TZL 1462 (web)

The PDF edition of The Zweig Letter.

October 24, 2022, Issue 1462 WWW.ZWEIGGROUP.COM


Professional liability insurance

Committing to this will make your firm safer, more resistant to adversity, and change cashflow and profit for the better. Revisiting risk strategy

FIRM INDEX 4Ward Land Surveying...................................10 AECOM......................................................................... 8 Balfour Beatty.......................................................12 Bowman Consulting Group Ltd..................2 EYP...................................................................................4 Grace Hebert Curtis Architects..................6 Pennoni...................................................................... 10 The HFW Companies......................................10 WK Dickson...............................................................4 MORE ARTICLES n KRAIG KERN: Tell hero stories Page 3 n Listening to people: Jerry Hebert Page 6 n ROSS STUART: The future of remote work Page 9 n MARK ZWEIG: The accidental business owner Page 11 For Zweig Group’s 2022 Financial Performance Report , AEC industry financial directors were surveyed about their firms’ professional liability costs. In the past five years, median professional liability insruance costs were lowest in 2020 at $1,491 per employee and highest in 2022 at $1,582 per employee. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

A s our risk management advisory services area grows at Zweig Group, we are finding some common themes. For instance, a lot of firms are sub-optimally insured, meaning that they have inadequate coverage, high costs, and ill-suited deductibles, among other issues. Many firms lack a comprehensive risk management strategy, perhaps because they fail to realize positive cash and profit impacts from better risk management. And many firms have simply outgrown their current insurance coverage. If this sounds like your firm, it’s time to revisit this. Take a hard look at how your firm deals with the expense and risk exposure of where you are today. A risk management advisor, like Zweig Group, can model your current coverage and advise you on how to improve it, in addition to showing you the significant benefits of captive insurance solutions. You may find some not-so-difficult ways to improve your cash flow and profit. RISK MANAGEMENT TRENDS. This year has seen increases in professional liability insurance costs, driven primarily by higher claims costs. Professional claims are seeing the same atomic jury awards other liability coverage is also facing. Professional coverage for APD projects is seeing greater demand. Some insurance companies are not embracing this trend, causing more difficulty in placing professional coverage. Cyber liability protection is more difficult to obtain and is requiring greater cybersecurity measures to qualify for coverage. Cyber liability coverage costs are up 40 percent to 100 percent, driven by a large number of cyber claims, including large ransomware demands. At the same time, M&A activities are increasing, requiring careful navigation during the merger process to ensure proper insurance protection for both entities. ECONOMIC BENEFITS. Firms that overlook this important business area are leaving cash on the table. If you take the time to reevaluate your firm’s expense and risk exposure, you could: ■ Increase profits and cash flow with better insurance and possibly a captive insurance entity. For example, a firm with $65 million in billings as a threshold can generate $1.5 million to $2.5 million in extra profits over a five-year span. If yours is a larger firm, the numbers get bigger. These are proven and provable numbers.

Dathan Gaskill

■ Use profits and reserves to add to the stock price and improve






improve the coexistence of wildlife and wind turbines.” NREL’s ECO Wind program is focused on protecting vulnerable wildlife species while ensuring maintainable deployment of wind energy developments. Many experts hypothesize on the causes for bat mortalities at wind turbines with most suggesting an unexplained attraction to the structures for reasons such as roosting, mating, socializing and/or foraging. “Our understanding of these behaviors is still in its infancy and warrants further investigation through research programs like this,” added Weaver. Bowman will be teaming with Wildlife Imaging Systems, which provides advanced computer vision and machine learning solutions for the wildlife research community, to provide a comprehensive study to characterize bat flight patterns near wind turbines and investigate how various bat species behave in different geographic regions. Utilizing thermal video footage collected at the sites, the team will compare bat behavior and collision events at wind energy facilities in Minnesota and Texas.

