5 Crucial Steps for Project Manager Success

The success of your Project Managers (PMs) can make or break your firm. Right? Considering all of the tasks that the typical project manager is required to perform, it is no wonder that many PMs get frustrated or even lose money! I did an assessment of the typical duties of the PMs that work for our clients, and here is a comprehensive but not necessarily complete list of the responsibilities that get thrown at PMs on a daily basis: Responding to RFPs and creating proposals Estimating project fees Documentation of work product Managing subcontractors Scheduling and using resources effectively Maintaining high utilization Solving client problems Budgeting and planning projects Project financial management Project quality control Management of the project timeline Reviewing and approving employee time and expenses Reviewing and approving client billing Collecting Accounts Receivable (AR) Nurturing client relationships Recruiting and interviewing new hires Mentoring and training staff Managing staff performance, and dealing with performance and behavior issues Managing contractual deliverables Avoiding scope creep and/or billing for extra services Preparing for and attending internal and external meetings Business development and networking (including events, social media, etc.) … Continued

How to Save your Project Managers Two Hours a Week

  The main complaint I am hearing from A&E firm leaders these days is how they would love to “find more time” for their project managers (PMs). With workloads the highest they’ve been for many years, and talented and experienced PMs difficult to hire, asking PMs to work overtime has become a necessity. The average PM is working 45 to 60 hours a week, and many executives are worried about them burning out and considering leaving for a less stressful position. Multi-faceted Role of Project Managers The PM’s job is a difficult and often frustrating role. More and more responsibilities have been piled on the backs of our PMs as business has become more competitive and great people harder to find. A PM is no longer just responsible for managing the day to day and contractual obligations of the contracts, but also has to help bring work in as a seller-doer; manage the time, billing and collections of the work; and maintain happy client relationships. Many PMs face frustrations in trying to be great in all of these areas, and many others lack the business … Continued

How to Get the Most Value from Investing in AEC Project Management Training

There is a growing trend in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industries to train project managers (PMs). Reasons include the obvious goal of improved performance – both qualitative and financial. Other reasons are grounded in the many challenges faced by firms today to grow and retain staff, and develop future leaders for eventual leadership transition.  There are many different forms of “Project Management Training” being offered in the AEC industry: online training, classes, seminars, bootcamps, etc. Most of what’s offered to your project leaders and management teams is being grouped into this overall bucket of “Project Management Training” but it isn’t all the same and won’t all add the most value to your firm. Project Management Training is a broad term so when you are looking to purchase or sign up for training, it is important for you to first determine what skills you are looking to teach your staff and to understand the different types of training on the market. Not all training is focused on the same skills – some courses teach technical Project Management skills and others will teach Business Management skills. What is it you want to accomplish? What do your managers need to … Continued

3 Reasons Why A&E Firm Owners Can’t Retire

“The exit that many leaders had thought would take place in their mid to late 50’s is now getting delayed to 65 and older.”     As I enter my mid-fifties (never thought it would happen) I have become privy to many private conversations from my age-related peers at A&E firms around the subject of retirement. Many business owners my age thought that by the time they had been working for 25 years or more in their architecture or engineering firms that they would be in a great position to retire in the near future. They are now discovering that this great dream of retiring in a warm location after the kids graduate from college is not going to be as easy as they thought. The rise to the top has not proven to deliver the golden handshake they thought they had earned by now. Because of tough economic realities and the lack of resources to take over their roles, the long awaited retirement plans are going to require much more planning, effort and financial consequences. In looking at the current state of the A&E industry, … Continued

How to Get Leadership Buy-in for Business Management Training 

  Many of our clients see the need to improve the business acumen of their project managers (PMs) and other technical staff. Even the project managers themselves, many of who have come up through technical ranks and have little to no formal project management training, are begging for it. But, it’s difficult getting firm leaders to agree to the best approach and take action. They know on some level it will probably payoff with increases in profits, higher customer satisfaction, etc. But how can they be sure? Different options include 2-day bootcamps out of the office, in-house training, bringing in outside consultants to customize training for your firm, or industry-specific online training. Each method has it’s pros and cons but most firms agree that the training needs to address the key issues that are causing dollars to get lost, causing lower than expected profits. Having trouble getting leadership buy-in for business management training?  Without leadership buy-in, support and the very important (but often overlooked) aspect of also participating themselves, your training program can fail to gain momentum and acceptance throughout your firm. Studies show that when leaders get … Continued

