w w w . t h e z w e i g l e t t e r . c o m
HR | FINANCE S U P P L E M E N T S Pages 9 - 12
D e c emb e r 19 , 2 011 , I s s u e 9 3 9
T R E N D L I N E S
The unlikely, successful PM
Small = new
Making better project managers out of people who didn’t think they wanted to be managers. L et’s face it. Project management is and always will be the cornerstone of whether or not an A/E or environmental firm can make a profit on selling its labor. It is just so critical – and gets even more critical the more competitive the environment gets in terms of fees, number of other firms chasing the work, and how well the client organizations are performing themselves. More intense marketing efforts, lower budgets, and slower collections are the norm for many firms in this business today. So we need better PMs. Now what? Let’s start by accepting the reality that we won’t be able to replace most of the people we have with “better” people – certainly not in the short term and maybe not in the long term, either. We have to work with what we have. Most firms’ response to this reality is to spend money on training their existing staff. There’s a large variety of training programs available – through us and a number of other private firms, as well as professional society organizations. While some programs are better than others, none of them will supplant one big issue. That “big issue” is the culture of the organization – specifically the PM culture. You cannot get around it. Culture is all about what type of behaviors are rewarded and which ones are punished. Who gets ahead – who moves up – and who doesn’t. Who is kept and who is thrown out. Culture is something that “happens,” like it or not. You will have a culture in your organization. It doesn’t mean that it will be a positive one – but you will have one. That said, it is also
1 - 24 employees
25 - 49 employees
F I R M I N D E X Altamont Environmental, Inc................................. 5 Coffman Engineers................................................ 9 Douglas Wood Associates, Inc.............................. 5 Dudek..................................................................... 4 E.K Fox & Associates. Ltd...................................... 6 GRAEF.................................................................... 6 Klotz Associates.................................................... 6 Moffatt & Nichol................................................... 9 Moye Consulting. .................................................. 4 MPB....................................................................... 3 orcutt | winslow..................................................... 4 Terra Therm............................................................ 5 While it’s no surprise that A/E firms of all sizes tend to get most of their new business from repeat clients, the 2011-2012 Small Firm Survey finds that smaller firms get close to quarter, if not more, of their business from new clients. According to the recently released report, firms with 25-49 employees get 27 percent of their new business from new clients, while firms with 1-24 employees report that 18 percent of their new business comes from new clients. – Margot Suydam, Survey Manager note to our members: The Zweig Letter is not being published Dec. 26. Happy Holidays! We will be back on Jan. 2.
See Mark Zweig, page 2
Who gets ahead – who moves up – and who doesn’t. Who is kept and who is thrown out. Culture is something that “happens,” like it or not. You will have a culture in your organization. It doesn’t mean that it will be a positive one – but you will have one.
The threats and strategies ahead Page 4
I N S I D E
xz TOP player: Do what you say you will right. Page 3 xz pm perspectives: Meetings, meetings, and more meetings! Page 7 xz HR: Learning often a firm-wide activity. Page 9 xz finance: To buy or sell – that’s the question. Page 11
T H E V O I C E O F R E A S O N F O R A / E / P & E N V I R O N M E N TA L C O N S U LT I N G F I R M S
THE ZWEIG LETTER | December 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
A/E BUSINESS NEWS
CALENDAR principals academy coming to fort lauderdale: The Principals Academy, a crash course in all aspects of managing a professional services firm, is coming to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on March 8 and 9. The program is presented by a team of speakers – including ZweigWhite founder and CEO Mark Zweig – with extensive experience working with and for A/E firms. They have a clear understanding of what it takes to survive, and even thrive, in any economy. The two-day agenda covers six critical areas of business management from the unique perspectives of architecture, engineering and environmental consulting firms, and is presented in tutorial and case study workshop sessions. ❚ ❚ Business planning
Mark Zweig , from page 1
something that top management can control and influence to a great extent. What your culture says about how you manage projects will either work for or against your success. Here are some examples: 1)Tough budget. Dysfunctional cul- ture says: “We may lose money on this one but hopefully we’ll make up for it later on other jobs with this cli- ent.” Positive PM culture says: “Let’s look for alternative ways to give the client what they really need that will allow us to make a profit on this job. We may never get another, better job from this client so let’s figure out how to make it work with what we have.” 2)Tight schedule. Dysfunctional culture says: “This schedule is too tight. We will never make it. But we need the work, so we’ll take it and hope somehow the client comes to the same conclusions that we have so they understand when the deadline isn’t met.” Positive PM culture says: “This schedule is too tight. Let’s give the client the benefit of our thinking here and at the same time make sug- gestions on what we can cut that will allow us to come closer to meeting it. And if we do accept the project, we’ll make sure that we put our concerns about the schedule in writing to the client – and explain to them we cannot accept the work unless they acknowledge the schedule may not be met.” 3)Not the best people on the team. Dysfunctional culture says: “We have a crappy team so the results will probably reflect that.” Positive PM culture says: “We may not have the ideal folks assigned to this job but we are still going to get great results by getting our best people involved very early to lay things out, along with