TZL 1351 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S J u l y 6 , 2 0 2 0 , I s s u e 1 3 5 1 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

HR department size

With some ingenuity and proper planning, the AEC industry can adapt and thrive in any climate. Duct tape and baling twine

Zweig Group’s 2020 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report of AEC Firms asked firms to enter the size of their human resources department as well as the total firm size. The chart above shows the average number of HR employees relative to total staff size groupings. Generally, firms really focused on expanding their HR department once their total staff size surpassed 100 employees. The percentage of the firm’s employees in the HR department ranges anywhere from 1 percent in larger firms to 6 percent in smaller firms. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on any Zweig Group research publication. F I R M I N D E X A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc...4 CORE Consultants, Inc...........................6 GFA International, Inc..............................4 Latitude 33 Planning & Engineering.........2 Nova Geotechnical..................................4 Pennoni. ...............................................12 PES Structural Engineers......................10 Sain Associates. ...................................10 Universal Engineering Sciences, LLC. .....4 Ware Malcomb......................................12 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MARK ZWEIG: Every business is a people business Page 3 xz Balance: Blake Calvert Page 6 xz JIM MEADS & ALICIA BAILEY: Outgoing and incoming Page 9 xz LIZ MCCORMICK: Business development in AEC firms Page 11

I n addition to my job at Zweig Group, I’m also a full-time horse farmer. I live on 24 acres in a rural area, surrounded by hay fields, horses, and cows. With summer finally here, and working from home, I’ve never felt more connected to this role. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my time as a farmer that apply to the AEC industry: Farmers are always prepared for the worst. In my experience, farmers are generally optimistic people, but when dealing with live animals and Mother Nature, we recognize that things will always go wrong. When you have a good hay harvest, you know the next one will not likely be as plentiful. A temperate winter increases the odds of an overly hot summer with insect and pest infestations. There’s a balance of every moment of bounty that will be followed by difficultly and scarcity. I’m old enough to remember a time in the AEC industry that was difficult. When I graduated from college, the housing market had collapsed. It was near impossible for many people to buy new homes, construction starts in most markets were low, financing was difficult. Jobs in all sectors were hard to find. Low-level entry positions for writing or marketing were filled with people with years of experience and graduate degrees. Like most things, this recession didn’t last forever. Before COVID-19 we were experiencing another boom time. A time of high harvest for the AEC industry with increasing salaries, revenue, and profitability. The industry’s biggest challenges were finding qualified staff and keeping up with a high demand for work. When COVID-19 hit the United States in March, it seemed like everything changed overnight. Today, more than 70 percent of firms in the industry have experienced COVID-19 related project cancellations or delays, more than 80 percent feel business development activities will be or have been impacted negatively, and the performance of the U.S. economy is the top ranked concern for AEC firm leaders (according to the latest results of a Zweig Group survey). When faced with a crisis, the first reaction is to turn to austerity. AEC leaders have had to ask themselves what they can cut? Salaries? Programs? Marketing? Can we patch in technology we have to get working from home? This initial reaction is necessary. When a farmer wakes up to a fence that is down, a broken tractor, and a freak snow storm that’s iced in everything, they can’t just go back in the house to sit down and wait out what might happen next.

Christina Zweig Niehues




ON THE MOVE LATITUDE 33 WELCOMES RORY LINEHAN Latitude 33 Planning & Engineering has welcomed Rory Linehan to its civil engineering team. Linehan brings nearly two decades of experience as a naval officer and a civil engineer. As Latitude 33’s newest project manager, his experience with military, residential, and commercial developments will be an asset for the firm. Latitude 33 serves clients in numerous sectors, including residential, educational, healthcare, commercial, civic, military, and hospitality throughout Southern California. Linehan brings a wealth of experience to his new role with Latitude 33. For the past 14 years, he has worked in the construction and engineering fields, managing projects, performing and authoring drainage studies, preparing water quality technical reports, coordinating multiple contractors and vendors, and ensuring projects were in compliance with engineering and architectural plans. Additionally, Linehan serves in the Navy Reserves. During his active duty in the US Navy, he served in multiple roles, most recently as the officer-in-charge for the Naval Coastal Warfare Center at NAVSTA Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also served as a construction manager and as an engineering division officer. Linehan earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cornell University and his

master’s degree in civil engineering from San Diego State University. For Latitude 33, Linehan will be working on an array of projects ranging from infill mixed-use developments to life science and hospitality projects. He will be tasked with leading a team of engineers and designers to assist in growing Latitude 33’s portfolio of projects and technical capabilities. Matthew Semic, P.E., principal with Latitude 33, says, “We’re excited to find an individual with so many well-developed strengths. Rory’s military background, impressive education, and engineering experience make him a really well-rounded addition to our team. We look forward to putting his knowledge to work and growing him into one of our great team leaders.” Founded in 1993, Latitude 33 Planning & Engineering offers a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to design. The firm provides public sector planning, land use planning, surveying, public outreach, entitlement services and civil engineering design to public agencies, developers and property owners. The firm specializes in residential, education, healthcare, military, commercial/retail, civic and hospitality projects.

