TZL 1396 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S Finance and accounting staff J u n e 1 4 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 3 9 6 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

These 10 ideas can increase engagement and create a truly effective doer-seller culture. Solutions for your marketing woes

F I R M I N D E X Dewberry ................................................ 8 Holst Architecture . .................................. 6 raSmith ................................................. 10 Shive-Hattery Architecture-Engineering... 4 Urban Engineers . .................................. 10 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz JENNY PHAN & KYLE COPELIN : Acquisition communication and messaging Page 3 xz Extraordinary: Renée Strand Page 6 xz KEVIN BROWN: Outreach and mentorship Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: Thoughts I am having… Page 11 increases. Because of this increase in responsibility for finance staff in larger firms, financial directors see a bump in base salary of about 35 percent relative to industry norm. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication. Finance and accounting staff as a percentage of total staff was analyzed among firm participants in Zweig Group’s soon-to-be-released 2021 Financial Performance Survey of AEC Firms . This follows a common theme among nontechnical staff in which the department staff percentage decreases as the total firm size

H ow do a firm’s policies and operations set their doer-sellers, and themselves, up for success? Zweig Group is a huge proponent of the doer-seller model, and we consider it the most effective and sustainable strategy for a firm’s long-term success. To make this a success, you’ve really got to make sure that everyone in your firm has a crystal-clear understanding of their role in marketing and business development. Three key pieces of information from Zweig Group’s 2020 Marketing Report of AEC Firms are important to understanding this article: ❚ ❚ The two greatest marketing challenges that AEC firms face are (1) “market awareness and expansion,” and (2) “staff involvement.” These two areas account for a total of 44 percent – a significant portion – of perceived marketing challenges. ❚ ❚ The most successful marketing strategies are “direct relationships” and “networking events and public speaking.” ❚ ❚ The least successful marketing strategies are “advertising and trade shows,” followed by “marketing strategies and policy” (13 percent), “content development” (9 percent), “client databases” (7 percent), and “other” (10 percent). The irony is that our most successful marketing strategies (direct relationships, networking, or public speaking) are primarily driven by one of our greatest marketing challenges (staff involvement). And increasing staff involvement can contribute to improving the least successful marketing strategies listed above, as well as mitigate the other greatest marketing challenge (market awareness and expansion). Below we explore a few ways to really live that doer-seller model and get staff involved. 1) A “yes” environment. If someone comes to you with an idea, say “Yes! ... and …” and if it’s a bit left-field, then guide and direct the effort. Saying “yes” is a sure way to increase engagement and enthuse one of your biggest marketing assets – an engaged employee with an idea. 2) Educate. Vertically integrate your education process – we all have something to learn. The leaders of tomorrow are the social media experts of today – they can help educate people who aren’t as familiar with the platform and are incredible with technology. And ensuring that all staff understand your firm’s strategic plan and vision, mission, and values will help to ensure that everyone is speaking a common language. 3) Ask. There’s no better way to engage an audience than to ask them

Stephanie Warino




BUSINESS NEWS VDOT SELECTS DEWBERRY FOR $200-MILLION I-81 IMPROVEMENT PROJECT Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that it has been selected by the Virginia Department of Transportation to provide transportation engineering services for the widening of I-81 in Roanoke County and the city of Salem, Virginia. For this project, Dewberry was selected as part of the Archer Wester- Dewberry design-build team. The intent of the project is to improve safety and increase capacity by widening I-81 from four to six lanes. An additional lane will be designed and constructed in both the northbound and southbound directions between mile markers 136.6 and 141.8.

The firm’s services will include design and construction support, including environmental permitting and civil, transportation, and structural engineering. Construction of the approximately $200-million project is expected to begin in 2022 and be complete in early 2026. 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.