Interested in learning more

LABORATORY BOWMAN CONSULTING GROUP LTD. CONTRACT TO CONDUCT BAT BEHAVIOR STUDY Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. was awarded a contract by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to conduct research on how bat populations behave around wind turbines with the goal of understanding why bat mortalities occur to inform reduction strategies. With funding by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office, the NREL Enabling Coexistence Options for Wind Energy and Wildlife program selected three companies to support the complex research project with each firm receiving a portion of a $1.1 million total research fund. “As the global human population continues to grow, so does our need for renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy,” states Bowman’s Natural Resources Team Lead and Ecologist Dr. Sara Weaver. “Unfortunately, when it comes to wind energy development, bat mortalities are an unforeseen consequence and of particular concern. The wind energy industry recognizes the importance of these unique animals and has been working toward solutions to AWARDS

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

DATHAN GASKILL , from page 1

the stability of the balance sheet. Who among us cannot put $2 million dollars to work for the benefit of the company, its employees, and its customers? ■ Use profits and reserves to offset insurance costs. While building up reserves, firms can use the surplus to pay for insurance while having the added benefit of cash on-hand for greater stability in rocky times. ■ Use profits and reserves to reinvest in people or assets. Wellness programs, improved benefits for recruiting and retention, and internal company assets for customers and employees are just a few examples of what a strong cash position can do for your operations. There’s no time like the present. Committing to a risk management strategy will make your firm safer, more viable and resistant to adversity, and change cashflow and profit for the better. Working with an expert can get you past one-size-fits-all solutions and to a strategy that is designed specifically for your firm and its needs. Click here to learn more about Zweig Group’s risk management advisory services. Dathan Gaskill is managing director of Zweig Group Risk Solutions. Contact him at

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THE PRINCIPALS ACADEMY The Principals Academy is Zweig Group’s flagship training program encompassing all aspects of managing a professional AEC service firm. Elevate your ability to lead and grow your firm with this program designed to inspire and inform existing and emerging AEC firm leaders in key areas of firm management. Join us November 3-4 in Arlington, Texas. Click here to learn more!

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Tell hero stories

“A Giant Sunspot Has Doubled in Size in 24 Hours, and It’s Pointed Straight at Earth.” Did that headline get your attention? It was designed that way. It was the lead in a recent Newsweek article. It was posted alongside stories about the war in Ukraine, crippling inflation, January 6 fallout, and mass shootings. The next time you have a proposal or presentation kickoff, trust and empower your marketing team to do what they do best.

Kraig Kern, CPSM

In the end, once I slogged through five unnecessarily technical paragraphs, the last part of the article simply stated, “That said, it’s worth noting that an M-class flare would probably not be particularly disruptive in any case.” Ugh! What a waste of time. Like so many people these days, I am exhausted by all of the negative headlines. They are relentless, frequently non-factual, and yet we consume them hungrily. The slang term for this is “doomscrolling.” Most people are familiar with the phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” That’s the first thing journalism students are taught. So, I experimented the other day when I opened the CNN , Fox News , and USA Today apps on my iPhone and scrolled down to the end of each page. Can you guess what I found (or didn’t find)? There wasn’t a single upbeat or feel-good story in any

news source that day. Not one. Not even in the sports sections. My point is that in the AEC business, we can control the narrative. We can share stories that make us feel good. Everyone loves a great hero or underdog story, right? So why don’t we write those instead of the typical, dull technical descriptions? Inevitably, we sometimes must write about subjects as exciting as watching water drip or paint dry. However, with a bit of time and creative thinking from your marketing team, overly-technical topics can be made more exciting. Have you read a typical proposal cover letter lately?

