Press Release: February 1 , 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, AR — Anyone who is—or wants to be—a leader in the architecture, engineering, planning and environmental-consulting fields will benefit from an MBA-style crash course offered by ZweigWhite experts in March. Business-management skills will be improved exponentially in just two days at The Principals Academy, held March 24-25 in San Francisco, Calif.

The Principals Academy is an intensive two-day workshop covering all aspects of managing a professional service firm. The program is presented by an expert team of speakers—including ZweigWhite founder and CEO Mark Zweig—with extensive experience working with and for A/E firms and a clear understanding of what it takes to survive, and even thrive, in any economy. Executives will return to their firms primed for success and armed with leadership and teambuilding strategies to share with other principals, managers and staff.

“Our Partners, Principals & Owners Survey always reveals that if there was one thing that would have prepared them better, it would have been a course that covered all aspects of the business,” says Christine Brack, Principal, Strategic Advisory Services at ZweigWhite. “The Principals Academy is that program.”

“It’s a two-day, A/E/P-specialized MBA program at a bargain price,” Mark Zweig says. “You cannot get this much business knowledge this fast and for such a low price anywhere else from people who are real experts—not just consultants who read the popular management books.” Zweig—known as the leading expert in management for the architecture, engineering, planning and environmental industry—is not afraid to buck the trend or speak his mind; he’ll share his insights, opinions and experience—and undoubtedly challenge every participant to become part of the solution.

Brack adds, “This program contains the material, data, perspective, ideas, debate and conversation that any principal needs to succeed in the role.”

The two-day agenda covers six critical areas of business management, presented in tutorial and case-study workshop sessions from the unique perspective of architecture, engineering and environmental consulting firms. These areas include:

  • Business Planning
  • Financial Management
  • Project Management
  • Ownership Transition Planning
  • Human Resources Management
  • Marketing/Business Development

A/E/P, environmental-consulting and construction firm presidents, CEOs, CFOs and COOs will learn what it takes to be successful leaders and zero-in on industry best practices that the most-successful firms use to stay on top. But, The Principals Academy isn’t just for firm principals; department, division and branch managers, project managers and senior technical staff also will benefit greatly from attending the intensive two-day workshop, as will consultants, advisors and those specializing in A/E legal, accounting and insurance.

For more information on The Principals Academy, visit http://www.zweigwhite.com/seminars/tpa/index.asp.

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 MZ Ventures, Inc., 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: February 2 , 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, AR — Firms in the architecture, engineering, planning and environmental consulting sphere are joining the national chorus of opposition to a provision that would significantly boost tax-reporting requirements, adding an undue burden on smaller businesses.

The rule — included in the national health care overhaul — would require businesses to submit a 1099 form to the Internal Revenue Service for any purchases over $600, starting in 2012. While efforts mount in Washington, D.C., to repeal the rule, those in the A/E/P and environmental consulting fields also are speaking out, according to a report in the Jan. 31 edition of The Zweig Letter, a weekly management journal published by ZweigWhite (www.zweigwhite.com).

“Instead of preparing a couple of dozen 1099s to individual practitioners and landlords, we will now have to prepare hundreds,” says Candace Macomber Tobin, chief financial officer with Cambridge Systematics, Inc., a transportation consulting engineering firm in Cambridge, Mass.

Tobin hopes that at least one aspect of the new rule requiring that firms reconcile the 1099s they receive gets thrown out. The IRS wants to use that requirement to identify under-reported income, and firms will need to ensure that there are no material misstatements. “We are cautiously optimistic that this portion of the bill will be repealed, but we are working diligently to ensure our vendor records are accurate, just in case,” she says.

Larry Van Horn, senior vice president and CFO with GLMVArchitecture in Wichita, Kan., said the legislation was extremely poor in intent and method and not well thought out. “We have an executive branch of our federal government that has a poor understanding and opinion of business, as well as economics, and think they correct all the ills by law,” he says. “We have the laws, we just need to enforce them. President Obama and very few of his advisors have ever worked in business and have no concept of their actions’ effects on business.”

The Zweig Letter will be keeping a close tab on this issue for A/E/P and environmental consultants in the months to come.

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 MZ Ventures, Inc., 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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… Sure, it’s informative and entertaining, but is it FUN?

Mark Zweig weighs-in on what you can expect from this years Principals Academy.

By Mark C. Zweig

It’s funny how firms in our business— many of which have been around for 20, 30, 40 or more years— can get to a certain level and then start to let things (i.e., certain business practices) slip.

