can you help them? What problems do they have that you could help solve? This should be motivational to you because there is certainly no shortage of problems in the world that could use the attention of someone who is calm, wise, and capable, such as yourself. It may also lead to a greater satisfaction with your life. ❚ ❚ Decide you want to change the world and set some new goals to do the impossible. How large can your firm grow? What kinds of projects could you do and what problems could you solve if you had more experts on your staff? What goals can you set for yourself or your business that are big and audacious? Start working on these big things and see if you don’t find your progress motivational. My bet is you will. Satisfaction with the status quo leads to complacency. Complacency is the enemy of motivation. Don’t waste your precious time by getting too comfortable. Go out and change the world. If not for yourself, do it for the others who haven’t yet gotten to where you are in life. My guess is you will be more motivated – and ultimately, happier. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

week to pick up after us and keep our homes up for us. We have nice reliable vehicles to take us anywhere we want to go. We have good, comfortable clothes that fit right and are clean. And so on. “Human beings clearly aren’t very good at looking down the road at what problems could develop. We tend to only deal with the stuff that is right there in front of us now. The problem is that the motivation to do something different may come too late to really create a different circumstance and solve the problem.” So the question is, how can we get ourselves motivated to act differently and do what we should for our long-term interests even though we aren’t really dissatisfied with our current state? Here are my thoughts – and while not profound, I’d guess they won’t all be what you expect them to be: ❚ ❚ Create a self-induced state of fear. It shouldn’t be that hard to do. Turn on the news and watch it all day. Coronavirus fears. Stock market volatility. Environmental problems. Political polarization. Health insurance woes or a lack of it. Cancer. War. I could go on. But the point is, even if you are

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Work From Home Learning Opportunities




OVERVIEW: The way we work, do business, and interact is constantly evolving and changing. Leaders are the first we look to when we need to adopt a change or under- stand how change affects us personally. You and your team must understand how to lead and adapt to an ever-changing environment.


OVERVIEW: Solid financial management is crucial to the success of any company, and firms in the AEC industry are no exception. This short course provides an overview of business financial management – specifically tailored to our industry – to help firm leaders make informed decisions that drive results.


OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s research shows that recruiting and retention are the #1 chal- lenges AEC firms have faced in the last few years. This webinar discusses current data from exclusive industry survey results that can be used to effectively develop your firm’s recruitment and retention strategy in any type of job market. UNDERSTANDING KEY FINANCIAL STATISTICS IN THE AEC INDUSTRY WEBINAR PRICE: $39 OVERVIEW: This webinar highlights several key financial statistics, how they are calcu- lated, and what the industry trends for each measure look like over the last five years. Learn how to compare your firm’s performance against industry norms, comparable firms, and specific performance categories. THE ZWEIG LETTER PODCAST LEARN MORE

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Striving for excellence: Brian Peters Managing principal of Woodblock Architecture (Portland, OR), a firm that sees each new project as an opportunity to create something awesome and build new relationships.


W oodblock Architecture was founded by four friends who share a passion for design and a good sense of humor. Peters said they had a simple goal to create a firm that’s about putting people first. “From our clients and partners to coworkers, when you love who you work with, the work is simply a labor of love,” Peters says. A CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN PETERS. The Zweig Letter: How has COVID-19 affected your business on a daily basis? Brian Peters: Communication is taking quite a bit longer, though we have seen next to no decrease in work to date. That may change as this drags on, but new projects are still coming in the door.

performance indicators that you watch most carefully? Do you share that information with your staff?

BP: We watch: 1) Balance sheet 2) Break-even number 3) Previous month’s revenue

We share with staff wins and losses of projects, workload projections and planned needs for more staffing. Specifics about business performance is not shared with staff. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” BP: Personally, I split 25/75 (project versus overhead), but other partners split closer to 70/30. It’s all about a balance of operating the business and providing great service alongside the product.

