TZL 1476 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

February 13, 2023, Issue 1476 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Ideal vs. real time management





Principals must plan for the future, mentor younger staff, and genuinely care for their people to be good stewards of their firms. Are you a good steward?




A ccording to, the definition of “stewardship” is the following: “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.” Merriam- Webster defines it as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Responsibility, management, care – all these words lead us to the conclusion that if we are to be good stewards, we have to fervently maintain something of value and importance. Let me ask principals: Are you truly being a good steward of your business? With 2022 behind us and the rest of 2023 on the horizon, it is critical to ask yourself this, and most importantly, address the truth objectively with humility and candor – no matter what the result may be. So, what does it mean for principals to be good stewards of their firms? 1. You need to have an ownership transition plan in place. One of the most important things a principal can do is create a comprehensive transition plan. As a principal, you have paved the way and created value for yourself and your firm throughout the years, but there comes a time when preparations must be made to ensure the firm outlives its founders/owners. This is a crucial responsibility, yet it can be difficult to prioritize because of all the time, effort, dedication, and passion that goes into design professionals’ work. However, you are able to distinguish between a good and not so good steward when the time comes to plan ownership transition – the earlier the better. The more ownership transition planning gets put off, the more painful and draining it becomes. Tasks such as carefully selecting the next tier of leadership, preparing the firm financially, introducing your clients to your new partners, etc. are all essential pieces of this emotional puzzle. A good steward thinks ahead and focuses on the positive, long-term effects that doing this work will have on their firm. Ultimately, this is one of the most essential things principals can do for their firm. After this plan is complete and in effect, I promise

FIRM INDEX Colliers Engineering & Design..................10 INVISION................................................................... 12 MKN.................................................................................4 SCJ Alliance............................................................10 The HFW Companies......................................12 ThinkForm Architects........................................6 MORE ARTICLES n JOSH NORD: Are we missing out Page 3 n Relentless persistence: Russell DiNardo Page 6 n ALEXIS EADES: Evening out the playing field Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Knowing what to change and what not to Page 11 In Zweig Group’s 2022 Principals, Partners & Owners Report of AEC Firms , firm leaders were asked how they spend their time, versus how they would like to spend their time at work. On average, leaders would like to spend more time on leadership, marketing, and business development activities than they get to, while spending less time on project management, design work, technical work, or firm management. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

Ezequiel Tovar




EZEQUIEL TOVAR, from page 1

you will be grateful you took the time to address it. If done with proper care and consideration, your firm will reap the rewards and so will you! 2. You should prioritize mentorship for the next generation. Mentorship is a sign of good stewardship. Why? Because it shows you’re actively willing to preserve your firm. Whether you take part in this before, after, or during your time as principal, it is something that will greatly help the individuals of your firm. With baby boomers and Gen X retiring, and taking their decades of knowledge and experience with them, millennials and Gen Z now represent the majority of the workforce. According to Zweig Group’s recently released 2023 Salary Report of AEC Firms , roughly 65 percent of the AEC industry is under the age of 45. Mentorship allows you to effectively transfer your knowledge and that of retiring employees and, in doing so, equip and better develop your younger talent. Do you want good or great talent? You decide. Take me for example: I graduated last spring, and I have been blessed to be the beneficiary of mentorship and am better for it. Many seasoned individuals have shaped me and given me a new perspective that I would not otherwise have had. This has saved me a lot of time and elevated my work. The purpose of mentorship is to ensure that knowledge transfer happens, through both experiences and work. Not only does this benefit the younger generation, but it helps the mentor. Why? Because you are giving back in a way you rarely have the opportunity to. Mentoring also reminds you of the beauty of your profession and how you are making an impact on upcoming generations. Why not take part in that? 3. You must be genuine. This is one of the pillars of being a good steward for your firm. Preparing an ownership transition plan and mentoring are dependent on this. The genuine care of your employees is what will lead your firm to be at its highest level. I am not talking about being genuinely unkind. But rather, demonstrating a thoughtful attentiveness and consideration toward your employees. Have you ever worked for insincere individuals? My fiancé was the office manager for one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world and dreaded going to work. Why? Because just like the food they made, they were artificial, and this ultimately drove an effective, hard working woman away. Nobody likes fake people. It is human instinct to pick up on who sincerely cares about you and who does not. Some firm owners like to pride themselves in offering exceptional service to their clients, but when it comes to their employees, that is a completely different story! When you are sincere to your people, they will take care of your clients. It is essential for principals to be an outstanding example of what it means to genuinely care. This is most certainly not the most detailed list of qualities of being a good steward, but these are the ones that have stood out to me the most in my early career. Zweig Group’s flagship training program, The Principals Academy, offers training catered specifically to principals. Learn more about how you can elevate your ability to lead and grow your firm here . Ezequiel Tovar is an analyst within Zweig Group’s ownership transition team. Contact him at

