Posts filed under ‘Civil Engineering Companies’

Flashback: Where Have All The Civil Engineering Firms Gone?

According to press announcements, there have been at least 30 merger/acquisitions within the past MONTH in the US civil engineering and architectural consulting firm community. The blog below is just as relevant today as when it first ran on Civil Engineering Central in 2008. Refresh yourself with the write up and let us know what you think of the continued consolidation in our industry!

Acquisitions in the civil engineering community exploded in 2007 with steady activity up to now. A client jokingly told me, “Eventually we will all work for about five firms. That is all that will be left!”

While I think my client’s comment is a slight exaggeration, the pace of these M&As does not seem to be slowing. What has happened to the traditional firms of the past?

Certainly, these consolidations allow firms a great way to increase staff and presence in particular locations or technical arenas. But, if you joined a firm because of a specific company culture, what do you do now?

Are these large national and international firms of combined technical talents good for our industry? What do you think?

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 14, 2015 at 3:55 pm 1 comment

Civil Engineering Employees Should Embrace Company Ownership

Privately held civil engineering firms can attract staff by offering the benefit of ownership through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). Privately held firms give stock to motivate and reward employees. Companies also offer staff the chance to purchase company stock. Work hard and own a piece of the company, which translates to employees sharing in the success!

Today as firms build succession plans and transition leadership, implementation of ESOPs are increasing. Steve Gido, Principal at Rusk O’Brien Gido + Partners, says the incorporation of ESOPs into a company’s benefits plan changes upon the current financial conditions and also leadership preference. “The popularity of ESOPs waxes and wanes with economic cycles and tax laws. We have found that some leaders love them and others don’t.”

Company leaders aren’t the only ones with mixed feelings about ESOPS. In the wake of the Enron scandal in 2001, employees are hesitant to invest too much of their retirement savings in company stock. This viewpoint is understandable. If the company stock takes a beating, then so does the employee’s retirement savings. But, are there other factors contributing to employees rejecting potentially valuable company stock?

LOYALTY
Employee loyalty is a powerful concept within any company. A loyal employee is committed to the success of the firm. This includes propelling the company ahead of the competition by doing great work, helping to recruiting top talent and championing the firm’s mission.

With mergers and acquisitions on the rise within the ENR Top 500 firms, layoffs are also on the rise. Subsequently, employee loyalty is on the decline. Industry consolidation often brings cuts of redundant staff and services. Loyal employees end up without a job and the staff who are retained tend to be less engaged. What happened to a firm’s loyalty to its staff?

If an employee was fortunate to own stock, then the individual could receive a good payout from the stock’s value. If an employee does not own stock, then that person may simply be out of a job with little to no financial compensation for their previous service.

LENGTH OF SERVICE
As a civil engineering recruiter who advises engineers on job offers, I stress the value of working for a firm with ownership potential. Most tell me if they are going to put money aside, they would rather invest in a company retirement plan, aka 401(k), rather than company stock. Many junior to mid-level civil engineers tell me that it is unimaginable to them that their length of employment at any firm would be more than five years. They are convinced that in a large A/E firm, they are just one of many engineers. Similarly, engineers employed by small to mid-size firms believe they are at the mercy of the efforts of more senior engineers and the marketing staff. Engineers ask, “Why would I care if a firm offers stock ownership when I probably won’t be there five or more years?”

LACK OF PLANNING
Another reason many employees don’t take advantage or see the value of ESOPs is because they live paycheck to paycheck. I can sympathize with this viewpoint. I also bypassed saving for retirement early in my career. As a young recruiter, I was afraid to contribute to my retirement as that money may be needed for immediate, short-term needs. Planning for retirement for wasn’t important since retirement was MANY years away. I had plenty of time to save for retirement. Although I now put money aside, retirement age approached much faster than I expected.

ESOPs are an important component to retirement planning and one civil engineers should embrace when presented. Various studies have demonstrated plan benefits of participation. Companies that utilize ESOPs grow approximately 10 percent faster than companies that do have employee ownership. Subsequently, ESOP participants receive salaries that are up to 12 percent higher and have retirement packages valued as much as three times higher compared to those similar companies that do not offer ESOPs. Since diversification is also important, approximately 60 percent of ESOP firms offer at least one additional retirement plan option.

So while detractors present strong points as to why they do or will not participate, ESOPs provide demonstrated results for better company performance, which in turn leads to higher wages and increased retirement savings.

