TZL 1408 (web)

T R E N D L I N E S S e p t emb e r 1 3 , 2 0 2 1 , I s s u e 1 4 0 8 W W W . T H E Z W E I G L E T T E R . C O M

HR department size

It’s time to reevaluate every penny of our cost structures and ensure that our investments are going to our workforce. Invest in our workforce

I t’s no revelation that rising costs and inflation are upon us amid concerns about labor shortages. The impact of these increased expenses – from the price of lumber to office supplies to food – affects every employee, every client, and every project. This is a time to reevaluate every penny of our cost structures, which means a disciplined approach to inflows and outflows of cash and energy, and ensuring that our investments are going to our workforce. It is also important to consider the scarcity of resources side of the equation within our own businesses. Gallup reported in a recent analysis that 48 percent of America’s working population is actively searching for or watching for new employment opportunities, bringing on the topic of the impending “great resignation” in most industries across the country. It is incredibly difficult to find staff; enrollment in most career fields within our industry is at most optimistically level, but otherwise it is shrinking if not free-falling. There are a few topics that need to be unpacked here such as the real need to commit to culture and put employee experience first. With expertise constrained, capacity to perform limited, and, in some circumstances, ability to execute outside of our industry’s control, we are reminded that we have the ability to chart our own destinies. If you are a principal, rainmaker, or business developer, make sure your clients are aware of the inflection point we are dealing with. There is no reason for our industry to race to the bottom when backlog has spiked to a median of 9.3 months, a 10- year high according to Zweig Group’s 2021 Financial Performance Report . The second highest year in the last decade was 2019, with a median of 7.9 months of backlog. First, we ought to ensure that our pricing matches the offering. Negotiating needs to be a core competency to succeed as a leader of a design firm; our clients know how to push back and we have got to match in kind. Second, it’s time to underscore delegation. If you are doing a single thing that someone below you is capable of doing, you are further short-circuiting your company’s margin. According to our research, backlog is overwhelming, staff are experiencing burnout, utilization is at a record high, and employee feedback responses in our Best Firms To Work For research indicate that we have had an understandably difficult time maintaining meaningful mentorship programs in our industry during the pandemic. Additionally, wages are not rising at the same clip as operating expenses. Many of the firms that Zweig Group works for today are well capitalized; but perhaps the totally novel circumstances of our industry and economic factors are causing us to pause before investing in “overhead” like employee engagement

F I R M I N D E X Clark Construction Group. ......................2 Dewberry..............................................10 HKS........................................................2 Lea & Braze Engineering.......................12 Lockwood, Andrews & Newman .............6 Patel, Greene & Associates, LLC.............4 Ware Malcomb........................................4 MO R E A R T I C L E S xz GORDON GREENE: Your work-life balance Page 3 xz Set the tone: Wayne Swafford Page 6 xz ROB HUGHES: Heightened insurance requirements Page 9 xz MARK ZWEIG: So you want to make more money? Page 11 Zweig Group’s 2021 Policies, Procedures & Benefits Report of AEC Firms asked firms to enter the size of their human resources department as well as the total firm size. The chart above shows the average number of HR employees relative to total staff size groupings. Generally, firms really focused on expanding their HR department once their total staff size surpassed 100 employees. The percentage of the firm’s employees in the HR department ranges anywhere from 1 percent in larger firms to 6 percent in smaller firms. Participate in a survey and save 50 percent on the final or pre- publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

Jamie Claire Kiser




BUSINESS NEWS CLARK CONSTRUCTION AND HKS BREAK GROUND ON FBI INNOVATION CENTER AT REDSTONE ARSENAL Clark Construction Group and HKS joined representatives from the FBI including its director Christopher Wray, the Alabama Congressional delegation, the United States Army, NASA, MDA, and the city of Huntsville to celebrate the groundbreaking of the FBI Innovation Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Clark-HKS is serving as the design-build team on the project. The Innovation Center is located at Redstone Arsenal where the FBI is building a 243-acre campus to strategically realign the Bureau, build its capabilities, enhance its training programs, and tap into top talent in the region. As the flagship building of the FBI’s new Science and Technology District at Redstone Arsenal, the 250,000-square-foot Innovation Center will be a first-of-its-kind facility dedicated to cyber threat intelligence, data analytics, and training to combat emerging threats. The three-story building will include collaborative office space, both formal and informal auditoriums, “collision spaces” for impromptu learning encounters, and specialized training spaces including a kinetic cyber range and a virtual reality classroom for agents to test and apply their skills and tools in real-world settings. “The Clark-HKS team is excited to be delivering such an important facility that will enhance the intelligence community’s capabilities to keep our country safe,” says Keith Couch, a senior vice president overseeing the design and construction efforts on the project. ”We look forward to not only supporting our national