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Are we missing out?

As we continue improving work-life balance, we need to keep asking how we can foster those growth opportunities that come through listening and proximity.

W hen I walked into the office nearly 25 years ago for my first day on the job, I was excited, a little nervous, and anxious to start “engineering” everything I could get my hands on. Although I had interned for a public agency during college, and had a summer job throughout high school, I had no idea what to expect from a professional corporate setting. Turns out it was a bustling workspace, full of life, and much less sterile than I imagined. The reception area was relatively calm, but that quiet was punctuated by the sounds of phone calls, colleagues brainstorming in office doorways, and the copier cranking out specifications. I recall being introduced to at least a couple dozen folks, shown where to find staples and where to gather in case of an emergency, and eventually led to my cubicle to get settled.

Josh Nord, PE

I could only spend so much time fiddling with the computer, organizing pads of graph paper, trying to decipher the phone system, before I found myself sitting and wondering what I would do here for eight hours a day. The answer came a few minutes later when one of the senior engineers (no doubt tasked with keeping the new guy busy) popped by to say hello and invite me to his office to go over some assignments. He patiently explained how I was going to hand-color some maps for a crop survey, listened to my questions, and even took a little extra time to

explain how my work would fit into the big picture for that key client. I imagine he was amused by the copious notes I took before heading back to my desk to get started. Later that morning as I was up to my elbows in colored pencils (I remember thinking – am I getting paid to color?), one of the team’s CAD designers checked in on me. He reintroduced himself,

See JOSH NORD, page 4



wondered how those of us who have been around a few years (or decades) can foster a work environment that our younger professionals will someday look back on with fondness. I’ve mulled over how we can craft an environment that is both professional and familial and one in which we don’t miss out on the passive learning that comes from day-to-day interactions. In an increasingly digital world, our teams have spread out, remote work for many staff is a daily reality, and online meetings are the norm. In this environment, opportunities for passive learning have become scarce. It is difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to be a new graduate being interviewed online, being hired without ever visiting an office, going through digital onboarding, and starting work with a remote team from the silence of my couch. As we work to continue improving work-life balance for our teams, it would benefit us all to keep asking how we can foster those intangible growth opportunities that come through listening and proximity. We should consider how we can create not only actual open doors in our offices but also the digital equivalent. We should work to mitigate the potential stifling of collaboration that happens when our “status” shows as busy on the teaming platform. We should plan to bring our teams together for workshops while not neglecting the amazing collaboration support that exists in the teaming platforms we use. We should try out unusual ideas like rotating our staff around the office to put them within earshot of a variety of skilled professionals to maximize their passive learning opportunities. I trust that as an industry we will see a rebound from focusing on the one-size-fits-all remote work approach (that gained popularity in the last few years) and move toward a hybrid approach where we can be flexible enough to accommodate remote work but not at the expense of spending time together as a team. It has been fun to see the creativity of our teams in supplementing remote work with digital team-building activities such as cross office games and virtual happy hours as well as maximizing the benefits of in-person activities like workshops coupled with lunch in the breakroom or walking down the street to grab coffee together. I believe we will see our entire teams (and particularly our younger professionals) thrive as we continue to balance the perks of online collaboration with the benefits of spending time together in the real world. Josh Nord, PE, is a principal at MKN. Connect with him on LinkedIn. “It is difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to be a new graduate being interviewed online, being hired without ever visiting an office, going through digital onboarding, and starting work with a remote team from the silence of my couch.”