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 8, 2015 at 9:45 am 1 comment

The “We’ve Always Done It This Way” Mentality

As a search consultant I have the opportunity to speak with dozens of civil engineering professionals across the country on a daily basis.   I speak with key executives in the C-Suite, Project Engineers, and to every level of civil engineering professional in between.   After learning about their skill set and their contribution to their organization and to our nation’s infrastructure I always ask the following question:

“What would be a motivating factor that would prompt you to explore a new opportunity?”

Most of the time I get responses that include phrases like:

“More opportunity”

“Glass ceiling”

“Larger, more challenging projects”

“More responsibility”

“Smaller company”  / “Larger company”

But every so often I will connect with a candidate who is working for a firm where the existing leadership has the ol’ “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it mentality.”

 

we've always done it this way

 

Over the past few months I have run into a number of firms who just cannot get out of their own way as a result of their “we’ve always done it this way” point of view.

I recently heard of a firm that was poised for growth and had determined that they had to make some changes by creating a couple of new positions that would really help take them to the next level.  One of these positions was Chief Operating Officer.  The Board of Directors developed a detailed job description that outlined a  plan moving forward and the positive impact that the addition of a COO would make.  At the end of the day they decided to put the role on the back-burner for no other reason than the company ownership, all of whom have been with the company for 35+ years,  felt that what they were doing has worked for the past twenty five years and there was no sense changing things up.  The younger generation of engineers and future leaders of this organization are unsettled by all of  this and will likely be future leaders somewhere else.

Another firm that has a strong tradition of excellence within the Mid-Atlantic region is unwilling to budge on their vacation policy.  Not one single person they say, from the CEO on down, receives more than three weeks of vacation.  It is non-negotiable.  I am all about hard work, trust me, I am typing this on a Saturday.  But to remain competitive in the marketplace you need to be able to do better than three weeks vacation, especially for senior level professionals who have certainly earned four weeks anyway.   This is another example of an existing ownership with an “old school” mentality that is not able to see the forest through the trees, in my opinion.

These are just a few examples; there are plenty of companies out there who lag behind in technology, training, and who preach a culture and a philosophy of innovation but whose actions show otherwise.

On the other hand, I have had some first hand experience working with clients who understand the importance of change,  organizational evolution, and constant re-evaluation.

I recently worked with a client who saw an enormous amount of opportunity in the marketplace, but just could not break free from their 30 employee shell.  The CEO of the company reached out to me and shared with me his vision to become an ENR Top 500 firm, and he was ready to invest in the right people to make that happen.  He was acting as CEO, COO, Director of Business Development and Director of Engineering, and as you can imagine,  could barely see one step ahead of himself.  We successfully conducted a search for him and he now has in place a Director of Engineering and an Executive Vice President who has actively taken on the operations element of the firm and is contributing to business development and strategy.  As a result of investing in these two key hires they are looking to double in size in the next 18 months.

Another client  has been in business for nearly 40 years and is in its second generation of ownership, currently working towards the third generation.  The company ownership is split between five or six shareholders, but they have limited the length of time that shareholders can be shareholders.  This allows for the semi-regular turnover of ownership which leads to the replenishment of fresh and innovative ideas.

Another firm not only encourages its employees to think “outside-the-box,” but they actually allow for those ideas to be implemented.  As traditional and conservative as civil engineers traditionally are, the willingness to try something new may seem a little risky, but their clients REALLY enjoy their willingness to present innovative approaches and concepts to many age old problems.   This type of mentality and philosophy is attractive to many people and as a result helps them bring top talent in the door, and it excites the clients and keeps them coming back for more.

 

Change can often be scary, but it is necessary.  History shows that those firms who are satisfied with the status quo, and who drown themselves in   “we’ve always done it this way”  mentality will eventually be left in the dust.

May you not be left in the dust!

 


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

April 8, 2014 at 11:59 am 4 comments

Legalized Marijuana Use Grounds For Termination Within A/E Firms?

The legalization of marijuana use in Colorado and Washington is causing an uprising within the A/E marketplace.  It has been reported that firms are trying to determine policies that take in consideration federal and state laws while being mindful of employee and client safety. Speaking with operations and human resources executives on the legalized use of marijuana by employees, I am receiving one unified comment:

Marijuana use will not be tolerated-whether legal in the state the employee works or not.

Civil engineering  and architect employers believe that any potential impaired judgement could lead to fatal design issues or poor decision making. I asked several executives how recreational use of the drug  during personal hours is any different than staff consuming alcohol on their own time. Additionally, I asked “If an employee goes on vacation to Colorado or Washington, then smokes marijuana, returns and tests positive- what will happen?” I received a variety of responses to both these questions, but no clear answer. “Too many shades of gray. Employees need to take responsibility. If they are smoking in a legalized state on vacation, chances are they are smoking at their homes too.”  Emotions are running deep on this topic.

