TZL 1380 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S F e b r u a r y 2 2 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 3 8 0 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

Turnover rates

Be selective with the actions you’re recognizing and the behaviors you’re amplifying, because we’re all driving the culture bus. Organizational influence

Zweig Group’s 2020-2021 Recruitment & Retention Report of AEC Firms provides insight on how the pandemic has affected staff growth rates over the course of the last year. The chart above shows the number of full-time employees who joined and left the firm as a percentage of total staff by year. While the average percentage of employees leaving firms held steady at around 14 percent, the AEC industry saw a steep drop in the number of employees it was taking on. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication. F I R M I N D E X Bycor Construction.................................2 Dewberry................................................4 Lawrence Group.....................................6 Michael Baker International. ....................4 Neel-Schaffer, Inc....................................2 Ware Malcomb........................................2 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz MERCEDEZ THOMPSON: Winning cover letters Page 3 xz Serving others: Mike Schnaare Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: Things I’ve learned about buying A/E firms Page 9 xz PATRICK SCHULTZ: Navigating operations during global crisis Page 11

E veryone knows that culture eats strategy for breakfast, but you also need a strategy to develop and maintain culture. When things go downhill, if you’re in the fray, it can be extremely challenging to diagnose those critical watershed moments when things took a turn for the worse. As technical people, engineers, and scientists, we love data; we tend to focus on evidence-based lines of thought, backed up by spreadsheets, graphs, charts, and quantify, quantify, quantify! But what happens when we overbalance – that is, when we rely on numbers (or worse, become chained to them), and either forget to or become unwilling to see the other, potentially damaging, factors. Awards and recognition in business often go to the teams generating the highest of some number like net service revenue, utilization, profitability – and rightly so. After all, engineering, environmental, architecture, and construction are all valuable professional services that contribute a great deal to society. Numbers are extremely important! Awards and recognition don’t have to be formal or official – it’s as simple as the leader giving kudos in the hallway, or a nod to a subordinate’s ideas in a meeting. That gesture of approval is a powerful social cue to others that you are condoning the behavior, comportment, ethics, of the recipient. Your “approval gestures” also influence and shape your personal brand. The recipient’s tendencies (all of them) will then quickly proliferate through your organization. If someone is performing well, and of benefit to us personally, it is natural to dismiss exceptions which are voiced that don’t fit our narrative. It pays to question our narratives and drivers. Now, I hope I’ve made you ask yourself who really drives the culture bus. Are they people who make things great? If not, they should be. For a time, my neighborhood was fortunate to be on the route of The Best Bus Driver In the World. Literally, he was referred to as such on local social media posts and earned the county Employee of the Year Award. This gentleman was effectively a part-time employee without specific credentials that I was aware of. But the immensely positive butterfly effect he initiated influenced the lives of thousands of people, in just a few miles of driving each day. Everyone – neighbors, teachers, parents, kids – loved him, without exception. Like the proverbial single, strategically placed pebble that can change the Mississippi River’s course, he changed our lives every day. You want people like this in your organization – at all levels.

Stephanie Warino




BUSINESS NEWS JACOB BEATTY JOINS NEEL-SCHAFFER AS WATER RESOURCES ENGINEER IN ALABAMA Neel- Schaffer, Inc. announced that Jacob Beatty, PE, has joined the firm and will serve as a Water Resources Engineer based in the firm’s Birmingham office. Beatty has five years of experience in a variety of water resources disciplines, including bridge scour analysis, floodplain mapping, dam safety and breach analysis, and Phase I Environmental Site Assessments. “We are extremely excited to growour capabilities in Alabama with the addition of Jacob Beatty to the Neel-Schaffer Water Resources team,” said Mike Phillips, PE, the firm’s East Region Water Resources Manager. “Jacob comes to us with diverse water resources engineering experience and we look forward to getting him involved in H/H projects throughout the company.” Beatty is a Registered Professional Engineer in Alabama. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Auburn University. Neel-Schaffer is a multi-disciplined engineering and planning firm with offices throughout the South. Founded in 1983, the firm is ranked 230th on Engineering News-Record’s list of the nation’s Top 500 Design Firms for 2020. WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF ONE PASEO IN SAN DIEGO Ware Malcomb , an award- winning international design firm, announced that construction is complete on One Paseo located on the southwest corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real in San Diego. Ware Malcomb provided master planning and architectural design services for the retail project component. Located in the Del Mar Heights community of San Diego, One Paseo is a mixed-use master- planned project incorporating office, residential and retail space. In addition to providing master planning services for the project, Ware Malcomb designed the 12 single-story restaurant and high-end retail buildings totaling approximately 96,000 square feet located within the new development. The craftsman-style buildings feature primarily wood frame construction, intricate details and various finish materials to create a community-oriented environment. The neutral color palette for the buildings allows the merchandise and tenants to be the focal point. Ware Malcomb has completed additional tenant improvement projects within One Paseo