Driving Financial Results Webinar


Solid financial management is crucial to the success of any company, and firms in the AEC industry are no exception. This short course provides an overview of business financial management – specifically tailored to our industry – to help firm leaders make informed decisions that drive results.



1200 North College Ave. Fayetteville, AR 72703 Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Christina Zweig | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent

A farmer’s first response is to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Most things can be fixed (at least temporarily) with duct tape or baling twine. I go through a big roll of duct tape every week. Just like tying the fence back together with baling twine is only a temporary solution, short-term patches for your AEC firm’s operations won’t last forever. A farmer’s second (or sometimes first) response is to call his/her neighbors! I can’t tell you the number of times my neighbor Pete, who is a legit farmer, complete with overalls and a can of Busch in hand, has lent us a tractor, pulled a vehicle out of the mud, sold us hay, cut/baled our fields, etc. He’s taught us so much, from how to build a feeder to what kind of fertilizer to use. I don’t think people in the AEC industry do this enough. Now is a great time to call on an outside expert or even your neighboring firms to find out how you can help each other. There’s most likely more to learn and efficiencies/partnerships to be gained, than there is to lose right now. We know the vast majority of AEC firm leaders see a revenue reduction over the next year. I challenge you to ask yourself how profitability can be maintained with that reduction, or how you can mitigate those effects with something new. Can you shift your offerings? Can you change the way services are delivered? What types of projects and markets seem more resilient? If you aren’t trying to learn how to enter those markets, this is the time. We’ve emerged from the first part of the storm, and as a leader of an AEC firm, it’s time to ask yourself, “What do I need to do to not only survive, but also plant seeds for my firm’s future harvest? What will grow in a drought?” I’m confident that with some ingenuity and proper planning, the AEC industry can adapt and thrive in any climate. CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES is director of marketing and media at Zweig Group. Contact her at

Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560

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 2020, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




E very business is a “people business.” A/E firms, in particular, are people businesses. And all we sell is labor. Even if you are a solo practitioner with no employees, you have clients. And clients are people! If we care about the success of our people and our businesses, we cannot keep ignoring the importance of people skills. Every business is a people business!

What are the implications of this fact? There are many! 1) Many clients hire architects and engineers not because they feel they need the plans they create to build something, but rather so they can help secure a building permit for a given project. To be successful doing that, the design professional will have to answer a whole host of questions and influence people. That takes people skills. 2) As a design professional, you will always have to consider the likely or actual human reaction to every single thing you do or say. We all have to sell. We all have to influence. We all have to work with others both inside and outside of the organization. And we all have to avoid turning people off. The ability to do – or not do – these things is based in large part on people skills. Design and technical professionals who have these skills are far more valuable and more

successful over the long haul from those who don’t. 3)The best design abilities or technical skills are useless without the requisite people skills. It’s kind of like having flour without yeast when you are trying to make bread. The yeast is the activator. Just like people skills are the activator for design or technical abilities for everyone working in our business. They are required to function at any level in an A/E firm. 4)There are less people with design and/or technical skills who also have people skills, than there are people who have design or technical skills alone. This makes those who have people skills more rare and therefore more valuable than those who don’t. And it is why firms in this business struggle with having enough people who can sell work, manage people and projects, and move into their leadership posts as the business grows and evolves.

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 4



BUSINESS NEWS UNIVERSAL ENGINEERING SCIENCES, LLC FORMS PARTNERSHIP WITH NEVADA GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEERING AND TESTING FIRM Orlando- headquartered Universal Engineering Sciences, LLC has announced that Nova Geotechnical & Inspection Services, LLC has joined their family of companies, a move that initiates the westward expansion of UES, already the largest and most recognized leader in geotechnical and environmental engineering, construction materials testing, construction QA/QC, environmental health and safety consulting and building code compliance services in the Southeast. The NOVA Geotech partnership is the third equity investment/acquisition made by UES through its relationshipwith PalmBeach Capital and Gary H Elzweig, P.E. The combined firm with 29 offices coast to coast and in excess of 1,500 highly skilled professionals is positioned throughout Florida, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada and California and was founded 56 years ago by Seymour Israel who is still actively involved with the firm. “We are delighted to welcome NOVA Geotech and its leadership into the growing UES family of companies,” UES President Mark Israel announced. “NOVA Geotech compliments and adds to our portfolio of services and gives us a strong base for our plans for western expansion. In addition, our knowledge of the company and its leadership convinced us that NOVA is committed to delivering the same high level of quality and professionalism that we have provided our clients for more than half a century.” NOVA Geotech CEO and President James Bristow echoed Israel’s comments about the new relationship.