TZL: What are the three to four key business



TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? BP: Family is integral to my career as they are one of the driving forces in striving for excellence. The better I can do in the professional portion of my life, the more stability I can give to my family. Given that my partners and I started our own firm, we have been able to closely tie our families to the business. There is overlap and much of our outside of office gatherings include our significant others and children. It’s also the driving force for allowing our staff and ourselves a healthy and flexible work-life balance. “We feel that we win the talent war when we act quickly and mindfully. Honesty is a hallmark of our culture and we believe that is a differentiator.” TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in

TZL: When you identify a part of your business that is not pulling its weight in terms of profitability or alignment with the firm’s mission, what steps do you take, and what’s the timeline, to address the issue while minimizing impacts to the rest of the company? BP: We recognize it, track it, and come up with a plan to replace the detrimental revenue stream. Every instance is unique and that accounts for specific steps and timelines. Every effort is made to minimize the impact on the company but awareness is the best way to counteract. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. BP: The impacts on projects and contracts is a hot topic for us in regards to change management. The key is the management of additional services that correspond with managing changes and therefore the communication of implications with the client. TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? BP: We valuate the firm annually, using in-house staff to monitor revenue, P and L, and balance sheet. “We reward all growth and improvement and try to be out in front of employee needs. Tenured or new, we make an effort to value everyone equally.” TZL: Are you seeking some kind of financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis? If so, what type? BP: We will file for the SBA loan to cover payroll with the uncertainty of the market and future of the industry. TZL: What financial metrics do you monitor to gauge the health of your firm? BP: Aside from the yearly valuation we used almost daily the P&L, balance sheet, and monthly billings versus monthly budgets. We track the accuracy of our



❚ ❚ Planning

❚ ❚ Architecture

❚ ❚ Interiors MARKETS: ❚ ❚ Grocery

❚ ❚ Retail

development have increased. BP: We reward all growth and

❚ ❚ Commercial

improvement and try to be out in front of employee needs. Tenured or new, we make an effort to value everyone equally. Honest communication and transparency probably help the most. We are all humans and make mistakes but by owning them, as well as actively listening to staff concerns can take the place of solely relying on monetary benefits. TZL: What novel approaches are you bringing to recruitment, and how are your brand and differentiators performing in the talent wars? BP: We strive to highlight a great public persona with our digital presence and branded swag. We feel that we win the talent war when we act quickly and mindfully. Honesty is a hallmark of our culture and we believe that is a differentiator. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? BP: We went from “not allowed” to the entire company doing it over the course of one day.

❚ ❚ Multifamily

❚ ❚ Hospitality

❚ ❚ Residential

❚ ❚ Food service WHAT’S ON TAP? Woodblock staff believes that each new project is more than a building, it’s an opportunity to create something awesome, build new relationships and come together for a local brew. WHO IS WOODBLOCK? They’re self- described as an architecture firm with a passion for design, meeting good people and eating everything in sight.


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RIL 20, 2020, ISSUE 1341



forecasting against the backlog of work in the pipeline which is also helpful. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? BP: We hope to ensure a smooth transition by taking our time and planning ahead. Hopefully, it can be a 10-20- year transition. We are also keeping our options open to a multitude of transition models to allow for future flexibility. TZL: What unique or innovative pricing strategies have you developed, or are you developing, to combat the commoditization of engineering services? BP: We do not have direct pricing strategies; however, we value professional relationships that work and will continue to develop those relationships as they are more important than a quick dollar immediately. Reducing the commoditization of the profession is more important than an innovative pricing strategy. TZL: How are you staying in touch with your clients during the COVID-19 pandemic? BP: Email, phone calls, and virtual meetings have all combined to keep us in touch. “We strive to build a business that doesn’t require a high utilization rate to succeed. We sacrifice some profit for growth, education, and on the development of new hires. It’s a balancing act but leaving money on the table and having happy people is more important than a decimal point percent.” TZL: You want high utilization for profitability, but that means employees are fully loaded with assignments. How do you balance growth, utilization, new clients, and new hires? BP: We strive to build a business that doesn’t require a high utilization rate to succeed. We sacrifice some profit for growth, education, and on the development of new hires. It’s a balancing act but leaving money on the table and having happy people is more important than a decimal point percent. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? BP: Ironclad proposals are difficult. We will no longer do additional work for a client without an Add Serve.