including The Butchery and ColorCounter as well as Architect of Record services for Pigment and Alcheme. Additional amenities incorporated within the retail landscape design include a children’s play area with a climbing art log, a relaxing fire pit area, community workout area and a lawn area for events adjacent to the residences and offices. The restaurants in One Paseo feature a mix of first-to-market locations like Blue Bottle and locally owned Parakeet Cafe with outdoor dining and plazas. Ware Malcomb also designed a three-level parking structure accommodating 548 parking stalls with a top level shade structure. One Paseo in Del Mar Heights previously won Best Real Estate Deal in the New Retail category for the San Diego Business Journal’s 2018 Best Real Estate Deals. “We are proud to be part of this dynamic, mixed- use project in Del Mar Heights. One Paseo is already a sought-after destination within the vibrant San Diego market,” said Tiffany English, Principal of Ware Malcomb’s San Diego offices. “Every aspect of this project was thoughtfully designed to create a walkable community that incorporates the best aspects of living, working and playing at One Paseo.” The developer for the project was Kilroy Realty and the general contractor was Bycor Construction. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture, planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to corporate, commercial/residential developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/institutional facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group. The firm is also ranked among the top 15 architecture/engineering firms in Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms and the top 25 interior design firms in Interior Design magazine’s Top 100 Giants.

This webinar was specifically developed to help design and technical professionals in archi- tecture, engineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing cli- ents and promoting the firm and its services. Led by two retired and current CEOs with extensive experience from the design desk to the board room, this one-of-a- kind webinar presents business development techniques proven to drive real growth and value in your AEC firm. Elevating Doer- Sellers Virtual Seminar 6 PDH/LU



PO Box 1528 Fayetteville, AR 72702

Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Christina Zweig | Contributing Editor Liisa Andreassen | Correspondent

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Email: Online: Twitter: Facebook: Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year) $250 for one-year print subscription; free electronic subscription at © Copyright 2021, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


Thankfully, good culture, managed strategically, has the potential to proliferate just as easily as bad culture. Ask yourself – as a leader, as a team member, as an owner, as an employee – whose actions are you recognizing? What behaviors are you amplifying? Be selective and hyper-aware, because we are all driving the culture bus. STEPHANIE WARINO is a strategic planning advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her at swarino@

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Winning cover letters

Create client-focused cover letters that build trust, provide clear client benefits, and connect to your client’s broader goals or vision.

A few months ago, I was invited to present on cover letter writing as part of a (re) skilling program for AEC professionals. Like a lot of presentations this year, mine was virtual and inspired by the COVID-19 work environment. The program was motivated by the fact that many firms, in an effort to stay lean during the uncertainty of COVID, were asking more of their employees. Responsibilities expanded and hiring halted.

Mercedez Thompson

Quite suddenly, employees who haven’t had an active role in proposal development in some years were being asked to participate in the planning, writing, and submitting of proposals. The “new normal” is forcing firms to do business differently; and not surprisingly, that business requires proficient writing skills. Perhaps you understand this challenge all too well and want to ensure that even though proposal development may fall outside your typical duties, adapting and pivoting in this new environment is crucial to success. That’s where I come in. As a proposal management professional, I know that better writing makes for better business. I also understand that the type of writing that makes for good business is not necessarily intuitive, but it can be learned and

easily adopted. Moreover, study after study shows that cover letters are the most read part of any proposal. So, if we need to improve our writing skills, cover letter writing is a great place to start. The cover letter is your first impression. It determines whether an evaluator takes the time to review your proposal or just flips through it before moving on. An effective cover letter can win a project because without it, your proposal doesn’t get read. First, let’s begin with the easiest ways to blow it. ❚ ❚ Focusing on ourselves when trying to persuade others. The easiest and most common mistake is




ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY PROMOTES TORBEN AGESEN, ALAN BARNEY, AND CURT CROUCH IN D.C.-METRO AREA Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced the promotion of nearly 50 professionals nationwide, including three in its Maryland, and Northern Virginia, offices. Torben Agesen, RLA, has been promoted to senior associate in the Lanham, Maryland, office; Alan Barney, PE, has been promoted to associate in the Rockville, Maryland, office; and Curt Crouch, PE, has been promoted to associate in the Gainesville, Virginia, office. Torben Agesen is a senior project manager and has more than 30 years of experience. He has extensive land planning, management, land acquisition, and land development expertise and has worked on a variety of projects

throughout Maryland. Agesen earned his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the Pennsylvania State University (1987) and is a registered landscape architect in Maryland. Alan Barney is a senior project manager and has more than 20 years of experience. He has a background in stormwater management, storm drainage, and erosion and sediment control design related to roadway and land development projects. Barney earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Maryland (1998) and is a professional engineer in Maryland. Curt Crouch is a senior project manager and has more than 15 years of experience. He has used his civil engineering expertise to work with both private- and public-sector

clients on land development, substation, and telecommunications projects throughout northern Virginia. Crouch earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from George Mason University (2005) and is a professional engineer in Virginia. Dewberry is a leading, market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combining unsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.


1)Client first. Build trust by showing an understanding of the client’s issues, hot buttons, challenges, and purpose. The first section of any cover letter should describe the client’s problem in detail, honing in on the project’s challenges and demonstrating knowledge of the big-picture purpose or long- term goal. You should use one to two paragraphs to do this. 2)Why us? Next up, sell your firm. Justify the decision to award your firm the contract through thoughtful solutions and specific benefits backed by evidence. Be specific about how you plan to solve the client’s problems and what the client gets by partnering with you. Challenge yourself to answer the following two questions: “What makes us better than the competition?” and “Why should the client believe us?” This is the meat of the cover letter and often takes two to three paragraphs. Consider using bullets to make it easy for the reader to digest the advantages of working with your firm. 3)Move forward. It’s well known that in shortlist interviews, you conclude by asking for the work. This is the proposal’s version of that. In the final section of the cover letter, connect with the client’s vision and demonstrate a commitment to the bigger picture. You may want to quickly summarize what you offer the client, list next steps for starting the project, and/or describe why the client and project are so important to your firm. Do this in one concluding paragraph. Compelling cover letters are client-focused, concise, and correct. Your job is to center the client and be specific about how you solve the client’s problems, giving the reader exactly what they need to feel confident in choosing your firm. Whether proposal writing is a new responsibility or part of your typical daily tasks, using the Triple Play method as a template can help you create cover letters that connect with your client and win your firm more work. MERCEDEZ THOMPSON finds and shares a firm’s unique stories to connect with clients and build business. She is a proposal manager at Michael Baker International, where she leads capture planning and proposal development for company strategic opportunities. Before entering the AEC industry, Mercedez taught writing at the University of Nevada and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She earned her master’s degree in English from Indiana University and her bachelor’s degree in literature from Ohio State University. You can find her on LinkedIn or her blog at

to spend the most valuable real estate of the entire proposal – that first page – talking about your firm, its accolades, and general experience. In fact, you should only talk about your firm insofar as you can solve the client’s problem. So, shift the focus to the client, their issues and challenges, and then deliver your solution in terms of the client’s needs. “Your job is to center the client and be specific about how you solve the client’s problems, giving the reader exactly what they need to feel confident in choosing your firm.” ❚ ❚ Making it difficult for our readers to find what they need. Readers are raiders. They want to get in and get out. As such, many might closely read only your cover letter. Do not make them go searching for why they should choose your firm. Define the benefits of working with you right there on that first page, making it easy to justify the contract award. Clear, concise writing that answers the question “Why us?” makes it easy on our readers and yields quicker decisions. ❚ ❚ Appearing uninvested while asking others to trust us. Another way to blow it is with careless, incorrect writing. You may not think a few grammatical mistakes will cost you, but consistent mistakes send the message that you are careless, uninvested, or lazy. On the other hand, a well- edited, error-free document builds trust in your ideas and services. Preferably, a cover letter should be drafted pre-RFP and revised a handful of times over proposal development. At least three different sets of eyes should land on it before it hits the client’s desk. So, how do we avoid these mistakes? By creating client- focused cover letters that build trust, provide clear client benefits, and connect to our client’s broader goals or vision. The simplest way to write a compelling cover letter is to follow the Triple Play method.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.



