TZL 1465 (web)

November 14, 2022, Issue 1465 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Changes in remote work policy

This group will require more flexibility, autonomy, and learning opportunities in order to stay engaged and motivated. AEC workforce of the future

Changes in policy brought on by the pandemic have caused many firms to embrace virtual work, and consequently opened a door to hire those who might not previously have been considered due to geographic constraints or their need for a flexible schedule. Data backs this. According to results from Zweig Group’s ongoing AEC Workforce of the Future survey, 72 percent of respondents reported their firm changed remote/flexible work options after March 2020 , and 53 percent of respondents reported these changes have positively impacted their ability to hire . Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

T he AEC industry’s most valuable asset is its talented workforce. This workforce is made up of both the brain power behind the ideas and innovations that shape our built environment and also the people who support the businesses delivering these solutions to the world. Currently there’s a serious shortage of talent. Most firms are experiencing record backlog and a very competitive recruiting environment. Less talent in the pipeline, attrition during the pandemic, and overall burnout have only contributed to this problem. Architects, engineers, environmental scientists, and also the marketing, accounting, and HR professionals who keep these businesses running, all likely have the intelligence, aptitude, and means to pursue a number of career paths. The events of the past few years have only made it more apparent that those working in this industry have a good degree of choice about where to live and work. Changes in policy brought on by the pandemic have caused many firms to embrace virtual work, and consequently opened a door to hire those who might not previously have been considered due to geographic constraints or their need for a flexible schedule. Data backs this, with 72 percent of respondents to Zweig Group’s AEC Workplace of the Future survey reporting their firm changed remote/flexible work options after March 2020, and 53 percent of respondents reporting these changes have positively impacted their ability to hire. With many other industries also embracing new work models and offering a host of benefits and incentives, the AEC industry is going to have to work harder than ever to convince people that this industry is the one they want to work in. With the AEC Workforce of the Future survey, Zweig Group recently investigated what the upcoming workforce wants out of their workplace and what factors most influence their motivation, creativity, and productivity. This study, along with the results of the more than 15,000-respondent employee survey of hundreds of AEC firms in Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For program, illuminate the following as the most important factors impacting the industry’s future: 1. Mission and purpose-driven culture will continue to be necessary to retain individuals for the long-term, while the gig-economy will dominate for short-term, task-oriented roles. Culture is complicated – it is comprised of all the individuals working at a firm, their attitudes toward work, and hundreds of policies, procedures, and benefits that go into creating the systems that make an individual feel as though they are succeeding or able to achieve their purpose. One of the

Christina Zweig Niehues

FIRM INDEX Bowman Consulting Group Ltd............... 10

Fluor Corporation..................................................4


Northern Engineering Services, Inc..... 12

NTM Engineering.................................................6

MORE ARTICLES n STEFANOS WORD: The importance of transferring knowledge Page 3 n A celebration culture: Donna Newell Page 6 n LAUREN RHODES MARTIN: Be wary of warranties Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: Reallocation of time and energy Page 11




Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Shirley Che | Contributing Editor

