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Incentive compensation plans

There are several management areas where award-winning, fast-growth, and very high profit AEC firms stand out. Best performing firms

Survey data regarding bonus plans from Zweig Group’s very own Best Firms To Work For is presented in the 2020 Incentive Compensation Report of AEC Firms . The chart above shows the top five bonus plans that Best Firms offer to their employees. The highest-selected option was referral compensation, which was offered by 81 percent of these firms. Performance bonuses are the next highest selection at 71 percent, followed by signing bonuses. 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 Dewberry..............................................10 Golder Associates...................................2 Good & Roberts....................................12 Hughes Marino. ....................................12 Olsson Group..........................................6 Skiles Group. ........................................12 Ware Malcomb......................................12 WSP.......................................................2 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz JARED MAXWELL & TOM MARCHETTI: Stable and competitive Page 3 xz Personal connections: Brad Strittmatter Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: Who are you trying to sell to? Page 9 xz MICHAEL BLAKEMORE: Evolving the trade partner relationship Page 11

W hen my colleagues and I here at Zweig Group meet with a client to discuss their firm’s performance in any area, inevitably we’re asked, “Is this normal?” or “What’s average for a firm like ours?” While it’s always good to have a baseline, I always caution clients that just because their firm is sitting at average or just above/below, it may not be the right metric for their goals – that’s why I love putting together Zweig Group’s 2020 Best Performing Firms in the AEC Industry Report . We looked at the following demographics and 2020 award winners, and compared them to the overall reported data sample representing industry norms: ❚ ❚ Fast growth. Firms that experienced an average annual growth in revenue greater than or equal to 20 percent over the previous three years. ❚ ❚ Very high profit. Firms that experienced an annual net pre-tax, pre- bonus profit on net service revenue of 15 percent or higher over the previous three years. ❚ ❚ Hot Firm Winners. Zweig Group ranks the 100 fastest-growing firms in the AEC industry, based on three-year revenue growth factors (both dollar and percentage growth rate). ❚ ❚ Marketing Excellence Award Winners. Firms that were awarded for creating award-winning marketing campaigns, based on creativity and results achieved, within the AEC industry ❚ ❚ Best Firms To Work For Award Winners. Firms are ranked according to a composite score comprised of a corporate survey on policies and benefits, as well as an employee satisfaction survey. This year, staff turnover (both voluntary and involuntary) has been a concern for firm leaders and staff alike. In 2019, the median turnover rate for all firms was 12 percent. This past year, turnover rates were a median of 13.8 percent at all firms, 15.4 percent at fast-growth firms, and 16.4 percent at very high profit firms. While high performance firms had higher turnover rates, they still grew their overall staff levels at a greater rate than the average firm. Despite the increasing turnover rates, staff growth was up among all firms – a median of 3.6 percent – more than double the previous year’s figure of 1.4 percent, but it was more than double the overall rate, 9.3 percent at fast-growth firms, and 5 percent at very-high profit firms. What these numbers tell us is that individuals who aren’t a good fit for the organization may be leaving (voluntarily or involuntarily) at a faster rate in firms that prioritize growth or profits – but overall, these firms are able to more easily attract candidates and have prioritized staff growth. We also found that

Christina Zweig Niehues




TRANSACT IONS WSP TO ACQUIRE GOLDER, CREATING THE LEADING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING FIRM WSP has entered into an agreement to acquire Golder Associates , a leading global engineering and consulting firm with over 60 years of experience in providing earth science and environmental services. The acquisition, which is aligned with WSP’s 2019-2021 Global Strategic Plan, ideally positions WSP’s strategic environment platform to capitalize on environmental, social, and governance trends. The acquisition is expected to be completed in the first half of the second quarter of 2021. “Together we will create the leading global environmental consulting firmwith approximately 14,000 of our 54,000 professionals dedicated to accelerating the world’s green transition. The combination ideally positions WSP to capitalize on the rapidly growing ESG trends driving demand for environmental services and sustainable infrastructure development”, commented Alexandre L’Heureux, president and CEO of WSP. “WSP looks forward to welcoming Golder’s employees and joining forces with such a well-respected environmental consulting brand. Golder is a global leader in earth sciences and environmental services. This acquisition directly contributes to the realization of the goals we laid out in our 2019-2021 Global Strategic Plan and is expected to contribute to both strategic growth and value creation for