There is a wide variety of reasons as to why firms do this. Staff changes and institutional knowledge is lost. Competent folks are replaced with less competent ones. Management gets too happy and complacent. Arrogance and a feeling of invincibility set in at the top. People get lazy. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that the firm stops doing the stuff that once made it successful.

It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes for the inertia of a once well-run firm to wind down. The effects of this slippage may not be felt for years. Eventually, however, a price will be paid. Then it will take years to reverse the slide and regain the momentum that makes a firm enjoy consistent success. Some firms can never regain it. Good people get the sense they are on the Titanic and the thing is going to sink, so they make a decision to start over somewhere else.

By now you are probably wondering what kind of “slippage” I am talking about. It comes in many areas. Here are some examples:

  • Billing and collection. It’s easy to stop doing the things that lead to faster billing and collection, especially if you DON’T have a cash shortage. We see this over and over again. Draft bills are allowed to languish at the PM level. Calls to clients by accounting so many days after the bill goes out to see if it has been processed for payment stop getting made. Stop work orders aren’t being enforced. Extra services agreements aren’t processed when the client requests the services. All of this stuff is critical and you cannot let it slip.
  • Maintaining the client database. This is another area where we see slippage. While 10 or 15 years ago firms made a major push to build and maintain their CRMs so they could do direct marketing, many of those databases are now woefully out of date. Since direct marketing efforts were scaled back, first in good times (too easy to get work without it) and later in the recession (couldn’t afford it), the client database became less critical. Plus today, everyone is mobile and doing more on their smartphones, which just makes it more likely that their personal contact directories are growing but not the company’s. You have to reverse this trend and get back to building your central client and potential client list so you CAN market and don’t lose the value of individuals’ marketing efforts when they leave.
  • Holding design reviews. Sure, they take time to do and everyone is already overloaded, since the firm probably cut back on staff and is doing more with fewer people. That said, HOW is the firm going to get better at what it does if you don’t have your very best people spending some quality time helping others learn what they know? It is essential and you cannot let this knowledge go without being passed down while those experts are with you. Not to mention that you simply have to do your BEST on every single job to avoid losing a client today. No one can afford to lose a good client when new ones cost more to acquire than they ever did.
  • Having consistent PR efforts. I really see this so often. A marketing director leaves or an outside PR contract isn’t renewed. The net result is that press releases stop going out on a regular basis. The firm stops being in the media spotlight. And then some other firm eventually becomes the one that is talked about. The inevitable result over time is fewer project opportunities, fewer good people seeking employment there, and more.
  • Sending out client gifts and thank-yous. Budget crises, time crunches, retirement of the older folks with better manners— all of these things are factors that lead to the stoppage of practices that the firm may have once used religiously to say “thanks” and “we appreciate you” to clients. It takes a long time to feel the effects of not doing these things but the effects WILL eventually be felt.
  • Considering new shareholders or partners. As the last few years have been tough, some companies in our business have stopped or frozen their ownership transition plans. Of course the inevitable effect is an eventual turnover among the very people who are probably the most effective and the firm can least afford to lose— those who are just below principal or partner level. Don’t ignore your best people and the cultural expectation we have in this industry of many individuals to be owners in their firms some day.
  • Maintaining project files. Companies set up filing schemes on servers that work great as long as they are maintained, but eventually certain rogue principals or project managers are “too busy” to stick with the system and start doing their own thing, which of course means storing critical documents on their local hard drives, making the company vulnerable to loss of information. You cannot let it happen.
  • Reviewing progress toward goals in the business plan or plans. What is the point of doing these business plans if you just stick them in a drawer or put them on a shelf? Put them to use. You have to remind everyone of what they said they would do and see (publicly) if that’s actually happening as you go through the year.

I could go on but by now you should have the idea. Be sure you aren’t letting things slip— things that may have once helped make you great— before it is too late!

Want to hear more from Mark Zweig – and each week?Read more.

By Ed Friedrichs

I’ve long wondered why architects, designers, engineers, and environmental planners haven’t figured out where the action is for their clients.

Almost every client I have ever worked with was an active participant in a forum that focused on his or her unique and specialized industry. It’s amazing how many of these societies exist and how focused they are in addressing the needs of their constituents.

By no means am I going to give you a comprehensive digest of the overwhelming number of entities that act as support systems to your clients. That would defeat the message here: it’s not for you to guess which one your client spends time with; it’s up to you to ask. And to be quite specific in your questioning, learn why they chose to join that particular group, what they get out to it and whether allied professionals like you are allowed to participate.