having well-thought-out processes that everyone uses.” I think you probably get the idea by now. Leaders set the culture. The culture then guides everyone in how they need to act and what they need to do on a daily basis. Since leaders set the example, how would you say you are doing setting a positive PM culture at your firm? Mark Zweig is the founder and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Green honors: The U.S. Green Building Council announced NewYork and San Francisco as the recipients of the World Green Building Council’s Government Leadership Awards for Excellence in City Policy for Green Building. Announced at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, the awards acknowledge international best practice in city-level government policy for green building initiatives and recognize green buildings as an important means to reduce carbon emissions. Winners were chosen by an expert panel of judges comprised of ICLEI International, UN HABITAT and the WorldGBC. “Buildings are responsible for approximately one-third of global carbon emissions and 40 percent of global energy usage, so the need for exemplary green building policies in the United States and throughout the world is great,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC, and chair-elect of the World Green Building Council. “New York and San Francisco are strong models for green building policy. The United States continues to be at the forefront of the green building movement thanks in part to these shining examples of leadership.” San Francisco was honored with the Best Green Building Policy award for the San Francisco Green Building Ordinance, which requires all new commercial, residential and municipal construction to be built to the LEED green building program, and existing buildings to publicly disclose energy labels, undergo periodic energy audits and mandatory water efficiency retrofits at the time of sale. The impacts of building labeling and auditing alone are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 105,000 tons and have a 10-year net present value of approximately $1 billion. The city has also created financing options to assist the private sector in meeting its efficiency targets. NewYork City received the Industry Transformation award for its Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a component of the broader PLANYC policy that requires large commercial buildings to publicly display annual energy and water benchmarks and undergo cost-effective lighting and efficiency upgrades. The plan is expected to reduce the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 5.3 percent below 2009 levels, reduce citywide energy costs by $700 million annually by 2030 and create roughly 17,800 construction-related jobs over 10 years.
❚ ❚ Financial management ❚ ❚ Project management
❚ ❚ Ownership transition planning ❚ ❚ Human resources management ❚ ❚ Marketing/business development The Principals Academy program also includes a case study workshop session that will provide an opportunity to practice implementing these management strategies in a supervised test-case scenario. For more information or to register, call 800-466-6275 or log on to www.zweigwhite.com/seminars/pmo/ index.asp.
38West Trenton Blvd., Suite 101 Fayetteville, AR 72701 Mark Zweig | Publisher email@example.com João Ferreira | Managing Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Christina Zweig | Staff Writer email@example.com Tel: 800-466-6275 Fax: 508-653-6522 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Online: www.thezweigletter.com Twitter: twitter.com/zweigwhite Blog: zweigwhite.blogspot.com Published continuously since 1992 by ZweigWhite, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/yr.). $475 for one-year membership, $775 for two-year membership. Article reprints: For high-quality reprints, including Eprints and NXTprints, please contact The YGS Group at 717-399-1900, ext. 139, or e-mail TheZweigLetter@TheYGSGroup.com. © Copyright 2011, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.
© Copyright 2011. ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER | DECEMBER 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
TO P P L AY E R
Do what you say you will right
Hot Firm leader thrives on ambition, drive and passion. C harles Bolyard goes straight to the point. His “relentless pursuit of perfection” mantra may sound like a well-known German car manufactur- er’s moniker, but then again he’s not just babbling.
CB: I owe where I am today to hard work and building relationships. TZL: Do you remem- ber your first paid job? What did you learn then that still influences the way you work today? CB: My first paid job was as an electrician trainee making $1.75 hour. The primary les- son I learned was do it right the first time! TZL: What is it in your DNA that drives you to success? Is it audacity and risk- taking; a can-do at-
need for collaborative project teams of like-minded stakeholders squarely fo- cused on the success of the program or individual project is driving significant portions of our industry. As a firm, MBP continues to expand on our ser- vice offerings and keep current with technological advances. TZL: Do hold someone as a special mentor? How did this person influ- ence who you are? CB: My father is and has always been my long-term mentor. He challenges me to focus on what’s really important and to always do the right thing. TZL: What’s the one trait you most admire in people and why? CB: Integrity is important. It’s one of our firm’s core values. In our industry, those that embrace integrity are those that bring the greatest value to the re- lationships that it takes to be success- ful in our business. Those people and firms who do not compromise on this value will accomplish far more. TZL: Describe the most challenging thing you have ever done/the big- gest challenge you have taken on outside of work. CB: Encouraging and emotionally sup- porting the family of a terminally ill close friend. TZL: What question would you ask of another Hot Firm leader? CB: How do you plan for success in the future, considering the state of our economy today? TZL: What lesson learned would you pass along to a recent college graduate embarking on a career in the A/E/P and environmental con- sulting fields? CB: To always do things the right way regardless of the outcome. Also, be sure to listen carefully to those who are more experienced than you.
Charles Bolyard, Chairman and CEO, MBP.
