TZL 1382 (web)

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

Structural engineer bonuses

A good, standardized parental leave policy is a major benefit that can set your firm apart. Parental leave

W hen writing an article for The Zweig Letter , I write about subjects I either have experience with or have great data about, often using both my own personal experience and data to back me up. I recognize that not every AEC company is the same and no two careers are identical. Each person has aspects of their life, company, experience, and career path that makes them unique. I am lucky enough to work with a wide range of people in the AEC industry and get to analyze a wide range of topics through Zweig Group’s research, data collection, and advisory services. I want to focus on one topic in particular for this article because I was recently lucky enough to have experienced the benefits of it firsthand. That is parental leave. In September, my wife and I were lucky enough to welcome our first child. To say that this was the most life-changing event in my life would be an understatement. I am lucky enough to work for a company that recognizes the significance of welcoming a child into your family and what a change that brings. In the preceding months and weeks, we were getting ourselves ready to go. I was trying to make sure I had everything squared away at work on top of getting things ready at home. That included talking to the leadership in our company about taking parental leave and what that might look like. I had myself convinced that after one week, maybe two, I would be ready to get back into work. If you are a parent and reading this, you know how wrong that thinking was. Within the first couple of days, I realized I was not going to just jump right back into my normal work routine so quickly. Thankfully, I had a team around me that could step up and take on some of my responsibilities and give me the much needed time to welcome our baby and adjust to our new normal. Getting that time off to spend with my family was so important to me and I am so thankful for that opportunity. However, like I said earlier, I recognize that not every person’s situation is the same. Let’s take a look at how the AEC industry’s Best Firms To Work For are handling parental leave. Seventy-six percent of firms now have a formalized parental leave plan. That number has increased over the last several years. It is up from 74 percent in 2019 and around 70 percent in 2018. This shows that companies are recognizing that this is something that is not only of interest to their employees, but is a major benefit that can set them apart. Employees are recognizing this effort as well. Data fluctuates too much from year to year, but employee satisfaction with parental

Zweig Group’s 2021 Total Compensation Benchmarking Tool calculates bonus pay as a percentage of base salary for more than 100 job titles. The typical bonus payout structure for different job levels within a department can be visualized by analyzing structural engineers across the U.S. We see a steady increase between entry level engineers, who receive a bonus that is, on average, 4 percent of their base compensation, and principals, who receive almost 15 percent. 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 Bowman Consulting Group, Ltd..............4 Dewberry..............................................12 Fleis & VandenBrink. .............................12 KTA.........................................................4 McKinney York Architects........................6 Sain Associates. .....................................4 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz BECKY WHITE: Maintaining culture during a pandemic Page 3 xz Collaboration: McKinney & Rossomando Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: Jerry Allen – true courage in leadership Page 9 xz BRIAN RICE: The untapped value of strategic planning Page 11

Kyle Ahern

See KYLE AHERN, page 2



OPEN FOR ENTRY REGISTRATION FOR ZWEIG GROUP’S 2021 AWARDS IS NOW OPEN! Zweig Group offers six awards programs specifically focused on architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firm achievement. Each award has a different focus; successful start-ups, rising stars in the industry, marketing excellence, overall firm success, best workplace practices, and outstanding leadership. ❚ ❚ Hot Firm Award. The Hot Firm list recognizes the 100 fastest-growing architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms in the U.S. Learn more. ❚ ❚ Best Firms To Work For. This award celebrates top AEC firms based on workplace practices, benefits, retention rates, and more. Learn more. ❚ ❚ Marketing Excellence Award. The MEAs recognize outstanding and effective marketing in the AEC industry based upon overall creativity, messaging, results achieved by the campaign, and level of design. Learn more. ❚ ❚ Top New Venture. This award honors a group of fast growing start-ups on the basis of revenue and employment growth, as well as entrepreneurism and a spirit of innovation. Learn more. ❚ ❚ Jerry Allen Courage in Leadership Award. This award is given each year to an AEC professional who has made tremendous impact on the company through courageous leadership. Learn more. ❚ ❚ Rising Stars Award. This awards recognizes younger professionals whose exceptional technical capability, leadership ability, effective teaching or research, or public service has benefited the AEC Industry, their employers, project owners, and society. Learn more. ❚ ❚ Win big with the Trifecta. Be among the best of the best and join an elite group of award-

