TZL 1477 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

February 20, 2023, Issue 1477 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Wage gap


Associate/ dept. manager

Project engineer Project manager

Use this tool to understand the macro external factors that influence your company. Demystifying PESTLE analyses

Entry level

-5% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20%

FIRM INDEX Ardurra Group, Inc.............................................12 Bowman Consulting Group Ltd..................4 CSI USA Group.....................................................10 David E. Wooster and Associates...........10 Garver.......................................................................... 10 Kirksey Architecture............................................4 Waggoner.................................................................. 6 MORE ARTICLES n JANKI DEPALMA: Confidence vs. competence Page 3 n Seeking change: Emad Al-Turk Page 6 n JOHN SHAW: Change management and relationships Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Those other qualities of great leaders Page 11 In a recent analysis of compensation data from Zweig Group’s 2023 Salary Report of AEC Firms and the Best Firms To Work For Award, it was discovered that engineers at the associate/department manager level experienced the highest wage gap, with women taking home 17 percent less in base salary than their male counterparts. The wage gap for project managers, project engineers, and principals was 7.5 percent, 3.3 percent, and 1.3 percent respectively. Interestingly, entry-level women engineers took home 1.5 percent more than males. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

I n the world of academia or business, we typically learn about a new framework, understand its purpose, and then find a business case or real-world opportunity to utilize it. In my own case with PESTLE, I ended up doing just the opposite: One of my former CEOs asked me to develop something to support him with leading a strategic planning process. It was a critical moment to approach the firm’s strategic planning effort in an innovative way (it was May 2020), and, after a brainstorming session, I realized that a framework not only already existed, but it matched exactly what I was looking for: the PESTLE analysis. PESTLE is an acronym that stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental. Widely used as a key part of the strategic growth planning process, PESTLE is a framework that focuses on the big picture and impacts on the overall business, the market, or an important business decision. The main purpose of a PESTLE analysis is to understand what macro external factors may influence a company and how those factors could create opportunities or threats to the company. May 2020 was just two months into the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic; coincidently, it was also the time to create a new strategic plan for the firm. How could I best help the CEO tackle the upcoming strategic planning process differently so that the firm could survive and even thrive under this seemingly black swan event? The firm needed a series of strategic brainstorming sessions to engage with leadership to frame and solve short- and mid-term strategic issues while laying a strong foundation for organizational resiliency and a growth mindset to thrive in the new normal for the long run. PESTLE VS. SWOT. What does this mean for strategic planning? Where should you start with these brainstorming sessions? A thorough environmental scan through a PESTLE lens was a must as the first step. You might argue that a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis could do the trick, but a PESTLE analysis was ultimately the better choice. While the “opportunities” and “threats” in a SWOT analysis allow firm leaders to think about external factors such as clients, competitors, partners, contractors, suppliers, and distributors who typically have direct impact on their firm (a two-way relationship), PESTLE analyses are more about evaluating the general macro-environment a company operates in.


See YING LIU, page 2



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† What are the new and emerging technological breakthroughs, innovations, or automation that will shape the future landscapes of your business? † Do you also foster a corporate culture where employees are encouraged to think of innovation as a confidence-building exercise? What is the risk of doing nothing today? 5. Legal. This may include new legislations, legal regulations, or changes in standards at the local, state, or federal level. For example: † How would changes in building codes or zoning laws impact the design and construction of buildings in your vertical sectors? † With an ever-increasing demand for the use of alternative delivery contracts (P3, DBFOM), what is your firm’s strategies in accepting or rejecting legal risks or limitations before signing and executing a contract? 6. Environmental. This includes the impacts of green policies or environmental regulations to minimize the effect of climate change. For example: † Now that many states have board-approved zero- emission transition plans and have established clean and renewable energy goals, what is your firm’s near- and long-term strategies in partnering with your clients to address these critical topics? † What commitments and efforts has your firm demonstrated in not only working to transform how buildings, infrastructure and communities are designed and built to address resiliency, sustainability, health, and wellbeing, but also continually improving your business practices to reduce impacts as a corporate responsibility? Together, the six factors of PESTLE make up an exhaustive list of the general market environment. If you evaluate all of these factors combined, it is extremely unlikely you will miss out on any external factors at the macro-level. Wondering where and how to start your strategic planning? Zweig Group is here to help. Ying Liu, MBA, LEED AP BD+C is a strategy advisor at Zweig Group. Contact her at