The Department of Defense has reported that contractors who test positive for any drug use may lose their security clearance. Similarly, other federal agencies require contractors/engineering firms to drug test staff working on their projects. This would clearly direct firms providing services to those agencies. Liability insurances for many firms are expected to rise.

NORML (www.NORML.org) shares  “marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in America (behind only alcohol and tobacco), and has been used by nearly 100 million Americans. According to government surveys, some 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the past year, and more than 14 million do so regularly despite harsh laws against its use. Our public policies should reflect this reality, not deny it.”

Many states and many more A/E firms will be dealing with this issue in months ahead. What do you think? Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

March 19, 2014 at 9:48 am 2 comments

Attracting & Retaining Talent :: It’s a War Out There

In November of 2013 Carol & I were invited to host a breakout session at the Rusk O’Brien Gido + Partners Growth & Ownership Strategies Conference in Naples, FL.  The Breakout Session that we hosted was titled “Attracting & Retaining Talent :: It’s a War Out There.”  The topic was marketed as follows:

The day of the easy to fill empty seat in a firm is gone, and the ability to keep talent from joining a competitor is more challenging than ever. This breakout discussion will focus on ways of attracting talent and then keeping them from walking out the door with clients and staff. Using their combined experience of over 40 years exclusively within the A/E marketplace, this session will offer you the proven secrets that have helped hundreds of firms navigate difficult employee recruitment and retention waters. The day of the easy to fill empty seat in a firm is gone, and the ability to keep talent from joining a competitor is more challenging than ever. This breakout discussion will focus on ways of attracting talent and then keeping them from walking out the door with clients and staff. Using their combined experience of over 40 years exclusively within the A/E marketplace, this session will offer you the proven secrets that have helped hundreds of firms navigate difficult employee recruitment and retention waters.

Carol & I hosted our breakout session late on a Thursday afternoon, right before happy hour after a long day of sessions, but we were excited to see that our session was overflowing with an interactive group of executives poised for the growth of their respective companies.  Our session dealt with the following topics:

Five Methods To Attract Top Talent

  • Visibility of company and staff in the industry / marketplace
  • Successful, happy and engaged employees
  • Satisfied clients
  • Social media
  • Executive search services (internal and external)

Mastering the Art of the Interview

  • Process
  • Well planned
  • Well communicated
  • Well defined

Selling the Candidate

  • Roll out the red carpet
  • Great listening
  • Personalize the close

Six Methods To Retain Top Talent

  • Develop and implement on-boarding program
  • Allow and encourage feedback at all levels
  • Utilization of talents and skills
  • Making staff feel valued
  • Provide opportunities for training, development and advancement
  • Deliver what was promised: truth and responsibility

It was a jam packed session,  both from seats taken and with information shared.  The feedback that received from those in attendance was all very positive; we only wish we had longer than 45 minutes!

If you are interested in downloading the Power Point Presentation along with the detailed notes please click the following link:

Florida Presentation 11.04.13 

PresentationIf you are interested in further discussing any of these topics please make sure to comment below in our comment section, or feel free to contact Matt Barcus or Carol Metzner at: 

Matt Barcus:  mbarcus@precision-recruiters.com

OR

Carol Metznter:  carol@themetznergroup.com

And one quick side note here ~ if you have it in your budget and are able to attend the 2014

Conferencelogoheader0521

 BE SURE TO DO SO – IT WILL BE WELL WORTH YOUR WHILE!


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

February 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm 4 comments

Your Civil Engineering Firm’s Use of Technology

Last week I posed a question on LinkedIn asking members of the Civil Engineering Central group if they felt that their firm was ahead of the curve, on the curve, or behind the curve when it comes to the software and technology that is being utilized at their firm? If you are a member of the Civil Engineering Central group on LinkedIn you can follow this link to the question and cast your vote:

CIVIL ENGINEERING CENTRAL GROUP LINKEDIN POLL

Alternatively, you can vote right here on our blog:

You may find that you fall on different parts of the curve depending on the actual piece of technology or software. Accounting software, scheduling software, project management software, surveying equipment, 3D CAD software, cloud based programs and 3D printing technologies are just some of technologies and software that come to mind when running a consulting civil engineering firm.

What do you feel are the most critical pieces of software and/or technology that are essential in remaining competitive in the civil engineering profession?


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 13, 2014 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

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