TZL 1470 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

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Podcasting is one of the best ways you can tell the story of your brand. Capture the heart of your brand

According to data from Zweig Group’s annual Marketing Survey , on average, user sessions on AEC firms’ websites last roughly 100 seconds. A podcast can assist with engagement and time on site. Additionally, a podcast can be an effective marketing tool to drive onsite metrics, SEO, and overall brand visibility. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

I have spent the past 13 years podcasting. It started small, helping my church at the time create a podcast for its weekly sermons, and it grew from there. For some reason, podcasting and listening to stories through audio resonated with me. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why it was such an impactful medium. But every time I listened to a podcast, I was transported by time and place to the podcaster’s story. I don’t know about you, but when I put my AirPods in and start listening, I tend to put everything else out of my mind. It’s probably one of the most intimate spaces for listening and thinking. It wasn’t until I rejoined Zweig Group in 2013 that I discovered the value of using a podcast to tell the story of your brand. With a few years of podcasting under my belt, I suggested to Mark Zweig and Chad Clinehens that we use a podcast to create more awareness around The Zweig Letter and Civil + Structural Engineer Magazine . I figured it would be an excellent way to create more awareness around the newsletter brand, share some of the great stories told in print, and bring them to life through audio. After all, as Arianna Huffington wrote, “People think in stories, not statistics, and marketers need to be master storytellers.” The Zweig Letter Podcast was born! Six years and more than 210 episodes later, the podcast has taken on a life of its own. It has allowed Zweig Group to engage its community differently and feature Zweig Group leadership and AEC thought and practice leaders worldwide. It was never created to battle the likes of Joe Rogan or The Daily podcast, but rather to leverage the medium of audio and sometimes video to expand the firm’s brand and create more awareness in the process. We even started to generate business inquiries through the podcast, leading to work and new client relationships. Some of you probably think, “This is great, Randy, but I don’t even listen to podcasts.” You may not, but there are plenty of folks who do. According to Edison Research, more than 62 percent of the U.S. population (177 million) ages 12 and older listen to podcasts. Here are some additional statistics from Edison Research that may convince you this isn’t just a trend:

Randy Wilburn

FIRM INDEX AECOM..........................................................................4

AFG Group, Inc.......................................................6

BSA LifeStructures ...............................................4

Fluor Corporation...............................................10

Northern Engineering Services, Inc.....12

Skiles Group...........................................................10

MORE ARTICLES n MELANIE HARRIS: Creating the future of work Page 3 n Transformational: Sheri Tickner Page 6 n KEYAN ZANDY: Is lean failing at your firm? Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Making your CRM work for your firm Page 11




RANDY WILBURN, from page 1

■ 41 percent of millennials listen to podcasts weekly.

Interested in learning more

■ 66 percent of podcast listeners have a college degree and an average income of $75,000 annually. ■ The biggest increase in podcast listenership in the past year has come from those in the 12-34 age group. Need more convincing? Here are five specific benefits of creating a podcast for your firm: 1. Increased exposure. One of the primary benefits of creating a podcast for your business is increased exposure. A podcast is a digital audio file that can be downloaded from the internet and played on various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. By creating a podcast, you can reach a wider audience than you would with other marketing methods, such as print, web, or television advertising. 2. Improved SEO. Another benefit of creating a podcast for your business is improved SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to optimizing a website to rank higher in search engine results pages. Creating a podcast can help improve your website’s SEO as it will give you another avenue through which people can find your site. In a future article, I’ll walk you through ways this can be done. 3. Cost-effective. Another advantage of podcasts is that they are relatively affordable to produce. In most cases, all you need is a microphone and some recording software. If you already have these items, your time will be the only cost. 4. Build trust and credibility. When people listen to a podcast, they typically do so because they trust the host’s opinion. By creating a podcast for your business, you will be able to build trust and credibility with potential and current customers. 5. Connect with your audience. Finally, creating a podcast for your business will allow you to connect with your audience more personally than other marketing methods. When people listen to a podcast, they feel like they are having a conversation with the host. This personal connection can help build strong relationships with your listeners. Consider how you’re telling your brand’s story. If you’re relying on a static website and a couple of webinars from 2018, it may be time to rethink what you’re doing and how incorporating a podcast into your marketing and branding toolbox may not be a bad idea. Zweig Group’s advisory group is now offering podcast strategy services, and I’m happy to say that I am leading this effort. Let me know if you want to learn more or just want to talk through a few ideas. We would be happy to assist you in extending your brand through podcasting. Randy Wilburn is a podcast strategy advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at rwilburn@

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Creating the future of work

Instead of making predictions about the future of work, take part in actively shaping it.