JOSH NORD, from page 3

asked what I was up to, listened to me trying to explain my assignment, offered some tips on how I could expedite the work, and then headed off with a friendly, “Let me know if I can help.” Hours later, when I was deep in thought, I was startled by a squishy stress ball flying over the cubicle wall accompanied by a voice saying, “Hey – it’s break time, come along.” When I stood, I found one of the newly licensed engineers beckoning me to follow. Even without my earlier orientation, I would have easily been able to find the breakroom solely by following the sounds of laughter and corny engineering jokes (which are a step below embarrassing dad jokes) floating down the hall. “I trust that as an industry we will see a rebound from focusing on the one-size- fits-all remote work approach (that gained popularity in the last few years) and move toward a hybrid approach where we can be flexible enough to accommodate remote work but not at the expense of spending time together as a team.” When I think back to my first day, month, and even year on the job, I have so many fond memories. That is no doubt due to the efforts of the entire team that took me in, invested in my professional growth, shared about their lives, and inquired about mine. Those times were characterized by high expectations, hard work, and a steep uphill learning curve, but all of that was balanced with growth of new friendships, laughter, card games, Friday barbecues, and countless stories. Although those early years were filled with active learning, it was coupled with immense passive learning that occurred by simply listening and observing in proximity to a group of diverse professionals. I distinctly recall learning how to handle professional phone calls by eavesdropping on a colleague over my cubicle wall. I remember learning how to diffuse potential disagreements between technical experts by watching a PM invite the team to poke holes in his thinking. I also recall learning about marriage, friendship, hiking, hunting, and how to barbecue through the endless examples and storytelling in the breakroom. I credit those early years for forming my love of brainstorming, helping me discern my technical strengths, and with ingraining in me the importance of having an open-door policy for my office. My colleagues always had their doors open and to a person would pause and listen and brainstorm with me when I needed it. I learned that I often had a solution forming in my mind but the process of talking it out at a colleague’s whiteboard solidified the right solution for the client. Sometimes, when I didn’t like the feedback I received, I would wander down the hallway and try my brainstorming again with someone with a different technical background. Hearing input from various technical experts helped me discern where my technical strengths existed and where my technical interest lay. Over the last few years, as I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to contribute to the building of our team here at MKN, I’ve often reflected on those early years in my career and

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Relentless persistence: Russell DiNardo President and founder of ThinkForm Architects (Hopewell, NJ), a service-disabled veteran owned architecture and interior design firm specializing in “total environments.”


D iNardo strongly believes in an integrated, collaborative approach to design and, as a service-disabled veteran, he brings a unique perspective to the craft as an architect and designer for healing environments. “We’ve been fortunate to have experienced substantial revenue growth over the past four years despite the pandemic,” DiNardo says. “To achieve this growth, we’ve remained dedicated to design excellence and we’ve had a very focused strategic business plan that has been communicated by leadership and supported by staff. I still strongly believe that dedicated, rigorous work and thoughtful preparation are essential to success and one’s ability to effectively react to opportunity and ‘luck.’” A CONVERSATION WITH RUSSELL DINARDO. The Zweig Letter: How has your experience in the military affected how you do business at ThinkForm? What’s the greatest lesson that’s carried over? Russell DiNardo: I decided on military service to be a part of

