Strong financial outlook

May 27, 2019

Survey data from Zweig Group’s 2019 Financial Performance Survey of AEC Firms indicates strong financial performance industry-wide.

Zweig Group’s annual Financial Performance Survey of AEC Firms, released in April, identified a strong positive trend in multiple key financial indicators, including profit, revenue, staff growth, and backlog.

The survey gathered data on financial metrics and methodologies from AEC industry firms of varying sizes, types, and markets across the United States.

With many leaders in the industry reporting difficulties in recruiting, average staff growth was 2.5 percent industry-wide. Firms on the West Coast and in the Mountain region reported averages of more than 5.5 percent and fast growth firms reported an average of 10.3 percent.

Staff turnover (voluntary and involuntary) was an average of 13.6 percent industry-wide, with higher numbers reported in architecture firms, firms of all types in the Mountain and South Central regions, firms with stable or declining growth, and, no surprise, firms experiencing low profit or losses.

Median pre-tax, pre-bonus profit on net service revenue was almost 14 percent this year, well above pre-recession levels, and an increase from 12.7 percent last year. The profit metrics have remained on a generally overall upward trajectory since 2013.

Net service revenue per full-time employee also continues to rally. AEC industry firms are now generating a median of almost $150,000 per full-time employee – an all-time high. Profit generated per employee was just over $19,000, a staggering increase from 2015’s $7,146.

The contribution rate is the percentage of net service revenue remaining after all project costs (direct labor and other direct costs) have been covered. This number also hit a record high of 67.7 percent, indicating that industry firms are able to charge appropriately for their projects.

One of the strongest indicators of financial performance is revenue factor, which uses a combination of two financial statistics – chargeability and multiplier – to measure a firm’s ability to generate revenue. It takes into account not only how much time the firm bills to jobs (chargeability), but also what it realizes in revenue compared to what it costs in terms of direct raw labor (net multiplier). This hit a three year high of 1.86.

AEC industry firms are collecting money fairly quickly – a median of 70 days (the second lowest number in the past decade) speaking to the overall quality of accounts receivable. Work backlog also hit a high of almost eight months, indicating another strong year ahead.

Click here for more information on Zweig Group’s 2019 Financial Performance Survey of AEC Firms, which reports more than 100 different financial metrics for the AEC industry.

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. Contact her at

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.