Craig Tapley“Commonwealth Associates has fully committed to the Find the Lost Dollars Training Program Enterprise-wide, and has put two groups of staff through the Find the Lost Dollars Program so far. Between those groups we’ve identified 3.5 million in lost dollars! We’ve revamped our Go/No Go Process, we have far less projects with write offs, we’ve implemented a change order tracking form and have a new process to document those change orders (this alone has resulted in well over 500K).

The biggest behavior changes we’ve seen in the training participants has do with recognizing out of scope items and staying on schedule and budget. Find the Lost Dollars has had an impact on every aspect of our business management and our culture!”

-Craig Tapley, Chief Financial Officer, Commonwealth Associates

In early 2019 our leadership team was focused on improving our Project Management tools, processes, and educating our staff on these processes. The company was doing very well and was very profitable but because of our fast growth and acquisitions in 2016 and 2018, we had some disparate systems with lack of cohesive/real time project management practices.

We engaged with AEC Business Solutions to implement the Find the Lost Dollars Business Management Assessment to determine where there were opportunities for improvement to processes and systems, and to ask our staff for feedback about where they might be struggling and how they thought we could be better.

The biggest surprise from the Assessment was the number of “I Don’t Know” answers to many questions we felt the staff should have understood. We realized we needed training on our business operations to enable our PMs and technical staff to thrive and excel in their roles and develop as leaders for the future as we continue to grow.

We decided to commit Enterprise-wide to the Find the Lost Dollars program to develop our employees’ business acumen and get everyone focused on process improvement. Our goal was/is to educate and develop our entire team on business best practices and encourage them to provide new ideas to reduce scope creep while delivering high profit and high-quality projects on budget and schedule.

During the first group [cohort] of staff we put through the program, we identified over $200,000 of dollars that was leaking from our projects that we could focus on recovering. Our second cohort has been extremely motivated and enthusiastic to learn how the business runs and we can see the collaboration and common business language will enable us to communicate better and hold managers accountable at a different level. They have also gained knowledge of common business practices and company processes. As a result of just Cohort 1 and 2 going through the program, we have made many changes to our project management practices that will make a big difference in our profits. We continue to be focused on improving our accounting and project management systems to help our PMs efficiency and improve project financial results. I am sure as all employees subsequently participate in the program, it will only increase their understanding of business practices and project management resulting in a much more efficient organization.

We highly recommend the Find the Lost Dollars program and the AEC team to any A&E firm looking to improve employee performance and firm profitability.

Bill Russell, President & CEO, T-O Engineers

“One connected team, working in partnership, to make the built environment possible,” are just words unless a team coalesces behind the QK vision and understands why this is so important. In early 2017, we asked ourselves what specifically we would do in 2017 to make this vision a reality. As part of the commitment to educate all QK staff towards this goal, we selected the Find the Lost Dollars program to help us develop the common language that would infiltrate our culture.

With over 100 employees and multiple offices, we knew it would be daunting to roll out at once. We listened to FTLD staff and participants before us and decided to break the program implementation into three groups, so that each group could build off the success of the prior group and essentially become ambassadors themselves. The first group that went through the program were our project managers. They began the program in March 2017 and wrapped up in October 2017 with an all-day session to evaluate where we could make the most difference in our project management practices. The program allowed us to make quantifiable improvements essentially doubling our profit from 2016 to 2017.

We believe there were several factors that contributed to this significant increase in profits but the biggest was our reduction in Work in Progress (WIP) write offs. We have also seen significant culture change particularly with the project managers group in many areas including looking at project management as a value to the client, improving the way our budgets are prepared and adding contingencies, defining a clear scope that addresses scope creep, increasing communication with the client, and realizing not all clients are good clients – we fired one late last year.

While the actions are impressive best practices in themselves, the breakthrough results of an actual culture evolution only occurred when the thinking that drove the actions changed. The members of the group challenged themselves to look beyond the textbook, think like an owner, and start acting in a way that shows they value the discipline of project management versus the technical work only. This allowed us to begin to realize our potential and open new horizons for QK.”