This four week program helps design and technical professionals in architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing clients and promoting the firm and its services. Elevating Doer- Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals Virtual Seminar 6 PDH/LU

STEPHANIE WARINO, from page 1 for help. Ask for content, ask for project pictures, create space and time for content development, project descriptions, anecdotes, success stories, and lessons learned. You can use this content in proposals, marketing materials, on social media, and on your website. 4) Policy check. Are your policies or norms preventing you from tapping into your greatest marketing resource, employees? Are employees allowed paid time to develop whitepapers and presentations? Is your social media policy too vague, or too strict? 5) Reinforcement. I can’t stress positive reinforcement enough. Spot bonuses, widely spotlighting behavior you want to encourage, or a shout-out in company newsletters can work well. 6) Embrace the technical. Technical content is always good – it demonstrates your expertise. Is staff doubtful or resisting engagement? You may need to ask them in a different way. Can they provide a short explanation of a particularly well-executed aspect of a project? Provide an opinion on some new regulations? This pulls double duty – not only as marketing material, but also as staff training or even continuing education. 7) Blogs. Find out what people are passionate about and give them some space to run. Use the technical expertise you have! Most clients want to hear from and talk to the project manager or technical expert – they’ll come to your website to read their work, too. 8) Empower. Empower people to engage, interact with potential clients, and follow up on leads or ideas as a team effort, with coaching and supervision along the way. 9) Track, measure, and discuss. Make sure everyone understands the difference between marketing and business development, and knows how to charge time appropriately so you can track your return on investment. Then discuss the numbers and trends and make decisions along the way to improve performance. 10) Consistent and persistent. It takes real focus, commitment, time, and effort to create, maintain, and expand market awareness. Set a schedule and curate content, media, and activities thoughtfully – always with your market and timeline in mind. These actions, if done properly and consistently, with leadership guidance and training, can create a truly effective doer-seller culture and create a positive feedback loop, thereby increasing engagement, and ultimately, elevate the firm’s value. STEPHANIE WARINO is a strategic planning advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her at swarino@ 2021 MARKETING SURVEY Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Survey is open for participation now! Participate and save 50 percent on the final or pre-publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.



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T iming and messaging are essential for seamless mergers and acquisitions. You have to consider when and how to announce a change in ownership, when and what to tell your employees and clients, and when you should officially change your name. Developing a communication program with the right messaging principles is the proactive approach to ensure a successful transfer of brand equity. Acquisition communication and messaging

Developing a communication program with the right messaging principles is the proactive approach to ensure a successful transfer of brand equity – a benefit to both the buying and selling firm. Kyle Copelin founded EPOCH in 2012 and grew it to become a successful and thriving 11-person architectural design firm in South Bend, Indiana. As the years passed, Kyle wanted his staff to have as many opportunities as possible to grow and develop. What would the future of EPOCH look like 10, 20, 30 years down the road? A stable continuum of growth would be critical for their longevity. Then, Kyle met Jeff Lewis, vice president and office director of Shive-Hattery’s South Shore Corridor design office. The two became quick friends and as their

professional and personal relationship evolved, Kyle learned about Jeff’s experience when Design Organization joined Shive-Hattery in 2012. What Jeff shared gave Kyle pause to consider whether Shive-Hattery might also be the right fit for EPOCH. “I was warned during a networking group meeting of the pitfalls of joining another firm,” said Kyle. “It can be a big mess if not handled correctly or done for the right reasons. I truly felt, without question, that wasn’t going to be the case. I had Jeff’s experience to lean on. He advocated for it all the way and I trust him.” Let’s take a look at what worked for EPOCH when they joined Shive-Hattery. CULTURAL FIT. As part of his due diligence, Kyle looked deeper to determine if Shive-Hattery

Jenny Phan

Kyle Copelin





moved forward in November 2019, the firm name became “EPOCH, a Division of Shive-Hattery” to raise awareness of the relationship between the two firms and to position it for its future name change to Shive-Hattery. The communication program included informing EPOCH’s clients of the new name before the change took place. With new clients, the firm is introduced as Shive-Hattery. “We’re equally proud of both EPOCH and Shive-Hattery but did not want to choose between nurturing the relationship or providing education on the name change.” For Kyle, employee-driven reasons determined the timeline for the acquisition. Client-driven reasons will determine the timeline of the name change. Kyle was thoughtful about the name change occurring too quickly or too late; both would be detrimental. Because the value of your brand name is individual to you and your market, clients, and staff, consider the following as you plan how to make the name change a non-event. ❚ ❚ What is the value proposition of keeping the previous brand name?

