Press Release: December 22, 2010

New Management How-To Book Helps Every Business Manager.

Management From A to Zweig, Revised Edition, is the one book to own if you are serious about your firm’s success.
Want to learn selling secrets from business development pros? It’s in the book. How do you keep up staff morale when the skies are cloudy? It’s in the book. Do morality and ethics matter? It’s all in the book.

Business management guru Mark C. Zweig shares his proven techniques for running a successful firm in more than 750 expert editorials about the A/E/P and environmental consulting industries in his new book, “Management from A to Zweig, Revised Edition.” The tips are applicable to any industry.

It’s the best of his writing from newsletters he’s created on a weekly basis for 19 years.
Plus, the 860-page book comes with Zweig’s guarantee.

“If you have a problem, and you are an architect, engineer, planner, manager in architecture or engineering firm or an environmental scientist, owner or principal in any firm, there’s helpful advice inside this book,” Zweig says.

Zweig, Founder and CEO of ZweigWhite, created and built a two-time listed Inc. 500 management consulting and publishing firm for the A/E/P and environmental consulting industry. He also created many businesses along the way. His tell-it-like-it-is approach to addressing business management topics in the industry makes this book a must-have for anyone in management.

“It’s based on real world advice,” Zweig says. “There’s a difference in the management advice of somebody who’s proved that they can build a successful enterprise verses someone who’s read every book from other experts in management.”

Some examples of Zweig’s tips include, “Transforming Your Firm Through Selling,” “Marketing Ideas Every Firm Can Implement Now,” and “People like People Who Are Responsive.”

ZweigWhite began with $1,000 in initial capital. The business expanded rapidly making money every single year. The success all came from internally generated capital. “Why not learn from the others who have been there before you?” Zweig says.

Mark Zweig’s brutally honest advice guides you to the secrets of business success.

Regardless of how big or small your firm is, the services you offer, or the clients you work with, this volume will address your most pressing management, leadership, and revenue-generating needs. With an all-new Table of Contents and a newly-added Index, referencing the specific topics of interest is easier and faster than ever.

Zweig’s advice is unlimited. Learn business techniques for:
• Organization structure.
• Project management.
• Quality.
• Ownership transition.
• Evaluation.
• Buying and selling companies.
• Roles of principals.
• How to organize your marketing effort.
• How to improve employee feedback systems.
• How to improve client feedback systems.

Mark Zweig lives and works in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He retired from the daily operations at ZweigWhite at the end of 2004 after selling the company to a Chicago-based private equity firm, but returned as CEO in 2010. Today, he is a sought-after speaker at a wide variety of industry conferences and events and sits on the BODs of several different privately-held international A/E firms. He is an Executive-in-Residence at the Sam W. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas where he teaches entrepreneurship, and is on the Dean’s Circle of The Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. He also owns a successful residential redevelopment firm, Mark Zweig, Inc., also based in Fayetteville.

About ZweigWhite: ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global and BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs. For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com.

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Press Release: December 30, 2010

The down economy presents many real estate options for the small business owner; but the tight A/E/P and banking climate might prove too difficult for many businesses to grasp the opportunity.

Owning real estate versus renting is a big decision right now, with low real estate values offering a rare opportunity for businesses to purchase property at a favorable price. But a recent study by CIT Group, Inc. says that only 6% of small business owners have purchased real estate in the past six years, while a majority of them (52%) have not even considered purchasing.

Many A/E/P professionals say purchasing real estate was a wise business investment. Pamela Bain, president, Bain Medina Bain, Inc. (San Antonio, TX) found sound financial value in purchasing real estate for her 56-person firm.

“We bought a building seven years ago. We got a great deal and are in triple the amount of space we had previously leased at just about the same price as rent. We also refinanced at the end of last year and shaved a nice chunk of change off our monthly payment,” she says.

Low interest rates and a buyer’s market have contributed to investment in on-premises real estate for many business owners. However, simply because the interest rates in today’s economy are at record lows does not necessarily mean A/E/P firms are picking up the phones and calling real estate agents. Rates might be low, but the percentage of equity required as down payment has risen significantly.

The CIT Group study confirmed these difficulties, reporting that only 28% of small business owners believe buying real estate today presents a “great or substantial opportunity.”