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will be a need for a clear structure for performance expectations and upward career paths in this industry. The AEC Workforce of the Future survey asked respondents to rate the level of importance of various factors involved in their choice of workplace. It’s clear that personal connection at work is extremely important, with the highest rating scores tied for both statements, “It is important that people at my workplace will notice my efforts” and “It is important that I have a mentor at my organization.” Looking at the environments that affect productivity, respondents rated very highly (score of 4.2/5), “I am more productive when I know other members of my team depend on me.” Authority is important because it gives people a feeling that they have a measure of control in their lives. It can be a motivator to move up in an organization and gives additional purpose to work. Those feeling that their level of responsibility is high, but have no authority to make decisions that impact their work environment will feel overworked, frustrated, and may experience burnout. Looking back at the Best Firms To Work For, the employee survey asks individuals to rate their agreement with the statement, “My level of authority accurately reflects my level of responsibility.” While average scores for this were high (around 4.5/5), the results examined by race and age indicate some disparity, with African-Americans (3.9/5) and those in the younger age group feeling less positive about this statement than older, white employees. With hybrid and virtual work, this sense of achievement and connection to team members and leadership, will only become more influential. So what does the AEC workforce of the future look like? It’s comprised of many diverse individuals working in a multitude of ways. They will work at firms that have embraced tech and crafted systems that allow people to learn, grow, and feel connected (no matter where they work). These organizations will know that their culture is created by their unique and differentiated mission and vision, and not by benefits like ping- pong tables and ice cream socials. For AEC firm leaders, if you’re looking to improve recruitment or retention at your firm, look to some of the above slightly more intangible factors that are affecting your employee sentiment. Perks and benefits won’t fix a culture problem, but providing an environment where people feel they can succeed in the way that is most important to them will. The AEC Workforce of the Future survey is still open for participation and any scores or responses cited in this article are based on current level of participation prior to date of publication. Christina Zweig Niehues is an advisor with Zweig Group. She can be reached at


first questions on Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For employee survey asks employees about which factors are most important in their work experience. Overwhelmingly, culture is a clear top pick, followed by compensation, then professional development, and finally performance recognition. Respondents to the AEC Workforce of the Future survey were given a number of statements and asked to rate their level of agreement on a 1-5 scale, with 1 representing “Strongly Disagree” and 5 representing “Strongly Agree.” Out of these statements, the second highest rating was, “It is important that my workplace do work that benefits the community or humanity” with an average rating of 4.37/5. While long-term employment is going to require cultural buy-in, the rise of remote work in the industry and the ability to collaborate virtually means that more companies are embracing a flexible and on-demand workforce. Individuals, especially those with transferrable skills, are able to choose what firms they want to work for and what projects they want to work on in a model that may prove more lucrative for both the individual and the firms. A competitive hiring environment and more unpredictable workload for firms will only increase the gig-economy model. 2. Like the rest of the world, a focus on technology and automation is going to impact the industry. While the impact of virtual collaboration on projects is already apparent, emerging technologies such as virtual reality are just beginning to make their mark. Training is more important than ever – and, as the No. 1 benefit in demand by AEC industry workers in multiple Zweig Group surveys, it’s also necessary due to the increasing speed and influence of technology on all roles. Training is necessary to counteract how quickly skills are becoming irrelevant. McKinsey and Company estimated that 87 percent of business organizations are already suffering skill gaps. Organizations of the future will need to build a culture and have appropriate time and budgeting to support existing workers learning new skills. The necessary implementation of new technology within AEC firms will mean that those with leadership emphasizing continuous learning and improvement will have a workforce that is ready to take on new innovations. Organizations that create their own proprietary technology and train people with specialized skills will also have a much easier time retaining those individuals. It’s no surprise that Zweig Group’s Best Firms To Work For Award winning firms have all seen increased employee satisfaction with their ability to provide technology to their workforce. 3. Performance recognition that goes beyond meeting or exceeding KPIs and favorable yearly reviews. There

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Investments of time and effort need to be made with younger engineers to effectively transfer technical and communication skills and establish robust future leaders. The importance of transferring knowledge

A couple weeks ago, a good friend of mine retired from the water and wastewater treatment engineering industry after a long and fruitful career. It was difficult for me to see him retire, as he provided invaluable technical knowledge and leadership to myself and others. More importantly, through his daily willingness to pass on lessons learned from a 40- year career of working with nearly every imaginable type of water treatment facility, he set a rare benchmark for young engineers (like myself) to dig deeper technically in developing rare and valuable skills.

Stefanos Word, PE, ENV SP

This individual wasn’t a casual friend or coworker. Through his humility, patience, and willingness to help me develop invaluable skill sets, he quickly established himself as a mentor and pillar of technical leadership in my life. From the first day I started at MKN, he invested time and effort that provided me with an ever-expanding toolkit of practical lessons and niche technical skills that were delivered to me with deep and profound humility. To put it simply, he was an “engineer’s engineer” who was always willing to teach me as much as he could. His investment in transferring more than 40 years of industry experience continues to provide me with opportunities to grow in my career.