security efforts, but also to contributing a project that is so important to the local Huntsville community.” “Just eight months after commencing design, we’re excited to see this project break ground,” says Jim Whitaker, principal-in-charge leading the design team. “I’m very proud of the immense collaboration of Clark, the FBI, and our design team to quickly and safely advance the design of this state-of-the-art facility in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Clark-HKS team’s scope of work also includes a central utility plant, dining facilities, and an outdoor quad on the new Science and Technology District. The completion of the project is slated for 2023. Clark Construction Group, LLC, is one of the nation’s most experienced and respected providers of building and civil construction services companies. Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, the company has offices strategically located to serve clients throughout the country. HKS is a team of more than 1,300 architects, interior designers, urban designers, scientists, artists, anthropologists, and other professionals working together across industries and across the globe to create places that delight, heal, and stimulate peak performance. The firm has nurtured a culture of extraordinary people with curious and creative minds who are passionate about delivering elegant solutions. HKS has a dedicated research team that digs deep to discover processes and ideas that improve outcomes for everyone.

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or training, which feels like a real risk to medium-term value. Instead, this is a good time to benchmark against revenue factor instead of utilization, to better tie the return on the labor dollar to efficiency evaluations that are more holistic than purely focusing on the number of hours billed. And, if we have to make nightmare deadlines work, don’t compromise the margin to do so. Time is so valuable; if clients want to jump to the front of the line, that must be of value to them. Your best clients will want you to retain the folks they enjoy working with and will join you in finding solutions if you bring them into the conversation – they are very likely dealing with extremely similar challenges too. Evaluate your fees and, if it is time to raise them, do so with confidence that being the lowest cost service provider is not as great of a market position to take as being the best partner to your clients. Your staff have so many more options – don’t burn them out or expect them to be eager to give up another night or weekend so a PM or principal can get something done on time without monetizing that objective. If your business does not resemble the above remarks, it is time to be viscerally aggressive in recruiting. Triple down on taking care of your colleagues – send firm- wide kudos, pay bonuses, hear out weird benefits, hand-write thank you notes, buy dinner if people are working late to hit a team deadline – celebrate relentlessly. Without talented teams, the incredible work our industry achieves would not be possible. JAMIE CLAIRE KISER is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her at

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© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




Your work-life balance

Get to know your people, find out what’s important to them, and understand that work- life balance looks different for everyone.

W e recently prepared an internal benefits survey to gauge our staff’s satisfaction with our current benefits program, with questions touching on everything from health insurance benefits and PTO to their opinions on work-life balance. While reviewing the draft survey, I read, “How important is the PGA work-life balance benefit to you?”

Gordon Greene

Something was off. It was the descriptor we were using. The “PGA” work-life balance? There is no such thing, even though I have certainly heard about other companies that have attempted to assign some sort of companywide formula. No, the question we ultimately included in our survey was, “How important is it to you that PGA provide flexibility for you to find your work-life balance?” That was the correct descriptor: “your.” Maybe I was being picky, or even a little soapbox-y, but I wanted to make sure that our folks understood that it is not our place as a company to decide what an individual’s work-life balance should be. Anyone who is trying to tell you what your work- life balance should be has been reading too many articles (says the guy writing an article on work- life balance).

At the heart of our approach to helping our folks find their work-life balance is a genuine desire to know them. In so doing, we find out they have young children, or maybe a child with autism, they are working through anxiety issues, have aging parents, or a hundred other things that can demand time away from work. Outside of the various duties of life, our folks also have things that they just like to do besides work. We have some avid mountain bikers, runners, gym rats, volunteers, travelers, and people with all sorts of other activities that give them fulfillment. The truth is that some folks just have different capacities for how much work they can perform before it starts feeling like, well, work. It’s a