“Fear of failure is always a motivator. Ambition, drive, and passion for this industry and what I do are all contributing factors and I am proud and honored to work with the many bright minds we have at MBP.”
titude and a relentless pursuit of perfection; something else more abstract? CB: A can-do attitude and a relentless pursuit of perfection for myself have driven me to become the person I am today. I have high expectations for my- self and those I work side-by-side with. TZL: In today’s difficult business climate, what does it take to suc- ceed? Is the spectrum of failure a motivator? CB: If you do what you say you will do, and do it the right way without com- promise, you’re more likely to succeed. Fear of failure is always a motivator. Ambition, drive, and passion for this industry and what I do are all contrib- uting factors and I am proud and hon- ored to work with the many bright minds we have at MBP. TZL: Where do you see this indus- try in 10 or 20 years? What trends are influencing it? What about your company? CB: As projects continue to grow in complexity, firms not able to keep up with energy management and conser- vation, not to mention advanced tech- nology, will fall by the wayside. The
Bolyard has helped bring MPB (Fairfax, VA) – the firmhe founded in 1989 along with Frank McDonough and Blake Peck – to No. 15 in The Zweig Letter 2011 Hot Firm List, an envious honor for the 274-person multi-disciplined construction consulting firm. Besides pursuing perfection, MPB also does what it says it will do, does it right, and without compromise, Bolyard says. The firm offers a complete range of services, including assisting clients in managing the construction process from initial budget, through design and construction, to successful project closeout. In this interview, Bolyard talks about his professional evolution and how am- bition, drive and passion have brought him where he is today. The Zweig Letter: What does it mean to be a Hot Firm? Charles Bolyard: It means that you have an open door policy with two-way communication, mutual respect among your team, and a strategic business plan focused on success. TZL: How did you get where you are today?
THE ZWEIG LETTER | December 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
S U R V E Y
Firms are looking to grow in 2012
Need to boost offerings could point to rebound in hiring market and increase in M&A activity. By Christina Zweig Staff Writer F irm leaders are setting their sights on growth in 2012 and looking to boost their hiring practices. However, although the job market is flooded with applicants, leaders report having a hard time finding key qualified staff to take an offering or office to the next level. Leaders of A/E/P and environmental consulting firms identified that “find- ing competent new employees” as one of their top concerns in ZweigWhite’s 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey. Leaders are also concerned about “burn-out of remaining staff ‘survivors’ working harder for reduced salaries and no raises” during the reces- sion.
can quickly add qualified staff and boost specialized practice areas in one shot. ZweigWhite’s 2011 Merger & Acquisi- tion Survey of Architecture, Engineer- ing, Planning & Environmental Con- sulting Firms and the 2011-2012 Suc- cessful Firms Survey reveals that al- though fast growth and very high-prof- it firms weren’t any more likely to have acquired another firm in the past five- years, they are now more likely to be considering it. An impressive 83 per- cent of fast-growth firms have includ- ed a merger or acquisition in their five- year strategic plan. Sixty four percent of very high-profit firms and 65 per- cent of all firms had a merger and/or acquisition in their plan. Fast-growth (firms that have had an av- erage annual revenue and staff growth of 20 percent or more for the past three years) and very high-profit firms (aver- age annual profitability of 15 percent or more for the past three years) are obviously places where people want to work and do business with. Then it’s no surprise that fast-growth and very high-profit firms have lower turnover than all types of firms. Very high-prof- it firms had only a median rate of 7.8 percent for staff turnover, fast-growth firms had a median of 9.6 percent, and the overall population of firms in the industry had a median 10 percent turn- over rate. Fast-growth firms also had a median 10.7 percent growth in staff, and very high-profit firms increased their staff by a median of 4.3 percent. The median growth rate for all firms was 0, indicating no growth or decline. Picking the scraps. While a merg- er or acquisition can quickly grow a firm, this fast growth may create a cul- ture that employees of the previous firms aren’t happy with. The Merger and Acquisition Survey reveals that the most difficult part of integrating an ac- quired firm into the parent firm is in-
tegrating differing cul- tures. With that, many quali- fied, disaffected work- ers may start looking for greener pastures, something that Dudek (Encinitas, CA), a
Frank Dudek, President, Dudek.
220-person environ- mental and engineer- ing firm, is well aware of – and capital- izing on. “We believe that mid-size firms like Dudek will reap the benefits of our merging competitors through recruit- ing successful project managers unhap- py with more ‘corporate’ cultures and winning over clients disenchanted with the new bureaucracies,” says President Frank Dudek. Still, Dudek is considering acquiring another firm, but they plan to do it in a controlled and precise manner. “We are anticipating a revenue growth of 12 percent in 2012 over 2011. We are continuing to maintain a sustain- able level of growth through key hires and small acquisitions in target geo- graphic areas: northern California, the Central Coast, Los Angeles County, Or- ange County, and the Inland Empire,” Dudek says. Vispi Karanjia, managing partner, orcutt | winslow (Phoenix, AZ), a 75-person architecture firm, feels that growth through international expan- sion will become a necessity. “There are several opportunities in the fast growing economies of China and India,” he says. “These have their own challenges but this is where the growth is going to happen in the next five to 10 years and firms will have a decision to follow the work or see their market share decline for the time being.”