Bristow said, “We are looking forward to leveraging Universal’s management team, excellent reputation and resources, combined with the market niche Nova Geotech currently enjoys, to duplicate what UES has built in the southeast and expand that throughout the western region to create a network of locations that will benefit our respective clients. UES has a ‘quality first’ commitment that matches perfectly with ours.” Universal Engineering Sciences, LLC recently merged with GFA International, Inc. and the combined consulting engineering firm specializes in geotechnical engineering, building code compliance, construction materials testing and inspection services, environmental, health and safety and facilities consulting. The company has 1,500 employees in 29 offices serving clients throughout the Southeast U.S. from D.C. Metro to Miami, and west to Nevada. NOVA Geotech was established in 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada, to provide geotechnical engineering, environmental consulting, soils inspection and testing, construction materials testing and special inspections and has grown to be the preeminent firm of its type in the Las Vegas Valley, Northern Nevada, and Southern California. STEPHEN CUPKA JOINS AMT IN VIRGINIA BEACH A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that Stephen Cupka, P.E., CCM, PSP has joined AMT’s Virginia Beach office as a regional construction management leader. In his role, Stephen will oversee AMT’s construction engineering and inspection contracts and staff in the Hampton Roads area while also pursuing new opportunities within the region. Cupka brings to

the position more than 12 years of experience in construction and project management, cost management and scheduling, estimating, and engineering. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technologies from Old Dominion University. “As someone with proven talent in construction management, we are excited to add Stephen’s leadership to our CEI team,” notes AMT President and CEO Michael Wiercinski, PE, PLS. “We look forward to Stephen’s important contributions to AMT’s Facilities and Transportation practices in Virginia.” A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. has a deep appreciation for establishing vision and achieving goals. Client-focused since the firm’s 1955 inception, AMT has evolved into a multidisciplinary engineering and design consultancy with more than 20 offices throughout the eastern United States. As an employee stock option plan managed and 100 percent employee-owned firm, AMT employs highly qualified individuals who are experts in their respective fields to oversee, perform and manage our business practices. These team members are driven to positively impact the communities where they live, work, and play. Collectively, AMT’s capabilities encompass transportation engineering for roadways, bridges and traffic improvements, related construction management and construction engineering inspection, site design, surveying, landscape architecture, water resources and environmental services, and more.

Having people skills can help design professionals negotiate the minefield of professional life today in a polarized society, and make the difference between their survival or lack of it in their profession. People skills – if we care about the success of our people and our businesses, we cannot keep ignoring their importance and just hope that the problem will go away. It won’t happen on its own! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at off. The ability to do – or not do – these things is based in large part on people skills.” “We all have to sell. We all have to influence. We all have to work with others both inside and outside of the organization. And we all have to avoid turning people

MARK ZWEIG, from page 3

5) Training in people skills is desperately lacking and badly needed. As someone who has taught at the university level, I firmly believe that we don’t do enough in colleges and universities to help our students learn these skills. Engineers and architects, in particular, have little to no time in their course schedules for coursework in management, writing, selling, public speaking, leadership, and other subjects that would help them have better “people skills.” Then, when they get into the workforce post-graduate, any formal training they get from their employers is most likely going to be on something related to how to use a particular piece of software. Once again, the most important skills to the employees’ eventual success are ignored. Makes no sense to me! 6) As the society becomes increasingly polarized, these people skills become even more important than they ever were. With everyone on edge, people are more likely to experience feelings of anger or outrage as a direct response to something someone says, or does, or puts out there on social media. Many people feel that they have to identify themselves as being in one camp or the other on every single topic or issue.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.