many years to come. Furthermore, the strategic relationships with GIC and BCI mark another important milestone for WSP to actively continue our acquisition strategy,” he added. Also commenting on the acquisition, Dr. Hisham Mahmoud, Global president and CEO of Golder said, “Over the last 60 years, Golder has been on a journey where we have built one of the most successful and respected brands in the industry. Combining Golder’s industry-leading expertise with WSP’s impressive world-class platform and highly complementary services will provide long- term benefits for our people and help create greater value for our clients. This view is echoed and confirmed by the overwhelming support of our Partners for the transaction. I believe that the compatible cultures and values of WSP and Golder will facilitate a successful integration.” Founded in 1960 and headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Golder is a private, employee-owned engineering and consulting firm with 60 years of experience in the geo- sciences sector; an engineering niche focused on earth and environmental conditions. Golder provides engineering, remediation, regulatory and compliance, design and environmental services to clients in the mining, manufacturing, oil and gas, power and infrastructure industries. Golder operates in 155 offices with approximately 7,000 employees across more than 30 countries globally.

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Solid financial management is crucial to the success of any company, and firms in the AEC industry are no exception. This short course provides an overview of business financial management – specifically tailored to our industry – to help firm leaders make informed decisions that drive results.


CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES, from page 1 fast-growth (92 percent) and Best Firms To Work For Award recipients (83 percent) were more likely to have an HR department than the overall sample (70 percent). Here are a few other areas where best performing firms stood out: ❚ ❚ Bonuses. It’s no surprise successful firms spent more on bonuses last year – a whopping $15,019 per full-time employee at very high profit firms, $9,288 at fast-growth firms, and $7,730 in the general population. ❚ ❚ Chargeability. Although chargeability rates were similar, fast-growth and very high profit firms were less likely to have a gap between actual chargeability and chargeability goals – just 1 percent at very high profit firms, 1.6 percent at fast-growth firms, and double that (3.2 percent) among all firms surveyed. ❚ ❚ Young principals. Very high profit firms were also more likely to have younger principals – 11 percent falling into the 30-39 year old range – just 4 percent of principals at fast-growth and all other firms fell into this age range. Knowing your firm’s numbers and having some benchmarks is absolutely vital for success (in any area), but make sure when comparing your firm to the industry that you are looking at the full range of data available and choosing the best possible benchmark for your firm’s goals. CHRISTINA ZWEIG NIEHUES is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

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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 2020, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

2020 BEST PERFORMING FIRMS IN THE AEC INDUSTRY REPORT How do the most successful AEC firms do business? How do firms that excel in growth, financial performance, profitability, excellent workplaces, or marketing stand out from the rest? Find out with the 2020 Best Performing Firms in the AEC Industry Report. Click here to learn more.

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Stable and competitive

D esign firms in the process of renewing their professional liability insurance programs will find the marketplace generally stable and competitive even with the enduring uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Design firms in the process of renewing their professional liability insurance will find the marketplace generally stable and competitive, even amid uncertainty created by COVID-19.

Meanwhile, many AEC professional liability underwriters generally are adopting targeted approaches to rate adjustments, focusing rate decisions on a design firm’s disciplines and project mix, as well as certain geographic regions associated with worsening claims experience or higher risk. Insurers also are carefully monitoring evolving and expanding exposures surrounding the COVID-19 “In this environment, design firms need to remain vigilant about their risk management measures, including practicing sound contract hygiene.”

There continues to be an abundance of capacity, which is creating downward pressure on rates. Nonetheless, more insurers are trying to achieve a rate increase between 5 percent and 10 percent on renewals. Although some insurers have targeted across the board rate increases on all renewals, accounts with a clean five-year claim record and/ or with lower risk practices and project types have seen any rate increases fall well below insurers initial targets. Overall, AEC professional liability claims experience began to deteriorate in 2019 with many insurers seeing greater claim frequency, higher severity, or both. Increases in claims correlate to the supply of the AEC workforce versus the demand in the construction industry. Should the increased pace of claims activity continue, the insurers will, at some point, require further rate action.