Jeffrey Cowen, executive VP at Building & Earth Sciences, Inc. (Birmingham, AL), a 165–person geotechnical firm, provides a good example.

“We are currently considering a building purchase at one satellite office, and it looks like the bank will require 20% down,” he says. “Interest rates for commercial purchase are not as favorable as rates for personal residences. The entry cost and monthly payments generally make it more attractive for us to lease.”

Leasing has significant benefits for many A/E/P and environmental consulting firms. There are fewer maintenance hassles, the balance sheet does not show a mortgage debt, and relocating is easier in these times of fluctuating staff levels.

“We have 10 offices around the southeast, and we have been able to renegotiate our rent lower and get upgrades like new carpet and building repairs at no additional cost over the past two years,” Cowen says.

There are several lease negotiation strategies that can earn big savings for the leasing A/E/P firm. The New York Times in a November article titled “Is Real Estate On Sale?” recommends:

1) Show your landlord you are prepared to move if you cannot negotiate a favorable lease rate.

2) A small rent reduction is easy in today’s real estate climate; push for a significantly lower lease rate and terms.

3) Beware the “blend and extend” deal where the rate lowers for a short time but rises too much in the future. Pay for a good commercial realtor to negotiate for you. He knows the market better and the landlord will know you are serious about moving if negotiations fall through.

4) Don’t be afraid to rock the boat with your landlord. Landlords earn higher-than-market rent when renters get too friendly with landlords.

Furthermore, obtaining financing is more difficult than ever lately. Banks are rejecting loan applicants with anything less than perfect credit, down payment requirements are larger, cash-on-hand is tougher to assemble for down payment, and A/E/P sales are down— so many balance sheets look poor.

The CIT Group study revealed that the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) loan programs might solve many of these obstacles. The survey included 306 non-home-based small business owners from across the U.S. Twenty-three percent of small business owners surveyed said SBA loans were a good overall choice for them because there was no significant downside. Fourteen percent of respondents said their SBA loan reduced their down payment, 12% said it allowed them a lower monthly payment, and 15% said it allowed a longer repayment period.

Today’s market conditions often present opportunities that simply do not pan out, as Mike Phillips, president of Phillips Architecture (Raleigh, NC), a 26-person firm, described.

He looked into buying property but other conditions precluded the purchase.

“We are currently leasing, but we began looking to take advantage of lower prices and buy a building,” he says. “The challenge for us is the dismal condition of the A/E industry and the uncertainty of the timing and extent of any economic improvement, which makes the flexibility of leasing more attractive. The requirement for a personal guarantee on the loan makes real the additional risk beyond simply trying to keep a firm prosperous. We will be renewing existing leases for one to two years as a wait-and-see strategy.”

About ZweigWhite: ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global and BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs.  For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com.

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Press Release: January 3, 2011

Experts are saying that constantly tracking client needs and wants and delivering relevant products is the secret for success in 2011 and beyond.

Mike Phillips, a client feedback expert for the industry, told the Jan. 3 issue of The Zweig Letter that only about 5% of firms regularly collect meaningful feedback from clients.

Also: when they approach clients, they often don’t do it frequently enough. They may ask the wrong questions and only try to collect feedback after a project is over, which equates to a “post mortem,” according to Phillips

“We’re very poor at collecting feedback from our clients,” he said, adding that the secret is asking the right questions often enough.

Phillips has developed and sells a hugely successful client feedback tool called DesignFacilitator, which has already collected data from 33,000 client respondents.

“You’re looking for feedback that will let you fine-tune your process with each particular client to make your firm the most valuable to that client,” said Phillips, who is also the president of Phillips Architecture in Raleigh, NC. “The clients are ready to give feedback if that feedback will help you do a better job in your project.”

One industry practitioner said collecting constant feedback has proven essential for his firm.

“We use the feedback to help define company improvement opportunities and added value, as such it is improvement to follow-up and communicate the improvement opportunities to the individuals who provided feedback,” said John Brand, president of Butler, Fairman and Seufert (BF&S) a civil engineering firm in Merrillville, IN.

“We view the client feedback as a gift to our firm on how to improve,” he said.