had the right cultural fit for EPOCH. “It’s about quality relationships,” explained Kyle. “This supersedes everything. Being successful means having quality relationships with one another, families, clients, and friends.” Over the course of two years, Kyle had conversations with several people on the Shive-Hattery leadership team to gather different perspectives and a sense of who they were. “As I investigated, our cultures were identical,” Kyle said. “I could talk to the leadership team about anything. I found they were honest people with a ton of humility who do great work. These conversations were eye-opening.” The flat, decentralized culture resonated with EPOCH’s value that everyone including leadership was an equal player on the same team and working together toward a common goal. “When developing your communication plan, adjust and customize your plan for the specific firms involved ... The result is an individualized approach that successfully transfers and enhances the brand equity that all parties have invested in.” PRE-GAME AND TALK TO THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER. Transparency was built in from the forefront and Kyle identified two stakeholder groups to personally deliver messaging to: employees and clients. As the point person, he created a trusted and safe space for everyone to ask questions and offer feedback which led to their support. Opening the lines of communication created a free flow of information to help guide the decision-making process. “I met with staff individually and as a group to learn what success looked like for them if we moved forward with the acquisition,” Kyle said. “I put myself in everyone else’s shoes. If it was not an advantage for everyone, I wasn’t going to do it.” Kyle also reached out to trusted clients and their top priority was a seamless transition. He was able to share why he was considering the acquisition. “Some of our clients were curious if the potential acquisition was driven for financial reasons and they appreciated the transparency,” shared Kyle. “They knew I was committed to maintaining the same level of service with the same people they’ve developed relationships with. The only change they’d experience is a name change and that the ultimate decision was mine.” MAKING THE NAME CHANGE A NON-EVENT. When the acquisition

❚ ❚ What is the risk mitigation of keeping it? ❚ ❚ How will clients (and employees) respond?

You can identify tangible variables with these questions.

To ensure a smooth transition, Kyle has migrated digital traffic from EPOCH’s social media and website to Shive- Hattery’s platforms. The next step will be to sunset “EPOCH, a Division of Shive-Hattery” and fully transition to “Shive-Hattery” by the end of 2021 including signage, marketing materials, and other supporting collateral materials. From acquisition to full rebrand, the process will conclude in roughly two years. With Kyle and the design team remaining the same, clients have confidence knowing service will not be disrupted. The same people will be there but with more horsepower. The only impact is a name change. The result is a seamless, successful energy transfer of brand equity. Because each merger or acquisition is unique, what works for one firm may not work for another. When developing your communication plan, adjust and customize your plan for the specific firms involved. Base your decisions on a continuum of what makes most sense for you, your employees, and your clients. The result is an individualized approach that successfully transfers and enhances the brand equity that all parties have invested in. JENNY PHAN is the corporate communications manager for Shive- Hattery Architecture-Engineering. She can be reached at jphan@ KYLE COPELIN is a principal at EPOCH a Division of Shive-Hattery. Connect with him on LinkedIn .

WRITE FOR THE ZWEIG LETTER Have some advice for your peers in the AEC industry? Contact Sara Parkman at to become a contributor for The Zweig Letter .

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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.

Zweig Group is ready to see you in-person again! The 2021 In-Person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado on November 3-5, 2021. With much 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 to Work 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 to miss this! Register now to guarantee your spot.

The experience starts early virtually ! 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 . SEPT. 13 - OCT. 8, 2021 REGISTER FOR FREE VIRTUAL NOW


QUESTIONS? For group discounts or any other inquiries, please contact events@, call 800.466.6275 or visit

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.



Extraordinary: Renée Strand Managing director of Holst Architecture (Portland, OR), a women-owned architecture firm that is devoted to turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.