something bigger than myself and founding ThinkForm was an extension of that ideal, while bringing diverse individuals together. We use our talents to collectively serve others by applying our knowledge to create extraordinary places that balance functionality, budget, and beauty. There are many lessons learned from military service that carry over, from leadership and precision to persistence through challenges and adversity. However, for me, the greatest lesson is others before self. TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? RD: I’m fortunate to have had several. These mentors range from a military colleague, a pastor dedicated to social service, a college professor, an architect colleague, an industry insider, and an industry outsider. They all had one thing in common – the ability to make me see beyond myself, question the status quo and to be an active participant in leaving a place better. They each possessed a genuine care for bigger causes and



helping others, and gave me tremendous awareness that there are people who truly care for their fellow humans. They’ve also taught me to be an ambassador of positivity for the causes and organizations I support – professional or personal. TZL: You’ve recently been recognized for your firm’s growth and management. To what do you most attribute that recognition? RD: I attribute it to my business partner, Michael Crackel, our talented staff, and trusting clients, along with our relentless persistence to improve every day. We’ve been fortunate to have experienced substantial revenue growth over the past four years despite the pandemic. To achieve this growth, we’ve remained dedicated to design excellence and we’ve had a very focused strategic business plan that has been communicated by leadership and supported by staff. I still strongly believe that dedicated, rigorous work and thoughtful preparation are essential to success and one’s ability to effectively react to opportunity and “luck.” “There are many lessons learned from military service that carry over, from leadership and precision to persistence through challenges and adversity. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” RD: Despite the common “wisdom” of analysis to this very topic, ThinkForm’s most significant revenue growth has been in the years that seemingly have me working on the business more than in the business, at least versus previous years. Although I do recognize the importance of both, my shift occurred after being awarded an executive MBA certificate course through the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program in 2015. As a licensed architect, licensed interior designer, and LEED accredited professional, my professional passion is design and we have set goals on how to play a larger role in the capacity of a designer. However, ThinkForm places high value on principal- level client involvement from start to finish, and for us that begins pre-proposal stage. Therefore, I would argue that as architects we need to shift the conversation from “in/ However, for me, the greatest lesson is others before self.”

on the business” to the reality of what is required to build a brand that just so happens to allow us to practice and contribute our craft. This seems to be less of a question or analysis of whether I’m an entrepreneur or a licensed professional. Nonetheless, I am “in the business” daily and as the president and founder, I am “on the business” – also daily. “It’s important to not lose sight of your moral compass in business. I’ve lost count of ‘opportunities’ I’ve passed on if only I would look the other way.” TZL: What are your tips for managing growth? RD: Create a detailed plan pertaining to what, when, where, who, and how. Surround yourself with talent, collaborate, listen, lead decisively, delegate, thoughtfully plan for tomorrow, and energetically live for today. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? RD: Just as ThinkForm’s principal-level client involvement begins pre-proposal, so does trust. This begins with the integrity of the ThinkForm team, including its principals. One may argue that it’s easier to make money in the AEC industry by going along with every “questionable” offer that comes one’s way. It’s important to not lose sight of your moral compass in business. I’ve lost count of “opportunities” I’ve passed on if only I would look the other way. With 29 years of experience in the AEC industry, I’m comfortable being honest with potential clients and current clients, whether it’s about their program, schedule, budget, or anything else pertaining to our expertise. We’ve won some and lost some based on this philosophy, however, it’s resulted in exceptional relationships and recommendations. Where others may tell a potential or current client what they think the client wants to hear or provide a proposal with more pages of exclusions rather than what’s required of the project, ThinkForm has earned trust by doing just the opposite. I’m often asked, “What makes a great project?” My response is always “a great client.” TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? See RELENTLESS PERSISTENCE , page 8





Hopewell, NJ

Charleston, SC

Tampa, FL

Cincinnati, OH








Federal government



Interior design

ADDING VALUE: We’re always looking to add value through design and for talented individuals who are as passionate about design as ThinkForm.