W hen my fiancé Matthew and I met two years ago, he was a merchant mariner and I was an architect. We defined who we were by what we did. Two years of exploration, change, self-awareness, and growth led to the startling but obvious realization that we are, at our core, what we do – but also so much more than that.

Melanie Harris, AIA, LSSYB

Many of us had this eye-opening experience during the pandemic. The separation from our work “space;” the increased amount of time we spent with our families, and in many cases, by ourselves; and the potential for flexibility in our lives, had us questioning with increasingly louder voices the norms of work and life. Within all of these upheavals, good and bad, I kept coming back to one question – what is the future of work? And how do we help frame and transform it? This article is a result of these questions. I started by reframing the concept of “work.” Work has traditionally been something you do away from home to make a living. But in our human way, we have kept “making a living” apart from “living.” This was never a sustainable approach. We promoted a culture of 8-5

or a culture where you worked those overtime hours, stealing time away from your families and loved ones in return for accolades at work. The extremism of this philosophy led to many things, including nonchalance on one end and burnout on the other. For a better work future, we have to re-purpose what it means to “go to work.” 1. The future is hybrid. While not everyone will subscribe to this idea, and it might not even be the best course of action for some, by and large, the world is accepting the hybrid work format. A winning formula for almost everyone will include the ability to collaborate and have meaningful, spontaneous conversations that lead to ideas




BUSINESS NEWS AECOM AND PARTNERS SELECTED AS THE PREFERRED PROPONENT FOR MAJOR WORKS PACKAGE FOR MELBOURNE’S NORTH EAST LINK PROGRAM AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, announced it has been selected, with partners Acciona and MACA Civil, as the Preferred Proponent to develop a plan to deliver the North Package, a major package of works with the North East Link Program, Victoria, Australia – the state’s biggest road project and largest ever investment in Melbourne’s north-east. AECOM is expected to provide a range of engineering, design, and advisory services to support the development and delivery of the project. “We’re excited to be part of a transformative project that will change the way people move around Melbourne and deliver positive outcomes for communities and the environment,” said Richard Barrett, chief executive of AECOM’s Australia and New Zealand region. “Working with the North East Link Program, Acciona and MACA Civil, we look forward to leveraging

our diverse skills base, particularly our global sustainability and transportation expertise combined with our digital design capabilities, to develop and deliver this city-shaping project.” The North Package is one of the North East Link Program’s five major packages. The North East Link Program will provide a safe and efficient freeway connection for more than 135,000 vehicles a day, taking 15,000 trucks off busy residential roads in the northeast of greater Melbourne every day. It will also enhance access to major suburban business and employment centers, improve orbital road connectivity across Melbourne and boost the capacity of the city’s freight network. The North Package includes the design and construction of the North East Link between M80-Plenty Rd interchange and the north tunnel entrance at Watsonia. As Preferred Proponent AECOM and its partners will work with NELP and project and community stakeholders to develop the final proposal and commence delivery readiness activities. The works will include new and upgraded freeway, separation of local roads from the

freeway, significant earthworks, retaining walls, bridge structures, rail interface works, intelligent transport systems, urban design, and landscaping. AECOM, is the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, delivering professional services throughout the project lifecycle – from planning, design and engineering to program and construction management. On projects spanning transportation, buildings, water, new energy and the environment, our public- and private- sector clients trust AECOM to solve their most complex challenges. AECOM’s teams are driven by a common purpose to deliver a better world through our unrivaled technical expertise and innovation, a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to environmental, social and governance priorities. AECOM is a Fortune 500 firm and its Professional Services business had revenue of $13.3 billion in fiscal year 2021.

