TZL 1542 (web)

June 17, 2024, Issue 1542 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM



7.5 8 8.5 9 9.5 10

How to make all employees feel safer at work and more willing to build authentic connections. The tide that lifts all boats

FIRM INDEX Dudek.................................................................. 2 Fluor Corporation.......................................4 Prairie Engineers P.C................................4 W.E. O’Neil........................................................8 MORE ARTICLES n ALICIA KOMISCHE: What is a project management office? Page 3 n MARK ZWEIG: Challenge the status quo Page 5 n JANKI DEPALMA: You are not behind Page 7 n AARON TIPPIE & DYLAN According to Zweig Group’s 2024 Financial Performance Report , backlog remained steady with more than nine months of work under contract, despite softening in several private markets. Backlog is work that is under contract, not yet performed, expressed in months of workload (based on previous year’s gross annual revenue). Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

T he architecture, engineering, and construction industry is in a recruiting and retention crisis. So how do we attract the right talent and retain them? Within this scarcity we need powerful solutions. The science says that building an inclusive culture draws new talent to your organization and promotes retention. And recent research shows that inclusion efforts actually benefit both majority and minority group members. New data shows the key is signaling inclusion at an organizational level. For majority group members, signaling inclusion leads to more allyship behaviors – positive actions on behalf of a different group member. For both majority and minority group members, signaling inclusion leads to: 1. Rating the organizational culture higher. 2. A higher likelihood of revealing one’s personal identities that may be sensitive or intimidating to share at work (relationship status, parental status, religious identity, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.). What causes these positive outcomes? For both groups, the research shows that signaling inclusion makes all employees feel safer at work, more willing to take social risks, and build authentic social connections. So how can your organization signal inclusion? Signaling inclusion can take many forms such as:

Lauren Aguilar, Ph.D.

■ Supporting identity-based employee-resource groups.

■ Utilizing a DEI team/committee/consultants to support DEI initiatives.

Building a DEI strategic roadmap.

Providing DEI learning and development.

■ Assessing your key people systems for inclusiveness (think hiring and promotions).

CRAWFORD: Acquisition insights and advice Page 9




ON THE MOVE DUDEK WELCOMES KRISTINE THORPE AS VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING Dudek, a leading U.S. planning, environmental, and engineering consulting firm, announced the appointment of Kristine Thorpe as its vice president of marketing. With a rich background in sales, marketing, and client services within the AEC industry, Thorpe brings a wealth of expertise to her role in advancing Dudek’s marketing endeavors. “We are thrilled to welcome Kristine to our leadership team. Her extensive experience, coupled with her proven track record in driving strategic marketing initiatives, makes her a valuable addition to Dudek,” said Joe Monaco, president and CEO of Dudek. “Kristine’s leadership will be instrumental in elevating our brand presence, fostering client relationships, and driving growth across our markets,” Monaco added. Thorpe’s career highlights include directing global project positioning, managing multi-million-dollar initiatives, and implementing award-winning client engagement programs. Her expertise extends to strategic planning, client experience enhancement, and remote team leadership, all aligning seamlessly with Dudek’s vision for innovation and growth. In her new role, Thorpe aims to elevate

Dudek’s position as a leader in the AEC industry and will be responsible for shaping and executing comprehensive marketing strategies, enhancing client engagement initiatives, and driving brand visibility across multiple platforms. “I am honored to join the exceptional team at Dudek and lead the marketing efforts of such a dynamic and respected organization,” said Thorpe. “I am eager to leverage my experience to drive impactful marketing strategies that align with Dudek’s mission, contribute to the firm’s continued success and provide excellent experiences for our clients.” Thorpe holds a graduate degree in communication from the University of Colorado, Denver where she graduated with distinction. Dudek is a 100 percent employee-owned, multidisciplinary planning, environmental, and engineering consulting firm based in Encinitas, California. Dudek empowers clients throughout the United States to DU more™ for communities and the environment. Dudek is one of the Top 110 U.S. Environmental Firms (Engineering News-Record, 2023) and a nationally recognized Top Workplace and Culture Excellence Award-winning firm (Energage, 2024).