Work From Home & Online Learning Opportunities



PROJECT MANAGEMENT FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS - VIRTUAL SEMINAR PRICE: $599 OVERVIEW: A new seminar for project managers led by a panel of 3 experts backed by a ton of research on how to best train project managers to be more effective and efficient. this training course covers the critical focus areas every AEC Industry project manager should be familiar with and is presented in lecture, tutorial, individual exer- cises, and case study workshop sessions. Attendees will leave armed with a compre- hensive understanding of the characteristics, skills, and techniques successful project LEARN MORE ELEVATING DOER-SELLERS: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS - VIRTUAL SEMINAR PRICE: $799 OVERVIEW: Elevating Doer-Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals is specifically developed to help design and technical professionals in architecture, en- gineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing clients 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 seminar presents business development techniques proven to drive real growth and value in your AEC firm. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON AUGUST 5, 2020 LEARN MORE WEBINAR SERIES LEADERSHIP IS EVERYTHING – HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY LEAD YOUR FIRM THROUGH CRISIS AND CHANGE – LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM PRICE: $499 OVERVIEW: A 2020 Leadership Development “Webinar and Discussion Series” There are four key elements needed for success today: Projects, Profits, People, and Purpose. This program is designed to focus on a number of the most important “People” as- pects that are increasingly critical to our success both individually and organizationally. Goal: Especially during this time of significant crisis and great change, provide essen- tial tools and insights to current and aspiring leaders and managers to improve our individual and collective success, growth, and resiliency. THIS WEBINAR SERIES WILL BEGIN ON AUGUST 11, 2020 LEARN MORE managers must have to flourish in their role. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON JULY 14, 2020


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Balance: Blake Calvert President and CEO of CORE Consultants, Inc. (Littleton, CO), a professional services firm with a unique culture that empowers its people to thrive at home, at work, and in their community.


C alvert leads the charge at CORE and advises, “Love what you do, and do what you love. Work hard, play hard, innovate, learn, and challenge yourself every day. The CORE way!” This philosophy has been paramount to CORE’s success and exponential growth. A CONVERSATION WITH BLAKE CALVERT. The Zweig Letter: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? Blake Calvert: Thankfully, our company had made remote working technology investments (VPN upgrades, Zoom, Teams, Intranet) in 2019. At that time, we just thought the technology would help some employees with work-life balance and significantly improve productivity companywide when Denver gets some of its nasty snowstorms. Little did we know it would pave the way to move very quickly in March of 2020. We had 100 percent of people working out of the office the week of March 16. As many companies found, utilization and productivity picked up significantly with fewer distractions. At this

point, we see no reason to rush back to the office with limited productivity impacts on the business. Here is the paradigm shift: Our company has been performing so well with remote working, we are planning on significantly broadening the use of it in the future for all employees. CORE and our employees will benefit from increased productivity, profitability, more family time, and more personal time. Lessons learned: Empower your employees and proactively invest in technology! TZL: You became CEO of CORE in 2013. How did previous jobs prepare you to take on this role? What were the most helpful skills? BC: With more than 25 years of industry experience, two of the greatest things I’ve learned are: 1)Never stop learning. Learning comes in so many different forms, but I’ve found that observation is powerful. Over the course of my career, I’ve observed great things firms accomplished along with challenges faced. Observing and analyzing the good and the bad gave me a good roadmap for what I wanted to do when I started CORE at age 43. I joke



CORE also provides training, mentoring, and support for all our managers. We’ve hired Zweig Group to do PM training, I do one-on-one lunches with each of my managers, and we’ve taken advantage of training through ACEC. We’re also big on employee feedback. We do bi- annual employee surveys so we can gauge the needs of our managers and employees. We take that feedback seriously and implement changes and improvements where we can. TZL: CORE recently opened an office in Winter Park. What was the main impetus there? New services? Expanded geographic presence? BC: Opening a Winter Park office was a natural evolution for our company because who doesn’t love a powder day on a Tuesday? In all seriousness, many of our employees, including myself, are connected to Winter Park, Grand County, and the mountain community. We had a unique opportunity to make a strategic hire in Winter Park and move one of our Denver leaders to the area full-time. We have a lot of great relationships in the region. Our Winter Park team is well-connected and has been instrumental in bolstering our public and institutional experience. With its close proximity to Denver, there’s tremendous growth on the horizon for Grand County and we’re excited to be part of it. We’re thrilled with the progress our team has made building our business in the mountains, and we’re already making plans to expand our presence up there. 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? BC: I’ve observed that many firms don’t focus on leadership transition. When my business partners and I founded CORE, we started with the end in mind so that we could all be comfortable with the expectations of the business. I knew that I was comfortable being the managing principal of this business for about 10 years and wanted to have a transition game plan in place well before I turned 65. With that initial time frame, we’ve looked at what we need to do – internally and externally – to move toward that goal. While we don’t have all the answers yet, we’ve implemented some things that will get us to that goal including: ❚ ❚ Recruiting our replacements. ❚ ❚ Plus-one mentality – taking our replacements to meetings so the hand-off isn’t a big deal when the time comes. ❚ ❚ Ensuring there are reasonable buy/sell clauses in partnership agreements that facilitate faster owner transition. For example, we make the cost of ownership attainable and realistic for the right people who will grow the business.

