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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





2020 FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE SURVEY Zweig Group’s 2020 Financial Performance Survey includes comprehensive data on the financial performance, financial departments, challenges, methodology, and financial practices of AEC industry firms. The 2020 edition has been updated with an additional chapter on COVID-19 outlook and budget/revenue projections. ❚ ❚ Key financial statistics. This chapter includes net service revenue and profitability measures, labor multipliers, turnover rates, and professional/technical to administrative staff ratios, and so much more. Data is also segmented by firm type, staff size, region of headquarters, growth rate, and client base, with multiple years of trend data for overall medians or means. ❚ ❚ Personnel costs. Five major types of personnel costs are analyzed in this publication including: payroll taxes, vacation, holiday and sick leave, group insurance, pension, profit sharing and 401(k) plans, and bonuses. Trend data is also given for historical spending comparisons. This section also includes data on workers’ compensation premiums and claims. ❚ ❚ Other financial statistics. In addition to all the above information, this publication has data on additional financial topics – everything from financial software applications to cash flow reports and professional liability insurance. Visit to learn more about the 2020 Financial Performance Survey.


tough, and it’s realistic to plan for a more extended timeframe than your firm may be accustomed to as a result. Even in the friendliest of transactions, due diligence is inherently stressful. Add that to the pressure-cooker of a year that 2020 has been, and the only thing that will keep a transaction on track is the sheer will of the parties involved, which requires one critical ingredient: authentic trust. As an aside, due diligence this year needs to deviate from the template to incorporate conversations about employment liabilities earlier in the process (such as off- balance sheet PTO accruals), analysis of PPP loan proceeds and loan documents, and increased emphasis on free cash flow over typical adjusted EBITDA analysis. As negotiations proceed to deal structuring, the current climate presents an occasion to re-assess your financing strategy. Every firm is in cash conservation right now, as concerns over working capital remain appropriately top of mind. Several buyers we work with are considering deploying their equity as consideration to minimize their cash outlay, meaning paying for the firm they are acquiring by using the buyer’s stock as part of the payment. There are plenty of reasons that equity can be fantastic “currency,” sure, but your deal team would be wise to avoid a myopic focus on conserving cash that goes straight to the most expensive capital that there is for most AEC firms: ownership. The median return on equity last year in the AEC industry according to Zweig Group’s 2020 Financial Performance Survey was 54.4 percent (pre-tax, pre-bonus). Equity is expensive capital – especially if your firm is in growth mode. I actually had one CEO tell me that they prefer using stock ownership to finance transactions over debt because taking on debt “hurts their valuation” (begging the question “valuation of what?”). Rather than either cash or equity, consider third-party interest-bearing debt. It is unfortunate that debt aversion is almost debilitating for many firms in our industry, especially when interest rates remain very low. Despite the challenging environment, there are tremendous opportunities to be had, whether the time is right to close a transaction or to invest in building a long- term relationship that may eventually turn into a partnership. JAMIE CLAIRE KISER is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her 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.

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Death, taxes, and retirement

If done correctly, an owner’s retirement and its benefits can be just as certain as death and taxes.

I t is common knowledge amongst AEC firm owners that, with proper guidance from an attorney and a tax advisor, the impact of death and taxes on a business’s operations can be minimized with careful planning. However, most AEC firm owners fail to realize that retirement itself can be just as detrimentally impactful on their firm’s ability to continue normal operations as death or taxes if it is not properly planned for well in advance.

Justin Ramirez

This holds especially true for business owners who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of their firm. As most firm owners already know, overseeing the firm’s operations, employees, and projects leaves very little time to think about what life will look like after reaching that “golden age” of retirement. Most importantly, there is also little time to determine the answers to some vital questions: How will new owners be selected? How will business decisions be made? Will you continue to work for the firm at reduced capacity? How will you, the retiring owner, be paid for your respective percentage of ownership once you do retire? The simple answer is to be proactive in your ownership succession planning and to document your firm’s decisions within its respective governing documents. This process should begin

with a comprehensive review of your firm’s governing documents and internal relationships to determine the necessary actions required to implement a strong succession plan that minimizes the risks associated with an owner’s retirement. With proper planning, you can get out, get paid, and ensure that the firm is capable of continuing normal operations while being managed by the right people. In regard to entities organized as a limited liability company (“LLC”) or as a professional limited liability company, the firm’s operating agreement, in particular, should be carefully drafted to reflect the owners’ desires in a manner that provides comprehensive guidance to both current