BUSINESS NEWS WARE MALCOMB ANNOUNCES EXPANSION IN CANADA Ware Malcomb , an award-winning international design firm, announced that the firm has opened a third office in Canada. The office, located in Ottawa, at 1420 Blair Towers Pl, Suite 104, Gloucester, Ontario K1J 9L8, will serve to support Ware Malcomb’s growing client and project base across Canada. Ware Malcomb first entered the Canadian market in 2007 through an acquisition, and Principal Frank Di Roma has successfully led the growth and diversification of the firm’s business in Canada since 2010. “We already have a strong presence in Toronto and Vaughan. This third office solidifies our Canadian presence and allows more accessibility to clients seeking our expertise,” said Di Roma. “It’s an exciting time for our region, and we look forward to the opportunities and dynamic projects ahead of us,” said Christina

Kolkas, Ware Malcomb’s director of Interior Architecture & Design. Specializing in architecture, planning, interior design, branding, civil engineering and building measurement services for commercial real estate and corporate clients, Ware Malcomb has completed over 1200 projects in Canada and currently has active projects in six provinces across the country. Select recent work in Ottawa includes: two projects with Avenue 31, providing architectural design services for a multi-storey industrial facility and providing architecture, interior design and branding services for a 100-acre, six building industrial park; and a project with Broccolini providing architectural design services for a 1 million-square-foot distribution centre. Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is a contemporary and expanding full service design firm providing professional architecture,

planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement services to corporate, commercial/residential developer and public/institutional clients throughout the world. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, Ware Malcombspecializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science and technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/institutional facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is recognized as an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company and a Hot Firm by Zweig Group. The firm is also ranked among the top 15 architecture/engineering firms in Engineering News-Record ’s Top 500 Design Firms and the top 25 interior design firms in Interior Design magazine’s Top 100 Giants.

GORDON GREENE, from page 3

was going to make this change, he wanted to make more time for those things. We already knew how excellent he was at his job, so our answer was, “No problem!” He holds that schedule to this day and those are 24 dang-good hours. “I wanted to make sure that our folks understood that it is not our place as a company to decide what an individual’s work-life balance should be.” There are plenty of discussions on the company’s obligations to encourage employees’ work-life balance, but what often gets missed is employees’ obligations to help the company meet its goals. There’s a balance that needs to be maintained there as well. We truly want you to get home in time for dinner, but sometimes we will need you to stay or maybe crack that laptop open again after dinner. Those who are dogmatic about their work-life balance will inevitably lose out on opportunities for rewards and career advancement. It’s silly to think otherwise when you see others more than willing to work as a team to disrupt their balance for a short time to help meet our clients’ needs and overall company goals for growth and success. So, we not only encourage a good work-life balance, but we also communicate clearly on what is expected when the going gets tough. We do our best to learn and understand everyone’s balance and help them maintain that as often as possible. We don’t always get it right, and we still too often overwork our people, but we continue to listen and improve as we grow. It is admittedly more challenging getting to know every staff member personally with 80 people than it was when we had six, but it’s well worth the effort. GORDON GREENE, PE is executive vice president at Patel, Greene & Associates, LLC. Contact him at .

balancing act we all play, and we all find our balance at different levels of work and life. For me, I love my job. I truly enjoy my work and look forward to spending time on it every day. I’ve learned that I can let my drive and ambition carry me to a point where my life is out of balance. Unfortunately for my family and my health, I can be oblivious to this fact until my wife reminds me that I haven’t seen my kids for a week or my body reminds me that I can’t eat garbage food and not exercise and expect to feel healthy. After all, what’s the point in being the best engineer if I’m a lousy husband or father? And what’s the point in all this success if I feel horrible because I’m not taking care of myself? So, I made some changes in my own life, breaking my time down into three basic components: work, family, and self. I built a daily routine that ensures I dedicate enough time to myself and my family, enough to being a good husband and father, enough time to improve my health, and enough time to achieve the goals that we have laid out for PGA to continue to thrive and grow. I have no doubt that many weeks my wife and kids wish for a little more time from me, but that’s the balance, right? If we have folks who feel like they are failing at home or failing to take care of their health and wellness, then that will inevitably affect their performance at work. So, it comes back to knowing our people and being willing to meet them where they are. We have built a culture at PGA that does not seek extra effort simply for the sake of extra effort, and certainly not at the expense of enjoying life itself. We can (and do!) demand excellence from our folks, but it is in our best interest as leaders to encourage balance, so that even if “all we get” is 40 hours a week, those are 40 dang-good hours. As a matter of fact, one of our very first hires told us that he only wanted to work 24 hours a week. He has interests outside of work and if he

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In today’s AEC world, the right kind of growth can be worth its weight in gold. So how are firms able to increase revenue while keeping their headcount to a minimum? Learn how one firm is streamlining workflows using automation, integrations, & collaboration, and how implementing these processes has taken their growth goals to the next level.

