8 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? DSP: During our internal ownership and leadership transition approximately 14 years ago, we identified a need to improve communication between management and employees. We work hard at reminding each other of this responsibility. My senior management team meets monthly so that we cross-communicate between the different functions (technical staff, finance, human resources, and marketing) of our company. Each member of the SMT and their supervisors are responsible for effectively communicating with their team. The communication between the members of the SMT is expected to be open, respectful, honest, cooperative, and is intended to identify conflicts and encourage resolutions to those conflicts. We also conduct formal internal and external training for our supervisors, project managers, and principals. Much of this training includes a component of people management skills. Our formal training has also included personality and behavioral assessments and training. I have encouraged and assigned leadership reading when I come across a book that I find useful and relevant (i.e., The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni). Establishing an empowering culture within the company fosters the need of our line leadership to continuously improve their people management skills. Also, after giving employees management opportunities and helping them to improve their performance, we must adjust or re-organize when these people management skills can’t be developed. TZL: Responsiveness is one of your core values. Can you share a recent example of how Haley Ward solved a client problem/challenge? DSP: We work with several clients that purchase new properties, buildings, or other businesses. These projects typically involve several key items that need to be completed within short timeframes between the offer acceptance and the final closing. Some of the key items may include environmental site assessments (Phase I and II ESAs), obtaining landowner liability protections, natural resource delineations, American Land Title Association surveys, MEP assessments, and/or structural and civil engineering evaluations. We have the ability to perform all of these work items with professionals who are outstanding at working together, have the ability to adjust their work schedules to meet the more urgent deadlines without interfering with other clients’ schedules, and can address the often overlapping scope of work in-house to save on schedule. TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? DSP: For 10 years after college, I was a project engineer for the federal government. When I transitioned to the consulting business, I really had to re-train myself. Fortunately, I had a great mentor – Shawn Small – who was one of the two co-founders of CES, Inc. We shared a similar EMPOWERING , from page 7
A former papermill property in Bucksport, ME is being redeveloped to house a land-based aquaculture facility. Haley Ward is providing a range of environmental and engineering consulting services.
practice area. Not only was he an excellent engineer, he was an outstanding consultant who understood the importance of working for our clients, building their trust, communicating with the project team, and offering effective solutions to the projects. I tend to learn from observation, so seeing Shawn in action meant he was the right mentor at the right transition period in my career. I also had the opportunity to learn more about the business operations and finances of the company from the other co-founder, Jim Parker. He had great business and financial judgement. He processed information differently than I did which made me work harder to learn to manage the company’s business operations and functions. Jim also demonstrated his huge heart in relation to a personal issue I had. It really made an impact on me and that’s why maintaining our family-friendly culture is so important to me. 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? DSP: Take time to make a plan. Plan on a 10-year horizon for internal transitions. This is one of the reasons we implemented an ESOP. It allows us to address the financial components which can be difficult for individuals to afford as well as the continuous evaluation of who should be shareholders. In addition to addressing the planning aspects, it provides significant tax advantages, provides all employees an ownership stake and allows our company to improve our financial performance. For external acquisitions, there are several keys and pitfalls that will determine the success of the ownership transition. It starts with a good assessment of the company that wants to be acquired. When the two companies are not the right fit for each other, you can do everything else right, but it most likely won’t work out well. We remind ourselves that one out of 10 companies may be the right fit. Walking away from the wrong fit is just as important for both companies as moving ahead with the right fit.
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THE ZWEIG LETTER AUGUST 23, 2021, ISSUE 1405
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