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES CONSTRUCTION IS COMPLETE ON LOLOI RUGS SHOWROOM AND DISTRIBUTION CENTER IN ATLANTA Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced construction is complete on a new office, showroom and distribution center for Loloi Rugs located at 840 Cassville White Road in Cartersville, Georgia. Ware Malcomb provided architecture and interior design services for the project. Loloi Rugs is a leading textile brand that designs and crafts distinctive rugs, pillows, and throws for the thoughtfully layered home. Family-owned and led since 2004, Loloi Rugs has been quickly expanding its team of hundreds of employees, investing in multiple distribution facilities, and introducing thousands of new products for its retailers and designers worldwide. The company’s newest facility in Atlanta is a build-to-suit 646,380 square foot building incorporating a distribution center, warehouse, office space and product showroom. The

single-story, 32-foot clear height building utilizes concrete tilt wall construction and storefront glazing. Ware Malcomb also provided interior design services for 10,000 square feet of interior office space and a 5,000 square foot product showroom. The interior office environment was designed with a modern, open feel. The offices on the exterior of the floorplate have large windows and glass walls to maximize natural light exposure for the space. The showroom highlights new products and allows current and prospective clients to visit year-round. “This new, innovative facility for Loloi Rugs will enable this dynamic company to fulfil its potential for continued rapid growth,” said Jason Dooley, Regional Director of Ware Malcomb’s Atlanta office. “Our design addressed the company’s logistical needs as a warehouse and distribution center, but also captured their distinct brand and aesthetic throughout its offices and showroom. The result is a facility that enhances every aspect of their business.”

The general contractor for the project is Alston Construction. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is an international design firm providing planning, architecture, interior design, branding, civil engineeringandbuildingmeasurement services to commercial real estate and corporate clients. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/educational facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as a Hot Firm and Best Firm To Work For by Zweig Group. Founded in 1986, Panattoni Development Company, Inc. is one of the largest privately held, full-service development companies in the world. Panattoni is headquartered in Newport Beach, California, and operates from 24 offices in the United States, Canada and Europe.

JUSTIN RAMIREZ, from page 3

❚ ❚ The rights and responsibilities of the members and managers to the LLC and to each other ❚ ❚ Specific decisions that require a vote by the members, managers, or both ❚ ❚ The process for adding and removing a member ❚ ❚ The process for electing and removing a manager ❚ ❚ The timing of distributions and any restrictions imposed on those distributions ❚ ❚ The allocation of profits and losses ❚ ❚ Restrictions on the assignment, transfer, or encumbrance of membership interest ❚ ❚ Specific criteria that an individual must satisfy to become a member or manager ❚ ❚ Specific events that will cause a member or manager to no longer be a member – usually accompanied by language permitting the firm to purchase the member’s interest at a discounted price The decisions documented in your firm’s operating agreement to lessen the impact of an owner’s retirement on a firm’s business operations should be the result of working with an attorney, a certified public accountant, and most importantly, a trusted advisor with extensive knowledge of and experience in the AEC industry. If done correctly, retirement and its benefits can be just as certain as death and taxes. JUSTIN RAMIREZ is an ownership transition advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at

and future owners. In its simplest form, the operating agreement is commonly referred to as the “heart and soul of an LLC,” because it governs the members’ relationships to each other and to the LLC, the activities of the LLC, and the overall rights and duties of members and managers. “Most AEC firm owners fail to realize that retirement can be just as detrimentally impactful on their firm’s ability to continue normal operations as death or taxes if it is not properly planned for well in advance.” Depending on which state your firm is headquartered in, a written operating agreement may not have been required in order for your firm to be organized as an LLC. However, it is always wise to have a written operating agreement to maintain limited liability protection for members and managers. Of similar importance, a carefully drafted operating agreement can also provide clarity and resolution in the midst of a disagreement between members as to a particular decision requiring a vote of approval by LLC members or managers. Some of the most common topics covered in an AEC firm’s operating agreement include: ❚ ❚ The management of the LLC (member- or manager- managed?) ❚ ❚ Confidentiality and non-compete obligations