Jared Maxwell

Tom Marchetti



4 pandemic. Notably, greater construction complexity, higher costs, design resiliency (as it relates to climate change), and state laws adversely impacting design firms are areas of increasing concern for insurers. In this environment, design firms need to remain diligent about providing high-risk services in-house or in offering these services through subconsultants, as each approach has inherent potential liability implications. With respect to the use of subconsultants, it may be prudent for the client to hire the subconsultant directly if the work involves a high-risk discipline to help insulate the AEC firm from direct liability. At the same time, adopting and adhering to sound internal risk management protocols are essential, including due diligence when contemplating a merger or acquisition. This should involve analysis of the target firm’s practice areas, project mix, and loss history. In the current environment, don’t overlook assessing any potential partner’s cyber security; their vulnerability may expose your firm and clients to devastating breaches and attacks. Despite these developments and considerations, as long as capacity remains strong, AEC firms generally continue to be in a favorable position as buyers of professional liability insurance. In particular, firms with risk profiles that appeal to the various insurers’ appetites may be the beneficiaries of little to no rate action. TIPS FOR ACHIEVING A SUCCESSFUL RENEWAL. As many professional liability insurers work to balance strengthening the performance and profitability of their portfolios with the need to maintain or grow market share and retain profitable business, design firms need to develop and implement a sound strategy as they approach their 2020 insurance renewals. This might involve the following: 1)Engage a specialist AEC professional liability broker. These firms can help you assess the insurance marketplace, evaluate individual carriers, review your existing insurance program against your coverage needs, and help enhance your internal risk management procedures and manage your total cost of risk. 2)Consider approaching the broader marketplace for competitive quotes. A qualified insurance broker can help you market your program, identify suitable program. Given the perceived constraints with limit capacity, engage an excess insurer that can drop down to a lower attachment point “By working with an experienced AEC professional liability broker, design firms will be in better position to renew their insurance programs with incumbent insurers, explore potential alternatives in the marketplace and make critical decisions regarding their coverage.” JARED MAXWELL & TOM MARCHETTI, from page 3

into what historically have been primary layers in the event the primary insurer is no longer competitive or withdraws from the marketplace. So, in these cases it may be useful to identify qualified excess insurers that also have the ability to potentially become the primary layer. “AEC firms generally continue to be in a favorable position as buyers of professional liability insurance. In particular, firms with risk profiles that appeal to the various insurers’ appetites may be the beneficiaries of little to no rate action.” 3)Check with your broker on any new and emerging coverage enhancements and endorsements. To retain or grow their business, many professional liability insurers continue to offer coverage enhancements and supplemental coverages, such as rectification coverage, acquisition endorsements, expenses associated with defending against regulatory or disciplinary actions, limited cyber risk insurance, drone liability coverage, among others. 4)Understand how your exposure is being underwritten. Professional liability insurers use different billings methodologies – such as ratable billings, gross billings, weighted billings – as part of their underwriting process. These differences might result either in better or less favorable terms and conditions for any given AEC firm. So, it helps to know the approach taken by your incumbent or potential insurer. For example, billing attributed to international work, studies, or reports is considered low risk and discounted; and abandoned projects often are excluded along with direct reimbursables. AEC firms also need to recognize what underwriters consider higher risk projects, such as residential and infrastructure, and disciplines, including structural engineering. Another key factor for renewals: recent and historical claims experience. Professional liability insurers and the AEC firms they cover are continuing to deal with the varied impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the slowing economy on their current business and outlook for the remainder of the calendar year through early 2021. In this environment, design firms need to remain vigilant about their risk management measures, including practicing sound contract hygiene. By working with an experienced AEC professional liability broker, design firms will be in better position to renew their insurance programs with incumbent insurers, explore potential alternatives in the marketplace and make critical decisions regarding their coverage options, insurance partners, and program structure. They may also gain insights and direction on risk management practices that will help widen their insurance options and improve their overall performance in these dynamic and challenging times. JARED MAXWELL is vice president and partner at Ames & Gough. TOM MARCHETTI is vice president and partner at Ames & Gough. Contact them at and

WRITE FOR THE ZWEIG LETTER Have some advice for your peers in the AEC industry? Contact Sara Parkman at to become a contributor for The Zweig Letter .

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New From Zweig Group



2020 BEST PERFORMING FIRMS IN THE AEC INDUSTRY REPORT PRICE: $495 OVERVIEW: How do the most successful architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms do business? This new publication covers every area of AEC firm management. Whether you want answers to questions on financial performance, marketing, information technology, project management, compensation, billing practices, or other issues, you’ll find it all in this one report. LEARN MORE


OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s 2020 Incentive Compensation Report provides firms with important data that they can use to improve the programs they have in place; start up new plans from scratch; decide which employees should receive which types of bonuses, how often, and at what amounts; and more.