Woodblock Architecture staff celebrating the holidays.

Retainers are a great safety net when working with a new client you have no history with. 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? BP: We ask our project managers what they need to accomplish their goals and the tasks that we ask of them weekly. We also hope to create an atmosphere where employees can participate in the management of how much work they have on their plate and be open about when they need help and how that can be accommodated. TZL: What measures are you taking to protect your employees during the COVID-19 crisis? BP: No human contact required for business. Everything will be done virtually or electronically. 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? BP: We do not have any principals in their 20s or 30s. We have four principals, each with 15-20 years of experience. We do not see this profession as being a good model for employees to gain the knowledge necessary for this level of job demands in that short of time. That being said, years of experience is not a direct link to capabilities as people are very different in their individual abilities and should be judged on that alone.

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T here’s currently a “new normal” that is helping accelerate the wide-spread acceptance of the “new era,” both of which work in contrast to past practices. The burden to effectively adapt rests on leaders and leadership teams – and time is of the essence. Burnout prevention is the key to healthy, growing, and resilient organizations, especially now. Preventing burnout during a pandemic

THE HURDLES. Before COVID-19, several elements were holding organizations back, including: ❚ ❚ Leadership and management teams that were too busy and consumed by work and work-related demands, resulting in growing levels of burnout and lower levels of employee engagement. ❚ ❚ Too great a focus on client success versus both client and employee success. ❚ ❚ Too much attention on the “urgent” of the day versus the “important” of the future. “Time is of the essence. What was at stake before in terms of organizational health, growth, and resiliency is on the line now.”

Peter Atherton

At issue for many is the fact that new demands and stresses have been placed on old ones, putting leaders, leadership teams, and organizations at risk. In order to best ensure success moving forward, the first step is to make time during this period of change to take a fresh look at how we can become healthy, growing, and resilient. THE GOAL. At any time, having a healthy, growing, and resilient organization allows us to: ❚ ❚ Realize our mission and make a difference. ❚ ❚ Create value for all those we serve. ❚ ❚ Increase prosperity for ourselves, our employees, families, communities, and beyond. ❚ ❚ Attract and retain ideal employees and clients to help grow and sustain our success.




PETER ATHERTON, from page 9

❚ ❚ A common language and structured process to work through and successfully implement needed team and organizational improvements. ❚ ❚ A “safe-zone” for leaders to be able to “put their own oxygen masks on first” and receive the information and encouragement necessary to lead their teams and organizations forward from a position of knowledge, perspective, and strength. “Employees are now experiencing work and life in whole new ways and there will be no going back to the way things were. To succeed moving forward, leaders and organizations will need to establish a new covenant with their teams and employees.” The value proposition for successfully moving forward and preventing burnout now: ❚ ❚ As individuals – the opportunity to build critical personal, professional, and organizational leadership capacity during this clearly defined period of change. ❚ ❚ As leadership teams – the opportunity to leverage new ideas and perspectives to differentiate in the workplace, marketplace, and recruiting space. ❚ ❚ As organizations – the opportunity to have better tools and processes to achieve the goals of a healthy, growing, and resilient organization presented at the top of this article. As a practitioner, I have lived through both acute stresses and chronic demands. There is a positive and productive path that leads away from overwhelm and burnout and toward greater engagement and growth. To better equip you and your team to take action along that path, you can access these free resources: ❚ ❚ Audio and PDF downloads with complete chapters of “Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners” that define and walk you through the Burnout- Disengagement Cycle. ❚ ❚ A 12-question quiz to help determine whether you or your team are merely feeling overwhelmed or are perhaps burning out. There’s a big difference between the two and, along with your results, you will receive two special reports designed to help you take control and begin to resolve overwhelm and reverse burnout. PETER ATHERTON, P.E. is an AEC industry insider having spent more than 24 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms. Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners , and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete is also the host of The AEC Leadership Today Podcast and leads The AEC Leadership Mastermind. Pete works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through better strategic planning, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him at