2021 Online Learning Opportunities


VIRTUAL SEMINARS Advanced Project Management for AEC Professionals – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: March 3, 2021 PRICE: $799 PDH/LU: 6 Credit Hours OVERVIEW: This course is ideal for people that have existing experience leading proj- ects and teams. A new advanced skills training course for project managers led by a panel of three experts backed by a ton of research on how to best train project man- agers to be more effective and efficient. This advanced project management course is designed to take a Project Manager to the next level, with a focus on anticipating problems, communicating with leadership and other important stakeholders, and transitioning from managing to leading people and projects. LEARN MORE Elevating Doer-Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: April 6, 2021 PRICE: $699 PDH/LU: 6 Credit Hours OVERVIEW: This will be the same great content that is taught during our in-person The Principals Academy seminar that has trained over 900 attendees in the last five years. The Principals Academy is Zweig Group’s flagship training program encom- passing 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 leadership, financial management, recruiting, marketing, business development, and project management. LEARN MORE

Project Management for AEC Professionals – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: April 7, 2021 PRICE: $699 PDH/LU: 6 Credit Hours LEARN MORE

OVERVIEW: Each team member brings their own unique experiences and skillset to project teams. Effectively leveraging the talents of your team can optimize team effec- tiveness. This course provides people-focused, science-driven practical skills to help project leaders harness the power of their team. By addressing the most important aspects of any project – the people – this course will provide practical techniques that can be immediately implemented for a positive impact on any AEC team or business.


Zweig Group is an approved provider by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).




Serving others: Mike Schnaare President of Lawrence Group (St. Louis, MO), an integrated design, development, and construction firm using the power of people with great ideas to bring clients’ dreams to life.


C ollectively, Lawrence Group believes in the power of design to bring people together. And, Schnaare knows that good design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes people with a broad range of talents and perspectives to create something beautiful and effective. Schnaare also co- leads the firm’s healthcare studio and under his leadership, the healthcare team has managed more than $350 million in healthcare construction over the last five years. He has multiple years of experience in managing award-winning healthcare projects and designing creative, yet practical healing environments and wellness facilities. “It’s also important to connect with clients on a personal level beyond business – asking about their families, interests, challenges they may be facing – to show we value them as an individual, not just a business partner,” Schnaare says. “If you’re doing it right, your clients should feel like they are the only client you have because you’re so focused on them.”

A CONVERSATION WITH MIKE SCHNAARE. The Zweig Letter: Your website says that Lawrence Group culture is about “finding new ways to bring people together.” Can you provide a recent example of this? Mike Schnaare: From the beginning, we’ve built our culture around ideas, inspiration, and working together to provide meaningful solutions. A great example of this is City Foundry STL which is an urban redevelopment project led by Lawrence Group and located in the heart of St. Louis. This project started as an idea for an abandoned foundry complex that had been vacant for nearly a decade. Inspired by the foundry’s history and popular public markets, the vision was to reimagine the 15-acre industrial site into a destination that celebrates creative concepts in food, commerce, and entrepreneurship.



Through this project, we’ve been able to bring local consultants, tradesmen, and contractors together to create an environment that, we believe, will ultimately bring every part of the community together to celebrate innovation and encourage people from all walks of life to interact through unique, shared experiences. “One of the greatest traits of a leader is the ability to identify their replacement. During the early stages of an ownership transition, it’s important to identify and mentor the new leadership to put them in the best position to succeed.” TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? MS: Two years prior, we started to become more flexible with schedules and working remotely. We recognized the importance of establishing a work-life balance, and this allowed our employees to do that while still producing the same, high-quality results. When COVID-19 began to impact the workforce back in March, we were in the final stages of a technology upgrade that involved moving everyone over to virtual desktops to support a flexible work environment. With the help of a consultant, our internal IT team was able to fast-track the final stages of the project and get us all up and running from home in less than 48 hours. Prior to COVID-19, we had never operated as a fully remote organization. For now, we are using this time as an opportunity to embrace virtual meetings and establish new ways to stay connected while continuing to serve our clients at the same high level they’ve come to expect. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? MS: Historically, we approached project team diversity as a matter of meeting our clients’ requirements. But that’s not good enough. Our project teams need to be a reflection of our communities if we’re going to provide the best solutions. Two years ago, we invested in an existing M/WBE design firm in our community.