OVERVIEW: Zweig Group’s Mid-Year Update 2020 Salary Report of AEC Firms contains data gathered after January 2020 and is designed to help firms evaluate how salaries changed during the first half of 2020.












Personal connections: Brad Strittmatter CEO of Olsson Group (Lincoln, NE), an employee owned 1,300-person firm that is working to leave the world better than they found it.


B rad Strittmatter joined Olsson Group in 1996. He started as a project manager and worked his way up to vice president, president, and, most recently, CEO in 2016. Under his direction, the firm has seen steady growth and now employs more than 1,100 employees; and completed a rebranding effort that resulted in a new name and visual identity for the company. “We’re not afraid to reposition people within the organization if the leadership or management role is not well suited for their success or that of the team,” Strittmatter says. “Confronting deficiencies and talking with leaders about their strengths is essential to being a successful leader.” A CONVERSATION WITH BRAD STRITTMATTER. The Zweig Letter: To what do you most attribute the firm’s steady growth? Brad Strittmatter: It’s really a direct result of our people’s willingness to serve our clients in new and different ways.

Our firm’s philosophy is to trust the decision-making of those closest to our clients, which means our project managers, designers, and technical staff have the most knowledge of our client’s needs – now and in the future. We listen to all our staff when it comes to planning for growth and support their ability to increase our value to our clients through expanded service offerings. TZL: How has COVID-19 impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting/working remotely? BS: We’ve always had a flexible culture, giving employees the ability to work with their supervisor to find the schedule that works best for them. Even though COVID-19 required dramatic shifts in where and how work gets done, our employees were able to seamlessly transition to working remotely. We’ve been amazingly productive, and I am proud to say we have also been able to maintain our connectedness – to each other and with our clients. Our business model is completely dependent on knowing our clients and knowing our teammates on a very personal level, which is a concern for us in a completely remote



work environment. That being said, I have a tremendous amount of confidence that our staff will continue to adapt to preserve our business model. Until things get back to normal, we’ll do things differently, which will likely include working from home part- time or permanently for some employees. But we will work hard to maintain personal connections with our clients. Virtual tools make it easier. The office environment will never go away, and it will continue to be used to get work done and to socialize. It will not, however, be the same as it was. Our workplace and culture will reflect the lessons COVID-19 has taught us all about the challenges of remote work, personal space, understanding our impact on others, and respecting each individual’s personal situation away from work. I think we’ve all learned a great deal about how to collaborate with and support each other – both clients and colleagues – when our personal lives intersect with our professional ones. We will be a better business for it. 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? BS: Certainly, using assessment tools before a person is placed in a leadership or management position is the first step toward helping managers be successful. They need to understand what they are good at doing and where they need support; assessments can reveal this. We also provide an array of training, largely based on the concepts of emotional intelligence, motivation, empowerment, appreciation, and accountability. We use coaching and mentoring – internally and externally, and formally and informally – to support the development of skills that make good leaders. We’re also not afraid to reposition people within the organization if the leadership or management role is not well suited for their success or that of the team. Confronting deficiencies and talking with leaders about their strengths is essential to being a successful leader. TZL: Tell me about the rebranding. Why was it needed? How long did it take to transition? Overall results? BS: As we grew during the past 20 years, our brand served us well, but it needed to be simplified. Our growth has exponentially increased our service offerings for an increasingly complex client base. And while those results are inspiring, it also contributed to confusion over what people knew about Olsson and what we do.