Jan Moye, owner and principal, Moye Con- sulting (Irving, TX) a 25-person A/E servic- es technology systems design firm, is among those looking to hire. “Moye Consulting will continue to add de- sign staff through mid- 2012 in order to meet the demands of our contracted backlog and
Jan Moye, Owner and Principal, Moye Consulting.
future projects,” she says. “Current- ly, backlogged work for 2012 exceeds 2011 projected total revenue by 30 per- cent.” “Our focus is on maintaining qual- ity through managed growth and on broadening our client base in order to support this larger staff in the future,” she says. Growing through buying. A fast way to boost qualified staff is to gobble another firm. Through an acqui- sition, a firm looking to grow in 2012
“Our focus is on maintaining quality through managed growth and on broadening our client base in order to support this larger staff in the future.”
© Copyright 2011. ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER | DECEMBER 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
O N T H E R E C O R D
The threats and strategies ahead
Firm leaders speak up about what’s holding up their business.
nition and reputation. Locally, we are very well known and respected. How- ever, much of the publically funded en- vironmental work in North Carolina is contracted from Raleigh and firms lo- cated in that area have better access to the decision-makers and are able to in- fluence contracting decisions. Strategies: ❚ ❚ Emphasize to new prospects the quality of Altamont’s services and experience. ❚ ❚ Solicit teaming opportunities with larger firms. ❚ ❚ Increase advertising for job openings using regional and national list serves. ❚ ❚ Increase the use of social/professional networking. Increase web presence. ❚ ❚ Open additional offices in regional centers. John
construction procedures. Predicting project schedules is also a big threat as we find our clients initially indicate during competitive bidding a require- ment to attain a strict/rapid schedule, which are never attained due to circum- stances outside of our control/respon- sibility. In the past year, three large multimillion dollar projects were de- layed when clients experienced delays in performing site-preparation work, obtaining regulatory approvals or final- izing contract documents. Strategies: About a year-and-a-half ago, we hired an organizational devel- opment consultant to work with our senior management team to devise a growth strategy. This included sever- al key management hires, including a CFO, a safety director and engineering manager. We established an internal organizational structure, including de- partment managers. We are installing financial and project management soft- ware solutions to gain staff efficiencies and to improve cost accounting, staff planning and reporting. To help ad- dress project slippage, we are booking extra project work assuming some proj- ect schedules will slip and communi- cating with clients what the impact of their project schedules delays means in terms of our ability to reschedule.
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series looking into 2012.
By Bryan Sullivan Correspondent
I f the test for gold is fire, then for ar- chitectural, engineering and envi- ronmental consulting firms the test is coming up with solutions for today’s biggest threats and challenges. In series of interviews, firm leaders identified major threats and challeng- es, such as attracting the right talent; competing against megafirms; a drop in the construction market; and more. What follow is some thoughts shared by the leaders for smaller firms.
Bierschenk , president and CEO, Terra Therm (Fitch- burg, MA), a 51-per- son firm that provides a range of thermal re- mediation technolo- gies and services and is the exclusive, world- wide provider of the In Situ Thermal Desorp- tion family of technol- ogies:
Stuart Ryman , presi- dent, principal geolo- gist, Altamont En- vironmental, Inc. (Asheville, NC), an 18-person environ- mental consulting firm: Threats: The over- bearing nature of megafirms is a primary threat. Firms that are much larger than Al- tamont can out-com- pete us on publicly ad- vertised as well as cold- call projects. Addition-
John Bierschenk, President and CEO, Terra Therm.
Stuart Ryman, President, Principal Geologist, Altamont Environmental, Inc.
Douglas Wood , presi- dent, Douglas Wood Associates, Inc . (Cor- al Gables, FL), a 12-per- son structural engi- neering firm, explores how the “great reces- sion” has affected its business: Threats: The “Great Recession” was accom- panied by a dramatic drop in the construc-
Threats: TerraTherm has experi- enced a growth rate of about 50 per- cent per year over the past three years. Our biggest challenge has been finding and hiring talented and experienced site construction and operations peo- ple who are willing to travel extensive- ly. Hiring and training staff is a heavy burden for a rapidly growing company and requires special attention to de- veloping standard procedures, depart- ment structure and manufacturing/
ally, we are finding that experienced professionals in the mid-part of their careers are unwilling to take the risks associated with moving to a smaller community with limited job opportuni- ties. And, Altamont has a regional dis- advantage with respect to name recog-
Douglas Wood, President, Douglas Wood Associates, Inc.
tion market. The private sector was hit first due to overbuilding in the pre-re- cession boom, coupled with the sudden onset of the credit crunch. Later, pub- lic sector construction from municipal and state government took a hit due to decreased tax revenues. Finally, the
“To help address project slippage, we are booking extra project work assuming some project schedules will slip and communicating with clients what the impact of their project schedules delays means in terms of our ability to reschedule.”