S trand is a leading force behind the day-to-day operations of the firm. She’s a skilled detailer and exceptional communicator with the ability to clarify sophisticated design strategies for her clients. “[Our founders] started with small projects that were mostly renovations and interiors,” Strand says. “Over time, the projects grew larger in scale and our reputation spread in the region as a design firm that can do a lot with a little. Our ability to make the ordinary extraordinary has been in

hard work. In addition to our design portfolio, we focused our submission on our commitments to the profession through four lenses: Our community, equity and diversity, sustainable design, and the next generation. One could argue that all four of these categories are inextricably linked, however it takes intention to make sure we nurture all these aspects of our practice. We decided early on that what mattered most to us as owners was creating a place where, together, we all get to create architecture that people love in a supportive and inclusive environment. How we work deeply affects the work we produce together, so we have put just as much focus on our process as we do our product. This is a key to ensuring we’re doing work that feeds our souls, helps our community, and ensures enduring success into our future. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? RS: To do the best work, we’re always evolving how we collaborate – whether through our studio space,

our DNA since the beginning.” A CONVERSATION WITH RENÉE STRAND.

The Zweig Letter: Congrats on being named the Firm of the Year in 2020 by AIA Northwest and Pacific Regions. On the website it says your “submission demonstrated commitment to the profession and to the community.” Can you give me some highlights of how that was communicated in the submission? Renée Strand: We were thrilled to be recognized for our



TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? RS: I love that you asked this, and I hope we’re all asking each other the same question in the AEC industry and taking action around JEDI work. At Holst, we’re currently focusing on equity education within the firm, critical evaluation of our own hiring practices, and working to improve our community engagement processes. I’m personally interested in improving the pipeline in the architecture profession. I volunteer with a couple of groups here in Portland, including AFO’s Architects in Schools which focuses on elementary school architecture education. Architects and designers in our firm have also been participating in student mentorship programs, career fairs, and internship programs with the goal of improving diversity and inclusion in the profession. We need to see more architects of color moving into leadership roles, and more women as lead designers in this field. “How we work deeply affects the work we produce together, so we have put just as much focus on our process as we do our product. This is a key to ensuring we’re doing work that feeds our souls.” TZL: I see that there are four owners at Holst. Can you give me a little backstory on how you all got together to form Holst and the origin of the firm’s name? RS: Holst was originally founded in 1992 by John Holmes and Jeff Stuhr. They met while working at another architect’s office and saw an opportunity to combine their talents – they also fused their last names together to form Holst. They started with small projects that were mostly renovations and interiors. Over time, the projects grew larger in scale and our reputation spread in the region as a design firm that can do a lot with a little. Our ability to make the ordinary extraordinary has been in our DNA since the beginning. In 2016, John and Jeff decided it was time to hand the baton to me and my other partners – Kim Wilson, Kevin Valk, and Dave Otte. We purchased the business and are now proudly one of the largest, women- owned architecture firms in Oregon.

methods of design representation, tools for documentation, and now location/ communication platforms. I cherish the office culture we have at Holst and although we’re all making it work from home, many of us have been missing the aspect of creative work that is fueled by proximity and camaraderie, the energy that comes from being around the beautiful messiness of design process and materials. I do hope that we’re able to take the best parts of this remote work experience and carry those forward into the post-COVID work environment. I look forward to when we’re primarily back in the same workplace, hopefully with some newfound flexibility tested after this last year at home. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” RS: I shift fluidly between the two throughout each day, and there’s a lot of overlap based on how we collaborate in the practice. Generally, it’s 50/50. I spend time behind the scenes with overall project staffing, leading our PM group and working closely with our business director. I love the human side of owning a business and am constantly learning more about the business of design. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? RS: In this last year of working from home, it’s become more blurred and interwoven as I’m sure it has for so many. I have two sons and I have taken a fair number of calls with my elementary schooler logged in next to me or a sleeping toddler resting slightly off camera. It’s a new reality that has both perks and challenges. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? RS: I think it’s critical to understand your values as a team – and overall to align the work with those values. Personally, I’ve found being a self-starter, and a generally inquisitive and open-minded person to be my strongest skills in practice. I appreciate how Angela Duckworth defines the concept of grit as the “passionate pursuit of long- term goals” – that’s certainly a personal characteristic that has helped me along the way. Starting out, I wish I understood that while project type, program, and site are all important, good clients are everything.