Interested in learning more

about the projects and ideas driving the AEC industry forward? Learn more with Civil+Structural Engineer Media.

LAUREN AGUILAR, from page 1

Offering inclusive benefits.

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■ Conducting community outreach. As leaders, we can’t simply hope everyone treats each other with respect and inclusion or leave the work of DEI to the individual allies in the organization. Instead, we have to signal inclusion from the top down. Organizations can be allies. And the good news is that DEI actually raises all boats, creating a more safe, connective workplace for everyone. Need support signaling inclusion in your organization? Reach out to illuceo, Zweig Group’s strategic partner in DEI consulting, for any of your strategic organizational effectiveness and data-driven DEI consulting needs. Lauren Aguilar, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of illuceo, Zweig Group’s strategic partner in DEI consulting. Contact her at

Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Tel: 800.466.6275 Email: Online: LinkedIn: Instagram: Twitter: Facebook: Group-100064113750086 Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year). © Copyright 2024, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

LEADING WITH DATA WEBINAR At a time when the AEC industry is in a recruiting and retention crisis and DEI is facing massive backlash, we need to take a deep look at how to really attract and retain top talent. This webinar brings together perspectives from retention and recruiting, strategic planning, data science, and DEI to answer these tough questions and more. Join us June 18. Click here to learn more!

© Copyright 2024. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




This is a versatile segment of your organization that should be tailored to best fit your company structure, strengths, weaknesses, goals, and needs. What is a project management office?

A s engineers advance in their careers, many find their way into project management, often by default, without (formal) training or mentorship. But project management is easy compared to engineering, right? They will figure it out!

“Project management by default” does a disservice to your firm, clients, and project managers. One solution to this is a project management office, or PMO. The PMO can provide firm-specific tools, processes, oversight, training, and mentoring of your project managers. A PMO can be implemented at firms big and small and can grow with your organization. First, what exactly is a PMO? According to the Project Management Institute, the PMO is, “An organizational unit to centralize and coordinate the management of projects.” It is a versatile segment of your organization that should be tailored to best fit your company structure, strengths, weaknesses, goals, and needs. Prairie Engineers, an 80-person (and growing) small business, initiated a project management office on January 1, 2024. The PMO was initiated with the following goals:

1. Provide support, oversight, mentoring, and training for current and future project managers. 2. Improve overall project performance. 3. Integrate reporting across markets and disciplines. 4. Coordinate project alignment with corporate direction. The principal theme of these goals is to provide support for project managers and senior leadership to help position Prairie for continued growth and success. In preparation to launch the PMO, Prairie undertook a process to research typical duties of a PMO, including

Alicia Kamischke




BUSINESS NEWS FLUOR AND SUNCOKE ENERGY RENEW MAINTENANCE AND CAPITAL PROJECT CONTRACT Fluor Corporation and longstanding client SunCoke Energy, Inc. have announced a seven-year contract extension at its five coke plants in the United States. Since 2017, Fluor’s Plant & Facility Services business has provided maintenance and small capital project services to support

SunCoke’s reliable, efficient delivery of high-quality coke to its steelmaking customers. “Fluor and SunCoke have established a strong partnership over the last seven years, and we look forward to continuing to support SunCoke’s investment in maintaining their assets,” said Dale Barnard, president of Fluor’s Plant & Facility Services business. “We appreciate and

value the trust that SunCoke has in Fluor, and we look forward to our continued partnership.” The SunCoke plants are located in Illinois, Indiana and Virginia, with two in Ohio. Fluor’s Plant & Facility Services business delivers maintenance and reliability solutions; asset management technology; and small capital project services to more than 85 sites in North America.

