TZL 1383 (web)

Construction manager salaries T R E N D L I N E S M a r c h 1 5 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 3 8 3 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Over the last 12 months, firms have been forced to rapidly adjust how they approach many workplace strategies. Talent wars: A new hope

Zweig Group’s 2021 Total Compensation Benchmarking Tool shows base salaries for AEC job titles by state in the U.S. As an example, let’s take a look at the top five highest- paying states for one of the most popular job titles in the industry: the construction project manager. Within states that met the qualified number of responses, New York paced the industry with a median base salary that was 33 percent higher than the industry median. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication. F I R M I N D E X 3-Tier Alaska...........................................8 BSA LifeStructures................................12 Dewberry..............................................12 Fuss & O’Neill. ........................................6 Skiles Group. ..........................................4 Travis/Peterson Environmental Consulting..8 Ware Malcomb......................................10 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz KEYAN ZANDY: After the pandemic Page 3 xz Making life better: Kevin Grigg Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: Get real about recruiting Page 9 xz CHASE MILLER: Leading from a distance Page 11

A EC firms are successfully hiring talented people today and it can be more prosperous than ever if they are focusing on the right candidate qualities. Over the last 12 months, firms have rapidly adjusted how they approach workplace strategies like hiring, retention, telecommuting options, office hours, non- essential travel, professional development, company events, and the list can pretty much continue from there. It was almost impossible to continue operating as we had before and there is a lot of opportunity in being forced into that position. At Zweig Group, we gather data from and talk to firms every day and, as we move further away from the interruptions of 2020, the most successful firms are focusing their recruitment strategies in the following areas: ❚ ❚ Diversity in thought, not just in people. Building a diverse team means more than hiring more women and people of color. The last thing your firm needs to be successful is to create an echo chamber of thought amongst staff. Open up your imagination to what a successful team of people should look and think like and how that can improve everything about your firm. Diverse teams often have completely different life experiences and that can cause them to see problems and solutions differently. For instance, studies are showing that people with autism succeed in IT jobs when companies focus on their technical abilities instead of traditional hiring metrics like a certain degree or personality traits. ❚ ❚ Applicant tracking systems (ATS). Many firms have opened up the floodgates for potential candidates by enacting work from home or telecommuting work strategies. The overwhelming applicant pool makes it hard to navigate your way through this stage in the recruitment process without feeling like you are moving too quickly or missing a diamond in the rough. Investing in even the most basic of ATSs can help keep this process organized and moving forward. If they have applied for a role at your firm, the chances are good they have done the same with your biggest competitors. ❚ ❚ Highly technical roles. Firms need to be more creative when hiring for highly technical roles and the training programs they are designing to identify future talent in their own ranks. According to Zweig Group’s 2020-2021 Recruitment & Retention Report , 58 percent of firms are reporting their most difficult positions are taking more than six months to fill. The good news is that younger generations are arriving to work with more technical skills than ever before and have the ability to learn quickly. ❚ ❚ Upskilling. Individuals in any role at a firm will likely have to learn a new skill set to do their same job successfully in the future. It’s also likely that they have not mastered the skills they need for their current job. At the same time a majority of managers don’t think their current

Chad Coldiron





2020-2021 RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION SURVEY REPORT Zweig Group’s Recruitment and Retention Report of AEC Firms has statistics relating to all the latest methods used to hire and retain professionals in the industry. This survey contains data about recruiting methods and policies, training, HR departments experiences, attitudes, and challenges regarding the hiring and firing process, turnover rates, and compensation and benefits. Are you looking for hiring methods, expectations, and metrics in the AEC Industry? Do you know what most firms in the industry are doing to recruit top talent? This survey covers all areas of recruitment from the search process through integrating a new candidate into a firm. The Recruitment and Retention Report Report of AEC Firms also has data about HR departments and the use of outside executive search firms.