winning firms. The Trifecta Award celebrates high-performance firms winning an award in a single year in three areas of firm operations: growth, creating a great place to work, and excellence in marketing. Awards will be conferred at Zweig Group’s 2021 Elevate AEC Conference, the AEC industry’s top learning and networking event of the year. This year’s Elevate AEC Conference will take place virtually September 13-October 8, 2021. Register now to hold your spot at the Elevate AEC Conference. Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the leading research, publishing, and consulting resource for the built environment. The firm provides strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, marketing, business development, market research, financial management, project management, recruiting and executive search services nationwide. Zweig Group also provides a comprehensive suite of products including industry reports and surveys, executive training, and business conferences covering virtually every aspect of AEC firm management. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas. The firm’s mission, Elevate the Industry, has five tenets: promote, diversify, educate, change, and celebrate. Zweig Group’s vision is to facilitate action in pursuit of elevating individuals, firms, and thus the industry. More than a mission, this is a movement to advance the AEC profession, creating a world that celebrates the built environment and recognizes its impact on individuals, communities, and commerce. For more information, visit or call .800.466.6275.

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



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

KYLE AHERN, from page 1

leave has been one of the most improved areas since 2018. A 6 percent increase in satisfaction, among more than 12,000 respondents, with parental leave as one of the highest upticks in the entire data pool. The average increase or decrease for any data point is less than 1 percent, so you can see the significance of the changes that have been made. Six percent more firms have a standardized parental leave policy and there has been a 6 percent increase in employee satisfaction with parental leave. This might just be a coincidence, but I don’t believe that. I think parental leave is becoming a more important benefit for people, especially among millennials. Firms are always looking for ways to stand out and find an edge in recruitment and retention. I think having a good, standardized parental leave plan is a major step firms can take. It shows that you not only care about your employees’ careers, but you are invested in their life outside of work as well. I know from experience that it was a truly amazing benefit and it seems as though the best firms to work for in the industry and their employees would agree. KYLE AHERN is awards manager at Zweig Group. Contact him at

Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 800-842-1560

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Being apart from one another tested the strength of our relationships, and we had to think creatively to meet the new challenges we were encountering. Maintaining culture during a pandemic

I t would be a gross understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched our firm’s resources and creativity. And we are certainly not alone. Compared to many other industries, AEC firms have generally fared well since our workforce can do their jobs remotely, but it hasn’t been easy.

Becky White

After the initial adrenalin rush of transferring our staff to working from home, we prepared corporate guidelines to keep our office-essential staff and survey field crews safe. During this time, we began to wonder what impact a separated workforce would have on our company culture. Being apart from one another was going to test the strength of our relationships, and we knew we would need to think creatively to meet the new challenges we were encountering. We were also working under a cloud of great anxiety, which was stressing our resilience as an organization. At Sain Associates, we’ve been working to build a strong corporate culture for years, one that could withstand the pressures of a year like 2020. Culture is a combination of big and little things. For us the big things are social events organized by our Funtime Committee, group lunch and learns

with meals provided by the company, gatherings for special events in our staff members’ lives, an annual client fish fry, and community service outings. The events are the easy part. The small things are where the real strength of our culture is developed and ingrained; it’s in the way we treat our associates, the depth of our caring in times of crisis, and the community we build when we spend time together. The common denominator in all these cultural elements is presence with one another. It was a legitimate concern for us to be worried about losing part of what we love about Sain Associates with most of our staff working remotely. Video conferencing is an inadequate substitute for physical presence! Our initial response to the challenge of

See BECKY WHITE, page 4



TRANSACT IONS BOWMAN ACQUIRES MEP FIRM, KTA GROUP, INC. Bowman Consulting Group, Ltd. , a provider of professional services to customers who own, develop, and maintain the built environment, has signed a Letter of Intent to acquire KTA , an engineering firm with core expertise in mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering, commissioning, third party plan review, and lighting design. Founded in 1989, KTA provides complete engineering and response solutions with 40 technical experts. The move supports Bowman’s continued growth and substantially broadens its scope of service offerings. “KTA is our largest acquisition to date and this marks the launch of our initiative to accelerate growth by selective and intentional M&A,” said Gary Bowman, Chairman and CEO of Bowman. “The addition of the talented KTA professionals to our team positions Bowman as a comprehensive service provider to the renewable energy market which is a major focus of our growth and diversification strategy. Leveraging KTA’s experience and expertise with building systems will enhance the value that we add to our customers’ projects and result in considerable revenue synergies.”