and disciplines. At Prairie the project management officer meets with Prairie’s market leads and discipline leads on a regular basis. These calls are focused on how to meet the goals of the markets and disciplines and are another avenue of cross communication. Having these discussions allows the PMO to have an idea of where the issues are in each area of the company and when opportunities arise, it is more likely that a connection between a need and a solution can be made during these discussions. 5. Track and report financial performance and forecasts. The Prairie PMO is responsible for aggregating financial performance and forecast data. In previous years, market leads were responsible for their individual client sector performance and forecasts and each market lead handled these differently. The PMO is responsible for pulling that information together to develop a combined report and provide this report with greater frequency, so the leadership team has the best available information to make staffing and pursuit decisions. 6. Planning and resource allocation. Prairie is better positioned to predict the demand for staffing as a result of compiling higher quality and holistic forecasts. This report provides information to leadership, market leads, discipline leads, and project managers. With a better estimate of the magnitude and timing of upcoming work, project managers can plan and adjust project staffing proactively rather than reacting to project workloads when projects are well underway and more difficult to pivot. Prairie’s PMO is in its infancy, and it is developing the office over the course of the first year, but the company is already reaping the benefits. In the first three months, the PMO has provided virtual and in-person trainings, met regularly with PMs and senior leadership, provided updated templates, tools, and references, and worked one-on-one with project managers to improve understanding and listen to challenges to better identify additional improvements and tools. A project management office can benefit any size firm. It must be tailored to the specific needs and strengths of the individual company and its personnel. The PMO needs to play a flexible role in your company while being leveraged to strengthen the skills of your company’s project managers. It should extend into governance, business alignment, or financial support, as needed to meet your company’s goals. Alicia Kamischke is the project management officer at Prairie Engineers P.C. Contact her at

ALICIA KAMISCHKE , from page 3

learning about how it has been implemented at other firms. The results from this investigation phase were considered alongside the specific needs of Prairie and the strengths and responsibilities of the leadership team, current project managers, and the planned project management officer. As a result of this process, Prairie developed six core tasks: 1. Mentor and train project managers. The most important role that Prairie set for the PMO is mentoring project managers. Working closely with PMs on their specific projects is more beneficial than generic standards and training. The PMO meets with each project manager one- on-one on a regular basis. This allows for tailoring to each PM’s needs while allowing for detailed review of project- specific information. The PMO also provides training for PM’s and reinforces expectations. 2. Maintain project management standards. One of the most common ways a PMO supports the company is by developing and maintaining project management standards such as manuals, references, templates, and tools. Prairie had many existing tools, but they weren’t used consistently or needed updates. The first standard issued by the PMO on day one was the project management manual. It was critical to Prairie that this was released immediately to detail what project management means at Prairie. The manual was developed around many existing processes, documenting best practices that many of the project managers were already performing. The PM manual outlines what is expected from PMs and strives to explain why each expectation is important and the impact it has on the business operations. 3. Monitor project management KPIs. The PMO is responsible for setting and monitoring KPIs to track project management performance and improvement. These metrics will be regularly reviewed with project managers and summarized and shared with leadership. KPIs include the common financial performance metrics for projects, as well as qualitative metrics which are not as simple to measure. KPIs used should be in alignment with the goals of your individual company, and adjusted as the team grows and improves. 4. Align projects with business objectives. The responsibilities of the PMO can extend to strategic business alignment and coordination across markets

© Copyright 2024. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Challenge the status quo

Entrepreneurship is all about seeing and doing things differently from everyone else, so maybe you should be more questioning of the status quo.

W hen it comes to business – more specifically the AEC business – there are certain things that people say or do that are rarely ever questioned. We just do them because they are generally accepted as good practice and “normal.” The problem is entrepreneurship is all about seeing and doing things differently from everyone else. So maybe you should be a little more questioning of the status quo.

Mark Zweig

Here are a few of these common management practices that just don’t get questioned often enough in my opinion: ■ “Bonuses should be paid out annually.” Why is that? If you do any research on it you will find that higher frequency is better. It’s better to tie payments more closely to performance. Objectors to higher frequency of payment will say the amounts won’t be large enough. So what? I would rather have people see them go up and down and come to the realization that more is better so they work to make every month good. ■ “The way to make this company profitable is to get our utilization rate up to X percent so we will stress utilization rate.” This belief is so commonly held it will be hard to change. But my experience

is that if all you do is push utilization, you will get it. But the price you will pay is budgets will be overrun and labor multiplier will erode. You can’t just push utilization without also tracking labor multiplier. That’s why I am a fan of revenue factor – utilization times multiplier, or net service revenue divided by total labor. ■ “Managers should do annual performance appraisals for each of their employees.” Who says these do anything for you? More frequent feedback, both positive and negative, is far more effective in terms of guiding behaviors than a formal once a year appraisal that both the managers and employees alike dread. Not to mention the fact that these appraisals rarely