with others that if we had started the business much earlier, our business goals and success would be much further along. However, 10 years ago I would have lacked the knowledge and maturity to really create something unique. Keeping a learning mindset has helped to build CORE into the great company it is today. 2)Turn negativity into change. Effectively turning negativity into change has also been vital. That was the catalyst for starting CORE. I wanted to create the kind of company that I wanted to work for. And when we first started out that was one of the cardinal rules – no whining! If you don’t like it, fix it. Address it. Be part of the solution. That mindset has helped to shape our great culture. We’re not perfect, but we aspire to it every day. TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? BC: CORE exists today because I was trying to get a better balance with my family. I wasn’t getting that balance with other companies that I worked for. And my philosophy is that if “I” want it, all employees should have it. While balance is at the core of our mission statement, as the managing principal, it’s hard to get the balance that I need so there’s always overlap. Some of the overlap has been great. My wife Heather has been a significant contributor to the business. When I started CORE, she stepped away from her 20 years as an executive in commercial insurance to ensure we could manage our family. However, her skill set was invaluable for CORE. Her leadership, feedback, and expertise in operations and risk management enabled us to get the business up and running quickly and grow considerably from day one. Today, she continues to be a significant contributor to our success. Some of the overlap hasn’t been so great, but I try my best to not let work encroach too much on family time. We’ve provided tools for all our employees (myself included!) to give them greater flexibility to work from home or remotely so we’re not all anchored to an office or desk. It doesn’t matter where you work, just focus on the results. 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? BC: I agree with this statement 100 percent. For CORE, finding great managers starts with our recruiting process. We must get the right people through the door in the beginning which means taking steps in the interview process to make sure that our managers align with our culture, values, and mission. While technical skills are important, they’re secondary in our hiring process.

See BALANCE, page 8

HEADQUARTERS: Littleton, CO NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 64 YEAR FOUNDED: 2014 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 2 PASSIONS: Creating exceptional places and communities, exceptional client service, integrity, collaboration, teamwork, efficiency, value, sustainability and work-life balance. SPECIALTIES: All things development – master planned communities, multifamily, single family, mixed use, commercial-retail, client representation, sustainability consulting, community outreach and expert witness.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

ULY 6, 2020, ISSUE 1351


BALANCE, from page 7

I think the biggest pitfall to avoid is putting it off and thinking you have plenty of time to make the transition. You could miss an opportunity to retain some of your best talent that could help grow the company in the future. TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? BC: CORE has implemented several initiatives to make sure that we’re supporting our PMs including: ❚ ❚ Training. We’re developing internal training and using multiple external training resources for our PMs including Zweig Group’s Project Management for AEC Professionals seminar, year-long ACEC management training, and a plan for executive coaching for all our top leadership, not just project managers. If we want to be the best, we have to start at the top and improve ourselves first. We also encourage our PMs to participate in industry organizations and get involved in their training and mentorship programs. ❚ ❚ Balance. We’ve implemented – and continue to implement – policies that encourage life balance. We hire fully-functioning adults and trust them. We want our PMs to take their PTO so they have time to rest and rejuvenate. We also provide tools to give our PMs flexibility to work from home if they need to. I constantly tell all our employees that we can always work around life’s important moments. Putting work first and not being present for your kid’s school play or an important family event is not acceptable. ❚ ❚ Knowledge management. We’ve invested time and money in creating effective knowledge management tools to make sure we capture lessons-learned streamline efficiency. It’s still a work in process, but we have a great start. TZL: How do you unwind at the end of the day? Work/ life balance seems important at CORE. How do you make sure you follow suit? BC: Life balance is important to CORE and one of the primary reasons that I started this company. In all reality though, it’s a constant balance for me to fit it all in. Sometimes I do well and sometimes I don’t. Remembering the “why” behind starting CORE is a good reminder to ensure that I reserve time for my family now. If you don’t live for now, time will pass and those special moments are gone. I don’t know if true work/life balance exists. However, companies can make it a primary focus and it must start at the top. Basically, what all employees (including me) are looking for is trust and flexibility from their employer, supervisor, and team. With a culture that supports balance, employees should feel empowered to make work and life decisions, regardless of when the moments fall during the week. For me, my ideal way of unwinding is spending some time on my mountain bike in Winter Park and enjoying a good Colorado or Oregon IPA at sunset. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? BC: Diversity and inclusion are a huge problem in our industry. Yet, as we are desperate for finding top talent and keeping it, we ignore this issue. The paradigm

