C+S January 2020 Vol. 6 Issue 1 (web)

to provide our employee-owners with a variety of advanced degree options. C+S: Forensic, Engineering, Construction, and Environmental. Of the four key offerings, which one creates the highest utilization? Bill: During bull markets, it is common for our Engineering/Construc- tion/Environmental groups to maintain extremely high utility figures. Thus, for the past decade, these three groups have operated at high utility levels, save for a couple of aberrant quarters. During bear markets, utility for Engineering/Construction/Environmental tends to dip on private sector work. To the contrary, our Forensics services are non-cyclical and are steady, if not improved, during bear markets. We consider this economically-hedged service blend one of our keys for both short-term and long-term predictability. C+S: Over the last few years, what state or states have produced the most growth? Bill: Vertex is fairly mature in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain regions. Thus, our largest growth has come in our Southeast, South, Southwest, and Northwest operations. Vertex’s goal is to achieve re- gional office sustainability in all 25 of our offices, which will require full service offers in each market. C+S: Look ahead five to 10 years. What does every CEO of an AEC firm need to know? Bill: There is no question that the U.S. will face a bear market within the next three years. I almost welcome a minor correction to ease re- source issues and construction inflation. This mild recession will be coupled with the already-slowing global markets. In addition, the fed- eral deficit and debt level will soon become the country’s number one issue, which will soon come to the national stage as the percentage of entitlement (health care and social security) and interest spending is on a steady rise. The increase in federal entitlement and interest spending will greatly reduce the available money to fund infrastructure spend- ing, which has been the case for the past decade. In fact, the percentage of U.S. public construction spending as a percentage of the U.S. GDP has dropped by approximately one-third over the past decade alone. Thus, funding will be an issue in the public sector for years to come. That said, CEOs will need to face this brutal reality and need to plan accordingly. Lastly, AI and IOT advances will create great opportuni- ties and cause massive disruptions in the near future. AEC firms that remain ahead of the technology curve will have a leg up. Those that fall behind will face inevitable hardships. C+S: Describe the challenges you encountered in building your management team over the lifetime of your leadership. Have you ever terminated or demoted long-time leaders as the firm grew? How did you handle it? Bill: Running a $100M business is different from running a $10M business, just like running a $100B company is different than running one that’s $100M. Vertex’s management team is acutely aware of this fact, and we have supplemented our team with individuals that have

A rendering of the proposed 17-story Boston University Data Sciences Center, where Vertex is providing owner’s representation. Photo: KPMB Architects

Environmental: Cambridge Crossing (Formerly NorthPoint), Indus- trial Property Redevelopment, The Lab (Denver), Union Point Naval Air Station Redevelopment. C+S: You have three degrees, are currently working on your Ph.D., and completed the part-time, three-year business program at MIT. What’s behind your hyper-drive for education? Bill: I’m a firm believer that education has no finish line. With this perspective in mind, gaining multiple degrees over a 30- to 40-year window is not a daunting pursuit. To the contrary, attempting to gain a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees while in your 20s is ex- tremely difficult, not to mention expensive. Moreover, pursuing these degrees in one decade is a full-time endeavor, and it comes at a seri- ous opportunity cost, as most individuals establish their career path by 25. Entering the corporate world at age 30 can be a serious handicap. What’s more, obtaining advanced degrees while you are working lets you incorporate lessons learned into your daily routine, which in- creases retention. C+S: How did your executive team come together to develop the partnership on the degree program with the University of Colorado Denver? Bill: One of Vertex’s differentiators is our Lifetime of Learning Pro- gram. Vertex understands that the ever-increasing student debt level is a national crisis. We sought to create a win-win program where employees could obtain advanced degrees without taking on additional debt-load, while Vertex would develop a more qualified workforce. Ac- cordingly, Vertex met with several universities and decided to form a partnership with the University of Colorado Denver because they share our entrepreneurial mindset and appreciate how distance learning is a great benefit to students with full-time employment and corporations that have multiple office locations. To tackle this undertaking, Vertex appointed Russell Fitzpatrick as our Chief Learning Officer. Russell is working with CU Denver and a select number of other institutions


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