About ZweigWhite: ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs.  For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com

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From the Chairman:Ed Friedrichs
As the end of this rather protracted recession plays out (we all hope), I’ve been questioning lots of clients— both the architecture/ engineering firms to whom I consult and the companies or institutions that hire them— searching for the “North Star” to guide us into the era we’re entering. And I think I’ve found it. It’s a fairly simple idea, really, summed up by the word “relevance.” As in, “Is what you’re doing relevant to what your clients need and want?” Or more bluntly, do they really feel like they need you at all or do they merely accept your role as a necessary encumbrance to accomplishing their project?

“Are we going to have fun working together?,” has been replaced with, “Is there really anything at all that you do that will improve my business?” In other words, they’re as frustrated as you are, scared to death and grasping at straws to stay relevant to their own customers and clients. To put this idea of “relevance” simply, if you can use design to enhance the performance of their enterprise, they’ll stop and listen. If not, why should they bother to spend the next moment with you when the wolves are at their door?

Embracing this idea will give you legs well into a strong global recovery. And “global” is one of the reasons. Even the smallest firms are learning that they can pursue work outside their local communities, and outside the U.S. for that matter. So what will stop very talented, bright and competitive professionals from other countries from pursuing work here? In the new competitive environment, teams of talented professionals creating grand monuments to proudly display in a vanity press edition of their work will be passed very quickly by those that demonstrate how every aspect of their design enhances business performance— not just the beauty of what they create but every unseen element that effects how the things they’re designing will make their client successful.

Another wrinkle is being added to the competitive environment: firms are aggregating, through merger or acquisition, to be able to serve a client who has multiple service needs in a number of geographic areas. Small firms are creating alliances (and developing a track record of working effectively with alliance partners so they are ready and credible when a client wants testimonials) to do the same thing.

An interest in developing a deep knowledge of a client, their organization and industry, and an ability to understand how that client wants to be served, will be a singular distinguishing characteristic of a relevant firm.

Deeply observing a client’s business processes, learning through personal immersion how it functions, and using your creative talents to recommend ideas about how their business can be made more effective is another defining characteristic of relevance.

What design innovations will make parishioners feel more spiritual in the chapel you’re designing (so they tell their friends about their experience, expanding the congregation— and, by the way, putting more money in the offer plate)? What design elements will engage customers more deeply in the shopping experience of the store you’re designing so they come back often and bring their friends along to share the experience they had? What ideas can you offer in the design of an airline terminal that will cause a passenger to chose that airline in the future over a rival serving similar routes? Have you ever thought of spending a night or two in a college dorm room after being commissioned to do the new dormitory so you can find out what students vie for?

Learning to think this way is not so difficult, but it does require focus and a change in attitude as you discuss and critique work within your office.

These principles are equally applicable to engineers. Take a simple example: the role of a mechanical engineer in this era of reduced energy, high performance, sustainably designed buildings. Are you simply sizing ducts, specifying “Energy Star” equipment and adding a few solar panels? Or have you migrated to a more collaborative role on the design team, participating in and modeling the energy and performance of the proposed building as alternative site orientations and skins are considered? Have you begun to work with the structural engineer to use the thermal mass of the building as part of your cooling strategy? This is what a migration to “relevance” looks like to client “A,” the architect. But what about client “B,” the entity commissioning the building? Are you helping the architect be more relevant to his client by providing energy modeling and lifecycle cost analyses to make him smarter in his discussions with the financial analysts so first cost scrutiny doesn’t prevent the construction of a building that will quickly recover any differential through reduced operating costs?

This strategy for relevance requires a new vocabulary and attitude within your team. It means that you must challenge each aspect of the design as you are working to define its relevance to your client and their issues. It demands rehearsal before every client meeting to assure that every aspect of your design will go beyond assuaging your client’s fears, thrilling them with how deeply you’ve become engaged in their business issues. This is how you’ll become relevant in today’s challenging economy and stay relevant in tomorrow’s globally competitive world.

DUBLIN, Jan 07, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/e27350/management_from_a) has announced the addition of the “Management From A to Zweig, Revised Edition – A Collection of Articles from 1992-2010” book to their offering.

Read more

Press Release: January 7, 2011

If the A/E/P and environmental consulting industry has learned one thing in 2010, it’s that recov­ery doesn’t happen overnight. Last year there was an expectation that 2010 might provide the steady and slow turnaround that the entire U.S. economy desperately needed after the recession.

