TZL 1411 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S O c t o b e r 4 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 1 1 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Marketing spending

A clear understanding of how your firm will be managed after a large shareholder’s exit can greatly increase success going forward. Change of control

In Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , firms were asked to input their marketing spending over the previous fiscal year. The chart above shows that annual marketing spending as a percentage of net service revenue. As seen in the chart, marketing spending across the industry dropped significantly as a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, more than half of firms in the 2021 portion of the survey sample expect their firm’s marketing spending to increase as the year progresses. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

W hat does it take to feel comfortable selling ownership below 51 percent? What needs to be in place for you to feel comfortable going below a control level equity interest? So many firms are going through leadership succession and ownership transition planning right now that the industry can barely keep up with the constant passing of the baton. This can be seen in lots of hard data as well as anecdotal evidence, but perhaps the most indicative marker of transition activity is M&A closings. As of mid- July, there have been 305 transactions in the AEC industry. On that date in 2020, there were 192, and over the full calendar year of 2020, there were 377 total transactions. To be fair, COVID-19 slowed closings considerably, but year over year, M&A activity is still way up over Q1 2020, with about 150 transactions closed in Q1 2021 and 120 in Q1 2020. Many firms are not looking to sell externally, but the market is rife with buyers knocking on doors. And with tax incentives, an aging leadership pool, and the impacts of COVID-19, it only seems natural that M&A activity is accelerating, but it’s also spurring lots of conversations around internal transition across the industry. At Zweig Group, the calls for valuation and ownership transition planning are consistent right now. People want to know, “How do other successful firms do this?” It gets asked a lot. The real answer lies in the existing culture of each individual firm. This industry is highly fragmented, and each firm has its own nuanced approach to management and communication. These can drive or stifle transition planning. Now more than ever, we are seeing founders and majority owners looking at full sail exits or 100 percent transactions via internal transition. Leaders and majority owners are accelerating exits instead of the more traditional sell down and phase out process. This is a different dynamic than in years past and (among other impacts!) it presents cultural and organization hurdles. Transition planning brings plenty of challenges to the table, but when you layer on time constraints, knowledge gaps, and the thirst for control, the process gets increasingly difficult. Though it can be done successfully in short order, one of the variables that can get lost in the initial activity is the change of control. Who is in control and how do we as an organization manage? How do we approach performance management? What strategic initiatives have priority? Is there alignment on owner incentives? What policy changes do we pursue? How do we manage debts and liabilities on and off the balance sheet, etc.? By many measures, it’s easier from a leadership transition

Will Swearingen

F I R M I N D E X Arrive Architecture Group........................ 6

CWE ..................................................... 10

Dewberry................................................ 2

Sevan Multi-Site Solutions, Inc.............. 12

MO R E A R T I C L E S xz PETER ATHERTON: The redefinition of winning Page 3 xz Team building: Marc Tolson Page 6 xz KATIE HARREL & CHARLOTTE KNIGHT: Building personal connections Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG : Working with a new potential client Page 11




ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY WELCOMES TRANSIT ENVIRONMENTAL SPECIALIST ANTOINETTE QUAGLIATA Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Antoinette Quagliata, ENV SP, LEED AP, has joined the firm as manager of sustainability services for the northeast environmental practice, based in the firm’s Parsippany, New Jersey, office. Quagliata has more than 20 years of experience as an environmental professional with expertise in sustainability and environmental management for rail and transit projects. She spent more than a decade with the Federal Transit Administration, most recently as an environmental protection specialist. Her work focused on the intersection of environmental sustainability and mobility innovation. With Dewberry, Quagliata leads sustainability consulting efforts for both public- and private-sector clients. Her background will support agencies as they seek to develop, prioritize, implement, and measure sustainability projects and policies, and leverage potential funding opportunities.

“As part of Dewberry’s corporate sustainability initiatives, Antoinette applies the same exacting principles and practices both as a leader in the firm and with her clients,” says Dewberry Senior Vice President and Business Unit Manager Ileana Ivanciu, Ph.D. Quagliata earned her master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University and her bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University. She is a LEED Accredited Professional and a certified Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure Envision Sustainability Professional. 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. The firm is recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.

Interested in learning more

about the projects and ideas driving the AEC industry forward? Learn more with Civil+Structural Engineer Media.