In today’s hyper-competitive A/E/C business climate, you need every edge that you can get to boost your firm’s after- tax profits. Beyond the usual ways to increase revenue & contain operating expenses, did you know that there is a little-used research and development (R&D) tax credit that you can use to decrease your A/E/C firm’s federal & state income tax obligations? Less than 18% of the industry is currently benefitting from this valuable tax liability off-set credit. You can’t afford to miss this session!




Presented by The Vertex Companies, Inc.


There is still time to register!





Set the tone: Wayne Swafford President of Lockwood, Andrews & Newman (Houston, TX), a civil engineering firm that delivers exceptional quality and measurable value for the nation’s infrastructure.


S wafford is a structural engineer with more than 30 years’ experience. He’s managed the operations and finances of several organizations. At LAN, he’s focused on everything from empowering employees and cultivating company leadership to creating more sustainable and resilient infrastructures. “We earn our clients’ trust by listening to their concerns and challenges, providing frank feedback, and then delivering on the promises we make,” Swafford says. A CONVERSATION WITH WAYNE SWAFFORD. The Zweig Letter: You’ve been with LAN for more than four years. To date, what’s the greatest change you’ve overseen or implemented and why? Wayne Swafford: Pushing decision-making deeper into the organization. We’re empowering and encouraging practice leaders and team leaders to take a more active role in decision-making for their teams and the company. We’ve found that empowering employees has resulted in greater levels of service for our clients, better performance on our

projects, and better collaboration and work sharing across the company. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? WS: The pandemic compelled us to rethink our workplace model. Before the pandemic, the conventional industry paradigm – and the one I subscribed to – was that requiring employees to work in the office full-time was necessary for maintaining our productivity. I believe that paradigm is shifting because of what we’ve seen over the past year. Once the pandemic hit, our firm quickly transitioned to a telework model to keep employees safe and healthy. Fortunately, with our industry being knowledge-based and technology-enabled, we were able to leverage our technological resources and adapt to new ways of working and collaborating. The past year has shown us that, in many instances, we can work and operate effectively from our home desks.



As a result, after the pandemic ends, I believe that we will have a more flexible work environment using a hybrid model. And I’m comfortable with that. To me, the key litmus test is, “Are you effective at your job and are you meeting your commitments to your teammates and clients?” “Effective communication and collaboration with your team members and clients is essential to bringing projects together and producing great work.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? WS: Simply put, we earn our clients’ trust by listening to their concerns and challenges, providing frank feedback and then delivering on the promises we make. I believe trust is a value that is simple in theory and more challenging in practice. The key to trust is consistently demonstrating these behaviors in all situations, regardless of how small or inconvenient the circumstance is. We have to recognize that the small decisions we make each day when serving our clients will accumulate to an overall sense of trust. Communication is also a big part of building and maintaining trust with our clients. During the pandemic, we learned how to communicate and build relationships with our clients through video conferencing, and we did that successfully. Now that our clients are returning to their offices, it is important that we adapt our communications to their situation, and now we are seeing a return to face-to-face meetings where and when possible. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? WS: When I was in school, one of the reasons I chose to study engineering was because I was good at math and science and didn’t enjoy writing or public speaking. As I became more experienced in my career and eventually progressed into management, it became apparent that doing the engineering work was only half of being an engineer. The other half, especially when leading a team or practice,

is being an effective communicator. Effective communication and

collaboration with your team members and clients is essential to bringing projects together and producing great work. I advise young engineers to sharpen their communication skills (verbal and written) because those skills will become essential in their careers. TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? WS: We implemented a program in 2008 called Leadership Institute that focuses on cultivating our company’s future leadership. Every year, our future leaders go through an intensive nine-month training forum where they interact and build on each other’s strengths. Through a series of learning modules, the program prepares them for expanding leadership roles, and the curriculum helps define and develop their relevant skills. This is an excellent opportunity for employees to develop their soft skills – such as communication and interpersonal skills – and grow their emotional intelligence. These skills are important for employees in all positions, but become especially important for people management. This month, we launched a new employee development discussion program called COACH. This program promotes professional and personal development through periodic discussions between managers and employees focused on long- term goals and career objectives. I am excited about this forward-looking career development program. TZL: LAN’s website states that the firm’s “path is to develop sustainable infrastructure solutions for the evolving needs of the public.” Can you give me a recent example of a project that speaks their concerns and challenges, providing frank feedback and then delivering on the promises we make.” “Simply put, we earn our clients’ trust by listening to

