TZL 1389 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S COVID-19’s impact on staff A p r i l 2 6 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 3 8 9 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Systems, value creation, simplicity, and granting authority to the most local level. A strategy for your strategy

F I R M I N D E X Dewberry..........................................4, 12 Hardesty & Hanover................................6 Larson Design Group............................12 Michael Baker International. ....................4 O’Connell Robertson...............................2 Remington & Vernick Engineers. ...........10 Transportation Resource Associates. ....10 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MERCEDEZ THOMPSON: Burnout is not the vibe Page 3 xz Engineering excellence: Sean Bluni Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: Build a firm that will outlast its founder(s) Page 9 xz DAVE MARTIN: Effective leadership Page 11 In Zweig Group’s ongoing 2021 AEC Industry Outlook and Response to COVID-19 Survey , firms were asked how their employees were impacted by effects of the pandemic. About two in five firms (39 percent) said they had employees volunteer to reduce their hours and/or pay since March 2020. A median of 5 percent of their staff volunteered for these reductions in their hours or compensation. Additionally, about one in five firms (22 percent) had employees quit or resign since March 2020 due to COVID-19 related factors. Participate in a short questionnaire to receive a free report of this survey’s findings.

T he power of a purpose-driven, legacy-building strategy for your organization is widely recognized. With the myriad of frameworks, processes, and approaches, however, it can feel overwhelming. Have you ever left a strategic planning session feeling overloaded by the sheer multitude of goals and actions you’ve now committed to accomplishing over the next three to five years? Furthermore, you now have talented people working on a long list of urgent initiatives that all seem to have a due date of Q1 in the first year of the plan. After all, as Elbert Hubbard said, “If you want anything done, ask a busy person to do it,” right? It may feel like you need a strategy just to implement your strategic plan. A return to simplicity, an eye on what is truly strategic, a focus on value creation, a system to implement your strategy, and granting authority to the most local level will allow you to select fewer initiatives with the power to have a significantly greater impact. In this article, I will focus primarily on the value creation component of the list above as a framework to evaluate and narrow your strategic initiatives. I will, however, give a brief nod to our partner, OnStrategy, that now enables us to provide a system to our clients in the form of strategic planning performance management software. Now, we also need to at least acknowledge some of the nuance and complexity of the space that we compete in. When you are looking to succeed, you must design strategy that carefully targets a defensible market segment and ensure you have the right business model to dominate there. Certainly, when talking about building a high-profit model, there are only a few choices. You can either increase your client value or lower your cost to serve those clients, perhaps both. Creating the right business model to accomplish these goals is highly dependent on which category your clients fall in across three broad profit segments. According to research done in conjunction with MIT and a SaaS profit analytics software firm these three segments are defined as: 1)Profit peaks: High-revenue, high-profit clients (20 percent of clients generating 150 percent of profit) 2)Profit drains: High-revenue, low profit/loss clients (30 percent of customers that erode 50 percent of profits) 3)Profit deserts: Low-revenue, low-profit customers (minimal profit, but consume about 50 percent of the company’s resources) In my experience, many firms do not analyze this type of information and rather take a “pursue all RFPs/opportunities” approach, much like they do with the “pursue all ideas for strategic initiatives” leading to a median pre-tax, pre-bonus profit on NSR for AEC firms of 15 percent according to Zweig Group’s 2020

Phil Keil

See PHIL KEIL, page 2



ON THE MOVE A CELEBRATION OF RICK BURNIGHT Rick Burnight, AIA, O’Connell Robertson ’s former president/ CEO, has transitioned from his full-time position to a principal-level consulting role within the firm. He will continue, in 2021, to work on several key projects with existing clients and in other special areas. Burnight’s transition to retirement has been a thoughtful, planned process over the last several years during which time he has provided valued

leadership and shared wisdom to the firm’s senior leadership team. Burnight has been with O’Connell Robertson for more than 30 years, and in that time his team have most appreciated his dedication, professionalism, knowledge, integrity, and leadership. The positive impact Burnight has had on the clients and communities O’Connel Robertson serves through a focus on solutions- oriented design has been tremendous.