This webinar was specifically developed to help design and technical professionals in archi- tecture, engineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing cli- ents and promoting the firm and its services. Led by two retired and current CEOs with extensive experience from the design desk to the board room, this one-of-a- kind webinar presents business development techniques proven to drive real growth and value in your AEC firm. Elevating Doer- Sellers Virtual Seminar 6 PDH/LU

CHAD COLDIRON, from page 1

employees will be able to keep pace with the future skills needed in their roles. This is a solvable issue but it requires a culture of learning and engagement amongst the entire firm. ❚ ❚ Soft skills. Firms should be developing their employees’ soft skills and not just looking for those with identifiable ones during the interview process. Basic training aimed at communication and mental health can offer critical tools for how to deal with conflict in a productive manner. Firms ignoring these topics will never truly develop an identifiable culture needed to inspire a team. ❚ ❚ Enhanced benefits. Offering employees and potential recruits benefits like paid family leave, mental and physical wellness programs, student loan repayment, flexible work hours, and telecommuting options are all areas that are rivaling compensation when it comes to making the decision between your firm or the one down the street. ❚ ❚ Removing energy drainers. These are people or workplace resources like a misused CRM that drain the life and energy out of you anytime you encounter them. These are also a main contributor to why someone would consider working somewhere else. Do not ignore your intuition or anyone else’s if it tells you that there is an energy draining situation that needs to be solved or avoided. AEC firms that fail to make these adjustments and open their minds up will be stuck recruiting from the bottom of the barrel and will find themselves sacrificing the qualities above in order to fill a role. Failing to adapt will also create greater turnover and a higher cost per hire that can keep you from investing in areas you need to be like technology upgrades, new equipment, maybe even staff bonuses. This is probably the 20th instance of covering some kind of “talent war” topic in an article for The Zweig Letter and that really says something in itself. This is not a hill you should ever reach the top of; in fact, it just gets hard the higher you trek. Keep finding ways to get up the hill that work for not only you but those you wish to lead. Please email me directly at or call my cell 479.200.3538 to talk about how Zweig Group can help make these adjustments for your firm. CHAD COLDIRON is director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at ccoldiron@



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Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year) $250 for one-year print subscription; free electronic subscription at © Copyright 2021, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

BEST FIRMS TO WORK FOR AWARD If you are looking for an easy tool that gives you valuable employee insights, improved staff morale, and bolstered recruiting materials, please participate in Zweig Group’s 2021 Best Firms To Work For Survey. Entry in Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For Award includes the largest employee survey in the AEC industry, with more than 2 million data points gathered every year!

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After the pandemic

The positive changes we’ve made will stay with us long after the days of the pandemic are over.

H ere’s a statement on which I think we can all agree: The pandemic has been difficult and created obstacles for everyone, and in every industry. This public health crisis has highlighted or exacerbated existing issues that were previously hidden, created entirely new problems that now need a resolution, and changed aspects of the way we work – and think about working – with other people. But while change is something that has always been difficult for many in our industry, we are resilient. We have acclimated and evolved – and for the better.

Keyan Zandy

The problems we’ve collectively solved can also be viewed as opportunities for growth or improvement, and I believe the positive changes we’ve made will stay with us long after the days of the pandemic are over. Today, I’ll share three examples of how these have uniquely manifested in the construction industry and why I think our industry will evolve because of them. 1)Safety. While “work from home” has become a standard for many other businesses, this is not an option for the men and women who work on construction sites every day. Unfortunately, trying not to get sick is their new priority, and is yet another challenge to navigate daily on top of

those related to schedules, budgets, quality, and safety. On many construction projects in states where construction was considered essential, new protocols were put in place by general contractors during the pandemic to make sure craftsmen and workers were safe. These include: ❚ ❚ Daily screening, including temperature checks, mandatory masks, and badging ❚ ❚ Additional handwashing stations ❚ ❚ Frequent sanitation of commonly touched surfaces

