TZL 1415 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S N o v e m b e r 1 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 1 5 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Formal marketing plan

Remote workers in the AEC industry are more likely to feel more productive, creative, and motivated than pre-pandemic. Are remote staff better off?

Z weig Group’s most recent survey, AEC Workplace of the Future , found that on average, 47 percent of a firm’s workforce is back in the office full-time – but of that group, the demographics are highly swayed. While 54 percent of males are working full-time in the office or on work related travel, just 41 percent of females are back to full-time office work. Breaking this group down by age illuminates a straight-line correlation between age and work preference – 72 percent of individuals aged 65 and older are in the office, but just 17 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 are in the office. This younger demographic is likely to be most affected by remote and flexible work policies – 33 percent of AEC industry employees between the ages of 25 and 34 and 26 percent of those ages 35 to 44, report being “more productive” than they were pre-pandemic. Just 7 percent of those 65 and older feel the same way. Females are also more likely than males to report feeling more productive (23 percent vs. 18 percent), but are also more likely to report feeling less productive (10 percent vs. 4 percent). Feelings of productivity were also heavily impacted by work situation. Those working remote were seven times more likely to say they felt more productive than pre-pandemic when compared with those working full-time in the office. While being productive is one measure of success, personal feelings of creativity and motivation are also important factors for successful workplace policies. Individuals working from home were four times more likely to report feeling more creative and motivated than pre-pandemic than those who had returned to the office full-time. Irrespective of work situation, those in the 34- to 44-year-old age bracket were most impacted – in both directions. A staggering 37 percent of those ages 35 to 44 report feeling more creative and motivated than they were pre-pandemic, but 42 percent report feeling less creative and motivated. Recruitment and retention is a huge issue at AEC industry firms, with the majority of firms reporting at least one open position, record backlog, and a need for experienced professionals. Firms looking to alter their policies need to do so carefully – 20 percent of Zweig Group’s survey respondents said they would consider looking for a new job at a different firm in order to retain their ability to work remote and 10 percent of respondents said they would consider leaving the industry in order to keep this option. Female respondents were more likely to say they would consider a pay-cut to remain remote (12 percent agree vs. 4 percent of males), and a job at a different firm (29 percent of females vs. 9 percent of

F I R M I N D E X Dewberry..............................................12 Galloway & Company, Inc.. .....................2 JRCA Architects......................................2 Shear Structural......................................4 Tamarack Grove......................................6 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MALORY ATKINSON: The best client holiday gift Page 3 xz The right path: Brian Sielaff Page 6 xz JULIE BENEZET: Defining roles and responsibilities Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: Decide, then act! Page 11 In Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms , firms were asked about their general marketing strategies and planning. For the overall sample, about three out of every four firms said they had a formal marketing plan, covering items such as marketing budget and revenue, plan by market or region, and firmwide goals. The chart above shows the breakdown of this question down by firm growth rate in revenue and/or staff size. Growing firms were more likely to have a marketing plan than stable or declining firms. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

Christina Zweig Niehues




TRANSACT IONS GALLOWAY & COMPANY, INC. ACQUIRES JRCA ARCHITECTS Zweig Group, a full-service AEC management advisory firm, announced its client Galloway & Company, Inc. has acquired JRCA Architects , creating a dynamic alignment of knowledge and culture. Jamie Claire Kiser, Zweig Group’s managing principal, served as Galloway’s lead advisor on the engagement, with support from advisor John Bray and senior analysts Andrew Chavez and Drake Hamilton. Zweig Group worked closely with Galloway’s president, Dave Guetig, and Kristoffer Kenton, director of architecture. “This transaction really underscores that M&A in our industry isn’t just about ‘synergies’ – it’s about the future and growth,” Kiser said. “Zweig Group has advised Galloway on a variety of strategic initiatives over the last few years, and our deep understanding of Galloway’s ambition and uncompromising commitment to culture facilitated a smooth M&A process. The outlook in the mountain region and demand for services remains strong for AEC; this transaction is the second closing we have advised on within the month in these states, a trend we see continuing into 2022.” Galloway is headquartered in Denver with six regional offices. The firm’s staff of nearly 250 professionals provides a full-service approach to architecture and engineering that supports projects nationwide. Its active portfolio includes projects in 26 states. Utah-based JRCA is highly regarded for its design of healthcare, public works, and public safety facilities, as well as government and justice centers. The firm’s expertise in these markets will complement Galloway’s extensive portfolio in the commercial, multifamily, industrial, and federal markets.