needs to shift. Conversations about diversity need to be normalized, not relegated to “we’ll get to it” or change the subject because it’s uncomfortable. Additionally, the side conversations and water cooler talk must stop. We need to make the office a safe and trustworthy space for everyone. This is not a problem for the groups affected to fix. We, as company leaders, must actually lead and set the standard, expectations, and accountabilities. Those companies that don’t get on board will not be sustainable. Diversity is not something you just check the box after a training or hire, then move on. A huge component of our work at CORE is the overall problem solving and collaboration of people. If you don’t have that diversity and you’re only getting one side or only a few different segments of what people can offer, you’re not providing the best service you can for your clients. Those that figure this out and embrace it, will have a strategic advantage over the competition. CORE supports programs including Zweig Group’s ElevateHER, Denver’s STEMBlazers, Women in Energy, and the Society of Women Engineers to be part of the solution in shifting the culture. It’s more than just lip- service to us. We want to be part of the solution. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? BC: Competitive pay, benefits, and perks are great things to offer employees, but I’m convinced that our employees don’t stay because of these things alone. Keeping our employees around for the long-term comes back to a cultured-centered approach. In addition, some of our benefits and community engagement programs are designed to align with our company values. For example, we offer our employees an “Opt-Outside” program that reimburses them up to $500 per year to get outside and enjoy our beautiful state. Employees use this benefit for ski passes, camping gear, national park passes, and more. The program promotes personal health, wellness, and physical outdoor activity by encouraging staff to disconnect, unplug and recharge. We could just add that $500 to their bonuses, but this unique program encourages behavior that aligns with our culture and values. And what we’re doing is working. Many of our employees just laugh and then tell us when a recruiter calls them! CORE staff getting involved with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, an organization that motivates and enables people to become active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Outgoing and incoming

Ownership transition can be an eight to 10 year process, so start early, educate yourself, define your goals, and keep an open dialogue with your employees.

J IM MEADS, P.E., CEO/OWNER OF SAIN ASSOCIATES, INC. I am a third-generation owner and CEO of Sain Associates. Our founder, Charles “Hack” Sain transitioned the company to his son, Randy Sain. In 2010, I became CEO, and we transitioned Randy into his retirement and moved the company forward with two owners. Having the goal of internally transitioning the company and eventually stepping into my retirement, we started identifying yearly tasks, starting at our 2015 Strategic Planning session, to make the next transition happen. We have made quite a bit of progress in the last four and a half years.

Jim Meads

❚ ❚ Shared our company financial statement with all our upper-level team leaders. Our team leaders were accustomed to reviewing revenue and backlog information for their respective teams. Providing a full financial statement helped them connect the dots to understand how their performance and expenses affect the company’s bottom line. It has also helped them understand the importance of collaborating and sharing workload to the company’s overall health. ❚ ❚ Increased our project managers’ knowledge of company performance. We invited select project

Having been through two prior successions, we had learned a lot and knew we needed to prepare our company for the next transition. As leader of the company, my desire has always been to teach our upper-level employees to be entrepreneurial and business-minded. To make this happen, my Executive Committee and I implemented the following: ❚ ❚ Educated our upper-level team leaders. This has been an ongoing process. It started with the basics of “What It Means to Be an Owner.” This included open discussions about prior lessons learned, different corporation types, and how the process works to become an owner.

Alicia Bailey




ON THE MOVE SARAH SCARBOROUGH NAMED YOUNG ENGINEER OF THE YEAR PES Structural Engineers announced that Sarah Scarborough, P.E., S.E., was selected as the 2020 Young Engineer of the Year by the Structural Engineers Association of Georgia. The Young Engineer of the Year Award is awarded to a practicing structural engineer aged 35 or younger (as of the date of the application deadline) who is recognized by colleagues for his/her outstanding service and commitment to the profession and association, involvement with the mentoring and development of younger members, and technical and ethical competence. David Aucoin, P.E., a principal with PES said, “Sarah’s ability to push things forward has been a critical factor in keeping PES

dynamic in a fast-changing marketplace. She is spearheading our firm’s adoption of lean principles and has been coaching our project teams in the use of lean practices. Additionally, Sarah is involved in many of our most complex projects and remains the first option for many of our young engineers when they have analysis questions.” Scarborough is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering with a focus in structures. Scarborough joined PES Structural Engineers as an intern while at Georgia Tech and now has more than eight years of experience on projects ranging from hotels and industrial buildings to senior living facilities and high-end automotive dealerships. In addition to serving as a project manager

for the firm, Scarborough acts as the quality assurance manager and assists in overseeing the firm’s continuing education and onboarding programs. She also focuses on the development and implementation of company processes and standards. Scarborough is involved with the Georgia Community of Practice of the Lean Construction Institute and serves as a current board member and past chair of the SEAOG Young Members Group. PES Structural Engineers is a service-oriented firm offering structural design engineering and consulting services since 1988. The firm has a focus on the federal government, education, healthcare, housing, hospitality, industrial, institutional, mixed-use, office, recreation, religious and retail market sectors.