KTA’s CEO and founding partner, Mark Koblos commented: “We are pleased to become part of Bowman, a growing company with a nationwide presence. The firm’s cultural values of growth and entrepreneurial spirit provide the match that we have been looking for to provide professional growth and advancement opportunities for our people.” Randolph Thompson, president of KTA will continue to lead KTA’s current team of engineering and support professionals out of its Herndon, Virginia office. Koblos will join Bowman as Executive Vice President spearheading the firm’s MEP business development and national expansion strategy. “We are excited to continue providing unparalleled service to our current clients while expanding the range of services that Bowman offers,” said Thompson. “This business combination will greatly enhance the breadth of service we provide to our clients.” The deal is structured as an asset purchase and Bowman expects this acquisition to be immediately accretive. The transaction is scheduled to close in early January. About Bowman: Bowman is a multi-disciplinary

professional services firm offering a broad range of energy, infrastructure, real estate, and environmental management solutions to customers who own, develop, and maintain the built environment. With 750 employees working together across 25 offices nationwide, Bowman delivers environmentally conscious solutions that advance the quality of life in communities across the US. Core services include engineering, planning, surveying, geomatics, construction management, environmental consulting, landscape architecture, and right-of-way acquisition. KTA has provided engineering services throughout the United States since 1989 and is a nationally recognized leader in mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering design as well as peer/third party plan review and commissioning services. Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, the firm applies the most up to date industry technologies to design healthy facilities that are environmentally and fiscally sound. KTA serves several diverse markets including health care, educational facilities, commercial interiors, mission critical facilities, base buildings, and mixed use and residential buildings.

ways to support hurting individuals, but the pandemic brought a general haze of loss and anxiety across our entire staff at the same time. It has been a different type of grief situation that is more subtle and less visible. Ultimately what we have found is that Sain Associates’ culture is stronger and more resilient than we originally thought. Our staff have enthusiastically supported our modified traditions, and through the course of 2020, we added a few new things to our repertoire of activities. Most importantly though, we experienced strengthened relationships from intentionally checking on one another and staying attuned to emotional health and family challenges that might require extra support. Our investment in great culture has paid dividends that we never anticipated. BECKY WHITE, PTP is the chief operating officer at Sain Associates. Founded in 1972, Sain Associates is a full-service consulting engineering firm that specializes in civil engineering, transportation planning and engineering, surveying, construction engineering and inspection, and geographic information systems. Sain Associates is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with additional branch offices in Pulaski, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama. Becky can be contacted via LinkedIn or at “We experienced strengthened relationships from intentionally checking on one another and staying attuned to emotional health and family challenges that might require extra support. Our investment in great culture has paid dividends that we never anticipated.”

BECKY WHITE, from page 3

maintaining Sain’s culture in a remote environment focused on converting as many social and learning gatherings to a virtual format. We organized trivia contests through Zoom, an April Activity Challenge to encourage physical activity, and we coached team leaders in best practices for leading remote workers. We brought our staff back to the office in a phased program that took most of the summer and still has most staff working remotely for two or three days per week. As the pandemic extended into the fall and winter, we hosted virtual Halloween costume and ugly Christmas sweater contests, encouraged drop off donations for a local homeless shelter, and re- directed funds typically used for a client event to charitable contributions for local non-profits. Re-thinking activities has required some creativity, but it’s been the easy part. The greater challenge to our organization has been monitoring and supporting the mental health of our staff. In September, I was given a copy of an article from McKinsey Quarterly entitled “The Hidden Perils of Unresolved Grief.” Authors Charles Dhanaraj and George Kohlrieser describe the cost to productivity and good leadership that stem from lingering grief over the loss of one or more deep-seated human needs, such as attachment, structure, identity, control, and meaning. The recommended steps to resolving grief ’s impact include awareness, acceptance of reality, and creating personal meaning from the loss. Organizations can help by setting a tone of openness and warmth, acknowledging the presence of situations that cause grief, and observing traditions or rituals that provide encouragement and support. Our firm has had an unusual number of catastrophic grief situations over the past two decades that have taught us

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.





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.