YING LIU, from page 1

These macro environment factors can have massive impacts on the company, but not the other way around (a one-way effect rather than a two-way relationship). Additionally, if you’re somewhat SWOT-savvy, your brain is most likely already well-trained to identify some macro trends sporadically in the “opportunities” and “threats” quadrants of a SWOT analysis; however, without an intentional deep-dive into an all-inclusive PESTLE framework that can provide a holistic macro context for the SWOT analysis, it is unlikely that your SWOT will be developed with a maximum focus on leveraging “strengths” and “opportunities” to overcome “weaknesses” and “threats.” THE SIX FACTORS. I will briefly describe each of the six PESTLE factors below: 1. Political. This can include changes in government and resulting policies. For example: † How has government spending changed at the local and state level that directly impacted your firm’s current backlog and future pipeline? † How will the passage of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill affect your firm’s current and future strategies? 2. Economic. This could include changes in public spending, interests or exchange rates, inflation, and the climate for business investment. For example: † What are the negative (or positive) economic trends? † How can you more proactively integrate the possible impacts of a recession when developing your firm’s strategic plan? 3. Social. This may include changes in lifestyle, attitudes, buying habits, cultural aspects, or demographics. For example: † How has your firm’s policies and expectations changed in response to a higher demand for a more flexible working model in a post-COVID world? † How is the DEI effort being addressed and incorporated as a part of your firm’s corporate strategy and culture? 4. Technological. This could be new products and services requested by your clients or new approaches/inventions to R&D activities such as IT/internet, AI, transportation, energy uses, etc. For example:

LEADERSHIP SKILLS FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS With this seminar, Zweig Group’s strategy approach, previously reserved for advisory clients, is brought to the training environment for the first time ever. This course equips leaders with practical skills to identify opportunities, develop and execute strategy, and build support for initiatives within their organization. Join us March 30-31 in Austin, Texas. Click here to learn more!

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Confidence vs. competence

We need to examine the connection between confidence, competence, and our sense of self in the corporate world.

“I want to be more confident in meetings so I sound like I know what I’m talking about.” When my mentee said this to me, it started a Rube Goldberg series of thoughts. What does it mean to “be confident” and how does it help someone “sound as if they know things?” My thoughts began to swim – what is the connection between confidence and competence?

Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM

My mentee and I decided we needed to explore the connection between confidence, competence, and our sense of self in the corporate work world. I love asking my children for their input too, because a middle-schooler will always shoot you straight. My son matter-of-factly defined both competence and confidence. In his words, competence is having the knowledge of something at a specific level. Confidence is the feeling that you are OK just as you are. Simple, but let’s unpack this. Turns out competence is not exactly a binary function – either you know something or you don’t. My close friend Elaine Dolecek, a principal at EEA Engineers, introduced me to the Hierarchy of Competency

Pyramid. Noel Burch of Gordon Training International coined this four-leveled pyramid of competence that accurately captures the progression from novice to expert through the lens of competence and consciousness. Let’s use my own journey of studying Japanese as an example. You start at an unconscious incompetence – the ultimate beginner stage. I was just learning the alphabet, sentence structure, and making so many unconscious mistakes. You may stay in this stage for a while depending on how hard you work. I didn’t know how bad I was until I started my study abroad in Japan; that’s when I moved into the conscious incompetence stage. This is that stage where you






activities, and construction consultation, which involves project management, administration and meetings, roadway plans, preliminary traffic control and signal design, survey, safety review and utility/railroad coordination. The anticipated improvements on the PA 100 approach to Exton will include four distinct elements: (1) addition of a northbound lane from Pottstown Pike through the intersection with US 30 Bypass ramps; (2) shifting the existing travel lanes and the center median to accommodate an additional through- lane under the Amtrak/SEPTA and Norfolk Southern railroad overpasses;

(3) modifications to Mountain View Drive intersection; (4) modifications to the Whiteland Woods Boulevard intersection. “We have an extensive portfolio of successfully lead projects in West Whiteland,” said John Mitchell, PE, Regional Public Service Manager at Bowman. “We are familiar with the challenges along Route 100 in this location and look forward to bringing the talents of our project team together to improve the safety and efficiency of this corridor for travelers. We appreciate the continued confidence PennDOT has shown in us through this award.”