See threats, page 6
THE ZWEIG LETTER | December 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
F E E D B AC K
Matters of earnings and performance metrics
Two readers respond to recent topics in The Zweig Letter.
in the broader argument of limiting government expenditures at all levels. Mark Zweig’s response: Good point, Wayne. No doubt that’s true! In the Dec. 5 issue of The Zweig Letter , we wrote about the key per- formance indicators firms should track. Rich Bub, president and CEO of GRAEF (Milwaukee, WI), a 240-person civil en- gineering firm, had one more point to add.
takes away all the games that are played between utilization and net multiplier. The games I refer to are people artifi- cially pumping up utilization at the ex- pense of their multiplier, if their goal is to do that – or vice-versa if multiplier is the goal. Since the payroll factor is in fact the utilization (based on cost) multiplied by the net multiplier, the result is reve- nues generated for every dollar in com- pensation paid out. The actual formula is as follows: (Total Direct Billable Cost in dollars/Total Compensation in dollars) x (Net Revenues Generated in dollars /Total Direct Billable Cost in dollars) = Payroll Factor or (Utilization) x (Net Multiplier) = Payroll Factor In this way, a goal of 1.75 to 2.00 for the entire firm (or 2.0 to 2.25 as a goal for technical groups or divisions) are ball- park values, and your own goal would be dependent on the work mix and staff mix you have in your firm. Threats: Unfunded or underfund- ed pent up demand is a big threat right now. We see a great deal of project in- terest, but clients are having a tough time with budget pressures and financ- ing. We see this in our government and commercial markets and much of this is driven by continued uncertainty in the economy, as well as liquidity. Lack of clarity on budget direction has par- ticularly stalled some of our govern- ment work. Strategies: We believe these proj- ects will eventually be released and our workload will pick up. The challenge is bridging the gap. So, we are doing this by continuing to pursue smaller jobs that have less budget scrutiny. We are also pursuing projects with more mis- sion-critical new construction, and renovation projects.
I n the Dec. 12 issue of The Zweig Letter , Mark Zweig pointed out reasons why design professionals don’t earn more. D. Wayne Klotz, president of Klotz Associates (Houston, TX), 105-person civil engineering firm, wrote: Mark:
Interesting comments on salaries. As you know, capitalism is based on having a will- ing seller and a willing buyer. Today, the buy- ers are winning. I offer one additional reason to the excellent reasons you listed – govern- ment engineers. Engi-
I read with interest the article today on key fi- nancial performance indicators for A/E firms. While I tend to agree with almost all of them, I have found one indicator that really helps. The name is var- ied: It goes by “payroll factor,” “revenue fac-
D. Wayne Klotz, President, Klotz Associates.
Rich Bub, President and CEO, GRAEF.
neers, particularly civil engineers, do a lot of work for public entities. Those engineers, who have constrained sala- ries, believe it is their duty to keep pri- vate salaries in line with their own. Au- ditors get in on the action and place caps on billing rates. We get caught up
tor,” or even a few others. I have per- sonally felt this is one of the best met- rics to follow for a service business. The reason I feel this way is this factor ery would go a long way toward restor- ing construction markets. Such con- fidence would have been significantly bolstered by the adoption of a well-rea- soned, long-term federal budget policy. Congress missed opportunities to do so. We must urge Congress to abandon its political deadlock and give us intel- ligent, reasoned and pragmatic gover- nance. We must also urge the federal administration to do what it can to ease credit, but without returning to the ir- responsible credit policies that fueled the pre-recession bubble. James Zenyuh , director of human re- sources at E.K Fox & Associates. Ltd. (Fairfax, VA) a 59-person firm that pro- vides comprehensive, innovative MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and other engineering services for the chal- lenges of new construction, the com- plexities of renovation and the de- mands of highly secure environments:
threats , from page 5
waning of federal stimulus programs and the zeal for federal budget balanc- ing are taking their toll on federal con- struction activity. Since the official end of the “Great Recession” in the summer of 2009, economic growth has been painfully slow, and therefore, the sup- ply of existing residential and commer- cial space remains high in many geo- graphical markets. This, coupled with ongoing credit tightness, continues to suppress private-sector construction. The high level of supply of existing building space is also contributing to lower property values, resulting in low property tax collection for municipali- ties, and therefore, continued suppres- sion of public sector construction. Strategies: A general feeling of con- fidence in continued economic recov-
© Copyright 2011. ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.
THE ZWEIG LETTER | DECEMBER 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings! Are you on your way to another meeting? Consider these points and even dare share them with the other participants. I n the course of our work life, we attend
❚ ❚ Participate or don’t go. iPads have revolutionized the mod- ern meeting – if only as a means to stay entertained during the boring parts and prevent us from falling asleep in front of others. No doubt they are nifty tools and more convenient than dragging in a laptop, but unless you are using your iPad to contribute or communicate, switch it off. All participants can see who is actively listening and who isn’t – especially the client. Reading news and answering emails during a meeting is disrespectful. You say you’re multitasking? Well, if the meeting purpose is true, and there are important things to get done, there isn’t any reason to be distracted or time for other activi- ties. Go to the meeting and be there fully or don’t go. ❚ ❚ Go differently. What if our very presence at the meeting is debatable in the first place? That’s a valid point for hav- ing an agenda ahead of time and knowing where the state of meetings stands. Early in the project, attendance is likely important. As it runs its course, your involvement may dimin- ish, but so should the length of the meeting. If your input is tangential, ask to address this at the onset, so you can leave shortly after or establish what point in the meeting your topic will be covered so you can arrive at the right time. Be available by cell phone if something else arises and ensure you get a copy of the minutes. ❚ ❚ Follow up differently. Meetings can be exhausting and even contentious. End the meeting on a positive note so no one leaves with resentment or ill feelings. Remember, we were excited about this project in the first place and wanted it bad enough to submit a proposal and commit resources to it. List all the tasks or points that require less than two minutes of action or attention. Once out of the meeting, delegate or handle them immediately. For all the items that require more than two minutes, weave them into place along with the other priorities in your busy day. Delegate what you can. ❚ ❚ Get paid for results. Professional service firms bemoan they are not compensated appropriately for time spent at meet- ings. When meetings are carried out the way they are today, I wouldn’t want to pay for that either. Why should anyone pay for an architect, engineer, or environmental consultant to spend an hour fiddling on their iPad? Let alone a room full of them! If you and your team participate in a meeting that pro- duces either a real deliverable or reaches an advanced decision, then that’s valuable and worthy of payment. That’s when you can invoice confidently for a “work session” or “solution sum- mit.” Billing for another “meeting” carries all sorts of negative connotations. Admittedly everyone is worn-out by meetings and what they’ve done to us over time. Even with today’s technology, we won’t be scheduling any fewer meetings any time soon, so we might as well try some different tactics to make them more productive for us and everyone else. Christine Brack, PMP, is a principal with ZweigWhite who specializes in business planning and project management best practices. Contact her at email@example.com. Somehow the industry corrupted the true mission of meetings and gave them a poor reputation. We consider them a dreaded requirement and we look forward to them being over before they even start.