See MARK ZWEIG , page 6



total of that prior bill and what is owed should be reflected on all subsequent invoices. That will get you paid faster. ■ “It’s best if our proposals don’t get too creative because we are conservative engineers and don’t want to scare our clients.” This is really bad thinking. The way to win jobs is through differentiation from your competitors versus conformity. The alternative is looking like everyone else and “waiting your turn.” What sounds better to you? ■ “Recruitment bonuses for existing staff who make referrals are the way to go.” This is very typical thinking. I don’t like recruitment bonuses and never have. For starters, why wouldn’t happy employees want their friends who they think are good at what they do to work for the company anyway? If they need to be paid to help get them on board and help make the company more successful something is wrong. On top of it, my experience is when you end up with two candidates – one coming through an employee and one not – if the company hires the one that wasn’t an employee referral, the employee is demotivated and feels ripped off. Why would you want that? There are other aspects of how we tend to do things in this business that should be challenged. What else needs to be added to this list? Let me know your thoughts! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG , from page 5

show performance problems that need correction, and provide evidence of wrongful termination more often than they provide evidence of prior attempts to correct performance problems. ■ “Board of directors members should all be owners of the firm.” Why is this? Sure it’s common practice, but are the firm owners necessarily the best people to provide guidance on policy, growth, and unplanned liability problems? Maybe someone who isn’t a principal – or maybe someone who doesn’t even work for the company at all – would be in a better position to contribute. ■ “Board of directors members should represent various disciplines our firm provides or geographic regions the firm works in.” Once again, where did this idea come from? Who says disciplines or offices should be “represented” at the BOD level? I find this practice leads to perpetuation of disciplines or offices even if the marketplace is telling the firm to do otherwise. It also can lead to the wrong people being on the BOD who are not necessarily “big picture” thinkers. ■ “Statements should be sent to all clients showing how much money they owe us as a part of our billing and collection process.” This one is so common and it needs to be questioned. Who says clients pay “statements”? They pay invoices. If they owe money from the prior period, the

© Copyright 2024. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




You are not behind

Late bloomers gain wisdom, resilience, and unique insights, proving there’s no fixed timeline for achievement.

O ne of my guilty pleasures is scrolling on Instagram after a long day – with a timer of course. I caught an interesting post by Viola Davis, asking people in their 40s (and beyond) for advice for those in their 20s. Someone posted the phrase “you are not behind.” This post and the reply were something I absolutely needed to hear. Sometimes life wants you to learn a lesson and will sneak it in like a mom sneaks spinach into spaghetti sauce.

Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m always behind. Every year, I’m inundated with the age awards (30 under 30, 40 under 40). I swear I saw one for teens. Don’t get me wrong – I love celebrating these amazing people who do incredible things at a young age. But I can’t be the only one who gets reflective about it. For every 30 under 30 list, I find great inspiration in hearing from people who found success later in life. Did you know that famed wedding dress designer Vera Wang was 40 when she started? Ariana Grande’s grandmother Marjorie just became the oldest person to chart on Billboard’s Hot 100 at age 98! Julia Child launched her cooking career at 50. As a boy-mom, I am well versed in the Marvel universe.