How to Make 3% More on Your Next Project

  In my book, Find the Lost Dollars, I focus on the impact of just a 1% increase in profits in nine areas of your business. The reason for focusing on such a small increase is twofold – first – it sounds easy. Most employees will gladly step up to help the company improve just 1%. Second, it is usually much more money than most business leaders realize. The power of just a 1% increase in profits in several key areas of the business can be thousands to millions of dollars for most A&E firms. But the reality is that most firms that focus on improving their business practices actually increase profits much more than 1%. For many of the clients we work with, we target a profit increase of 2% to 5% which is a substantial increase. Many of our clients tell us that their projects are profitable, however, they are not earning the level of profits they desire. For example, when you bid a project with a 10% estimated profit margin, but actually end up with just 6%, what happened to the other … Continued

Hillmann Consulting Finds Lost Dollars with Innovative Business Management Training Program

“We are making Finding Lost Dollars part of our culture now. That’s the way we want it, that was the whole idea of choosing the Find the Lost Dollars training. We have systems in place. We have processes. We have happy clients and are more profitable.” – Michael Gerasimenko, Controller     Hillmann Consulting, LLC is a successful Environmental and Engineering consulting firm. After all, they have been in business since 1985 and have been recognized by Zweig Group as one of the fastest-growing firms in the industry for the past 3 years. Your Property. Our Priority is their mission. Their commitment to service is clear and has proven to be one of the major cornerstones of their success. They build long lasting relationships with their clients, offering them the peace of mind they need when environmental concerns arise or the unthinkable occurs. This dedication to their clients was part of their culture, yet certain business practices regarding keeping clients happy as well as some inefficient business practices came at a high price. They were not as profitable as they desired – like many other firms … Continued

6 Steps to Win on Value Instead of Price

We’ve all been there, sitting in front of that client we know we don’t want to work with. But the fear takes over. The fear of not having enough work. So we don’t walk away. We succumb to the pressure and lower our fee. Or maybe it is our best client, and he is threatening to go to one of our competitors, telling us we are too expensive. What do we say? Do we just agree and go ahead and give him a break on his estimate – know we will lose money on the job? Situations like this are happening every day and slowly killing the architecture and engineering services industry. The problem is, we really do start to believe that we can’t get the kind of fees that we need to be successful and profitable, but we still don’t know how to turn down work. It is just against our nature. As our employees navigate these difficult situations every day, small amounts of money are being given away. Rather than believe we are adding additional value to our clients’ projects, we assume we … Continued

christopher consultants Finds Lost Dollars in Just 10 Weeks

For over 33 years, christopher consultants (christopher) headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia has provided civil engineering, surveying, land planning, urban design and landscape architecture in the mid-Atlantic region. Founded by Christopher Brown (Chris) in 1982, the firm currently employs over 100 professionals and has five divisions serving a range of different industries. In 2011, Bill Zink took over as President and leader of the firm, and has been working hard to develop strategies to take the firm forward. He realized that though the firm had a long history of success, the firm’s culture needed some  adjustments in order to deal with 21st century economic pressures. As many firms in the A&E industry are now experiencing, going through a founder leadership transition is a slow and delicate process. It is important to protect the elements of success that the firm has built on for so many years, while at the same time, moving towards a workplace culture where technology is critical to growth and millennials are becoming a larger part of the workforce. Bill wanted to bring new ideas, transparency and increased focus on financial results to … Continued

6 Keys to Building a Profitable Culture

Increased competition in the Architecture and Engineering (A&E) industry is driving down fees and making it feel like a buyer’s market. This is putting a squeeze on A&E firm profits, and forcing many firms to re-evaluate their strategy including how they go to market, what services they offer and how they can run more efficiently. I am seeing an evident trend for firms to look at their business management practices, and how they can increase project profit margins, with a strong emphasis on project management success. The old ways of doing business are being challenged, and along with it, the long established practices stemming from the firm’s entrenched culture. So what does it mean to build a profitable culture? I have developed the following definition which can require a radical shift in thinking and behavior, and could be a game changer for those organizations willing to take a critical look at all of the long-held beliefs and practices that work against the firm maximizing its profitability. While the business school definition of corporate culture is “Patterns of accepted behavior, and the beliefs and values that … Continued