WILL SWEARINGEN, from page 1

perspective to get bought via acquisition than it may be to elevate insiders to an ownership/leadership position. By promoting professionals in the firm to a leadership position and possibly one of control, firms face the difficult task of shifting existing lines of authority. Standing relationships that were formerly tight-knit teams may be curbed or altogether severed as new roles and responsibilities are established. With additional authority and control comes additional accountability and the need for emotional intelligence which is required to manage change. Leadership needs to be able to make clear-minded decisions and remove emotions from the equation. This can be one of the trickiest things for firms in transition to navigate as the need for control can outweigh the best interests of the business. In the case of an owner/founder looking to exit quickly, the dynamics surrounding a new organizational structure and leadership team may not have had time to congeal. In any transition, the authority and allegiances that once existed will ebb and flow with the change. But sometimes, these variations and their association can move more aggressively than anticipated. The importance of exiting owners and leaders to carefully select, groom, and signal who will run the firm should happen years in advance of the actual transition. It’s not an instantaneous process and it’s important to identify, encourage, and cultivate the next round of leaders. This is essential. The understanding of who or what is in control of the firm is something completely different than the appointment of new leadership. Whether 51 percent ownership is the threshold or if there is a more formal board of directors or management committee that drives decision making, establishing the firm’s structure, and having a clear understanding of how the firm will be managed and controlled going forward can greatly increase the success of a large shareholder exiting the firm. WILL SWEARINGEN is director of ownership transition advisory services at Zweig Group. He can be reached at

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Zweig Group’s 2021 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala Will Swearingen will be speaking on Building a Strong Legacy at Zweig Group’s 2021 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala in Denver, November 3-5. Click here to learn more or to register for the AEC industry’s top in-person learning and networking event of the year.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




The redefinition of winning

B eing a leader is about constantly looking for problems to solve and opportunities to realize – but which ones are the right ones, which ones have the greatest return on investment, and in what order should we pursue them? Most of us have been taught to believe in projects and profits, but do we also believe in people and purpose?

To know for sure, we need to see both the big picture and what’s happening on the ground within our firms and the marketplace. THE BIG PICTURE. I see the patterns. I see them because I look for them. And I know the stress and the tension of needing to better understand, synthesize, and act because I’ve been a principal and major owner. As part of my work these days, I purposely look for meaningful patterns of issues and opportunities that express themselves in leadership teams throughout the industry, across the country, and in both smaller and larger firms as a means to help. And to this end, I see eight great challenges changing our industry in real time: 1)The post-pandemic reality. The gap between great

firms and less-than-great firms in the eyes of their employees continues to widen. 2)Use of technology and the rise of “digital natives.” We’re only scratching the surface of technology at a time when we’ve been unable (or unwilling) to truly engage those who are best positioned to lead us forward. 3)The amped-up “war for talent.” This has taken on a much more aggressive and creative form after only a slight pause in the early months of COVID. 4)The still distant “silver tsunami.” This should be a great thing, but in some cases it’s delaying needed transitions and adding to frustrations. 5)Outside money. Particularly the influence of private equity and other investment fueling consolidation and changing the nature of ownership.

Peter Atherton




PETER ATHERTON, from page 3

4) Supporting communities 5) Protecting the environment 6) Generating long-term shareholder value

6)The redefinition of winning. How success for individuals, leadership teams, and business overall has changed. 7)The “great resignation.” More than 40 percent of employees are planning to leave their current employers for new jobs over the next six to 12 months. 8)The decentralization of work. The continuation of a decades-long strategic shift from a geographic to a practice- centered service model, now accelerating forward and widening beyond just our office locations. In this article, I’m going to focus on the redefinition of winning – as better understanding and succeeding with this challenge better positions us for success with most of the others. WINNING TODAY. Your people, especially your top talent, want to win at both work and life – and they want to do so while making a difference and having an impact. The days of sacrificing all for a career and then “living” in retirement are over. The desire to live a more meaningful and balanced life while excelling at work is the new norm. At a leadership level, winning is about more than just a better business strategy. Leaders today must also effectively develop and successfully execute strategies related to: ❚ ❚ Culture. Identifying and framing the value-based behaviors needed and desired for success at all levels in our organization and rewarding, incentivizing, and holding all accountable for adherence ❚ ❚ Diversity. Bringing in more insight and expertise in terms of people, ideas, and place. ❚ ❚ Innovation. Getting better at both what we do and how we do it. ❚ ❚ Sustainability. Ensuring our success over the long-term individually, as teams, and as an organization. “Your people want to win at both work and life – and they want to do so while making a difference and having an impact. The days of sacrificing all for a career and then ‘living’ in retirement are over. The desire to live a more meaningful and balanced life while excelling at work is the new norm.” A recent statement by the Business Roundtable, a group of 181 CEOs from top companies nationwide, summarizes much of what’s changed. Their statement redefined the purpose of the corporation. In contrast to a past “paramount duty” to stockholders, the leaders committed to serving all six of their identified “stakeholders” in terms of: 1) Delivering value to customers 2) Investing in employees 3) Dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers

This is a very public bar – but one that most all leaders are being asked about and held to. “Our success moving forward must be as much or more focused on people and purpose – our internal and external stakeholders and our mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives.” WINNING FOR YOU. For most of us, our focus has been on projects and profits – it’s how we were raised. Our success moving forward, however, must be as much or more focused on people and purpose – our internal and external stakeholders and our mission, vision, values, goals, and objectives.

As a result, most of us have gaps.

How we define winning in terms of each of these, what I call the 4Ps (projects, profits, people, and purpose), is a key step to closing our gaps. THINK DIFFERENT TO DO DIFFERENT. As a leader and leadership team, do you look for and see all the right patterns and know how you’re being affected – both internally and externally? Do you believe that succeeding with people and purpose is pivotal to your success with projects and profits? Belief will bring investment, engagement, discussion, understanding, alignment, trust, and new outcomes – in this order. Investing in new era leadership, management training and development, and updating your strategic planning initiatives can begin at any time. You can turn challenges into opportunities and create your more diverse, inclusive, innovation-focused, and success- driven culture that great talent will want to be a part of – and be more dedicated to – beginning today. Take your next steps toward winning – and don’t let inaction become your team’s greatest challenge! PETER C. ATHERTON, P.E. is an AEC industry insider with 29 years of experience, having spent more than 24 as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms. Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC , author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners , and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete is also the host of The AEC Leadership Today Podcast and leads The AEC Leadership Mastermind. Pete works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him at

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Team building: Marc Tolson Owner and managing principal of Arrive Architecture Group (Bedford, TX), a firm that specializes in multi-housing residences for individuals, families, and seniors.


T olson has been with the company since its inception in 1998 as Galier, Tolson, French & Associates. Tolson works hands-on within the firm, actively designing and mastering each building’s design concept. “While we are not our staff’s family, we do try to manage and limit after hours and weekend work,” Tolson says. “We work hard to develop team morale and regularly have events that allow staff to bring friends or family. For our 20th anniversary, we took our entire staff and their families to Walt Disney World. Community and team building is something Arrive takes very seriously.” A CONVERSATION WITH MARC TOLSON. The Zweig Letter: You’ve won several design awards in the senior living market. In your opinion, what are some of the most important design features to include in this architecture niche and why? Marc Tolson: The senior living market has changed

considerably in the last 25 years. In the old days, projects were very focused on the containment and management of elders. Personal choice and options were incredibly limited. When I started designing for seniors, we began with the idea of it being “a place I want to live.” That simple maxim has guided my career. Seniors want choice, variety, independence, meaning, and beauty. They want to be inspired and proud of where they live. Communities now feature a variety of apartment and living choices; unique and resident-driven dining options from grab- and-go to chef tables; and wellness and fitness areas that rival private gyms. These communities also work hard to promote community engagement with their residents from volunteering to hosting events. Finally, outdoor living has taken off in the last 10 years in senior living. Those who had those spaces have managed the pandemic far better. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? MT: I really don’t see COVID-19 changing our firm’s policy