According to the 2011 A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Industry Outlook, 2010 didn’t exactly bring the gradual and steady improvement that would mark an upward trend to recovery.

Unemployment rates stayed elevated and the A/E/P and environmental consulting industry remained stifled. Construction didn’t make any headway either, thanks to continued troubles in the housing market. The “best” market sectors stabilized as opposed to improving. And, most disturbing of all, the credit market still kept many potential projects from coming to fruition.

Even though 2010 may have disappointed many A/E/P and environmental consulting firm lead­ers, there were still bright spots that give many hope for an upward trend in 2011.

The Architec­tural Billings Index exceeded the coveted 50 mark late in 2010, and while that breach only lasted one month it was still an important benchmark toward recovery. Many firm leaders have a more optimistic view of the coming year compared with last year’s melancholy.

The U.S. stock market seems to be on the right track and most international financial concerns are starting to subside (al­though foreign financial concerns have had as many ups and downs in 2010 as the U.S. economy).

The economy is looking somewhat stronger, but still uncertain, and for the third year in a row, this uncertainty is the hallmark of this year’s edition of the report.

The 2011 A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Industry Outlook helps top executives in architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting to develop more informed and accurate strategic business and marketing plans even during market uncertainty.

“The A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Industry Outlook is a valuable source of data and insights,” says Rick Neu, marketing director for the Facilities division at Gannett Fleming (Camp Hill, PA), a 2,100-person planning, design, and construction management firm. “It has aided us greatly in our planning efforts as far as the market sectors and geographic areas to best focus our resources.”

Tom Bryant, principal at Pickering (Jackson, MS) a 150-person planning and design firm, agrees.

“This publication was most useful and informative,” says Bryant. “During this down economic cycle, it helped us focus our tactical business development efforts for the next 12 months.”

The 176-page book draws analysis from ZweigWhite’s expert management consultants, data from ZweigWhite’s management surveys, interviews with industry leaders and forecasters, and a survey of architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firm leaders.

“We make forecasts for our local market segments each year,” says Greg Kanz, marketing director at Shive-Hattery (Cedar Rapids, IA), a 300-person architecture and engineering consulting firm. “It’s interesting and insightful to compare our research with ZweigWhite’s national overview.”

Inside this book you will find:

  • Which markets will be hot— and which will be cold— in 2011.
  • Business trends that will shape the A/E/P and environmental consulting business in 2011 and beyond.
  • A series of unique management benchmarking surveys containing massive amounts of analyzed and comparative data about the A/E/P industry.
  • Interviews with firm principals, CEOS, CFOS, and top executives about what the future of the A/E/P field.

Ed Friedrichs, chairman at ZweigWhite, says the insights provided by ZweigWhite’s expert team will warn you of obstacles and alert you to opportunities.

“As a practicing professional, I relied heavily over the years on ZweigWhite’s informed assessment of market trends to handicap which opportunities were most likely to bring a high return for our firm,” Friedrichs says. “Now that I’m a part of ZweigWhite and know the depth of market knowledge that goes into preparing the A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Industry Outlook, I can assure you of the value you’ll gain from reading it.”

Finding out which market sectors will provide your work this year, along with which geographical areas will be busiest and which will be flat, will allow you to spend your marketing dollars where the yield will be highest, Friedrichs adds.

“The ZweigWhite A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Industry Outlook is a must-read for all firms and it is always current and always accurate ‑ an excellent go-to source book,” says Kevin Phillips, principal at FPM Group Ltd. (Ronkonkoma, NY), a 100-person engineering and environmental firm.

Harry Farchmin, Vice President, Bloom Companies, LLC (Milwaukee, WI), a 70-person engineering, architecture and construction firm, says his firm has been using ZweigWhite’s annual industry outlook as a resource for years in preparing business plans and strategies.

“It helps us stay on top of emerging trends and focus our resources for success,” says Farchmin. “I highly recommend it as a resource.”

About ZweigWhite: ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs.  For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com

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Press Release: January 10, 2011

As design firms were forced to shed workers and cut costs during the recession, technology often came to rescue, a report in the Jan. 10 issue of The Zweig Letter found.