-Amber Adams, VP of Business Operations, QK

“We selected the Find the Lost Dollars Business Management Assessment and online training in 2017 with a plan to put our firm leadership, project managers and key administrative staff through the program in several groups. I participated in our first group and overall found the program to be extremely beneficial from the beginning. The Assessment enabled us to see our staff’s perceptions of our strengths and weaknesses, and allowed them to provide anonymous detailed suggestions for areas of improvement. We were able to analyze the data by groups which gave us further insight as to where different roles or teams might need further support or training.

Our goals for the training program were to give our firm and project leaders a stronger foundation of financial knowledge, improve our bottom line profit margin, and make improvements in efficiencies to give us a greater competitive advantage. We found the courses to be well designed and extremely applicable to the challenges we face as a Geotechnical Engineering firm. Each course provides a wealth of information and best practices and combined with the group meetings enabled us to apply the principles to our own employees, clients and projects.

The first group to go through the course members of senior management. One of our main goals was to expose this group to the training in order to have buy-in from the top. We continued to meet every two weeks (and still are) to dissect the courses into manageable and achievable goals, establish processes, and develop tools that we knew would be necessary when subsequent groups were exposed to the training.

We have seen great progress in implementing some key initiatives such as improving our PM roles and job descriptions, developing benchmarking metrics, and creating new estimating processes and tools. We plan to offer the Find the Lost Dollars training to more teams at Earth Systems, and continue to meet on a regular basis to implement the many great ideas and suggestions for improvement that came directly from our discussions. I recommend this program to Engineering and Geotech firms who are looking for an effective and convenient way to both train their staff on business best practices as well as gain momentum to move forward with key business improvements.”

-Craig S. Hill, President/CEO, Earth Systems Inc.

“FAE completed the Find The Lost Dollars Business Management program and found it to be an effective program to enhance our business and client relationship skills.

The format of the program encouraged interactive conversations and collaboration that played a part in significantly enhancing staff engagement, client sensitivities and service levels.

The program’s focus and guidance immediately resulted in a more stable profitability level and extended client reach and sectors for new opportunities.

We would highly encourage professional services firms to participate in this program.”

-Steve Rollin, VP of Operations/Director of Electrical Engineering, FAE

The Find the Lost Dollars™ business management training program was exactly the type of program we needed to get our entire management team focused on profitability. It enabled us to train a core group of employees, all with different levels of experience, in a convenient and flexible format without loss of billable revenue and time out of the office. The Find the Lost Dollars™ Training Program has helped reinforce a culture of sound business practices among our management staff. We had some great discussions about our business during the group meetings and we all learned a lot.

I believe the program will have a positive long-term impact on our firm’s profitability. We have implemented many business improvements as a result of the course including development of a Go / No-Go process that has already helped us make crucial decisions on several projects. We have changed the way we prepare and discuss proposals with clients, as well as enhanced our proposal language to ensure project success. Our project managers (PMs) are more diligent about approving time charges on their projects, and are more focused on controlling scope creep. Our profits so far this year are up from last year and the program has contributed.

The Find the Lost Dollars™ program was a great investment for Sain, and has the right tools and approach to help progressive A&E firms to reach higher levels of financial success.

-Jim Meads, President/CEO, Sain Associates, Inc.

“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!

I am helping my clients and our company in a number of ways including setting specific scopes, forecasting what our process to alter the course will be “when” something changes, preparing a painless mechanism to handle adjustments to projects, and reviewing scopes, schedules, and fees with the client up front and at each stage of the project. I used to be uncomfortable asking for amendments or funding increases. This course helped me realize that this reality is a regular part of meeting project objectives for the client. Because I have taken the time to be clear throughout the process, these conversations are just that- continuing conversations of the project without concern or that dreaded feeling that I am asking for money.

This realization that the project management is not an add-on or instead of my technical expertise has allowed me to value the time I am spending answering difficult questions for my clients, or otherwise dealing with the administrative duties that are necessary to meet the project objectives. I am treating this management and my discussion with the clients as a service and have realized that it is billable- because it is a value-added service and one that the client needs and appreciates. Again, because I am in the habit of quantifying scopes, I have taken the same approach with my results. After taking this course, I am also much more diligent about completing my timesheet throughout the day. As a Project Manager, I often work on 8 to 10 projects in a day. It is easy to forget small amounts of time spent on projects here and there. By completing my timesheet as I go through the day, I am able to capture all billable work.