meetings galore, don’t we? Most projects have a kick-off meeting, a pre-construction meeting, and maybe even a close-out meeting. Depending on the size and scope, weekly or monthly meetings are likely a standing practice. Meetings are great forums to mix personally with other team members. They’re also a perfect opportunity for face time with the client. More importantly, they are the vehicle for progress and a channel for resolution. Somehow the industry corrupted the true mission of meetings and gave them a poor reputation. We consider them a dreaded requirement and we look forward to them being over before they even start. We have been so conditioned that meetings waste our time, that contract language now restricts how many we promise we’ll attend before we start to charge extra. Despite our love/hate relationship with meetings, they are an integral part of what we do. Here are a few thoughts on making meetings more productive, more meaningful, and certainly more positive for everyone.
❚ ❚ Remember the purpose. Most people enter meetings with the explicit purpose of getting through them as fast as pos- sible. Sixty minutes seems to be the magic number allotted to the effort and anything that doesn’t fit in, doesn’t get covered. I’d challenge that most agendas aren’t outlined or managed effectively in the first place and even when they are, the objec- tive is still to rush through it and disperse. The goal isn’t to finish the meeting, it is to discuss sensitive, high-level issues, and accomplish things too difficult outside this group setting. We may reach a point in the project where frequent meet- ings are no longer needed. Know when that is and use other decision-making mechanisms instead. This respects everyone’s time and honors the real intention.
THE ZWEIG LETTER | December 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
Top line recipe for success Adapt and then position yourself to ‘compete to be unique.’ T he New Year is upon us and the topical question remains – are we really headed for
Next, position yourself to “compete to be unique” – which is all about creating superior value for your clients, not on imitating your competitors. It means giving your clients a real choice so that price becomes only one competitive variable. The belief that somehow you can do exactly what everyone else is doing and yet end up with superior results is somewhat naive. Differentiation begins with understanding your company’s underlying model of how competition works. It includes knowing and using your hedgehog as an advantage – that intersection of what fuels their engine, aligns with their passions, and leverages this with clients. Innovation, technological superiority, approach and entrepreneurial approach can be a part of this. The critical key is to find what clearly provides that needed value proposition to the client that’s very different than other solutions. How you think about the competition will define the choices you make and your ability to assess those choices critically. However, if “best” is your approach, you will likely follow the herd. This will continue to be a relationship-based business – so companies that are client-centered and continually strengthen their client relationships will prevail. It is important to have your best on the frontlines with clients and not tied-up managing or administering internal functions. Emphasis should be placed on developing deeper relationships with your best clients to derive more opportunity. The most successful companies these past few years have placed the greatest emphasis on client engagement, while their competitors have fiddled with internal structures and procedures to glean efficiency internally – only to find the work is not there to support them. Having focused client sector and service delivery strategies that are continually refreshed to ensure you are on the right course is key. You might say, “We already do all this.” But do you? And are you doing it well? The real differentiator between the best companies and the rest is in disciplined execution. If a company can prepare better for the future in just one area – it will be to execute better. And great execution is tied directly to people. The best execute well, significantly increasing the chances they reach their goals. So ask yourself if you really are “adapting” – pouring more resources into what has potential AND letting go of what isn’t showing much promise. Have you clearly identified what makes you unique or are you following the herd? And if you believe you have, does the entire organization know what those unique characteristics are? Finally, are you truly client-centered? Do you have your best on the front lines with the clients and do they lose sleep at not worrying about their clients’ needs? If the answers to these questions are “yes” and your business operating fundamentals are sound, then growth and financial success for the coming years are set. Gerry Salontai is the founder of Salontai Consulting Group, LLC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
recovery or should we expect more of the same? There have been some surprisingly positive signs recently in U.S. economic statistics to give us hope. Then again, hope is not a strategy. So the question for many is: How can a company increase its chances of achieving positive growth and profitability given these continuing uncertain times? Certainly it takes a combination of executing on good old-fashioned fundamentals while recognizing the need for adaptation to ever- changing external landscape – whether social, political, regulatory, economic or environmental. Let’s assume your business is well managed, is structured financially for success and the operational fundamentals are pretty much in place. Let’s then focus on those areas that make a difference in driving the “top line.” First, a company needs to be adaptable and responsive to change much quicker than ever before. Adapting doesn’t mean you need make radical 180-degree shifts in direction of the entire company. Rather, it simply implies taking advantage of those areas that have the most promise for generating profitable revenue –
whether they are current areas of focus or are new territory. It includes being very strategic and focused on what your organization will do. And it means a company should not fear letting go of a market sector, client or service line that has become soft and will remain soft for quite some time. The most difficult part of adaptability is letting go of what’s not working as well. Leadership teams are quicker to pursue new market, client or service initiatives to better position the firm. But many lack the discipline to “rationalize” what they have and make the tough decision to let go – whether it’s a market, client or service area and even an office, group or individual. Adaptability takes both. The real differentiator between the best companies and the rest is in disciplined execution. If a company can prepare better for the future in just one area – it will be to execute better.