HEADQUARTERS: Houston, TX NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 350 YEAR FOUNDED: 1935 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 17 MARKETS: ❚ ❚ Healthcare ❚ ❚ Municipal ❚ ❚ Stormwater and drainage ❚ ❚ Wastewater and reuse ❚ ❚ Higher education ❚ ❚ Ports, marine, and coastal ❚ ❚ Transportation ❚ ❚ Water supply and transmission ❚ ❚ K-12 bond program management ❚ ❚ Rail and transit SERVICES: ❚ ❚ Alternative delivery ❚ ❚ Hydraulic and transient modeling ❚ ❚ Program management ❚ ❚ Stormwater management ❚ ❚ Architecture ❚ ❚ Land and site development ❚ ❚ Rail and transit ❚ ❚ Structural engineering ❚ ❚ Construction management and inspection ❚ ❚ MEP engineering ❚ ❚ Right-of-way

❚ ❚ Transportation services ❚ ❚ Disaster recovery and mitigation ❚ ❚ Pipelines ❚ ❚ Sanitary sewer overflow ❚ ❚ Wastewater treatment ❚ ❚ Facility condition assessments

See SET THE TONE, page 8

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

EMBER 13, 2021, ISSUE 1408


SET THE TONE, from page 7

to this mission and illustrates how public needs are evolving? WS: Here in Texas specifically, there’s an urgent need for more resilient and sustainable infrastructure to withstand and protect the public from the effects of natural disasters, which are expected to increase in severity and frequency over the next decade. One example of a project that illustrates how we’re addressing this is the Exploration Green project in Clear Lake City, Texas. Partnering with the Clear Lake City Water Authority, we’re transforming a former 178-acre golf course into five massive detention ponds for flood mitigation purposes. Each detention pond can hold 100 million gallons of stormwater (the equivalent of 750 Olympic-sized swimming pools). In addition, Exploration Green will also serve as a nature park comprising 105 acres of natural habitat with wetlands and native grass land areas, six miles of hike-and-bike trails, two athletic fields, and other amenities. Building the detention ponds has turned out to be immensely beneficial to the community, which previously experienced drainage and flooding issues during extreme storm events. During Hurricane Harvey, although only 80 percent of the Phase 1 pond was completed, it protected at least 150 homes from flooding. In 2019, Tropical Storm Imelda hardly made a dent on the community, and the project withstood Tropical Storm Beta easily. Ultimately, when all five phases are completed, Exploration Green will protect 2,000 to 3,000 homes. Exploration Green is transforming Clear Lake City from a flood-prone community into one of the most flood- resilient communities in Texas. In addition, it is creating a healthy, sustainable neighborhood for its residents. “We’ve found that empowering employees has resulted in greater levels of service for our clients, better performance on our projects, and better collaboration and work sharing across the company.” TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help? WS: I’ve been very fortunate to work with many mentors who were brilliant practitioners. They were not only great at the engineering and technical side of the job, but also had the skills to effectively collaborate and communicate with non-engineers when working on projects. My first boss, Philip Lane, had a broad range of expertise. He was a terrific structural engineer and extremely knowledgeable about other elements of civil engineering. Phil really helped me transition my academic training into practical applications. Another mentor, Ralph Smith, was excellent at critical thinking and maintaining perspective. In difficult

LAN is currently serving as design engineer for the Exploration Green project in Clear Lake City, Texas.

situations, he had the ability to sift through heightened emotions, maintain composure and make rational decisions. These mentors taught me how to put projects together and how to work with others to get them done. TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? WS: Change management for contracts never gets easier with time. Early in my tenure when I was a project manager, my supervisor told me, “Just do a great job, the client will settle with you in the end, and you will be fine.” I managed two different challenging projects using this philosophy, and it was difficult both times. I learned that if you have project issues, you must stop and work through them immediately. Bad news never gets better with time! TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? WS: Making the transition from an engineer to a project manager is hard. You’re going from a task-oriented specialist to a generalist who is managing tasks and people. To support the PMs, we provide them with various kinds of training programs. We have long had internal PM training programs for our business processes. We’re also providing industry-specific training from an external vendor to help our PMs align with one basic management system. Over the last two years, we’ve also implemented a monthly project review process that helps us identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need improvement. These training programs provide our PMs with guidance and support on an ongoing basis. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? WS: Set the tone.