SERVICES PRACTICE LEAD Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 6-0 has awarded the firm a $5 million, 5-year open end contract for design services on the PA Route 100 at Exton Station project in West Whiteland Township, Pennsylvania. The contract was awarded through the Company’s wholly owned McMahon subsidiary. Services to be provided under the contract include all preliminary and final transportation engineering and design

talking over people, belittling errors made by others, and being argumentative. Dweck noted that overconfidence, especially the overestimation of one’s skills, is more prevalent in people with a fixed mindset. Those who value improvement, learning, and development tend to be more open to admitting what they don’t know! What would happen if you adopted the growth mindset? How would your behavior change? We cannot pretend that the work world is as simple as my preteen son would suggest. Not everyone embraces the concept of a growth mindset. Confirmation bias and discrimination often negatively impact your interactions. As my mentee and I spoke, we realized that people demonstrate external confidence with cues such as voice volume, tone, and physical space. When someone says, “You need more confidence in meetings,” odds are they are referring to the above ideas. These elements are what we see in most self-help books. Delving into the internal confidence is harder. When you are in the conscious stages of the competence pyramid, you are painfully aware of what you know and don’t know. Understanding your place on the pyramid is vital. Remember that active growth feels uncomfortable. Your internal confidence needs to rest in the belief that you are supposed to be at this stratum of the pyramid. Mistakes are just road markers of the growth, not signs that you don’t belong. Learning about the pyramid and combining it with Dweck’s reach on the growth mindset has been a game changer for both of us. Our confidence is growing strong – not from how we compare to others, but knowing how much we are learning and improving. Confidence and competence are not a fixed destination but more of a highway. You increase both when you embrace the idea that learning, making mistakes, and being aware of your abilities are all part of becoming better. Keep the external confidence cues while remembering that you really are right where you belong. Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM, is a senior associate and director of business development at Kirksey Architecture. Contact her at

JANKI DEPALMA, from page 3

become very aware of your mistakes. At times, it felt like I was deteriorating! This is an extremely tough stage because learning from those mistakes fuels improvement but bruises the ego. Having humility to fail and learn is key to growth. If you are too afraid of “looking stupid” you can get permanently stuck! Next is the conscious competence phase. My brain was hurting from constantly thinking about my words. I was creating mnemonic devices to remember characters or speaking slower but more accurately. I was still very aware of what I was doing, but I was making improvements and learning. Finally, the top of the pyramid is unconscious competence; this is what one calls fluency. It seems effortless and breezy. For me, this happened when, after a long phone call with a stranger, they asked me what part of Japan I was from, assuming I was a native speaker (still a lifetime highlight). The competency pyramid reflects the growth mindset work of Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and author of Mindset . Her research points to two diametrically opposed thoughts regarding talent and intelligence. One camp, the fixed mindset, tends to think that talent/intelligence are set quantities for an individual, like a serving that you were given upon birth. Mistakes are the sign that the person has reached their limit of abilities. Fixed mindset people are very fearful of making mistakes and see their abilities as in competition with others. The other camp, the growth mindset, acknowledges talent but believes that mastery comes from incremental growth. The growth mindset believes in embracing challenges and sees others’ success as inspiration not competition. Luckily, anyone can learn a growth mindset. If you are in the conscious incompetence or conscious competence phase, you may compare yourself unfavorably to the unconsciously competent person. Unchecked, this comparison can cause one of two reactions. You may withdraw. This may show up as “under-confidence” – speaking less, apologizing, and taking up less physical space because you are hyper aware of how you compare to the expert. Or, you may mask your feelings of inadequacy with overconfidence –

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Seeking change: Emad Al-Turk CEO of Waggoner (Jackson, MS), a civil engineering firm of planners, designers, and engineers with a passion for helping communities realize their potential.