See KEYAN ZANDY, page 4



KEYAN ZANDY, from page 3

❚ ❚ Traveling work (relocation to distant jobsites) causes family separation and sometimes isolation ❚ ❚ Varying shift work schedules can cause sleep disruption/ deprivation ❚ ❚ Our industry has one of the highest rates of substance abuse and substance use disorders ❚ ❚ Seasonal layoffs and end-of-project furloughs that cause economic instability ❚ ❚ Chronic pain caused by current or past injuries The additional stressors brought by the pandemic have placed a new burden on an already troubled workforce, and in response many construction companies have finally begun to address mental health awareness more seriously. Strategies for incorporating supportive and awareness-oriented messaging around mental health, substance abuse and addiction, and suicide prevention for construction workers include: ❚ ❚ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information shared often and widely via jobsite posters, wallet cards, refrigerator magnets, and email ❚ ❚ Care packages/wellness kits mailed to employees’ homes ❚ ❚ Openly discussing mental health topics in company newsletters and at quarterly/annual meetings ❚ ❚ Openly discussing mental health topics with workers and craftsmen at jobsite “Toolbox Talks” and during Safety Stand-Downs We’ve all experienced more than normal stress both at work and at home over the past year, and from multiple angles: social, economic, personal health, family. But real life is stressful, even without a complicated public health crisis to navigate. Going forward, we need to continue to focus on our connections with people and think about what each of us might be able to do to help others. Ways we can practice compassion are: ❚ ❚ Start with you. Be compassionate with yourself. Give yourself permission to feel and experience whatever you’re going through. It is helpful to remember that you are not alone and, while it’s hard to do, be sure to ask for help if you need to. ❚ ❚ Have empathy. Stay conscious and cognizant of what others may be going through. Try to imagine or connect with what another person might be experiencing – what is causing them stress or anxiety? What could be weighing on them? ❚ ❚ Practice patience and kindness. You never know what is causing someone’s bad day, impatience, or rudeness, so try to give everyone some grace and room to be human. ❚ ❚ Be proactive. See if you can solve a problem for someone before it gets worse and look for ways to smooth the path someone is walking on. This has been a difficult, protracted crisis, and COVID-19 has taught us many lessons – big and small, both good and bad. The opportunity to take what we have learned to become better people and build a more progressive industry is in our (freshly washed) hands. KEYAN ZANDY is chief operating officer for Skiles Group. Find him on LinkedIn.

❚ ❚ Increased ventilation/air filtration, as permitted ❚ ❚ Social distancing practices

While temperature checks and masks may not remain as a daily practice in our post-pandemic work life, when looking at the other items on the list you can’t help but wonder why we weren’t doing these things in the first place. For example, prior to COVID-19 most construction projects did not have dedicated handwashing stations for workers. Now that this has become commonplace, why should it go away after the pandemic? The same goes for frequently sanitizing commonly touched surfaces and adding better ventilation during construction of workspaces. These are just good, common sense practices for the health and well-being of workers. As an industry, we should push for these things to remain standard once the pandemic subsides. 2)Technology. The use of technology on construction jobsites has expanded dramatically during the pandemic. While many had already begun leveraging various technologies before COVID-19, the pandemic pressed more firms to leverage tech in multiple areas of the business where they may not have before, including: ❚ ❚ Virtual inspections ❚ ❚ Virtual scheduling sessions ❚ ❚ Virtual meetings Many of the people relied upon for required construction inspections were unable to come onsite as a result of lockdowns, travel bans, furloughs, and social distancing. To work around these constraints, contractors began implementing a variety of tools and technologies to achieve effective virtual inspections. From live streaming via smartphones and video conferencing tech, to taking 360 degree photographs or videos and uploading them to interactive cloud-based platforms, many firms started to push the boundaries for facilitating inspections more than ever before. What’s exciting is that these tools will only improve as time goes on and the way projects are inspected could be further altered for the better. For general contractors that implemented Lean Construction on their projects, virtual scheduling sessions and meetings have allowed more people to participate in jobsite meetings than before. Also, live streaming OAC meetings and trade partner (subcontractor) meetings via video conferencing has given time back to people who are usually required to travel to attend, and it allows for the meeting minutes to be taken where everyone can see them on the screen, leading to better clarity as well as faster distribution after the meeting. As a result, people who are not onsite can still get the same value from the meeting as those who were present in person. The benefits and efficiencies this shift to virtual meetings have created are likely to endure post-pandemic. 3)Compassion. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, construction has the highest suicide rate across all industries. The suicide rate in construction is about four times greater than the national average and five times greater than that of all other construction fatalities combined. In fact, more lives are lost per day from suicide than from all of OSHA’s Fatal Four Hazards together. There are many explanations for this, and some could include the following: ❚ ❚ Traditional construction has a hard-nosed, tough guy culture where feelings are not discussed

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.





Elevating Doer-Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: April 6, 2021 PRICE: $699 PDH/LU: 6 Credit Hours OVERVIEW: This will be the same great content that is taught during our in-person The Principals Academy seminar that has trained over 900 attendees in the last five years. The Principals Academy is Zweig Group’s flagship training program encom- passing all aspects of managing a professional AEC service firm. Elevate your ability to lead and grow your firm with this program designed to inspire and inform existing and emerging AEC firm leaders in key areas of firm management leadership, financial management, recruiting, marketing, business development, and project management. LEARN MORE

Project Management for AEC Professionals – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: April 7, 2021 PRICE: $699 PDH/LU: 6 Credit Hours LEARN MORE

OVERVIEW: Each team member brings their own unique experiences and skillset to project teams. Effectively leveraging the talents of your team can optimize team effec- tiveness. This course provides people-focused, science-driven practical skills to help project leaders harness the power of their team. By addressing the most important aspects of any project – the people – this course will provide practical techniques that can be immediately implemented for a positive impact on any AEC team or business.