building a culture that empowers choices that are best for all instead of ones that restrict and restrain. And culture, in turn, starts with belief. Movements like B Corps and conscious capitalism begin with a strong belief in creating social change. They expand this into creating tribes invested in the social change being created. These cultures are mission- and purpose-driven. Their core values embody the customer and employee’s well-being, instead of just factoring them into the equation as one of many data points. “When one believes in what they do and creates a tribe around this belief, work becomes more than what you do when away from home. It becomes a meaningful part of your life.” When one believes in what they do and creates a tribe around this belief, work becomes more than what you do when away from home. It becomes a meaningful part of your life – a way to impact positive change and success for the individual, the company, and the community at large. Melanie Harris, AIA, LSSYB, is the healing practice director at BSA LifeStructures. She can be reached at mharris@

MELANIE HARRIS, from page 3

and solutions that make us better together, paired with the time and space to take care of those everyday needs from the convenience of home. 2. Personal awareness will amplify professional strengths. Our time at home, even during business hours, reveals our true selves. It allows us to become acutely aware of who we are in our own space and leads to deeper interactions with clients and partners. This also consciously enables individuals to commit to or divest from the culture. 3. Start defining the space – both virtual and physical. It is essential to consider what this evolved work environment looks like. What happens to assigned desks when they are only used part of the week? How do we create collaborative spaces that support exponential growth in spontaneous interactions and idea generation? Companies are looking at dynamic biometrics analysis to provide individualized experiences in respite spaces. This is an opportunity to look at focused, adaptable space that allows customization. Equally important is the virtual interface. When almost half of our life is spent on a virtual interface, it becomes very important to make it conducive to our goals and a reflection of our culture. Reframing this traditional view of work revolves around

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Transformational: Sheri Tickner Senior vice president of AFG Group, Inc., a woman-owned firm with 30 years of experience providing program, project, construction, and relocation management services.


W hen AFG Group, Inc. (Herndon, VA) moved to strengthen its leadership team, they made a strategic hire in the spring of 2022 – Sheri Tickner. She’s currently senior vice president and director of national sales and growth. Her 30 years of experience in the management consulting, architectural, and engineering fields combined with operational excellence to the built environment made her the ideal person for the job. “My ‘superpower’ is understanding where we are now as a company and developing a vision for where we’re going,” Tickner says. “However, to get a vision to become a reality, you need a team that sees and wants to be a part of making that vision come to life. There’s nothing more fulfilling than sparking a flame of passion in your team, motivating them to find their superpowers, and watching as they achieve their part of the vision.” A CONVERSATION WITH SHERI TICKNER. TZL: You’ve worked for some large AEC companies over the years. Why did you decide to work with a smaller company like AFG?

Sheri Tickner: It’s been an amazing 30-year professional journey. I’ve been fortunate to work with the best of the best as well as to be placed in leadership roles at high performing companies. I was looking for a change and new challenge outside of large Fortune 500 companies. I wanted to be in a role where I would have a direct impact working with an established smaller business and could lead a company to the next level of growth. I have known the owner and president of AFG for years and the timing was right to make the move. AFG is a “large” woman- owned small business that has been in business for 32 years. It’s a well-established company with committed clients, experienced staff, and great past performance for me to build upon and push to new and exciting heights. TZL: Many companies are having problems finding and hiring top talent. Is your firm also experiencing this issue? ST: We’re witnessing a “war on talent” and those with the right resources win. There’s plenty of work out there to be won, but if you do not have the right team to deliver from day one, your business’ reputation could be tarnished. Like most companies,



AFG has recruiters, and we’re partnering with staffing agencies, securing internships with college students, and recruiting those retiring from the military looking to start a second career. Attacking the challenge from multiple angles makes it rare to have any position left unfilled for an extended period of time. “Taking a hard look at what we do well and where we can improve is critical to ensuring we are always the first choice for our key and core clients.” TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? ST: My professional journey has never been accomplished alone. When I was exploring architecture as a degree, I recall a dean telling me it was not a profession for women, and he did everything he could to discourage me. I was very fortunate that his words went in one ear and out the other, and that degree really set me on my way to exploring the built environment. I was also very fortunate to have Dan Willis, AIA, the award-winning architect and author, as my advisor. With his guidance, I won two of the four thesis awards and the prize money allowed me to move to San Francisco where my career was born. Jay Turnbull, chairman and former CEO of the famed Page & Turnbull architecture firm, taught me all about architecture and historic preservation. I worked for the ever-inspiring Mary Hanni-Ilyin on the renovation of San Francisco’s City Hall. She took me under her wing, and you name it, I learned it from her – especially how to have an “iron fist with a velvet glove.” And my parents were and still are huge influences. My father loved work, never complained, and built an amazing business where he was responsible for the growth, strategy, and sales. He was all about relationships, quality product, and innovation. TZL: Who are you admiring right now in the AEC industry? Where do you see thought leadership and excellence? ST: While many of our partner firms are doing extremely well, I’d like to highlight the work of MCFA, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. The CEO, BJ Kraemer, has an energetic team who are sharp and motivated. He’s created an environment where it’s a great