We had worked with this firm on multiple projects in the past and had cultivated a collaborative working relationship that proved to be beneficial to our clients and the community. The goal of this initiative is to allow that firm to continue to operate as an independent M/WBE organization while providing additional resources such as IT, marketing, business development, and mentorship. Our hope is that these additional resources will help them grow into a multi-generational firm, build upon their knowledge from generation to generation, and continue to serve the community for many years to come. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as president? MS: Providing leadership through serving others. TZL: How far into the future are you able to reliably predict your workload and cashflow? MS: We predict workload at two levels: macro and micro. At a macro level, we track backlog on an 18-month sliding scale. At the micro level, we’re able to predict our workload and cashflow around three to six months out – three months when work is soft, six months when work is strong. “Communicating frequently, repeatedly, and as transparently as possible will make sure everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals.” TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” MS: It fluctuates. Sometimes it makes sense to focus on what’s happening in the business, such as bringing on a new account, starting a large project or maintaining a client relationship. Other times, it makes more sense to focus on the business and where we’re headed. Having a really good team gives you the flexibility to move back and forth, and I’m fortunate to have that on both sides. TZL: The firm was started in 1983. What’s one of the most important outside events See SERVING OTHERS, page 8


❚ ❚ New York, NY ❚ ❚ St. Louis, MO SERVICES:

❚ ❚ Architecture ❚ ❚ Construction ❚ ❚ Furniture procurement

❚ ❚ Graphic design ❚ ❚ Interior design ❚ ❚ Landscape architecture ❚ ❚ Master planning ❚ ❚ Real estate development MARKETS: ❚ ❚ Adaptive re-use ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ Higher education ❚ ❚ Hospitality ❚ ❚ K-12 ❚ ❚ Media and communications ❚ ❚ Multi-family housing ❚ ❚ Municipal ❚ ❚ Recreation and wellness

❚ ❚ Residential ❚ ❚ Restaurants ❚ ❚ Retail ❚ ❚ Senior living ❚ ❚ Workplace

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

UARY 22, 2021, ISSUE 1380


BUSINESS NEWS NEW IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON THE AEC SURVEY Zweig Group has updated the Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Survey for 2021, adding new questions about PPP funding, outlook and budget forecasting, and more.

After the initial success of Zweig Group’s Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry , launched in March 2020, Zweig Group has continued to iterate the survey and collect data needed to help inform the AEC industry of the pandemic’s effects on their firms and the industry.

All participants in the Impacts of COVID-19 on the AEC Industry Survey receive a free report of findings and continued updates as responses change throughout the year. Click here to participate in the survey or to learn more.

SERVING OTHERS, from page 7

MS: Employee career growth is an investment for both our employees and the future of our organization. Research shows that employee development programs increase job satisfaction, internal promotion opportunities and retention. At Lawrence Group, our leaders influence, motivate, communicate, and energize our employees to bring out the strengths of each individual. They are mentors and people to turn to when you have questions about your career path. We recognize that the investment put toward leadership training will return tenfold. Leaders are trained on a variety of topics from our talent development department and our PEO, Insperity. Through this, we’re able to build great leaders while also retaining top talent. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? MS: One of the greatest traits of a leader is the ability to identify their replacement. During the early stages of an ownership transition, it’s important to identify and mentor the new leadership to put them in the best position to succeed. Communicating frequently, repeatedly, and as transparently as possible will make sure everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals. Finding a way to align the interests of the new incoming leadership with those of the outgoing leadership will also ensure the organization is in a position to grow and succeed into the future while still maintaining its original values. TZL: I see that “fun” is a core value. Can you tell me about a recent fun activity that celebrated an individual or team success? MS: One company event that supports this is our annual retreat. Each year, we take a day to bring everyone together to celebrate anniversaries, promotions, and individual accomplishments. We still cover the traditional business updates, but the primary goal of these retreats is to further our culture by celebrating each other and sharing a day of fun. One of our recent retreats was a circus-themed celebration held under the Big Top in St. Louis. The day included employee recognitions, a keynote speaker, a dunking booth, and assembling bikes for the local Boys & Girls Club. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? MS: I’ve learned so many things the hard way it’s hard to choose one, but I’ve learned the ability to see the world through different perspectives other than my own. It can be challenging at times, but it’s rewarding to embrace those perspectives.