See KRAIG KERN , page 4





innovative designs and expertise to each project we pursue regardless of scope or location, and we’ll be able to invest in research and thought leadership to co- create with our clients.” With a diverse, international portfolio – encompassing the academic; aviation; civic, community and culture; corporate and commercial; government; healthcare; housing and hospitality; industrial; life sciences; and science and technology sectors – the integrated firm of designers, architects and engineers will deliver high-performance designs that help clients measure, reduce, and offset carbon emissions. In addition, the firm will continue to promote equity and wellness with teams versed in practices like universal design, Design

for Freedom, Well, Fitwel, and other strategies contributing to diversity and inclusion. “Page and EYP both create designs that enhance people’s lives and communities,” stated Kef Mason, who served as interim CEO at EYP. “Combining our expertise is a winning formula for our clients and our employees. It offers us the ability to provide growth, mentorship, and training for our employees that translates to cutting-edge design in our projects. This agreement supports the natural growth trajectories and strategic vision for both firms by unifying our efforts to benefit our clients and staff.” The combined firm will have more than 1,300 employees across the U.S., Latin America, and the Middle East.

A DESIGN, ARCHITECTURE, AND ENGINEERING Page and EYP announced they have successfully closed a transaction that integrates the two design firms. Guided by similar values and culture, they will expand their services and geographic reach, working seamlessly across offices and disciplines. Together, they will combine exceptional design rooted in architectural, engineering and consulting capabilities to make lives better. POWERHOUSE IN “Bringing together our two firms allows us to work on increasingly complex projects that benefit from our expertise across disciplines and market sectors,” stated Thomas McCarthy, Page CEO. “Together, we’re bringing the most compelling,

on a major project site, which had similar issues to what the client was facing. They didn’t bring a dull, bullet-intensive PowerPoint, and they didn’t rehash the exact same information that was in their original submittal. They simply told a relevant hero story and how it applied specifically to the client’s needs. They won the job unanimously. I never forgot that anecdote, and when the opportunity presents itself, I try to help my teams apply that way of thinking. In one example, we utilized the technique when describing the design of a new stormwater channel. When writing about the project, instead of the original title, “Newland Bypass Channel,” the marketing team retitled it “Moving a Mountain to Save a Small Town.” The project was needed because areas along a nearby stream flooded regularly and damaged local businesses. The engineering solution involved blasting away a portion of a mountain to create an overflow relief channel required during significant rain events. Additionally, we added value by transforming the repaired stream into a riverwalk trail and park, at no extra cost, thereby benefitting local businesses with pedestrian traffic. Ultimately, the way we told the tale was as important as the project itself. The icing on the cake was later being awarded an Engineering Excellence Award by ACEC. As a longtime marketing professional, I get it. It’s easier for technical folks to write what they know in technical terms, but that’s where trusting your creative team comes in. Wouldn’t you rather read about an uplifting hero story instead of the negativity we read each day? The next time you have a proposal or presentation kickoff, stop micromanaging every aspect of the response and trust and empower your marketing team to do what they do best – to be creative. Kraig Kern, CPSM is vice president and director of marketing at WK Dickson. Contact him at

KRAIG KERN, from page 3

I’ll bet you nine out of 10 random samples start with some variation of “We are pleased to submit…” And don’t get me started on the understanding and approach sections. Most of them read like procedural manuals coupled with little to no high-quality photos or graphics. Good stories have clear starting points, middles, and conclusions. There is a buildup of momentum to the moment of resolution. Stories should be memorable, satisfying, and entertaining, even with tedious subjects. The goal is to make the reader the “hero” and guide them through the topic. “In the AEC business, we can control the narrative. We can share stories that make us feel good. Everyone loves a great hero or underdog story, right? So why don’t we write those instead of the typical, dull technical descriptions?” A good marketing team can do that, but without a change in mindset from the technical experts – the engineers, architects, or construction managers – the effort is doomed to fail from the start. The other day I was thinking about a mentor and friend of mine, David Stone. He once shared an anecdote about a story he told during a shortlist presentation. His team started the presentation by saying something like, “Let me tell you the story of Steve and the Underground River.” As he recounted it, the audience was captivated from the very start because it sounded like the beginning of a unique story. He spoke with such passion that he became the focus, not the PowerPoint screen behind him. In the end, the story was really about how the company handled significant water infiltration

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Listening to people: Jerry Hebert President of Grace Hebert Curtis Architects, an architecture and interior design firm that is still experiencing substantial growth in size and reputation after more than 50 years.


