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remotely under “new normal” conditions, i.e., post-pandemic. However, there remain critical aspects of our business that we feel work best in an environment of in-person interactions. These include building and maintaining client relationships, mentoring and training young designers, collaboration among professionals developing and producing designs, and keeping our highly-valued company culture intact, naming a few. I cannot speak with exactness on permanent impacts to work policies at this time, but I feel confident that we will continue to value in-person interactions as we emerge from the pandemic. “Transparency, the ability to participate in high- level meetings or strategic planning sessions, increased flexibility, or support for an employee’s philanthropic passions are some of the ways we reward and invest in our staff.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? SM: We build trust by exercising our core value of honesty in every client transaction. At times, this means delivering a message they may not wish to hear. A negative situation may arise from our actions or theirs. In all cases, it’s best to have an honest conversation as early as possible. If we are at fault, we admit it, own it, and work diligently and reasonably to resolve it. Trust is an essential precursor to our ultimate goal of building a lasting partnership. If we can’t share trust, we cannot share a meaningful partnership. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? SM: We have a popular refrain at LaBella, “Our strength is in our diversity.” This originated years ago to support the idea that although our work spanned many practice areas, we were “one company.” As we grew into new locations, we expanded this thinking to include the diversity of our geographies. Today, we’re widening it further to include the diversity among our employees. In 2020, we established a Diversity and Inclusion Council comprised of volunteers representing a cross- section of our employees to facilitate a culture where diversity and inclusion are respected, valued, and celebrated. We believe that the Council’s mission is built soundly on our core

values of honesty, stewardship, leadership, and growth. Through its actions, we’re better suited to meet the growing expectations of our clients and attract and retain the talent of the future. 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? SM: This is a current priority for us, and we’re still developing an action plan. During periods of remote work, the ability to manage performance, rather than effort or time-in- seat, is critically important. Younger staff also miss indirect observation, context clues, and peer-to-peer dialogue when they’re working remotely. If some level of hybrid work is here to stay, our managers will need to be actively engaged in addressing these changes. 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. SM: Our company has been growing – on average, 20 percent year over year – so our tenured staff who are participating in our broad-based ownership are receiving significant reward for continuing with LaBella and fueling its growth. That said, investing in employees can take many forms. Training and development are continuous and not limited to a particular cohort. Transparency, the ability to participate in high-level meetings or strategic planning sessions, increased flexibility, or support for an employee’s philanthropic passions are some of the ways we reward and invest in our staff. TZL: With more than 1,200 employees across more than 35 locations, how do you ensure that your culture of collaboration and transparency stays consistent throughout the firm? What types of things are you doing? SM: While some firms emphasize their mission or vision statement, we place a tremendous importance on our four core values. We hold people accountable to them and have See CULTURAL STEWARD , page 8 “We believe what’s celebrated gets repeated, so our recognition programs are designed to reinforce what’s culturally important.”

HEADQUARTERS: Rochester, NY NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1,300 YEAR FOUNDED: 1978 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 36 MARKETS: ■ ■ Bridges ■ ■ County and criminal justice ■ ■ Construction engineering ■ ■ Corporate and commercial ■ ■ Cultural ■ ■ Environmental ■ ■ Healthcare ■ ■ Higher education ■ ■ Highway ■ ■ K-12 education ■ ■ Municipal ■ ■ Renewables ■ ■ Utilities ■ ■ Waste and recycling SERVICES: ■ ■ Architecture ■ ■ Buildings engineering ■ ■ Civil engineering ■ ■ Environmental ■ ■ Planning ■ ■ Power systems engineering ■ ■ Programmanagement ■ ■ Survey ■ ■ Transportation engineering ■ ■ Waste and recycling

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RUARY 7, 2022, ISSUE 1427

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