STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE, from page 7
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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THE ZWEIG LETTER APRIL 20, 2020, ISSUE 1341
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