T here are many things that Gerald “Jerry” Hebert is proud of, but leading GHC (Baton Rouge, LA) in bringing the region’s school architecture into the 21st century tops the list, professionally at least. Personally, it’s all about people. Having joined the firm in 1987, he’s seen ups and downs and many changes along the way, but he says there’s one constant that has and should remain the same – how people are treated. “As a kid, my dad always taught me to treat people with respect and integrity,” he says. “I try to recognize when people need help and learn from people all the time. I’ll never forget the time someone in need complimented my dad on his coat. He took it off and gave it to him. That’s always stayed with me – personally and professionally.” For example, Hebert recalls he had a staff member who was really struggling. He called him into his office to find out what was going on. He quickly learned that the young man hated drawing and preferred construction. Once he was moved into a new position, he became a fantastic employee.

“It’s all about listening to people,” he says. In addition to his dad, he’s been lucky to have several great mentors over the years – two specifically, were during his college years. One was a great technical architect who taught him how to understand the nuts and bolts of the building process and the other also taught him the value of treating people well. “It builds bonds when you’re invested in people,” he says. OPPORTUNITIES SPRING FROM CHALLENGES. That’s likely why the company has a great retention rate and also why clients keep coming back. GHC spends a lot of time working to develop trust with its clients and telling the truth is the main way it does that. Its open-book policy and transparent way of doing things instills confidence in its clients. “We don’t hide anything,” Hebert shares. “We work together to find a solution. I try to see challenges as opportunities and have the same philosophy when working with our contractors too.”



One such “opportunity” presented itself about 18 years ago when the company had a primary focus on criminal justice projects. There were four projects lined up. Two died and one fell through, leaving the company in a bit of a pickle. Hebert knew it was time to make a change and seized the opportunity to start diversifying. They worked on growing their education and healthcare markets. “We don’t hide anything. We work together to find a solution. I try to see challenges as opportunities and have the same philosophy when working with our contractors too.” “Through failure comes success,” he says. “This challenge (opportunity) caused us to rethink how we were doing business and resulted in us being a much stronger and more nimble company.” That diversification is another reason for the company’s solid retention rates. The variety of projects that people are able to work on as well as the use of cutting-edge technology provides leverage with clients, making it easier for staff to do their jobs well. GHC’s holistic immersive design is now evident in an array of markets, and education is one where it’s really making an impact. Hebert says the community had really not updated the schools in the region to keep pace with 21st century learning. As a result, GHC worked with people on all levels – from the school board to school maintenance staff to develop a model for the future. “We’ve transformed education in our community,” Hebert says. Liberty High School in Baton Rouge is one such example. It supports 21st century learning and project-based instruction and is inspired by and reflective of the school’s innovative approach to education. It encompasses three specialized academies: Biomedical, digital arts, and STEM. A multipurpose Commons Building combines the identities of the three academies and houses shared functions. Together the four areas comprise 250,000 square feet of learning space to serve approximately 1,200 students. Continuing the theme of innovation and out- of-the-box design, traditional classrooms and hallways have been replaced by a network

of flexible learning spaces. The spaces can be configured for a variety of uses to support and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-curriculum instruction. Specialized learning labs called WOW! Spaces in each academy also give students a chance to explore real-life applications of newly acquired skills and knowledge. Visual connections throughout the instructional spaces increase student engagement in the learning process. “I’m also quite proud of the fact that my son who leads the education group at the company has had the opportunity to be a part of this,” he says. “He can look back and say, ‘Hey, I was part of that when it all started to change.’” Hebert says that in addition to innovative projects, there are other factors that influence positive retention rates. They include Monday lunches where there’s time to socialize and kick back, “Lunch and Learns,” and an internal project management training program. GHC is also holding its first company-wide retreat this year. “I’ve very excited about this,” Hebert says. “We’re holding this two-day retreat in Baton Rouge and all five offices are invited to attend. It’s a great way to relay the vision of the company and to communicate culture and just have some fun.” FUTURE REFLECTIONS. So, what’s in store for the future? Hebert says he’s got a few things on his mind. They include recruitment, sustainability, and client education. While Hebert says GHC has really been blessed to have a wonderful staff, many people are starting to approach retirement age and he doesn’t see a big influx of interest from the younger generation. GHC partners with area universities, talks to alumni, and works with interns to spark excitement in the industry and is always looking to recruit the best and brightest. “It’s challenging out there right now,” he says. “We need to be prudent and keep working to generate an interest in the field, to work with young people and help them to understand the field. For me, that’s one of the most pressing issues right now.”





