What’s in and What’s Out

Jun 13, 1994

We work for a lot of different firms in the A/E and environmental consulting industry. We talk to a lot of different professionals out there. What’s in and what’s out these days? Here’s our view: “In” markets are air monitoring and modelling; sports and gaming facilities such as casinos and race tracks; roofing, window replacement and building exterior work; rural water systems; solid waste; clean water; and GIS. “Out” markets are underground storage tanks (UST); hazardous waste remediation (it has not taken off like everyone expected—projects are stalled, regulators aren’t forcing clean-ups, and money is tight); environmental labs, due to overcapacity and resulting price competition; and building structural design. Architects, as a group, are still “out,” but corporate work, health care work, and college and university work are the “in” areas for them. In-house mechanical/electrical/plumbing capabilities for multi-discipline firms that are primarily civil engineers or architects are “out.” They don’t make money and have constant personnel problems. Transportation work is “in,” but the firms which are all busy right now are wondering what they are going to do when their big projects run out in the next year or two. Regionally, the mid-Atlantic states, the midwest, and the southwest are “in” as the strongest markets. California is “out” as one of the weakest. The health care debate is “out.” It’s a non-issue since we all provide health insurance for our employees in this industry, anyway. Management by committee is “out.” Benevolent dictators are “in.” Linking all offices electronically is “in.” E-Mail and voice mail are “in.” Rude receptionists are “out.” Answering your own phone is “in.” Having a secretary place your outgoing calls is “out.” ESOPs are “in,” since they are a good way to cash out existing owners on a pre-tax basis. Professional service firms are “in” with banks, who are now actively courting firms in this business like we haven’t seen in years. Growth by acquisition is “in,” with even smaller firms getting into the buying mode. Bargain hunting is “in,” but paying too much for a hot firm is “out.” Casual dress for work is “in,” flashy suits with suspenders and bright red power ties are “out.” Flowered ties are “out,” rep stripes and small prints are “in.” Green suits are “in,” blue suits are “out.” Brown shoes and briefcases are “in,” black shoes and metal briefcases are “out.” It’s “in” for local chapters of professional associations to bash their national headquarters. Integration of all office technology is “in,” but CADD used strictly as a production tool is “out.” Metrification is “in” for transportation work, but “out” most other places. “Partnering,” “corporate re-engineering,” and “customer service,” as the new management bandwagons, are “in.” “TQM” and “team building” are going “out,” as we are hearing and seeing less and less about them. Part-time Ph.D.s on the payroll are “in.” Full-time QA/QC directors are “out.” Originally published 6/13/1994.

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.