Galloway and JRCA have worked together throughout the years, and this established relationship further supported the acquisition. Galloway has grown rapidly over the past eight years, with a 13 percent annual average growth. The firm’s expansion began in 2013 with the opening of its first regional office in Salt Lake City. Since then, Galloway has added five additional offices in Colorado, Utah and California. This is Galloway’s second acquisition in the Utah market. The effective date of the acquisition was September 1, 2021. JRCA will retain its Salt Lake City office and staff, and will continue operations under the Galloway name. JRCA’s owners will join Galloway as shareholders. Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the leading research, publishing, and consulting resource for the built environment. The firm provides strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, marketing, business development, market research, financial management, project management, recruiting and executive search services nationwide. Zweig Group also provides a comprehensive suite of products including industry reports and surveys, executive training, and business conferences covering virtually every aspect of AEC firm management. The firm’s mission, Elevate the Industry, has five tenets: promote, diversify, educate, change, and celebrate. Zweig Group’s vision is to facilitate action in pursuit of elevating individuals, firms, and thus the industry. More than a mission, this is a movement to advance the AEC profession, creating a world that celebrates the built environment and recognizes its impact on individuals, communities, and commerce.

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CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES, from page 1 males). This also correlates directly with age, with younger respondents being more likely than older ones to consider leaving their firm or the industry. Outside research confirms Zweig Group’s findings. A study from Future Forum, a research group formed by Slack Technologies, Inc., a workplace collaboration software, found that just 3 percent of Black professionals want to return to the office full-time, post-COVID contrasted with 21 percent of whites. It’s clear that remote and flexible work policies are creating more than just a cultural divide in the AEC industry – diversity and the long-term viability of firms in our industry is going to be dependent on firm leaders making choices that both support building community, culture, and teamwork among their employees, as well as supporting their desire for workplace flexibility and remote options. CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at . Zweig Group’s 2021 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala Zweig Group is thrilled to announce that the annual in-person ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala will return in Denver, November 3-5. Click here to learn more or to register for the AEC industry’s top in-person learning and networking event of the year.

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The best client holiday gift

Clients remember great gifts and terrible gifts, never the ones in between – so take the time to be great, or take this year off and save up for something next year.

P icture this: It’s the holiday season, sparkling lights, festive décor, and a stuffed mailbox. You eagerly sort through the barrage of envelopes to a find a small, wrapped package with your name on it. Your inner child squeals with glee as you tear off the paper and open the brightly colored box to reveal … a Christmas tree shaped stress ball with [VENDOR LOGO] plastered all over it.

Malory Atkinson

Disappointed, but not deterred, you spot a larger package with a massive red bow. This has got to be something good, you tell yourself. The bigger, the better, right? And it’s from one of your top vendors, a firm you tripled your spend with this year. The bow slips off, the tape undone, and out pops, literally, a massive tub of caramel popcorn. Your least favorite flavor. The popcorn ends up in the breakroom, its big bow in the trash, while the stress ball goes into your desk drawer, only to be thrown out years later in an ironic moment of deep desk cleaning rage. And your inner child consoles herself with dreams of better gifts in the years to come. The holidays are supposed to be a time of

happiness, joy, and gratitude. Nothing says the exact opposite more than a terrible holiday gift. We’ve all received them – the 2XL shirt when you typically wear a small, golf balls when you don’t play golf, a bottle of wine when you’re pregnant, and yet another knockoff Yeti insulated coffee cup. And the worst part? It just feels like no one cares. It feels like that new relationship you worked on this year didn’t mean anything. At a time when we should be thankful and grateful, we cringe with every “special delivery” which just adds another fruitcake to the never-ending pile of bad, cheap sweets in the office breakroom. Let’s take this opportunity to reset client holiday