The Principals Academy – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: May 4, 2021 PRICE: $999 PDH/LU: 12 Credit Hours LEARN MORE

OVERVIEW: This will be the same great content that is taught during our in-person The Principals Academy seminar that has trained over 900 attendees in the last five years. The Principals Academy is Zweig Group’s flagship training program encom- passing all aspects of managing a professional AEC service firm. Elevate your ability to lead and grow your firm with this program designed to inspire and inform existing and emerging AEC firm leaders in key areas of firm management leadership, financial management, recruiting, marketing, business development, and project management.


Zweig Group is an approved provider by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).




Making life better: Kevin Grigg President and CEO of Fuss & O’Neill (Manchester, CT), a company that – since its founding in 1924 – has grown to include 10 regional offices, one LLC, and more than 320 employees.


I n 2012, Grigg joined Fuss & O’Neill as COO and brought with him a fresh perspective on how to manage the company. In 2018, he was named president and CEO. Over the past few years, he’s worked closely with senior leaders, project managers, and corporate services to help ensure healthy and sustainable profitability and cash-flow. He’s also worked to reconfigure Fuss & O’Neill’s business development program to help the company position itself more effectively externally, understanding that building client relationships is essential to long-term success. “Making life better is inherent in all that we do,” Grigg says. “Whether it’s the water we drink or the roads and bridges on which we drive or the environmental safety of the many public and private properties that we help clean up, our engineers and scientists are the doctors and nurses of the built and natural environments.” A CONVERSATION WITH KEVIN GRIGG. The Zweig Letter: You became CEO of Fuss & O’Neill in

2018. Prior to that, you worked at the firm for about five years. What’s the most important accomplishment you’ve achieved since being CEO? Kevin Grigg: Shepherding the firm through these unprecedented times. Close “seconds” would be improving the environment around employee, shareholder, and board relations and the work of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? KG: We have always allowed telecommuting subject to the approval of one’s supervisor. The pandemic has resulted in our actively encouraging employees to do so for their health and safety as well as for the health and safety of their fellow employees and loved ones. Going forward it is highly likely that a substantial portion, if not the majority of our employees, will be working remotely on both intermittent and permanent bases.



TZL: How far into the future are you able to reliably predict your workload and cash flow? KG: Our cash flow model – which we refer to as our “headlights” – is able to estimate our cash position as far out as we’re willing to make corresponding assumptions related to cash receipts, billings, and net backlog. Generally, the reach of our “headlights” is about one fiscal year, though, as alluded to above, we have five-year strategic and financial plans that serve as a framework for annual budgets or “plans.” Workload predictability is something that we’re working on, complicated by laissez faire project triage – particularly the hesitancy of some of our project managers to close their projects out in a timely manner – and the predominance of small T&M projects that make up our net backlog. Consistency in approach related to workload balancing firm-wide has also been an issue. That said, we actively monitor net backlog and net backlog per FTE and are significantly improving hygiene as it pertains to validating near- term or “burnable” backlog (backlog aging). TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? KG: Collaborative, transparent, and empowering, as well as stubborn and focused – perhaps to a fault. Like Lombardi, I aim for perfection – knowing full well that I and we will never attain it – but that, along the way, we will encounter excellence if we remain willing to take calculated risks and support one another. It’s about building and maintaining trust at, and among, all levels of our organization. It’s also about knowing and acting on the fact that comfort is the death knell of progress. “What got you to where you are is never good enough to get you to where you want and need to go.” TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? KG: Yes, we are. It has resulted or produced marginal financial gain that has nonetheless exceeded the cost of internal research and external support. TZL: It is often said that people leave

managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? KG: We place high priority on recruiting and promoting “people people” over “process people,” as well as on providing training – both structured, formal classroom training and active OJT. We recently developed a “P&L Manager’s Desk Reference Guide” that is heavily oriented to “people management” that will serve as both a framework for even more structured training as well as the basis for greater uniformity and efficiency in employee supervision and management practices throughout the firm. We are also in the process of revising our leadership training program and dove-tailing these various tools with our emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Going forward it is highly likely that a substantial portion, if not the majority of our employees, will be working remotely on both intermittent and permanent bases.” TZL: The firm has been around for nearly 100 years. That’s impressive. What do you hope to achieve in the next five years in the way of growth/evolution? KG: Our five-year strategic and financial plans envision an overall growth rate of between 15-20 percent through both organic and acquisitive means; our anticipated growth in profitability as a percentage of net revenue is higher. This will mean greater selectivity in the opportunities that we pursue as well as greater internal efficiencies related to project profitability, cash flow, and cost containment. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. KG: Such investments are driven by our profitability. The more profitable we are, the more we are able to invest in both early- and mid-career professionals and tenured staff. The first thing we do with our FYE Operating Profit is fund our employee bonus pool.





SERVICES: Civil engineering,

facility engineering,

transportation/traffic engineering,

construction services, landscape

architecture, water/wastewater

engineering, environmental;

engineering, structural

engineering, specialty markets


Infrastructure, community,

facility, manufacturing,

construction, energy,



commercial, education,

energy, environmental, federal,

healthcare, industrial, legal,

manufacturing, municipal,

private, quasi-public, residential,


state, utilities

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

RCH 15, 2021, ISSUE 1383


TRANSACT IONS 3-TIER ALASKA & TRAVIS/PETERSON HAVE MERGED 3-Tier Alaska and Travis/Peterson Environmental Consulting have joined forces effective February 1, 2021. This merger expands and deepens their civil, environmental, and land surveying services across Alaska. Zweig Group, a full-service AEC management advisory firm, represented 3-Tier Alaska in this transaction. Jamie Claire Kiser, Zweig Group’s managing principal, served as the firm’s lead advisor on the engagement. “While 2020 threw off some of our M&A predictions, the fact is that the long-term drivers of M&A remain: the need for buyers to grow and expand into the new markets and offer new services, and the need for sellers to transition ownership and join forces with culturally-aligned partners for growth,” Kiser said. “We congratulate leadership of both firms for achieving mutually successful outcomes in this strategic combination.” Jim Ringstad started 3-Tier Alaska in the early 1980s, specializing in land surveying and civil engineering. In March of 2018, Jim’s son, Nick Ringstad, took over the company and grew it from two to 12 full-time employees. Michael Travis and Larry Peterson formed Travis/Peterson in 1998. Travis/Peterson

specializes in environmental engineering and consulting. The company currently has seven full-time employees, composed of engineers, biologists, geologists, and environmental scientists, as well as seasonal staff. “Travis/Peterson has a first-class reputation and deep expertise in environmental consulting and engineering in the state of Alaska. Their team of registered engineering and environmental science professionals integrate perfectly with 3-Tier Alaska’s decades worth of experience in land surveying and land-use,” Nick Ringstad, owner of the merged company, said. “The two companies share a common belief that there is no substitute for hard work, dedication, and honesty, and our clients can expect to get the best and most experienced civil and environmental engineering and surveying professionals for every job.” Travis/Peterson is now a division of 3-Tier Alaska and will maintain its offices in Fairbanks and Anchorage. The new company will continue to offer the following services: Drinking water, storm, and wastewater treatment system design, spill response, prevention, and site remediation, SWPPPs, environmental site assessments, wetlands and permitting along with subdivision design and engineering, property, boundary and

remote surveying and construction surveying, amongst other services. Nick Ringstad added, “Within the next three years, one of 3-Tier Alaska’s top goals is to be voted a ‘Best Place to Work’ by local media outlets. The merger with Travis/ Peterson is a huge step toward accomplishing that goal. The future of this company is very bright.” Zweig Groupis the leading research, publishing, and consulting resource for the built environment. The firm provides strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, marketing, business development, market research, financial management, project management, recruiting and executive search services nationwide. Zweig Group also provides a comprehensive suite of products including industry reports and surveys, executive training, and business conferences covering virtually every aspect of AEC firm management. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas. 3-Tier Alaska has more than 100 years of combined expertise and knowledge in land surveying and civil engineering in the interior of Alaska. To learn more, visit or contact Nick Ringstad at nick@3tieralaska. com.