The Principals Academy – VIRTUAL SEMINAR DATE: May 4, 2021 PRICE: $999 PDH/LU: 12 Credit Hours LEARN MORE

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.


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




Collaboration: McKinney & Rossomando They are the founder and principal of McKinney York Architects (Austin, TX), a certified HUB and WBE that creates beautiful, responsible architecture in a culture of collaboration.


H aving just completed a six-year ownership transition, Heather McKinney, founder of McKinney York Architects, has handed over the reins to Michelle Rossomando, the firm’s new president. McKinney has stepped away from the day-to-day firm management to focus more on design, mentorship, client interaction and community engagement. Here, we’ve interviewed both women as they requested to tag team the column to further illustrate the successful transition. “Both of us love to design and hope to inspire everyone at McKinney York Architects to work like they remember why they wanted to become architects in the first place,” McKinney says. A CONVERSATION WITH HEATHER MCKINNEY AND MICHELLE ROSSOMANDO. The Zweig Letter: Your website highlights the importance of collaboration. Can you provide an example that illustrates how the power of successful collaboration can lead to exceptional project success?

Rossomando: On our recently completed project, the Austin Shelter for Women and Children, we successfully collaborated with the City of Austin Health and Human Services, Travis County, and the Salvation Army to renovate and expand a historic building and transform it to a place of respite and assistance for women and children experiencing homelessness. Located in a natural setting in East Austin, this project provides crucial expanded bed capacity and fosters healing and growth. The collaboration included participation in the Art in Public Places that incorporated whimsical art by Virginia Fleck into a nature play-focused playground shaded by a magnificent live oak. Working with the artist, the landscape architect, and the client, the collaboration produced a unique outdoor space for the children to enjoy every day. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” Rossomando: Each of the business owners spends approximately half of their time working on architectural projects and the other half working on leadership



responsibilities. At the principal level, working on architectural projects includes business development to bring in the work, or make the relationships with clients that result in being awarded a project. Leadership responsibilities are shared and are divided up among the business owners in the following categories: business administration, strategic planning, human resources, workload management, marketing, project management effectiveness, production, and information technology. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? Rossomando: Last year we developed a new strategic plan that includes a firm statement and implementation goals for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We’re committed to an equitable practice based on empathy, transparency, education, collaboration, and trust. Historically, our firm has always been at least 51 percent woman-owned. We have the highest number of licensed women architects for architecture firms based in Austin and are the largest women-owned architecture firm. But we believe unless you are being intentionally inclusive, you are being unintentionally exclusive. Therefore, our goals include actively recruiting ethnically diverse candidates for staff positions, supporting emerging professionals and re- emerging professionals in ways that create engagement and retention for those with non-traditional work needs, encouraging participation in leadership development for women and non-white staff, and initiating JEDI training for firm leaders through national conferences or on-demand learning to address issues such as career progression, work culture, leadership development, and talent recruitment. TZL: I see the company does some pro bono work. Can you tell me about a recent project? Rossomando: We share a belief in the transformational power of architecture to engage people, draw communities together, and inspire. We’re always looking for ways to share our skills and resources with the larger community of Austin. With our work at Community First! Village, a 51-acre master planned sustainable development that provides affordable housing to the chronically homeless population in Central Texas, we’ve contributed design expertise and hands-on labor for two micro-houses of the 120 tiny home units built. With this pro bono work, we’re changing lives

by providing homes as well as getting practical building knowledge by working with our contractor partner Bailey Elliott. The Community First! Village is in the same area of Austin as our own design office and it’s rewarding to be a good neighbor. TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be? McKinney: Since we’ve just completed a leadership transition, you’re catching us at an interesting time to discuss different styles of leadership. Although Michelle and I have different skill sets, we’ve been able to match the right person in leadership to the right time in the firm’s evolution. Michelle is very organized and leads with a lot of energy and a dash of humor. She’s an expert project manager and takes the time to carefully train people using the many tools available in the office to efficiently and consistently execute their work. As the leader of the firm since the beginning of 2020, she has a practical handle on the state of the business and makes decisions for the wellbeing of the firm in an unflappable manner that instills trust. I am an intuitive leader who has learned to seek consensus and to share the fun parts of being an architect. I established the core values of the firm including the importance of listening and collaboration. Since founding the firm, I’ve been inspirational in shaping its design voice and cultivating a successful business with the building blocks needed for sustainable growth into the future. Both of us love to design and hope to inspire everyone at McKinney York Architects to work like they remember why they wanted to become architects in the first place. Our architecture is aspirational and optimistic to create a more harmonious and sustainable world by connecting people to each other and to the world around 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? Rossomando: We take staff enrichment and leadership development seriously. All employees receive informal and formal feedback throughout the year. Informal feedback includes one-on-one “coffee chats” and project team “lessons learned” meetings to discuss daily operations issues as well as job satisfaction. Staff that are See COLLABORATION, page 8






