10 Strategies to Boost Employee Retention

The number one challenge stated by our clients right now is hiring and retaining employees. Because finding experienced employees is so difficult in the A&E industry, many firms are getting creative with their compensation plans, benefits, profit-sharing and other tactics to engage and retain their existing client. What Does it Cost to Lose an Employee?  Statistics show that losing an employee costs the average employer about six to nine months salary. For a $50,000 person that is about $25,000 to $37,500 for one person. And in fact, it can cost over 200% of salary for an executive level person.   These figures are mostly based on finding, replacing and training the new employee, however there are many other hidden costs such as:  Decreased client satisfaction  Employees taking clients and other employees with them  Ramp-up time to get the new person up to speed  Project issues and rework due to loss of continuity and teamwork  Loss of staff engagement  Having to turn work away due to lack of capacity  Losing the employee’s knowledge of clients and projects  Obviously, this is a huge expense that most firms want to avoid, yet many firms are still finding that the average tenure … Continued

10 Dirty Secrets of the Best A&E Firms

The Architecture, Engineering and Environmental industry is as hot as it has ever been in my 30-year tenure, yet even when work is booming, I still find even the best A&E firms struggle to meet targets in any given month, quarter or year. So many factors impact the success of a firm, including some institutional “dirty little secrets” that plague the firm’s growth, retention and profits. These are the bad habits, cultural discretions and unintentional results of focus on fast growth causing leaders’ sleepless night, and employees’ endless frustration. If they exist, they are also undermining the future success of your firm by eroding client confidence and loyalty, handicapping your best performers, and deteriorating your firm’s great reputation and ability to invest strategically. What Can be Done to Clean Up the Dirty Secrets? While fixing these problems is not easy, it is critical to overcoming plateaus in growth, and enabling a small firm to grow into a mid-size or large firm. The good news – these dirty secrets can be reversed and overcome! But first you need to acknowledge they exist. By first recognizing, and … Continued

The Blessing and the Curse of Being So Busy

The Architecture and Engineering industry is busier right now than it has been in a long time. This is great for your firm – right? I talk with at least 5 to 10 A&E firm CEOs a week, and their results are surprisingly mixed. While it is obviously a booming market for services, being busy does not necessarily translate into high employee performance, recruiting success or project profitability. How Can you Position Your Firm for Success in this Market? Every economic market provides us opportunities and obstacles, yet many firms run on autopilot, assuming that the dynamics of making money and growing are the same in up or down economies. This approach assumes that the opportunities will be obvious and take care of themselves, and that is not usually the case. To be successful in a fast-paced business climate, it’s imperative to position your people, strategies and decisions to recognize opportunities when they present themselves, and be agile enough to move quickly to take advantage of them. Likewise, we need to prepare for an inevitable future downshift and availability of work, and the hidden opportunities … Continued

Why Some A&E Firms Make More Money Than Others

Many A&E firms come to me because their profits are too low, not hitting expected targets, and barely enabling the firm to grow. In most cases, their projects are making a profit – just not at the levels expected or needed. The leaders of these firms are frustrated, and want to know – what do we have to do to get to the top 10% of firms in the industry? By getting to spend quality time with the executive team of over 700 A&E firms over the last 28 years, with confidential access to their key financial indicators (KPIs), I was able to see a huge variation in the profit margins from one to another. While some firms struggle to hit 8% profit, others are sailing along with consistent profit margins over 30%, and in some cases, in excess of 40%! What Profit Should You Be Making? While these higher margins are much more expected and targeted in most other professional services industries, the average architecture, engineering, environmental and Geotech consulting firm is targeting 13% to 15%, and lower if 100% of their work is … Continued

10 Keys to Increasing Utilization

  The employee utilization rate is one of a handful of key performance indicators (KPIs) used by A&E firms to measure the ability of the firm to keep employees working on billable projects.Your employees are your firm’s primary asset and optimizing their performance and use of their time will make the difference between low or high project profit margins. For a 100-person A&E firm, just a 1% increase in utilization is about $225,000 in additional revenue per year. Firms are the busiest they’ve been in over a decade, so I have to ask, If everyone is so busy, why do so many firms struggle to hit utilization targets? So why do so many firms fail to hit utilization targets and keep their billable staff fully utilized? There are really only a handful of reasons that utilization is not optimized: Poor and/or Inaccurate Time Management Lack of Direction / Focus on Non-Billable Time Lack of Scheduling Processes Inability to Forecast Poor Communication with Staff Insufficient Scrutiny / Approval of Time Not Enough Work 10 Keys to Increasing Your Utilization Now Hitting utilization targets involves careful attention … Continued