Baton Rouge, LA

Dallas, TX

New Orleans, LA

Lake Charles, LA

Lafayette, LA




Higher education










Interior design

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

TOBER 24, 2022, ISSUE 1462


BUSINESS NEWS AECOM SELECTED TO DELIVER FIRST MAJOR WORKS PACKAGE FOR MELBOURNE AIRPORT RAIL AS PART OF THE SUNSHINE SYSTEMS ALLIANCE CONSORTIUM AECOM, the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, announced today it has been selected as part of a preferred consortium to deliver a major package of work for the Melbourne Airport Rail project, a new rail connection between central Melbourne and Melbourne Airport that will greatly enhance connectivity in and beyond Victoria, Australia. The consortium has formed the Sunshine Systems Alliance, and includes AECOM, KBR, Alstom, John Holland, CPB Contractors, Metro Trains Melbourne, V/Line, and Rail Projects Victoria. “We’re looking forward to leveraging our unrivaled global technical capabilities and experienced talent in Australia to support the construction of this critical addition to Victoria’s rail network,” said Jennifer Aument, chief executive of AECOM’s global transportation business. “Our teams have deep expertise integrating diverse resources on complex, transportation projects like this one, with a goal of delivering smarter, more sustainable solutions to help

improve mobility and speed passenger connections.” In this role, the consortium is expected to provide major improvements including a new, accessible second pedestrian concourse and new forecourt area at Sunshine Station, a new forecourt area and car park improvements at Albion Station, construction of a new flyover at Albion to separate airport trains from metropolitan and regional services, and relocation and implementation of rail systems, modifications to substations, and protection of existing utilities. The package also includes high- capacity signaling, traction power, rail control systems and an automatic train supervision system, as well as communications systems and systems integration and assurance. “This is a truly transformative project for Victoria and one in which we are proud to play a part,” said Richard Barrett, AECOM’s chief executive, Australia and New Zealand. “We are excited to bring our team’s experience in the successful delivery of complex Alliance projects as well as our expertise in brownfields rail infrastructure design to realize this new project, which will bolster Melbourne’s role as a global city and aviation hub.”

As it will provide around 30-minute journeys between central Melbourne to the airport, the new rail line will also enable direct airport connections for passengers at more than 30 stations across Melbourne via the Metro Tunnel, currently under construction. The project’s significant connectivity benefits are estimated to generate sizeable economic benefits to the community. AECOM is the world’s trusted infrastructure consulting firm, delivering professional services throughout the project lifecycle – from planning, design and engineering to program and construction management. On projects spanning transportation, buildings, water, new energy, and the environment, our public- and private-sector clients trust us to solve their most complex challenges. Our teams are driven by a common purpose to deliver a better world through our unrivaled technical expertise and innovation, a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to environmental, social and governance priorities. AECOM is a Fortune 500 firm and its Professional Services business had revenue of $13.3 billion in fiscal year 2021.


“But we’ve seen it before – specifically in the ‘80s. There’s inflation and we need to focus on cost control. Interest rates will also have a big impact on the industry. We need to be prudent and keep working to generate an interest in the field, to work with young people and help them to understand the field. For me, that’s one of the most pressing issues right now.” Hebert says that client education is also key. “There’s a sustainability push across the country,” he says. “We need to figure out ways to educate clients about the built environment and instill the importance of protecting nature across the board.” There’s no doubt that GHC is actively anticipating and adapting to lead the next generation of design and delivery.