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

RUARY 13, 2023, ISSUE 1476


in Bronx, New York, that will provide much needed safe and secure patient and treatment space veterans, work areas for healthcare professionals, and common areas for guests and family. After much research and collaboration with stakeholder groups, ThinkForm developed a design that integrates a “central park” theme in its plan, organization, texture, and material while accommodating very stringent Veterans Mental Health Design Guidelines. In addition, ThinkForm designed the Center for Innovation, Health, and Wellness at the VAMC in East Orange, New Jersey, which supported a cultural transformation to promote health, wellness, prevention, and healing. At the completion of this project, I had a chance encounter with a veteran and his healthcare provider who had just entered the interior corridor from a ThinkForm designed exterior courtyard with a water feature, plantings, and patterned landscape. Not knowing I was involved in its design, he told me he had just had his best session in the outdoor space. He suggested I go into the courtyard. His response validated our purpose and commitment to health and wellness. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? RD: If failure is a great teacher, it’s also one of my mentors. It’s not so much complete failure as achieving less than one hundred percent of goals. Throughout my life and career, from military service to architecture, I’ve been more inspired than deterred by those who told me, “You can’t, you’ll never, you should reconsider your choices.” The biggest lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that business ownership is very different than being just an architect. From finance to staff labor law, learn to partner with talented consultants with expertise outside of your own. TZL: Where do you see ThinkForm in the next five years? What are your top goals? RD: To continue our growth geographically while obtaining larger projects across all market sectors and continue to enhance the ThinkForm brand. ThinkForm’s top goals include expanding our C-suite, acquiring and retaining top talent, and expanding our services. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? RD: ThinkForm is an equal opportunity employer and participant in the U.S. Federal E-Verify program. We welcome all qualified individuals. Most important, our statistics reinforce ThinkForm’s diversity in that our team is 40 percent female, 40 percent minority, and 30 percent military veterans. ThinkForm’s key decision makers are 30 percent female, 30 percent minority, and 50 percent military veterans. Last month, LaShaun Key, an architect at ThinkForm, was recognized by the Charleston Area Black Caucus as one of 40 “Pros to Know.” Like myself, LaShaun is a service-disabled veteran and licensed architect passionate about design and the business of architecture. As one of our top priorities for 2023 is to grow our staff and our C-suite, we will strive to seek candidates from diverse resources, including historically underrepresented universities in which we’re currently building relationships.


RD: Without family support, my career wouldn’t be possible. I’m grateful for my great-grandparents who immigrated to the United States with the vision of providing a better life for their descendants. Their bravery and courage alone serves as my daily inspiration to continue their vision for those who come after me. While no family members are employed by ThinkForm, my career, and theirs, often overlap because architecture, art, and design started, for me, as a dream and passion that, today, is inherent in my lifestyle. When my children were younger, there were times when the family would accompany “dad” on an architectural “treasure hunt” to see a newly opened building not necessarily designed by me or the firm. My children were both born shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Upon the 2014 completion of the Freedom Tower and 9/11 memorial in New York City, I had the opportunity to “bring my child to work” by taking the day with them in Manhattan and to those sites to explain the significance of architecture, and not only why someone would target architecture, but why, as a society, we rebuild. “While we’ve had the opportunity to design for commercial, hospitality, government, multi-family, education, and healthcare, it’s been a great honor and privilege to create healing environments for my fellow service- disabled veterans.” TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? RD: These are similar to my tips for managing growth – listening, leadership, and decision making. A mentor once pointed out to me that, “There are those who are happy to be called president of any company whose revenue is one dollar a year, year after year, and those who are vested to growing a successful brand that will outlast them with care for their product, staff, clients, and society. Beware of the former.” This comment was made in reference to a potential employer, but also applies to potential partners, consultants, and clients. It’s a bit of a skill to navigate between the former and the latter, all the while creating cash flow to be the brand one truly wants to be. Starting out, I wish I would have known the AEC industry is a marathon while running a sprint. TZL: Designing healing environments seems to be something you’re passionate about. Can you give me a recent example of a project that accomplished this goal? RD: ThinkForm strives to create environments that support health and wellness regardless of market sector. We want to create places that make people feel good and ultimately smile. While we’ve had the opportunity to design for commercial, hospitality, government, multi-family, education, and healthcare, it’s been a great honor and privilege to create healing environments for my fellow service-disabled veterans. Soon to open is a 20,000-square-foot in-patient mental health department at the Veterans Administration Medical Center