that has affected the firm’s performance – positive or negative? Please explain. MS: Of course, Lawrence Group has encountered some challenging times such as the 9/11 tragedy, overcoming the Great Recession, and navigating the current pandemic. One particular event that will have a lasting impact on the firm’s future was our first transition of leadership. Since its founding, our goal has always been to become a multi-generational organization. When the first of the firm’s original four founders retired in 2016, it marked the beginning of a new era. The last five years has been a critical time for our company to achieve that goal. The transition created opportunity for new leadership at many levels within the organization and, as with any change, came with risks – both business and cultural. Over the past five years, we’ve successfully made that transition, allowing Lawrence Group to continue its unique culture and service to clients. As we completed the transition to the second generation of leadership, we’ve also begun providing training and opportunities for the third generation to continue the organization into the future. “Each client is different and has their own individual needs, goals, and aspirations. We earn each client’s trust by listening to their challenges, providing great solutions, fulfilling our commitments, and following through.” TZL: Trust is crucial. How do you earn the trust of your clients? MS: Each client is different and has their own individual needs, goals, and aspirations. We earn each client’s trust by listening to their challenges, providing great solutions, fulfilling our commitments, and following through. It’s also important to connect on a personal level beyond business – asking about their families, interests, challenges they may be facing – to show we value them as an individual, not just a business partner. If you’re doing it right, your clients should feel like they are the only client you have because you’re so focused on them. TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers?

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




If you’re trying to buy or thinking about buying another company in this business, here are a few things that may be helpful to you. Things I’ve learned about buying A/E firms

A fter 41 years of working in this business – including being an owner of multiple firms and advisor to so many others – I have been involved in one way or another with literally hundreds of A/E and environmental consulting firm acquisitions. I may not have quite as much experience as my old friend, George Christodoulo (Lawson & Weitzen) – the triple Harvard graduate Boston-based attorney I first met about 30 years ago – but it’s safe to say I have worked on more of these things than most.

Mark Zweig

If you are involved in trying to buy or thinking about buying another company (or companies) in this business, here are a few things I have learned that may be helpful to you: 1)No one HAS to sell their business. Many more should want to sell than probably do, however. But back on my original statement. I have worked with sellers who were in desperate need to sell – their lines of credit were maxed out and out of compliance with their loan covenants, their lenders told them to find a new bank, their company-owned real estate loans were upside down and couldn’t be renewed, they were writing personal checks every week to meet payroll, and their business was completely falling apart, yet they still delayed and had inflated ideas about what someone would pay for their business. When it comes to your own business, too

many owners (in my opinion) are willing to go down with the ship. It’s hard to give up that freedom that comes from your own business. 2)A/E firms are fragile. What you bought could be lost overnight if you do the wrong things. What do I mean by that? When buying companies, the most important thing is figuring out what you have to change and what you have to keep in the company you are acquiring. It’s easy to screw things up by doing unnecessary things that alienate employees or annoy clients. For example, maybe it isn’t necessary to force compliance with an 8 a.m. work start time when the employees have all planned their lives around a 9 a.m. start. Maybe requiring the acquired company to get rid of their business development people and work with “corporate” BD in the parent

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



ON THE MOVE ZWEIG GROUP ADDS STEPHANIE WARINO TO STRATEGY SERVICES TEAM Zweig Group, a global leader in products and services to the AEC industry, announces the new addition of Stephanie Warino, P.G., WV LRS, PMP, to the strategy services team. Prior to joining Zweig Group, Stephanie’s 15 years in the AEC industry spanned the federal, municipal, and commercial/energy markets. Stephanie has developed, grown, and managed projects, programs, portfolios, disciplinary business units, and market sector

business units. She is experienced in leading multidisciplinary teams executing a complex array of technical tasks including engineering, remediation, natural resources, survey and construction, while ensuring excellent client service along the way. Stephanie is also an active member of industry organizations, and currently is honored to serve as National Membership Director for Women’s Energy Network, an international organization with over 6,000 members. “Stephanie adds capacity and a new skill set

to an area of Zweig Group that is very much in demand in the industry right now. Her expertise and industry knowledge will be a big asset to our clients as we help them design and implement strategies for success and growth as we emerge from this pandemic,” said Phil Keil, Zweig Group’s director of strategy. Click here for more information on Zweig Group’s advisory services. Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the leading research, publishing, and consulting resource for the built environment.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

