TZL 1391 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S M a y 1 0 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 3 9 1 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Finance and accounting staff

Matching your communication style to the needs of those you’re communicating with will ensure your message is received. Connect across generations

Finance and accounting staff as a percentage of total staff was analyzed among firm participants in Zweig Group’s soon-to-be-released 2021 Financial Performance Survey of AEC Firms . This follows a common theme among nontechnical staff in which the department staff percentage decreases as the total firm size increases. Because of this increase in responsibility for finance staff in larger firms, financial directors see a bump in base salary of about 35 percent relative to industry norm. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

T he pandemic has certainly forced us to communicate differently and to use even more tools than before, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack, just to name a few. By now, most of us have figured out the communication medium we prefer, as well as the preferences of those we work with frequently. However, have you stopped to think about the preferences of those you’re working with for the first time (be they a new client/ consultant, or a co-worker from another team)? Even if you don’t know someone, you can usually deduce some of their preferences based on their generation. Taking the time to do this can foster improved communications and stronger relationships. Most workplaces today have three or four different generations working together. At TETER, our generational makeup is 0 percent traditionalist (pre-1946), 24 percent baby boomer (1946- 1964), 25 percent Generation X (1965-1980), and 51 percent millennial (1981-1999). As we’ve worked together, we’ve learned that some of the keys to successful communication involve the appropriate communication medium and the messaging tenor for each individual generation. You’ll find that different generations tend to prefer different communication methods, with each generation becoming less and less formal. Traditionalists gravitate toward in-person meetings and formal memos; baby boomers prefer phone calls or in-person conversations; Generation X favors emails and phone calls; and millennials wish most communication could be done with their phone via texts and instant messaging. Even with working remotely, these differences in preference tend to remain true. It should be noted, however, that as much as video calls can bring the in-person aspect back to working remotely, the likelihood of having technical difficulties still makes a phone call preferable for most baby boomers and traditionalists. It almost goes without saying that individual preferences will vary from person to person, and some items (such as proposals/RFQs or business reports) will require formal communication, whether you’re a millennial or not! In addition to modes of communication, understanding differences in society and historical events for each generation can also help you better tailor your messaging itself. After all, each generation was raised in a society that was significantly different than the one before it, especially in regards to technology. ❚ ❚ Traditionalists were raised during World War II and the Great Depression, and became adults as we were making huge advances in technology, so much so that they put a man on the moon. However,

Allyson McDonald

Megan Chang

F I R M I N D E X Dewberry................................................4

Lynn Engineering.....................................6

Shive-Hattery Architecture-Engineering.12

TETER. ...................................................2

Ware Malcomb......................................12

MO R E A R T I C L E S xz JOAN DELOREY & JARED MAXWELL: Results from A&G’s 2021 insurance survey Page 3 xz Think big: Stuart Lynn Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: So you want to buy an A/E firm? Page 9 xz JENNY PHAN: But I’m not an expert! Page 11





MAY 17 DEADLINE FOR AWARDS ENTRY Exceptional firms deserve to be noticed! Zweig Group awards recognize and celebrate top-firm performance in the AEC industry. ❚ ❚ The Zweig Group Hot Firm List recognizes the 100 fastest-growing AEC firms in the United States and Canada. These firms have outperformed the economy and competitors to become leaders in their chosen fields. ❚ ❚ Zweig Group’s Marketing Excellence Awards recognize outstanding and effective marketing in our industry. Choose one category or multiple. Award entries will be judged by an external team of senior AEC marketing professionals and evaluated based upon overall creativity, messaging, results achieved by the campaign, and level of design. Click here to learn more!