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PHIL KEIL, from page 1

Financial Performance Survey . It is extremely difficult to engage more than one of the three profit segments above, further necessitating a focus on the value creation framework. If you asked business leaders in general, many would share that they are focused on shareholder/stakeholder value creation, yet they struggle with falling fees and a commoditization of their services while simultaneously struggling in recruiting because, “We can’t compete with what other firms are offering in compensation.” Therefore, when evaluating strategic initiatives, they are only worthwhile if they do one of the following: ❚ ❚ Create value for clients by raising their willingness to pay (WTP). This shouldn’t be confused with price or fee. WTP is the most a client would be willing to pay for your services. If we are only focused on revenue growth, you’ll likely ask questions such as, “How can I sell more?” If we are focused on increasing value and WTP, however, the goal is to delight and excite customers with the service provided. We are focused on increasing trust and loyalty at every interaction and stage within the client experience. It has to be every interaction with every client. Additionally, when putting this into action, these firms are not overly concerned on short-term profitability in sacrifice to the longer term value creation. ❚ ❚ Create value for employees by making work more appealing. This one has nothing to do with compensation. According to Zweig Group research, people are significantly more concerned with interesting, purpose-driven, motivating, and flexible work than they are industry-leading compensation. Perhaps you feel it is counterintuitive, but pursuing these ideas not only generally leads to the ability for a firm to pay more compensation, but as a Best Firm To Work For, you simultaneously lower the minimum compensation you’ll need to offer to attract talent. As you know, this is not an easy feat and requires leaders to think holistically about the needs of their employees. ❚ ❚ Create value for suppliers/subcontractors by reducing their operating cost. A relatively simple idea, your suppliers/subs expect a minimum level of compensation for their efforts as well. If you can find ways to increase their productivity, they will often share the increase in profitability with your firm indirectly. These ideas can be visualized in the following graphic:

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In conclusion, leadership that is focused on creating value and using that as a framework in which to narrow their focus on strategic initiatives view everything through the lens of creation of that value. Anything not creating value for clients, employees, or suppliers/subs isn’t worth doing. PHIL KEIL is director of strategy services at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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Burnout is not the vibe

Leaders must engage in burnout prevention strategies that alleviate overburdened employees, reduce the number of meetings, encourage PTO, and promote flexible hours.

2 020 presented significant challenges for us all, but I hardly expected working remotely to be an obstacle. After all, as a marketer in the AEC industry, the majority of my work has always been done from my laptop, and my position had long called for collaboration with teams in other offices across multiple states. In many respects, COVID-19 presented minimal changes to my job.

Mercedez Thompson

Yet, as stay-at-home restrictions persisted, my working hours expanded. It was summer before I realized my regular office hours had somehow extended an hour. It was fall before my spouse pointed out that I was checking my email after dinner. Like many things, the issue proved easier to confront in others. When a colleague expressed guilt at signing offline on time, I reassured her that separation between her work and home life was healthy. When she mentioned a new pressure to work later now that her team was remote, I declared her continued productivity dependent on establishing a firm work-life balance. My contradictions became too obvious to ignore in early 2021 when I found myself flipping through

recent timecards. I noticed that I prided myself on the many weeks where I clocked 50 or more hours. Unthinkingly, I had begun to romanticize overwork, equating it to professional success and worth. Keeping standard hours meant I wasn’t making the personal sacrifices necessary to achieve success. It mattered little that my work was done and done well. Understandably, this added stress took its toll. I found myself more irritable at work. I noticed that I wasn’t as creative. Achievements that once would have filled me with a sense of accomplishment felt negligible. Recognizing the dangers of burnout all too late, I posted a sign on my office door: NO ENTRY 7 P.M. TO 7 A.M.




ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY PROMOTES KIRT LADWA AND DAVID REVETTE IN NEW JERSEY Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced the promotion of nearly 50 professionals nationwide, including two in its New Jersey, offices. Kirt Ladwa, PE, has been promoted to associate in the Mount Laurel office, and David Revette, PE, has been promoted to associate in the Parsippany office. Kirt Ladwa is a project manager and has nearly 20 years of experience. He has spent his entire career with Dewberry in the

transportation department, where he oversees highway-related projects, as well as personnel management. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Widener University. Ladwa is a professional engineer in New Jersey, and is a member of the American Society of Highway Engineers. David Revette is a project manager and has nearly 10 years of experience. He is a lead for the firm’s electric vehicle infrastructure practice, involving design, planning, development, and engineering services. Revette earned his

bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Clarkson University and is a professional engineer in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.