TRANSACT IONS ALDEN RESEARCH LABORATORY, INC. JOINS RTC SPONSORED NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL, ENGINEERING AND CONSULTING PLATFORM Alden Research Laboratory, Inc., the oldest continuously operating hydraulic laboratory in North America, has joined Round Table Capital’s sponsored national platform of companies focused in the industrial, real estate, energy, technology, water resources, transportation, and government sectors with professional staff and complementary capabilities across the United States. The combined platform includes nearly 450 staff in offices across the United States. Together, the firms that make up the platform offer comprehensive capabilities, including environmental site assessment and remediation, environmental compliance, water resources and treatment, natural resources and ecology, traditional site civil and geotechnical engineering, as well as climate change resiliency including marine and coastal engineering. Alden offers a combined 127 year history of high-end Computational Fluid Dynamics and fluid flow modeling, best in class physical modeling, field measurements and precision flow meter calibrations with extensive national and international experience in the modeling and permitting of hydroelectric dams, nuclear facilities and coastal and riverine modeling and environmental compliance projects found throughout the United States. Gerry Salontai, CEO of the platform, explained, “It is immediately clear how the addition of Alden to the NECS platform will bring added value and success to the clients we serve across the United States. I share the excitement

of all platform employees in welcoming Alden’s uniquely capable leadership and technical professionals to the team.” Alden will continue its commitment to preserving its rich historic legacy which includes some of the earliest model testing in the United States, and unique projects such as system performance measurements for the Panama Canal, and large-scale physical modeling for the Mid-Barataria and Mid- Breton sediment diversions on the Mississippi River. As Stuart Cain, Ph.D., president of Alden explains, “We believe this strategic next step in joining the platform enhances our technical and geographical breadth and provides career growth opportunities for our team members. I look forward to adding our expertise to the platform and building deeper relationships with our current and future clients.” Alden Vice President Dan Gessler, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE offers, “I am excited about our combined capabilities and how this will help our staff grow in their careers and better help our clients realize their goals. I look forward to supporting the platform goals and continuing the work with our existing clients.” This platform is sponsored by Round Table Capital and is their third buy and build strategy in the AEC industry. Christopher Lee, managing partner and member of the founding team at RTC said, “We are very pleased to welcome the entire Alden team to the platform. The strategic addition of such a strong organization is a win for all stakeholders; it provides additional opportunities for employees, enhances the

service offering to clients, and creates value for shareholders.” Stradling, Yocca, Carlson and Rauth, P.C. acted as legal counsel, and BDO USA, LLP and CohnReznick, LLP acted as financial and tax advisors on behalf of RTC and its affiliates. The combined firm will continue to grow by attracting top talent to bring clients the necessary expertise and insights to further their success, and by adding like-cultured firms that expand geographic reach, complement service offerings, and strengthen the diversity and experience of the team of professionals. Since 1894, Alden has been a recognized leader in the field of applied fluid dynamic consulting. The company strives to support the world’s environmental and industrial future through independent evaluation and optimization of relevant technologies. In addition, the company provide practical value- added solutions to industry and government agencies, deliver a quality product that meets or exceeds its client expectations and position its expertise to help shape regulations that are relevant to its clients. RTC Partners is a private investment firm that specializes in building middle market growth platforms. Together with management partners, the firm builds market leading companies throughacombinationof acquisitive and organic growth, while establishing highly professionalized corporate infrastructures that are capable of scaling organizations to the next level. RTC Partners’ strategies focus on high-growth niches of professional, business, and healthcare services industries.

breakroom on a December Friday afternoon and see what off-brand pre-packaged gift hasn’t been touched and take note. Clients remember great gifts and terrible gifts, never the ones in between. So either take this year to be great, or take this year off and save up for something great. Prioritize your top clients along with a few new key clients and maximize your spending there. The bottom line is that the gift should be about your client, not you. It should have less logo and more mojo. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be personal and thoughtful, like every great gift you have ever received. MALORY ATKINSON is co-founder and managing partner of Shear Structural. She can be reached at or via social media @maloryatkinson. “The holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness, joy, and gratitude. Nothing says the exact opposite more than a terrible holiday gift.”