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their practical outlook and dedication to hard physical labor means they prefer to do things manually and are suspicious of technological short-cuts. ❚ ❚ Baby boomers experienced the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and watched man landing on the moon as children, spurring a dream to push boundaries and pursue the impossible. They want to master technology and make the most of it. ❚ ❚ Generation X experienced the Gulf War and watched the Berlin Wall fall. They watched barriers disappear and connection happen through the development of the personal computer and the internet becoming available at home. This allowed them to enjoy technology and use it as a tool to pursue careers that included multiple companies and freelancing, especially as they looked for work-life balance. ❚ ❚ Technology has been part of millennials’ lives from the beginning, or it at least came to be commonplace when they were relatively young. It allowed them to closely experience major events such as 9/11 and the Great Recession. Technology is part of everyday life and easily connects millennials to the rest of the world – but only on a basic, surface level. As a result, they can struggle in developing strong, meaningful personal relationships. When you communicate, reflect on the different ways each generation looks at the world and technology so you can frame your communication in a way that shows you care. Some examples might be: respect the traditionalist’s plethora of experience and institutional knowledge; affirm the baby boomer’s commitment to the organization and the importance of their contributions to the team; reply to the Gen Xer while the information is still relevant; and help connect millennials to the big picture, showing how they fit into the vision for the future. Regardless of the generation, the time of day you expect to communicate should also be taken into consideration, especially with many working remotely with flexible schedules. The typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. window is a safe bet, but be sensitive to when others need you to respond so they get information at a time when they can act upon it. If your millennial co-worker has young children and is juggling distance learning as well as their own work, there’s a good chance they’ll be working early (or up late) to finish those tasks that were interrupted during the day, and they’ll need you to respond in a timely fashion so they can keep working after you may have logged off for the night. Conversely, if your baby boomer co- worker is at the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., make sure they have what they need to start their day productively when they come in at 8 a.m. and make yourself available for phone calls to discuss items when they’re on the clock. Communication is often about compromise, and matching your communication style to those you’re communicating with will help ensure your message is received. ALLYSON MCDONALD, SHRM-CP, is TETER’s HR generalist. Connect with her on LinkedIn. MEGAN CHANG is an associate and professional engineer at TETER. Contact her at

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All indications point to 2021 being a year when more buyers see higher rates for their professional liability insurance. Results from A&G’s 2021 insurance survey

D espite the surprising resiliency of the U.S. construction industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, many insurers providing architects and engineers professional liability insurance have concerns about the prospects for the U.S. economy in 2021. Simultaneously, even as their premiums generally grew last year, these insurers also had worsening loss experience prompting them to consider more significant rate actions this year.

Joan DeLorey

As they reformulate their business plans for this year and beyond, design firms may want to consider how their growth and operational strategies might impact their risk and insurance programs, including related costs. Here are 10 takeaways from the Ames & Gough 2021 survey of 20 leading insurance companies providing professional liability insurance to AEC firms in the U.S. that offer insights on factors influencing their decision-making: 1) Insurers concerned about deteriorating claims experience. Nearly half the insurers surveyed reported their claims experience worsened in 2020, while the other half indicated their claims were similar to the previous year. These realities

are shaping how insurers view their relationships with AEC clientele, including policy pricing, terms, conditions, and available capacity in 2021. 2) Rate hike requests may be more widespread. While 57 percent of the insurers surveyed plan only modest rate increases of up to 5 percent in 2021, one in four expect to raise rates by 6 percent to 10 percent and one in five expect to raise rates above 10 percent. Although insurers applied targeted rate increases in previous years based on an account’s loss experience, project mix, disciplines, and even geography, more now plan to seek higher rates across their entire book. 3) Insurers sharpen focus on risky projects. One

Jared Maxwell




BUSINESS NEWS DEWBERRY ENGINEERING PROJECT RECEIVES NEW JERSEYALLIANCE FORACTIONAWARD Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that its Newark Bay-Hudson County Extension deck reconstruction project in Essex and Hudson counties was recently awarded a Leading Infrastructure Award by the New Jersey Alliance for Action. The award recognizes innovative, pioneering, and landmark construction initiatives that greatly impact New Jersey’s economy. Award recipients were announced during a virtual ceremony in February. “We are honored to receive this award,” says Dewberry Vice President and Senior Project Manager S. Andrew Kamilaris, PE.