OWNERSHIP TRANSITION IN THE AEC INDUSTRY WEBINAR Zweig Group’s new Ownership Transition in the AEC Industry Webinar covers a range of topics, giving attendees a new view of ownership transition and how an effective plan can be put into place. Whether attendees are young, up and coming professionals or principals looking at their impending transition, this webinar gives everyone an introspective view of their career.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.



Work From Home & Online Learning Opportunities



PROJECT MANAGEMENT FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS - VIRTUAL SEMINAR PRICE: $599 OVERVIEW: A new seminar for project managers led by a panel of 3 experts backed by a ton of research on how to best train project managers to be more effective and efficient. this training course covers the critical focus areas every AEC Industry project manager should be familiar with and is presented in lecture, tutorial, individual exer- cises, and case study workshop sessions. Attendees will leave armed with a compre- hensive understanding of the characteristics, skills, and techniques successful project LEARN MORE ELEVATING DOER-SELLERS: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FOR AEC PROFESSIONALS - VIRTUAL SEMINAR PRICE: $899 OVERVIEW: Elevating Doer-Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals is specifically developed to help design and technical professionals in architecture, en- gineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing clients and promoting the firm and its services. Led by two retired and current CEOs with extensive experience from the design desk to the board room, this one-of-a-kind seminar presents business development techniques proven to drive real growth and value in your AEC firm. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON AUGUST 5, 2020 LEARN MORE

managers must have to flourish in their role. THIS VIRTUAL SEMINAR WILL BEGIN ON JULY 14, 2020


OVERVIEW: The Principals Academy is Zweig Group’s flagship training program en- compassing all aspects of managing a professional AEC service firm. Elevate your ability to lead and grow your firm with this program designed to inspire and inform existing and emerging AEC firm leaders in key areas of firm management leadership, financial management, recruiting, marketing, business development, and project management. Learning and networking at this premiere event challenges traditional seminar formats and integrates participatory idea exchange led by Zweig Group’s CEO Chad Clinehens, PE, and Zweig Group’s Managing Principal, Jamie Claire Kiser, as well as the firm’s top line up of advisors. NEXT SESSION COMING SOON


Zweig Group is an approved provider by the AIA & SHRM




Photo credit: Carlos Sanchez

Authenticity: LaShawn Stewart-Baylor President and CEO of Integrated CM Solutions (San Antonio, TX), a program/construction management firm that’s had more than $800 million worth of projects since 2015.

By LUKE CAROTHERS Correspondent

A long-time resident of San Antonio, Stewart-Baylor graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a degree in communications. Following graduation, she spent a few years working for a construction management company before founding Integrated CM Solutions as a project management firm in 2015. Stewart-Baylor uses her competitive nature to guide her small business to new heights each day. ICMS currently operates as a sub-consultant on most of its projects, but this doesn’t stop Stewart-Baylor from thinking big; she wants to make the firm prime as it continues to grow. A CONVERSATION WITH LASHAWN STEWART-BAYLOR. The Zweig Letter: What do you see as the “cost” of ignoring or downplaying the impact of racism in our industry? What are we missing out on by failing to dismantle these barriers? LaShawn Stewart-Baylor: It took me some time to decide if this interview was something I wanted to do for fear that barriers would be set for my company because I