❚ ❚ A limited appreciation for the genesis and the daily impact of organizational culture. The ideal means to move organizations forward was leadership capacity development as, the fact is: ❚ ❚ “Leadership is everything” when it comes to organizational success. ❚ ❚ Leadership in the “new era” has evolved beyond just business strategy to also include culture, diversity, innovation, and sustainability. ❚ ❚ Leaders need to continuously “feed” others, but rarely “get fed” themselves. What has changed now with COVID-19? ❚ ❚ For most organizations, there is a temporary suppression of a number of work activities in the name of employee and public health and safety. ❚ ❚ New acute demands and stresses placed on leaders and leadership teams as they respond to the crisis and ensure safety and survival in the “new normal” (this is on top of the chronic pressures and stresses put on by the work demands and growth leading up to the crisis). ❚ ❚ Work forever – specifically in terms of needing to better accommodate remote working and the associated need to improve workflow management, communication, talent development, and the ability to lead from afar. What has not changed with COVID-19? ❚ ❚ In order to have healthy, growing, and resilient organizations we need to have healthy, growing, and resilient leaders. ❚ ❚ Large backlogs of work and the likelihood of having “more work than people” once we safely proceed past the crisis. ❚ ❚ The presence of burnout and disengagement throughout organizations, particularly among principals and managers as a result of chronic (and now more acute) work overload and associated personal and work-related frustrations that are most often not fully understood or appreciated (see image below).

What is needed to successfully move forward? ❚ ❚ A new level of awareness and understanding of how the “new era” of business, work, and life must be reconciled with past practices and then integrated with the “new normal” imposed by COVID-19.

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A s president of a small, multi-discipline engineering firm, I’m responsible for multiple tasks and, like many other firms, hiring is one of the most critical and difficult tasks on my plate. Finding and hiring good engineers is critically important, but difficult to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help or use assessment tools to help you along the way. Applicant screening assessments

For years, Virginia Tech allowed us to send mass emails to their seniors segmented by department. This made it possible to quickly identify new engineers. Recently, VT switched to a multi-school job service which has a horrible filter system, but at least lets me download PDFs into one big combined file. I’ve learned to divide the file into separate pages and then let our system parse them and create applicants for our jobs. That said, getting an applicant list is the easy part. EFFECTIVE APPLICANT EVALUATION. The big challenge here is figuring out how to effectively and efficiently evaluate applicants. Will team members want to work with them? Can leaders count on them? Will clients be glad they are working on their projects? Are they going to be good employees or not? While the technical aspects of MEPR engineering

can be difficult, an engineer’s ability to listen, get work done, check their own work, and collaborate well can be the difference between success and failure. At first, we tried to judge these soft characteristics through an interview with the applicant, and by calling their references. However, we found the process time intensive and expensive. We provided overnight lodging and meals and spent a good part of a work day with them. We called references and asked questions such as, “What advice would you give me on how to manage this person, if hired?” After the time and expense, we just wanted to hire the person so we could get back to business as usual.

Matt Dwyer

See MATT DWYER, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS MID-ATLANTIC ENGINEERING FIRM REFRESHES ONLINE IDENTITY & LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani , a Mid- Atlantic engineering firm, announced an online brand refresh and unveiled a new website to reflect the organization’s wide range of engineering, architecture, construction, associated services, and core values. Founded in 1977 and with more than 40 years of rich history, the WBCM team of engineers, architects, landscape architects, surveyors, and LEED professionals has completed numerous projects for a diverse client base. WBCM’s mission is to build relationships with clients while committing to diversity, innovation, value and excellence in everything they do. With six offices throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, WBCM is most notably known for work in civil engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, and marine and industrial/process engineering.

