Focus on Business Excellence! How a mid-size environmental firm transformed their culture, teams and profits.

In 2014 Hillmann Consulting, a then 100-person environmental consulting firm based in Union, NJ, found itself on the cusp of growth. They started seeing what many A&E firms experience when transitioning from a small local firm to a mid-size geographically dispersed firm – fast growth can be challenging! They were frustrated with the lack of uniformity in their business practices. They struggled with proposals, estimating, scope creep, project management, and getting employees to follow processes and use their Deltek system. Like many A&E firms, their culture was built around technical excellence and keeping clients happy – not financial results. This lack of processes, accountability and employee business focus was costing them money! Their projects were leaking profits, and their staff were underperforming. They knew they needed to train their staff on business best practices to see real impact. Geralanne Maglione, Vice President, led a committee to identify available training programs. Geralanne shared “We needed training that taught business management skills to our staff and was specifically designed for our industry. We wanted it to be affordable and convenient with our busy schedules and customizable to … Continued

The Three Biggest Challenges to Fast Growth in the A&E Firm (and what to do about them)

We waited ten years for business to be booming again, and now that it is, most of our problems have gone away, right?  In reality, we just have different problems, and for some firms, more problems. That is because as we grow and add more people, offices, services, clients and projects, we have so much more complexity to deal with, and potentially more risk. This can lead to a feeling of chaos. Even with a solid infrastructure in place it can feel like it is broken when everyone is moving 100 miles an hour all the time.  Recent industry financial surveys show that the average firm is growing at a 10% increase in revenue per year, however profits are leveling off. This is because salary and benefits costs are increasing faster than fees.       Most firms have revisited their strategic plans in the last year, recognizing that changes in technology and competition are driving a more strategic and streamlined approach to running a profitable A&E firm. Recent assessments we have conducted with executives of small, medium and large A&E firms have identified the following three issues as the primary sources of stress, and … Continued

How to be a Top Tier A&E Firm

The majority of A&E firms will concur that 2017 and 2018 have been stellar years for the industry.  Opportunities have been abundant, and economists are telling us that it is likely that the momentum will continue into next year.  With this high volume in the AEC industry, profits are up and we know from industry survey data that the current median profit percentage across all A&E firms in the last year has risen to about 15% depending on your size and geographic and industry markets.  This means that half of all A&E firms have profits below 15% and half are above 15%. In fact, the top 5% of A&E firms in North America are at 30% – we refer to these as the Top Tier firms. Our mission is to help our clients maximize the potential of their teams and achieve this status in their specific niches.      With these higher profits it is easier to attract and hire the most talented team, grow faster through acquisition or organically, and give shareholder and employee owners a much higher level of return.  What is keeping 95% of the firms in the market from achieving this top tier status?  We have researched and assessed over a hundred firms … Continued

QK Finds Lost Dollars with Profit-Enhancing Employee Development Program

“While I have always been concerned for the client, the company, project performance and profits, as an engineer my focus has always been on the technical aspect of the work. This focus on quality and technical excellence will never change. What has changed, however, is my behavior and focus on how the technical discipline and the project management disciplines are inextricably tied. By changing the way I look at and value project management, I am helping my company serve our clients better AND Find Lost Dollars!” – Lisa Wallis-Dutra QK, originally Quad Knopf, has been helping clients build great communities and healthy environments for more than 40 years. Based in California and founded in 1972, QK was built on five distinct areas of expertise that work together to make the built environment possible. Their creative professionals specialize in engineering design and construction management, survey and GIS, urban design and landscape architecture, biology and environmental permitting and planning. Issues affecting low profits and stalled growth In early 2017, the executives at QK realized that their strategic purpose, “one connected team, working in partnership, to make the … 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

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

Guest Post: Find the Lost Dollars™ Book Review

Today’s post is by our guest author Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM. Scott is Vice President of JDB Engineering, Inc. and President-elect of the SMPS Foundation. He has more than two decades of A/E/C marketing experience and is a Fellow of the Society for Marketing Professional Services.   BOOK REVIEW OF FIND THE LOST DOLLARS: 6 STEPS TO INCREASE PROFITS IN ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEERING, AND ENVIRONMENTAL FIRMS   It’s not often that you read a book and think, “Where has this book been?” Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms by June R. Jewell, CPA, is one of those books. If your firm happens to be rolling in profit and doing everything exceptionally well, there’s really no reason for you to read this book. But for the rest of us—that is, almost of all of us—this book will serve as a critical desk reference for years to come. In the A/E/C industry, we have this modus operandi whereby we reward exceptional technical people with positions in management. Unfortunately, they rarely have any training, much less formal education, in business management. And while project management is often … Continued

Welcome to Find the Lost Dollars!

  Hello and welcome!  As we get ready for the launch of my new book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architectural  Engineering and Environmental Firms, my hope is that here you can find valuable resources and information to help you build and grow your A/E/E firm. A bit about me… I was accidently “thrown” into the architecture and engineering (A&E) industry in 1989 when I worked for a CPA firm in charge of growing their management information systems (MIS) practice. My job was to help our clients determine their requirements and find the best accounting system for their business. Up to that point, I had worked with generic software systems that were focused on accounting features, functionality, and reporting. I worked with Gorove/Slade in Washington, DC and helped them select the Wind2 software system. Over the next 23 years, I worked with hundreds of A&E firms, and learned a lot about best practices to make money on projects. I wrote this book because I feel passionate about helping firms succeed by improving the way they manage employees, projects, processes, and technology. … Continued