spoke about things that no one wants to hear or even say. That is the “cost.” The idea that speaking about everyday experiences and bringing them to light could cause me to lose the very thing that I am the most passionate about is really sad. But I realized that if I don’t do it now, when will I do it? I also recognize that I do have a lot of great clients, colleagues, and potential partners who want to hear what I have to say so that they can make changes and look at things from a different perspective. It is important that we stop ignoring and start working toward making changes for the new generation of AEC professionals. It is also important to humanize the barriers so that the real work can begin. If not, how do we explain that we had an opportunity but chose not to take it? How do we grow as a community of leaders? TZL: You’ve built an incredible business in five years – more than $800 million in projects during that time. What has been your business development strategy in growing ICMS? LSB: As a small business, your livelihood sometimes varies from day to day, so with my business strategy I



have to be mindful of flexibility and patience. Fortunately, my industry experience has landed us opportunities that I never would have imagined so early, and that is a blessing. If I had to speak on strategy, I would say focus on what is feasible and pursue it vigorously. Be patient with the process and plan accordingly for the long lead items like contract, NTP, and payment schedule. While pursuing projects, have the confidence to know that you are qualified to do the job and that you have hired the most qualified people to handle all opportunities that come your way. Pay attention to industry trends. And last but not least, pray. It takes a whole lot of faith to maintain in this industry and that sometimes is all you need to get through the day. TZL: There have been diversity initiatives and panel conversations and committees to “end racism” for a long while, yet the AEC industry continues to prove time and time again that we have not made progress at reflecting the clients and communities we serve. How do we get there? What shake-ups do we need? LSB: I agree, the AEC community needs to do more. I have seen more emails of companies “committing to make a change,” but if there is nothing put in place to make sure those changes happen, then all of this was just another exercise that took up space in 2020. I am not sure how we get there, but I do know this is a start. I think finding ways to incorporate more voices of color into the industry will help. But the real work comes down to the leadership and how they plan to work on making a difference. The “good ol boy” system should be a thing of the past. I would love to see some of the larger companies working side by side with their minority partners to find out what they feel will help change the climate and commit to make those changes together. No one wants to have the conversations but that is the only way things will move in a direction of change. TZL: How have your firm’s certifications – including DBE, WBE, SBE, and MBE – impacted your firm’s growth and your brand? What advice would you offer to companies out there that serve in a prime role and work with firms that hold certifications? LSB: The quick answer is yes, my certifications are what impacts my growth. I hesitate to say that though because I don’t like to define my company as a “Small,” “Minority,” “Woman” owned business. I define it as a capable business, a qualified business, a business that is responsive and proactive. A business that has career, certified, educated staff that all have worked their butts off for 15-30 years (respectfully) and are considered subject matter experts in their field…who just happen to be black, brown, and/or female. More often than not, SMWBE firms are looked at as a necessary evil in this industry because of goal setting and disparity studies, which is unfortunate and the furthest thing from the truth. The truth and success lies in those teaming relationships that offer growth on both sides of the fence. The prime firms out there that look at their SMWBE partners as “subs” and not as partners will always find themselves more frustrated with the process because they are not looking at the value that uplifting such firms and treating them as an important part of the process brings. For instance, one of the first things addressed

during the pandemic was the impact it made on small businesses. That rang volumes because it shows how much small businesses impact the economy. By offering a small business an opportunity, you are not offering a favor. You are simply doing your part to enhance the industry which benefits us all in the long run. TZL: Many white people that I know see the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as horrifying events based on a “few bad apples” on the police force. What would you like to share – if anything – related to these current events? LSB: I have had many of my white colleagues in the AEC industry reach out to me because they are confused about what is happening or they just want to educate themselves on what is going on. I answer, give them my experiences with the police force and even my family’s experiences. The only thing I would like to share at this point is that if you feel like an entire movement happened based on a “few bad apples” then you have lived under a rock long enough and it’s time to come from underneath it. Inequality and racism are both very touchy and uncomfortable subjects. Many people shy away from things that make them uncomfortable because they don’t like to believe it is possible. But when you look into the eyes of your “black friend” and they tell you a story about something that happened to them personally, and you are not outraged, then you are a large part of the problem. Equality is a humanity issue. Being treated like a human being is all my community is fighting for. Imagine fighting just to be treated like a human being? Imagine sparking debate over the word “matter”? It’s tough, I know, but it is reality. Humanity is a reality. If only the individuals that came up with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter thought of saying #blacklivesmatterAsWell or #blacklivesmatterToo, then what would be the debate? It’s unfortunate that now everyone has to have an uncomfortable conversation with their children. The question is, what side of that conversation were you on when you explained it to them? TZL: Do you think firms with certifications (MBE/DBW/ WBE/HUB) are respected as equal to their peers without these certifications? LSB: No, I do not. I have had, and do have, meaningful teaming relationships with firms that “get it,” remember where they started out, and treat you like a partner and a valuable part of the team. This is the firm I target to work with. Then you have the other firms that treat you like a number and could care less how insulting it is when you are offered 1 percent of something simply because you fill a quota. When you lead with that mindset working for that type of firm your entire career, you tend to lose sight of the fact that you are actually working with a human being and not a number. Especially when you choose to work with a company because you are trying to appeal to an owner who has a diverse conglomerate of decision makers. I have been asked to “bring the black vote” because I’m black or “appeal to the woman in charge of the contract” because I am female. Where is the respect in that? Unfortunately, MBE/ DBE/WBE/HUB firms have had to grin and bear it because they have mouths to feed, employees to support, and a business to maintain. See AUTHENTICITY, page 8