night, just like you would a work meeting ❚ ❚ Get outside – start by taking a 30-minute walk after work every day ❚ ❚ Set goals unrelated to work and prioritize them – perhaps you want to lose 15 pounds, try a new recipe weekly, or read 20 books this year ❚ ❚ Be transparent about your workload This final strategy is critical to your well-being because it hints at a larger problem. We cannot solve organizational issues with a bit of self-care. A meditation app and a nutritious meal can only go so far. We must communicate a reasonable workload with our managers and stop wearing our burnout as a badge of honor. Furthermore, firms must adapt at an organizational level to beat burnout and protect their most valuable asset: people. The responsibility for burnout does not rest on an individual’s shoulders alone. Early in the pandemic, firms failed to adjust workloads. In many, demands increased. As hiring halted, responsibilities expanded and hours climbed. Parents grappled with working from home while caring for children. Employees without children were pressured to stay later, do more. Zoom meetings multiplied. Emails arrived at all hours of the night. And employees, terrified of losing their job in a recession, went into overdrive. Firms had their own fires to fight. Uncertainty was at an all-time high and profit goals were suddenly unfeasible. Yet, the firm that ignores the realities of burnout will pay for it in low productivity, sinking culture, and turnover. The real leaders of today are those engaging in burnout prevention strategies that alleviate overburdened employees, reduce the number of meetings, encourage paid time off, promote flexible hours, and provide training for empathetic management. Burnout isn’t something that appeared with COVID-19, but it is amplified by it. The only sustainable solution is one shared by employee and firm with honesty and awareness. MERCEDEZ THOMPSON finds and shares a firm’s unique stories to connect with clients and build business. She is a proposal manager at Michael Baker International, where she leads capture planning and proposal development for company strategic opportunities. Before entering the AEC industry, Mercedez taught writing at the University of Nevada and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She earned her master’s degree in English from Indiana University and her bachelor’s degree in literature from Ohio State University. You can find her on LinkedIn or her blog at

LET’S TALK BURNOUT. Burnout is workplace stress that stems from exhaustion and makes it difficult to function and perform. It manifests in cynicism, lack of satisfaction, irritability, decreased motivation, difficulty concentrating, and even in health conditions such as insomnia and depression. The AEC industry is prone to burnout because of constant demands to perform well, unrelenting deadlines, and unmanageable workloads. Simply put, there is always more work to do, more work to win, and high competition for every job. Burnout was exacerbated by COVID-19 because the lines between work and home blurred as we faced unprecedented insecurities. The Catch-22 of burnout is that overworking eventually makes you less productive, less creative, and detached. It can result in isolation, procrastination, withdrawal, and illness. Perhaps bigger than burnout itself is our willingness to wear it as a badge of honor. This is the behavior I recognized in my seemingly innocent perusal of timecards. We are enamored by the “grind,” by how much we get done, how long we work, how little we sleep or relax. We are all in a constant competition to work harder than the next person. Moreover, we actually measure our value this way – taking a misplaced pride in our fatigue and fearing nothing more than being perceived as unmotivated. This isn’t surprising. The stereotype that millennials are particularly unambitious has propelled a reverence of overwork in our young workforce. Combine that trend with an always-on digital world and a global pandemic that transforms kitchen tables into pseudo-offices, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. SO, WHAT CAN WE DO? Setting healthy boundaries begins at the level of the individual. If you are feeling the effects of burnout, and some estimates hold that more than 80 percent of us are, you need to act fast. ❚ ❚ Establish non-working hours and stick to them ❚ ❚ Separate your home office from the rest of your home, if possible ❚ ❚ Shut down your computer rather than allowing that lingering blue light to entice you after hours ❚ ❚ Remove your work email from your personal mobile device ❚ ❚ Schedule after-work activities, like at-home yoga or movie

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An enriching thought leadership experience focusing on executive level issues, this Summit is ideal for those who are ready to travel again and gather with fellow leaders of the AEC industry.


beginning SEPTEMBER 30, 2020 WITH COHORT PRESENTATIONS EACH WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 3-5, 2021 Denver, CO Focus for C-Suite & AEC Executives



Zweig Group is ready to see you in-person again! Recognizing the slow return of in-person events, Zweig Group is proud to announce a special concept for 2021, the Elevate Leadership Summit - a meticulously curated in-person event of limited capacity in Denver this Winter. This Summit will focus on the networking and learning pillars of our traditional Elevate AEC Conference. Attendees can expect an enriching thought leadership experience that focus on executive-level issues. This experience will be ideal for those who are ready to travel again and gather with fellow leaders of the AEC industry. The Elevate Leadership Summit will be the industry’s top conference of 2021 with new networking and learning opportunities for leaders across the country. Trust us, you will not want to miss this! Register now to guarantee your spot.