A s CEO, Al-Turk possesses an entrepreneurial spirit that drives him and helps him to recognize it in others. His primary focus is to build a team that understands change is inevitable and his mindset is to always question what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. He embraces critical thinking, innovation, and service in an effort to continually improve. As such, he spends most of his time working “on the business” rather than “in the business” on items such as setting strategic direction, envisioning organic and acquisitive growth, identifying partners who align with their values and culture, managing change, communicating internally and externally, and setting company performance expectations. His leadership team works mostly “in the business,” managing and leading the operations of different aspects and making sure everyone is held accountable for performance. “An entrepreneurial spirit is a state of mind that the status quo is not acceptable and that future success is not predicated on past successes,” he says. “To stay ahead of the competition, we must actively seek out change rather than wait to adopt change.”

And it’s that same entrepreneurial spirit that helps the younger set move into principal roles quicker. Last year alone, Waggoner advanced three individuals in their 30s as principals, and they have at least two more being mentored to become principals. “The most important attribute we look for in naming future principals is fulfilling this entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. CALCULATING GROWTH. And that philosophy seems to be working as the company grew by 100 percent between 2017 and 2021, mostly through organic growth. In 2020, they decided to grow the firm fivefold in five years. Initially, they wanted to build on the successes achieved over the previous five years and to expand on their own through organic and acquisitive growth. After significant deliberation, they decided to pursue partnership with a private equity firm that aligns with their values. “We defined desired attributes and talked to a half dozen private equity firms,” Al-Turk says. “We narrowed our search to the top two and finally selected Alpine Investors/Trilon



because their values aligned perfectly with ours. Their ‘people first’ philosophy, significant expertise in M&A and organic growth, understanding of the importance of utilizing technology and innovation, financial strength, and, finally, their approach to building a top 20 North American engineering firm all aligned with our wants and goals.” “An entrepreneurial spirit is a state of mind that the status quo is not acceptable and that future success is not predicated on past successes. To stay ahead of the competition, we must actively seek out change rather than wait to adopt change.” Waggoner finalized its partnership with Trilon in January 2022, as the first infrastructure company to join the Trilon Group. Waggoner’s role in this partnership is to lead the growth of Trilon’s Water, Municipal, and Disaster Recovery platform growth into a top 10 water company and a leading national disaster recovery firm. Over the last year, Waggoner grew by 60 percent through acquisitive and organic growth. Al-Turk simultaneously serves as the CEO of Waggoner, leading its continued growth in the Southeast, as well as the CEO of Trilon’s WMDR platform, which grew by more than 500 percent over the last year (from 100 to more than 500 employees). “We will continue this growth pattern over the next few years and seek partnerships with well-aligned firms,” Al-Turk says. He shares that it’s important to be proactive in preparing for anticipated growth because significant change will always accompany it. “While this can bring excitement and opportunities, it can also add stress and anxiety,” he says. “It’s important to have a communication plan in place for staff so they understand their role. It’s also advisable to build a strong back-office team and systems that will allow you to manage a larger company, including finance/accounting, marketing, human resources, and information technology. These preparations require investment and calculated risk, so be sure that you evaluate those risks and prepare financially for those investments.”