“The success of this project allowed for enhanced safety and the prolonged life of the structures within this critical corridor,” adds Dewberry Project Engineer Edward Bier, PE. The New Jersey Turnpike Newark Bay- Hudson County Extension roadway serves as a critical connection between the Holland Tunnel, Interstate 78, Routes 1 and 9, and the Newark Liberty International Airport and Port Newark facilities. Dewberry provided engineering services for the preliminary and final design of the deck reconstruction and structural steel rehabilitation of the westerly approach structures, including one of the curved Interchange 14 ramps

and the structural rehabilitation of the iconic Newark Bay Bridge. 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.


those citing regional claim activity, 40 percent saw more claims in the Northeast and 35 percent in the Southwest. Meanwhile, 30 percent saw more claims each in the Southeast and West Coast. The higher claim levels can be explained in part by greater business activity in each of the areas. Nonetheless, some insurers are considering applying higher rates to firms with a concentration of projects in areas associated with higher claim activity. 8) Additional red flags for insurers: project delivery, complexity. Insurers also had underwriting concerns about fast track and designer-led design/build project delivery, construction complexity with increased costs, and public-private partnerships. Design firms expanding their involvement in these types of arrangements should recognize that some insurers are taking a closer look at them in terms of potential risks they represent. 9) Warning signs on cyber-risk. The COVID-19 pandemic and remote working arrangements left employers in all industries more vulnerable to cyber-attacks, including those involving ransomware. In this environment, design firms should take advantage of the pre-breach services available through their cyber-insurance policy to identify potential system vulnerabilities. In addition, putting the appropriate security measures in place to help mitigate a cyber-attack is becoming a critical component for meeting insurance underwriting requirements to obtain or renew insurance coverage. 10) Practicing sound risk management remains key for AEC firms. The good news is that despite all the concerns, there’s still some competition in the professional liability insurance marketplace. Nonetheless, the beneficiaries among design firms of any favorable conditions that remain this year will be those with clean loss histories, lower risk disciplines, projects, and sound risk management. However, for the most part, all indications point to 2021 being a year when more buyers see higher rates for their professional liability insurance. To obtain a complimentary copy of the Ames & Gough survey, PLI Market 2021: As Claims Experience Deteriorates, Insurers Seek New Rate Hikes , email JOAN DELOREY, senior vice president and partner, Ames & Gough, and JARED MAXWELL, vice president and partner, Ames & Gough. Joan DeLorey can be reached at; Jared Maxwell can be reached at

in four insurers surveyed reported having more claims associated with certain project types, such as residential and infrastructure. As a result, underwriters look carefully at a design firm’s project mix in considering a potential rate action. While many design firms are looking for new growth opportunities, they need to recognize that project mix changes may affect how underwriters approach their policy renewals. 4) Higher-risk disciplines continue to draw underwriter scrutiny. Concerning their underwriting assessments, 95 percent of the insurers surveyed cited structural engineering as the top discipline in terms of risk, followed by geotechnical engineering (75 percent) and architecture (40 percent). Insurers’ historical claims data indicate higher claim frequency and severity coming from these disciplines. This leads insurers to apply higher rates to address historically elevated claims costs associated with these disciplines. 5) Rising claim severity, a troubling trend. Insurers were acutely concerned about a trend toward greater claim severity, especially related to high-risk projects and disciplines. Not surprisingly, insurers’ most significant claims involved bodily injury, design defects, property damage, or construction delays. Most insurers surveyed paid a multimillion-dollar claim in 2020: 45 percent paid a claim between $1 million and $5 million, and one in four paid a claim exceeding $5 million, including 10 percent paying a claim between $10 million and $20 million. 6) Some insurers push back on higher limit requests. A key indicator of the market tightening involves insurers’ responses to the growing number of requests for higher liability coverage limits. Although higher limits of $5 million and above continue to be available, these requests now are typically thoroughly vetted by the insurers. In light of these developments, design firms may want to check with their clients to make sure any requirements for higher limits align with the project risk or if they’re disproportionate given the scope of work. 7) More insurers examine increases in regional claims activity. Even though most insurers (60 percent) in this year’s survey indicated that no specific geographic area had an increase in claims activity, that’s a decline from last year when 73 percent reported no such trend. Notably, among

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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.



Think big: Stuart Lynn President of Lynn Engineering, a windstorm, structural, and civil engineering firm specializing in residential, commercial, and infrastructure development projects on the Texas Gulf Coast.