Whether it’s the water we drink or the roads and bridges on which we drive or the environmental safety of the many public and private properties that we help clean up, our engineers and scientists are the doctors and nurses of the built and natural environments. A tangible example would be my role on the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, together with the support of a number of other Fuss & O’Neill employees who have been working with the Governor’s office and affiliated state agencies, utilities, and private employers to help mitigate and adapt to climate change throughout the state. TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? KG: We use “book value” as the basis for firm valuation, as it is more conservative than, say, market value. Our external accountants assess firm valuation on an annual basis, and it is reviewed by our own internal accounting professionals. 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? KG: Generally, our incoming shareholders purchase their shares from those who are required to sell due to an age restriction. Share value must always be high enough to continue to attract new employee shareholders. Assuming reasonably strong financial performance, the greatest pitfall to avoid is using the wrong criteria to assess new shareholder candidates.

Through a process referred to as open-book management we make all of our employees aware of our profitability (as well as other) targets, consequential goals related to additional compensation, and their respective roles in achieving or exceeding such targets and goals. We understand that we are stronger together and, therefore, that “class divisions” make us weaker. All that said, the issue requires constant attention. “I aim for perfection – knowing full well that I and we will never attain it – but that, along the way, we will encounter excellence if we remain willing to take calculated risks and support one another.” TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. KG: Constructive change is what we are about, so change management is a big part of what we do – all the time. What got you to where you are is never good enough to get you to where you want and need to go. TZL: I watched the “We Make Life Better” video on the homepage of the Fuss & O’Neill website. Can you give me a recent example of how the firm has done this? KG: Making life better is inherent in all that we do.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Get real about recruiting

Firms that can quickly fill any opening with excellent people have a major advantage over their competition in any market.

C OVID-19 pandemic or not, the fact is A/E firms all over are still facing significant recruiting challenges that are holding back their individual and collective abilities to grow. I have long felt that recruiting does not have the importance it should in an industry where companies only sell labor and expertise. Those firms that can quickly fill any opening with excellent people have a major competitive advantage over their competition in any market. It’s time to get real about recruiting!

Mark Zweig

So that said, what are some things you can actually do that will help your recruiting effectiveness? Here are my thoughts: 1)Reprogram your managers. This is number one on my list here for a reason. Most people who are involved with hiring people in this business think it is their job to keep bad people out of the company. That mindset screws everything up. It puts job candidates on the defensive and keeps good people out. When the culture is one of getting good people onto the team, everything is different. The hiring company sees their job as selling versus being gatekeepers. You are far more likely to attract good people when you are thinking the former versus the

latter here. So sit your managers down and explain this to them. They won’t all get it, but some will if you try. 2)Build and implement a recruitment-driven social media strategy. Let me say if there is one thing social media is good for, it is a fantastic recruitment tool. That is, however, conditional on you using it as such. You need to post every day on all relevant platforms. And you need to be featuring happy employees, employee training sessions, employee anniversaries, employee awards, stories on co-ops and interns, employees on interesting job sites, employee promotions, and firm awards for quality

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB RECEIVES RECOGNITION FROM BUILDING DESIGN + CONSTRUCTION’S 2020 GIANTS 400 REPORT Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced it has been ranked as the No. 1 industrial architecture and engineering firm in the United States, as reported in Building Design+Construction ’s 2020 Giants 400 Report. The firm is also ranked among the top 15 architecture and engineering firms across building sectors for nonresidential and multifamily buildings work, and has moved up four spots since last year’s ranking. Building Design + Construction (BD+C) is a magazine that covers daily news, trends, and more for architects, engineers, and contractors. BD+C recognizes the leading companies in various categories with more than 130 rankings across 25 building sectors and specialty categories. In addition to being recognized as one of the

nation’s largest architecture and engineering firms, Ware Malcomb was awarded numerous industry sector rankings from BD+C including:

our clients and industry partners for making this achievement possible.” Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture, planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to corporate, commercial/residential developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/institutional facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group.