on telecommuting. We’re a smaller firm. We’re a collaborative firm that is built on staff interaction and communication. For our office, we found this is best done face to face. Good architecture and high-level professional customer service are hard to do over the phone or screen. Our clients appreciate this effort. We finished 2020 6 percent ahead of 2019 because we stayed safe, but face to face as much as possible. We’re allowing employees to extend maternity and paternity time off and long-term sick leave via telecommuting. I think the advances in this area in 2020 were beneficial for our staff. “I work to ensure that staff feel connected to their projects and valuable for their contributions to the work. I model hard work, consistency, focus, and responsibility to our team without micro- managing.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? MT: Our company earns our clients’ trust by being responsible, dependable, and communicative. I strive to get everything the client wants in their communities and buildings, and say “no” as little as possible. We then execute the work precisely; always meeting deadlines. Our focus is on straightforward and direct communication throughout the process. Even with all of this diligence, projects do have problems. I stand by our work even when there have been problems and I have worked to make things right, functionally and financially, many times. This personal and long view approach builds trust and partnership with our clients. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? MT: I am a 500-foot manager. I can and want to see everything that is happening at the firm. However, I don’t get down to the street level on details. I cast vision, delegate responsibilities, and hold our senior leadership working at the 10-foot level accountable. I spend the majority of my time with them. In a design firm, ego and ownership design are real factors. I work to ensure that staff feel connected to their projects and valuable for their contributions to the work. I model hard work, consistency, focus, and

responsibility to our team without micro- managing. TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? MT: I think there are three. First are the quarterly team bonuses. These are based on team productivity and performance. For many of our staff, this is the first time they have ever received a bonus. Second are Friday afternoons off. We close at noon on Fridays. We work an adjusted schedule to let that happen, but again and again, we hear how much staff enjoys this. Finally, we offer a $2,500 bonus for any new client, new project that they bring to the firm. This encourages them to market Arrive and feel valued and rewarded as the firm grows and succeeds. TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate. MT: Quality control is a constant management topic we address. The products we produce are drawings and specifications. The quality, consistency, and coordination of these means everything to clients and ultimately the final outcome of the project. We regularly review how we are doing in this area with lessons learned meetings. We try to instill in our emerging profession that quality starts with what they are doing, so we do lots of training and mentoring. 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? MT: I had a wonderful mentor when we first started Arrive. I was very competent in design and client skills, but severely lacking in business knowledge. My mentor was a financial planner who attended my church. He truly took us under his wing and taught us business management 101, including the maxim “the money is not yours.” This truth has served me again and again in my role as managing principal. He also instructed us to do everything by the book and get signed contracts from clients. Architects, including myself, tend to be dreamers and a bit naïve to the ways of the business world. My mentor confronted us over and over those first few years with the cold hard facts. I have since paid it forward with so many young people who have worked for me over the years who now own their own firms and ask for my advice and mentorship. See TEAM BUILDING, page 8






❚ ❚ Architecture

❚ ❚ Planning

❚ ❚ Project management


❚ ❚ Apartments

❚ ❚ Student housing

❚ ❚ Assisted living

❚ ❚ Memory care

❚ ❚ Independent living

❚ ❚ Senior apartments

❚ ❚ Senior campus communities

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

OBER 4, 2021, ISSUE 1411


The Arrive Architecture Group team.

TEAM BUILDING, from page 7

worked since that time and are now 100 percent debt-free, including owning our office building. I hired a new business manager who will tell me the hard, cold truth about everything – not just what I want to hear. We keep clients on short leashes with their billings and invest in our staff and technology when times are good. I believe we came through COVID-19 strongly because of these policies. “Architects tend to be dreamers and a bit naïve to the ways of the business world. My mentor confronted us over and over those first few years with the cold hard facts. I have since paid it forward with so many young people who have worked for me over the years.” TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? MT: We encourage our staff to stay with us in a variety of ways. Pay well from the start and give quarterly productivity bonuses and promote from within. This policy was started about 12 years ago and it has worked well. Our staff know we do this and are regularly encouraged to seek growth and advancement opportunities in the firm. We also promote a family environment. While we are not our staff’s family, we do try to manage and limit after hours and weekend work. We work hard to develop team morale and regularly have events that allow staff to bring friends or family. For our 20th anniversary, we took our entire staff and their families to Walt Disney World. Community and team building is something Arrive takes very seriously.