© Copyright 2011. ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.
HR A SUPPLEMENT OF THE ZWEIG LETTER
DECEMBER 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
BY T H E N UMB E R S
Learning often a firm-wide activity
Mix of opportunities available through several methods, although accreditation is often the end-goal. By João Ferreira Managing Editor W hile A/E/P and environmental consulting firms appear to give equal importance to accreditation-fo- cused learning and skills-focused learn- ing, the methods of attaining those skills vary widely. That’s the inference from the latest “By The Numbers” survey, an occasional online survey of HR professionals held by The Zweig Letter .
How do you conduct learning activities primarily?
peer-to-peer training are still very im- portant parts of our overall training program.” Hennes said that training methods vary “depending on the subject, and to some extent how an individual learns best.” Who’s learning? Firms seem to have training opportunities open to whomever wants to benefit, with an overwhelming majority of respondents (78 percent), saying all full-time em- ployees are entitled. The remaining 22 percent of respon- dents said learning opportunities are available to professional staff mostly. “Coffman Engineers believes so strong- ly in the value of education that we ask every employee to obtain at least 20 hours of continuing education/train- ing/learning annually,” said Timber Chinn, corporate HR manager for the Seattle-based 197-person consulting engineering firm. “We have intentionally made learning part of our culture for three reasons,” Chinn said. “The first reason is that as a profession- al engineering organization it is vitally important that our employees remain current with technical standards and practices,” she said. “The second reason is that ongoing ed- ucation helps employees meet their ca- reer development goals,” she said. “The third reason is that employees ap- preciate the benefits associated with working for a company that supports them in this way.” Hennes offered a similar rationale. “We are a learning organization,” she said. “This is exhibited by everyone ev- ery day being engaged in further devel- opment whether through receiving or instructing.”
10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45%
global infrastructure advisor. Another, anonymous respondent said that, “All employees are entitled to training related to their particular dis- cipline. Professional licensing/certifi- cation are highly recommended.” Yet another: “We offer several online
and instructor- led courses meant to develop busi- ness, communi- cation and man- agement skills. We also provide webinars on tech- nical content, re- cord them, and
“We are a learning organization. This is exhibited by everyone every day being engaged in further development whether through receiving or instructing.”
According to the informal survey, an equal number of respondents (33 per- cent) said they offer accreditation-fo- cused learning and skills-focused learn- ing. Another 33 percent of respondents said they offered both modalities (as well as additional complementary modalities) of learning, although the scales tipped in favor of skills-focused learning when they were asked to elaborate. “All of the above. A balance of the pro- fessional, management, culture, and business skills needed for the individ- ual to grow and for us to make sure we are creating a sustainable organi- zation where employees have a bright future and are our future,” said Sherry Hennes, director of HR at Moffatt & Nichol (Long Beach, CA), a 500-person
make them available 24/7.” Many shapes. While the types of learning offered are fairly straight- forward, the modalities in which that learning occurs are less explicit. The majority of respondents (45 per- cent) said instructor-led training is the favored method, with e-training and peer-to-peer learning each obtaining only 11 percent of respondents’ favors. Again, a large percentage of respon- dents (33 percent) reported offering a combination of methods. “Our training program uses all of the methods set out above,” one respon- dent said. “E-training has steadily in- creased compared to instructor-led in- person training, but mentoring and
THE ZWEIG LETTER | December 19, 2011, ISSUE 939
ON THE MOVE SHG Hires: Holger Schulze Ehring recently joined national engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. (Waltham, MA), as a vice president and senior project manager to broaden SGH’s substantive structural design capability with his exceptional expertise in the design of specialized structures. SGH sees the design of specialty structures as an area with very high potential for growth in the next few years. In his role at SGH, Schulze Ehring will focus on collaborating with architects, developers, and contractors to design specialized and complex structures, including museums, transportation hubs, and bridges, as well as structural glazing, sculptures, architecturally featured staircases, canopies, cable structures, and movable structures. Schulze Ehring previously worked for Santiago Calatrava LLC at its headquarters in Zurich as a lead project engineer for internationally recognized iconic projects across the United States, Europe, South America, and worldwide. In his work, he has seamlessly and elegantly blended structural engineering with architects’ design intents to produce many stunning, award-winning projects, including the World Trade Center Port Authority Trans-Hudson Transportation Hub, Denver International Airport extension, Museu do Amanhã, and the Salerno Marina and Bridge. Prior to his tenure at Calatrava, he worked for Ramboll UK Limited in London and the Institute for Steel Construction in Aachen, Germany. “We are very pleased that Holger has joined our team,” said Glenn Bell, SGH CEO. “He will be instrumental in advancing our position as a leading