Rebecca Caudill, senior hydro-geologist and HR liaison at National Resource Technology, Inc., and environmental consulting firm in Pewaukee, WI, said technology helped maintain efficiency when the firm needed to eliminate and combine positions.

“(These changes) required increasing staff use of report templates to reduce administrative time, as well as streamlining our report production. We also increased the percentage of reports submitted solely in electronic format (PDF) without paper originals,” she said.

For firms with several offices, the use of electronic means also became more relevant.

Jennifer Bauer, human resources manager at TowerPinkster, an architecture firm in Kalamazoo, MI, said that interactive projectors have helped her company communicate with other offices, for example, cutting on travel costs.

 

“Our conference rooms are equipped with smart boards which allow us to project CAD files, etc., so each office can see what the other is doing,” she said. “This allows us to make changes and updates to project files in real time, enabling us to cut down on meeting and drive time since our offices are located an hour apart.”

Kevin Ferguson, chief development officer at Albert A. WEBB Associates, a multi-disciplined civil engineering and planning firm in Riverside, CA, said slowdown in design activity gave his company a chance to make some improvements in efficiency.

“We actually took the opportunity during this down economy to change our design platform,” he says. “With fewer projects we were able to train our entire technical staff in AutoCAD Civil 3D, which in the long run will save us time and money.”

About ZweigWhite: ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs.  For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com

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Press Release:  January 20, 2011

The 2011 The Zweig Letter Marketing Excellence Awards will recognize the most innovative and effective marketing strategies in the architecture, engineering, planning, construction and environmental consulting industry.

The competition will award first-, second- and third-place winners for their in-house marketing through multiple channels including website, direct mail, special events and more. A Best in Show award will be chosen from the first-place winners in each category to honor the best of the best.

“Any firm that wants the good press that comes from our Marketing Excellence Awards should apply,” said ZweigWhite Founder and CEO Mark Zweig. “You’ll get the attention of the marketplace, and it will aid in recruiting and help bring opportunities for new projects and work to your firm – not to mention it will provide encouragement to your marketing and business development folks!”

Award winners will be announced and highlighted in a special issue of The Zweig Marketing Letter and on a dedicated ZweigWhite Web page in the summer of 2011.

“In this current economy, firms are constantly looking for new ways to stand out against their competitors and the industry at large,” said ZweigWhite’s Awards Manager Sarah Nasznic. “The Marketing Excellence Awards are the simplest way for any firm to gain positive exposure in the industry.”

Regardless of winning or not, all hard-hitting truth, advice and praise documented by the panel of industry experts during the judging period will be returned to each submitting firm. “This type of expert feedback can either reinforce those bold decisions your firm made in 2010,” Nasznic said, “or aid in getting your marketing realigned on the path to success.”

Participating firms must demonstrate attained results through their marketing tactics, such as but not limited to increased leads, more inbound inquiries and new projects. Each entry is judged by a panel of industry experts and evaluated based upon measurable results, creativity and marketing objectives.

Entries are being accepted now through March 18, 2011. To retrieve a PDF copy of the entry form, category descriptions and complete entry requirements and details, go to www.zweigwhite.com/go/mea2011.

ABOUT ZWEIGWHITE:
ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs.  For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com

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Press Release:  January 27, 2011

ZweigWhite is now accepting entries for The Zweig Letter 2011 Hot Firm List, the industry’s search for the fastest-growing architecture, engineering, planning, environmental and multidisciplinary consulting firms in the U.S. and Canada. These are the firms that have outperformed the economy and their competitors to become leaders in their chosen fields.

The Zweig Letter Hot Firm List, now in its 12th year, has become synonymous with industry success. Last year’s top Hot Firm winners included: Fentress Architects, a 155-person international architecture and interior design firm from Denver, GENIVAR, a 4,400-person engineering and architecture firm from Montreal, QC, Canada, and Trow Global, a 3,400-person engineering and consulting firm from Brampton, ON, Canada.  

Agatha Kessler, CEO of Fentress Architects, the top-ranked firm in 2010, describes the focus and mindset that her firm enforced that led to their Hot Firm honor in 2010.

“We were like a bear in the winter,” says Kessler of preparing for the recession. “Now, we’re like a bear in the spring – hungry. Becoming a Hot Firm during an economic Ice Age, in addition to luck, required intense discipline – from front desk to back office. Today, the Hot Firm status is a key indicator of engaged employees, innovative business practices and a client-focused culture.”

