Constructively dissatisfied

Oct 03, 2016

The Klotz firm is reaping national accolades for its growth and its workplace, but since a firm never arrives, the quest for excellence never ends.

By Liisa Andreassen Correspondent

Maintaining the status quo is not an option for D. Wayne Klotz, president of RPS Klotz Associates, Inc., (#32 Best Firm Civil and #43 Hot Firm for 2016) a 165-person, full-service civil engineering firm based in Houston.

“Any organization that does not evolve dies,” he says.

Klotz is a man of his word. He continues to try new things and to seek new connections. If you want proof, check out the news section of the firm’s website. Promotions and key hire after key hire.

Klotz’s CV paints the portrait of a man deeply engaged with his community. Among the long list of accomplishments are scholarship foundations at two universities, an appointment by the mayor of Houston to the Coastal Water Authority Board of Directors, and service on the Community Resilience Task Force for the Department of Homeland Security.

A conversation with Klotz.

The Zweig Letter: How have you seen the firm evolve since its founding?

D. Wayne Klotz: We have maintained our core values throughout our history. Significant changes fit into two categories:

  1. Client expectations. Clients now expect us to have all technical and electronic capabilities. I remember when having CADD was an advantage. They also expect us to have an understanding of their financial limitations and the desires of many stakeholders. We have had to become more efficient as we deliver more and more services.
  2. Employee needs. The desires of our employees have changed dramatically. When we began, the workforce was primarily WWII and baby boomer generations. Today, the boomers are stepping off the stage, and millennials now are the largest generation in the workforce. Millennials have much different job and lifestyle preferences. We have adapted our workplace to accommodate the needs of all of our staff. In fact, we have won multiple local and national awards as a flexible workplace and best place to work.

TZL: What do you feel the key strengths are for an effective leader?

DWK: An effective leader must possess a number of strengths. Integrity tops the list. You cannot lead if people do not trust you to do the right thing – no matter the consequences. A leader must also possess a vision and the ability to articulate it and to be able to get people to go to a place they never even imagined. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A leader must be a good communicator. He/she must be able to articulate their vision and expectations in a manner understood by all. People want to do a good job, and a good leader can tell them how to achieve their personal goals. A leader must be a good delegator. They should identify the best skills of their people, put them in a place of authority with adequate resources, and then allow them to do the job the best way they choose.

TZL: How would you describe your leadership style?

DWK: I was once described as being “constructively dissatisfied.” That description works for my style. I set high standards because I believe our people aspire to excellence. No organization ever “arrives.” We can always find room for improvement. The key is to celebrate success along the way. We celebrate reaching goals and milestones, yet we know that we can achieve higher goals down the line.

TZL: To date, what has been your greatest challenge and how did you deal with it?

DWK: Growing companies need to hire people at all levels of the organization. My greatest challenge has been to find new managers who fit into our culture and then to assimilate them. If you’re not careful, you can end up with a hodgepodge of cultures from multiple sources.

TZL: What is your vision for the future of Klotz?

DWK: I still want our firm to be the best company in our markets. We do not aspire to be the biggest. Our focus remains on excellence for clients and staff.

TZL: Tell me about a recent project you are especially proud of and why.

DWK: Birnamwood Drive is the first project in Harris County to use low impact design criteria. We took the standard county boulevard and replaced the storm sewer with a bio-swale. The project uses native plants to improve water quality, and the total project cost was reduced. Many of our details became county standards. I am proud of this project because we demonstrated that infrastructure can be designed to be more sustainable without increasing the costs.

TZL: How have you helped your firm to outperform some competitors? What do you feel sets you apart?

DWK: We outperform some of our competitors because we set high goals and trust our people to meet them. We have excellent business systems that allow our managers to stay on top of their projects. We focus on things that matter, and we do not let small things distract us. One area that sets us apart is that we give equal importance to marketing in our business planning and budgeting.

TZL: Are you married? Children?

DWK: I’ve been married for 42 years. We have four adult children and seven grandchildren.

TZL: What’s one thing most people at the firm don’t know about you?

DWK: I once sang in the White House for President Richard Nixon.

TZL: Best vacation spot? Dream destination?

DWK: Hawaii. My dream destination is wherever our next trip takes us.

TZL: What’s the last book you read?

DWK: Gathering Prey by John Sandford.

TZL: What’s the last movie you saw?

DWK: Jason Bourne.

TZL: What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever gotten?

DWK: Fix problems from the top down.

TZL: Is there a leader you really admire? Why?

DWK: Coach John Wooden because he accomplished his goals while building people up instead of using them up.

TZL: When you’re not working, what types of activities do you enjoy?

DWK: Family time, reading good books, travel, and golf.

TZL: What’s your favorite lunch?

DWK: Good Texas barbeque.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.