The 100 fastest-growing firms

Sep 06, 2021

This year’s Hot Firms achieved incredible success at a time of great change and uncertainty.

Running for more than two decades, the distinction of making it on Zweig Group’s Hot Firm List is a great accomplishment for firms that have achieved success and growth in the AEC industry. In an industry comprised of more than 100,000 firms, the 100 fastest-growing firms recognized on the list have achieved success at a time of great change and uncertainty. Placement on the list is based on a firm’s percentage revenue growth and dollar revenue growth over a three-year period compared to the other entrants.

Firms on the 2021 Hot Firm List had an average of just over $186 million in gross revenue for the fiscal year 2020. Average revenue growth over the preceding three-year period was just above $29.7 million and 85 percent. Last year, the average firm grew by $31.5 million and 81 percent – showing firms on this year’s list were slightly stronger in percentage growth, even if the dollar revenue growth was slightly lower.

Although firms on the list are not ranked by number of employees, the average number of employees added over the three-year period was 119, representing 75 percent staff growth.

The influence of construction management and/or design build was evident on the list – with the top seven firms listing these among their services.

All of the top five firms had previously made the Hot Firm List at some point in time – however, Landry/French Construction had never won a Hot Firm Award before and came in at No. 6 – the only newcomer to make the top 10!

Two firms in the top 10 grew through organic growth alone (no mergers/acquisitions). Seventy-six percent of firms on the list grew through M&A activity.

It’s clear that regardless of growth method, creating a great place to work is necessary to make it on the list. Sixty-six firms on the list had previously won a Zweig Group Best Firms To Work For Award.

Here’s a little more about our top three firms:

  • Universal Engineering Sciences (Orlando, FL). Universal Engineering Sciences is a national leading infrastructure company specializing in geotechnical engineering, construction materials testing, building code compliance, threshold inspections, and environmental consulting. The firm employed more than 2,100 employees in 2020. This company has grown both organically and through acquisitions. How has UES achieved its growth? As one of the largest, most resource-rich organizations of its kind, the firm offers an unwavering commitment to excellence, approaching each project, big or small, as an opportunity to cultivate enduring relationships with clients. It is this commitment to excellence that has fueled the firm’s growth both organically and through key acquisitions. By continuing to grow its family of companies, UES is well-positioned to help deliver needed infrastructure and build safe and successful communities across the country.
  • Anser Advisory, LLC (Orlando, FL). Another top three firm with Orlando as their headquarters! Anser employed more than 400 employees in 2020. Anser Advisory is a national firm specializing in capital program advisory and consulting services, including strategy, funding, process, organization preparedness, as well as project, program and agency construction management, and controls. Anser services cover the capital development cycle from pre-planning through construction and closeout across a wide range of end markets, including transportation, energy, aviation, K-12 and higher education, state/local government, healthcare, water/sewer, cultural, and housing. “The foundation to Anser’s growth is through attracting and retaining industry leading talent. Our growth and success is a direct result of the growth and success of our employees. This has manifested in upper quartile annual organic growth and an ability to further enhance that organic growth through strategic acquisitive growth of culturally aligned organizations,” said their firm representative.
  • Salas O’Brien (Santa Ana, CA). Salas O’Brien is an employee-owned engineering and facility planning firm addressing highly technical challenges through international strength and local action. This firm employed 987 people in 2020. There are four factors that distinguish Salas O’Brien and the success it has achieved:
    • The firm is made up of passionate and focused technical experts who produce exceptional results.
    • Salas O’Brien has a strong culture of leadership and accountability; the firm never compromises on culture when pursuing M&A.
    • Although Salas O’Brien is “local everywhere” throughout North America and client decisions are pushed to the lowest possible level, the firm has international resources and scale and can bring a complete, coordinated package of services to its clients.
    • The firm’s structure as majority employee-owned aligns its clients’ success and company performance with long-term employee rewards.

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

Zweig Group's 2021 Hot Firm winners will be recognized at the 2021 ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala. Click here to learn more! Click here to read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter!

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.