QUESTIONS? For group discounts or any other inquiries, please contact events@, call 800.466.6275 or visit

Everything we do is in pursuit of elevating the AEC industry, bringing awareness of the incredible impact that engineers, architects, environmental professionals, survey- ors, planners, landscape architects and related professional service providers have on the world. Empowering organizations with the resources they need to perform better, grow and add jobs, pay better wages and to expand their impact on the community, Zweig Group exists to advance the profession.



Engineering excellence: Sean Bluni CEO of Hardesty & Hanover (New York, NY), a world renowned full-service engineering firm with more than 130 years of experience.


B luni is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the firm, including engineering management, information systems, and human resources. He’s leading this 134-year-old business into the future of design and construction in the areas of major bridges, highways, expressways, and heavy movable structures. “Hardesty & Hanover’s culture very much remains based on our core values of engineering excellence and professionalism, which were established and practiced by our founders,” Bluni says. “And our drive to improve the nation’s infrastructure by solving the most challenging engineering problems has been an enduring part of our mission for more than a century.” A CONVERSATION WITH SEAN BLUNI. The Zweig Letter: You’ve been with Hardesty & Hanover for 30 years? What’s the most significant change you’ve seen during this time (i.e., AI, policies, globalization)? Sean Bluni: I started with Hardesty & Hanover as a summer intern in 1990 and began my full-time career

with the company in 1992 after graduate school. Since this time, I’ve seen numerous changes in the industry and at H&H, driven largely by technological advances that have facilitated and improved communication and information sharing, as well as analysis and design methods. These advances have enabled more rapid innovation, increased project delivery speed, brought a global marketplace, and led to many other changes in how we all do our jobs every day. Of all the changes I’ve seen, one of the most impactful to our business is the rise of alternate procurement methods, including design-build, CMGC, and P3s, especially for most large transportation projects. Using these methods has shifted the relationship between contractors and design professionals, increased the need for consultants to provide owners representative/program manager services, broadened the legal issues the engineering community needs to manage, and altered conventional project risk allocation. A tremendously positive change worth noting is the



dramatically increased number of women in our industry, including within the highest positions at consulting firms, owner agencies, professional societies, and industry forums. This rising prominence of women, in my opinion, has been as important to the recent success of our industry and H&H as any other factor and is vital to our future. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” SB: It depends on how things are going. Ideally, I’d like to spend the majority of my time, say 80 percent “on the business,” focusing on our strategic plan (driving growth, building business, firm improvement, and high-level initiatives), our clients, and ownership transition. When our operation runs well, and there are no major operational matters to deal with, I can hit this target. However, matters such as performance issues (firm, group, or individual), work slowdowns, resource issues, claims/legal issues, and the like are a distraction from my target work breakdown and result in spending a much higher percentage of my time “in the business.” Because of such issues, I’d estimate that overall, my time spent working “on the business” rather than “in the business” is 60/40 rather than my target of 80/20. During the pandemic, this ratio has been more like 20/80, unfortunately. TZL: Hardesty & Hanover has been around for more than 130 years. Is there still a culture that is adhered to that resembles the firm’s founding mission? Please provide an example or two. SB: Hardesty & Hanover’s culture very much remains based on our core values of engineering excellence and professionalism, which were established and practiced by our founders. And our drive to improve the nation’s infrastructure by solving the most challenging engineering problems has been an enduring part of our mission for more than a century. Our culture is pervasive throughout our company, and we take proactive measures to hand our values down from generation to generation. In fact, we have identified maintaining our 130-year-old culture and core values as we aggressively grow as one of our biggest challenges and a fundamental component of our strategic plan. Our enduring engineering and client- first culture leads to a collaborative