❚ ❚ Commercial

❚ ❚ Residential

❚ ❚ Education

❚ ❚ Hospitality

❚ ❚ Nonprofit

❚ ❚ Sustainability

PURPOSE: Holst Architecture is devoted to creating architecture that people love, to making places that have meaning, and to turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. The firm’s architects and designers feel it is their responsibility to be agents of change toward social and environmental progress, and to use their privilege to respect and listen to all voices impacted by their work. Holst Architecture takes this responsibility personally, and it’s why its people love to do what they do.


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NE 14, 2021, ISSUE 1396


ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY WELCOMES TODD KILDUFF TO SUPPORT EXPANSION IN COMMERCIAL MARKET Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Todd Kilduff, PE, has joined the firm as an associate and senior project manager based in the firm’s Richmond, Virginia, office. Kilduff joins the firm to support its expansion in the commercial and economic development markets. He will aid in the alignment of the firm’s national strategies to local business development activities, and work to continue diversifying Dewberry’s portfolio across Virginia. Prior to joining Dewberry, Kilduff served as the deputy county administrator for community and economic development in Goochland County, Virginia, where he was responsible for the daily operations and staff in the planning, zoning, building inspections,

transportation, environmental, public utilities, customer service, and economic development departments. “Todd brings a dynamic background and unique skillset to our team” says Dewberry Associate Vice President Devin Keeler, PE, LEED AP. “With experience in the public, private, military, federal, and non-profit worlds, he is well-suited to help our firm grow in additional markets and serve our clients.” Kilduff earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental analysis and planning with a minor in biology from Frostburg State University (2002) and is a registered professional engineer in Virginia. He is a member of the Virginia Local Government Management Association, Virginia Rural Water Association, Virginia Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies, International County/City

Management Association, and the American Water Works Association. In addition, Kilduff is a 2019 graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond, a 2018 graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Certified Planning Commissioner Program, and a member of the Bon Secours Community Advisory Council. 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. a

EXTRAORDINARY , from page 7

been getting together for about 15 years and started meeting monthly as a “book club” back in 2006 before any of us had children. At its inception, we actually did read the same books, but the group quickly evolved into a support network of professionals, all of us working mothers meeting monthly; they’ve absolutely been my career guides. When I started working in Portland, there were very few females in leadership positions, and because we all know “you can’t be what you can’t see” I really looked to these women more than any traditional architect mentor. We’ve all since navigated tricky career dynamics and worked to move into leadership roles primarily in the architecture, planning, and construction industries. We’ve been advocates and inspiration for each other in an industry that is short on female role models. They have all given me some of the most valuable, and most honest advice over the years. 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? RS: I was in my 30s, so yes, it is definitely possible. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? RS: Do good work. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? RS: In general, we focus on the long game – we listen to and invest in our employees. We have crafted a comprehensive paid family leave policy, dramatically opened up our design process and moved into a new studio space to better facilitate collaboration in the last few years. This past year, we’ve focused on learning what we’re all passionate about and using that lens for career support, empowerment, and business development. Transparency and willingness to evolve are also important, and in this last year compassion has been paramount.

As for our new generation of owners, Kevin was one of Holst’s first employees, and has spent the last 24 years honing skills that have made him our design director. Kim joined soon after Kevin in 1999, and quickly cemented herself as our technical master. She’s evolved into being both our quality director and the president of Holst. Dave joined in 2005 and as development director has helped to grow our markets and push our focus into the realm of design for social impact. Finally, I am the rookie, celebrating a decade at Holst this year. I’m managing director of our studio and principal-in-charge for a number of our larger projects. We each bring our own specific talents to the practice, which provides a balance that allows us to tackle our work holistically. “A commitment to social justice for our communities is intrinsic to our belief that everyone deserves good design. This belief guides the work we do and how we do it.” TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? RS: A commitment to social justice for our communities is intrinsic to our belief that everyone deserves good design. This belief guides the work we do and how we do it. We have a generous and community-minded group at Holst, and so I would say we all get most excited about benefits that allow us time to give back. Holst is committed to ongoing outreach programs throughout the region including the 1+ program, and we provide employees paid volunteer time as well as opportunities for pro bono work. 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? RS: I do. I have a circle of a dozen women in Portland who I consider to be the strongest guides in my career. We’ve

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Kevin Brown mentors students through the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Philadelphia.