involved with trying to buy companies right now. Here is what I mean. If a buyer purchases a company and buys the “book value” of that company as the down payment for their deal, it is like taking money out of one of your hands and putting it in another. “Book value“ is defined as assets minus liabilities. The bulk of those assets is usually cash and accounts receivable. So buying cash and AR for cash – even though the buyer has less liquidity going forward – could be a no-brainer. And then if the buyer structures a deal that allows them to pay off the rest of their purchase over time, the company they are buying is effectively paying for that IF the buyer can keep them/make them profitable. The idea that the buyer will need to write an enormous check just to get the possibility of future income may be a false assumption. And let’s not forget that the value of the overall business for the buyer is boosted by a higher revenue growth rate. The acquisition in and of itself contributes to that revenue base and resulting growth. That comes out in higher value for the enterprise. Why do you think publicly-traded firms keep buying? 6)Troubled companies are the easiest to integrate. I have been saying this for years. When a selling company knows they don’t have “grandma’s recipe” for how to run one of these businesses (they aren’t profitable, aren’t growing, have high staff turnover, etc.), they are much, much more likely to accept the advice, input, and controls of a buyer than a firm that is currently doing really well. It just makes sense if you think about it. 7)Inexperienced attorneys can create big problems for you. You need an attorney specialized in mergers and acquisitions, at a minimum, and one specialized in acquisitions of firms in this business is best. For example, I know someone who sold one of their locations but whose attorney did not catch a non- compete clause for a certain geographic radius around ALL of their existing operations (not just the one they are selling) that the buyer had inserted into the deal at the last minute and that wasn’t part of the LOI used to get agreement on the basic terms of the transaction. The seller was furious with their attorneys – inexperienced though they were – as you might expect! Hopefully, I now have you thinking about this stuff differently than you may have in the past. Right now is a great time to buy. Because if you aren’t growing, you are dying. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

company is a mistake. And maybe killing off that company name with a long history of serving a particular market doesn’t make any sense. Two examples: CH2M and Ellerbe Becket. Why any buyer would drop the names of companies that are dominant leaders in their fields and hurt their future opportunities is beyond me. Yet it happened in both of these cases after those firms were acquired. “Hopefully, I now have you thinking about this stuff differently than you may have in the past. Right now is a great time to buy. Because if you aren’t growing, you are dying.” 3)A short payback period for the buyer increases the odds of success. This is why I have always liked troubled companies with lower prices. Let me put it another way. The odds of a successful buyer in this business being able to fix a company that is losing money are pretty good. Conversely, the odds of a buyer paying an inflated price for a super-successful company and sustaining that success post-acquisition are very low. This is NOT the way most buyers think, in my experience. The tendency, especially for inexperienced buyers, is to look for “good” companies with few problems. They see that as lower risk. But why would the owners of those companies want to sell? They won’t unless they get way overpaid to do so. That then drags out the payback period for the buyer. 4)There are many different ways buying a firm can pay off. Besides the contributions to covering the parent company’s overhead and making additional profits, the buyer may get a person or persons who can assume a critical role in the parent company. They may get a client that could turn out to be a huge client for the parent company or another company they own. They may be able to combine two troubled companies to make one good one – or use the company they are buying to help turn around a prior acquisition of theirs. They may find that the PR surrounding their acquisition leads to a new client relationship they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. They may find having additional new locations could allow them to hire people they couldn’t get otherwise. I could go on here but you get the idea. Some of the benefits of buying aren’t as obvious to everyone who is considering trying to do it. 5)Many people don’t understand the basic economics of acquisitions. This includes some of those who are actively

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H ow does one lead operations during a pandemic? How does one navigate through operational challenges while acknowledging the needs of staff and clients? We had to figure it out quickly, albeit not perfectly. Achieve resilient, sustainable operations while navigating an unprecedented global pandemic and addressing complex disruptions. Navigating operations during global crisis

As the COO of a global environmental planning and sustainability consulting firm, I work collaboratively across all ADEC Innovations’ business units, namely FCS International and ADEC ESG Solutions, to successfully deliver services and products to our clients worldwide. March 2020 arrived and with it came an incredible amount of teamwork, hard work, and learning. The health and safety of our employees was priority No. 1 right at the onset of the pandemic. While we anticipated the potential for this in February and began to prepare, we had no idea what it would become. ADDRESSING OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES AND TOUGH DECISIONS. The first 60 days were a blur. Adrenaline driven, unsure about the complexity of this level of disruption on the business, on our teams, on their families, the situation necessitated leadership and rapid response. The uncertainty and rapid

escalation of the pandemic inspired tremendous efforts across our company – where the energy put forth by our teams was simply amazing. Faced with an evolving crisis that seemed to change on a daily basis, the pandemic significantly impacted our operations from top to bottom. ❚ ❚ Transitioning to a 100 percent remote staff. Within 48 hours, we had our staff of more than 100 working from their homes throughout the U.S. Our IT team continues to work diligently with each individual employee to ensure an effective and seamless home office configuration. ❚ ❚ Ensuring staff safety, engagement, productivity, and well-being. Communication was vital as we monitored local and national guidance alongside global reactions in real-time to keep our team informed frequently as the situation evolved. We