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

NE 22, 2020, ISSUE 1350

8 TZL: What advice would you give to a leader who wants to engage in a discussion about diversity but isn’t sure where to start? LSB: I would advise them to do a review of their entire company from the top to the bottom. Review how inclusive they are within their company leadership, and if that looks exactly the same as it did even five years ago, redo the entire process. I would also advise them to look at how their sellers or seller/doers are building their teams when pursuing contracts. Are you looking at numbers (because you have to) or are you looking at value? Are you allowing the younger generation to help you make some decisions? How many African American men or women do you have in leadership? How much diversity is in your human resources department? What type of footprint do you have in urban communities? Are you recruiting from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and do you have internships available with said HBCUs? None of these things have anything to do with charity. Minority businesses are not asking for handouts. We are asking for a fair and level playing field and to be treated like you would treat anyone that you respect. Once you add these things to your company culture, then the discussion about diversity can begin. TZL: How often are you the only person who looks like you in a meeting? How does being aware of being a black woman influence the way you interact in meetings, handle disputes, or negotiate? LSB: Within the region I am in, nine times out of 10, I am the ONLY black female in the room. There’s an illustration floating around on the internet of a black woman sitting in a chair facing a panel of 10 white males and the caption reads “Describe what you can bring to this company.” As soon as I saw that, I was like there it is, that is what it feels like! I have had this issue my entire career. And like most, if not all women (especially women of color) I have to be the one in the room who knows the most but doesn’t “intimidate,” feels the most passionate but doesn’t come across “emotional” or “angry” etc. And, as a woman you have to demand attention that doesn’t involve someone undressing you with their eyes. It can be an interesting juggle at times, but I have worked in corporate America my entire career, so I know enough to be effective and maintain my dignity. I am not the type to conform but because I am passionate about what I do, I feel that my authenticity speaks volumes in situations like that. Real is the only thing I have an interest in being and if that is not what someone wants from me, then we are not meant to do business with one another. I am often looked at with shock because of the level of industry knowledge I have and how I conduct myself in high stress situations. I’m not sure why the shock is there but I can venture to guess it comes from what I look like and that I am the one in the room least likely to be there. TZL: Many AEC leaders that we work with feel like race and gender don’t matter, individual characteristics and capabilities do. How would you respond to that? LSB: I respond to that by saying until the shoe is on the other foot, there will always be people who think that. I AUTHENTICITY, from page 7