Making a Difference – One Client at a Time

We all work hard every day and hope that what we are doing is adding value to our clients. We usually don’t get much feedback about whether our work is making an impact, although occasionally something happens that puts a smile on your face and makes it all worth it. That happened to me today. Out of the blue, I received the this picture in my email. It was from my client Geralanne Maglione at Hillmann Consulting in Union, New Jersey. She knew I would love it. For the last year I have been working with the employees at Hillmann to transform their culture into one where everyone is focused on profitability. After reading my book, Find the Lost Dollars, a couple years ago, Chris Hillmann, CEO, signed up 10 of their key staff for our Find the Lost Dollars Pilot Program to test out our new online training platform. This training is focused on teaching employees business skills and creating a profitable culture in which project managers and other key employees are looking for many ways they can help increase company profits by 1% or … Continued

How Accountable Learning Can Improve Financial Results

    In looking where to invest limited dollars these days, it is critical that every penny spent provides a return on investment (ROI) above what other investments could deliver. Every dollar spent on one part of the business takes away investment in another. Each employee hired must contribute to the bottom line of the business, and measuring how they contribute can be a difficult yet critical aspect of successful business management. Improvement in employee skills can provide a significant improvement in profitability if combined with a program of business management improvement and learning methodology that ensures that the employee is employing their new skills on the job. Profitability by Project Manager can be measured – yet many firms don’t track individual performance, or teach project managers the skills necessary to deliver profitable jobs. Where money gets lost is often elusive – it is often in many small places every day. From poor estimates, to scope creep – not recovering contract extras – to poor control over subcontractors– money gets lost in many phases of the project lifecycle. What is missing in many cases is … Continued

New Industry Conference Launched – Aimed at Increasing Profits in Architecture & Engineering Firms

  Industry leader AEC Business Solutions, LLC is launching a new conference aimed at helping Architecture and Engineering firm leaders to improve business management practices with the primary goal of increasing profits.   The inaugural AEC Profitability Summit will take place September 24-25, 2015 in Tyson’s Corner, VA. For the first time ever, the entire conference will focus entirely on profitability in A&E firms and utilize proprietary templates and other tools to guide attendees towards development of a 12-month plan to improve their firms. A distinctive line-up of industry experts will offer fresh content and specific hands-on solutions to put participants on the road to increasing profits. “We expect this Summit to be the beginning of a one-year journey for each participant, that will allow them to learn and implement several key initiatives,” states June R. Jewell, CPA, President and best-selling author. “Our Summit is an excellent opportunity for forward thinking leaders interested in taking their firms to the next level by transforming employee behavior.” Planned sessions include: “Leveraging Your Strategic Plan for Improved Firm Performance” where Ray Kogan, AIA, and President of Kogan & Company, along … Continued

Developing Superstar Project Managers

In looking at the operations of an Architecture or Engineering firm, it is evident that the project manager (PM) role is the key to success. In addition to their normal project management responsibilities, most PMs are also involved in many other aspects of firm management – from marketing and sales, to human resources (HR), recruiting and hiring, time management, billing, and collections. They are doing all of this outside of their basic functions of running projects and working with clients. Why have we overloaded our PMs with so much responsibility, and how can they be successful without specific skills and training in each of these areas? We often describe and even measure a “superstar” project manager, by rating technical skills and their ability to keep clients happy above profitability. I argue that for a PM to be a superstar, they need to deliver profitable projects, and help the firm to grow and prosper financially. Ultimately, if the client is happy but the project loses money, the project manager is not a superstar. This practice has developed because most architecture and engineering school curricul ums focus … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Announces Launch of Innovative Training Platform with Three Days of Launch Events