Over 12 Million Lost Dollars Found at 2018 AEC Profitability Summit

  The AEC Profitability Summit is an event developed specifically to help architecture and engineering firm leaders increase profits by focusing on implementing business management best practices. The 2018 Summit, held at the beautiful Eden Roc resort in Miami Beach, Florida, was a tremendous success. Attendees enthusiastically looked for and found lost dollars and shared ideas and proven solutions in an interactive environment. Focus on Four Common Areas Where Businesses Can Improve The Summit helped A&E firm executives work on developing new approaches in four areas of their business: Selling on value and differentiating their firms; Developing effective project management processes; Increasing employee productivity and utilization; and Implementing positive accountability and performance management programs. Many firms had multiple leaders attend which enabled them to work together with their colleagues on their firm’s most challenging areas. As attendees identified opportunities for improvement in their business they were encouraged to assign a dollar value to the impact of implementing a solution. The leaders returned to their offices motivated to implement solutions and to communicate the financial benefits to increase staff buy-in. Over $12,000,000 of Potential Profit Found … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Announces 2018 Find the Lost Dollars™ Client Award Winners

PRESS RELEASE Reston, VA – The Find the Lost Dollars™ Client Awards were designed to recognize our clients who have realized the greatest financial impact, culture change and individual performance improvement as a result of completing the Find the Lost Dollars™ Program. The Find the Lost Dollars™ Program enables Architectural, Engineering, and Environmental Consulting firms to improve financial performance and differentiate their value by being able to save their clients’ money because of careful management of scope and budget. “AEC Business Solutions is proud and excited to recognize our client firms that have seen the most measurable increases in profits as a result of completing the Find the Lost Dollars™ Program,” states June Jewell, CPA, President. “It is our great pleasure to recognize our clients who have excelled in improving their company’s financial results, culture and business management practices by committing to our program.” The award winners were announced at the AEC Profitability Summit held in Miami Beach on March 19, 2018.     Standing out from the previously named finalists, we are proud to announce these award winners in the following categories: The Firm that … Continued

Tolerating Mediocrity – What is the Cost?

  When we close our eyes and dream of the ideal business and team of employees, we imagine a world where there are no conflicts, everyone is a top performer, and we never have to give negative feedback. Not all employees are created equal But the reality is that not all employees are created equal. We all start out hiring people because we believe they are a good fit, have the right skill sets and experience, and we like them. I am assuming this since most of us don’t hire people we don’t like. After we hire them, we start to give them assignments, and within a few months, realize they are everything we hoped they would be, or not. This is the critical point in an employee’s tenure with us that often determines how the rest of their employment will go. If we accept a lower level of quality, attitude or competence than we need or expect, we set ourselves up for mediocrity with the employee. The worst part is – the primary problem is what we are not doing rather than what we … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Announces 2018 Find the Lost Dollars Client Awards Finalists

  Reston, VA – The Find the Lost Dollars™ Client Awards were designed to recognize our clients who have realized the greatest financial impact, culture change and individual performance improvement as a result of completing the Find the Lost Dollars™ Training Program. The Find the Lost Dollars™ Training Program enables Architectural, Engineering, and Environmental Consulting firms to improve financial performance and differentiate their value by being able to save their clients’ money because of careful management of scope and budget. “AEC Business Solutions is committed to ensuring that all of our clients see a measurable increase in profits as a result of completing the Find the Lost Dollars™ Training Program,” states Ms. June R. Jewell, CPA, President and best-selling author. In fact, that is our brand promise!  It is our great pleasure to recognize our clients who have excelled in improving their company’s financial status, culture and business management practices.” Standing out from dozens of submittals, we are proud to announce these firms that have been named finalists in the following categories:   The Firm that has Found the Most Dollars as a result of completing the Find the Lost Dollars™ Training Program: Davey Resource Group – Kent, Ohio Entech Engineering –  Reading, PA The Lighting Practice – Philadelphia, PA The Firm that has the Highest Percentage Increase in Profits as a result of completing the Find the Lost Dollars™ … Continued