was told by a colleague that I have known for at least 10 years that they were reluctant to put me on their team because they had “subs” that couldn’t perform in the past so they had to just write them a check and perform the work for them. I was confused by this because I wasn’t sure what that meant. So even though you have to add “subs” to the team, you were hesitant to add mine because of your experience with another “sub”? You know my characteristics and my capabilities, but you are still categorizing me because of an experience that could have happened in any situation. So even when you are not aware of privilege, it happens all the time. My response to that is like any other entrepreneur, if you don’t see my value, there is someone else out there who will. I don’t take it to heart because I don’t have time to do so. Ignorance is bliss and if living in that makes you happy, then you are not the client I want to work with anyway, friend or not. I have never shied away from an open conversation with people that feel this way because it is important for me to know exactly where we stand because time is of the essence when you are trying to build your firm and wasting it is not an option. TZL: ICMS is celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer. What accomplishments do you take the most pride in from the past five years? Where do you see ICMS in another five years? LSB: The accomplishments are wrapped up in the staff of professionals I have working for me. Knowing that the people who make ICMS what it is continue to believe in my direction as a leader makes me feel accomplished. I see our company being respected as a high performance-based firm that takes every project (big or small) and turns it into something that all stakeholders can be proud of. I also see us priming more contracts and working with the firms that supported us as a teaming partner now, as teaming partners of the future. My goal is to be a household name amongst the AEC community with a stellar reputation and amazing cast of individuals making that a reality every day. Bigger has never been my goal; better is always what I strive for. Like my husband says, “Just focus on the rock, Sugga.” And that is what I am doing, focusing on “the rock.” TZL: What role could design professionals in the AEC community have in creating more inclusive spaces? LSB: For starters, the thought that there is only room for “one” has to be removed from the scenario. If you look at the landscape of our industry, how often do you see more than one African American firm at the table in communities that are less populated with diversity? I can say from experience that those opportunities are far and few between which cause more competition within competition. The idea that if my other black colleagues are at the table, there’s no room for me makes for a non- inclusive space. If firms open the idea up to this, then it opens more doors for people of color to enter. Thinking with the mindset of us cancelling each other out brings forth less opportunities for growth on all levels of the spectrum and in all spaces within the industry.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




W hen you talk with and observe as many people in the A/E business as we have over the years, one thing becomes abundantly clear. That is that architects and engineers who are good communicators really stand out, and they are usually very successful in their careers. If we truly want to elevate our people and help them achieve all they can achieve, we must help them be better communicators. The importance of communications

Some of these may include editing their writing before something goes out, explaining any changes that need to be made and why. Giving them feedback immediately after meetings and presentations and making suggestions on how something could have been better communicated verbally quickly after it happens. And all of this needs to be done in a helpful way versus a condescending and critical way “Let’s face it, most people don’t learn all they should about this subject in school. There’s much more time spent on design and technical training, and little time left over for subjects such as communication.”

Mark Zweig

Those who have these outstanding communication skills use them all day long every day, and things go better in pretty much every way. They sell more work, they have happier clients, they enjoy better relationships with their peers and all others in the organization, their projects are more profitable, and they are happier themselves. It’s especially critical now that there is so much less face-to-face because of COVID-19. So what can we do to improve the communication skills of all of our people? The answer lies in training and coaching. It takes a serious one-on- one effort to make a difference and really help people improve their ability to communicate effectively. Here are some things you can do: ❚ ❚ Individual coaching. Managers and mentors need to coach their people through a variety of means.

See MARK ZWEIG, page 10



ON THE MOVE SULLIVAN ENGINEERING HIRES NEW DIRECTORS, EDWARD PON AND WILLIAM DAVIS Sullivan Engineering, LLC , a regional provider of exterior restoration services, is pleased to announce that Edward Pon and William (Bill) Davis will join the company as directors, leading a team of senior project managers on the operations team at the company’s New York City headquarters. Pon is a registered architect who brings more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, making him a technical asset to the Sullivan Engineering team. Davis brings 20 years’ experience to the role and is well-respected in the industry as a trusted professional. Pon, formerly director of healthcare projects at Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, P.C. , will take on the position of Director. Pon brings extensive experience in façade restoration, roofing masonry, and existing curtain wall systems. Before being named director, Pon led a team managing projects at many of New York’s top hospitals and healthcare facilities, as well as many large New York City residential complexes. Pon also serves as chairman of the Town of Harrison, New York Architectural Review Board.