We often heard from clients or prospective employees that we were a transportation- focused firm or a land development firm or a field services firm. Rarely did anyone think we were a full-service firm. We needed to simplify the message so we could become more accurately known as a firm focused on solutions in infrastructure, regardless of industry or geography. We did this to help our clients better understand our firm and our employees to better communicate what Olsson brings to the table. Our rebranding effort was based on market research, and we started the process with the intent of changing our messaging, but leaving our name and visuals intact. When we got deeper into the process, we quickly discovered we needed to update more than just the messaging. To simplify, we needed to look at our entire image and brand. Our research and planning took place over 18 months and we rolled out the updated name, visuals, and messaging over the course of the next year. We’ve received wonderful feedback from clients, employees, and many of our partners. It’s still an ongoing process and the ROI is difficult to measure, but our 12-month audit revealed that simplifying our brand has allowed us to gain traction with clients that did not know us previously or had a perception that we were a small, local firm with limited services. We’ve also experienced a significant increase in awareness of Olsson and our employee- focused culture with new and prospective employees. All in all, we think rebranding was a huge success and, based on their feedback, our clients think so, too. TZL: How do you handle a long-term principal who is resting on his or her laurels? What effect does a low- performing, entitled principal or department head have on firm morale? BS: Our business is very performance- oriented, and our internal financials are reported to every employee each month on a team basis. This keeps the pressure on all leaders and managers to perform, even the ones with decades of experience. We very much believe in maintaining a high-performance culture, which creates strong peer pressure to perform every year. In cases where senior people are not performing, we work with that person to find a path to success. We do this for all employees, regardless of their longevity or status. We consistently hear from employees – especially our high-performers – that tolerating a low- performing employee can be the biggest






❚ ❚ Planning and design

❚ ❚ Engineering

❚ ❚ Field services

❚ ❚ Environmental

❚ ❚ Technology


❚ ❚ Government

❚ ❚ Transportation

❚ ❚ Water

❚ ❚ Energy

❚ ❚ Land and facilities

❚ ❚ Telecommunications

MISSION: Working to leave the


world better than they found it.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 7, 2020, ISSUE 1370



more than qualified in the transportation industry, freight planning was not an area we truly had the experience or skills to succeed. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? BS: Our approach is two-fold. First, we educate ourselves to understand what is valuable in our quest to be an inclusive culture with a diverse staff makeup. Simply defining metrics is not the answer because we need to understand what behaviors are effective in creating the culture around diversity and inclusion that we desire. Second, as we educate ourselves, we are taking steps to ensure all employees have an awareness around unconscious bias, discrimination, and equality. Using the experience gained by many successful companies around the world, we are in the process of modifying our recruiting strategies, hiring processes, and communication norms as well as forming employee resource groups that can sustain our efforts to learn and grow. TZL: When Olsson hires people, they look for folks who are collaborative and demonstrate personal accountability. During the hiring process, how do you ensure you are finding the right people to fit the bill? BS: Time spent during the hiring process to assess an individual’s talent and goals is absolutely essential to long-term success. We use several analytical tools to help us understand strengths, weaknesses, leadership traits, technical skills, and career goals. We focus our conversations with potential employees on culture – mostly around teamwork and personal interactions with others – to understand a person’s likelihood to succeed at Olsson. As much as we are searching for highly-competent technical abilities, we think a person’s ability to function in Olsson’s team atmosphere and employee-focused culture is just as important to their long-term success and happiness. We look for people who are honest with others about how they view accountability, performance, hierarchy, authority, collaboration, client service, and respect for others. When we’ve strayed from this formula, it’s been difficult for new employees to find their footing at Olsson over the long haul. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? BS: Provide opportunity. We believe staff stay at Olsson because they see more opportunity is available to them, such as a leadership or management role, technical challenge, simply shifting to a new role or learning a new skill. But the overriding desire is for the firm to provide a framework for a person to be part of something new or different. And while some employees are happy and content to perfect the job they are in, they still want to be valued and appreciated. So, while career advancement and working on more complex projects is the desire of many, Olsson strives to provide each employee with the opportunity that is right for them. Our rewards system is all-encompassing, meaning that each person has the ability to earn recognition based on whatever path is right for them. Seizing an opportunity does not have to be prescriptive. Managers can recognize their staff for different reasons based on the success of the team.