Patrick Schultz




PATRICK SCHULTZ, from page 11

it and experience fatigue. From there, we talked about individuals as teams and as a company. Acknowledging our humanity was liberating. We are scared for ourselves and our loved ones. The macro- and micro-economic uncertainty adds to our anxiety. Things have improved since, and much still needs to be done. “To think that we are done with addressing issues and pivoting our business model with so much still uncertain would be naive. While my job description would talk about maintaining business continuity and resiliency, that would be impossible without a safe and healthy team.” When schools started virtually reopening, our employees suddenly found themselves as teachers and Zoom monitors – all while managing locked down households and their professional careers. It was unsustainable. It is unsustainable. Again, we talk about it. We listen and we learn. After hearing the staggering number of working parents who have had to change their employment situation, reduce their hours, or leave the workforce altogether, we proactively made significant changes to our long-standing company policies to help our employees navigate the life-work balancing act. We want to support and encourage our team’s careers and position our staff for growth, rather than watch them make seemingly impossible choices. This is an ongoing conversation that will evolve as the pandemic does. VITAL LESSONS LEARNED. To think that we are done with addressing issues and pivoting our business model with so much still uncertain would be naive. While my job description would talk about maintaining business continuity and resiliency, that would be impossible without a safe and healthy team. Throughout the unknown, there are fundamental takeaways that will help us confront and mitigate the challenges we still have to face. 1)Communicate. Often, frequently, and with compassion and understanding. 2)Listen. Ask questions, encourage dialogue, and share openly. 3)Collaborate. Create opportunities to have fun, to be healthy, and to do our work. 4)Engage. Acknowledge the human toll. Be vulnerable. Admit when we do not have the answers. Be authentic. 5)Act. Swiftly, and with creativity and boldness. And then, do it again. And again. Businesses across the globe have been faced with complex challenges. Leadership teams across all industries have had to rethink traditional approaches and business models. We are in this for the long-haul and will get through it together. Better. Stronger. And our team, our clients, and their projects will be all the better for it. PATRICK SCHULTZ is COO of FirstCarbon Solutions. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

surveyed our staff on three separate occasions to see what their mind-state was. We also asked how things were for them in their new “work from home” environments and what we, the company, could do to help. Whether it was improving our communications or providing leadership tools and strategies for remote work, we sought to humanize the situation and promote a work-life balance. ❚ ❚ Finding opportunities in sustainable cost reductions and budgeting. We have proactively announced that we do not see our employees returning to our offices before the end of 2021. We believe it is important to maintain transparency, and we wanted to give a realistic guideline for employees to prepare for mentally and physically. With that, we also reduced overheard where we could, and reinvested those savings and resources to help our staff with making their home offices more comfortable, more conducive to a long- term situation, and more productive. ❚ ❚ Implementing new safety protocols and procedures for staff conducting fieldwork. We remain dedicated to the safety of our staff, clients, and community first. Much of the work FCS does involves fieldwork and monitoring cultural resources, biological resources, traffic studies, and air quality. We implemented a series of new guidance and policies for our staff that work in the field and when asked to attend a client meeting in person. Additionally, we developed a cross-department task force to track the constantly changing guidance and recommendations. ❚ ❚ Retaining clients and prospective clients. An important element to business continuity during a major disruption is how we are able to best support our clients, which we often talk about. In addition to modifying budgets, we went the extra mile for them through communication and transparency. By actively listening to our clients and being responsive, we did our best to address their concerns and needs. Continuing to ensure the high quality of our work product gave our clients confidence, and we have become more selective about the work we pursue. “Businesses across the globe have been faced with complex challenges. Leadership teams across all industries have had to rethink traditional approaches and business models. We are in this for the long-haul and will get through it together.” THE HUMAN ASPECT. The Black Lives Matter movement came to the forefront on the country’s stage in the beginning of June. We communicated openly and listened to our staff. In response, we developed an employee-facilitated committee to explore race, culture, and diversity within our organization, and our impact outside the organization. In September, we all seemed to hit a wall. Fuses were short, emotions were high, and no one could quite figure out what was happening or pinpoint the cause. The business was doing fine. Fundamentals were good. In fact, we found utilization was increasing with people working from their homes full-time. And yet, there was something happening. A timely article began circulating around the company that explained how six months into a crisis, any crisis, it is entirely human and normal to simply get exhausted by

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