MALORY ATKINSON, from page 3

gift giving. We appreciate our clients all year round, but it’s important to show them that you care, and many of us choose to do so with a holiday gift. So make it count. Make your clients feel like they are important, special, valued. And how do you do that? Well, what’s important, special, and valuable to them? Are they always talking about their kids? You could get them a family experience to enjoy – maybe an annual family pass to a local attraction. Are they the consummate foodie? Try a gift card to a trendy new restaurant or even a unique food delivery service. Do you meet them for coffee at the same cafe every time you meet? Perhaps a local coffee subscription or mug from their favorite spot. Good, quality food is always appreciated (emphasis on the quality). Gift cards with wide appeal (like Starbucks and Amazon) can be a fallback. You could also consider a subscription service, so they’ll get a monthly reminder all year long of how much you appreciate them. Take stock yourself of the best and worst gifts you’ve ever gotten and what made them stand out. Wander through the

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


New From Zweig Group




2021 BEST PERFORMING FIRMS IN THE AEC INDUSTRY REPORT PRICE: $395 OVERVIEW: How do the most successful architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms do business? How do firms that excel in growth, financial performance, profitability, excellent workplaces, or marketing stand out from the rest? Statistics are shown for award-winning, fastest-growing, and highest-profit firms, separately from the overall sample so you can benchmark your firm relative to the most successful firms in the AEC industry. LEARN MORE OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s 2021 Fee & Billing Survey Report of AEC Firms is the standard guideline for firms looking to benchmark fees, billing rates, and billing practices, and evaluate productivity and utilization. The 2021 edition includes data on fee structures for every major market type in the AEC industry, billing rates and chargeability statistics for 33 levels of employee, statistics on consultant fees and reimbursable expenses, and more.


OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Report of AEC Firms is a benchmarking and advisory guide to industry firm marketing activities, budgets, marketing department organization, staffing levels, compensation, and investments in marketing systems and infrastructure. This report also has statistics on proposal activity, hit rates, and other useful analytics.











The right path: Brian Sielaff Founder of Tamarack Grove (Boise, ID), a firm that serves its clients throughout North America by providing responsive, safe, and trusted solutions.


T he message on coffee mugs at Tamarack Grove is, “Truss me, I’m a civil engineer.” And, that’s a message that Sielaff has worked to instill since the firm’s inception. He launched the firm out of a love for design and problem- solving, but also brought with that a need to serve with purpose. He wanted to create a firm that was built on relationships, not just stamped and signed documents. Sielaff works to lead by example. When he looks at his team, he sees a room filled with individual strengths and people having fun. That’s something he thinks leads back to being passionate about what they do along with the company culture. “Everyone is responsible for pulling their own weight, but it’s never all put on one person’s shoulders,” Sielaff says. “When we see an issue or trend, we bring it to light and all work on trying to address it. Is it the client? Is it the market sector? Is it us? What can we do to put things back on the right path for success?”

A CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN SIELAFF. The Zweig Letter: Your online bio states, “Delivering the ultimate client experience is ensuring we are focused on building intentional relationships, actively listening, understanding pain-points, and being proactive and responsive while solving challenges that help our clients succeed.” Can you illustrate how you’ve recently solved a client challenge? What was involved? What was the challenge? What was the solution? Brian Sielaff: Our firm was birthed out of developing intentional relationships and we’ve seen many client challenges over the years. One big challenge that springs to mind occurred over the last 10 years within our manufacturing market sector. Manufacturers were having a difficult time getting their clients a set of permitted deferred submittal construction documents. When we came to the table, the typical turnaround within the industry was a standard two- to three-week process. On



BS: I had no idea what this actually meant until about three years ago when I met my current business coach. Through the course of understanding what “strategic hires” were, we’ve since positioned our company to have all the right people on the bus, and in the right seat, as author Jim Collins puts it. Having this in place, has allowed me to spend more of my time “on the business” rather than “in the business.” I’m more focused on strategic planning now and that’s been vital in reaching our business goals. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? BS: We’re very purposeful in making sure that Tamarack Grove Engineering is intentional in our hiring process. We strive to be a well-diversified company, one that includes everyone. Currently, we’re a team of 38, nine women and 29 men. Five of our team members are also on work visas. I strongly believe that without intentionality in your business decisions, this topic can get overlooked. Our industry really needs to be more intentional about this. TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? BS: Each year we sit down and discuss how we can be better. Are there more or better benefits we can offer? We currently provide 11 holidays off, annually, as well as their birthday and a choice between a work or personal anniversary. We cover 100 percent of our full-time staff’s health and medical insurance premiums and everyone gets three weeks’ vacation once their probationary period is over. We highly encourage all staff to contribute to their 401(k) and offer a Safe Harbor plan, so – whether or not they contribute – TGE puts in 3 percent to their plan. We also do a discretionary contribution at year end which is based on overall company profits. We also ask staff for input on the subject during our “Town Hall” meetings. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? BS: Yes. We first found out about this in 2018. It’s been a game changer for our business to have these funds – that would normally go into paying taxes – returned back to the business. For our business specifically, it has allowed us to remodel our building, have better software and hardware devices for our staff, and make strategic hiring decisions. See THE RIGHT PATH, page 8