de-motivating factor they face. I’ve always admired the consulting business for its constant reminders that under performance, even in small quantities, can be lethal to the business. At Olsson, we talk openly about the need to perform – providing a high-quality product for our clients and doing so in a reasonably profitable manner for the sake of our employee-owned business. This is fundamental to our culture, and for those who may not understand this aspect, Olsson is likely not the place they will find success. TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? BS: We’re a partial ESOP, so we’re required to perform a valuation annually with an independent third party. Our board of directors oversees the protocols and methods to ensure an accurate and fair value. The valuation is then used for all transactions between shareholders, the corporation, and ESOP. The valuation uses key metrics such as EBIT, EBITDA, asset/debt ratios, working capital and liquidity, future performance expectations, public company trading ratios, and third-party private transactions in the industry. 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? BS: The key is planning. In my experience, failure to transition is rooted in lack of planning along with inappropriate use of profit generated by the business. Too often, principals extract capital from the business, starving it of the ability to invest or fund transition to junior staff. In our industry, most professionals don’t have the means to acquire large chunks of ownership without significant assistance from the firm. If the current owners do not recognize this, they fail to plan accordingly and typically are forced to sell the business, often during down economic times when cash flow cannot support the business or the lifestyle choices of the principal owners. Smart owners plan for the transition early and view the next generation as deserving of an opportunity to own the business long-term. For Olsson, we have a continuous employee ownership transition that is well funded annually and includes a broad spectrum of employee owners. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? BS: The biggest failures have come when we have not been true to our strengths and beliefs. Denying who you are and what you are good at can be confused with taking on new and different challenges. But, if those challenges take you too far away from your core talent and experience, you can fail very quickly. For Olsson, this has happened when we tried to provide a new service to clients where we didn’t have the expertise, skills, or credibility required. As an example, we tried to enter the freight planning business several years ago with a very qualified individual who was new to our firm. The clients did not view us as credible since we had virtually no project experience outside of this one individual. They were not willing to take a risk and hire us for any project of significance. So, while we were

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Who are you trying to sell to?

A huge problem with the majority of A/E firms that we have worked with over the years is they don’t really know who they are trying to sell to. Marketing starts with identifying who your target clients are. Your entire business needs to be focused on them.

This was no big deal when demand outstripped supply – the situation most A/E firms have been operating under up until March of this year. But now – while an amazing number of companies in this business are still doing well – there are some that are really starting to have marketing and resulting workload problems. Marketing STARTS with identifying who your target clients are. Your entire marketing effort – heck, your entire business – needs to be focused on them. Here are my thoughts: 1) Start with identifying the market sectors (groups of buyers with common wants and needs) that you can serve. What are you good at? What do you have experience doing? What kinds of clients do you like to work for? What market sectors are bound to be strong during a time like we are living in now? Determine what your market sectors are and what you want them to be.

2) Every market sector you work in has potential clients that could hire your firm. In some of these markets, geographic proximity to the clients is critical. In other markets, an A/E firm can serve those clients from virtually anywhere. Take a look at each of your market sectors and determine what a reasonable geographic reach would be. Identify every single potential client organization in that sector within your reach. 3) Stop thinking that if you have never met or spoken to someone they shouldn’t be on your target client list. That is bad thinking that will only hurt you. And yes, there are still people who think prior contact in some way should be a condition of entry to a firm’s target client list. It shouldn’t be. 4) STOP worrying about which clients have current projects or a budget that you are aware of to hire an A/E firm or firms. A/E marketers are obsessed

Mark Zweig

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



BUSINESS NEWS KILL DEVIL HILLS UNVEILS NEW ELEVATED WATER STORAGE TANK Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that a new elevated water storage tank and water booster station expansion in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, has been constructed. Dewberry prepared a preliminary engineering report and provided design and construction services for the tank and 4.5-million-gallons- per-day water booster station. The tank was designed by Dewberry in partnership with American Engineering Associates and was constructed by Landmark Structures. Located at the Kill Devil Hills Fire Station, the new 400,000-gallon elevated tank became operational on June 25, 2020 and the old tank was demolished in October 2020. Dewberry’s services included hydraulic modeling to

evaluate the location, size, configuration, and operation of the new elevated tank and to evaluate the existing water distribution system for water quality, pressure, and fire flow availability. As part of the project, Dewberry developed a calibrated water model of the Kill Devil Hills water system, including the Dare County Water transmission main to allow for accurate modeling of the water quality from the supply connection points to the individual customers in the Kill Devil Hills water system. “Kill Devil Hills is a beautiful community that attracts visitors from all over each year,” says Dewberry Associate Vice President Dan Villhauer, PE, LEED AP. “This $2.9-million project helps the town reliably supply its

visitors and community members with high- quality drinking water while also increasing fire flow availability.” 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.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