place to work, especially for the young talent. MCFA hosts a podcast, Inspiring People & Places , which is worth a listen. TZL: In your current role, what are your top short-term and long-term goals? ST: Our short-term focus is to strengthen our core competencies, always deliver excellence, and make sure we’re aligned with the right partners and clients. Taking a hard look at what we do well and where we can improve is critical to ensuring we are always the first choice for our key and core clients. A primary focus is maintaining and hiring the right people – people who are innovators, trained, and knowledgeable in industry best practices to deliver quality solutions across a diverse range of programs and clients. Making sure the team is happy, motivated, challenged, and proud to be at AFG where they see career growth opportunities are all important. A long-term strategy for growth we’re working on is asking, “Are we ‘hitching our wagon’ to the right partners where it’s less transactional and more relationship-driven?” We need to ensure that we, as partners, complement one another with the right people to deliver diverse solutions for our clients. Success with AFG’s short-term focus will leverage us into achieving our long-term plan in growing and expanding our core competencies into new service offerings such as assessment management, turnover operational readiness, new markets such as energy and horizontal infrastructure, and new clients in the transportation and civil works market sectors. “People want to feel appreciated, respected, and know there’s room to advance. They want to know they have a voice and that their work is making a difference.” TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? ST: I’m a mother of four and a military spouse married to an Army General. Over the past 20 years, we’ve moved more than 10 times and during that time my husband has been deployed to the Middle East twice. For the See TRANSFORMATIONAL, page 8


Herndon, VA





Herndon, VA

New York, NY

Allison Park, PA


Federal, state, and local


Healthcare and science


Educational facilities


Program management

Project management



Facilities support


© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

NUARY 2, 2023, ISSUE 1470


in Construction are making a difference, and it’s always encouraging when I see other women being recognized as fellows in industry organizations. It’s also helpful when we visit schools, from elementary to high school, to share what we do in our careers to spark a younger generation’s interest. “When I was exploring architecture as a degree, I recall a dean telling me it was not a profession for women, and he did everything he could to discourage me. I was very fortunate that his words went in one ear and out the other.” TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? ST: Transformational – and it’s a work in progress. My “superpower” is understanding where we are now as a company and developing a vision for where we’re going. However, to get a vision to become a reality, you need a team that sees and wants to be a part of making that vision come to life. There’s nothing more fulfilling than sparking a flame of passion in your team, motivating them to find their superpowers, and watching as they achieve their part of the vision. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. ST: We consistently review our investments in our tenured staff. During COVID, we increased our training investment to ensure everyone remained working at 100 percent. We’ll continue to invest in the next generation and have recently decided to increase our efforts in mentoring “the next generation” by enhancing our existing “Management Mentor Track” and establishing a new “Technical Mentor Track” this year. TZL: How is your firm working to recession-proof itself? ST: Recession proofing is all about backlog. We currently have sufficient contract backlog to carry us through any immediate economic downturn. Recent multi-year federal contract awards will allow AFG to not only remain stable, but to grow in the coming year. These contracts are with new clients in a wider geographical area, which again, allow us to mitigate any downturn in one area or client market. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? ST: Relational growth. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? ST: Everyone has different motivational reasons for sticking around, but I think there’s an overlying common denominator: People want to feel appreciated, respected, and know there’s room to advance. They want to know they have a voice and that their work is making a difference. We work to achieve that and, as a result, we’ve maintained a below industry average turnover rate for nearly eight years running.