top of that, manufacturers were forced to use four or five different engineering firms to produce their work, solely on the fact that not one firm had professional licensure within all 50 states. This resulted in the manufacturer having its product engineered four to five different ways by the various firms and the wait period for the final product was two to three weeks. So, in 2010 we pursued licensure within as many states, providences, and territories as possible. We then started a hiring process in 2011 that would change the face of Tamarack Grove Engineering forever. By adding key, strategic team members, we kept up with industry demand. Our final solution for them was to take the lead on getting licensed in all of North America so that our company alone would know and understand their product and we would engineer it one way, not four or five. As a result, we’ve become a one-stop-shop and have gotten our turnaround times down to 24-hours. “When we see an issue or trend, we bring it to light and all work on trying to address it. Is it the client? Is it the market sector? Is it us? What can we do to put things back on the right path for success?” 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? BS: You have to start early and you have to have a plan in place. I started when I was 47. My wife and I will start our exit plan in nine years. I’m a firm believer that if you feel like you have the right people in place, you have to bring them along. Our process took about two years to complete. First, we hired Zweig Group to value our business. Next, we developed a full ownership transition process. Our first ownership member came to the table in 2020. We’re working on adding a few more behind the scenes. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Some people hang their hat on the “someday clause.” Life can take a turn quickly with unexpected events. Plan for the future now. And, don’t just set yourself up for a transition, set up the staff and overall company too. Zweig Group was invaluable in helping us lay this groundwork. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”






❚ ❚ Commercial

❚ ❚ Manufacturing

❚ ❚ Facilities

MISSION: To serve clients

throughout North America

by providing responsive, safe

and trusted solutions with

the highest-quality, most

dependable engineering and

design services while providing

an environment for team

members to grow.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 1, 2021, ISSUE 1415


Tamarack Grove staff celebrating the firm’s placement on Zweig Group’s 2021 Hot Firm List.

THE RIGHT PATH, from page 7

the client? Is it the market sector? Is it us? What can we do to put things back on the right path for success? TZL: You started the company in 2007 to “serve a need in the industry.” What was that need that was not being filled? How has the firm evolved since you first conceived it to what it is today? BS: I felt that the industry lacked a “connection with people.” I saw the industry evolving into a commodity. In the first few years of my career, I started to think about what I would do differently if given the chance. I started thinking about the importance of company culture. I was employed at a place that didn’t care much about culture or making connections. Connections breed relationships. When I had the opportunity to set out on my own, I created Tamarack Grove Engineering on the foundation that “life is about relationships.” Within our office we ask everyone on our team what makes us different. We don’t just want to give a client a finished product. It’s our knowledge, availability, experiences, depth, other- centeredness, and responsiveness that adds to the end product that we deliver. We want new and repeat business founded on the relationship first and the work second. I often tell our staff that we’re in the relationship building business first and structural engineering second. I also didn’t want to just be a local firm. I wanted our relationship-driven attitude to pervade all of North America. And, technology makes it possible. So, over time, Tamarack Grove grew into a firm with licensure that helps clients all over North America. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? BS: Being a servant leader and teaching others.

TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? BS: I agree with this 100 percent. Here at TGE, it begins with simply valuing all staff. We have weekly leadership training with our engineering staff managers because we want to empower them to lead their team. We require all of our staff managers to meet one-on-one with each team member, quarterly. We cover topics having to do with our leaders’ weaknesses and strengths. We ask questions such as, “How can we get better in leading you?” and, “What are your goals?” “We want new and repeat business founded on the relationship first and the work second. I often tell our staff that we’re in the relationship building business first and structural engineering second.” TZL: When you identify a part of your business that is not pulling its weight in terms of profitability or alignment with the firm’s mission, what steps do you take, and what’s the timeline, to address the issue while minimizing impacts to the rest of the company? BS: Our very first question we always ask is, “What can we (leadership) do to help out?” Our underlying theme is “We win as a team, we lose as a team.” Everyone is responsible for pulling their own weight, but it’s never all put on one person’s shoulders. When we see an issue or trend, we bring it to light and all work on trying to address it. Is it

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Knowing who does what, who needs to weigh in, and who makes the final decision is critical to success. Defining roles and responsibilities

T he big day arrives. After months of courting, the firm landed a major project for a client it had wanted for years. The firm’s leadership and project team gathered in a conference room to celebrate. Champagne flowed and smiles filled the room as the CEO expressed his excitement about winning the client. Glasses were raised and the work began.

Julie Benezet

THE PROBLEM PROJECT. A few days later, the principal- in-charge met with the client to finalize the project vision. The CEO did not attend. Nevertheless, he planned to watch over matters related to the new client, a plan he didn’t share with others. After the meeting, the principal-in-charge handed off the work to his lead designer, asking her to keep him informed. He then moved on to the next project. Things went smoothly until reality intervened. The client demanded high touch service and multiple project changes despite having agreed to a fixed fee contract. To please the client, the lead designer complied with their requests, although she was nervous about their impact on the project scope and vision. She voiced her concerns with the principal-in-charge, who replied he had no time to deal with them and to “just make it work.”

She thought about talking with the CEO, having heard his enthusiasm about the client at the firm celebration, but didn’t want to go over her supervisor’s head. The client refused to reconsider any of their change requests. The lead designer concluded her best option was to focus on her team delivering great design and submitting their billable hours on time. That approach seemed to work until the day the project accountant decided to take a deep dive into the contract to compare the billed hours to the project scope. Two-thirds of the way into the project, they had exceeded their fee.

See JULIE BENEZET, page 10



JULIE BENEZET, from page 9

want to override any decision that has a negative impact on the company budget. Giving ultimate authority to the CEO makes sense for corporate governance but the principal-in- charge might oppose that position, especially if they brought in the business. Resolving the issue requires one or more uncomfortable and necessary conversations. “Establishing a roles and responsibilities roadmap is worth the time and aggravation of getting there. It might feel like an ‘eat your vegetables because they’re good for you’ idea, but a healthy diet does make a difference.” 3)Assigning roles can challenge professional identity. Assigning responsibility for a function could displace a person who thought they not only owned but identified with it. A project architect might believe they should determine the final finishes because of their well-honed artistic eye. The principal-in charge might disagree because the client expects the project’s senior leader to make the final call. If the firm goes with the client expectation, it should remember to avoid demotivating the project architect by reinforcing how much the firm values their work and explaining that the decision was based on the client relationship, not the architect’s talent. 4)Leading must come from the top. Establishing roles and responsibilities is not an exercise in task assignment, but rather an important driver of talent, efficiency, and good governance. In short, it’s a strategic activity that senior leaders must endorse and take seriously. Brokering these decisions demands an investment of time, honesty, and conversations that focus objectively on what is best for the business. Is it better for an architect who has project familiarity to analyze a contract to manage its scope or an accountant with expertise in contract review? Waiting for a traveling executive to return to the office to evaluate tile and countertops does not advance the bottom line or organizational health unless the executive has a magic touch for choosing winning colors and materials, or the client orders it. 5)Having a process means enforcing it. The act of deciding upon the process provides empowering clarity. However, once a company defines a roles and responsibilities roadmap, it must enforce it. As no one memorizes decision-making matrices or knows what to do with issues not covered by the process, someone must assume the role of traffic cop to remind others of the agreements and create new ones as needed. The roles and responsibilities process should include designation of that person. Establishing a roles and responsibilities roadmap is worth the time and aggravation of getting there. It might feel like an “eat your vegetables because they’re good for you” idea, but a healthy diet does make a difference. JULIE BENEZET spent 25 years in law and business and then moved on to her current life of coaching, teaching and consulting with executives from virtually every industry. She earned her stripes for leading in the scariness of the new as Amazon’s first global real estate executive. She is author of the award-winning The Journey of Not Knowing: How 21st Century Leaders Can Chart a Course Where There Is None . Her workbook, The Journal of Not Knowing , provides a self- guided discovery mission to navigate the bumpy road of the unknown toward achieving better things. She can be reached at .