I was surprised to learn that Stan Lee started his comic book career in his teens but didn’t create his first superhero until 39. It’s not all 30 or bust. If you’re like me and haven’t made that list – don’t worry. We rest safely in camp “late bloomer,” and it seems there are some unexpected benefits to that. Rich Karlgaard wrote a book, Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement , and just the tagline alone had me hooked. Naturally his book has us reexamine the timeline and definition of “success.” Karlgaard’s work doesn’t just give us late bloomers a pass; he argues that our blooming later is an

See JANKI DEPALMA , page 8



keep moving forward in a world that tells us that we are a “has-been”? 1. Create growth opportunities that aren’t linear (think climbing a wall versus a ladder). Most companies view growth as a ladder. Since late bloomers leverage life lessons, perhaps a climbing a wall is a better analogy – one where you reach up and over. The skills learned in another industry or department should help you rise to the top. I also urge managers not to overlook life skills – raising a family is basically a master-level course in project management, finance, and negotiation! 2. Mentoring for all. I love mentorship. I love learning from books and especially from people. However, I found that many industry organizations and companies have age- restricted leadership programs – as if somehow once I turned 36 I had it all figured out. Attention company leaders – please expand the definition of “rising star” and include more of us. 3. Watch what you praise. I’m part of a Facebook group for parents of college-age kids. I posted the question of “late bloomers” to the group and one of the members, Stuart Jenner, mentioned a key lesson: watch what you praise. Knowing that we are a culture obsessed with early wins, it’s extra valuable for managers to acknowledge the outliers. Praise the value of the candidate with an alternative path – including military, time off to care for family, or a career change. Same thing for us parents; not every kid needs to go to a “name brand” school to be successful. Pay attention to subtle ways you may be feeding this comparative mindset. 4. Let it go! Now that I’ve placed that earworm back in your brain, follow Elsa’s advice and just let it go. Forty came and went for me without any awards. I survived. My career didn’t end. And while I love that many of my friends did make those lists, a part of me is glad to be blooming quietly on my own. “Too old” is a mindset I choose not to believe. “To be a successful late bloomer means you have to overcome a voice that says, ‘Is it too late?’ Everyone has the right to be successful, no matter how old we are.” I will admit that being a late bloomer isn’t always easy. But I find solace in two specific things. One: the timeline of success is arbitrary. Forty isn’t fatal. I still have life in me. Two: “success” isn’t always measurable. Shedding that comparative aspect is hard but know that the energy spent on learning, failing, and growing is never wasted. It makes us who we are. For my fellow late-bloomers remember that there is still time to blossom. Janki DePalma, LEED AP, CPSM is director of business development at W.E. O’Neil. Contact her at jdepalma@weoneil. com.

JANKI DEPALMA , from page 7

advantage. Namely, we have wisdom, self-awareness, and resiliency. Late bloomers aren’t hitting homeruns out of the gate. We are learning what works through trial and error, we are discovering our passions, and we are much more patient with bloomers of all stages. I’d argue that late bloomers tend to follow that African proverb of, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” “Comparison is irrelevant since growth is an individual endeavor. Late bloomers illustrate that meandering paths can bring important lessons that make later ventures successful.” I reach back to the work of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. Dweck’s work focuses on the idea that a growth mindset embraces mistakes as a pathway for development and does not see talent as a fixed quantity. Additionally comparison is irrelevant since growth is an individual endeavor. Late bloomers illustrate that meandering paths can bring important lessons that make later ventures successful. The glamor of the wunderkind comes from their innate ability and seemingly straight path to success. The “youngest” (fill in the title) leads one to believe that these people are ordained for greatness. Maybe. But the pressure of perfection coupled with a self-imposed due date could mean that a successful person gives up too quickly or fails to explore a path later on in life. Karlgaard addresses our culture’s obsession with the wunderkind (or “wunderkid” for fellow Ted Lasso fans). While it’s great when a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg can create successful businesses as teenagers, this obsession is causing some harm. As a mom who survived one child’s gauntlet through the college admissions process, I saw firsthand the unrealistic pressure of excellence for kids. The “success formula” now includes perfect scores and grades, multiple sports, and even industry research! It can make a kid feel like they are a “has-been” if they haven’t published a research paper by age 16. What happened to college being a place for self-discovery? I wanted to share a story from my own life. I was a very academic kid – think all AP classes, honor roll, president of the speech club. It’s cringy how much of my identity was wrapped in being a “smart kid.” Years after high school, I reconnected with some classmates and was surprised to know that one of them earned her Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard. That’s impressive, but the surprising thing was that she wasn’t in any of my honors or AP classes in high school. She wasn’t what we (as kids) thought of as “a smart kid.” Turns out, she didn’t hit her stride until college, where she blossomed. It’s easy to put ourselves in a box when it comes to how we see ourselves. I think about how lucky the world is that she didn’t let her high school sense of self hinder her from pursuing her passions. To be a successful late bloomer means you have to overcome a voice that says, “Is it too late?” Everyone has the right to be successful, no matter how old we are. Or as Karlgaard says “blossoming has no timeline.” So how do we