Pon enjoys being involved in all aspects of façade restoration and takes pride in working with clients and mentoring young associates in the field. He firmly believes in teamwork and has a reputation of being practical and fair. Recently, Pon has focused on cultivating long- term relationships with clients and providing them with innovative solutions to complex challenges. Pon and his family live in Westchester, New York. He and his wife have three children, including two sons, and a daughter who will be graduating from Tufts this year. In his free time, Pon enjoys renovation and DIY projects, in addition to a diverse range of hobbies, from sports, motorcycling, and skiing to cabinet making and maple sugaring. Davis, formerly a senior project manager at FSI Architecture , will assume the position of Director. Davis brings an extensive background in building envelope restoration and forensics, along with a passion for leading and mentoring team members. He is a member of the AAIA and NCARB and holds an OSHA supported and suspended scaffolding certification. Before being named director, Davis spent 14 years restoring building envelopes in

forensic investigations, affording him extensive experience in all aspects of restoration including roofing, masonry, and waterproofing. Throughout his career, Davis has worked with property managers, contractors, co- op boards, consultants, and attorneys. In 2008, Davis completed Restore Masonry Conservation training and gained experience in both water entry prevention and moisture control. Davis lives in Long Beach, Long Island with his wife and son. In his free time, Davis enjoys surfing year-round, traveling, and spending time with his family. Sullivan Engineering, LLC is a regional provider of exterior restoration services that assists, helps and empowers others to improve their quality. With locations in New York, Northern New Jersey, and Massachusetts, Sullivan Engineering provides property managers and building owners with quick turnaround, forward-thinking recommendations, quality design and a thoughtful approach that increases the longevity of repairs over time and decreases burdens and costs.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 9

❚ ❚ Understanding your audience. You need empathy to be a truly effective communicator. People need to try to put themselves in the other guy’s (or gal’s) shoes to anticipate their likely reaction to whatever message the communicator is planning to deliver or send. Get your people to try to consider how something is likely to be received or understood. This is especially important when communicating with people who may be from another country or culture that is different from ours. “So what can we do to improve the communication skills of all of our people? The answer lies in training and coaching. It takes a serious one-on-one effort to make a difference and really help people improve their ability to communicate effectively.” There is plenty we can all do to help make our people better communicators. Let’s face it, most people don’t learn all they should about this subject in school. There’s much more time spent on design and technical training, and little time left over for subjects such as communication. Yet if we truly want to elevate our people and help them achieve all they can achieve, we must help them be better communicators using every tool and in every way we can. MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

so the employee isn’t turned off – not easy by any means but essential if you really want to help your people succeed. ❚ ❚ Group classroom training. I remember years ago we held in-house seminars at Carter & Burgess where we explained certain writing concepts to all of our people. We gave them lists of words and phrases to avoid. We gave them alternative ways to write or say something. We gave them examples of bad writing to correct. We gave them tools such as the “Gunning Fog Index“ to help them calculate the grade level of their writing. I’m not going to say it was a panacea for all writing woes but I can say it was helpful to some people because they not only told me so, they demonstrated it. ❚ ❚ Example setting. You have to start at the top and make sure your principals are all effective communicators. Because if they aren’t setting a good example, then no amount of training is likely to help. They have to know and demonstrate effective communication skills daily. It’s essential. And so many times we have seen the principals are the worst examples. It just isn’t acceptable. ❚ ❚ Understanding timing. It’s not just what you say and how you say it, but also WHEN you say it. People need to understand the importance of timing because great information that is delivered at the wrong time can create all kinds of problems. Sometimes sooner is better and the speed means everything. Other times it is best to hold back and deliver a message at a time when everyone has cooled off from the heat of a battle, or when the receiver is most likely to be able to better process and understand the information. Timing of communication is rarely discussed and it needs to be a big part of this.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




T here is no doubt that we have been going through a season of much higher fear, anxiety, and trauma with the COVID-19 crisis and the very visual revealing of racial injustice and inequities previously ignored. Our stressors are also multi-faceted and connected with different concerns. If we want to be in position to effectively respond and even get ahead of the curve, we all need to know what’s likely to come next. Getting ahead of the next curve

Peter Atherton

On one hand, our concerns are related to health, economics, isolation, and an uncertain and non-uniform reopening. On the other hand, our concerns are related to seeing large gaps in long-standing social constructs associated with equality, justice, and inclusion. Even as we begin to work through the “peaks” medically and in terms of concerns over our organization’s near-term financial health – and as we begin to better listen, understand, and take new actions as citizens and society – the fact is, that we will not, and must not, just return to “normal.” On the medical side, life as we knew it at the start of 2020 is likely at least many months away once we have an effective and widely available vaccine.