last two and a half years, my kids and I have lived apart from him so he can continue with his military career while I’ve settled in one location so the kids can finish school without having to move again. Most people ask, “How do you do it?” And my answer is always that I’ve been extremely fortunate to work for global companies where I can do my job anywhere in the world, and at the same time be a mom and spouse. Time with the family is often quality over quantity. Therefore, while working, I diligently manage my time to ensure every activity and engagement is productive and prioritized accordingly. TZL: Currently, the AEC industry is experiencing rapid disruption and change. The continuing rise of digital solutions and the climate emergency are re-shaping how we design, build, and operate our buildings and infrastructure. What AEC trends do you see emerging in say the next five years? ST: Industry has not even touched the surface where technology and digital solutions will take us in the built environment. It’s exciting times in the “Smart Age” of IoT, digital twin, AI, cyber, drones, smart cities, and whatever new shiny digital object or buzzword transpires next. A challenge which poses an opportunity to all this digital excitement is training the new workforce to be able to operate, maintain, and secure these “smart” building solutions for efficiency, sustainability, and resiliency. We can design, engineer, and install this digital infrastructure, but if we do not have the labor force to care for it, we may not realize its full operational potential or ability to deal with security risks. From the digital age comes the desire for data. Everyone wants data, but clients are often unsure of how to best use, maintain, and analyze it to really move the needle on decision making, performance optimization, and realize returns on investment decisions. AFG is exploring how we manage the data and work with building owners on the turnover of buildings, technology, and cyber for operational readiness. “We’re witnessing a ‘war on talent’ and those with the right resources win. There’s plenty of work out there to be won, but if you do not have the right team to deliver from day one, your business’ reputation could be tarnished.” TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? ST: AFG has a wonderfully diverse team, and it’s refreshing. I do think the construction management business is slightly behind the curve with senior technical women leadership. However, I’m seeing an influx of younger women in the CM industry and soon enough they will be the future leaders. Each generation seems to get better and more inclusive. Organizations like the National Association of Women

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Is lean failing at your firm?

I ’ve made many mistakes on my lean construction journey, but the most considerable detour has involved leveraging lean as a set of tools versus leveraging lean as a culture. Early on in my leadership roles, I stumbled in other ways, such as enforcing processes rather than outcomes and requiring compliance to a fault, even above commitment. The best way to foster a lean culture is by engaging with people, celebrating what they do well, and empowering them to be a part of the change you seek.

Keyan Zandy

As I’ve continued to learn and grow, I can share that the best way to foster a lean culture in your organization is by engaging with the people who do the work in the office and in the field, celebrating them for what they do well, and empowering them to be a part of the changed mindset versus having it forced upon them. If you are on your journey and feel that lean is failing you and your team, please make sure you haven’t dropped into any of the pitfalls listed below. 1. No support from the top. One of the worst lean killers is not having support from the top. I’ve seen leaders go out of their way to ensure that communication was siloed with all information filtering through them. Without the top person’s full support, lean efforts will never fully realize

their maximum potential. Lean requires company leaders to be unyielding in the pursuit of the elimination of waste and continuous improvement. If you’ve seen the command-and-control and silo approach at your firm, you must understand that many in our industry (and in general, if we’re being honest) are resistant to change. Fear of not being in control can lead to this resistance. Some ways you can help a leader shift their mindset and provide support include treating them with respect, earning their trust, helping them see the gaps, and being an example in the workflow you can control.

See KEYAN ZANDY, page 10





“We are off to a great start on this project as the team has achieved more than 3 million safe hours,” said Jim Breuer, group president, Energy Solutions, Fluor Corporation. “We are excited to work on this important project that will expand Albermarle’s position as an industry leader in lithium and lithium derivatives, one of the highest growth markets in the specialty chemicals sector.” The project site is located in Meishan City in the Sichuan Province of China. Fluor’s Shanghai, China, operations center is leading the project.

Fluor Corporation is building a better future by applying world-class expertise to solve its clients’ greatest challenges. Fluor’s 41,000 employees provide professional and technical solutions that deliver safe, well-executed, capital- efficient projects to clients around the world. Fluor had revenue of $12.4 billion in 2021 and is ranked 259 among the Fortune 500 companies. With headquarters in Irving, Texas, Fluor has provided engineering, procurement and construction services for more than 110 years.