❚ ❚ Winner of local, regional, and national awards

❚ ❚ AIA Homes Tour participants

❚ ❚ TxA 2013 Architecture Firm Award recipient MAJORITY REGISTERED ARCHITECTS: More than half of its architectural staff are registered professionals.


❚ ❚ LEED professionals on staff

❚ ❚ Austin Green Building Program certification experience

❚ ❚ City of Austin Platinum-Level Green Business Leader CERTIFIED HUB & WBE: Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) certified by the State of Texas Building and Procurement Commission; women-owned business enterprise (WBE) certified by the City of Austin

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

RCH 8, 2021, ISSUE 1382


COLLABORATION, from page 7

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? McKinney: The five leaders of the firm have been together for a minimum of 20 years and have a strong desire to move the firm forward with shared values and a smooth transition. This allowed us to speak frankly in early, informal conversations about providing ownership opportunity to future leaders and map out a plan for divestiture. We learned that it’s wise to start considering ownership transition long before you need it to be in place and to get agreement on fair and equitable terms for the changeover. Not only does this create a smoother transition with less financial stress, this allows the firm to position future leaders in the marketplace and develop their presence with clients in varied market sectors. 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? Rossomando: Last year we developed a new strategic plan with a strong emphasis on creating organized, relaxed, and consistently profitable project delivery. All current and emerging project managers receive one-on-one mentoring and are offered the opportunity to attend a two-day project manager “bootcamp” workshop offered by AEC experts. Firm leaders created a project delivery plan that acts as a roadmap for success in project management. The plan outlines how to set up a project for success, areas to be monitored throughout the project, and steps for project completion. Communication is the key factor at all phases. Templates were created for project schedule, project budget, internal design team communication, external client communication, and project health assessment to allow project managers to be efficient and consistent in executing their work. Senior project managers lead firm wide education classes, called MYU or McKinney York University, to review project management templates and tools to train current and emerging project managers. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? McKinney: We do not have a requirement for minimum years of experience or book of business and, yes, have named principals in their 30s. There are a number of “intangibles” that factor into being named a principal in our firm. These include having a firm-first attitude, being able to manage and inspire teams, and being able to recognize and mitigate risk. Not all our principals are “rainmakers” but each is responsible for client satisfaction and project success in select market sectors which leads to repeat work. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO?

managing others on project teams or in departments are encouraged to provide feedback on a regular basis. Once a project is completed, staffing is reorganized for the next project matching up skill sets and personalities for the best outcome, which allows managers to hone their style of leadership with different staff in the office and clients and consultants outside the office. Formal reviews occur twice a year and focus on skills and competencies as well as career development. Firm owners lead by example and staff managers are encouraged to be empathetic and mentor others by being approachable and exhibiting a firm-first approach to practice. Project managers are expected to nurture project teams and demonstrate to staff how projects are successfully managed and delivered. Project architects are expected to lead firm wide classes in technical areas, called MYU or McKinney York University, to train less experienced staff. Developing leaders are offered the opportunity to attend professional leadership and project management workshops paid for by the firm. Online resources such as emotional intelligence webinars and other continuing education classes are available to improve interpersonal skills and communication in teams. In 2018, we formalized a company policy to commit to provide a work environment free of harassment, hostility, and discrimination in any form. “We share a belief in the transformational power of architecture to engage people, draw communities together, and inspire.” TZL: The firm’s work has been recognized locally and nationally more than 40 times. Do you have a project that really stands out among those as a favorite? Why? Rossomando: The American National Bank Building was an iconic mid-century building in downtown Austin that was vacated and in danger of being lost. Now the McGarrah Jessee Building, the exterior was renovated and McGarrah Jessee, an award-winning branding agency, was placed as the building’s primary occupant. The main goal was to capture the free-wheeling personality of the agency while respecting the original modern architecture and Knoll interiors. The design unfolds elegantly at the atrium of the piano nobile, which is rimmed with Knoll workstations and peels back to reveal a more raw space at the perimeter beyond. New openings were also punched on the western façade to provide a welcoming exterior and allow balanced interior lighting. This project received numerous awards – but stands out in our minds because the clients really pushed us to think outside the box and explore the “unexpected” and we had so much fun. The interiors repurpose many items from the original building, including grates from the basement parking, plate glass, teak paneling, and marble slabs to finish off exposed columns. Our office actually worked together late at night to create one of the signature elements of the interiors – the “woven wall” – or custom privacy screen created from common clothes line and steel columns.