frequency. I can imagine in some cases potential clients may be contacted as frequently as daily or even more than once a day – especially if the information you are providing them with is valuable or useful to them and not just an attempt to sell them something. You have to abandon your old ways of thinking and your personal prejudices and kick up the activity dramatically. Here is why: If your response rate is 0.1 percent (one tenth of one percent), that means that you need to reach out to 1,000 people to get a single response. If you have 2,000 people on your list, that means you may get two responses. If you have 50,000 people on your list, that means you could get 50 responses. Not all responses will be leads, either, but each represents a potential lead. 9) Just because a potential client does not respond to any specific marketing effort does not mean that your effort was wasted. Your company name may now be familiar to them when it wasn’t before, and that alone could result in you making it on a shortlist or getting an approval to be hired by someone in that target client organization that you didn’t even know had anything to do with the decision-making process. Remember this. 10) If you want this list to remain viable, you have to use it. The best way to keep it current is to make it available to every single employee. Restricting access to the list and sending all changes to one person is not the way to see any but a really small list maintained. The decentralization is a critical element. And yes, there are ways to keep people from stealing the list while still providing access and the individual ability to change it when it needs changing. One last thought. Stop worrying so much about duplicate entries to your list and keeping people off the list and instead focus on getting more people on the list. Track the numbers of organizations and people on the list, and the number of changes to the list, and share this with all of your employees. Keep this list front and center. Make it important. That is the best way to build it and maintain it. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

with knowing who has money. Get off that track! It is not relevant. Instead focus on finding ALL organizations that make up each sector within the geographic range you identified in step No. 2 above. Why do I say this? The reason is simple. You don’t know and won’t know what any individual organization’s plans really are, and whether or not they will have needs soon. You also don’t know if the people you are marketing to will move to another potential client organization at any time, and you want to be sure they know who you are and are top of mind the next time they need services from a firm like yours. 5) After you define your sectors, define the geographic reach you can serve, and find all organizations in that sector, regardless of whether or not they have money or you have had prior interactions with them, find all of the people in those organizations who could potentially influence the decision to hire your firm. The group of people in any organization is probably much larger than you realize. You need every one of them in your list. 6) There are many ways to find these people. Besides web searches, organization websites, trade or professional association lists, and more, we now have vehicles such as LinkedIn that allow one go to any specific organization and find many, if not most, of the people there. Get them all on your list. 7) These lists have to be much larger than most A/E firms realize. It’s not uncommon to see firms that have only a couple thousand people in their target lists. That is not enough to feed anything but a very small firm. I have more than 4,500 people in my phone alone. You need to change the way you think about your target clients and the list. A 50-person A/E firm, depending on the market sectors served, could easily have 20,000 or 50,000 people in its target client list. Instead of two or three people in a large client’s list, there could be 20 or 30, or even more per organization. Cast a much wider net. 8) These target client lists won’t do you any good unless you USE them. The idea that you will send out a Christmas card and then a couple boring project descriptions to your list over the course of the year and this is going to create new leads is naive. You need better content and much higher

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Evolving these relationships is a critical and too-often-overlooked key to successful project delivery and retaining satisfied clients. Evolving the trade partner relationship

F uturistic technologies, like drones and augmented reality, are currently an exciting source of innovation in the construction industry as they radically reshape the way projects are built and delivered to clients. And yet, in other ways, the industry is stuck in the stone age. One such dinosaur is the existing template for the general contractor/trade partner dynamic, which too often can be adversarial, not allied.

Michael Blakemore

There are any number of reasons to evolve the contractor/trade partner relationship, beginning with the most basic: trades can’t do what they do without GCs, and vice versa. This symbiotic affiliation behooves all involved to partner for performance and support one another to achieve shared success. Increased profitability is another compelling justification. Simply put, less drama on projects means less time wasted – and time, of course, equals money. Communication and understanding facilitate this. Aligning trade partners with the client’s view of a project’s success greatly improves their ability to deliver that success to the client. When the whole team is aligned on a common set of goals, they are better able to perform.

A more professional, streamlined team atmosphere, where people work alongside one another as equals instead of against each other as obstacles to the other’s advancement, encourages people to bring their best selves to the trailer each day. The ripple effect will positively impact your projects and position you as a preferred GC – not just with trades, but also with clients. Below are six simple strategies for immediately evolving the trade partner dynamic: 1)Start by understanding the trade partner’s wants, needs, and goals for the project. Every stakeholder, the trades included, will have their own definition of success and their own critical