❚ ❚ Industrial Sector – No. 1 ❚ ❚ Office Sector – No. 14 ❚ ❚ Retail Sector – No. 15 ❚ ❚ Reconstruction Sector No. 20

❚ ❚ Science & Technology Facilities – No. 35 The firm was also recognized in the healthcare, multifamily, laboratory, airport, hotel, government and education sector rankings. “We are excited to be recognized as the number one industrial sector A/E firm by Building Design + Construction’s 2020 Giants 400 Report, along with many other prestigious rankings,” said Kenneth Wink, chief executive officer of Ware Malcomb. “We want to thank all of our team members for their hard work and

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

who are personally involved in interviewing and meeting job candidates at all levels will be more successful than those who don’t want to be bothered with these kinds of activities. It’s crucial to your successful ability to recruit really good people when they see the top person/people are personally invested in the process. 6)Speed everything up. I could say this until I am blue in the face. You all are too freaking slow and act like you have forever to make a decision on hiring someone. It’s like how we used to buy houses in my other business. We make offers first and fastest while everyone else sat there and pondered. We got more properties because of that. You need to do the same thing with your recruiting and hiring. Time is the enemy. Fool around and someone else will beat you to hiring that outstanding individual. 7)Manage your online employee ratings on Glassdoor and anywhere else you need to. One bad review can kill you if someone you are trying to hire sees it. Protest anything fishy or untrue. Ask your people who are happy to post good reviews to drown out any bad ones. Don’t let someone you fired or passed on hiring get back at you without doing everything you can to tell your side of the story (the good side)! 8)Budget and spend real money on recruiting. If you are large enough to afford it, hire someone who is really good at recruiting. How large do you need to be? I would ask you a question in return – how badly do you want to be a firm that can staff up with great people as the workload and strategic plan demand it? You show what is important by what you spend money on. Just like marketing, recruitment expenses can either be viewed as an investment in the company or an overhead cost to be minimized. You won’t be the best at it if your idea is it’s just overhead. And by the way, good recruiters aren’t cheap, whether they work for you as employees or as outside consultants. So there you have it. You want to make recruiting real or not? If so, change your evil ways! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

of workplace, among other things. You should be hitting LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, at a minimum, and be posting on each platform two to four times a day. 3)Be a firm that has a purpose and sell what people are really interested in today. First and foremost, people want to work for a business that stands for something. One that is doing some good. This is super important to the kinds of professionals we are all trying to hire, and especially younger ones. Get your purpose clearly defined and communicate the hell out of it using every means available. That includes email signatures, your website, and office decor, on top of all the social media/podcast/video opportunities that you have available to you. “If you are large enough to afford it, hire someone who is really good at recruiting ... You show what is important by what you spend money on. Just like marketing, recruitment expenses can either be viewed as an investment in the company or an overhead cost to be minimized.” 4)Stop acting like money isn’t important. People want a purpose, they want to learn, and they want interesting work. But they also want to get ahead and they won’t join your firm or quit your firm if the tangible rewards aren’t there. Don’t be afraid to talk about money and have a business that creates jobs at all levels where people can do better money-wise than your competitors. That means you have to be profitable and have to grow, and do so on a consistent basis, or you will negatively impact the earning potential of your employees. Face up to that reality and stop making excuses. 5)Get the CEO/founder/principals (highly) involved. None of this will happen if your top people aren’t involved and fully supportive of the effort. And let me say this, also – the CEOs

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Leading from a distance

Managing through a virtual work environment certainly has its challenges, but it’s more important than ever to persevere and lead.

O ver the past year, we have all been forced to adjust and alter the way we manage our teams. Managing through a virtual work environment certainly has its challenges and can sometimes make for additional work. Activities such as project staffing, employee reviews, and progress checks all have been reimagined. Employee dedication, productivity, and efficiency have all come into question. Overall, the AEC industry has adapted to virtual management nuances, and we have seen our project teams continue to be effective and deliver great work.

Chase Miller

While this may be true for management, how exactly does virtual leadership look? So much of leadership is tacit knowledge and conveyed through working together in a collaborative physical environment. How exactly does this translate into a virtual environment and influence overall company culture while also driving teams to success? ❚ ❚ Leading by example. It isn’t easy to lead by example when you are not co-located with your staff. They cannot visualize your work ethic, dedication, commitment, or servant leadership. Looking back, I was always encouraged to see my leaders’ dedication

– coming in early, staying late, sacrificing lunch to help a client with an urgent need. How are these things communicated virtually? Leading by example is about being visible to your team, accessible during work hours, and helping the team remove barriers. Perhaps it is sharing an email with your team first thing in the morning, so they know you have begun your workday and are available to help. It may be as simple as having your camera on during a Zoom call, so they know you are not in a recliner wearing sweats but rather at your desk paying attention. This may even be in the form of virtual office hours