environment throughout our company, whereby we draw on our best resources without internal barriers between offices and groups. There are many recent examples of this in our project work. On one project this year, we performed a major emergency inspection and rehabilitation design for one of our primary New York City clients. Knowing how critical it was to our client, we took on this task at risk, with no budget in place and with high uncertainty as to when funding would be allocated given COVID-related financial impacts on the client’s program. Given the highly-accelerated schedule, we engaged some of our strongest technical resources and inspection personnel from multiple offices. We worked around the clock to complete the inspection and deliver the design on time and to the high satisfaction of our client. A further example is our recent design of a highly complex and highly unique bascule bridge in Canada. Given the extreme complexities of the design, we engaged our most skilled technical experts from a half dozen offices in various capacities to ensure this movable bridge design’s quality and functionality. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? SB: Staff retention has been critical to our success through the decades and remains a focal point of our strategic plan. We intend that every hire we make, whether right out of school or more experienced, spend the remainder of their career with H&H. In fact, one of our four core values is to “build long-term relationships” – this applies as much internally as externally. To achieve this, we focus on creating a work environment that is positive, team- oriented, friendly, and conducive to career development. We consider training, mentoring, and collaborating in an “open door” environment to be essential. And we are committed to creating and offering leadership training and opportunities at all levels. By committing to supporting our employees both professionally and personally, we’ve gotten a commitment back from them to go the extra mile for the company. In addition to creating the right work environment, it’s also critical to our employee retention goals that we continue to win and deliver interesting and challenging projects and provide opportunities for developing engineers


❚ ❚ Roadways and bridges

❚ ❚ Rail/transit

❚ ❚ Kinetic systems

❚ ❚ Tunnels

❚ ❚ Marine and port

❚ ❚ Municipal


❚ ❚ Planning/PD&E

❚ ❚ New design

❚ ❚ Alternative delivery

❚ ❚ Inspection

❚ ❚ Rehabilitation

❚ ❚ Architectural design

❚ ❚ Geotechnical engineering

❚ ❚ Construction engineering and inspection

❚ ❚ Community planning

❚ ❚ On-call services

❚ ❚ Emergency response


❚ ❚ Asset management

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

RIL 26, 2021, ISSUE 1389



South Halstead Street Bridge in Chicago (first modern vertical lift bridge, built in 1894), the Arroyo Seco Bridge in Pasadena (first major reinforced concrete bridge in the U.S., built in 1913), the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing (the Port Authority of NY/NJ’s first major bridges, built in the late 1920s), the Lewiston – Queenston Bridge in Niagara Falls (longest steel arch bridge at the time of construction in 1962), the Roslyn Viaduct Bridge on Long Island (New York state’s first segmental bridge, constructed in 2010), and the dual-use (highway and rail) Sarah Long Bridge in Maine (first vertical lift bridge in the U.S. to utilize post-tensioned segmental concrete towers, completed in 2018) to name a few. One specialty area within bridge engineering where H&H has substantially impacted the engineering world is movable bridges. For well over a century, we’ve been the world’s leader in movable bridge engineering and have pioneered designs for every major type of movable bridge. The numerous bridge engineering patents held by H&H through the decades includes important movable bridge patents such as the Hanover Skew Bascule Design. With more than 30 movable bridge replacement designs in the U.S. and internationally and well over 100 movable bridge rehabilitations in the past five years alone, H&H possesses more expertise and contributes more to the movable bridge engineering community than any other firm in the world. 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? SB: Project managers certainly have a lot on their plate, and sometimes too much. Our approach to addressing this is twofold. We’ve established a dedicated PM Support Team and are actively training and developing deputy PMs and new PMs to take off some of the load. Our PM Support Team is led by our COO and CFO and includes resource managers and operations personnel. Collectively, they support our PMs by helping to assess project status, inputting required information into our project management system, tracking budgets, assessing resource needs and providing staff, working with our accounting department to submit change orders and other activities that lighten the burden on our PMs while helping them be more successful. We also have a formal PM training program consisting of both internal and external instructors, including classroom type lessons, roundtable discussions, and group workshops. Our training program starts with a basic introductory PM bootcamp training program and progresses to higher levels of PM education. Depending on training completed and actual project experience, our PMs are classified following a three-level system that we use to assign PMs and deputy PMs to projects. Increased experience, demonstrated success, and completion of further training is required for a PM to advance to higher levels within our PM classification system. By continually developing more qualified PMs and deputy PMs in concert with providing them with a support team, we are better able to manage the workload of our PMs, even as we continue to grow our firm aggressively.