affect our metrics, especially our profit. Before having this knowledge, I found it easy to approve attendance at certain conferences and training seminars or purchasing of equipment, as I was somewhat blind to how these expenses were affecting us. Now, those approvals are much more informed and can be planned with our workload to maximize our performance. Additionally, attending Zweig Group’s Principals Academy was a large part of my learning process. “Ownership transition can be an eight to 10 year process, so start early. Educate yourself and engage with other CEOs on ownership options and issues they have faced with succession planning. Define your goals and keep an open dialogue with your employees.” Once I was officially offered the opportunity to become an owner, the only information that was new to me was the reading of the company’s shareholder agreement and the cost of the shares. In reflection, saying yes to becoming an owner was not as scary of a process as I had originally perceived years prior. JIM’S ADVICE ON OWNERSHIP SUCCESSION: Ownership transition can be an eight to 10 year process, so start early. Educate yourself and engage with other CEOs on ownership options and issues they have faced with succession planning. Define your goals and keep an open dialogue with your employees. Sain Associates has grown from two to five owners and we hope to add more. We continue to educate our leaders and managers on our financial performance and hope we continue to see success for years to come. JIM MEADS, P.E. is president/CEO of Sain Associates. Jim can be contacted via LinkedIn or at ALICIA BAILEY, P.E. is a principal/owner at Sain Associates. She can be reached via LinkedIn or at

managers to our yearly strategic planning session. Through participation, they were exposed to more information which has contributed to their acceptance of the plan. We started quarterly Performance Metric Meetings in which our CFO provides information on select metrics. Seeing regular performance data and having an opportunity to discuss it has increased their understanding of the company’s performance. ❚ ❚ Updated our shareholder agreement and prepared shareholder performance metrics. Clear definitive goals have been set for our potential owners. These written expectations give us a way to gauge their performance as leaders and provide feedback for improvement. ❚ ❚ Engaged our team leaders and senior managers in discussions about their interests to become owners. One-on-one conversations were conducted with each individual, and an outside consultant was engaged to assess the leadership skills of potential owners. This combined information gave our Executive Committee a better understanding of interest and fit for ownership among the candidates. ALICIA BAILEY, P.E., PRINCIPAL/OWNER OF SAIN ASSOCIATES, INC. Ownership transition was a topic at our Strategic Planning session in 2015, and immediately I can recall having feelings of anxiety with questions of who would be our future CEO, how it would affect me, and if I would be asked to be an owner. Under the heading of “Prepare for the Future,” we defined tasks for year one of a multi-year effort to transition ownership and leadership of the firm. Over the next couple of years, I was asked several times about my desire to become a future owner. I typically responded “I do not know” or “I do not know enough to make that decision.” Luckily our Executive Committee spent a lot of time with our team leader group educating us on the process and the details of the firm’s financial metrics. Over the years, I gained an understanding of how my team and the company were operating financially on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. It became very apparent how certain activities

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When firms encourage a hybrid role between business development and sales, the result is often improved collaboration throughout the firm. Business development in AEC firms

B usiness development at an AEC firm is a multi-faceted role, unlike many other markets. At a high level, as business development director for Pennoni’s Energy Region, I am tasked with growing top-line revenue for the firm’s energy services. A traditional BD role entails identifying, attracting, and generating well-researched, qualified leads which would then funnel to a sales team. However, I view my role as a BD/sales hybrid.

Liz McCormick

This role is fast-paced and requires bouncing back and forth between various tasks. I often split my time based on business needs between sales and BD. It takes discipline to switch tasks and wear different hats, but it brings incredible rewards and benefits as I get the unique pleasure of working on closing business that directly drives revenue today, while also focusing on opportunities and channels that will expand the firm’s future revenues. The varied activities and responsibilities require interaction with every line of business within the firm and promote breaking down silos that often exist within large multidisciplinary professional services firms.