Sadly, older generations are retiring from the workforce more rapidly than in previous years. According to Pew Research, the retired population ages 55 and older grew by about 1 million retirees per year between 2008 and 2019. More recently, the population of retirees 55 and older have grown by 3.5 million over the last two years alone. In the context of the AEC industry, this effectively pushes younger generations to step up to the plate. Investments of time and teaching efforts need to made with younger engineers to effectively transfer “hard” technical skills and “soft” communicative skills to establish robust




BUSINESS NEWS FLUOR AWARDED TWO CONTRACTS FOR THE BASF ZHANJIANG VERBUND SITE PROJECT IN CHINA Fluor Corporation announced that the company was awarded two reimbursable engineering, procurement and construction management contracts by BASF for the ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol and infrastructure, offsites and utilities packages as part of the company’s new Verbund program in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, China.

The contract value to Fluor is more than $2 billion and was booked in the third quarter of 2022. “Over the past 20 years, Fluor has executed a significant amount of work with BASF in China,” said Jim Breuer, group president of Fluor’s Energy Solutions business. “Fluor values this longstanding relationship and looks forward to continuing this trusted partnership.”

Fluor’s project scope of work for BASF’s Zhanjiang Verbund site project consists of two primary packages including the ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol derivative unit and the infrastructure, offsites and utilities scope, comprised of site infrastructure, utility generation and site logistics. Fluor is also performing services as part of the centralized program management team activities.

■ Accept mistakes but foster growth. Mistakes and failures should be expected and accepted. However, when we fail, we must learn and rectify our actions to ensure that failure does not become a recurring theme in our lives. When a younger staff member makes a mistake, collaborate with the individual and have them explain to you how they believe the mistake was made. After listening carefully (without judgement or reproach), ask them: “What do you believe you could do differently to prevent this from occurring in the future?” If appropriate, offer up your perspective on the situation and what you would have done differently. The most memorable and resounding skills that I have acquired in my career have usually resulted from some type of mistake or failure that exposed fatal flaws in my understanding of a concept. When approached with introspection and humility, uncovering our errors in judgement and learning from our mistakes facilitates meaningful acquisition of critical skills. ■ Provide younger staff the opportunity to learn from several senior staff. Some of the most prolific leaders I’ve known have all openly shared how they managed various setbacks and successes in their lives. This kind of open and honest dialogue exposes us to practical solutions in managing the peaks and valleys of our lives. However, it is important that younger staff are exposed to different types of mentorship from multiple senior staff, rather than just one or two senior staff. Since everyone has their own stories to share and different approaches to mentoring, exposing younger staff to a diversity of thought will develop them into more creative and well-rounded individuals. Whether it be in your career or personal life, encourage younger generations to seek out other leaders and mentors who are willing to graciously share stories of successes and failures of themselves (and others) with humility. Taking the first step in investing in younger generations through empowerment will force them to take the necessary steps to gain key technical and communicative leadership skills. Asking questions, encountering mistakes, and encouraging interactions with other wise individuals further reinforces the responsibilities and support invested in them and provides a practical approach to navigating the challenges and opportunities that life has to offer. Stefanos Word, PE, ENV SP, is an associate engineer at MKN. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