to work on a variety of assignments and for a variety of managers. And finally, we are committed to continually expanding our ownership and giving opportunities to those high-achieving employees showing dedication to the company to be part of our ownership team. 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? SB: Ownership transition is a priority focus. In fact, we’ve expanded the number of firm owners by a factor of 10 in the past eight years for this very reason. One thing that we’ve done to ensure the proper transition is to develop a detailed five- and 10-year ownership plan that is updated every year. This plan identifies potential owners as well as intended overall and individual ownership levels that will achieve our ownership transition goals. We also look forward and plan for funding ownership retirements through retained earnings phased buyouts. Some other elements of our ownership transition plan include facilitating and subsidizing ownership purchases of new owners, limiting the maximum ownership any one individual can hold (we’re at 10 percent), and requiring the sale of ownership at a certain age. The biggest pitfall to avoid is not planning for ownership transition well before high-level owners are ready to retire. This situation almost always leads to selling the firm. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? SB: I’ve certainly had my share of lessons learned the hard way. I think something valuable that I’ve learned is the importance of putting the right people in the right position for success. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and aligning responsibilities with strengths is crucial, especially at the highest positions. Roles and responsibilities need to be based on capabilities and willingness to do what it takes for success, and not based on tenure, emotions, personal friendships, or the like. And, not everyone can be trained to do any job well. Having the wrong individual in a leadership or other key role only creates more work for others, typically for those who already have too much on their shoulders and puts pressure up and down the organization. And I’ve learned that a “team-first” attitude and strong people skills are crucial for our leadership team. Addressing high-level performance issues isn’t easy, and they don’t go away on their own, so the best way to do it is to address it head-on as soon as you are aware of the problem. TZL: How do you think Hardesty & Hanover has shaped global engineering? What’s been its greatest impact? SB: H&H has been home to some of the most impactful bridge engineering pioneers in the country and the world. We’ve been on the forefront of complex highway and rail bridge design innovation throughout our history, which has produced landmark and record-setting bridges, many of which are more than 100 years old and still in service today. Examples of such landmark structures include the

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




O ne of the goals of many of us who start businesses is to create something that will outlast us as the founders. Why is that a common goal so many founders have? An enduring firm will be worth much more – through an internal or external sale – than one where some of these issues are not addressed. Build a firm that will outlast its founder(s)

1)An investment mentality. What I am talking about here is the owners are not just looking to get as much money as possible out of the company each year like typical small business owners are. And they are also geared to make the kinds of investments in marketing, people, and systems that it takes to make the firm grow over time. 2)Creation of a brand. Having a strong brand as an A/E firm is possible. And when you do, you will have a never-ending stream of new project opportunities, good people wanting to work for your firm, and higher prices and margins than other competing firms that are less well-known. Of course, doing this takes a consistent and high investment in marketing, as well as consistent performance so the delivery matches up to the implied or stated promise of the brand. 3)Investment in the creation and maintenance of databases. I’m talking about client and potential

There are many reasons. Maybe we like the idea of a business that creates good jobs and provides so many families with the means to live a good life. Maybe we want our clients to have really great services that help make their organizations more successful. Maybe we like the idea of seeing projects get built that improve the quality of life for all. Maybe we know that this is a key to being able to sell our firms and exit at some point with some kind of a payoff for all of our years of toil and sacrifice. And maybe it is a way to achieve a certain degree of immortality. I’m sure there are other reasons. But whatever the reason, creating a business that will carry on and thrive after the founders are gone is a common goal – whether or not it is officially stated in a formal business plan somewhere. So what does it take for an A/E firm to be an enduring enterprise that survives long beyond the tenure of its founders? Here are my thoughts:

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



ON THE MOVE TRA WELCOMES PATTI GIBSON MAY AS DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Transportation Resource Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that Patti Gibson May has joined the firm as director of business development. In this role, Gibson May is responsible for building and maintaining business relationships with new and existing clients and teaming partners. She will manage Transportation Resource Associates’s business development and marketing efforts, while cultivating a spirit of internal and external collaboration and outreach on behalf of the firm. With more than 25 years of experience, Gibson May’s expertise includes client relations, strategic teaming, proposals, DBE engagement, communications, market research, event planning, graphics, and content management. She understands the complexities of transportation and is an advocate for equality within the industry. Gibson May earned a master’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in journalism, both from Temple University. She is the Immediate Past President of the Philadelphia chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, and serves on the boards of the March of Dimes’ Greater Philadelphia Transportation, Building & Construction Awards Luncheon and the Philadelphia chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services.