Turning Around an Underperforming Team

Are you frustrated because not every team in your firm is hitting their goals or performing at their highest level? Unfortunately you may have groups that struggle to be profitable, have high turnover, or don’t embrace your firm’s culture. It can be difficult to hold remote offices and project leaders’ accountable, and even figure out what is going wrong. There are many options to attacking the problem of an underperforming team including replacing team leadership, closing a remote office, or other intensive measures. Very often an office is opened or a new team assembled in order to accomplish one of the firm’s strategic goals such as breaking into a new market, geography or client. Depending on how the group was created – from breaking off from another successful division, to an acquisition, to a key strategic hire, many things can cause a group or remote office to underachieve. Measuring Team (Under)Performance In measuring the performance of our groups or teams, we often look at revenue or profit goals, but it is also important to understand the other key metrics behind the scenes that are causing the group … Continued

10 Ways to Knock it Out of the Park in 2018

“If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose.” – Derek Jeter 2017 had many ups and downs but overall was a good business year for the A&E industry. From the indicators I am seeing, the number of cranes everywhere you go, and the promise of huge infrastructure investment coming, 2018 may prove to be another great year for those of us that depend on Design and Construction spending. At the beginning of every year I try and define 10 key strategies that our clients can follow to ensure success in the coming year. If you know me, you know that I love sports. Not much gets me more excited than a competitive game. I decided to go with a baseball theme for this year’s annual article. I’ve become a huge Washington Nationals fan in the last few years, which requires having to endure a roller-coaster of wins and losses. I am fascinated at how some teams always seem to be in the playoffs, and others struggle to get to a 500 season. If … Continued

Top 10 Reasons to Attend the AEC Profitability Summit 2018

  I am thrilled to announce our second AEC Profitability Summit to be held in Miami Beach, March 18th-20th, 2018. Many people have reached out to me with questions – Why should I attend? Why are you holding this Summit? There are two main reasons I decided to hold another Summit – first, I go to about 15-20 conferences a year, and while I enjoy them, meet lots of great people and learn a lot, most “sessions” don’t go into enough detail to provide the how-to steps to implement any of the ideas. Most “conferences” don’t just focus on profitability either. I didn’t want to have a typical conference and I’ve been working overtime designing an unbelievable experience for you and your team. You’ll explore areas of your business at a whole other level and make significant progress towards implementing game-changing new approaches to your business. Second, we have many Find the Lost Dollars Training Program clients who have seen great results from putting their teams through our training program, but they want to do more and have asked for extra help implementing the initiatives they … Continued

10 Estimating Mistakes that Kill Project Profits

You planned for your project to make 14% but you end up with 8%. So do you know what caused this loss of potential revenue that your firm was counting on? Was it: A. Deficient project management? B. Scope creep? C. Lack of systems and processes? D. Poor scope development and management? Very often it is all of the above! That elusive project profit variance is often caused by many different factors and can be very difficult to control and mitigate. What’s the #1 Way to Meet Your Project Profit Goals? Start with a great scope and estimate that includes a plan for possible situations. Estimating is one of the most crucial steps to ensuring a successful project, yet many estimators do not have the tools and skills to develop a scope and estimate of costs that will stand up to all the challenges faced during project execution. From unexpected delays, changes in clients’ staff, regulatory issues, unplanned meetings, and unrealized client expectations, your estimate must anticipate and account for anything that could happen. The recession and all the bad habits it created is long … Continued

Why Accountability is NOT a Dirty Word

I was meeting with an engineering client recently that was explaining his firm’s culture. He said, “Accountability is a dirty word around here. We don’t measure anyone or have any consequences because we don’t like to punish people.” That statement stopped me in my tracks. No accountability at all? In fact, this large firm (over 500 employees) has no measurements at the individual level. They don’’t even have measurements at the business unit level. The only financial information that is published or reviewed is at the firm level. This caused me to step back and think about how hard it might be to work there. Certainly, there were top performers, mediocre performers and some team members that were bottom performers. But they have no way to figure that out, decide who to bonus or promote, or even figure out who to let go. I believe this is a detriment to the firm, the top performing employees, and even the clients. I had to ask a few questions: Question: Do you want to be the best you can be? Answer: Yes, of course. Question: How do … Continued