In the BD capacity of my role, I’m focused on leveraging and establishing relationships both externally and internally. Key activities revolve around finding and qualifying prospects and developing relationships with key partners to pursue joint sales opportunities including: ❚ ❚ Identifying the business problem for prospects and teaming partners and determining whether we can help them solve this (i.e. do they use the services we offer?) ❚ ❚ Collaborating with key stakeholders internally to ensure we have appropriate marketing collateral, business development and marketing plan

See LIZ MCCORMICK, page 12



BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB PROJECT WINS 2020 LABJ COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE AWARD Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced one of its projects, Downtown West Medical Center located at 1120 W. Washington Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles, has won a 2020 Commercial Real Estate Award from the Los Angeles Business Journal. Ware Malcomb provided architectural design and civil engineering services for the project, which was managed out of the firm’s Irvine, California-based headquarters office. Downtown West Medical Center was awarded the Gold Award for Best Medical Project at the prestigious annual award ceremony. The four-story, 60,000 square foot Class A medical office building provides a state-of-the-art wellness campus and enhanced outpatient services to the surrounding downtown LA community. The new outpatient facility has been fully leased to HealthCare Partners, which is now Optum Medical Group after the recent acquisition by Fortune 500 firm UnitedHealth Group. The concrete and glass building features storefronts on the first level, with metal panels and tile bars completing the modern exterior aesthetic. A circular entry plaza serves as the core of medical campus and circulation hub, providing continued visibility and openness

throughout the site, as well as linking the existing three-story building to the medical development. An adjacent nine-story parking structure is directly connected via a bridge on the third level. The new building incorporates several sustainable features including a highly- efficient variable refrigerant flow HVAC system, providing heat recovery reuse throughout building zones to minimize energy waste, a 95 percent MERV 13 filtration system for the healthcare environment, a greywater system in place for future use, storm water storage and infiltration systems, and high efficiency LED lighting throughout. “This award underscores Ware Malcomb’s leadership in medical office design, as well as the synergy of our firm-wide resources. The urban infill location and footprint of this project, combined with the very specific tenant requirements of a modern medical office building posed unique design challenges that were addressed through collaboration with Ware Malcomb’s healthcare architecture and civil engineering teams,” said Michael Petersen, principal of Ware Malcomb’s health and science practice in the Irvine office. “We are excited to be a part of this award- winning project that has delivered world-class outpatient ambulatory care to a historically underserved community.”

“We worked closely with the project partners and our in-house architecture team to negotiate the challenges associated with Low Impact Development requirements in a dense urban setting to allow flexibility in maximizing the use of the limited site area. The result was a drywell with oversized conveyance pipes to meet both the volume requirements and the preferred means of managing the ‘first flush,’” added Luke Corsbie, director, civil engineering in Ware Malcomb’s Irvine office. The project owner is Robhana Group, and the developer is Inception Property Group. The general contractor for the project was Oltmans Construction Company. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is an international design firm providing planning, architecture, interior design, branding, civil engineeringandbuildingmeasurement services to commercial real estate and corporate clients. 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/educational facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as a Hot Firm and Best Firm To Work For by Zweig Group.

“It takes discipline to wear different hats, but it brings incredible rewards and benefits as I get the unique pleasure of working on closing business that directly drives revenue today, while also focusing on opportunities and channels that will expand the firm’s future revenues.”

LIZ MCCORMICK, from page 11

strategies, social media content, etc. that not only expand our energy-related services to existing clients, but also introduce the firm to new prospects ❚ ❚ Participating in internal groups throughout the firm to find new opportunities to help colleagues solve their clients’ needs ❚ ❚ Participating in relevant external associations and attending regular meetings ❚ ❚ Attending and exhibiting at relevant trade shows and conferences ❚ ❚ Identifying internal resources required for pursuits and proposals In the sales capacity of my role, my daily tasks are focused on shepherding prospects through the sales cycle to close leads and generate revenue including: ❚ ❚ Regularly communicating with clients ❚ ❚ Scheduling client meetings ❚ ❚ Assessing client needs and understanding how they buy ❚ ❚ Identifying competitors ❚ ❚ Managing internal team members working on joint pursuits ❚ ❚ Conducting product demonstrations ❚ ❚ Working closely with technical sales support, i.e. Operations Managers

❚ ❚ Understanding and handling objections ❚ ❚ Asking for the “order” and closing deals ❚ ❚ Updating all activities in company CRM

When firms encourage a hybrid role between BD and sales, the result is often improved collaboration throughout the firm. A healthy firm is one that internally promotes and achieves cross marketing. Having the flexibility to see a prospect through closing results in the ability to solve additional problems they may face as a business, as well as bring in more revenue for your firm. Just as important, we have found most clients want continuity. They appreciate having one point of contact as a business partner and trusted advisor who knows their business and can bring them ongoing solutions that solve their problems today and can address their future needs. LIZ MCCORMICK is the business development director for Pennoni’s Energy Region. She can be reached at

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