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Evening out the playing field

As AEC professionals, we have a responsibility to provide safe, accessible, and equitable environments for everyone to live and function in every day.

T he AEC industry is dedicated to design and its effects on end users – people. But while we have always focused on the real-life impacts of our projects on communities, it is also true that we are evolving and expanding the ways in which we consider them, ultimately becoming more comprehensive.

Alexis Eades

In an effort to address ongoing environmental and societal evolution, engineering and architecture firms must be committed to equity in the built environment. For example, at Colliers Engineering & Design, our environmental social governance strategies include creating more sustainable, inclusive, and healthy environments, generating lasting value for clients through our enterprising sustainability and advisory services, and helping local communities and supporting charitable initiatives. With these values, we are driven to deliver resilient buildings, inclusive workplaces, and spaces that promote health and wellbeing for our professionals, clients, and communities. Let’s focus on one engineering department that is driven by environmental social governance every day – the transportation team.

TRAFFIC ENGINEERING AND COMPLETE STREETS. Design and thoughts of equity cannot just be about specific projects. Equity must be a central part of the culture and the way an engineering firm is structured. Our transportation department makes it a priority to design facilities that improve communities for all users of public infrastructure. One popular concept to ensure this is embracing “complete streets.” Complete streets “is an approach to planning, designing, building, operating, and maintaining streets that enables safe access for all people who need to use them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities.” For every project, transportation teams must ask, “How do we best accommodate all users, including people with disabilities?”

See ALEXIS EADES, page 10



ON THE MOVE SCJ ALLIANCE ADDS A CERTIFIED ARBORIST TO THE TEAM Colin Owen, a professional landscape architect with SCJ Alliance, is now an ISA-certified arborist. Owen has a landscape architecture degree from the University of Georgia and is also a Master Gardener. His 15 years of experience includes fieldwork assessing tree species and vegetation conditions, creating landscape architecture designs, and designing landscape mitigation

plans, from stream restoration plantings to native vegetation replacement. “Having a certified arborist as part of the SCJ team adds even more value for our clients,” shares SCJ President Jean Carr. “Easy access to Colin’s expertise in- house enhances what we can offer for their projects.” To earn this credential from the International Society of Arboriculture, Owen had to demonstrate his knowledge in all aspects of arboriculture, have

a related degree and years of work experience, and take a comprehensive final certification exam. SCJ is a 100 percent employee-owned firm with ten offices across Washington, Montana, and Colorado. The company specializes in civil engineering, transportation planning and design, environmental and urban planning, construction management, landscape architecture, and public outreach.

ITE SUSTAINABILITY. The Institute of Transportation Engineers has a Sustainability Standing Committee that has been leading the organization’s effort on listening sessions to develop a white paper on how to move equity forward with a balance of social, economic, and environmental impacts in sustainability. As a product of that, an Equity Committee was formed that focuses on the social element. It defines transportation equity as “the fairness with respect to the distribution of access, mobility, connectivity, opportunity, benefits, and impacts of circumstances affecting the provision of a safe, reliable, and affordable transportation system and services”. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. Conversations about equity often include buzzwords and terminology that create barriers and cause confusion. To address this issue, the Equity Committee is developing a transportation-related glossary that defines equity terms that can foster a shared understanding and common language around equity for ITE, its members, and the industry. Although not exhaustive, the glossary is a living document that will help bridge differences and advance transportation equity conversations. Improving comprehension, communication, and collaboration will help establish robust, sustainable, and meaningful collaborative groups working in partnerships seamlessly. This resource will soon be published on the ITE’s Equity Committee webpage. SO, HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD? Everything a transportation department does is public facing and designed to service everyone, not just those in historically funded areas or those in the majority. Equity in transportation means equity for everyone using our roadways including bikes, public transit, and pedestrians. By the very nature of what we do, we are dedicated to the overall welfare of our communities. From adhering to the most current design standards to implementing the latest technologies available, we have a responsibility to continue providing and improving safe, accessible, and equitable environments in which people live and function every day. Alexis Eades is a communications specialist for Colliers Engineering & Design. A graduate of Rutgers University, she has a passion for writing, learning, and traveling. You can read more from her here .