So, what am I talking about here? Let’s explore a few examples. I’ll use the Urban Land Institute as my primary case since it’s the one in which I was most actively involved. The others function very similarly.

ULI
This is where real estate developers of all types (commercial, industrial, retail, residential) gather to share lessons learned. Lenders, architects, planners and other allied professionals are invited to join and participate. The lenders turn out in force and are a valued resource to the development community for obvious reasons (“Show me the money”).

Architects and engineers have a much smaller presence, but those who do participate quickly figure out how to offer a talk on a subject of interest to the development process, such as the latest on LEED and sustainable design, and other similar topics. But this audience doesn’t want technical solutions; they want to know if such solutions will make their project more attractive to tenants and if they will command higher rents. If you get really good at thinking this way, imagine how much more effective your client presentations will be.

If you become a full member (it’s not inexpensive) you are eligible to be invited to join a council. These are medium-sized groups (around 40 members) that spend a day together sharing experiences and listening to a variety of presentations twice a year in conjunction with the ULI national meetings. After meeting with the same group for a year or two and socializing a bit between meetings, you begin to develop a very rich network of “friends in the industry” and probably a client or two.

This is where I went to school on real estate finance and learned the arcane intricacies of what it takes to put a project together. Being able to communicate with a developer in his or her language and to be conversant on a topic that is far more interesting to your developer client than design makes you much more relevant.

ULI has local councils in most major cities (and in a few less major ones as well) and can provide a great way to get an introduction to that client you’re struggling to meet. They generally gather monthly and love to have programs of general interest to their membership. Have any in mind?

SCUP (Society for College and University Planning)
How on earth could you be doing a university building and not participate in SCUP? At regional and national meetings, along with presentations on topics of general interest, university planners (often with their architect or engineer in tow) offer presentations of case studies they’re particularly proud of. Can you think of a finer endorsement? Since this is a very close knit group, they are much more likely to call one another to find out if anyone has had a favorable (or not so favorable) experience with your firm than they are to call the references you provided in your information packet or proposal.

CORENET (Corporate Real Estate Executives)
Ever wonder why the regional executive of a major corporation who is also your best friend in the local Rotary chapter won’t give you the time of day when it comes to his next facility? Usually, the answer is: he can’t. With the consolidation of so many industries globally and with mergers leading to giant enterprises, very few regional folks have any clout these days.

Procurement of your services has become centralized and, in many cases, has been outsourced to a third party corporate real estate consultant like Jones Lang LaSalle or CB Richard Ellis. In one case, my firm (Gensler) had a substantial body of work with a particular financial institution. Over the course of a few brief years, the work, which had been spread across over a 100 firms in our service categories, was consolidated to 16 firms and then to two firms. We were exceptionally pleased to be one of the two firms left standing. But how would you have felt if you had enjoyed a decades-long relationship and suddenly found it, inexplicably, taken away?

CORENET is where you learn what the trends and directions are and glean lessons from those who are making the hiring decisions about how to stay in the game in this new economy. CORENET also has regional chapters with more frequent meetings and are also looking for “relevant” (meaning how do I save money and look good to my boss) presentations of case models.

ACI (Airports Council International).
This may be the closest-knit fraternity of all. Face it: there just aren’t that many airports in the country. ACI is also a politically active group, lobbying in Washington frequently on regulatory issues that are of concern to them. Heard of Homeland Security and the constant changes in protocols that affect every airport? Can you see an opportunity here to become relevant to the members of this organization? If you’re interested in doing an airport, you’re not likely to be seriously considered without a strong reference from someone in this group.

These are four groups that I happen to be familiar with. There are literally dozens more for every industry and profession from health care to law firms. Without an acute focus and participation in the forums that your clients are involved in, you’re going to be left in the dust by your competitors who do.

Ed Friedrichs is a frequent (and a favorite!) feature in the The Zweig LetterWant to read more of Ed? Find out how

Press Release: February 5, 2011

How firms value their enterprises has far-reaching implications that impact both the firms and their shareholders on a financial, organizational and cultural level and is, according to ZweigWhite Valuation Consultant Tracey Jeffers, one of the most confounding decisions faced by privately held A/E/P and environmental consulting firms.With the survey data included in the newly released 2011 Valuation Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms from ZweigWhite coupled with ZweigWhite’s exclusive Z-Formulas, firm leaders can learn quickly and easily what their firms are worth.