STEFANOS WORD, from page 3

leadership skills. Without transferring key skills required to shape the younger generation of today’s leaders, we are effectively failing to plan and implement critical infrastructure. This dilemma poses a simple question: How do we effectively transfer such skills to prevent this from happening? ■ Invest in younger generations through empowerment. In my experience, the first step to introducing the transfer of both “hard” and “soft” skills usually involves gradually providing team members with responsibilities and providing a real opportunity to succeed. Technical and communicative leadership skills are cultivated by giving responsibilities to team members who either may not have experience (or be particularly comfortable) with initially performing certain tasks. Individuals must be given the opportunity to put themselves in “uncharted territory” if any kind of measurable growth is going to be undertaken. For example, delegation of new responsibilities could be as simple as asking a young engineer who may not have extensive public speaking experience to take the lead in delivering an important presentation to a public agency. However, this approach should always be balanced with support and encouragement. Without adequate support, individuals can often feel lost or alone. For example, if a younger engineer is given the opportunity to develop construction plans and specifications for a piece of infrastructure without being provided proper instruction to develop the design efficiently and effectively, the task quickly becomes daunting. This subsequently portrays the intended learning opportunity as a negative experience, rather than an opportunity for growth. ■ Encourage questions. When I first began my career, I approached a project manager with several questions on how to develop process piping specifications for a wastewater treatment facility design. This wise individual answered, “Never hesitate to bring me any type of question. But with every question, pitch me at least one possible solution.” Questions are incredibly important to advancing the curious and creative nature of our profession. Invest time in encouraging and listening to questions posed by your peers. Better yet, encourage individuals to present accompanying solutions to their questions. If conversations are conducted respectfully, proposed solutions can often spark creative debates. It is during such debates that critical transfers of both technical and communicative skills between coworkers occur.

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A celebration culture: Donna Newell President of NTM Engineering (Dillsburg, PA), a civil engineering firm that specializes in water resources design, bridge design, and engineering instruction.


N ewell first started thinking about engineering while in high school. She excelled in math and science, and had opportunities to attend events focused on STEM careers. In her junior year of high school, she was invited to an engineering event at Penn State University Park and that weekend solidified her interest in civil and environmental engineering. Today, she’s one of the founders of NTM, a civil engineering firm that specializes in water resources design, bridge design, and engineering instruction for public and private sector clients. “After working in the field for 10 years, I had built a small group of water resources staff and felt there was a market for the specialty area of water resources, permitting, and structures work related to the transportation arena, so with the support of my partners, John Newell (husband), Jeff MacKay, and Rachel Tereska, we decided to take the leap to start our business,” she says. “That was 15 years ago.” MENTORSHIP MATTERS. Newell shares that there were many people along the way who influenced her decision to become

an engineer and entrepreneur, most notably her graduate advisor and professor of civil engineering, Arthur Miller. She met Miller in her junior year of college and he became an advisor, mentor, friend, colleague, and inspiration. Throughout her career, she could always reach out to him and he would listen and give great advice. But more importantly, he taught Newell to understand that life is what you make it. “Anytime I talk with him, he says, ‘life is good,’” Newell says. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on – he chooses to see the good in every situation. He also told me not to be afraid to surround myself with people smarter than me.” Newell has done this and says it works. More than 20 years ago, she worked for a firm and tried to develop a small specialty water resources group. She interviewed two potential candidates – both had better GPAs than her. “I could have been intimidated,” she says. “I wondered how I would manage them and if I would be a good mentor. Would I be able to help them develop their careers? But I remembered Miller’s advice and I hired them. Together, we’ve challenged



each other and achieved great things. Six years after I hired them, they became my partners at NTM.” “We look to hire people who have solid technical skills coupled with people skills. While it’s important to have strong technical staff, you can’t teach attitude – so a good attitude is an important part of our selection.” EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL CHALLENGES. Since founding the business, Newell shares that – like any business – there are changes and challenges. For NTM, externally, there’s been a definite shift in client expectations regarding how quickly a project can be designed and it’s a constant challenge to balance staff resources and projects to meet clients’ needs. “While we work to meet expedited work schedules, we are always upfront with clients on schedule issues that are not feasible and/ or will be out of our control,” she explains. For example, one of their primary services is related to state and federal permitting. While NTM can control how long it takes to get the permit documents compiled, they are not in control of the review time that the agencies may take. “We work with the client to build reasonable review times into the schedule, but try to make sure that the client understands that the review time on the agency side can fluctuate,” she says. Internally, staffing is one of the top concerns. Newell says that it’s challenging to find staff for all markets now. And, while NTM strives for an employee-focused culture and offers a great benefits package to hire and retain good staff, it is and likely will continue to be one of their top challenges. “We look to hire people who have solid technical skills coupled with people skills, who are also focused on delivering quality,” Newell says. “While it’s important to have strong technical staff, you can’t teach attitude – so a good attitude is an important part of our selection.” After a staff member is hired, they’re assigned a peer mentor in addition to their supervisor. The peer mentor is intended to be someone