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Acquisition insights and advice

Lessons learned and outcomes from the initial exploration through the process, and advice for firms looking to pursue an acquisition.


O n March 1, 2024, Westwood announced the acquisition of northern California-based O’Dell Engineering. O’Dell’s president, Dylan Crawford, PLS, accounts his experiences from the initial exploration through the process and, finally, outcomes and advice for other teams looking to pursue acquisitions in an interview with Aaron Tippie, PE, chief acquisition officer. A CONVERSATION WITH AARON TIPPIE AND DYLAN CRAWFORD. Aaron Tippie: What were the key factors that led to your decision to sell the company, and what were your top priorities when evaluating potential partnership opportunities? Dylan Crawford: When we began, the acquisition process was exploratory. Our group of owners had different levels of interest. We were, however, united in our desire to implement a long-range transition plan that rewarded current owners and created opportunity for key staff. We also shared concerns

about finding a firm with a good cultural fit that would properly value us. However, as we started to meet potential buyers, all these concerns were mitigated. Ultimately, we came to a consensus to move forward with the process when it became clear that partnering with a firm could lead to numerous new opportunities for our team and a genuine appreciation for the firm we’d worked so hard to build. Throughout the process, our priorities included proper valuation of our organization, support for continued growth of our service groups, and a thoughtful plan for our team to be fully integrated. We needed to find a company that would invest in us as much as we would invest in them. When we met with Westwood, we valued their effort in the process and cultural fit, especially meeting in-person right away. We were excited about the opportunities the partnership could bring to our team and knew that it would expand our capabilities for our

Aaron Tippie, PE

Dylan Crawford, PLS




the process and has a history of further growing successful businesses after the transaction. AT: What advice do you have for other potential sellers and the acquisition process? DC: First, do your research. Attend M&A conferences, ask questions, talk to buyers, sellers, and advisors. Network and have open dialogue with others who are active in the process. Learning from others helps to inform your decision-making. During the due diligence phase, don’t be afraid to get and use help. Most business owners aren’t experts in law, tax, human resources, or IT. Bringing on advisors with M&A experience is key, as is including those members on your team who can help carry the load. When thinking about your team and how they will integrate with the buyer’s team, don’t forget about administrative and marketing roles. Those people are key to how the business functions and need to be accounted for going forward. Make sure they feel just as appreciated as your project managers or technical experts. Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of cultural alignment. This process is complicated and can feel invasive at times. The Westwood team shared our values, which helped us trust them during the entire process, mitigate the inevitable challenges, and emerge as great partners.


clients. Although we had natural concerns about employee buy-in and their potential reactions, ultimately, all had high confidence in our decision. They trusted we had the firm’s best interests in mind. AT: Now that the integration process is underway, what synergies are you most enthusiastic about, and what are your hopes, aspirations, and expectations for the future partnership? DC: We are excited about the additional resources to support our services and supporting Westwood’s geographic growth overall. Although we are early in the process and have details to finalize, there are many conversations between new team members across services, markets, and offices, and excitement about what is yet to come. Throughout these conversations, we appreciate the respect we have received from Westwood regarding what our team has built and how we contributed to the whole company. We feel like true partners. In the future, I’d like to see us expand further in California, bolster growth in our current offices, and see many of our team members take on new challenges and new leadership roles throughout the company. We are happy to have joined a team with acquisition and geographic growth experience. We didn’t want to be anyone’s first experiment with mergers and acquisitions. Westwood proved their capabilities throughout

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