TZL: You’ve been with the firm since its inception more than 20 years ago. What are some of the greatest changes you’ve seen in the industry during this time and how has the firm stepped up to meet them? MT: Since we started the firm, we’ve experienced great highs and some great lows. The senior housing and multi- family markets tend to get very hot, over lend, over build, and then have problems. We have seen this cycle many times with assisted living and market rate apartments. Though we focus only on housing, we have kept ourselves diverse, continually being in as many sectors of the housing market as possible. We do all levels of senior housing, market rate and affordable apartments, student housing, and town homes. When one area slows, typically the others continue. Another change has been technology; 23 years ago, we were barely drawing electronically. It was still sort of a novelty. Fast forward to now and we literally do everything electronically. We render buildings in pre- design and use Revit to construct the building virtually. These advances have been costly in terms of time and staff. As a smaller firm we have had to discover and implement these drawings, renderings, and management programs from scratch. Part of my job as managing principal is to oversee how all of this works for our firm, then push and pull them into being at times. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? MT: The biggest lesson I learned in business was in 2008, during the Great Recession. I saw the writing on the wall of the downturn in mid-2008 but chose to stay overly optimistic and even deaf to it. We’d survived other downturns in the market sector, including 9/11. I learned to stay ultra-conservative in business. We have

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Finding commonalities can help you build trust and strengthen relationships in this changing work environment. Building personal connections

C lose your eyes and envision a day at work. What does that look like to you today, especially relative to two years ago? Does it look like a kitchen table, couch, or home office? Are there partners, relatives, kids, or pets around? Are you home alone? Or does it look like an office building with team members working at their individual stations?

Katie Harrel

Many people will think of something different when they picture work today, and what they see has likely changed significantly over the last two years. Fortunately, technology has been used to support more virtual work environments while adding some efficiencies, such as reduced meeting times and costs. Work continues, new and old, even while our surroundings look different. With that said, living and working alone during the pandemic had its drawbacks, such as losing that physical connection with others that we as a species have relied on for thousands of years. I was recently working on a project that required several team members to spend an entire day in the field together, which is not a normal occurrence,

especially with social distancing protocols. Most of the day we talked about work, but not the whole time. We caught up on recent life events – like how our families were doing, what kept us busy while staying home, and how we were feeling overall. This moment made me realize how our personal connections have degraded significantly since March 2020. Allowing people to know more about you outside of your profession builds trust and allows you to find commonalities that will strengthen relationships, whether you’re being considered by a potential client for a new project, or seeking

Charlotte Knight





❚ ❚ Favorite animal ❚ ❚ Favorite television show or book ❚ ❚ Greatest piece of advice ❚ ❚ Something you learned in the last week ❚ ❚ Most beautiful view you can remember

to bring on new talent into your business. The American Psychological Association indicates that “workplace friendships generally improve productivity and morale. They provide practical support by sharing knowledge and data, but the biggest benefit … is the emotional and moral support that we provide each other. We go through the same struggles and understand each others’ challenges and hurdles.” “Allowing people to know more about you outside of your profession builds trust and allows you to find commonalities that will strengthen relationships.” During a virtual meeting, I mentioned teaching myself woodworking during the pandemic and another attendee responded and shared they taught a woodworking class, giving us something to talk about and making the encounter memorable. If I had joined this virtual meeting two minutes before it started and left when it was scheduled to end (as was the pre-pandemic expectation), a memorable encounter – and a great networking opportunity – would have been lost. It is interesting to see how professionals were able to adapt to extreme changes in the environment, leveraging technology and new workflows, while creating new performance gaps that we may not have thought about before, such as subconsciously neglecting personal relationships, in the meantime. It is important to identify what other new gaps are being introduced, how and when they will start to have an impact, and what it will take to fill them. There are some strong relationships (most of which existed before work environments changed) that make it easy to pick up the phone or call on video to have a more casual conversation, but aren’t we all trying to build new relationships while sustaining existing ones? How can we build personal relationships with new clients, partners, and co-workers without the time before and after meetings, passing each other in the hallway, and/or eating lunch? It must become a more mindful and intentional effort. So, what do we do now? Three strategies can be used to help build back personal connections in the virtual setting and are applicable to both internal and external relationships. These strategies must be used with careful consideration and should be adapted based on the audience and setting. The intent is not to convert productive business/technical meetings into a social hour. The goal is to find a balance between strictly business and slightly human! 1)Add “personal update” to the meeting agenda formally or informally. You can break the ice with a personal anecdote that others can engage with (“I had a water leak at my apartment,” “I discovered these new walking trails,” etc.), or have a generic topic for discussion that allows attendees to respond in a few sentences. Try to stay away from polarizing topics. Potential topics could include:

2)Organize virtual events. Do not stop all the regular activities you would have done in-person, but instead look for opportunities to adapt and turn these functions into virtual events, whether it be a happy hour, baby shower, lunch, or poker night. As people are less likely to engage in conversation when the group becomes too large, use a platform that allows for smaller breakout groups, which will encourage more conversation. New companies have emerged for just the purpose of providing virtual synergy events within corporations, so there is no shortage of available tools, services, and resources. 3)Schedule regular check-in meetings. Identify if a regularly scheduled meeting would be beneficial and encourage attendees to keep their cameras on. This is a meeting that is dedicated to just checking in and does not pertain to a specific project or task (while those may also come up). As mentioned above, having a large check-in group may be counterproductive in that some people will be less comfortable talking in front of 25 people as compared to six. If the check-in group is large, see if breakout rooms could be used and people can rotate around or have a list of discussion topics, similar to those listed under the first strategy above. I know what some of you are thinking: Please no, this will be so uncomfortable. But growth, both personal and as a firm, is uncomfortable. If implementing these strategies is awkward at first, try to guide conversations rather than open it up for anyone to say anything, in which case most people will mute themselves and maybe even turn off their camera. These strategies can make such a difference in how you and your firm are perceived. “Communication and relationship building is an iterative process that takes work, which we all expect in our personal relationships but may overlook in our professional ones.” Of course, this is not an all-encompassing list. Tailor these strategies as you best see fit to meet the styles and personalities of those you want to interact with and build a relationship with. Communication and relationship building is an iterative process that takes work, which we all expect in our personal relationships but may overlook in our professional ones. If people do not participate at first, resist the urge to immediately throw in the towel, and try again. Once people start to find those commonalities, relationship-building will get easier. It is time to put these strategies to the test – what do we have to lose? KATIE HARREL, P.E., is special projects manager at CWE. Connect with her on LinkedIn. CHARLOTTE KNIGHT is senior proposal coordinator at CWE. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




These five points will get you thinking differently about how you interact with potential clients in the future. Working with a new potential client

I f you are like most principals or senior people in AEC firms, you are likely to be regularly talking with new potential clients. But have you ever really slowed down enough to think about whether you are doing that properly? Are you really getting all of the information you need to decide whether or not any specific potential client is one you should consider working for? And are you setting the stage to not only close the deal with those you do want to work with, but also to have a healthy working relationship with these people once they do become clients?

Mark Zweig

2)Do some research. Have you checked inside your firm to find out if you have ever worked for this client in the past – either where they are now or at a different client organization? If your company has worked with, or tried to work with this client before, how did it go? Did you talk with the specific individuals in your firm who dealt with the client? What did you learn? It’s amazing how rarely this step is taken when it is such valuable information to have! And how about the business’s D&B credit worthiness rating? If that’s bad, you may want to pass. Or their Better Business Bureau rating? Or a check to see if they are involved in any litigation and if so, what kind? How about doing a Google search? Have you looked up the people on LinkedIn? If not,

I think these are important questions, and these interactions need a lot more thought than they typically get. Here is some of my thinking on this subject: 1)Not every client is one that you want. Some clients won’t appreciate you. They won’t understand why you are not giving your time away for free. Some have a bad reputation for a reason, such as they don’t pay their bills promptly. Some will mistreat your people. Some will refuse to deal with anyone else in your company but you. Some are just difficult to work with for other reasons. The point is this: You should not work with any client that you know has a high probability of being difficult to work with. They will make your life miserable. It’s not worth it.

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS SEVAN RANKS ON INC. 5000 LIST OF FASTEST- GROWING COMPANIES FOR 4TH CONSECUTIVE YEAR Sevan Multi-Site Solutions, Inc. – a global leader in innovative design, program management, construction services and data analytics – has been recognized for the fourth consecutive year by Inc. Magazine on its Inc. 5000 annual list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. For over a decade, Sevan has provided multi- site solutions for scores of clients along their real estate journey. Sevan’s services streamline client construction processes, resulting in rapid rollout and business growth. “It’s an honor to be named on the Inc. 5000 list again by this esteemed organization. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the other outstanding companies recognized this year,” said Jim Evans, President and CEO of Sevan. “We have been fortunate to work with the best clients and partners – and it’s a real credit to our Sevan team that we are being recognized.” Among the 5,000 companies that made the 2021 list, the average median three- year growth rate soared to 543 percent, and median revenue reached $11.1 million. Together, all the companies on the list added more than 610,000 jobs over the past three years. Inc. Magazine has recognized the fastest- growing private companies in America for decades. The Inc. 5000 winners have