Outreach and mentorship

O ne of the most enjoyable and rewarding things in my life has been my time as a mentor. Outside of my parents and late grandmother, I never had a mentor who I felt I could reach out to until I entered the workforce. Mentors open pathways for others, and outreach is key to achieving firms’ diversity and inclusion goals.

In his song “Evolution,” one of my favorite hip hop artists, Joyner Lucas, said, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m learning as I’m growing.” This lyric really speaks to me. Throughout high school and college – and even at some points during my career – I felt like I did not have a goal, but as I progressed through life, I was constantly learning. I am continuing to learn to this day. My own track in life has led me to see the importance in mentoring younger people. I believe that the youth are going to run into their own challenges, so why not provide insight using my own experience so they can easily maneuver through those issues while tackling new ones? In my mind, I should be trying to be the person for them that I needed at that point in my life. I believe outreach and mentorship are key when we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion

in the AEC industry. Over the past few years – and especially after 2020 – I have noticed companies and organizations placing an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion through mandatory trainings; new hiring and promotion requirements; and developing or updating their diversity statements. I applaud all of that, but how do we truly achieve diversity and inclusion within our organizations when our industry itself is not diverse? How do we diversify our industry? I think we have to understand some of the reasons why our industry is not diverse, and then do some outreach and mentoring to open pathways for others. If we think about our nation’s history and how Black people were at a disadvantage because of slavery and segregation, and then again because

Kevin Brown

See KEVIN BROWN, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS RASMITH NAMED A MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL 2021 TOP WORKPLACE raSmith was recently recognized as a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2021 Top Workplace and received special honors for its “clued-in senior management.” This recognition is based on standout scores for employee responses to survey questions. raSmith has been honored as a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel TopWorkplace for nine consecutive years. This year, the firm ranked 13 out of 59 in the category of medium company size. “We are excited, honored, and humbled to receive this special recognition of our leadership and to be identified again by our employees as one of the best places to work in southeast Wisconsin,” said Ricky Smith Jr., raSmith president. “Our staff has helped to create an amazing environment at raSmith by

working well as a team, demonstrating their passion, dedication, and resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to take care of our private and public sector clients.” Wendy Wolfgram, raSmith human resources manager, said, “raSmith’s family-friendly culture; generous compensation and benefit programs; and opportunities for personal development, team building, and volunteering all combine to help make the company a great place to work. We are currently looking for more talented people to join our growing teams in Wisconsin, Illinois, and California.” The Top Workplace Awards program recognizes the top workplaces in southeast Wisconsin based on employees’ anonymous responses to survey questions. Companies

are measured on qualities such as employee engagement and development, company leadership, workplace culture and flexibility, compensation, benefits, and the impact that company policies have on innovation and morale. raSmith is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm comprising civil engineers, structural engineers, land surveyors, development managers, landscape architects, and ecologists. Its services are focused on our public and private sector client needs in design and construction including site design, structural engineering, municipal engineering, transportation and traffic, surveying, construction services, and geographic information systems. The firm works on projects nationwide from seven locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, and California.