I n 2007, Lynn attended a seminar on personal development. It’s that seminar that would change the course of his career. He was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, with five weeks of salary and a dream to make a difference, he started Lynn Engineering (Bay City, TX) in 2008. It was during the recession and he figured, “Well, we have nowhere to go but up from here.” “Income follows your personal growth,” Lynn says. “You have to keep learning to be a better person and by default, you’ll become a better boss, employee, and overall person.” A CONVERSATION WITH STUART LYNN. The Zweig Letter: Your company visions states, “We think big to work big to give big.” Can you provide a recent example of how this vision comes to life?

and 15 employees came up with that concept. It was inspired by the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, which talks about setting a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” (BHAG). Out of that retreat, our BHAG – Vision 2030 – was born. By 2030, it’s our vision to give back $7 million. Some of the issues that mean the most to us are: sex trafficking, affordable housing, hunger, and clean water. As a result, we hope to work with companies to rescue 500 people from human trafficking, construct 500 new homes for disadvantaged families across the globe, feed 1,000 orphans, and dig 30,000 new water wells in developing nations. 2030 is more than just a number to us. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? SL: There’s a book, The Five Dysfunctions of Team , that details how to have vulnerable trust. You have to be authentic.

Stuart Lynn: During a company retreat in 2009, myself



TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? SL: I have five kids who work in the business as well as nieces and nephews. My parents, who are now retired, even worked alongside me for a while. My work and family life are intertwined. My wife has enabled me to be able to take some level of calculated risk which is a tremendous help. You’re only as good as your core unit. My wife has very little to do with the business, but she has raised our family and worked full-time at home. The good of this mixing of work and family far outweigh the bad. “When I started the business, I did everything. I’ve since learned that you can’t do everything ... It’s important to let people fail their way to success. Let go of some of the control.” TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? SL: Income follows your personal growth. You have to keep learning to be a better person and by default, you’ll become a better boss, employee, and overall person. TZL: Since founding the firm, what’s been your one greatest challenge and how was it met? SL: In the beginning, I was a one- man show with eight kids. That was challenging enough already. Next was keeping the company’s core values. EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) is what now helps me to lead. It’s a process-driven approach developed by Gino Wickman, and is a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. Implementing EOS helped me to put a healthy leadership team together that’s all working toward a common goal. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”

SL: It’s easy to get caught in the weeds. EOS has been a game changer. It makes me put specific time on the calendar for business. Business has to be process driven – 50/50. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? SL: When I started the business, I did everything. I’ve since learned that you can’t do everything. The good thing is that I can do everything; the bad thing is that I can do everything. It’s important to let people fail their way to success. Let go of some of the control. I once had a staff member lose about $25,000 for the firm. We reviewed what happened and it’s never happened again. You learn by doing and usually won’t do it again. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? SL: We have 42 employees and half of them are younger than 30. I find that people who are hungry are the most coachable and teachable. Older people think they know it all. It’s important to have a small ego in this field and a thirst for knowledge. This goes back to our core values. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? “Income follows your personal growth. You have to keep learning to be a better person and by default, you’ll become a better boss, employee, and overall person.”





❚ ❚ Bay City, TX

❚ ❚ Port Lavaca, TX

❚ ❚ Rockport, TX

❚ ❚ Corpus Christi, TX

❚ ❚ Edna, TX

❚ ❚ Grapevine, TX


❚ ❚ Civil engineering

❚ ❚ Structural engineering

❚ ❚ Windstorm certification

❚ ❚ Land development

❚ ❚ Architecture

CORE VALUES: Fiercely loyal tribe, thirsty for knowledge, solving problems, attention to detail and being humble. ORIGIN STORY: In 2007, Lynn had a calendar in his office. He flipped the page and there was a quote that read, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” That changed everything.

SL: Vision.

TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? SL: People want to work for a cause and I’m working to promote that culture.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

AY 10, 2021, ISSUE 1391


New From Zweig Group




OVERVIEW: With the survey data included in this report and Zweig Group’s exclusive Z-Formulas, the 2021 Valuation Survey Report is the definitive resource to value an industry firm. Zweig Group’s exclusive Z-Formulas can be used to quickly calculate how much an AEC industry firm is worth. Simply input seven factors: staff size, net revenue, backlog, EBITDA, profit, book value, and interest-bearing debt, for a rough value for any industry firm.