Building an AEC Firm: It’s a Business, Not a Hobby

After 30 years as a Principal in the firm KCCT Architects in Washington, DC, Tom Twohey recently retired at the age of 79. Tom was one of the founding partners in the firm, and my client for the last 22 years. Unlike most architects, Tom had a business mind, and managed the firm’s finances as they grew from four partners in John Chapman’s house in 1983, to a successful Connecticut Avenue firm of just under 50 employees today. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to sit down with Tom recently in his South Riding, Va. home, and record the fascinating story of his career and world travels. After graduating from Berkeley in 1957, Tom got an entry level architectural job making a few bucks an hour. He worked in several places, including a period of time working for himself. This was his first exposure to business management. In 1969 while working at Rex Whitaker Allen in San Francisco, Tom was sent to Cambridge, MA to start a new office. Rex Allen was teaming with Hugh Stubbins to renovate the Boston City Hospital. That is where Tom met his wife and life-long companion … Continued

How to Strategically Grow and Retain Your Best Clients

  Trying to get work in the door can be a challenging process for A&E firms, and many may be missing the easiest opportunity of all. Getting more work from existing clients! You may assume that your clients are giving you all the work they have, but what if they aren’t? What if they don’t even know everything your firm is capable of? Are Your Business Development Efforts Strategically Focused I frequently see business development effort focused on getting new business while ignoring the greatest asset the firm has – it’s existing clients. Research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score) shows increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. And it is well known that it can cost 5 to 10 times more to acquire a new client than it does to retain an existing one. While many A&E firms rate themselves as having excellent client relationships, the truth is that much of that is by accident. Only a small percentage of firms actually have a documented and strategic initiative to retain and grow … Continued

Are Your Clients Taking Advantage of You?

    In today’s post we’re sharing a podcast of an interview of June Jewell by STEVE GORDON on The Unstoppable CEO. >> Click HERE to listen   If you have a professional service firm… you can’t miss this one. Have you ever done a project and ended up making less than you estimated? Maybe even lost money? The project went off without a hitch. In fact, you over-delivered. It may be hard to believe… but that’s where you went wrong. June Jewell of AEC Business Solutions shares the dangers of “culture traps” that allow professional service firms, to flounder financially even while providing great service. June also shares a business model that gives your business a guaranteed income every month. Listen now and you’ll get straight talk from June about… When – and how – to turn down a client request Ways to guard against the dreaded scope creep How to make sure “technical” people keep profitability front of mind The training your team needs now that could save your business How to guard against the biggest “money drains” The importance of estimating – … Continued

Improving the Business Side of Engineering

    Today’s post is by our guest author Becky White, Vice President/Organization Development of Sain Associates, Inc. Becky has more than 26 years of project experience in transportation planning for public and private sector clients. In her Organization Development role, she leads Sain’s Strategic Planning and Leadership Training initiatives. She is a certified Professional Transportation Planner   Engineers in the private sector often complain that their college curriculum did not teach them anything about the business side of engineering. Typically they have to do that type of learning on the job. At Sain, we take seriously the responsibility to provide business-related training to our staff. Not only does that sort of training help us run a more efficient and profitable company, but we find that improved business skills help us deliver better quality services to our clients. In preparing our strategic plan for 2017, we decided to take the commitment to business skills training to a higher level. To accomplish that goal, we contracted with June Jewell, a CPA and author of Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering & Environmental … Continued

6 Steps to Find the Lost Dollars in Your A&E Firm

In my book Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms, I conclude with a final chapter that outlines the six steps that can guide you towards increasing your firm’s profitability. This article will summarize that chapter, as well as give you some success principles for ensuring that desired changes and improvements do not lose their momentum and die before being implemented. Change is inevitable and necessary in all businesses. If you are not able to adapt to changes in the economy, marketing, technology, and availability of human resources, you will find your profits dwindling, and your ability to retain your most talented employees diminished. So then why do 70% or more of most change initiatives fail? I argue that the foremost reason that A&E firms fail to grow and improve business operations is lack of a detailed strategy and plan to improve. This article will summarize the six steps that can help you start to identify and implement business improvement initiatives to help you find and recover the lost dollars in your business. 1. Calculate your metrics … Continued