Leading Provider of Profitability and Assessment Solutions for AEC Firms Launches their Proprietary Platform During Three Days of Events Spanning Two Cities.   AEC Business Solutions, a leading provider of profitability and assessment solutions for Architectural, Engineering, and Construction firms is pleased to announce the launch of their new online training platform and business management assessment. To introduce the platform to the A/E/C community, AEC Business held three days of launch events from April 28-30, 2015 at The Pyramid Club, Philadelphia, PA (April 28th) and The Tower Club, Vienna, VA (April 29th) followed by a live webinar event on April 30th. The launch events gave AEC executives an opportunity to acquire information and learn about the new “Find the Lost Dollars” online training platform and business management assessment – which helps firms increase profitability and save a significant portion of lost revenue. June R. Jewell, CPA and President of AEC Business Solutions, led both sold-out live events and the online webinar with a presentation of, “How AEC Firms are Finding the Lost Dollars.” Attendees of both live events and the online webinar received professional development … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Partners with ACEC National to Provide New Educational Resources to the Engineering Industry

AEC Business Solutions, LLC is proud to announce that they have met the rigorous requirements to be able to provide continuing education credits and educational resources for Professional Engineers through the Registered Continuing Education Program (RCEP); administered by American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The Find the Lost Dollars Business Management Skill Development for AEC Professionals online platform is based on the content in Find The Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, authored by AEC Business firm President, June R. Jewell, CPA. The training provides Architectural & Engineering firms with the tools they need to successfully onboard new project managers as well as train emerging leaders. The training courses are proven to change behavior by adding goal setting and exercises that both engage employees and help them practice the behaviors your want them to learn. The platform introduces a new and innovative approach to business management training for AEC Project Managers. AEC Business Solutions also has signed an annual sponsorship agreement with ACEC and will be participating as an exhibitor at both the ACEC 2015 Annual Convention in Washington DC, and … Continued

You Asked and We Listened: Find the Lost Dollars Training Courses Are Here!

Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms, authored by June R. Jewell, CPA was published in 2013.  Since its release many readers asked how June could help them take the book from information to transformation, recovering the much needed lost dollars in their firm. Many firms were developing their own training curriculum around the book and buying multiple copies for their staff. It soon became apparent that the subject matter in the book is being used by firms across the country for onboarding new project managers as well as training emerging leaders in the “business of an AEC business.” AEC Business Solutions, LLC was formed to answer the call to take the book further and help even more firms be successful! Our first project was the design of an online business management training program providing step by step instruction and measurable goals to implement the Find the Lost Dollars framework. It’s our goal to take the business management best practices delivered in Find the Lost Dollars, and prepare future leaders of AEC firms to maximize the win rate, utilization and project profitability. … Continued

What I Learned at Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery Training

I recently returned from Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery training in Fiji. You might wonder why I would travel halfway around the world to attend a business training workshop. Those of you who follow Tony are probably aware of his powerful presence, and have a better understanding of why 159 other entrepreneurs and I would want to take the time and expense to attend business training in SavuSavu, Fiji. All I can say is, it was worth it (despite the scary event on the last day which I will explain later). First I would like to say a few words about Fiji. It is a beautiful place, still unspoiled by the commercialism of the modern world, and very much a third world country in terms of its infrastructure. The Fijian people are the warmest people I have ever encountered in my world travels. They welcome you with Bula, Bula (hello and welcome), and invite you into their homes as if you were a guest. It is not unusual to get a hug from someone serving you a meal or assisting you in your hotel. Tony Robbins … Continued

Change is the New Status Quo

Change in life and business is inevitable, and harder for some business owners than others. But the pace of change is faster now more than ever, and those who are weak and unwilling to adapt run the risk of being left in the dust. While this might sound like a cliché, it is a concept worth embracing and considering. Ensuring that your organization is nimble and ready to meet new challenges and take advantage of sudden opportunities will ensure your survival, and possibly increase your chances for success. Most people look at change from the standpoint of being good or bad. From this viewpoint, it is possible to make poor decisions, and misalign your next steps. By realizing that it is necessary for the world we live in to constantly be in a state of adjustment, growth, and sometimes, shock, you can come to a different conclusion about your potential options, and discover an opportunity that you otherwise would miss. This requires a more open-minded approach to life, and a new paradigm in which to base your expectations. By expecting change, and running your business with … Continued