HELPING CLIENTS LEVERAGE ASSETS. For clients, Al-Turk knows that when the company is strong, clients reap the benefits too. It allows them to make promises they can keep by contractually delivering quality services and products on time, within budget, and more. “We strive to do much more than that by becoming client trusted advisors,” he says. “We start by understanding client needs, and then develop a strategy to help them envision possibilities they thought might be out of reach. The strategy is uniquely different depending on the client.” Waggoner provides integrated and transformative solutions to most of its clients who are local and state government entities. Their client’s infrastructure needs outstrip their ability to pay for these needs, so they assist clients in leveraging their local financial resources with state and federal resources. They also use technology and innovation to provide applications that clients can use to do more for less. CREATING A CULTURE OF LONGEVITY. When it comes to staff, Al-Turk says that diversity, inclusion, and equity are engrained in their culture because it strengthens the organization as a whole. In 2017, when he joined to lead the firm, Waggoner staff were predominately white (more than 95 percent). Today, more than 60 percent of the company is comprised of people of color, women, and other minority groups. This transformation happened because leadership focused on it. “We start by understanding client needs, and then develop a strategy to help them envision possibilities they thought might be out of reach. The strategy is uniquely different depending on the client.” And, it’s this culture that encourages staff to stick around – that and a “do-right-by-your- staff,” philosophy. Al-Turk knows it’s important to treat everyone with respect – much like he’d want to be treated. “Listen to their concerns and put a system in place to proactively address them,” he says. Other things like competitive pay, incentives, and creating a functional family environment See SEEKING CHANGE, page 8


NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 174 (Waggoner), 530 (Trilon WMDR Platform)











Trilon WMDR Platform:


SERVICES: Water, Wastewater, Hydraulics/ Hydrology, Stormwater Management, Watershed Planning & Coastal Restoration, Transportation, Disaster Recovery, Program Management, Civil Engineering, Geospatial Intelligence & Asset Management, Innovation & Technology, Construction Management, Planning & Development, Utilities, Surveying and Mapping, Business Analytics

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

RUARY 20, 2023, ISSUE 1477


SEEKING CHANGE, from page 7

where success is celebrated together all contribute to a happy workplace. “We celebrate our successes together, but also support each other when we fail,” he says. A flexible work policy is in place too. While they had a limited telecommuting policy before COVID-19, the pandemic helped them to expand this policy and recognize that if telecommuting is managed properly, it can be as productive and, sometimes, more productive by allowing staff who want to work from home to do so. Currently, about 15 percent of the company works 100 percent remotely, and another 10 percent to 15 percent are hybrid. “This change has not been a hindrance to growth and productivity,” Al-Turk says. “On the contrary, it’s opened new opportunities to add talented team members that we would not be successful in hiring if everyone had to work in the office.” IMPROVING GLOBAL RELATIONS. Outside of the office, equity isn’t just a word to check off the list when it comes to company culture. Al-Turk believes that you can’t achieve world peace – a much loftier goal – without justice and equity. Waggoner is focused on what it can do locally – here in the U.S. – to meet that end. Waggoner assists marginalized communities that were left behind in funding priorities to secure their fair share of state and federal resources to lift up their communities. They assist these communities in demonstrating how environmental, social, and economic historic disparities caused significant infrastructure decay within their communities that severely and negatively impact the quality of life of their citizens. “While [growth] can bring excitement and opportunities, it can also add stress and anxiety. It’s important to have a communication plan in place for staff so they understand their role.” Two recent projects illustrate that commitment to these efforts. The first project is a pro bono community service project in partnership with the International Museum of Muslim Cultures, which is leading more than 15 local non-profit organizations to improve the quality of life of the citizens of Jackson, Mississippi, through building the Beloved Community which Dr. King envisioned, but never attained. This is an ambitious, 10-year, integrated, and transformative community-based project that starts with a two-year pilot program in Ward 2 of Jackson, Mississippi. The City Council of Jackson, with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s lead, unanimously approved IMMC’s Resolution for A City of Jackson Beloved Community – An Integrated Transformation Pilot Project on March 1, 2022. Waggoner’s role is to support IMMC in identifying the necessary funding resources from state and federal government and philanthropic and business communities. It will also lead the business entrepreneurship, economic development, and infrastructure components of the project.

Waggoner has provided planning, design, construction administration, and strategic support services on behalf of the DeSoto County Regional Utility Authority since 1998.