© Copyright 2021. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.




W ith the economy rebounding in several parts of the country, many design firms are seeing projects start up or restart. Yet, the good news comes with a new challenge: An increasing number of insurance specifications now require professional liability insurance limits that are significantly above what design firms typically carry. Having a clear understanding of some key insurance concepts can help your firm navigate heightened requirements and hard insurance market conditions more effectively. Heightened insurance requirements

Rob Hughes

Unfortunately, these requirements coincide with a hardening insurance market. Underwriters are now holding the line or reducing the professional liability insurance limits they’re willing to offer. In your contract negotiations with clients, having a clear understanding of some key insurance concepts can help your firm navigate these requirements and the current hard insurance market conditions more effectively. REALITY CHECK: PUTTING HEIGHTENED REQUIREMENTS INTO CONTEXT. In light of high project costs, owners and their advisors (especially, legal and insurance) inherently sense the need to update contractually required insurance limits to address increased exposures. By their assessment, the risk is defined by potential damages they may sustain or that the general contractor or others may claim against

them (allegedly, at least partly due to design errors or omissions). Nonetheless, there still should be some logical correlation between the size of the project and the professional limit required. Consider, for example, a recent $10 million university project where the professional liability insurance limit (required from the architect) was also $10 million. Realistically, the likelihood of a claim or series of claims totaling 100 percent of the entire project cost is remote. In its negotiation, the architect should use this fact to explain that the additional costs of obtaining the required limit isn’t justified. Although professional liability insurance limits often vary depending on project type, location,

See ROB HUGHES, page 10



ON THE MOVE BIOLOGIST AND ENVIRONMENTAL SPECIALIST JEFF BRAY JOINS DEWBERRY IN RANCHO CORDOVA, CALIFORNIA Dewberry , a privately held professional services firm, has announced that Jeff Bray has been hired to lead its environmental practice across California. Bray is based in the firm’s Rancho Cordova office. With more than 25 years of experience, Bray’s background includes biological resource and wetland projects for transportation, energy, and mining clients. Prior to joining the firm, he spent 27 years with LSA where he gained experience leading and growing an environmental group. Bray has been hired

by Dewberry to lead and continue growing its environmental practice across California, which includes offices in Rancho Cordova, Fresno, Modesto, Manteca, Pasadena, and Long Beach; and supporting clients in state/ local and commercial markets. “Jeff has served as a biologist and project manager for a variety of environmental projects with a primary focus on transportation, energy, and mining,” says Dewberry Senior Associate and Department Manager Leslie Haglan. “For much of his career, Jeff has prepared biological studies for public agency clients for projects that required CEQA and NEPA clearance. By welcoming him to our team, we’re excited to

be able to diversify and expand the services we provide to our existing clients.” Bray earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from Humboldt State University. Dewberry is a market-facing firm with a proven history of providing professional services to a wide variety of public- and private-sector clients. Recognized for combiningunsurpassed commitment to client service with deep subject matter expertise, Dewberry is dedicated to solving clients’ most complex challenges and transforming their communities. Established in 1956, Dewberry is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with more than 50 locations and more than 2,000 professionals nationwide.

ROB HUGHES, from page 9

million in limit, given the changing market conditions, the starting point tends to be closer to $3,000 to $5,000. Meanwhile, some “wrinkles” to project limits are worth noting. Most underwriters are willing to offer the limit not just for a single project but for all projects done for the same client. Lastly, some underwriters can offer a “blanket” additional limit endorsement in which the extra limit can be shared by multiple projects among multiple clients/contracts. This is significantly less costly than having separate additional limits for individual projects or clients. LEVERAGING THE POWER OF SUBCONSULTANTS. Many clients stipulate not only your required types and limits of insurance, but also those of your subconsultants. Yet, they often fail to realize the ripple effects of these requirements. In fact, your subs by definition have a narrower scope of service – and requiring increased limits from each of them may be overkill. Even if higher limits for subs are available, the cost increases significantly as each sub seeks assurance that the client will pay these extra premium charges. As these potential costs add up your client may be persuaded to revisit the need for higher limits. Furthermore, it’s worth reminding clients, especially public entities, that many WBE/MBE firms will be left out of the project if they cannot meet the elevated insurance limit requirements. Another key consideration is the combined power of the collective insurance brought to the project across the design team. While it’s likely the client will bring a claim against the designer under contract, if the alleged professional negligence involves one or multiple subs’ discipline, then their limits are also at issue. Show the client what all that adds up to: i.e., Architect ($5 million limits) + Structural ($3 million) + MEP ($2 million) + Electrical ($2 million), and so on. Thus, a delay or cost overrun claim (often, the most severe E&O claim) may already have combined limits in place exceeding the client’s requirement of you as the prime. ROB HUGHES, senior vice president and partner, Ames & Gough. He can be reached at

and the goals of the owner, the following table reflects “rule of thumb” limits that may be expected:

Project Cost

PLI Limit Required

Under $5 million

$1 million to $2 million $2 million to $3 million $3 million to $5 million

$5 million to $25 million $25 million to $75 million

$75 million or more $5 million to $10 million or more BE PROACTIVE IN FINDING COVERAGE SOLUTIONS. If your firm works in the larger project arena but has traditionally “gotten by” with limits lower than $5 million per claim/aggregate, now is the time to check the pricing on raising your policy limits. The first option may be to increase your overall policy limit so that all your projects are eligible for the higher limit. This is best accomplished during your annual renewal when your broker may be engaging multiple underwriters competing for your coverage. While not ideal, to shave costs off the increased premium, consider restricting the increased limit to apply only to work done after the date of the limit increase. Thus, only those claims arising from work performed after that effective date are entitled to the full limit. The drawback is that only “new” work is covered under the full limit. A second option is a “split-limit.” Many owners realize that other claims could exhaust your coverage since in the U.S. the professional limit is subject to an aggregate cap (and is not an each and every claim limit). Explaining to your client that you carry (or can carry), for example, a $2 million per claim/$4 million aggregate “split-limit” may convince them to accept your current coverage amounts. A third alternative is to see if the underwriter can offer the limit on a project-specific basis. You may need to complete a project-specific application for your broker to secure accurate pricing details. While this may take a few days, it can also potentially be used to convince the client that the costs are too high to justify the higher limit. Although the costs could be as low as $2,000 per year for each extra $1

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Y ou may be an architect or engineer and honestly think you aren’t really motivated by money. That said, nothing is cheap these days. Have you tried to buy a house or car lately, or pay for college tuition? Everything has gone up! Not to mention the fact that money is a scorecard in the game of business, and “winning” is fun! You may be an architect or engineer and think you aren’t really motivated by money. But money is a scorecard in the game of business, and ‘winning’ is fun! So you want to make more money?

Mark Zweig

If you had more than 40 years of opportunity to observe incredibly successful design professionals as I have, you would know there are some major differences in how they do things. Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics I have seen in the firm owners who knock the cover off the ball versus those who just do OK: 1)They value their time. They give very little away. They figure out a way to get paid for front-end work that the other guys don’t charge for. And when they do quote fees they are less concerned about their cost to deliver and more concerned about what they think the client will be willing to pay. They know giving too much away is a slippery slope that is hard to get out of later. So they set the expectations early. This is fundamental to making money in this business. 2)They are very selective about who they work for. They don’t just jump in their car, or get on a plane every time a new potential client reaches out to them for help. They study the situation and see how

that specific client and project fits into the business they are trying to build. And if they sense anyone is going to be difficult to work with or resistant to paying a proper fee for their efforts, they drop them – fast – before wasting much time. You can’t make a lot of money if you work for just anyone. 3)They consistently invest in PR, brand-building, and other sustainable marketing activities so they do not have to make calls to get work. When I say this, many firm owners bristle and tell me that if not for their BD efforts, they’d have little to no work. But it is precisely because they don’t invest in these other things that requires them to constantly call new and existing clients to ask them for work. Believe it or not, there are some firms in this business with principals who never have to make a sales call. The phone rings, or an email comes in, or an RFP lands, and they react (selectively!). This is how they keep fees high, quality of projects high, and can afford to hire and invest in good people.