to connect with about process-related items and just to help get familiar with firm standards, etc. CREATING A CULTURE TO CELEBRATE. And

once in, staff tend to stick around. “In an industry that emphasizes the


importance of safety and regulations to the public, it’s important to make sure our employees have an environment that is not only supportive, but to also allow time for fun,” Newell says. NTM offers flexible, hybrid work schedules and respects their employee’s private lives. They strongly believe in sharing their corporate success and make great efforts to reward personnel for their contributions to NTM’s growth and exemplary reputation, including annual bonuses based on meeting strategic firm goals. They hold monthly celebrations where they acknowledge special days and accomplishments and also host planned events that tend to be less of a corporate event and more of a fun get together. Throughout the year, there are numerous food-related contests, including chili, soup, and dessert cook-offs. Halloween gets its own potluck celebration, complete with office decorations and costumes. “We’re determined to continue providing an engaging place to work while offering our employees project work that’s challenging to their professional capabilities,” Newell adds. “In an industry that emphasizes the importance of safety and regulations to the public, it’s important to make sure our employees have an environment that is not only supportive, but to also allow time for fun.” To ensure project managers and supervisors are working together and providing strong leadership to staff, NTM instituted a two-part session of supervisor training. They brought in an outside consultant to facilitate various team building and communication exercises with their supervisors. This training allows the growing firm to continue to develop internal relationships within technical groups and across the offices. They’ve also established an internal quarterly newsletter to keep communication open.




MARKETS: Transportation, Municipal, Higher Education, Private Development SERVICES: Water resources design, civil/site design, bridge design and inspection, environmental services, and engineering instruction for public and private sector clients. Core services include: hydrologic and hydraulic studies, waterway permitting, stormwater design and permitting, GIS, transportation and bridge engineering, bridge inspection, and technical course development and training ACQUISITION: In April 2022, Lotus Environmental Consulting, LLC was acquired by NTM. This additional expertise allows for a full range of environmental services, including environmental investigations and regulatory compliance services.


© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 14, 2022, ISSUE 1465


NTM was able to have its annual family picnic again this year after a two-year hiatus.

employee four hours of paid time to provide community outreach to an organization of their choice.” Diversity is also a key part of the NTM culture. With a multicultural staff, they’ve held various activities throughout the years that recognize and honor other nationalities, etc. Additionally, they offer three paid floater holidays each year that employees can use on days of their choice. This allows the employees to celebrate their ethnic and cultural beliefs throughout the year. A STRATEGIC PLAN. NTM’s owners and senior managers updated the firm’s strategic plan to outline NTM’s mission, vision, and high-level goals for the next five years. This process also included employee surveys and a management self-audit. A company-wide meeting was held to review the results and plans for the company’s future. In April 2022, NTM acquired Lotus Environmental Consulting, LLC. Lotus brought their full range of environmental consulting expertise to complement NTM’s well-established civil engineering services. NTM leadership has maintained an open and direct line of communication and Lotus employees were paired with NTM employees at the start of the acquisition, so they had an established person to reach out to for any questions. Updates are given monthly to all employees, and social events, company lunches, and trainings have been organized to help build a cohesive team. So, it’s clear. While, small businesses are sometimes challenged with managing growth, NTM carefully and continuously monitors workload and capacity to ensure that commitments are carried through and project milestones are met. The principals share the belief that sharing their knowledge base and delivering quality work is paramount to success – a philosophy that resonates throughout the firm.