ENGINEERING FOR ALBEMARLE LITHIUM CONVERSION PROJECT Fluor Corporation announced that it has achieved substantial engineering completion for Albemarle’s Lithium Conversion project in China. Fluor is providing engineering, procurement and construction COMPLETION management services for the facility. Lithium is an essential precursor material for high performance lithium- ion batteries for electric vehicles. When complete, the facility will produce 50,000 tons of lithium hydroxide per year.

jobsite examples, but are just as relatable in a corporate environment. We can all relate to the concept of “waiting” or “defects” – the non-value-added items that fill too much of the day for many people. With just a few hours of training, your team can begin to change the lens in which they see waste in their work, allowing them the awareness to start generating ideas on how to reduce or eliminate each one that comes across their path. 4. Not keeping score. An old superintendent once told me, “You can’t get to where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re at.” To continuously improve on your organization, you must be focused on metrics. Identify the top three to five metrics that matter the most to your organization and commit to regularly monitoring and reporting on them. Take corrective action when you see the numbers slipping and celebrate the victories when your team hits the goals. Are you measuring percent complete for milestones and activities? Are your team members hitting the commitment? If not, why? Are you reporting out on a regular basis to the full employee base for transparency and accountability? To execute at the highest level, you must make sure you’re keeping score, otherwise you have no idea if your team is progressing with lean. 5. Thinking there is an end. The beauty of lean is that it is never complete. It’s a journey, not a destination. It is always focused on learning, sharing, and continuous improvement. Many times, teams will take their foot off the gas when they achieve success. Through not huddling every day, becoming lax on metrics, and not setting new goals, teams that achieve success with lean can quickly lose what they have gained by abandoning what helped them achieve that success in the first place. Don’t get complacent. Reward a culture of continuous improvement and accountability, allowing anyone to call out those who are not striving to be the best. Keyan Zandy is CEO of Skiles Group. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

KEYAN ZANDY, from page 9

2. Lack of training. Another shortfall to successful lean culture at your organization is in not properly training your team. It’s hard to find absolute value in something when you don’t understand it. I’ve seen this rear its head when teams focus on their planning with disregard to other departments’ workloads or deadlines, or when weekly planning is done without reflecting on the past week’s work plan for percent complete or commitments missed. But the biggest miss is not onboarding departments and new employees. Onboarding your team provides a way for them to reach standard levels of learning and understanding. Creating an onboarding presentation or manual for employees to orient them to the company and processes is a lean way to get everyone on the same page. This can be done with an introduction of all team members; overview of the goals for the company or initiative (conditions of satisfaction); review of requirements and resources available; outline of deliverable and quality expectations; and confirmation of lean culture expectations. “Don’t get complacent. Reward a culture of continuous improvement and accountability, allowing anyone to call out those who are not striving to be the best.” 3. Focusing on tools, not culture. One of the reasons Joe Donarumo and I wrote The Lean Builder is that we got tired of watching so many project teams fail with lean by focusing on tools and not culture. While the book was created for those in the field, the principles are just as relevant for those working in the office. Without a focus on creating a culture of trust and transparency, the tools will eventually fail. Equipping your team to identify the “eight wastes” and understand their root causes is a significant first step toward shifting your culture. The “eight wastes” were initially created as

© Copyright 2023. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Your CRM should be a major asset for your firm, but you have to make sure your people are using and updating it. Making your CRM work for your firm

I ’m sure practically every company in the AEC business has a CRM (client relationship management) system these days. It’s not a radical idea like it once was to have all the information on your clients and potential clients in one place where anyone in the firm can access it. It’s just smart. You don’t want people coming and going from the firm and losing all of the contacts they made while they worked there. You want to capture all of this so you can promote what you do directly to those you have done business with, those you are doing business with, and those you want to do business with – right?

Mark Zweig

Not to mention the value of all of this information on clients and potential clients. I can tell you the first time we sold the firm (Zweig White, today known as Zweig Group), we had a tremendous CRM. It was on everyone’s desk and every single purchase made from our clients since day one was in the system. It used to blow people away when they would call and we’d ask how they liked the seminar they went to in Tulsa on a certain date, or what they thought of a survey report they purchased a month earlier. When we sold our business to a private equity firm, they combined our business with two other companies they owned – a magazine group and a trade show group – and called it all Zweig White Information

Services. Our CRM was a big part of the reason they wanted to buy us. But just saying you want to do this (have a real working CRM and providing the software application for everyone so they can do so) is not the same thing as making sure everything goes in there and gets maintained once you have it. That’s often a very real challenge that many firms struggle with. Here are a few ideas to help you with this issue: 1. The principals must use the CRM if you want everyone else to. If your top people are not