Mark Zweig, founder and CEO of ZweigWhite, also reflects on the benefit for any firm that ranks on the Hot Firm List. “Being named to The Zweig Letter Hot Firm List is a great PR opportunity for any firm that makes it,” says Zweig. “It says, ‘We are good, we are successful,’ to your clients, employees, investors, lenders, suppliers and the public at large. All good stuff!”

To qualify, firms must demonstrate that the majority of their revenues are derived from the practice of architecture, engineering, planning, design/build, environmental consulting or allied disciplines. Firms are ranked according to their three-year growth rate in gross revenue from 2007 to 2010, with 50% of the ranking based on percentage growth and 50% based on dollar growth. Revenue for 2007 must be greater than or equal to $1,000,000.

Only firms that were in business for the entirety of this three-year period and that were still in business as of January 1, 2011 are eligible. Verification of revenue figures is required. After the initial review, the leading contenders will be contacted for financial statements or income tax returns to validate the results of the ranking.

The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2011. The 2011 winners will be announced and highlighted at the The Zweig Letter 2011 Hot Firm Conference, October 26-27, 2011, at Montage beach resort in Laguna Beach, California.

For more information and submission details, please visit www.zweigwhite.com/go/hotfirm2011.

ABOUT ZWEIGWHITE:

ZweigWhite is the nation’s leader in enhancing business performance for architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The ZweigWhite team consists of experts in strategy, mergers and acquisitions, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources management, finance, marketing, market research, project management and project delivery methods who collectively produce a comprehensive suite of products and services, including advisory, consulting, newsletters, industry reports, executive training, business conferences, and more covering virtually every aspect of firm management. The firm is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with additional offices in, Chicago, IL, Durham, NC, and Natick, MA. The ownership of ZweigWhite are investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and Mark Zweig, with management including Mark Zweig and Ed Friedrichs.  For more information contact Sonya Stout at 479.582.5700, or sstout@zweigwhite.com

By Mark C. Zweig

Many folks in our business want to act like they have a “purpose-driven organization.”
 
What is that, you may ask? To me it is very simply a company that exists for some reason (some GOOD reason) other than to just make a profit.
 
Kit Miyamoto of Miyamoto International in Sacramento (an earthquake/seismic engineering firm) gets this idea the best of anyone I’ve seen yet in our business. Ask him what their purpose is and he will tell you (without hesitation): “We exist to save lives.”
 
Now that is what I call a strong purpose. It helps make working 80 hours a week and living off granola bars and bottled water 2,000 miles from home in Haiti worthwhile. Or having to sit through a boring meeting or dealing with an unethical contractor worthwhile. That’s what it is all about. If you have a strong purpose, all of the frustrations and demotivators that you and your employees face are easily set aside.
 
We once had an opportunity to help a public utility develop a new business plan for their very large captive engineering firm subsidiary. Their top management got me on the phone for an “interview” and we got to ask some questions about what they were all about. I was told in no uncertain terms that their “mission” was to “make a 10% profit.” I don’t think they liked it when I told them (somewhat sarcastically) that I was certain that was a strong motivator for their rank and file employees, who each got up every day and raced to the office so they could help make that “10% profit!” We didn’t get the job!
 
It seems to me that if you really have a purpose-driven organization you have to take a stand every so often and NOT do a project or pass on working for a client who does not support that purpose. It is crucial to say “no.” It makes it all real instead of just a bunch of empty words.
 
At ZweigWhite, we are all about firm (and individual) success. If it becomes apparent during the project development process that we cannot help the firm (or the individuals who own and/or run it) be successful, we will not do the project. If we did, then all we would be doing is prostituting ourselves. That surely cannot be good for our self-images, nor our motivation levels.
 
Design and environmental firms will typically encounter many more situations than we ever will with our own business where they can’t be successful or support their organization’s higher calling. It is critical that you make the call on whether that project or client relationship supports your organization’s purpose. If not, say “no.” Be willing to suffer in the short-term until you have enough good clients and projects to work on. That willingness to say “no” will make being a purpose-driven organization real, and not just more empty clichés that would provide good fodder for an episode of “The Office.”

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