“Over the years our organization has excelled well beyond what our online identity depicts. We invested considerable time searching for a marketing firm that aligned with our core values, and one with a proven track record. After meeting with CC&A Strategic Media we quickly realized their team could help us achieve our goals. Our new online identity reflects our values, showcases our projects, and allows our clients to fully understand who we are as an organization. It’s been a long process and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of this project,” said Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani President, Marco Legaluppi, PE. WBCM’s complement of more than 200 dedicated employees, over half of whom are licensed professionals including engineers, architects, landscape architects, surveyors, and LEED professionals, are committed to their mission of being a client-focused business that respects diversity, innovation, value, and excellence. The Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani Team has left its mark throughout the region, having completed the design, engineering,

and construction of projects exceeding $1 billion in construction value. “WBCM is a company dedicated to excellence. After our first interactions we quickly realized the level of expertise within their organization is unmatched. While working through the process of building a new online identity, we saw firsthand the extensive list of projects they’ve completed. It is extremely impressive to see how successful WBCM has been over the past 40 plus years, and I have no doubt that success will continue for many years to come,” said Stephen Taormino, CEO of CC&A Strategic Media. Founded in 1977, WBCM has grown from four partners to over 200 employees and produces annual billings in excess of $35 million, earning a place on the Engineering News-Record ’s list of Top 500 Design Firms. WBCM provides engineering and associated services for facilities, marine, industrial, and transportation design, design-build, design-bid-build, and public-private partnership projects.

MATT DWYER, from page 11

The structure job target is “medium.” People with medium structure typically like having the right answer, but they also want to make sure they understand the big picture. This candidate scored somewhat above the structure target. This means: ❚ ❚ The candidate may be more concerned with procedures and accuracy and a little less so with the overall outcomes than necessary. ❚ ❚ The candidate may become anxious if the expectations and/or rules change in a work situation . The report also includes an interview guide with suggested interview questions customized to each candidate. We never ask all Berke’s suggested interview questions, but the report is a good starting point for our interview process. At a recent management conference, other AEC leaders most mentioned that culture match was a critical issue for acquisition success. Since using Berke Assessments in the screening process, it’s occurred to me that they could also be used for mergers as well as hiring, even if you can’t do the follow-up interviews until afterward. Acquisitions are often expensive, so I was surprised to learn that due diligence did not include any type of testing for culture fit except for interviews, and informal meetings with firm leaders. I think it might be worthwhile to read existing staff assessments, as well, or do some additional tests without violating confidentiality. Finding and hiring good engineers is critically important to our success, and also difficult to accomplish. We are fortunate to have found a good assessment tool that helps us do just that. MATT DWYER is president of Dwyer Engineering. Contact him at

ENTER BERKE ASSESSMENTS. After some expensive mistakes, we started using a non-technical assessment by Berke Assessments which is designed to handle initial screenings. The one-hour, online assessment instantly generates a surprisingly-detailed description of the candidate with a green/yellow/red stoplight rating for likely success in our office, and provides questions to ask about any possible issues. To evaluate the test, I asked current employees to take the test, and then I read the test reports. Compared to other assessments we’ve tried, these were very accurate. Different jobs require different personalities. For example, someone who is overly optimistic may be good for sales, but engineers need to question their assumptions and not blithely assume everything will work out regardless. Seller- doers probably need to be in the middle of the optimism range to be successful. Berke compares the applicant to determine if they’re a good fit for your firm. The test benefits the applicant as much as it does the firm. The final summary from the assessment test is a simple green icon (or red or yellow depending on overall score):

If a candidate gets a green “high” rating, we conduct an interview to dig deeper and learn more. For example, one of our tested characteristics has to do with “structure” and how much the applicant likes it.

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