See MARK ZWEIG, page 12



ON THE MOVE LEA & BRAZE ENGINEERING PROMOTES ALEX ABAYA TO PRINCIPAL Lea & Braze Engineering has announced that Alex Abaya has been promoted to a firm partner and principal. Abaya joined Lea & Braze Engineering straight out of college. As a construction survey manager at Lea & Braze Engineering for more than 14 years, he has completed thousands of residential, commercial and mixed-use projects. Abaya has grown his professional life at Lea & Braze Engineering and has been promoted to co-owner and principal of Lea & Braze Engineering. Throughout his time at Lea&BrazeEngineering, Abaya has contributed to the growth of the firm. He has provided introduction to land survey training seminars for multiple local jurisdiction building department planners and inspectors including the city of Palo Alto, the

city of Menlo Park and the city of Mountain View. Abaya is also a mentor to interns and entry-level staff. He provides company training for new survey technology, survey equipment, survey methodology, and FEMA flood hazard topics. He attends Cal State University Fresno Geomatics conference every year for ongoing professional development, keeping abreast of new technology, and promoting surveying and civil engineering as a career to college students. Abaya, comes from a family of land surveyors. Both his grandfather and father were land surveyors in the Philippines. He constantly strives not only to advance technology in the industry, but the growth of the profession. “As principal, I look forward to fostering new talent and bringing innovative capabilities to Lea & Braze Engineering,” says Abaya.

Lea & Braze Engineering, Inc. is a consulting, civil engineering, and surveying firm that has been active in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento region for more than 35 years, working as team members on construction and development projects of various sizes. The firm has grown into one of Northern California’s leading and respected firms with passionate engineers and surveyors that strive to be experts in our field and cultivate a positive work environment with a reputation for high-quality design and surveying services. Lea & Braze Engineering’s areas of expertise include high end custom homes, commercial development, K-12 and higher education, public and private entities, and mixed-used projects. Lea and Braze has offices throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento Region with more than 70 employees.

MARK ZWEIG, from page 11

those firms that can consistently keep their turnover rates down perform better than those that don’t. It just makes sense. Low turnover looks better to clients and increases the efficiency of everything. To have low turnover, firms need a real sense of purpose. They have to pay their people well. They need to invest in the tools and training their people want and need. And especially today, they need to be flexible in terms of accommodation of varying work schedules and locations (for a wide variety of reasons). These things are essential if you want to keep your people in your employ. And low turnover makes you money in multiple ways! 6)They are optimistic and confident. How can you teach someone to be this way? I don’t know. But I do know that those principals who have real confidence and are optimistic about their futures and the future of their firms do better than those who are negative pessimists. All you have to do to witness this firsthand is go to our ElevateAEC Conference (held on November 3-5 in Denver this year). There you will meet the kinds of people I am talking about. The financial performance of their firms reflects the optimism and confidence of their leaders. Making money isn’t so bad. Once you get used to it, it’s hard to go back. As the old motivational poster many of us had more than 40 years ago said, “I have been rich, and I have been poor. Rich is better!” MARK ZWEIG is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

4)They are specialized. Specialization rules in the AEC business when it comes to making money. It doesn’t mean you can do only one thing. Obviously the larger you get, the more specializations you can have. But one thing I know is clients don’t want generalists. They want design professionals who are experienced in the type of work they need done for other client organizations similar to theirs. IF you are truly specialized, you should be better at what you do, and you should be able to do it more efficiently than another firm that is doing something different for different types of clients every day. Rarely, if ever, have I seen being a generalist pay off in terms of firm success in this business. “If you had more than 40 years of opportunity to observe incredibly successful design professionals as I have, you would know there are some major differences in how they do things.” 5)They know how to keep their people. Everyone is talking about the upcoming “great resignation” we are supposed to soon be facing. I don’t believe that the crazy percentages of people who are supposed to quit in the next year will necessarily apply to firms in our business, but I do believe

ABOUT THE 2021 ELEVATEAEC CONFERENCES The ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium, one of the most successful industry conferences of 2020, has something for everyone in 2021. This year, the mission of Elevating the Industry will continue both virtually and in-person. ❚ ❚ ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium – Virtual Experience. Zweig Group’s annual ElevateAEC Conference & ElevateHER Symposium will be a four-week virtual experience with more than 40 speakers and 30 credit hours of learning, networking, and celebrating – all in an unlimited virtual environment. This year, Zweig Group is excited to present an evolved and more interactive virtual platform where many can gather to elevate themselves, their firms, and the industry, all from the comfort of their home or office. From project manager to CEO, there is something for everyone. ❚ ❚ ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala – In-Person Experience. With careful consideration regarding the latest guidance from the CDC, the 2021 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala is restoring the full agenda for the annual in-person conference in Denver this November. This includes bringing back the iconic black-tie Awards Gala celebrating the 2021 winners of the Hot Firm list, Best Firms To Work For, Marketing Excellence, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures and the Jerry Allen Courage In Leadership Awards.

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