ALEXIS EADES, from page 9

As an example, many people with visual and/or hearing impairments get around by walking. A person with a visual disability might use a cane to walk down and cross the street. To accommodate them, detectable warning surfaces with tactile surfaces on the sidewalk interface with the roadway are installed that enable the user to confirm their location in relation to entering a roadway or intersection. Accessible push button stations on traffic signal poles activate pedestrian signals with audible messages and often include braille so the visually impaired can identify the road. Vibratory tactile arrows can also be included as part of the button station such that a user can determine the intended crossing direction in which they are to travel. There are even accessible push button stations that include smartphone apps that allow users to interact with the station via their phone over Bluetooth. In the event an intersection changes due to updates or repairs, it’s imperative that these accessible features continue to be updated. USDOT’S EQUITY ACTION PLAN. The U.S. Department of Transportation adopted an equity action plan, which we follow. Its goals are wealth creation, power of community, interventions, and expanding access. At CED, every project centers on these goals as we strive to build safer and more inclusive roadways, increase power and connection of community, and drive economic vitality. As an example, CED was tasked with addressing a street that has been an urban interstate-style roadway running straight through the heart of a historically disadvantaged community. While the corridor serves as a critical connection to one of the region’s most iconic and heavily travelled transportation facilities, the roadway itself has become a barrier between neighborhoods by limiting access to travel modes outside of vehicular traffic. In alignment with the USDOT’s equity action plan, our improvement project will transform this section of roadway into a space that is safer and more inclusive for all users. For example, sidewalks will be widened, and crossings will be shortened to improve and encourage pedestrian accessibility. This transformation will drive expanded access for all, improve the power and connection of community, and will ultimately drive the economic vitality of the city’s neighborhoods.

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




M y many years of studying and working with company CEOs and founders of firms in the AEC business has led me to the conclusion that the most effective organizational leaders have an ability to know what to change and what not to. This is the key to long-term organizational survival and prosperity. There are steps you can take that will make it more likely your company will adapt to change successfully over time. Knowing what to change and what not to

Mark Zweig

Every organization has to change and evolve over time. After all, the world is changing. So are the people in the organization. Sometimes the individuals in charge of an area leave and are replaced. And hopefully the people who stay in roles are evolving themselves. So not only is the external environment changing, but the internal environment is changing as well. Nothing is static. We all can probably agree that people resist change. That’s not entirely unfounded. Not only can necessary change be difficult to deal with, the fact is, not all change is good. Sometimes there are core strategies that are enduring and that make the company successful. The job of the leader is to figure out what change is necessary and good, and what change will cost the company in a negative way. How do you do that? Here are my thoughts: 1. You need to really know your people and

understand their strengths and weaknesses and hopes for the future. This takes approachable management that is actively involved in running the business. It also takes managers who are actually interested in the people who work in the organization and don’t see them as replaceable cogs in a machine. Knowing your people and what their aspirations are is essential to knowing what can change and what needs to remain the same. 2. You need to know your clients and the businesses they are in. Again – active management that is still involved with projects is crucial – along with the right organization structure (client- or client type-specialized standing teams). It also helps to have ongoing research efforts to keep informed with what is