See CHASE MILLER, page 12



ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY WELCOMES BEN BLITCH AND TREVOR NOBLE TO PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA, OFFICE Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that it has hired Ben Blitch, PE, and Trevor Noble in its Panama City, Florida, office. With more than 15 years of experience, Ben Blitch joins the firm as a senior project manager where he is responsible for developing and maintaining client and agency relationships and providing engineering design, permitting, and construction expertise. He brings with him a diverse background in private, public, and regulatory experience. Prior to joining Dewberry, Blitch served as the utility services director for Bay County, the assistant director for the Northwest District of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and as branch manager for a geotechnical, construction engineering, and environmental services firm. Blitch earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Florida State University and is a licensed professional engineer in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. He is the president of the local chapter of the Florida Engineering Society and an active member of the Society of American Military Engineers.

“I’m excited to be a part of the Dewberry team and to see what the future holds. I hope that my diverse experience can further strengthen the depth of an already talented group of leaders and professionals,” says Blitch. Trevor Noble brings with him more than a decade of management experience and joins Dewberry as a senior project manager, where he is responsible for developing and maintaining client and agency relationships, managing staff in the development of projects, and providing utility and regulatory expertise. Noble has a diverse background in management, including emergency response, utility planning, regulatory compliance, and municipal public works, and water/wastewater utility operations management. Prior to joining Dewberry, Noble worked as the utility services assistant director for Bay County. Before his time with Bay County, he served as the director of public works for the city of Callaway and the program administrator for Florida’s Source and Drinking Water Program, which is a branch of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Noble’s private sector experience includes working for a local engineering firm as the geotechnical department manager.

Noble earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Florida State University and an associate’s degree in pre-engineering from Santa Fe Community College. He is currently the vice chair for the region’s American Water Works Association and a member of the Water Environment Federation. “I’m thrilled to join Dewberry and to be able to bring my public sector and regulatory management experience to both existing and prospective clients. I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of a great organization and look forward to developing successful relationships,” says Noble. 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.

CHASE MILLER, from page 11

collaboration such as multi-user VR environments. Lastly, trust is more important than ever. We hire professionals, treat them like professionals, and expect them to perform like professionals. We don’t micromanage or babysit, though it is important to verify this trust. Through these activities, I would argue that our culture is more robust than before the pandemic. ❚ ❚ Communication. Communication is arguably the most essential aspect of virtual leadership. In an environment where communication takes extra time and effort, it’s easy to forget to communicate or dismiss its importance. As leaders, we must be intentional about sharing and not taking knowledge and information for granted. If leaders do not take control of the narrative, negative narratives will take control of the firm. This may mean increasing the frequency of your communication. You also want to be intentional in communicating through different media and not neglect the importance of visual and non-verbal communication. By investing the additional time needed for proper communication, you will reap the benefit of the cultural impact, sustaining motivated teams, and a positive (virtual) culture. For example, BSA leadership shares a video update each Friday called “The Pulse.” This video conveys pertinent information to the entire company, but it also builds our culture by shedding light on events within various studios, and even some trivia sprinkled in. Leadership is not easy and leading from a distance only makes it that much harder. Don’t give up. Your teams need you. We are starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel, and it is more important than ever to persevere and lead. CHASE MILLER is the director of planning at BSA LifeStructures. He can be reached as

where your team can drop into a Zoom call at any time within a specific window. Whatever the case may be, it is more critical than ever to make yourself visible to your team/staff. These small intentional acts begin to paint the picture of an effective leader and go a long way in motivating your teams. “Leadership is not easy and leading from a distance only makes it that much harder. Don’t give up. Your teams need you. We are starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel, and it is more important than ever to persevere and lead.” ❚ ❚ Culture. It is easy to think that the culture you have been building so deliberately throughout your organization’s life has been decimated over the last year. You have lost touch with your staff and teams. Small talk about your personal lives, families, kids, and hobbies has all but ceased to exist. Relationships have gone from personal to transactional. In sustaining culture through a virtual work environment, you cannot lose sight of what is truly important: people. As leaders, it is more important than ever to be there for our people. Many are struggling financially, physically, relationally, and emotionally. It is our job to support them and uplift them. Activities such as virtual happy hours, virtual trivia, virtual coffee, or virtual water coolers can facilitate these personal relationships. We begin our regular team meetings with a round-robin of personal and professional bests. This allows us to get to know one another on a personal level. We are also testing new technologies to further facilitate

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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