NTM believes that community involvement is very important and helps opens employees’ eyes to local issues. They support and encourage staff to serve on community and professional committees, volunteer with local charities, and help the community be a better place to live and work. Their personnel have presented seminars or served on committees for elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges, churches, and professional societies. NTM also hosts school- age kids for job shadowing in its office, with the ability to let them experience each service area that NTM offers. “We’re determined to continue providing an engaging place to work while offering our employees project work that’s challenging to their professional capabilities.” As they celebrate their 15th year anniversary, NTM has made it their mission to find “15 Ways to Give Back” over the course of the year. So far, they’ve supported New Hope Ministries Back- Pack supplemental nutrition program, planted trees in South Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, cleaned debris and overgrown vegetation in the Codorus for the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, donated to Keystone Human Services to support Susquehanna Service Dogs, sent supplies to Ukraine, and volunteered with ClearWater Conservancy. “We’re proud of the work that we do and the ability to give back to our communities,” Newell says. “We also allow each

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Be wary of warranties

A troublesome red flag that’s now becoming more prevalent in design firm contracts involves efforts by owners and their attorneys to insert onerous warranty language. Besides placing an undue and inappropriate burden on architects and engineers, warranties are expressly excluded in their professional liability insurance policies. Besides placing an undue and inappropriate burden on architects and engineers, warranties are expressly excluded in their professional liability insurance policies.

Lauren Rhodes Martin

In fact, the exclusion for express warranties or guarantees is widely considered among the most specific and tightly worded of all the coverage restrictions in professional liability policies. Consider how it reads: “Insurer will not defend or pay under this Policy for any claim arising out of the Insured’s actual or alleged liability under any oral or written contract or agreement, including but not limited to express warranties or guarantees.” STRETCHING THE STANDARD OF CARE FOR AEC FIRMS. Certainly, design professionals – just like those in any other profession – are required to meet the standard of care. By definition, the standard refers to the ordinary level of skill and care that would be provided by another similar firm (or professional) in a similar location. It is established and affirmed by expert testimony. The concept of the standard of care

also applies to – and imposes potential liability upon – medical doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. To put the misapplication of the standard of care in context, can anyone imagine a doctor guaranteeing a result? Even more remote is the possibility of an attorney doing so; in some legal actions if an attorney states they have a 50 percent chance of prevailing, that might be considered fairly favorable odds. So then why do lawyers working on behalf of owners deem it appropriate to insert warranty and guarantee language in a design contract? Perhaps, one reason may be that there already are numerous types of warranties rightfully in typical construction contracts.




ON THE MOVE BOWMAN CONSULTING GROUP LTD. APPOINTS DAN SWAYZE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF ENERGY SERVICES Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. announced that it has appointed Dan Swayze, PE, as executive vice president of Energy Services to lead the continued expansion of the company’s renewable energy business. Swayze brings more than 25 years of experience in consulting engineering serving in a number of leadership roles related to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most recently, he was chief operating officer at Onyx Renewable Partners L.P., a national renewable energy developer and financier established by Blackstone in 2014. In this position, he led the engineering, procurement, construction and asset management divisions of the New York City-based company. “Over the past 10 years, I’ve known Dan well and have respected him as a leader in the engineering and energy consulting business,” said Bowman CEO Gary Bowman. “Dan is passionate about the

business opportunities presented by the energy transition and I’m delighted that he will be leading the implementation of our strategy to make renewable energy and energy efficiency one of our primary market segments.” During his nearly six years at Onyx, Swayze also served as the interim co- chief executive officer and managed the engineering division, where he supported the implementation of the design of renewable energy projects from development to construction. “Bowman is uniquely positioned to help our clients meet their ESG and energy transition goals,” said Swayze. “Through a reliable and thoughtful approach to engineering and consulting, we will support our clients as they implement various decarbonizing and energy saving strategies including renewable energy, energy storage, electric vehicle charging systems and energy efficiency. In addition, as advanced through recent legislation, our team will work with

our clients to both upgrade electric transmission networks and utilize hydrogen as a cleaner source of energy.” “We want our clients to know that we are committed to their success,” he added. “I’m excited to be part of Bowman’s growth. I can’t wait to see where we lead this sector and how the infrastructure and national footprint of the company will expand.” Swayze also held a variety of increasingly complex engineering leadership positions at companies across New Jersey. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Pennsylvania State University, an master’s degree in environmental engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and an MBA in finance from Rutgers University. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Bowman is an engineering services firm delivering infrastructure solutions to customers who own, develop and maintain the built environment.

