Conference call: Kevin Peterson

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Co-founder, president, and CEO of P2S Engineering, Inc. (Best Firms To Work For Multi-discipline #8 and Hot Firm #27 for 2017), a consulting engineering firm in Long Beach, CA.

By Liisa Andreassen
Correspondent

The belief is, if our employees are engaged and there is constant communication and transparency between our leadership and all other employees, then we are fostering a company for a happy team,” Peterson says.

A CONVERSATION WITH KEVIN PETERSON.

The Zweig Letter: What’s the best way to recruit and retain top talent in a tight labor market?

Kevin Peterson: Our recruitment and interview process is meticulous. We take care to ensure that individuals are truly the right fit for P2S. Candidates meet with multiple levels of management and their potential team, which gives them a solid understanding of our company, the job, and our environment and culture. We have also implemented a scorecard to measure candidates on an even scale between interviewers. This allows the hiring group to have input from multiple individuals and arrive at a decision collectively, as opposed to a sole decision maker.

We also have:

  • A generous employee referral program
  • 360-degree employee and manager performance reviews
  • Internship program
  • Company sponsored professional conferences and training
  • Employee awards and recognitions

Retention begins with the onboarding experience. We have streamlined the process so new hires are engaged as soon as they sign their offer letter. We also have a formal 15-day and 90-day check-in and new hire mixers to ensure a smooth transition for our employees. Performance and development goals have helped our employees continue their personal and professional development, outline job expectations and increase employee engagement. It’s our goal to see employees grow and build their career with P2S and we encourage our staff to take ownership of their career. We’re prepared to support them through mentorships, professional memberships, training, certifications, and a tuition reimbursement program. Our conversation regarding employee performance and reviews go beyond the annual review. We encourage weekly resource allocation meetings, one-on-one meetings, 360-degree feedback surveys, and company luncheons. The P2S events and planning team organizes events such as happy hours, meet-n-eats, philanthropy outings, and other social events. This creates a culture where employees enjoy coming to work and can build relationships with their colleagues. The belief is, if our employees are engaged and there is constant communication and transparency between our leadership and all other employees, then we are fostering a company for a happy team.

TZL: What’s the key benefit you give to your employees? Flexible schedule, incentive compensation, 401(k), etc.?

KP:

  • Flexible work schedules. Employees can choose starting hour and work half-day Fridays.
  • 401(k) match. We make a discretionary match to the employee’s 401(k) contributions based on profitability. Historically, P2S has matched 25 percent with no limit.
  • Health and wellness:
    • Medical, dental, and vision coverage with low employee and dependent premiums. We offer our employees an Open Access Plan medical plan which allows employees to self-refer themselves to a specialist.
    • Company sponsored Biometric Health Screenings: We provide a 49-point blood panel test on-site to all staff and their spouses or domestic partners. Upon completion, employees receive a 50 percent discount on medical premiums. We also encourage employees to discuss any abnormalities or other health concerns with health care staff during this time.
    • Free on-site wellness programs (fit camp, running club, and company sponsored outdoor weekend activities), healthy snacks, and gym with showers.
  • Professional and personal development. Continuous sponsored training and certifications; internal research; planning and development teams; catered lunch and learns with manufacturers.
  • Bonus program. All staff, including administrative, are eligible to participate in our annual bonus program. The program rewards successful project management, project completion, mentoring, and other contributing factors.

TZL: What’s the greatest problem to overcome in the proposal process?

KP: A proposal is just a singular element in the sales process. The greatest problem for a growing company is to develop a comprehensive sales approach that builds a customer relationship from the ground up. The development of any opportunity must be strategized, planned, and measured. Once this underlying approach has been implemented, one can concentrate on the actual proposal quality. Besides a clear and readable layout, meeting the requirements, standards, and needs of the client is the most important. Tailoring the proposal to meet requirements and showcase capability is time consuming, but crucial for success. The biggest challenge is to implement a comprehensive strategy that drives the proposal process.

TZL: How does marketing contribute to your success rate? Are you content with your marketing efforts, or do you think you should increase/decrease marketing?

KP: We added a marketing department when we had approximately 75 personnel. That department oversees and executes company strategy, coordinates communication, and develops and analyzes sales strategy. Marketing works together with our other departments, to constantly enhance internal processes and improve client relations and sales output. Using all available marketing tools is the only way to sustain the success rate. Unlike many companies in the AEC industry, we use the corporate marketing approach employed by Fortune 500 firms. We strongly believe that an investment in marketing is an investment in our future.

TZL: What has your firm done recently to upgrade its IT system?

KP: We upgraded our firewalls to Layer 4 technology which classifies all traffic, including encrypted traffic, based on application, application function, user, and content. This allows us to create comprehensive, precise security policies, resulting in safe enablement of applications. This also permits only authorized users to run sanctioned applications, greatly reducing the surface area of cyber-attacks across our organization.

We also recently upgraded our internet connections to 1Gbps to assist with the increased usage of cloud-based computing.

TZL: What’s your preferred strategy for growth, M&A or organic? Give us a synopsis of how your firm effected growth in the recent past.

KP: P2S prefers organic growth, but has used M&A where appropriate to add expertise in a certain market segment. Over three years ago, we performed a successful acquisition of an established healthcare consultant, but since then we have averaged 25 percent organic growth.

TZL: What’s the greatest challenge presented by growth?

KP: The greatest challenge with growth is onboarding new staff quickly to the firm’s methodologies and culture. Over the past three years, P2S has made great strides on formal mentor and new hire programs. Based on feedback from our managers and new employees, these programs are effective at getting new employees engaged and productive.

TZL: What is the role of entrepreneurship in your firm?

KP: Entrepreneurial thinking is part of our culture and encouraged daily. Six years ago, P2S created an Incubator Team to harvest solutions and innovations for the ever-changing needs of our clients. A team of P2S staff with diverse backgrounds meets on a regular basis to discuss current issues from energy policy changes and updates to new technical tools and creative design solutions. The think-tank atmosphere of the Incubator Team encourages all P2S team members to spawn forward-thinking ideas for our clients.

TZL: What’s your prediction for 2017 and for the next five years?

KP: This year will be another strong year for P2S. Year-to-date, we are up approximately 30 percent over our net revenue from last year with growth in most of our market segments. Most of our educational work is tied to bond funding that’s already been approved. This current funding will extend project work out four to five years. We also expect our utility infrastructure work to see continued growth in the public and private sectors for the next five to
10 years.

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