Where exactly we end up organizationally and socially will depend on us. Between then and now, however, there are things we need to know and steps we need to take to help ease concerns and come out of these periods of crisis stronger, better, and more resilient. WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW. There will be a dip. No matter how well we have responded as an individual, team, or organization to these situations to date, we will see a dip. The fear, anxiety, and trauma we’ve experienced and are experiencing is similar to that of a disaster. As shown in the graphic on the next page, there is a natural human response to a disaster.




PETER ATHERTON, from page 11

It just makes sense – even when comparing to a simple, yet stressful event we often experience and can largely control. If we switch out the word “disaster” and adjust the timing, we experience a similar curve with adrenaline and mindset in response to a major presentation or major project deliverable. In this analogy, we have a “warning” that a deadline is coming, we ramp up focus and production and have “impact” as we make sacrifices with our normal day-to-day activities in order to deliver what’s needed and achieve “honeymoon” status once we’ve successfully done what we needed to do. There is then a dip the next day or over the next several days in both physical energy and our outlook. Even when we’re confident that we performed well, we may question some things or wish we could have done better. In those instances, we can quickly return to “normal” with an enhanced feeling of accomplishment, and even more ready for the next presentation or project. In cases where we didn’t perform well or know we could have done more, the dip may be greater and last longer until we are more resilient as a result. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders and leadership teams have heeded the “warning,” taken “impact,” and met at least the first of what could be multiple peaks. In the case of our changing social constructs, we’re earlier in the curve and learning more. The issue we must be aware of for both COVID-19 and social equality and justice, however, is not short-term physical adrenaline – it’s longer-term psychological stress and strain, and even burnout and disengagement. “In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders and leadership teams have heeded the ‘warning,’ taken ‘impact,’ and met at least the first of what could be multiple peaks. In the case of our changing social constructs, we’re earlier in the curve and learning more.” WHAT WE NEED TO DO NOW. First, we need to better understand what is happening and what’s likely to come next. A recent World Economic Forum article presents data and perspectives on what we’re up against in terms of a secondary COVID-related epidemic of burnout and stress- related absenteeism in the workplace and includes the graphic presented above. A similar response curve is likely to apply to the trauma and stresses related to fully visualized injustice and inequities and our calls for change.

My recommendation is to review this information and response sequence openly with your leadership team and talk about how it applies. You should also: ❚ ❚ Talk about what you did and are doing right, what you wish you could do over, and what you would do differently as the waves and the work continues. ❚ ❚ Share about where you are individually and as a team. ❚ ❚ Determine how you can best share and discuss this information with – and get feedback from – your managers and your organization as a whole. If we want to be in a position to effectively respond and even get ahead of the curve while avoiding possible “second disasters” and periods of disillusionment, we all need to know what’s likely to come next. No matter how you’ve responded to date, taking the lead now as leaders and leadership teams gives us the best opportunity to connect with and walk through the next and final phases of these moments better, faster, stronger, and more resilient. It is also our best path to enjoy the benefits of higher levels of employee engagement, loyalty, and retention long after we return to our new and better “normal.” Please reach out if you’d like to discuss more about this and outline strategies that can work best for you and your organization during these critical periods of change. PETER C. ATHERTON, P.E. is an AEC industry insider having spent more than 24 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms. Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners , and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete is also the host of The AEC Leadership Today Podcast and leads The AEC Leadership Mastermind. Pete works with AEC firms to grow and advance their success through better strategic planning, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design. Connect with him at pete@actionsprove. com.

© Copyright 2020. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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