INVESTING IN THE FUTURE, from page 7
Administration. Like most businesses, we have applied for the Payroll Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, and the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Fund, but, as of yet, have not received any funds. We’ve been informed that the initial round of funds for the PPP Loans ran out, so while we wait for additional funding for the program, we have drawn down on our line of credit to strengthen our balance sheet and ensure we can weather this crisis. We are doing everything we can to keep the entire team together during this time. 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? JM: We’re continually assessing the work we do to make sure it’s aligned with our overall mission and vision for the company, and we will pass on work that is not a fit. Given the length of time it takes to complete a project, you can’t get too far ahead with hiring, or you may be forced to accept work you wouldn’t otherwise, just to keep the lights on. It’s always a delicate balance and needs to be thoughtfully evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some projects won’t be profitable, but will likely lead to more profitable work; some are complex and we like the challenge, and some we just enjoy working on. The decision-making process involves discussing the benefits and negatives of each project type fully so that the answer ultimately becomes clear. TZL: What measures are you taking to protect your employees during the COVID-19 crisis? JM: Our office is located in midtown Manhattan, so we began working remotely mid-March, which we will continue to do until the city lifts the quarantine. We advised our staff to wear gloves and a mask from the very first days of the quarantine. We hold frequent safety calls and checks to ensure that people are staying safe, especially in earliest days when some were still visiting project sites. During this time, we have been 3D printing face shields for healthcare workers, so we’ve had to work out a system of going to the office and coordinating delivery for those, but otherwise, we’ve been able to stay fully operational and productive from home while keeping everyone safe. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? JM: There have been so many expensive lessons along the way. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to hire the right person for the job. Our hiring process is now extensive and costly, but worth every penny. Positions can take months to fill, but finding the right fit provides a quick return on investment. TZL: How are you staying in touch with your clients during this pandemic? JM: Beyond the normal email communication with clients, we are relying more heavily on screen sharing for plan
An example of what is possible with Synthesis, the computer-aided design software edg developed to allow users to create custom facades.
reviews, and VR walkthroughs using Enscape and IrisVR. With construction projects completely shut down here in NYC, we are using the time to check in on our clients, and see how they are holding up with everything going on. As you can imagine, everyone is very eager to get back to work. TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? JM: We adhere to the philosophy that if a PM is constantly behind, there’s a bigger problem. With extensive senior management training, we’ve managed to alleviate the issue of overworked PMs by staying focused on what’s important, and working far enough ahead on deadlines, which the entire team sees daily, so there are no surprises. We also keep an eye on our workload to make sure that we get out ahead of any hiring needs and don’t take on anything we can’t handle. Our PMs also use software tools that structure proper communication, documentation, and transparency, which naturally handle the core of good project management. TZL: You’ve founded companies that had to do with software development. How do they fit in with architecture and engineering and why? Was it a natural transition? JM: Software is a branch of engineering, and I think the transition was very natural because the thought process and approaches are the same in that you are designing and building solutions to complex problems. For me, sometimes the problem is software related, and other times, it’s in the built environment. I think that as we see more software used in architecture, engineering, and design, we’re recognizing the inherent synergies, which we are continually exploring. I would also say that in architecture and engineering, our work is, quite literally, built-in stone. There is absolutely no margin for error, particularly in the arena of structural engineering. Working on software, by comparison, is far less stressful.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER MAY 18, 2020, ISSUE 1345
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