OVERVIEW: This report has statistics relating to all the latest methods used to hire and retain professionals in the industry. This survey contains data about recruiting methods and policies, training, HR departments experiences, attitudes, and challenges regarding the hiring and firing process, turnover rates, and compensation and benefits.


OVERVIEW: This is the most up-to-date and comprehensive compensation survey reports for engineering firms operating in any region of the U.S. Based on data gathered between January 2020 and December 2020, from a broad sampling of engineering firms in the U.S., these reports are an industry standard for firm leaders and human resources directors looking to benchmark their staff’s compensation. SURVEY PARTICIPATION






© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




I f your A/E firm has any size or resources whatsoever, you could very well have acquisitions in your strategic plan. But saying you want to buy another business is one thing. Actually doing it is another. Saying you want to buy another firm in this business is one thing – actually doing it is another. So you want to buy an A/E firm?

2)Always talk to the top person in the firm. That is either the founder, chairperson, CEO, and/ or majority owner. Do not waste your time with someone who is lower down in the pecking order to make your case for selling to. 3)Timing is everything! You just never know when someone will have a particularly bad day, learn about a new health problem, or suffer some kind of personal setback that makes them decide they would like to sell their business and get out. Start the conversation to learn. And if not now, maybe they will come back to you later. 4)Talk potential deal structure early in the process! If you have a range of value based on a lot of variables you don’t yet know the answer to, tell them that. If you know you don’t have a lot of cash but could pay for the seller’s book value up front because of your ability to borrow on their assets

Some people say they want to do acquisitions but never really try in any meaningful way to do so. That keeps the fantasy of buying another firm alive as it always remains a possibility. I’m personally more inclined to try to do something and possibly fail than I am to never try so I never fail. If you are like me, let me pass on a few tidbits that might help you! 1)If there is a firm you are interested in acquiring, make an inquiry! You don’t have to know they want to sell. You can do it yourself, or if that feels too awkward or you are worried they won’t be honest with you, hire a consultant, investment banker, business broker, or attorney to do it for you. What do you have to lose? The worst that can happen is they say “no” and maybe you will make a new friend you can cooperate with or someone to compare notes on the business with. But maybe they will say “yes,” and you will suddenly have a new growth option to explore.

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



ON THE MOVE TOM FOX JOINS DEWBERRY TO LEAD AQUATIC SERVICES PROGRAM; DEWBERRY WELCOMES SENIOR ASSOCIATE JAMES MACDONELL TO DESIGN-BUILD PRACTICE Dewberry, a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Tom Fox has joined the firm as a senior environmental scientist to launch its aquatic services program. He is based in the firm’s Raleigh, North Carolina, office. Fox has 15 years of experience, primarily in aquatics-related projects, including survey design, transect layouts, map design, data collection and analysis, field investigations, Section 7 consultations, regulatory agency coordination, preparation of biological assessment documents, and coordinating and conducting habitat assessments and surveys for mussels, fish, and aquatic salamanders. “We’re very excited to welcome Tom to our team, as he is only one of a few individuals permitted in North Carolina to conduct surveys for all listed species of freshwater mussels, fish, crayfish, snails, and aquatic salamanders,” says Dewberry Associate and Senior Planner Beth Smyre, PE. Fox earned his master’s degree in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology from North Carolina State University (2013), and his

bachelor’s degree in biology from the George Washington University (2006). Fox is a member of the American Fisheries Society, Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society, and the North Carolina Association of Environmental Professionals. In addition to its announcement about Fox, Dewberry has also announced that James Macdonell has joined the firm as a senior associate and senior project manager in its Raleigh, North Carolina, office. Macdonell has more than 25 years in the construction industry and joins Dewberry’s design-build practice to serve in a project management capacity for public- and private- sector clients across the southeast. Prior to joining the firm, he was a senior vice president for a North Carolina-based general contracting firm, where he managed day-to- day operations, financials, recruitment, project management, and insurers. “I have a background in working with architects and municipalities to deliver construction solutions that meet their needs,” says Macdonell. “Construction and design- build needs across the southeast are growing, and I’m excited to have joined Dewberry and

