President of Galloway (Denver, CO), a firm with a streamlined process that addresses all its clients’ design needs – from architecture to civil engineering and survey.
By Liisa Andreassen
Guetig has more than 30 years of professional experience ranging from civil engineering and project management to executive administration. He believes that being a leader at Galloway is all about valuing and lifting up the team, providing unparalleled client support, and demonstrating exceptional professional knowledge. He enjoys bringing people together and working toward a common goal and shares the company’s purpose: “To enrich people’s passion.”
A conversation with David Guetig.
The Zweig Letter: Part of your mission is “creating a fantastic work environment.” What types of things did you do during COVID to continue that mission?
David Guetig: We are big on culture and communication. We’re known for having fun at Galloway. During COVID, we did a nightly email to staff that consisted of fun clips and memes. I solicited information from staff about favorite COVID memes, etc. and we had a contest. Each night, my family and I would review the entries and the winner received $50. It was a fun way to stay connected. As COVID continued to carry on through the summer, we developed an active social and wellness group and started the “Gallolympics.” There were eight different events and we asked people to wear Galloway gear when they did them and to take a selfie/photo. The categories included: hiking, rafting, running, water events, biking, golf and putt-putt, walking, and field and court sports. We’d share photos and prizes and it was a great way to inspire people to get out and have fun. We couldn’t do our summer picnic, but we still managed to stay in touch.
TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”
DG: Right now, it’s about 50/50. I’m trying to do a little less “in” and more “on.” We just did our first acquisition – one which Zweig Group helped us with – and I’ve learned that hiring the right people to take on different aspects of things is paramount. We have a CFO now, so that takes a lot off my plate. I’m still working on delegating some of that day-to-day stuff to focus on the long-term.
TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap?
DG: When you’re an owner, there’s no doubt going to be overlap. You just cannot separate the two. We’ve found that the spouses of our leaders are all supportive of what they do and understand that curve balls will happen. There’s unexpected travel, and late nights that cannot always be planned for and they understand it’s just part of the deal. We could not have grown the firm without that support. I’m also lucky that my wife has an entrepreneurial spirit.
TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?
DG: Through the Great Recession, I got an “on-the-job MBA.” It was hands-on learning and it made me stronger. I know that it’s important to be conservative, financially. I had to figure out what made the company tick. I learned all that on the job. Now, I work to educate others about the important KPIs that I didn’t know at the time.
TZL: What type of leader do you consider yourself to be?
DG: One that leads by example. I know it’s not always the best model because everyone has a different style and way of doing things. What works for one may not work for all. I’ve always been a “put your head down and get the job done” kind of guy. That said, I do respect other leadership styles. I’ve had to change my style a bit over the years to being more of a coach and less of a player.
TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not?
DG: Yes. In 2015, we did some research on this and asked our accountant about it. We decided it was a good thing to do and amended our taxes for 2013 and 2014 as well. I believe it’s the greatest and only tax-friendly legislation out there for owners of AEC firms.
TZL: Is change management a topic regularly addressed by the leadership at your firm? If so, elaborate.
DG: In 2012, we had 30 staff members. Now, we have 220. We’ve had steady growth and have been dealing with change management on a daily basis for the past 10 years. We have to think through how growth will affect staff. As shareholders and a board, we have a lot of discussion about this. Communication is key when it comes to keeping people calm.
TZL: Your company has many interesting initiatives. Do these initiatives help in terms of recruitment and retention? Please explain.
DG: Yes. In fact, I celebrate these initiatives and our overall culture in every interview that we do. I spend about 15-20 minutes with each applicant and talk about our core values and what it’s like to work for Galloway. We pour a great deal of energy into our people – both through tech and non-tech training. We have several different committees and self-run groups. Among them are the Diversity and Equity Initiative; Galloway People of Color Initiative; Galloway Recognizes Opportunities for Women Initiative; and Galloway Gives. We also have plenty of ways to communicate what’s happening at the firm through things like a monthly “Month in a Minute” video to share what Galloway staff have been up to as well as “Lunchtime Conversations.” It’s so important to educate staff and bring them together.
TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced?
DG: In 2006, I took over as president and we started doing valuations. We use the formulas from Zweig Group’s Valuation Survey Report. We do a snapshot every year of our net worth, interest bearing debt and backlog. Every three years, we average it out. A CPA verifies it and we use three factors: headcount, revenue, and EBIDA.
TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility?
DG: Inspire and lead.