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Owners by staff size

Despite the challenging environment, there are tremendous opportunities to be had. Negotiating during COVID

Zweig Group’s research team is often asked, “How many owners should my AEC firm have?” To respond, we compiled data across multiple surveys into a recent study to analyze the number of owners a firm typically has relative to its total number of employees. The chart above shows the percentage of employees that are owners in their firm broken down by firm size (measured in headcount brackets). Generally, we saw that, as firms grow, the relative number of owners decreases. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on any Zweig Group research publication.

L ike every other aspect of business in 2020, supporting transactions in the AEC industry during COVID-19 has been cause for creativity and an outlet for those who really embrace change and lean in to chaos. While that’s perhaps a bit dramatic, keeping mergers and acquisitions on track has required strategic thinking that applies to other aspects of business. Many firms have put their M&A activity completely on hold, as the challenges of running a company have required undivided attention. This presents tremendous opportunity for those firms that have the capacity to initiate M&A discussions. Not only are firm leaders – the targets for potential buyers – receiving fewer inquiries, but they’re also working from home, or at least six feet away from their nearest colleague, opening the door for more candid and open conversation. Initiating new conversations during COVID can be hard without the benefit of a warm lead or intermediary to make an introduction, but this could also be a great time to reestablish a connection with “the one that got away” – it’s safe to say that circumstances have changed for everyone in this environment. Much of my line of work is really focused on nurturing relationships in support of executing the strategies of would-be buyers or sellers. In that capacity, I would also observe that would- be buyers and sellers who are holding off on their dealmaking activity are missing a unique time for a different type of courtship. The emotional intelligence required to build a connection and gauge compatibility over a series of calls and videoconferences is remarkable. In fact, in some respects, I would say it is easier to build genuine relationships. It is inherently humanizing to meet with an executive over a videoconference from their home. I was on a negotiation call recently – the type of thing that required an obligatory steak dinner in the Old Days – when a revenue projection discussion was interrupted by a 4-year-old demanding her father stand by his commitment to color with her. The kind of access available with this lessening of formality is truly remarkable. Further, if the buyer and seller are operating in different geographic locations, the increased reliance on virtual communication can provide much more realistic assessments of what it would be like to work together after the transaction closes and the type of polished, in-person meetings are replaced by the mundane day-to-day emails and calls. Building a strong relationship isn’t just helpful for integration planning, it’s also foundational for the type of due diligence that is taking place this year. Conducting due diligence remotely is

Jamie Claire Kiser

F I R M I N D E X FSI Architecture. ...................................10

Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, P.C..10

Integrated CM Solutions..........................6

Ware Malcomb........................................4

MO R E A R T I C L E S xz JUSTIN RAMIREZ: Death, taxes, and retirement Page 3 xz Authenticity: LaShawn Stewart-Baylor Page 6 xz MARK ZWEIG: The importance of communications Page 9 xz PETER ATHERTON: Getting ahead of the next curve Page 11

See JAMIE CLAIRE KISER, page 2

T H E V O I C E O F R E A S O N F O R T H E A E C I N D U S T R Y

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