help serve these clients across the state and region.” Macdonell earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Alberta (1997). He is a professional geologist with licenses in North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and a member of the Society of American Military Engineers. 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. Dewberry’s mission is to create responsible and innovative solutions for those who own, operate, and maintain natural and built environments. The firm values lasting relationships, achieving our clients’ visions, and celebrating in their success. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

forecasts that can require you to throw that rule-of-thumb out the window. Companies that have strategic significance to your firm (meaning that you think your whole firm can perform better if they were part of your company) may see a higher valuation because of it. Employment agreements are also a huge deal and part of the value. There are many factors to consider when setting value beyond some arbitrary “X times EBIT” formula offered up by a jargon-speaking spreadsheet jockey. 7)The price being paid is only one of many variables to consider. The deal structure and how much of it the seller has to finance may be a bigger part of it. There is a lot less risk for you as a buyer if you can get the seller to finance more of your purchase. Their willingness to do that is going to be based on how many other options the sellers have, how badly their owner(s) need cash, and their assessment of the likelihood you will be able to run their business in such a way that you will be able to afford to make your payments to them. So while you will have to do your due diligence on them, they will conversely want to do it on you. 8)It’s all about trust. You have to keep any conversations with a potential seller absolutely confidential. You can do huge damage to their business by letting word get out that they may be selling. “Loose lips sink ships,” applies here! So don’t violate the sellers’ trust by blabbing all over that you are trying to buy them. I could go on here but am out of space. I hope this is helpful to some of you. Let me know your thoughts! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

such as accounts receivable, tell them so. If you know you would have to get an SBA loan to do the deal, tell them. If you know the seller’s principals would have to stick around for at least a year or two, tell them that is what you are thinking. The sooner you can get to the meat of the discussion, the better. “You have to keep any conversations with a potential seller absolutely confidential. You can do huge damage to their business by letting word get out that they may be selling. ‘Loose lips sink ships,’ applies here!” 5)“Cultural compatibility” (something everyone who does acquisitions talks about) is important, but it isn’t everything. You can have all the compatibility you want and your principals can love their principals but if the deal is so expensive it never pays for itself, you failed. I think a lot of people trying to do these deals forget that. 6)Value is completely subjective. Anything, including a business, is worth whatever someone else is willing to pay for it. So many of the so-called experts want to talk multiples of EBIT for value determination. I find that means little to nothing unless you have a completely steady-state firm AND a purely financial buyer (meaning one who only cares about the financial returns of a stand-alone company). Growing companies will have wildly different prospects and EBIT

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




But I’m not an expert!

Get your technical professionals comfortable with sharing their stories and they’ll promote your firm, their good work, and their team.

V alue-added, original stories are the crème de la crème of a strong content marketing program. Architects and engineers solve many design challenges that evolve into stories that need to be shared. From the designer’s perspective (original ideas), through the client experience, to people using the space, to the positive community impact, these narratives are compelling stories that resonate with clients and peers (value-added).

Jenny Phan

I half-jokingly tell my colleagues that my job is to make them famous. This entails capturing their original thoughts, developing the story and promoting it to the right audiences. Three critical elements help this process: 1) A compelling story 2) Strong imagery and graphics 3) A willing and able champion who is intimately tied to the client, project, and story The champion is critical to drive the editorial process forward. Your subject matter expert needs to be “willing and able” to collaborate. That is when sometimes the e-brake is pulled.

❚ ❚ “I don’t want to make a mistake. Everyone will see it.” ❚ ❚ “I don’t want to look stupid in front of everyone.” ❚ ❚ “But I’m not an expert.” Some of our best designers are very humble. Creating content can be misinterpreted as a form of self-promotion which is the antithesis of their core values. The other headwind is potential embarrassment with flawed or debatable ideas. This vulnerability can bring the process to a screeching halt.