professional’s coverage at risk should a problem arise. The reason owners and project managers require design firms to obtain insurance in the first place is so that it will respond should there be a breach of the standard of care. “Keep in mind that while design professionals are required to provide their services in a non-negligent manner, they are not required by law to be perfect.” Significantly, a breach of warranty is a much easier claim to successfully make against a design professional, as proof of negligence is not required. Keep in mind that while design professionals are required to provide their services in a non- negligent manner, they are not required by law to be perfect. MAKE YOUR CASE! When negotiating a contract, a design firm’s talking points might include pointing out the owner’s express desire to have any insurance coverage they contractually require design firms to purchase available to respond should a problem arise. If the negotiation also involves the owner’s attorney, a relevant question might be to inquire if the attorney provides guarantees with respect to their professional services. Lauren Rhodes Martin is a risk manager and claims specialist at Ames & Gough. She can be reached at lmartin@amesgough. com.


In applying them to design contracts, however, they either may not understand (or simply don’t want to understand) the difference between providing construction work and design services. Design is a professional practice. It’s generally subject to interpretation and nuance and is by no means an exact science. Thus, the application of standard of care is the appropriate cause of action should mistakes arise. Construction work, on the other hand, involves the use of materials and equipment, installation, and other measures, all of which are either correctly implemented and operating – or not. Another critical distinction between design professionals and construction contractors can be found in the vast differences in the types of insurance available to them, their contractual relationships, and ability to pass along to other project participants the risk of warranties and guarantees. In effect, contractors can take into consideration the knowledge that they are providing warranties when setting their profit margins, as can their subcontractors. On the other hand, design professionals have no insurance protection that responds to warranties. At the same time, their consultants and subs will have a similar policy exclusion, so there effectively is no one to whom the risk might be passed along. Furthermore, it is not in the client’s interest to include a provision in a contract that automatically puts the design

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Reallocation of time and energy

These three things are important to your firm’s success, but they may require a reallocation of your time and money.

C onventional wisdom is often more “conventional” than it is wise. Many – if not most of us – who run AEC firms need to rethink some of what we take as the gospel about leadership, management, and business.

There are three things I want to go over that may seem unrelated but that I think are important to your ultimate success and each require a reallocation of your time and money. They are: 1. Working on the business versus in the business. I hear this a lot – almost daily. As a Vistage chair, I’m on a listserve where all the Vistage chairs share information. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t talk about how one of their CEOs needs to work ON their business and not in it. I have even had architects and engineers whom I respect and consider friends say this to me recently. It sounds good on the surface. It makes sense to be sure you are doing your job as a manager and not just being one of the workers. But here’s my rub with that. People who get the idea they should be full-time managers,

who don’t engage with clients and employees by working with them on the actual work the business does quickly become disconnected. They don’t know what their business does well and what it doesn’t. They don’t know who on their team is good and who isn’t. And they lose the respect of their people. It’s hard to lead and manage people when you don’t ever demonstrate your competence in the work itself. Plus, you don’t want to be pure overhead. In short, I don’t accept this mantra as the gospel, especially when talking about a group of mostly privately-owned small and mid-size service businesses. They need to work on their business, sure. But they also need to work in it. You may be better served to reallocate some of your time and

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



ON THE MOVE NORTHERN ENGINEERING NAMES BRAD CURTIS AS VICE PRESIDENT Northern Engineering Services, Inc., provider of civil engineering and land surveying services in Northern Colorado, has named Brad Curtis as vice president. Curtis has more than 27 years of engineering experience in both the public and private sector. He has led Northern Engineering’s Municipal Services department from his director position since joining the firm in 2019. Much of Curtis’s time is spent serving as town engineer for half a dozen Weld County communities along the Highway 85 corridor. “We are grateful to Northern Engineering and particularly to Brad Curtis for his service to the Eaton community,” said Interim Town Manager, Wesley LaVanchy.