Questions abounded: ❚ ❚ Who held the final approval on changes to the project vision and scope? ❚ ❚ Whose job was it to track the work against the contract? ❚ ❚ Who should have been talking with the client about scope creep? ❚ ❚ If the client refused to enlarge the contractual scope, who would manage the deficit? Everybody talked, few listened, and no one took charge of protecting the firm’s economics or client relationship. THE PROBLEM PROCESS. Regrettably, this is not a new problem in the business world. It points to the common issue of ill-defined roles and responsibilities. Whether it is a matter of company governance or project management, knowing who does what, who needs to weigh in, and who makes the final decision is critical to success. When roles and responsibilities are known, people direct their energy toward producing good work rather than arguing over who was supposed to do what. The cost of such arguments is lost revenue, frustrated staff, and unhappy clients. “Despite the benefits of defining roles and responsibilities, few companies spend time establishing them. Why is that?” FIVE PROCESS STUMBLING BLOCKS AND STEPPING OVER THEM. Despite the benefits of defining roles and responsibilities, few companies spend time establishing them. Why is that? Here are five reasons and ways to overcome them: 1)Defining roles and responsibilities is hard, time consuming, and boring. Defining roles and responsibilities involves investing time in the grinding process of identifying the functions, expertise, and decision makers needed to succeed. Thinking through all the moving parts of a project is a project in itself. However, without doing so, important actions can be missed. In the case above, knowing who held responsibility for tracking the budget against the contractual scope of work and who owned the project vision would have helped the lead designer avoid the budget overrun. For many, generating a list of functions is boring. To launch a roles and responsibilities process, task someone who thrives on details to create an initial list for others to vet. After all, it is easier to criticize than create. Then, organize a group of project stakeholders to decide who owns the delivery of each function, who should be consulted and who needs to approve it. This part of the process is not boring, because it sheds light on unspoken assumptions that might not be universally accepted. A healthy debate maximizes the chances of a group approved roadmap. 2)Assigning decision making surfaces power issues. The process of establishing roles and responsibilities surfaces issues many want to avoid. When a person has the power to decide something, others must defer to their decisions. That’s OK unless someone doesn’t want to cede the territory. For example, a principal-in-charge might want to set the project fee and any adjustments to it. However, the CEO will

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Decide, then act!

Don’t become paralyzed by fear. Decide, act – and if that doesn’t work out, decide and act again.

A nyone who knew my late father, Frederick Stanley Zweig, who died a little more than five years ago at the age of 96, could tell you that he was an unusual guy. He grew up poor and his mother was married five times. His first job was in a junk yard during the Depression where he took apart cars 10 hours a day, six days a week. Then he got a job in a manufacturing plant that built gas ranges where he became the union shop steward until he joined the Army in World War II .

Mark Zweig

There, he rose through the ranks as an enlisted man to the rank of first lieutenant in the 6th Armored Division of Patton’s Third Army, got his Silver Star Medal for bravery in battle, and decided that if he made it out of the war alive he would never work in any factory job again. When the war was over he won several thousand dollars shooting craps on the boat on the way home, bought my mom a huge diamond ring, and started his career in advertising. By 1950, he was already successful, an owner of a decent-size ad agency with another guy, and my parents built a new architect-designed ranch house. By the mid-‘60s, he became disillusioned with advertising and made a decision to go into management consulting. And by the late ‘70s he

decided to retire and spent the next 37 years of his life doing whatever he wanted, which meant mostly studying quantum physics, philosophy, religion, and history. If you had any kind of issue you were grappling with, my dad used to like to say, “Decide, act! And if that doesn’t work out, decide and act again!” It was one thing he really understood – that being that so many people are so often paralyzed by fear – so they do nothing. I think this simple idea of making a decision and acting on it really applies to owners and managers of AEC firms as well. So many are paralyzed by fear and just don’t act in a timely manner. Yet,