McKinney: Making the tough decisions.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




There are many ways to show courage, and Jerry Allen showed real courage in his willingness to confront every single obstacle in his life. Jerry Allen – true courage in leadership

I t’s easier to run an A/E business when you are the founder and have all or the majority of ownership of the business. But how about when you end up at the top of a nearly 50-year-old, well-established company with lots of partners, and you are just one of them? It’s much more challenging. And that is the story of the late Jerry Allen.

Mark Zweig

Jerry Allen passed away from cancer at the age of 62 in December of 2002. But between 1988 and 2002, he was the CEO of Carter & Burgess, Inc., a broad-based architecture and engineering firm founded in 1939 by Gene Carter and John Burgess, based in Fort Worth, Texas. During Jerry’s nearly 14 year tenure as CEO, the company grew from 187 employees to more than 3,000. It was eventually sold to Jacobs Engineering Group in 2007. I first spoke with Jerry Allen over the telephone in 1982 when I was doing some work for the firm as an executive search consultant. We then met in-person when I went to their Fort Worth headquarters in the winter of 1984/1985. I had been actively recruited to come to work for them by my one-time client when he was at another architecture and engineering firm, Russell Laird, who by 1984 was a newer partner in Carter & Burgess’ Houston office. Even though I was already an owner in another engineering firm in Memphis, Russell wore me down and I eventually flew to Fort Worth to meet a bunch of their

partners. Several months later, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I went to work for them in Fort Worth as their director of human resources at the age of 27. Even though he was not my immediate supervisor (I reported to the then-President, Wilton Hammond), Jerry and I quickly struck up a relationship of mentor and mentee. We both worked later and would talk at the end of the day. He had just been named executive vice president and COO of the firm prior to my arrival there. Jerry was an extremely direct communicator and an outspoken advocate for change, in what at the time was a somewhat stodgy and conservatively managed firm overly dependent on the land development market, that was starting to encounter some problems from the real estate recession that started first in Houston and later spread to the DFW area. I will admit I was very impressed by the guy. He was, for all practical purposes, a self-made man.

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

great communication skills, know how to manage other people, get the business stuff, and have a strong work ethic. I was lucky enough to work closely with Jerry over the next 14 years. Carter & Burgess became the largest single client for our fledgling consulting business, eventually paying us more than seven figures annually in fees for a wide variety of help – mostly focused on recruiting, but also on mergers and acquisitions that we worked on together. We grew right along with them. Jerry and I learned how to buy A/E firms together. I brought the very first company that they bought to them – a three-person, woman-owned architectural firm in Fort Myers, Florida. That was their first office outside of Texas, and started a stream of acquisitions focused on rescuing troubled companies. I got involved in all of them one way or another. Jerry was a big advocate for women in our business and was early to recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce. He liked companies that were in financial peril because, as he once told me, “Their employees are glad to see us and don’t resent us (as an acquirer) like they do in a successful company.” It made total sense. And it was the opposite orientation from how everyone else in our industry was doing things. They only wanted successful companies for their acquisitions. Plus, Jerry didn’t believe in keeping the name or policies of any company they bought. “Change everything immediately, and those who don’t want to be on our team can go right away,” he used to say. “Why drag it out?” Jerry was a pioneer in growth through acquisitions. He transformed the firm from a Texas-only company focused on land development into a broad-based firm with an international footprint. And because he was such an honorable and trustworthy guy to deal with, our fee arrangement on successful acquisition prospects we brought to him was simple. I just told him he could pay us whatever he thought it was worth. That was fair and we never had a problem. Watching someone like Jerry Allen – and the deliberate and methodical way he did things – along with his continuous learning and personal development – and ever- present willingness to go counter to conventional wisdom – was a tremendous education for me. More than anything, he was a big believer in the potential of the individual working together with other like-minded people – to achieve great things. There are many ways to show courage. He showed real courage in his willingness to confront every single obstacle in his life – including his own impending death. He worked right up until the end. The last time I visited him, we drove around Fort Worth and talked. We told old stories of life and work. He always told me how proud he was of my success and reminded me not be the proverbial “bull in a China shop” that I once was in my youth, and I will forever be grateful to him for the opportunity, guidance, and friendship he gave me over the years we worked together. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