See MARK ZWEIG , page 12



TRANSACTIONS THE HFW COMPANIES AND IOWA- BASED INVISION FORM STRATEGIC GROWTH PARTNERSHIP The HFW Companies, a fast-growing professional services firm with a national focus on the AEC industry, has added another strategic growth partnership to its expanding portfolio, this time with INVISION, an Iowa-based planning, architecture, and interiors design firm that has been serving the Midwest for more than a century. INVISION represents HFW’s fifth strategic partnership in the past year as HFW forges ahead with its plan to develop a network of growth-oriented AE firms that share best practices, economies of scale, and unique areas of expertise, according to Michael Hein, AIA, PMP, chief executive officer of St. Louis-based HFW. “We’re greatly impressed with the legacy of INVISION and its leadership, as well as

its architectural and interior design talent in the education, health and wellness, cultural, and other sectors,” said Hein of HFW’s new strategic partner. “We look forward to working with them to accelerate their growth in the Midwest and leverage the expertise of our other strategic growth partners to achieve their own vision.” HFW’s business model is designed to retain and leverage each partnering firm’s own brand identity, loyal employee base, and the allegiance of its project partners to build a nationwide “house of brands” network of AEC member firms. For INVISION, a design firm founded in 1914 that employs close to 75 professionals from offices in Des Moines and Waterloo, Iowa, this new partnership will support a growth trajectory that is expected to lead to greater opportunities for its staff and resources for our clients

according to Brad Leeper, AIA, a partner with INVISION. “Following significant strategic planning around exploring INVISION 2030, we identified growth and innovation as key drivers for our future, said Leeper. “We’ve been exploring a variety of growth strategies as a meaningful approach to achieve these goals. HFW brought a model to the table that was unique, allowing us to pursue these goals in a way we could not achieve on our own. They are genuine in their approach and have a sophistication to their partnerships that allow us to continue serving communities in more meaningful ways for the next 100 years.” Based in St. Louis, HFW is an AEC industry professional services company investing in architecture and engineering firms that serve metropolitan and infrastructure markets and are open to aligning with partners for growth.

and what needs to be altered. And this plan should be communicated to all and regularly updated. 6. The organizational design and cultural clarity is crucial to your ability to adapt appropriately. Although I already said it once, it bears saying again – an organization designed to serve specific client sectors is much more likely to adapt to necessary changes in the market than one designed around disciplines or geographies. The culture of the company as a whole and the specific line units that serve clients will be more likely to be aligned with clients needs if you do this. It impacts everything. Although more and more companies in our industry have figured this out over time, there are still holdouts. 7. You need gauges and continuous feedback on the performance of the system so you can make good decisions. Tracking the right numbers and sharing those with everyone is important to building a company that is likely to perform well over time. If the wrong indicators are tracked and emphasized, or the firm performance metrics are only known to a small group of owners, it’s easier to go off-course. It should be clear by now that knowing what to change and what to keep is no simple task. It’s part of the art of management. That said, there are clearly steps you can take that will make it more likely the company adapts to change successfully over time. Take them! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG , from page 11

going on in the industries your firm serves. This aids the firm in its efforts to sensibly adapt over time. 3. Getting honest client input and feedback on you and your performance is essential. Continuous client feedback that is uncensored and is shared with all employees goes a long way to helping a company understand what it does well and what it doesn’t do so great – this is essential to know what should change and what should not! “Not only can necessary change be difficult to deal with, the fact is, not all change is good. Sometimes there are core strategies that are enduring and that make the company successful.” 4. It takes a real understanding of current events in the world and what is happening locally and regionally. We are all part of a local community, nation, and world as a whole, and managers who are curious and want to know what is going on is essential to the firm’s knowledge of what needs to change and what needs to remain the same. 5. The strategic/business planning process is crucial to your ability to synthesize all of this information. Having a business planning process that involves all employees’, clients’, and potential clients’ input will help management determine what strategies are crucial to its success

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