“Brad takes pride in the delivery of his work to the team here in Eaton and we are the beneficiary of that ownership!” Curtis is a former public works director and also spent time in land development, general civil engineering, and facilities design. His experience provides an enhanced ability to understand complex issues from mulitple perspectives. This is particularly helpful for public sector clients seeking to address todays’ immediate challenges, while not losing sight of long-term implications, such as operations and maintenance. Even as a private consultant, Curtis always has local taxpayers in mind. “The work of our Municipal Services team, and particularly the on-call/as- needed role of Town Engineer has a tremendous impact on the communities

we serve. It certainly is a team effort, but it would not be possible without Brad Curtis,” said firm president and CEO, Nick Haws. “These efforts sometimes fall under the radar, so recognizing Brad as our newest Vice President reinforces the importance of him and his team.” Curtis is a licensed Professional Engineer and a LEED Accredited Professional with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico. He also is a Certified Public Manager through the University of Colorado- Denver. Curtis is currently part of the fifth cohort of Water Literate Leaders of Northern Colorado. He resides in Greeley with his wife, Colette, and enjoys turning Poudre River water into beer as a long- time homebrewer.

money on marketing and positioning efforts that show you and your people as the experts in your chosen areas of specialization. We used to call it “process marketing” 25 or more years ago, but today it is called “content marketing.” Create and distribute original content that demonstrates a unique understanding and insight about the potential client’s situation – be that a common problem or opportunity to do something better. One buzzterm commonly used is “thought leadership.” My problem with that is most people just share information and content created by OTHER people (such as quotes from a book or buzzwordy terms coined by others) instead of research and opinion from themselves. That is “thought followership” and “thought redistribution” – not the same thing as thought leadership at all. If you and your top people share enough original content over time – through blog posts, social media, podcasts, videos, talks, PR, email, direct mail, and more – your clients will call you. And when that happens, your people are much more likely to respond properly. They know how to solve problems much better than make sales calls. You will get more work, better fees, and have better client relationships over time when the clients call you versus you calling them. Is it time to reallocate your marketing time and expenditures? Most firms in this business spend more on marketing labor from people who should be doing billable work than anything else they do marketing-wise. Think about it. So is it time for you to change your thinking about some of this stuff? I never advocate anything in these pages I would not do in my own businesses. I don’t know of any other firms serving the AEC industry that provide management information and expertise that have been around as long as we have, and have been named to the Inc. 500/5000 list three times. Maybe we are onto something here! Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

energy to working in your business versus on it. It will help you in many ways. 2. Team building versus hammering on people. It is conventional wisdom that managers are supposed to hold their people accountable. According to the various “coaches” and management “change agents” out there, holding other people accountable is supposed to be the leader’s job. Yet, my experience is that regularly hammering on people or shaming them to perform rarely works. The people who are going to be high performers don’t need to be held accountable. They are self-accountable. And those who aren’t going to be high performers won’t become high performers no matter how much you measure and bug them to do so. What works much better is to have a worthwhile mission for your organization, find really smart, motivated people, and then get them what they need, whether that’s help with doing something or additional resources of some kind, and get out of their way. As a result, it may be worth considering reallocating your time from trying to hold people accountable to recruiting and team building. Recruiting doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Sure it is a tough environment to find people, but that is precisely why you need to spend real time, energy, and attention on it. The odds that this approach will actually work are far better than holding people’s feet to the fire. It’s no fun doing that, and it’s even less fun to have your feet burned by someone doing it to you. 3. Investing in brand building versus trying to get people to make sales calls. This is one I have tried to get across for many years, but one that many AEC firm owners and leaders still don’t understand. I speak from lots of personal experience here when I say you need to stop trying to get your people to make sales calls on clients you want to work with, and instead spend your time and

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