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY’S DANNY ELSNER NAMED VICE CHAIR OF COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF STORMWATER AND FLOODPLAIN MANAGERS Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Danny Elsner, PE, CFM, has been named vice chair of the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers. Elsner is based in Dewberry’s Greenwood Village, Colorado, office. With more than 25 years of experience, Elsner joined the firm in 2018 and was recently named water resources department manager for the Greenwood Village office. His background includes engineering major drainage facilities, including hydraulic and hydrologic modeling, infiltration and detention ponds, low impact

design, channel improvements and stream restoration, sustainable development/LEED, erosion control, sediment transport, and stormwater management plans. “I am honored to be serving CASFM in this capacity,” says Elsner. “CASFM has been a part of my career for more than 20 years, and I have been lucky to serve on the board as South West representative, Metro representative, and secretary, and enjoy being on the Scholarship Committee for many years.” Elsner earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University, and two bachelor’s degrees in engineering and applied math and computer sciences from the Colorado School of Mines. In addition to his

involvement with CASFM, he is a member of the Association of State Floodplain Manager. 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.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

2)They push themselves out of their comfort (knowledge) zone daily because they know that this, too, is critical to their self-improvement. They make the choice to take on new things – new types of clients, new roles with those clients, new contracting forms they have never tried before, and going to new places their firms have never worked before. They decide to expand their traditional boundaries and then make decisions that support that thinking. An example who was one of the greatest entrepreneurial architects in modern history is the late John Portman, Jr. He pushed the bounds of what he could do as an architect when he couldn’t find any clients who would act on his ideas. So he risked everything to learn all he could about development and became his own client. And his projects got bigger and bigger, and he changed the entire course of the city of Atlanta, the city of New York, the U.S. relationship with China, and did many other things. He could decide and then act on it, when most all of his peers were choosing to scratch out a modest living at the time. 3)They make a deliberate effort to expand the circle of people they associate with. They seek out and find other successful people that they think they can learn from, and employ these relationships to elevate themselves and their companies. They say that our attitudes and mindsets are greatly affected by who we choose to be around the most, so these growth-oriented leaders make a decision to reach out to other people who they think will expand their minds. It’s not by accident. It is a decision that they make and act on. 4)They make the decision to grow their companies. This takes many forms. They hire good people when they evidence themselves even if they don’t have an empty seat they are trying to fill. They put people in jobs that expand their responsibilities even if they aren’t certain they are qualified based on prior experience. They expand their ranks of principals and include some younger people. They explore buying other businesses to expand their capabilities, client base, service offerings, and geographic footprint. They decide to make growth decisions, and then act on them. I’m sure I could go on here and give many more examples of how the best leaders in our business can make a decision and then act on it, but hopefully I have already made my point. So there is now nothing left to do but for YOU to DECIDE and ACT yourself! MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at .

those who do become wildly successful (and you can meet many of those at the upcoming ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala being held this year in Denver on November 3-5), have the ability to make decisions with incomplete information. These leaders know that if they make a decision that turns out to be not so great, they can always make a new decision and act to correct it. And they run their businesses accordingly and encourage the people who work for them to do the same. This then becomes the culture of the business, i.e., to act decisively when faced with a choice, and to correct bad decisions with new ones when necessary. “I think this simple idea of making a decision and acting on it really applies to owners and managers of AEC firms as well. So many are paralyzed by fear and just don’t act in a timely manner.” On the most fundamental level, my experience with these outstanding entrepreneurial leaders and what differentiates them from so many others who are less successful is that they make the choice to grow. They want to grow their business because they believe the alternative is sliding backward. And they want to grow themselves because they know if they are going to grow their business they will have to be getting better and smarter every day. In short, if you will forgive the cliche, they have a “growth mindset.” This growth mindset leads these outstanding AEC firm leaders to do certain things and act in particular ways. Here are some examples of what they do: 1)They pursue continuous learning opportunities. That means they read a lot and constantly seek self-improvement. They get involved in organizations with their peers. They attend seminars and conferences. They do a lot of research. They get into learning about things they don’t know – not because they need to, but rather because they just want to learn something new. They decide to self-improve and then act on it.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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