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



ON THE MOVE NORTHERN ENGINEERING PROMOTES DANNY WEBER AND ROBBIE LAUER TO SENIOR PROJECT MANAGERS Northern Engineering Services, Inc., provider of civil engineering and land surveying services in Northern Colorado, has promoted Danny Weber and Robbie Lauer to the position of Senior Project Manager. Weber and Lauer have more than 32 years of combined civil engineering experience. They currently work in the firm’s land development department, but they have relationships in both the public and private sectors. They have improved the quality of life in our communities through the delivery of thousands of single-family and multi- family housing units, as well as numerous non-residential projects. Additionally, Lauer and Weber improve the lives of the teams they manage by coaching and developing multiple project engineers. “Robbie has been instrumental in my growth at Northern; encouraging me to expand my boundaries as an engineer, as well as integrate myself within the company and the culture,” said project engineer, Elliott Miller. “He pushes me to work on my weak spots, while always

being there to answer any questions or provide any support, both personally and professionally.” Project engineer, Sterling Hallauer adds, “Danny is the kind of supervisor everyone should aspire to be. He keeps a high bar for the quality his team produces, yet goes out of his way to ensure they have the resources and support to meet that bar and know that the expectations are reasonable. He brings an enthusiasm and energy every day that contributes greatly to the reputation Northern has to both clients and colleagues alike, and is always a pleasure to work with and learn from.” “The clients that Danny and Robbie have supported and the projects they have managed are some of the most prominent in our region,” said firm president and CEO, Nick Haws. “Their promotions validate the importance and impact they have, not just at Northern Engineering, but in the communities we serve.” Weber holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Wyoming. He is licensed Profesional Engineer in his native state of Wyoming, as well as Colorado. He resides in

Fort Collins with his wife, Ida, and son, Leo. Lauer studied civil engineering in his home state at Northwest Kansas Technical College. He resides in Wellington with his wife, Andrea, and daughters, Rorrie and Rylan. Northern Engineering has served Northern Colorado communities for 35 years. As the northern Front Range has grown, so has the firm, which has become the largest civil engineering and land surveying firm headquartered in the region. The Northern team strives to continuously improve their services, takes responsibility for their impact on the lives of others, and deeply respects their clients, partners, and each other. As stewards with an ownership mindset, Northern Engineering employees improve the quality of life in their communities. Recent projects include Timnath Middle School/High School, Eaton High School, Greeley West High School, Odell Wine Project, TPC Colorado/Heron Lakes, Hudson Memorial Park, and multiple Habitat for Humanity Communities. Office locations are in downtown Greeley and Old Town Fort Collins.

4. Get all of your marketing reports from this thing. All the info should be in there. If it’s not there, don’t report it and then maybe the offenders will be sure that doesn’t happen again. You have to insist the system be used if it is going to be any good. 5. Harvest everyone’s contacts from Outlook so you can beef up the CRM. There is a lot of gold on each employee’s network. Get those names into your CRM. 6. Use your CRM for marketing, client surveys, invitation lists, and holiday cards. The more you use it, the better the information is. 7. Focus on adding names versus making corrections. Sure accuracy is crucial. But adding more names instead of seeking perfection is even more important. I often see this preoccupation with perfection getting in the way of adding people to the system. Don’t let that happen to you! Is any of this making sense to you? I hope so, and I hope you will listen. Your CRM should be a major asset for your firm – right behind your brand, your reputation, and your people. Make it so! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

using it every day to track their client and potential client interactions, how can you expect the rest of the people in the firm to do so? You can’t. They need to be adding names of people they meet, making corrections when needed, and recording calls, meetings, and proposals made. 2. Don’t use your admin people as the sole means of maintaining the CRM. Some firms think they can do this. It won’t work. It says it’s not important enough for the line staff to do it themselves. Big mistake! 3. Track and report activities in the CRM regularly. I would share the total number of organizations, people, new names added, and corrections made with every employee of the firm at least once a week. It shows the importance of it when you do this. “It’s not a radical idea like it once was to have all the information on your clients and potential clients in one place where anyone in the firm can access it. It’s just smart.”

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