He was born poor in West Memphis, Arkansas, grew up mostly in Texarkana, and was educated as a civil engineer at Mississippi State. He was 45 years old, divorced, an impeccable dresser who worked out for several hours a day, and was incredibly laser-focused on making the company a lot better than it was. Over the next three years, we worked together to change the profile of much of our workforce, too many of which were non-degreed and unregistered designers and technicians with a narrow range of expertise. We started an award-winning engineering co-op program. We directly recruited the best people working for our competitors. Shortly after starting with the firm, I was also made director of marketing there, and thanks to the genius of a woman I hired from another local firm, Susie Peden, we implemented a marketing and promotion program that focused on a number of different market sectors and greatly diversified the firm. I can admit I was very frustrated by some of the firm’s older partners. Change was not going to come easily to the firm. Everything was a battle for Jerry (and myself). Our staff size and revenues were on the decline. And while we were making some major headway in terms of HR and marketing, I wasn’t smart enough to see how the platform was changing and the stage was being set for future success. Unlike Jerry, I was impatient. And while I had a tremendous respect for him and confidence in his abilities to do what we needed to do, I didn’t share that for my boss. He seemed stuck in the past and stressed by our situation, and torn between the firm of yesteryear and a need to confront the old-timers in our principal ranks who were holding us and the rest of the people there back. Jerry was the most vocal voice for change in the firm. He knew everything we were doing and fought to change the people, policies, and business practices that were negatively impacting the firm. But I couldn’t see how he would ever be named CEO. Some of the partners he was confronting were the largest shareholders of the firm. They weren’t going to support him, I thought. Our financial condition was worsening and the big bonuses we used to get were declining. I ended up leaving the company in January of 1988. Shortly after my departure, Jerry was (miraculously) voted in as CEO. The truth is, I may never have gone had I known that would happen. Jerry immediately struck out a new vision for the company that became their rallying cry. It was “2,000 by 2000.” That meant 2,000 employees by the year 2000. Under Jerry’s leadership, the vision was achieved. They had 2,300 employees by the year 2000. In less than a dozen years the firm had grown by close to 1,200 percent! The truth is that their meteoric rise was engineered by him. He had his long-term plan and was relentless in his implementation of it. He elevated newer partners over older ones. He filled in the organization chart with new disciplines and talents to make the firm viable in many new markets. He changed the accounting and reporting systems to clearly show what was working and what wasn’t. He was actively involved in every key hire and had vastly higher standards and expectations for any new employee who joined the firm. No longer was it acceptable to be just technically competent – people also had to have

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W hile there are many organizations, departments, and teams that deliberately conduct strategic planning, the process, format, frequency, and ultimately the results can vary significantly. Although there is no “right” way to conduct strategic planning, there are proven ways to increase effectiveness. These three core strategic planning areas have unique opportunities for value depending largely on the culture of your organization. The untapped value of strategic planning

Brian Rice

When coupled with implementation, strategic planning is a year-round process. It includes three core areas: preparation, development of goals, and implementation of actions to achieve the goals. Most strategic planning processes start with some degree of preparation. It can be as simple as gathering basic project, industry, client, employee, and financial information from prior years. The preparation precedes a relatively short period of planning and strategic goal development. The duration ranges from a couple hours to several days and includes discussion and evaluation centered around the development of strategic goals. Participants may be many or few but should include leaders from your organization’s core business and support units. The discussion and

evaluation format could follow a structured “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis or a more wide-open “Blue-Sky” format. After the goals are developed, the process continues long-term with the implementation of various actions to accomplish the strategic goals. Regardless of the strategic planning process used by your organization, does it include untapped value? The three core strategic planning areas have unique opportunities for value depending largely on the culture of your organization. While the opportunities may be unique, value can be found in areas that are common to all organizations, such as communication. If communication is