GHC’s Building Information Modeling Lab allows clients to be immersed in their projects on the big screen.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




The future of remote work

What does the future of remote work look like in the AEC industry and how do managers adapt?

F irst, let me just say that I am ecstatic that most professionals in the AEC industry, especially on the consulting side, appear to be returning to offices to work in-person. While my experience on the topic is isolated to the small group of 15 in my structural practice, judging by the increased commute times over the last few months, I would say that it appears to be the general trend across the workforce.

Ross Stuart

That said, there are still employees who work remotely on a permanent basis, while others engage in a hybrid system, including myself. Since the pandemic started in 2020, it has a been a struggle to continuously adjust to various remote work requirements as the rules and restrictions surrounding in-person work have changed. Now that it looks like we have reached what appears to be “the light at the end of the tunnel” (knock on wood), I find myself asking what the future of remote work looks like within my division? What should I, as a manager, be pushing for? What should staff expect? BACK TO THE OFFICE. I do not think there is a substitution for good old fashioned in-person

collaboration. The work I do as a structural engineer requires lots of communication, both verbal and written, to complete projects. A structural design for a new building requires communication with architects to understand the design intent, staff so they know what engineering tasks need to be completed, and designers to convert those designs to drawings. We all became proficient at using tools to collaborate remotely during lockdown: virtual meetings, annotating PDFs, screen sharing. Many of these tools existed pre-pandemic, but their use became essential.

See ROSS SUART , page 10



TRANSACTIONS THE HFW COMPANIES AND TEXAS- BASED 4WARD LAND SURVEYING CREATE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP TO ACCELERATE GROWTH The HFW Companies, a fast-growing professional services firm with a national focus on the architecture and engineering industry, announced a strategic partnership with 4Ward Land Surveying, a professional land surveying company providing services for commercial, residential, and public works projects throughout Texas. The new partnership allows 4Ward to accelerate its strategic growth plan and expand its geographic reach beyond Texas with additional services, locations, and people, according to Jason Ward, RPLS, president of 4Ward. “4Ward is experiencing incredible

growth,” said Ward. “Our partnership with HFW gives us the boost we need to achieve our plan faster and with greater opportunity for our hard-working team. We are excited to join forces with HFW and its architecture and engineering brands network.” 4Ward, founded in 2009 by Ward as a two-person surveying company, today employs 50 people, serving a diverse client base from its office in Austin, Texas. The company’s extensive project experience includes large commercial developments, mixed-use subdivisions, multi-family housing developments, retail centers, and institutional and public works projects. 4Ward joins HFW’s network of growth- oriented AEC firms that share best practices, economies of scale, and

unique areas of expertise, according to Michael Hein, AIA, CEO of St. Louis- based HFW. “Jason and the 4Ward team bring expert knowledge and experience, driven by the latest technology found in the survey industry.” HFW’s business model is designed to retain and leverage each partnering firm’s own brand identity, loyal employee base, and the allegiance of its project partners to build a nationwide “house of brands” network of AEC member firms. “4Ward’s brand and reputation for quality work align well with our growth strategy,” Hein added, “this advances our position as a nationally preeminent network of AEC firms focused on the country’s infrastructure.”