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF AIRSPACE TECHNOLOGIES OFFICES IN CARLSBAD Ware Malcomb , an award- winning international design firm, announced construction is complete on the new offices of Airspace Technologies located at 5909 Sea Otter Place, Suite 200 in Carlsbad, California. Ware Malcomb provided interior architecture and design services for the project. The new Airspace Technologies offices are located within the Atlas at Carlsbad campus, for which Ware Malcomb previously provided architectural design services. Ware Malcomb also designed the common areas for the building concurrently with the Airspace Technologies build-out. This included the first and second floor lobbies, corridors, utilities and restrooms. The finished 23,000-square-foot interior tenant improvement project for Airspace Technologies, a technology-enabled logistics service provider, gives employees a brand new home in a creative office environment. With three distinct departments, Ware Malcomb designed a neighborhood layout that allows each team to work, collaborate, and focus to fit their respective workplace behaviors. The design and engineering departments have several meeting areas which are composed of both enclosed rooms and impromptu stand-up

“scrum” areas. In contrast, the Administrative department includes more private offices and phone/focus rooms. The centrally located reception, boardroom, and break area provide a hub for employees to circulate amongst departments while also providing a welcoming environment for visitors. The materials used throughout the space reflect the office’s expansive canyon views facing west towards the Pacific Ocean. Varying shades of green in the flooring provide subtle wayfinding and directly relate to Airspace Technologies’ branding. The numerous natural wallcoverings, wood veneers, and playful decorative lighting create unique experiences in each meeting area. Strategically placed acoustical ceiling clouds above the workstations celebrate the exposed structure of the building while addressing concerns of acoustics in an open office environment. The dynamic ceiling treatment at the entry features veneer wraps up the wall and this theme continues along the ceiling with varying angles, recessed lighting, and a built-in banquette seat. “The new offices of Airspace Technologies reflect the company’s shift towards a more sophisticated and connected environment,” said Tiffany English, principal of Ware Malcomb’s San Diego Office. “Their expansion

into more square footage also ensures their new office space will meet the growing needs of the company for many years to come. The fact that Airspace is located within the larger Atlas at Carlsbad campus, with the creative environment and amenities that this campus provides, is an added benefit for employees and visitors alike.” The general contractor for the project was Good & Roberts , the construction manager was Hughes Marino , and the furniture vendor was Cultura. 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, Ware Malcomb 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 a Hot Firm by Zweig Group.


and improving relationships across the entire team. When all parties are held to a standard of accountability, they know they are working together as part of a cohesive unit instead of in disconnected silos. A daily huddle, where all trades communicate their progress and constraints, offers a great way to keep those commitments on the forefront and provides a natural opportunity for accountability checks. 5) Approach the trade partner’s problems and the GC’s problems as a “we” opportunity. Use the language of “we,” not “I” or “you,” to communicate a supportive team approach. For example, instead of, “You did this,” or “You need to fix this,” say, “What can we do to work together toward a solution on this?” 6)Remember the golden rule. Pay the trades on time, communicate with and listen to them, be fair with them, and be just as quick to call with praise as with a complaint. A trade partner’s success is a GC’s success in this uniquely interdependent relationship. This is especially important now, with historic industry disruption and ongoing labor shortages that are adversely impacting all involved in the business of construction. Evolving these relationships is a critical and too-often-overlooked key to successful project delivery and retaining satisfied clients. Fortunately, adopting a new view of the trade partner dynamic doesn’t require a financial investment, new tech, or the use of special glasses – changed perspectives and behaviors are free, and can be implemented immediately. As senior vice president for Skiles Group, MICHAEL BLAKEMORE is responsible for planning, directing and overseeing the company’s daily operations with a focus on ensuring client satisfaction and championing a culture of continuous improvement. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

needs that need to be met for any given project. Without understanding the trades’ criteria, a GC can’t work with them to help ensure they’re positioned for success. 2)Clearly and consistently communicate the client’s and the project’s needs and objectives to your trade partners so they understand the client’s perspective. When all stakeholders are having their needs met and their interests respected, they can work as partners in solving problems. A True North (also called Conditions of Satisfaction) session is a great place to start. “Adopting a new view of the trade partner dynamic doesn’t require a financial investment, new tech, or the use of special glasses – changed perspectives and behaviors are free, and can be implemented immediately.” 3)Invite their input in scheduling. Allowing trade partner involvement respects their role, achieves their buy-in on the schedule, and allows them the opportunity to have ownership over their commitments. Look to the Lean Construction Institute to learn more about Pull Planning, which collaborates the scheduling process. 4)Now, hold them accountable to those commitments, as these are promises they have made to the other trades . Holding a trade partner accountable is about supporting

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