Top Ten Reasons Change Initiatives Fail

    Over and over again I have seen major change initiatives fail. In fact, studies show that over 70% of most internal initiatives fail to meet stakeholder expectations. Whether it is implementing a new system, a merger or acquisition, business process improvement, opening a new office or pursuing a new direction, these major internal projects meant to help the company grow, improve, and thrive are derailed due to issues that could have been planned for, but weren’t. The cost of these failed initiatives, beyond the obvious inability of the business to grow and flourish, is hard dollars and time invested and lost. Hard costs include outright purchases of software, products, travel and outside services. There is also investment of time of employees and leadership wasted or misused. But there are also many “soft” costs such as lost confidence in leadership, missed opportunities or loss of competitive advantage. These costs can ultimately far exceed the tangible measurable expenses. In working with clients through the six steps to increase profitability outlined in my blog and detailed in my book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to … Continued

AEC Business Solutions Announces New Canada Affiliate Partner

A&E Industry Experts Join Forces to Provide Additional Training Resources in Canada RESTON, VA (PRWEB) APRIL 10, 2017 AEC Business Solutions, LLC has added a new Affiliate Partner effective immediately. Based out of Toronto, Canada, AMR Group Limited will provide the facilitation of the Find the Lost Dollars Training Program to Canadian clients. The Find the Lost Dollars Online Business Management Training Program is the leading group training course in North America teaching business skills to A&E firm professional staff. It is designed to change the mindset and behavior of technical staff in order to maximize project profitability. Delivered as a 10-week group training course combining online content with group discussions, it is based on June Jewell’s best-selling book, “Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms.” Canadian clients will now have expert coaches and consultants available to help them implement the best practices taught in the training and will benefit from the industry knowledge of AMR. June Jewell, President, AEC Business Solutions welcomes this new firm to the team: “We are thrilled to have Barry and his … Continued

5 Ways to Increase Accountability in Your A&E Firm

If there is one issue that I have heard repeatedly in working with A&E firms over the last 27 years, it is the difficulty of getting employees to fully accept responsibility – to be held accountable for their actions and performance. This issue goes so deep, that some business owners shy away from putting policies in place for fear that they won’t be able to get their employees to follow them. This practice often has the negative consequence of inconsistent quality control, compromised employee safety, and reduced project profitability. Another very damaging and frustrating result of not enforcing company policies is the constant frustration felt by your compliant managers and employees. When employees are consistently showing up for work late, not following company processes, or not responding to requests in a timely matter, it has a detrimental effect on every one of your employees. This frustration flows down to the lowest levels, resulting in a decrease in confidence in leadership, and creating dissent among those employees who are behaving well and following the rules. What is accountability and what isn’t it? Webster’s Dictionary defines accountability … Continued

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

Finding the Lost Dollars™ in Your Civil Engineering Firm Podcast

In today’s post we’re sharing a podcast of an interview of June Jewell by Anthony Fasano of The Engineering Career Coach. >> Click HERE to listen Here are some key points discussed in the podcast: Many engineers are more focused on their technical skills, the quality of their projects and the relationships with their clients and not focused on the money. Sometimes money is the last thing that gets paid attention to when working on a project and by the time you get to the end of the project you find that it wasn’t as profitable as you would hope it would be. Time and materials contracts are one where you bill your client for every hour that you work. Make sure that your billing rates are covering your costs of the project when you are billing clients hourly as a lot of money can get lost on time and materials contracts. The firms that share more financial data and help their managers to understand business and accounting concepts and financial terminology have better project profitability and their employees do a better job of managing … Continued

3 Estimating Lessons to Boost Project Profits

We have all had projects that for some reason did not meet our financial expectations. Overbudget projects happen for many reasons, including bidding on the wrong projects to begin with, underestimating the number of hours needed to successfully complete the project, failing to allow for delays and problems, or just not knowing the client well enough to anticipate what they really wanted.   Not only does your firm lose the profit margin associated with budget overruns, but overruns can also have a negative impact on client relationships and cause stress for your teams as they try and minimize the losses.   A great deal of value can be gained by analyzing past project failures to understand what went wrong, and designing safeguards, processes and approvals to minimize the chances they happen again. The following are three of the most common issues with developing accurate estimates, and some structure and practices you can put in place  to turn prior past project disasters into lessons that add protection for future jobs:   1. Understand the client’s expectations One of the most common problems in accurately developing a … Continued