return to work. Now, is that because everyone is super excited to sit in their cubes for eight hours a day, grinding away on projects? Probably not, but seeing your peers both in and outside of work seems to make everyone feel more like a team. HYBRID AS A BENEFIT. “OK boomer, but didn’t you just say that you work remotely yourself?” I did, and I do work remotely, but I see this as a benefit – a privilege that is earned. There is no denying that working from home offers significant personal benefits: time and money saved from commuting, more time with family, even not having to put pants on if you don’t want. As a father of three kids under the age of eight and a spouse who does shift work, being able to work from home to help with the day-to-day job of being a dad has been a godsend with remote work. To be clear, all my staff work remotely in some form or fashion. I give them all the flexibility to work how and where they want, with the understanding that if they are getting their work done in a manner that isn’t a burden to anyone else, I’m happy to provide hybrid remote work arrangements as a “perk.” SO, WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF REMOTE WORK? I think most professionals would agree that hybrid remote work arrangements are here to stay and will likely become the norm going forward. After a quick, informal survey of other practice leaders at Pennoni, I have found that to be the consensus. Employers must be flexible with the expectations that have developed within the AEC industry regarding working arrangements. At the same time, employees should appreciate the value of working in an office environment and the opportunities that exist to learn, develop, and be seen. Ross Stuart is an associate vice president and the structural practice leader at Pennoni, a multi-disciplined engineering firm based in Philadelphia. Connect with him on LinkedIn .

ROSS SUART, from page 9

However, the last several months of in-person work have shown me that, as useful as these communication tools are, they are no substitute for the clarity, speed, and accuracy of in-person collaboration. Based on my own experience, I found this to be especially important at the beginning of my career. When trying to explain a new concept to a junior engineer, it is difficult to replicate the kind of immediate two-way feedback that occurs when you are sitting right next to each other. “Employers must be flexible with the expectations that have developed within the AEC industry regarding working arrangements.” As a result, I’ve been trying to push in-person work as much as possible, especially for younger staff. As a manager and company officer, I feel somewhat conflicted about making a statement like that, because I think it can quickly be viewed as an attempt to push for “better profits” or some draconian attempt to force people back to the office, but the truth is the benefits are mostly for the individual. Yes, my job is easier when in-person. Yes, projects have a better chance of being completed on time and on budget. But I truly believe that to build the next generation of AEC professionals, we need to be face-to-face on occasion. Virtual meetings cannot fully replicate what can be done in the office. I cannot walk by an employee’s desk and get asked a quick question, explain a complicated topic, or collaborate on a solution in the same manner. In addition, being in the office provides an opportunity for others to see what you are working on, which helps build connections, relationships, and earn recognition – all of which are essential to career advancement. I’ve noticed that morale has generally increased as more staff

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The accidental business owner

I was thinking the other day that I know a lot of people in this business who are business owners when they never planned to be. Yet, they ended up there. This is a reality in our industry and knowing the typical issues faced by these people can be helpful to working with them.

How does this happen? Sometimes people go to work for a firm and through transitions and retirements, minority shareholders end up as the majority owner. In other cases, people lose their jobs and find work as subconsultants, and those engagements turn into a business that grows and eventually has employees. Then they become business owners. Then there are the situations where someone who owns a business dies and either the spouse or one of the kids ends up owning the business. All of these cases share one commonality: The people who end up with the business never planned to be business owners. That can affect everything they do as owners, and when you are one of these people or work for one, you need to understand some of the common problems of being an “accidental business owner.” One of those potential problems is a lack of general business knowledge or even interest in the disciplines

of “business.” A lack of knowledge can be overcome by getting additional education in business. There are many seminars and courses designed specifically for people in this business that one can take. But there are also programs such as executive MBA programs that are aimed at those who work full time. They can be extremely helpful to people with a technical or design education. Another issue is that of risk aversion. While I am not one of them, many people feel that owning a business is riskier than self employment. This risk aversion could lead the accidental business owner to avoid making investments in things such as marketing or HR that could impact the growth of the company over time. I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem other than recognizing it could be an issue. If you work with or for one of these people I would be prepared to justify every investment with plenty of