KEVIN BROWN, from page 9

Even though I haven’t experienced some of the challenges other groups face, I do firmly believe that outreach and mentorship are transferrable. While the approach may be different, it can and should be applied to other underrepresented groups. “An outreach program – the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Philadelphia specifically – is the reason that I have the career I have today, and it has been important to me to continue mentoring through this organization.” When it comes to outreach and mentorship, I do not believe we should solely focus on the underrepresented – I simply believe we should diversify our outreach efforts. I understand that it may be challenging because it’s outside of the comfort zone of some or is difficult to connect to, but we in the AEC industry literally solve challenges every day. I plan to continue to diversify my outreach and mentorship efforts and challenge others in the industry to do the same. I think this is how we collectively achieve diversity within our companies and organizations. An outreach program – the ACE Mentor Program of Greater Philadelphia specifically – is the reason that I have the career I have today, and it has been important to me to continue mentoring through this organization. I have mentored many students over the years, and my employer has hired two of my previous high school mentees. They are now full-time employees with us. I am living proof that outreach and mentorship work. I would like to see more people in the industry who are invested in diversity and inclusion supporting these programs. KEVIN BROWN, PE, is a transportation construction manager at Urban Engineers. Contact him at Urban Engineers is showing its commitment to outreach and mentorship through its annual donation to the Kevin Brown, Jr. Scholarship with the ACE Mentor Program and the annual Edward M. D’Alba Leadership Award Scholarship. Learn more about the firm’s diversity initiatives here.

of redlining, mass incarceration, and the war on drugs – it isn’t hard to see how we still feel the effects of that today. Because of this, Black people started out behind – behind on education, financial literacy, and with creating and sustaining generational wealth. This is why outreach and mentorship are important when we speak on diversity and inclusion, because, just like generational wealth is a cycle where wealth is passed down and used to generate more wealth, these disadvantages get passed down too. We need to be able to step in, educate, motivate, and guide. We perform outreach because a lot of underrepresented schools lack the capacity to be able to educate students on technical career paths, and we can open their eyes to a world they may not have known existed. We mentor and guide because after a student decides they want to pursue a career in science or engineering, they will face many challenges and obstacles. These challenges are typical of someone on the path to a STEM career, as well as those who are byproducts of that cycle of disadvantages. Without a mentor or guidance, these challenges are often so great that they derail their goals. I believe that through outreach and mentorship, we can get a more diverse group of people entering the pipeline for STEM careers. Now, one could say, “C’mon Kev, Black people aren’t the only ones who deal with these obstacles.” And I would agree. But I would add that our nation’s history increased our chances of not being able to have access to a good education system, of not being able to benefit from generational wealth, of growing up in a broken family, of being the victims and perpetrators of gun violence, of being discriminated against today, and thus, has played a role in many of us not making it into the pipeline. My intent isn’t to make anyone feel guilt or pity, but to bring awareness to a topic we all find hard to talk about. I understand there are many groups that are underrepresented in our industry, but I wanted to focus on Black people because, as a Black man, I have faced some of these challenges and overcome some of these obstacles.

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Thoughts I am having…

Being retired from the day-to-day business for nearly three years gives you more time to think.

A fter nearly three years of being retired from the day-to-day business of Zweig Group, I have more time to think. Let me say that has been glorious!

can refer to “consulting,” which IS a big part of the architecture and engineering business, and covers everything from lighting consultants to aerodynamic consultants to energy consultants to roofing consultants and more. At least that is how I choose to see it at this point. My former business partners at Zweig Group want to stick with one moniker for this vast “industry” we are a part of, I’m sure in large part due to how people find information these days online, and because of the fact that our industry and all of the providers to it seem to have adopted this moniker. Plus, there is the issue of vertical integration and the growth of design/build to consider. So henceforth, I will comply and join the throngs calling it the AEC business. ❚ ❚ There are many AEC firms that are successful

Here are a few things I have been thinking about lately: ❚ ❚ I will finally relent and refer to this industry as the AEC business, even though it is hard for me to do so. I was digging in my heels on this one because I think most people think the “C” in “AEC” stands for “construction.” As someone who has owned a construction contracting business as well as had ownership in multiple architecture and engineering firms, I see the two as wholly different animals. My own experience in construction over the last 16 plus years is that it has completely different people, different ethics, and vastly different economics from a professional services firm, and it’s easy to understand why so many of us coming from the architecture and engineering side struggle to compete successfully when we dip our foot into at-risk construction. That said, the “C” in “AEC”