I have averaged my individual potential changes to be $1,440 per month. That is potentially $74,880 in a year! This is real money that is earned from a valued service that makes my clients’ projects better. It is a true Win/Win. I cannot wait to help others achieve similar results.”

-Lisa Wallis-Dutra, Senior Engineer, QK

Rob Lauriello, Rettew,RETTEW found the Find the Lost Dollars™ training very pertinent and useful to our project managers’ responsibilities. By providing the training to a larger group, it gives us the opportunity to ensure that our PM’s are hearing the same message and understand what’s important to our firm. The educational components of the modules were very well received by our employees and we took the opportunity with our weekly meetings to supplement the material with company specific processes and procedures.

Find the Lost Dollars™ did a great job of reinforcing our policies and demonstrated how small improvements can have a big impact on the bottom line. In addition we received feedback from our participants that the training was valuable because it provides tools that they can use to become better Project Managers.

-Rob Lauriello, COO, RETTEW

Myrna Norman“I first met June Jewell through a Society of Design Administrators (SDA) meeting several years ago and, when I read Find the Lost Dollars™, it felt like she was writing about our company! We implemented the “Find the Lost Dollars™ Business Management Assessment” and immediately identified with the nine areas of our business where our staff was struggling and where more training was needed. Simply having our team take the assessment increased awareness of certain issues and raised questions.

The Find the Lost Dollars™ online training program was a perfect solution for quickly training a group of managers. Specifically focused on running a successful A&E firm, it provided our team with the foundation of a solid business education as well as guidance on best practices for sales, project management and optimizing resources. Our Project Managers now understand how/where money is made and lost on our jobs, they ask more questions about contracts and monitor their budgets and projects more closely. Our “Go/No Go” process has improved and our PM’s are more aware of how we spend our marketing dollars.

We have a group of younger technical staff just starting the program and expect that the skills they acquire will jumpstart their overall project management abilities. Find the Lost Dollars has been a fantastic program to improve both our operations and staff performance. We continue to see improvement in our efficiency and our team is focused on how to Find the Lost Dollars™!”

-Myrna Norman, Senior Associate Principal, IBI Group

Bill Zink, christopher consultantsWe put our entire management team through the Find the Lost Dollars business management training program and have seen almost instantaneous improvement in our bottom line. The team was excited about the program. The most exciting part of the training is to hear them talk about ways to find the lost dollars, or how they have seen a 1, 2 or 3% change in their results.  We look forward to ongoing discussions with our team on ways to continuously improve.

-Bill Zink, President, christopher consultants

Russ Sandford - Kleinschmidt Testimonial“The Find the Lost Dollars program was a phenomenal experience and we will continue to utilize this program for our up and coming as well as our experienced project managers (PMs). I give the Find the Lost Dollars program an A and highly recommend it to any A&E firm looking to provide business skills and teach best practices to their PMs and emerging leaders. From the changes we’ve implemented following the training program our firm quadrupled our competitive win rate and improved operational profitability from 9% in 2017 to 13% in 2018!”

-Russ Sanford, Senior VP & Chief Marketing Officer, Kleinschmidt

Jason Hoskins, UlteigUlteig engaged with AEC Business Solutions in the Spring of 2017 to provide their Find the Lost Dollars™ Business Management Assessment to survey a cross-section of our employees. Our goal for the assessment was to give our staff the opportunity to provide feedback about our business management practices, and provide our management team with recommendations for improving processes and systems.

The assessment provided a comprehensive report analyzing nine areas of our business, which was extremely valuable for identifying where to focus to increase the efficiency and productivity of our teams. The ability to see scores and anonymous comments by group allowed us to evaluate the data at a detailed level, and understand their challenges and differences more clearly.

I highly recommend the Find the Lost Dollars™ Business Management Assessment as a tool for understanding strengths and weaknesses, gaining anonymous feedback from staff and developing a path forward for business management improvement and success.

-Jason Hoskins, Chief Engineering and Technical Officer, Ulteig