included many global companies such as Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, Jamba Juice, Timberland, Clif Bar, Pandora, Patagonia and Oracle. “Building one of the fastest-growing companies in America in any year is a remarkable achievement, but building one in the crisis we’ve lived through is just plain amazing,” said Scott Omelianuk, Editor-in-Chief of Inc. Magazine. “This kind of accomplishment comes with hard work, smart pivots, great leadership and the help of a whole lot of people.” In 2021, Sevan was recognized as an Employee-Rated Great Place to Work® for the 8th consecutive year. Also in 2021, Sevan ranked No. 21 on Engineering News- Record ’s Top 50 Program Management Firms and No. 44 on ENR’s Top 100 Construction Management-for-Fee Firms. In 2020, Sevan ranked No. 124 on the Financial Times FT 1000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies. Visit our website to learn more about Sevan, our 2021 award rankings and acquisitions. Sevan helps iconic, global brands optimize their multi-site construction and facility programs in the U.S. and internationally. Sevan is headquartered near Chicago in Downers Grove, Illinois with more than 400 employees and has an international office in London. The vision of Sevan Multi-Site Solutions is to

be the best in the world at delivering innovative design, program management, construction services and data analytics to organizations with multiple sites. Sevan has a passion for sustaining people, the environment and its clients’ businesses. Sevan helps iconic global brands, including 7-Eleven, AAFES, Albertsons, Amtrak, BP, Chipotle, Corvias, DaVita, HCA Healthcare, HEB, Jiffy Lube, Kroger, Luxottica, McDonald’s, Office Depot, QDOBA, Starbucks, Sunoco, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Walmart, WOW Carwash, Yum! Brands and Zaxby’s. Sevan rolls out multi-site initiatives efficiently, predictably and transparently. Applying breakthrough technology solutions, Sevan optimizes construction of new builds, rebuilds, remodels and renovations. Sevan has licensed architects in 49 states as well as D.C., Canadian provinces, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Sevan has professional engineers on staff and general contractor licenses in more than 25 states. Since Sevan’s inception in 2011, the team has refreshed more than 21,000 retail stores and 14,000 restaurants. The team has also completed more than 28,000 surveys, totaling to more than 700 million square feet. Sevan Elevate, a program that reinforces and continuously improves safety and sustainability across the company, is designed to impactfully deliver excellence to Sevan’s people and clients.

5)Don’t hard sell. You always want to project the image of someone who doesn’t need the work, but who may choose to work with a client if you so wish. This again means less talking and more listening. And while I am on the subject, be careful about being TOO thankful for their time, or for them talking to you. YOUR time is valuable. YOUR services are in demand. You don’t NEED their work. Remember these things. Most design professionals I know (not all) are too subservient. Hopefully, these five points above will get you thinking differently about how you interact with potential clients in the future! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at “You always want to project the image of someone who doesn’t need the work, but instead of someone who may choose to work with a client if you so wish. This again means less talking and more listening.”

MARK ZWEIG , from page 11

why not? There is a lot of information out there – good and bad – that could be helpful to your decision on whether or not to work with a client. 3)Ask lots of open-ended questions and then ask even more questions. When you talk with a new client, you need to really figure out what their needs are. That takes a lot of questions. It also takes you doing a lot of listening. You should be talking 20 percent of the time and listening the other 80 percent. The more you can learn about the clients and their specific needs, the better off you will be. You also need to understand how this particular problem or opportunity that made them inquire about your services is impacting their business and impacting them personally. Is there a specific dollar figure the issue is costing them or could cost them? Go through the math. Not only will you learn a lot, you will be more likely to gain the client’s trust and make them like you when you take this approach. 4)Restate what the client is telling you to be sure you have a full understanding. Again, this is a technique all good consultants use. Show the potential client you are listening to them and give them proof of it by parroting back to them what they told you, asking them if you heard what they were saying correctly.

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