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS THREE DEWBERRY PROJECTS RECOGNIZED WITH ACEC NY ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE AWARDS Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has been recognized by ACEC New York as part of the 2021 Engineering Excellence Awards for its site/civil, transportation, and water engineering services on projects in New York City and surrounding areas. The firm received a platinum award in the waste and stormwater category for the Green Infrastructure Project in Jamaica Bay Tributary areas in Queens. Dewberry provided water and wastewater engineering services to manage impervious runoff for phase 1, an area of more than 1,200 acres, for Jamaica Bay Tributaries as part of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s initiative to manage 1.5 percent of the impervious stormwater runoff in priority combined sewer overflow areas. The firm also developed a custom script for geographic information system field data collection to update maps in real time within a mobile georeferencing application.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority Long Island Railroad Murray Hill station improvements project in Queens, New York, was awarded platinum in the transportation category. The firm provided professional design and transportation engineering services for the construction of two passenger elevators, elevator and platform work, and general Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades. Due to the spatial constraints on the platform, which is located below grade in a cut, the firm designed a plan to cut into the existing historic mass gravity walls, construct new retaining wall support, and insert the elevator towers on either side of the east and westbound platforms. All services were completed while the trains were still actively running. The firm also received a gold award in the building/technology systems category for the San Juan Federal Bureau of Investigation office building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dewberry provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering and design services

on the $85 million, 155,000 square-foot building. The building, located on the federal complex in Hato Rey, is LEED Gold® certified. The building was designed with a holistic approach using natural resources to maximize energy efficiency and resilience, as the area frequently experiences power outages due to natural disasters. 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.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

for our people to go to work for another organization and not have to move from wherever they live – something that has been a huge barrier to those who would otherwise consider making a job change. Meanwhile, at the same time we have given our employees a whole bunch of new options, we are simultaneously facing record demands for what AEC firms do. Get ready to deal with a whole lot of new turnover. I would be gearing up my recruitment efforts in a major way if you haven’t already done so! You will have to spend money and devote management time to this one too. ❚ ❚ Leadership and ownership transition is really hard but worth it! IF you want your AEC firm to outlast you as the founder(s), you really need to be working on meaningful transition issues now. That means sharing financial information regularly so your people understand the financial dynamics of your business, making sure ALL of your managers have identified a successor, making sure all of those successors are being trained and mentored by their predecessors, developing a financial model that tracks and predicts whether or not your ownership transition program will work, and continuously re-evaluating your transition efforts over time. These things are crucial to everyone in your firm who depends on the company for their employment and retirement, and they must be started on immediately and be done consistently over a long period of time for the organization to survive. And let me add, even if you have zero interest in an internal transition, doing these things is critical to your ability to sell your firm externally! So get on it now! Those are my thoughts for now. I am always interested in hearing YOUR thoughts about these or any other topics of interest to AEC firms, so drop me a line to mzweig@ any time! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

because demand is so high, not because of how their owners are running the business. This worries me because I have seen it before during other boom cycles over the last 40 years. I want to see everyone in this business do well. It is consistent with Zweig Group’s “Elevate the Industry” thrust. But when you see companies out there doing absolutely no marketing, companies with draconian employment policies, companies that share no financial information with their employees, companies that provide no real business or management training to their people, and companies that are doing a whole bunch of other stuff wrong – yet are doing ridiculously well and making record profits – I am certain that some or all of their owners are convinced it is because they are great business managers. But they aren’t. Don’t forget a rising tide lifts all ships. And the moment supply catches up with demand, they will find themselves and their businesses struggling and wonder why. Mark my words this will happen – I have seen it before! So if I were in the AEC business today, I would make darn sure we were running the business properly to set us up for enduring success versus short-term success. “Get ready to deal with a whole lot of new turnover. I would be gearing up my recruitment efforts in a major way if you haven’t already done so!” ❚ ❚ We need to be bracing for a whole lot of employee turnover. Employees of firms in this business have more options than ever, thanks to the changes we all had to make to survive and thrive during the COVID pandemic. We figured out how to work remotely, which is a great thing, and something smart firms did successfully before the pandemic hit. But by doing so, we also opened up a whole lot of doors

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