Anticipated outcomes are improvements in education, innovation/technology, criminal justice, poverty, health, housing, and economic development, as well as physical infrastructure (water and transportation) – overall quality of life. Another project is the Highland Commerce Connector in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Situated between the cities of Jackson and Madison, Ridgeland’s development began as a valuable area for commerce and trade along the Natchez Trace Parkway and advanced as a central point between Memphis and New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad. Connection and accessibility have played a pivotal role in this growth, and as the needs of the community changed with a rising economy, the city expanded around major transportation thoroughfares that cross the city. These thoroughfares have served as primary routes for many residents, but have significantly prevented access and gain to lower-income communities. Tougaloo College, a historically Black college and university founded in 1869, has been divided by Interstate 220 and isolated by Highway 51 from major employment areas in the City of Ridgeland. Waggoner has supported the City of Ridgeland in equity efforts regarding Tougaloo’s connectivity to economic-rich portions of the city, including a recent Fiscal Year 2022 Rebuilding American Infrastructure Through Sustainability and Equity grant application to create a two-lane, 2.6-mile frontage road connection with a 10-foot-wide multi- use trail. The Highland Commerce Connector will increase equity and accessibility, providing development opportunities for Tougaloo College and employment opportunities for many persons from areas of persistent poverty as well as promoting safety through the increase of multi-use trails and bike routes for recreational use that also provide access to employment areas. “My goal is for Waggoner to become a reflection of the state and country we serve, work, and live in,” Al-Turk says.

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Communication and relationships are the greatest driving forces in success or failure during a change journey. Change management and relationships

I love change. Not everyone shares this view, but, in my experience, change has proven to be an engine of growth – particularly if approached with intentionality and strategic planning.

There’s no consensus on the best way to navigate change, but here are some things I’ve learned over my 30-year career in human resources: ■ First, you have to identify the problem that needs fixing. Be specific.

■ Have an elevator speech for all focused on the change. It’s critical that you be on the same page, be consistent, and share the same story. ■ During the change, ask for constant improvement feedback. I can’t express enough how important it is to spend the time asking for feedback. Encourage people to tell you what’s not working. You have to recognize the value of candid feedback and encourage it. ■ Make sure your team is on board. If someone isn’t, you need to express that they find a way: Ask them what they need to educate themselves on the issue or what they need to know to get

John Shaw

Put your change group through change management training. This is a sales game, after all. These people need to learn skills on how to drive and support change.

■ Before announcing the change, it’s important to address the why – why change is needed, what’s not working, and what’s in it for the organization and its people. Engaging purposefully at the outset with those who will be impacted is essential.

See JOHN SHAW, page 10



TRANSACTIONS CSI USA GROUP ACQUIRES DAVID E. WOOSTER AND ASSOCIATES CSI USA Group announced it has acquired David E. Wooster and Associates; a traffic engineering firm based in Pennsylvania. This acquisition is expected to be CSI’s first of many, and complements the group’s industry sector startup Redtree Engineering, based in Illinois. Charles Wooster will continue to be involved with the Company as an advisor to the Board, and the entirety of the staff has been retained and all project management continues, uninterrupted. Jerrod Crosby, who has been part of the company for 18 years and will continue to work as COO, said, “Partnering CSI’s experience, capabilities and resources will allow David E. Wooster and Associates to take the next step for services provided to our clients and a further step toward future growth.” CSI USA Group is a holding of AEC industry professional services companies, investing in architecture and engineering firms which provide services in the private and public sectors, covering residential, industrial and infrastructure markets.

These firms build on their technical excellence to apply CSI’s core values of Innovation, Excellence and Commitment to provide solutions to their customers, while improving the quality of living of communities with creative design, planning and engineering practices. CSI has participated in more than 2,000 client projects from more than 25 countries, and it has been working with clients in the U.S. for decades. Jacinto Duran, who is taking over as CEO, said, “We are very excited with David E. Wooster and Associates joining our group and the synergies created both ways, which will bolster growth and a broader base of services for our US customers. We have a great group of professionals and there’s excitement about this growth opportunity for everyone.” The acquisition of David E. Wooster and Associates brings CSI’s team to nearly 300 professionals, adding a strong reputation, expertise, and experience to CSI’s capabilities while expanding its footprint in the USA. David E. Wooster and Associates, headquartered in Pittsburgh,