A longtime expert in the field of firm valuation, ZweigWhite has been researching and publishing these valuation surveys for the past 21 years, and the valuation Z-Formulas have proven to be invaluable tools in ZweigWhite’s own business valuation consulting practice by using them as a test for the reasonableness of its valuation conclusions in virtually every business valuation engagement.

“This survey can provide firm owners with valuable insight on improving share value,”  Jeffers says. For instance, according the 2011 Valuation Survey, A/E/P and environmental consulting firms actually are worth more when for sale. The median TIC (total invested capital) value per employee ratio for valuations conducted for a potential or actual sale or merger is $81,250, significantly higher than for valuations performed for an internal ownership transfer ($53,534), a buy/sell agreement between stockholders ($60,161) or as an ERISA/ESOP/IRS requirement ($63,183).

The survey includes benchmarking data on industry valuation norms that also will further the reader’s understanding of how business value is defined, how it is determined and, perhaps most importantly, how it is created.

“The survey is a good tool to provide firm owners with a ballpark reference that small business owners tend to seek,” Jeffers says, adding that firm owners should keep in mind that the metrics of their individual firm may differ from those in the survey.

The 2011 Valuation Survey covers the many reasons and circumstances that call for a firm valuation, as well as the special considerations and standards of value that apply depending on the purpose of the valuation. This invaluable resource also discusses the more technical aspects of the various approaches that a business appraiser may use.

The ZweigWhite 2011 Valuation Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms ($495) is available at www.zweico.com.

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 is investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and MZ Ventures, Inc., 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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It’s time … make the purchase!

Management From A to Zweig, Revised Edition provides all the goods for firm success.

“If you look at companies that go through some tought times – everybody does. The question is, ‘What do you do?’ Do you come out stronger? Or do you come out gutted? You’ve got to do the right things so you come out stronger from those times. It makes EVERYBODY more successful in the end.” – Mark C. Zweig

Are you interested in buying other companies? Do you know the value of your firm? The ZweigWhite Valuation Survey for architecture, engineering, planning and environmental consulting firms provides you with an internal formula to assist you with your firm valuation.

Press Release: February 8, 2011

Increasing regulation and a new focus on efficiency are turning the water market into one of the hottest commodities for engineering firms, The Zweig Letter discovers.

A reinvigorated focus on water conservation, new supply sources and water efficiency installations throughout the U.S. are opening up major new business opportunities for consulting engineering firms beyond the traditional water/wastewater storage, treatment and conveyance systems. Also, a difficult funding environment in Washington, D.C., will force players in the market to come up with innovative solutions.

Engineers are being called upon to be creative with their designs as public agencies are looking at new approaches and solutions for integrated water system management, which combines water conservation pricing and regulation with utilization of new water sources such as stormwater, graywater and blackwater on-site water recovery and reuse, desalination, reclaimed sewage and massive fixture retrofits.

“A lot of stuff is happening in the water area after a few years of water being just ho-hum,” Jerry Yudelson, green development expert and author, told The Zweig Letter, ZweigWhite’s weekly management journal, in the January 7 issue.

Steve Maxwell, managing director of TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group, a Boulder, Colorado-based management consultancy specializing in merger and acquisition advisory services and strategic planning for the water and broader environmental industries, wrote in a column for The Zweig Letter (Jan. 7) that water treatment, storage and distribution systems depend upon an ever-increasing array of monitoring data and analytical information in order to function efficiently.

“The ability to monitor, track—and understand—the quality and quantity water is becoming increasingly critical,” Maxwell wrote. “As new and more comprehensive regulatory controls evolve and as new contaminant effects are better understood, testing and monitoring requirements are only going to grow. And with growth will come exploding demand for more and better analytical and engineering support and management systems.”

Yudelson, in his new book Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis, examines some of these new opportunities and explains how engineers can help to create a future of water abundance and to profit from new opportunities in the water sector. Topics include:

  • Total water system analysis, planning, and building
  • On site wastewater treatment, building water monitoring, control, and conservation systems
  • The “water/energy” nexus that shows both promise and peril
  • Stormwater management with on site recycling and reuse
  • Cooling tower water management

Yudelson says engineers should explore new supply sources such as: desalination; “purple pipe” systems supplying treated wastewater for homes, offices and factories; and “virtual reservoirs” in water conservation systems. “It’s a holistic approach,” he says.

For more information about The Zweig Letter, the weekly management advisor for the architecture, engineering and environmental consultant industry, visit www.zweigwhite.com.

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 is investors Eli Global, BIA Digital Partners and MZ Ventures, Inc., 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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