Withmore than 30 years of industry experience, Transportation Resource Associates offers unparalleled expertise and a comprehensive understanding of the unique challenges faced by its clients. The highly specialized and dynamic consulting team has the technical expertise and logistical capacity to provide practical, customized solutions related to safety, operations and maintenance, security and emergency preparedness, regulatory analyses, management consulting, mobile network strategy, and asset management. TRA is headquartered in Philadelphia and has additional offices in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Tampa, and Miami. JOSEPH PEGNETTER, PE JOINS RVE’S INFRASTRUCTURE GROUP Remington & Vernick Engineers welcomes Joseph Pegnetter, PE as a Project Manager in the firm’s Infrastructure Design Group. Pegnetter has 28 years of engineering and management experience in the transportation sector. “We are pleased to add someone of Joseph’s caliber to our Infrastructure Team,” said Infrastructure Division Leader William Bisirri, PE. “His significant project management and business development experience with Pennsylvania transportation projects will allow us to further develop and expand our footprint in the Pennsylvania market.” Pegnetter is a licensed professional engineer with extensive experience securing, managing

and delivering PennDOT transportation design projects. He has completed more than 20 bridge design packages as a project manager and lead structural engineer. His experience includes supervising project engineers, designers, drafters and support staff. Pegnetter has a bachelor’s degree in structural design and construction engineering Technology from Pennsylvania State University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. He is an active member in several American Society of Highway Engineers Chapters throughout Pennsylvania and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1901, RVE has grown to more than 350 employees in offices throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. RVE is a full-service engineering consulting firm that provides design, planning, and construction management/inspection services to our clients. RVE’s staff includes professional engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical, structural, transportation, sanitary, and environmental), professional planners, certified landscape architects, certified inspectors, surveyors, CADD designers, and administrative support personnel. RVE supports a variety of on-call, general engineering consultant, and construction management contracts.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

as they are implemented. That results in the firm being a self- liquidating entity, as all of its equity evaporates over time and it becomes paralyzed and unable to make the kinds of investments to do the other things I mentioned above. “Creating a business that will carry on and thrive after the founders are gone is a common goal – whether or not it is officially stated in a formal business plan somewhere.” 8)Real leadership transition. Along with the ownership transition, leadership transition, too, needs to happen. That requires owners who are willing to delegate and step back out of the limelight. Not all will do that and the price they pay is they cannot make it to the next generation intact. So there you have it. A recipe for creating an A/E firm that outlasts its founders is laid out here in basic terms. So, what path are you on with YOUR firm? Are you doing what it takes to survive the long haul? Even if you can only think about yourself and your own wants and needs, creating an enduring firm like this will be worth much more – be that through an internal or external sale – than one where these issues are not addressed. Remember that! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

client tracking databases, databases on projects completed, databases on employee experience and qualifications, databases on construction costs and operational costs, and many more. These are all the ways the company can institutionalize its knowledge base and survive the comings and goings of any and all employees and owners. 4)Investment in outstanding people. That means you have to do what it takes to get really good people and keep them there. “Doing what it takes” means you are willing to pay the price to hire good people. That means they will not be the cheapest people nor will be they be paid an average salary and benefits. They will need extraordinary compensation and opportunities. If you want an enduring firm, don’t underestimate the importance of this. 5)A real sense of purpose. Good people will hang in there for the long haul when the business has a real sense of purpose that makes any of the problems of working there seem minor. That purpose – to be real – has to be reinforced on a daily basis by the owners. Just working for money is not enough. 6)Investments in training. An enduring company provides ongoing training and learning opportunities for its employees to develop their skills and be better in their fields. Again – like all investments – it takes time and money to make them real. 7)Viable ownership transition. If a firm cannot deal with ownership transition effectively it will not outlast its founders. Too many times, transition schemes are cooked up that are not modeled to see what is likely to occur over time

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Effective leadership

To be an effective leader, you have to be authentic, acknowledge what you don’t know, and be willing to make mistakes.

E ffective leadership is crucial to advancing one’s career, something I’ve experienced firsthand as president and CEO of Larson Design Group. I shared some advice on the topic at a recent virtual meeting of Leadership Lycoming, a specialized training program operated by the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce designed to develop and motivate effective leaders in their communities. Here are some takeaways from that talk.

Dave Martin

KNOW, GO, SHOW. I’ve often looked at my career in three stages, each of which relate to beneficial actions to take in furthering one’s professional goals – a blueprint I think of as “know, go, show.” To “know” is important early in your career, because it’s the time to do everything you can to learn as much as you can about your business and your path. You have to really learn your craft, look for educational opportunities, and find ways to volunteer in your field or your community. Soak up all the knowledge you can. By contrast, the “go” stage is all about action. In this stage, you take all that knowledge you’ve collected and do things with it. This is the time to really grow in your career and start positioning yourself to accomplish the professional goals you’ve set for yourself.