Pennsylvania, was founded in 1972 and has been at the forefront of the traffic engineering industry in the tri-state area ever since. The firm’s staff delivers cutting edge, innovative, and economical solutions to today’s complex traffic and roadway design issues. Zweig Group initiated the transaction and advised CSI. The deal team included Andrew Chavez, CM&AA, an advisor with Zweig Group’s M&A team, and Jamie Claire Kiser, managing principal at Zweig Group. Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, valuation, executive search, board of director services, ownership transition, marketing and branding, and business development training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

■ Read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People . It’s a classic for a reason. People like to talk about themselves; just keep asking questions, and you’ll win them over. ■ Tell on yourself. When something goes wrong, make sure you let everyone know it. That will continue to engender trust and help build relationships. You aren’t going to be able to effectively change anything if you don’t have the relationships. ■ Never stop trying to improve, even if your official change is 100 percent successful. In the past, I’ve had company leaders ask, “Why aren’t you asking me what’s going well?” My response was, “I want to know what we need to improve on to continue to move in the right direction.” ■ Give a shout out! Celebrate wins with the change team; allow individual employees to recognize other team members or outstanding work. Ultimately, it comes down to this: Communication and relationships are the greatest driving forces in success or failure during a change journey. It’s our responsibility to explain clearly and concisely the why and what around change. If we fail to articulate the better path forward, even the most dynamic strategy will fall short. John Shaw is chief human resources officer at Garver. Connect with him on LinkedIn .

JOHN SHAW, from page 9

on board with the change. If they can’t get on board, they shouldn’t be on the team. ■ Focus on winning over people who are on the fence about your change; they are easier to influence. Leave major resistors off your radar at first because they will learn from others and then buy-in. ■ Constantly find ways to measure and show progress to all stakeholders. Know what’s working and what isn’t. “It’s our responsibility to explain clearly and concisely the why and what around change. If we fail to articulate the better path forward, even the most dynamic strategy will fall short.” ■ Keep a sales-focused mindset – listen, listen, listen. You can’t solve an issue if you don’t understand the problem. ■ Make sure you have a strong business case for the change. Be prepared to back it up. ■ Relationships during change are the key to success. Gain trust by showing people you are there to help make things more effective and efficient.

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




T here are tons of articles and blog posts out there about the qualities of great leaders. It seems like our appetites for this kind of information are unlimited, because we all can see what a huge difference a single leader can have on a large group of people, making it possible for an organization to accomplish great things. Important stuff! People who exhibit these qualities are likely to be well-thought of by their people and, more importantly, are able to achieve goals that others deemed impossible. Those other qualities of great leaders

Mark Zweig

I have been lucky to work for some amazing leaders over the years. From one of the first bike shops I worked at, The Touring Cyclist, owned by a fellow from West Memphis, Arkansas, the late Don Humphries; to the engineering and planning firm Carter & Burgess, run by the late Jerry Allen; to my current organization, The Sam M. Walton College of Business, led by our dean, Matt Waller. On top of that, there are hundreds of firm founders I’ve met and worked with over my 38 years of management consulting in the AEC industry who were outstanding leaders. Here are some of the qualities those people have (or had) that aren’t often talked about in the context of great leaders – qualities that make (or made) them great:

or was someone who would make time for you when you needed it. They are all people who answered calls, texts, and emails, or would meet when you needed to. They didn’t push you off too far into the future, because they recognized that something was urgent in your mind that needed their attention now. For example, I could call Jerry Allen and, if he couldn’t answer, he would call me back within the hour. I could text Matt Waller at 6:02 a.m. and probably hear back from him by 6:06 a.m. ■ Approachability. Being approachable means these leaders aren’t going to be too judgmental or make you feel bad for seeking them out. They don’t throw up unnecessary barriers to reaching them, like running everything through