See JENNY PHAN, page 12



ON THE MOVE WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES ARTURO PONCIANO PROMOTED TO STUDIO MANAGER IN PRINCETON OFFICE Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced Arturo Ponciano has been promoted to Studio Manager, Interior Architecture & Design in the Princeton office. In this new role, he helps lead and manage the office’s Interior Architecture & Design studio and manages select projects. Ponciano joined Ware Malcomb as Senior Project Manager in 2017 specializing in repositioning and corporate fit out projects. He has managed a variety of projects from renovations to new construction. Ponciano’s background in interior architecture and design includes office, industrial, healthcare, public, retail and R&D facilities. His experience also includes building façade

renovations, site and landscape projects. Ponciano’s finesse with clients along with planning, interpreting and communication skills have been a valuable asset to the team. “Arturo’s extensive interior design expertise coupled with his calm demeanor make him a valuable mentor and strong leader,” said Marlyn Zucosky, Director of Interior Architecture & Design of Ware Malcomb’s Princeton and Newark offices. “Arturo’s dedication to our team and clients is apparent in everything he does, and we look forward to his continued growth in years to come.” Ponciano holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Miami. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture,

planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to corporate, commercial/residential developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/institutional facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group. The firm is also ranked among the top 15 architecture/engineering firms in Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms and the top 25 interior design firms in Interior Design magazine’s Top 100 Giants.

JENNY PHAN, from page 11

thoughtfully and carefully. There is no fear of having only one opportunity to tell your story perfectly. The first draft is the hardest part. The thought of writing it alone can paralyze the process. Ease the process by: ❚ ❚ Interviewing the subject matter expert ❚ ❚ Identifying the audience, key messaging points, and what we want the audience to learn ❚ ❚ Ghostwriting for the subject matter expert ❚ ❚ Editing the first and subsequent drafts together This can help put any fear and anxiety at ease of looking stupid and making a mistake. ❚ ❚ Sharing is caring. At Shive-Hattery, one of our Shared People Values is mentoring – meaning to mentor unselfishly and to share knowledge, skills, and experience in a friendly way. We also have a Share Business Value focused on learning and teaching where we believe it is a basic responsibility to learn and teach others. Our designers are known for providing a high level of care with our clients and they trust us with their goals, visions, and dreams. There is no better way to extend that type of care than by sharing our stories as told by our subject matter experts. From their perspective, they are at ground zero when clients reach out needing help with a problem or assistance to achieve their vision. They guide clients throughout the entire design process until the built environment is complete. By sharing stories like these, you promote the client and their goals, strengthen relationships, and daylight how each designer assists the unique needs of clients. With a thoughtful approach, my colleagues become reluctantly famous. Once they get there, they realize that beside them stand our clients and a project that solved problems and accomplished goals, a project everyone can be proud of. JENNY PHAN is the corporate communications manager for Shive- Hattery Architecture-Engineering. She can be reached at jphan@shive-

❚ ❚ Experts know more than most people about a particular topic. You might be asking yourself, “Is that me? Am I an expert?” Merriam-Webster defines an expert as “one with special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.” As an architect, engineer, or designer, you have studied your field and have spent thousands of hours mastering your craft. You have done the work and, more than likely, you are mentoring those around you. Now it is time to share the work. You can do this in a way that aligns with being honest and humble while helping others. In doing so, the story should stay focused on challenges overcome, lessons learned, and the benefits for the client. These key takeaways are critical for both clients and peers. “By sharing stories like these, you promote the client and their goals, strengthen relationships, and daylight how each designer assists the unique needs of clients.” ❚ ❚ You already know it. If you were a scientist, the institution you worked for would expect you to publish your research in peer-reviewed journals. This promotes the institution, the research and the scientist. Applying this to our industry, publishing promotes the design firm, the good work, and the designers (our willing and able champions and our subject matter experts). Bonus: It is easier to publish your own information. You can amplify that on social media. You can email clients and get it right into their inbox. Print and mail it so clients can hold on to it as a resource. Sharing our knowledge with others opens a dialogue where we can help a client or colleague. ❚ ❚ The first draft and the power of editing. Because we create our own content, we have the ability to craft our messages

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