provider of integrated, collaborative engineering services to enable and inform creative structures.” WSP Sells hires: WSP SELLS (NewYork, NY), a 225-person affiliate of WSP Group , announced that Ronald Smith , joined the firm’s North Carolina operations. Smith has more than 30 years of experience in the planning and design of highway facilities. His experience in planning and design of highway facilities ranges from intersection improvements to expressway design, including 14 years with the Florida Department of Transportation in planning and design related activities. Smith’s engineering responsibilities have included the establishment of branch office, branch office management and marketing. Prior to joining WSP SELLS, he was employed by Dyer, Riddle Mills & Precourt Inc. in Charlotte, N.C. As senior project manager, Smith will oversee transportation planning and highway design projects in North Carolina and South Carolina. He will also be responsible for leading transportation business development in the Charlotte area and Upper South Carolina markets. TT hires: ThorntonTomasetti (NewYork, NY), the international engineering firm, announced that registered architect Richard Vivenzio , joined the firm’s NewYork office as vice president in the Building Performance Practice. Vivenzio, a licensed architect in NewYork and New Jersey, has more than 28 years of experience in architectural project management, construction administration, building diagnostic services and forensic investigation. Having been trained in forensic procedures, Vivenzio has been a designated expert in numerous disputes, representing the plaintiff and defendant, and has testified as an expert in arbitration hearings and depositions. Vivenzio is also an expert in matters of condominium disputes and multi- and single-family housing cases. He has a working knowledge of code interpretation, including International Building Codes, Boca Codes, and ADA Accessibility, as well as zoning and local laws. Vivenzio is well-versed in proper forensic analysis, cause and origin investigations, construction means and methods, and building systems including roofing and exterior building envelope enclosures. Prior to joining Thornton Tomasetti, Vivenzio was an assistant director of architecture at Chester, Ploussas, Lisowsky Partnership LLC
in Matawan, N.J., where he was a project manager on numerous residential projects, adult communities, retail centers and office buildings. G&O Hires: Engineering consulting firm Greenhorne & O’Mara (Laurel, MD) continues to strengthen its Florida transportation operations with the addition of John Kilgore . Kilgore serves as division manager of the Florida Transportation Design groups, overseeing all operations. He has more than 22 years of experience in numerous areas of transportation engineering and project management. “John’s versatile background and experience with the Florida Department of Transportation is a great asset to G&O. His project management skills, in addition to his hands-on work, will enable our Tampa Bay and Florida transportation offices to continue providing superior service to our clients,” said Regional Vice President Lee Watts. DMW hires: Daft McCuneWalker, Inc. (Towson, MD), a multidisciplinary land development/design consulting firm, announced that Hank Alinger has joined the firm to strengthen and expand its core planning, site design and landscape architecture practice. As director of design services, Alinger is responsible for directing and coordinating the landscape architecture services across DMW’s Towson, Frederick and Berlin, M.D., offices. “DMW’s roots are in planning and landscape architecture,” said Tom Repsher, chairman of the board. “Hank’s public and private sector development expertise will allow us to extend our design capabilities and strengthen the firm’s presence in its core markets.” With 30 years of urban design and community revitalization projects experience including an emphasis on project planning and implementation of city centers, waterfronts, historic preservation and mixed-use development and redevelopment, Alinger has overseen the planning and design process, from concept through implementation. Prior to DMW, he was an associate principal and studio leader at EDSA , and a principal with the multi-disciplinary firm, HNTB, Inc. and LDR International , a renowned planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm, respectively. “Hank’s process-oriented approach fits well with how we address projects at DMW,” said DMW President, Lisa Gobrecht. “Understanding regulations and encouraging public participation ensures that we realize the full impact a project may have on all constituents; enabling us to help clients make informed decisions in the early stages of planning.” CBT promotes: CBT (Boston, MA), an architecture, interior design and urban design firm, announced a series of principal-level appointments in support of the firm’s growth and leadership transition plan. Reflecting the diverse practice of the firm, the 14 newly promoted employees practice across a wide spectrum of sectors including commercial, academic, urban design, corporate amenities and repositioning, hospitality and residential for CBT clients domestically and internationally. Named as principal: Haril Pandya , KishoreVaranasi , Paul Viccica , and Eric Vogel . Named as associate principal: Joe Bettencourt , John Carlson , Jackie McGee , Sharon Steinberg , Kathy McMahon , Dave Madson , Phil Casey , Chad Reilly , Ken Lewandowski , and Ellen Perko . “With these promotions, we are proud to recognize the leadership qualities and creative design talent demonstrated by the rising leaders in our firm,” said Richard Bertman, a founding principal of CBT. “Their advancement enhances CBT’s client service depth today and prepares us for a bright and enthusiastic future.”
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