In this stage it’s important to find a coach or a mentor who can help you reach important milestones and continue to learn, because even the best still have room to grow. Even Tom Brady has a coach. Finally, the “show” stage of one’s career is largely what it sounds like: to show others how to be successful. This is when you’ve likely achieved significant successes in your own career, which is the best time to share that knowledge with others. It’s a perfect time to act as a mentor for others, but also to think about vision, strategy, culture, and more – things that will benefit your company or industry in the long-term. THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHENTICITY (AND MAKING MISTAKES).

See DAVE MARTIN, page 12



ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY ANNOUNCES PROMOTIONS IN CALIFORNIA Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced the promotion of seven employees located in its Rancho Cordova, California, office. These promotions include: ❚ ❚ Matt Burgard, PE, has been named the firm’s northern California structures service lead and has been promoted to senior associate. With nearly 15 years of experience, Burgard has expertise in design-bid-build and design-build projects, including bridges, underground structures, earth-retaining structures, and rail projects. He earned a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of California, Davis (2009) and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California Polytechnic State University (2008). ❚ ❚ Jeff Elmensdorp, PE, has been named structures design manager for the Rancho Cordova office and has been promoted to senior associate. He has more than 20 years of experience and has worked with clients from both the state/local and commercial markets. Elmensdorp earned his master’s (2002) and bachelor’s (2000) degrees in civil engineering from the University of California, Davis, and is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). ❚ ❚ Brian Hansen, PE, has been named the firm’s California structures service lead. He has nearly 25 years of experience and is currently leading the design of more than 10 highway bridge program-funded projects.

Hansen earned a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering from the University of California – San Diego (1996). ❚ ❚ Miguel Ramirez, PE, has been named the civil design manager for the Rancho Cordova office and has nearly 15 years of experience. He has worked on a variety of transportation project types, including highways, local roads, interchanges, intersections, multi-use trails, and transit facilities. Ramirez earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California State University (2006). ❚ ❚ Christa Redd has been named the environmental service lead for northern California. She has more than 22 years of experience and is well-versed in public- and private-sector projects, including transportation, residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and solar/wind. Redd earned a master’s degree in natural resources and environmental science from the University of Nevada, Reno (2005) and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Oregon State University (1998). She is a member of the California Association of Environmental Professionals and WTS. ❚ ❚ Rob Shackelford, PE, CCM, has been named the firm’s construction management service lead for northern California. He has nearly 30 years of experience and has worked on transportation and public works projects valued at more than $750 million, including California’s first diverging diamond interchange. Shackelford earned

a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Ohio State University (1991). ❚ ❚ Levi Kinnebrew, PE, has been promoted to associate in the firm’s Rancho Cordova office. With more than 15 years of experience, Kinnebrew is a civil engineer in the firm’s transportation practice where he oversees bridge designs for projects across California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from California State University, Chico (2006). Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide. As a nationwide firm of planning, design, and construction professionals, Dewberry creates responsible and innovative solutions for those who own, operate, and maintain natural and built environments. Dewberry values lasting relationships, achieving its clients’ visions, and celebrating in their success.

DAVE MARTIN, from page 11

answers to everything, and we were up front with our employees about that. We told people, “I don’t know, but let’s find out together,” which is how we approached a lot of 2020. We tried to act as a steady hand, which is crucial when you’re in a position of leadership. “‘Be yourself’ might sound like a cliché, but there’s a lot of benefit in remembering that simple advice. Just because you see someone with a different personality type having success in your field doesn’t mean you have to change who you are.” Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems. If your team is getting ahead of themselves on their newest project because they think it’s going to be the next Eiffel Tower, temper expectations. On the other hand, if your office building is on fire, be the one calmly leading people out to safety. DAVE MARTIN is president and CEO at Larson Design Group. Contact him at

“Be yourself” might sound like a cliché, but there’s a lot of benefit in remembering that simple advice. Just because you see someone with a different personality type having success in your field doesn’t mean you have to change who you are. Two people can be going in the same direction but each have a different way of getting there, which is good – they can learn from each other. And don’t forget: While people – and companies – don’t want to be the cautionary tale, mistakes are always going to happen. However, that’s OK, because it means you’re learning. Bad examples have to exist for everyone to learn what not to do. That may sound harsh, but it’s beneficial in a lot of ways. KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. The COVID-19 pandemic affected every industry dramatically, including the AEC industry. The leadership team at LDG did everything we could to meet challenges head-on – but there was such an abundance of uncertainty that, at times, the best thing to do was to acknowledge what we didn’t know, as well as what we did. An important aspect of leadership is also not having the

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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