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG , page 12



BUSINESS NEWS BALFOUR BEATTY, LINXS CONSTRUCTORS TOPS OUT SIXTH AND FINAL LAX PEOPLE MOVER STATION WITH STRUCTURAL STEEL Balfour Beatty, as part of LINXS Constructors, announces another major milestone on the ongoing modernization of the Los Angeles International Airport with the placement of the last structural steel beam for the Automated People Mover train stations. This achievement signifies substantial progress in revolutionizing how travelers get to and from the fifth busiest airport in the world. The largest of the six stations being built, the West Central Terminal Area station, saw the last of nearly 2,000 tons of structural steel set in place with the topping out milestone. LINXS Constructors began foundation placement at the West CTA site in February 2022, following months of enabling work. A total of 127 piles were built to support the West CTA station, as well as smaller piles to support the nearby pedestrian bridges. The 1.2 million-square-foot station will connect the train system to Terminals 3, 4 and 5, in addition to Tom Bradley International Terminal, via elevated pedestrian bridges. It will feature an open space with a programmable 800-square- foot LED screen and public art for LA- based creators. The station’s structural glass walls and high-performance coated metal panel cladding will support its mid-century modern aesthetic, honoring the architectural heritage of LAX.

“Congratulations LINXS Constructors team for reaching another monumental milestone on the LAX Automated People Mover project,” said Brian Cahill, Balfour Beatty president in California. “Topping out the final station at the West Central Terminal Area signifies our team’s progress in providing a revolutionary travel experience for worldwide passengers at LAX airport. We look forward to their continued work in completing construction on all stations to begin testing the train system’s driverless vehicles to prepare for public use.” to the “The vision of a fully connected LAX is coming to fruition, and with the last placement of station steel today, we continue to see the transformation unfold behind the skilled hands of so many local workers who are building our future,” said Justin Erbacci, LAWA CEO “This station will be a jewel of the system with visually pleasing digital elements and architecture that will welcome tens of millions of travelers each year.” Whether renting a car, returning home to pick up their own car, or catching a train to downtown on Metro’s light rail system, travelers will be transported within minutes via the APM system. From the West CTA station, the last stop on the route inside the CTA, it will take just a six- minute ride to reach the LAX Economy Parking facility, eight minutes to the station that will connect to the future Airport Metro Connector Station and 10 minutes to the future Consolidated Rent- A-Car facility during peak operations.

Work on the station façades, internal systems and vertical cores is scheduled to continue this year. In addition, the placement of the project’s final pedestrian bridge, connecting the West CTA station to Tom Bradley International Terminal, is scheduled for placement this fall. In total, the structural steel used on the stations, bridges and vertical cores weighs in at more than 9,000 tons. LINXS Constructors continues work on the Center CTA station, the East CTA station, the Economy Parking station, and the Intermodal Transportation Facility- East station. The centerpiece of LAX’s Landside Access Modernization Program, the $5.5 billion, design-build and public- private partnership APM project, is a 2.25-mile electric train system that will transport travelers in and out of the CTA, connecting them to new off-site parking facilities, regional light rail transportation and the Consolidated Rent-A-Car facility. The APM project started construction in January 2018 and is a critical investment into the infrastructure of Los Angeles as the city prepares to host the 2028 Olympic Games. The APM is expected to relieve congestion within the CTA and in turn the surrounding thoroughfares, thereby reducing emissions and vehicle miles traveled. Balfour Beatty is an industry-leading provider of general contracting, at-risk construction management and design- build services for public and private sector clients across the United States.

at doing the things they aren’t geared to do. Any of their deficiencies in business-related knowledge can be overcome by surrounding themselves with the right people. This includes not only key employees but also the right outside advisors including attorneys and accountants. It also builds the case for having a strong board of directors that includes outsiders who can serve as a sounding board and business mentor for the accidental business owner. These people could be absolutely crucial to their success. Accidental business ownership is a reality in our industry, just as it is in most others. Knowing the typical issues faced by these people can be helpful to working with them to help them be more successful. Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

data. Industry reports such as those produced by Zweig Group could help there. The important thing is that in general, the accidental business owner may need more information than others before he or she can make a decision. “I was thinking the other day that I know a lot of people in this business who are business owners when they never planned to be. Yet, they ended up there. How does this happen?” Also important for the accidental business owner is that he or she needs to have people on their team who are capable

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