■ Accessibility. Every one of these great leaders is

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



TRANSACTIONS RTC PARTNERS SELLS ARDURRA GROUP, INC. Round Table Capital Partners, a private equity fund specializing in middle market growth platforms, announced that it sold a significant majority of outstanding shares of its portfolio company Ardurra Group, Inc., to an affiliate of Littlejohn & Co., LLC. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Led by industry veteran Ernesto Aguilar as CEO and an all-star team of executives and entrepreneurs, Ardurra is among the fastest growing players in the Architecture, Engineering and Consulting services industry. With significant exposure to high growth states and attractive end-markets, Ardurra has successfully expanded scale and scope of services across water/wastewater,

transportation and aviation end-markets with more than 70 offices in the United States since the inception. “RTC is incredibly proud of and grateful to the current CEO Ernesto Aguilar and the entire Ardurra team for the outstanding work they have done in building this platform. In addition to executing on an aggressive growth plan, both organic and acquisitive, this team has also managed to build a best-in-class corporate infrastructure and instill a highly- engaged, high-performance culture that is truly differentiated,” commented Christopher Lee, Co-Founder and Co- Managing Partner at RTC. Tony Brindisi, RTC’s other co-founder and co-managing partner, added, “Our goal in building the Ardurra organization was always to build a market-leading

growth platform and to ultimately find a strong partner that was well-positioned to support the organization in achieving its next phase of expansion. We are excited to pass the torch to Littlejohn and look forward to following their success.” “RTC has been an outstanding partner for our organization. They have supported our vision of growing a national professional services firm by committing to our values of being Employee-Centric, Client Focused and Results Driven. RTC’s financial and strategic support has allowed us to establish a strong foundation for continued industry leading growth, and our entire organization is appreciative of their unwavering trust and support over the last five years,” Ernesto added.

they convey their confidence that the organization can overcome all challenges and achieve audacious goals. Each of the three people I mentioned in my introduction to this topic are great examples. Don Humphries started and ran his business on almost no capital, yet he always felt we could be the largest bike dealer in St. Louis and succeed nationally through mail order. Jerry Allen cast his vision for Carter & Burgess to be “2,000 (people) by the year 2000,” with a firm a tenth of that size in the middle of a huge downturn in the economy. Matt Waller pushes for The Walton College to grow in size and reputation, in spite of being part of a state government bureaucracy, our location in Arkansas, and a declining college-age applicant pool. All of these people succeeded in achieving their big goals because of their optimism. ■ Involvement. Once again – and I have said it before – great leaders don’t mind getting themselves dirty doing the work of the organization. This flies in the face of the generally-accepted maxim that we should all be doing what is “the highest and best use“ of our time. But my experience is great leaders know that in order to gain the trust, respect, and acceptance of their people, they need to work alongside of them. Don Humphries, even though he had as many as 10 bike shops at once, wasn’t beyond changing a flat tire. Jerry Allen would manage a big, difficult client relationship if necessary. Matt Waller teaches a class – one that he designed. All of these people get it. Great leaders may be managers – but they are also doers. People who exhibit these qualities are likely to be well-thought of by their people. But perhaps even more importantly, they are able to achieve goals that others deemed impossible. And that’s what leadership is ultimately all about! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

an assistant. And they are nice, open, and good listeners. These people go out of their way to make other people feel comfortable. Jerry Allen always kept his door open and would talk with anyone at any level in the company. He was a big advocate of MBWA – “management by wandering around,” a term coined by management consultant and author, Tom Peters. ■ Authenticity. The best leaders I have worked for or observed all act like the same person in any setting they are put in. They don’t put on an “act” and become a different person in different situations. That means you always know “who” you are dealing with and what their likely reaction is going to be. Their behavior is going to be consistent. People want that out of their leaders. ■ Bravery. The best leaders will confront whatever needs to be confronted, even if it is likely to ruffle some feathers. They can make an unpopular call if it is the right call in their minds. They can make a decision without 100 percent certainty about the outcome That takes a certain amount of bravery that not everyone has, and is the stuff legends are made from that becomes part of the corporate culture for the organization going forward. ■ Thoughtfulness. These people remember your birthday. They remember the names of your family members. They are considerate and polite, and introduce you to other people they know at meetings – because that’s the right thing to do. They have a real interest in people and take the time to show their thoughtfulness daily. It comes naturally to them because that is the kind of person they are. ■ Optimism. I have never met a great leader in the AEC world (or world as a whole) whom I wouldn’t describe as an optimist. No matter how tough the environment is,

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