See BRIAN RICE, page 12



ON THE MOVE DEWBERRY ANNOUNCES PROMOTIONS IN RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, OFFICE Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced the promotion of nearly 50 employees nationwide, including seven in its Raleigh, North Carolina, office. These promotions include: ❚ ❚ Jessica Robbins, PE, and Alex Harwell, PE, CHFM, CHC, have been promoted to associate vice president. Robbins is a program manager with the firm’s design-build practice and has more than 20 years of experience. She works primarily with clients in the telecommunications and energy market segments. Robbins earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Syracuse University (1999). Harwell works as the southeast healthcare market segment leader for engineering services based out of the Raleigh office. He has more than 20 years of experience and earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology from Old Dominion University (2007). Harwell is a member of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), North Carolina Healthcare Engineers Association

(NCHEA), and the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. ❚ ❚ Patrick Wade, PE, and Troy Windom have been promoted to senior associate. Wade is a project manager for the firm’s asset management group and has nearly 15 years of experience. He earned his master’s degree in structural engineering and mechanics (2006) and his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (2004), both from North Carolina State University. Windom is a manager in the federal and automation systems group and has more than 25 years of experience. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University (1993). ❚ ❚ Beth Steffens, PE, Kristen Puryear, PE, and Joe Estrada, PE, have been promoted to associate. Steffens has more than 20 years of experience and is the site/ civil department manager in the Raleigh office. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from Pennsylvania State University (1999) and is a member of the American Water Works Association, National Society of Professional Engineers, Professional Engineers of North Carolina, and the Raleigh Engineers Club. Puryear is

a project manager for the firm’s healthcare mechanical, electrical, and plumbing group and has 15 years of experience. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech (2005) and is a member of ASHE and NCHEA. Estrada is the firm’s energy market segment leader and has more than 15 years of experience. He earned bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Florida (2005). 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.

BRIAN RICE, from page 11

In addition to overall strategic planning process value, internal and external communication creates value by strengthening your organization’s employee, client, subcontractor, and vendor relations. 3) Another area to tap for value is found in how your strategic planning session is managed. The smaller the size of an organization, the more likely the entire strategic planning process is managed by a founder or another key leader. Management of strategic planning generally becomes more complex with larger organizations. As firms grow and they recognize the lack of internal planning expertise – or leadership merely does not have the time – planners from outside the organization can be retained for various aspects of the strategic plan process. This could include assistance with preparation, moderating the strategic plan meeting, and implementation of actions to achieve the strategic goals. The value of utilizing an outside planner varies. Often, value is found in moderating planning meetings and developing action items for identified strategic goals. Perhaps the largest value an outside planner can provide is time fully dedicated to your firm’s strategic planning. This dedication of time may be difficult to achieve using in-house resources. However, an inside planner may best recognize the importance of various nuances associated with your business and industry and how those nuances relate to your strategic planning. What other untapped value can your organization recognize during strategic planning? BRIAN RICE, PE is a principal and manager of the Environmental Services Group at Fleis & VandenBrink. He can be reached at brice@

important to your organization, why not maximize the value during your strategic planning process? 1) One easily overlooked opportunity is the “ask.” That is, ask those in your organization, beyond the core leaders, for their thoughts as part of your strategic planning preparation. This could be asking for input on focused strategic items of importance, such as, “Do you see more opportunity in expanding into service area ‘A’ or service area ‘B’?” This could also be an open-ended question intended to spark new ideas of interest, such as, “Where do you see opportunities for growth?” Depending on your objectives, questions can be directed toward key strategic areas, such as operations, marketing, human resources, information technology, or ownership/ leadership transition. Several web-based platforms are available to help streamline the collection of feedback. These platforms can also allow for anonymous feedback, which may provide more candid comments. However, anonymous feedback limits follow-up questions or clarifications. 2) In addition to tapping value through internal communication, soliciting external comments from your clients, vendors, and subcontractors can also provide valuable insight. While it may be impractical to solicit feedback from all of them, a subset of key relationships should be considered. You may find some of your best strategic planning input comes from outside your organization. “If communication is important to your organization, why not maximize the value during your strategic planning process?”

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