Monday, February 28, 2011

Keep on Engaging

In the doldrums of winter, many of your employees may feel a little blue. These winter blues have been shown to spill into the workplace, taking a toll on employee motivation, engagement, and productivity. The good news is that there are low-cost effective ways for employers to get employees back into the swing of work and keep them motivated and engaged until Spring finally arrives:

Office get-togethers shouldn’t be viewed as one-time events: In December, most firms celebrated the holidays with their employees with a big party. But these firms should remember to thank their employees throughout the year, as these small but critically important gestures go a long way toward building the culture in many organizations.

Pledge to improve your communication process, with a commitment to having frequent and transparent communication going forward: Consider establishing a “Communication Promise,” a detailed communication protocol in which you and your leadership team commit to communicating to all employees. This protocol should outline a schedule of communications over the next year that will be cascaded down from the CEO to the first-line manager.

Focus your efforts on building a learning culture: Although many training and development budgets have been cut and not returned, a key engagement driver is staff development. There is much that can be done to build cultures of learning without spending lots of money. Stretch assignments, mentorship opportunities, cross-sectional task teams, luncheon brown bags, etc, are all learning opportunities that have great impact and marginal direct dollar costs.

Determine and communicate your employment brand: Assemble a cross-sectional group of top-performing employees to determine why people work for your firm. Consider conducting a culture audit as a first place to start. (Many firms have a hiring issue, not an engagement issue—they’re hiring the wrong type of people to succeed in their cultures.)

Host a YouTube video contest linked to a business imperative: For little money (but huge engagement benefit), send out Flip cameras to every location and or department with a request for employees to pick a firms value and show “what that means to me.” Establish prizes (they don’t have to be extravagant, as employees will be motivated to participate just because the contest will be fun and they will want their departments to win!). Post your "winners” on the firms intranet, as well as on YouTube.

To keep the social interaction levels high throughout the year in single-site firms or in standalone offices or businesses, have theme nights monthly: For example, January will be "Mexican Night Sponsored by Accounting—All Are Welcomed!" February will be "Italian Night sponsored by Procurement—All Are Welcomed!" etc.

While these ideas may seem silly, they go a long way to bringing spirits up and making your employees happy…after all, employees who want to come to work are usually your most productive and motivated employees!

Want to learn more HR trends and tips? Register for PSMJ’s upcoming A/E/C Industry Human Resources Summit. The HR Summit is a senior level HR event specifically designed to address the increasing needs and demands of senior leaders of HR, as well as other key executives who deal with the critical employee and firm issues on a daily basis. Through panel discussions and best practices presentations, you learn through examining successful real-life case studies, receive A/E/C survey results, while networking and asking your peers for their proven solutions to problems just like yours.

For more information, click here to download the program brochure or contact our Education Department at or 617-965-0055.

Friday, February 25, 2011

PSMJ Reports That More Than Half of A/E Industry Firms Are Without an Ownership Transition Plan

PSMJ’s Brand New 2011 A/E Bonus & Benefits survey reveals only 40% have plans

Newton, MA – With competing day-to-day priorities and economic conditions that aren’t conducive to much long-term visibility, one would expect that a number of ownership plans are getting delayed or stretched out over long periods than originally anticipated. However, it seems that many A/E firm leaders are simply operating without this plan that is critical for long-term business health. The 2011 A/E Bonus & Benefits Survey from PSMJ Resources, Inc. shows that only 40% of surveyed firms have an internal ownership plan in-place.

“The demographics of the A/E industry, and the economy as a whole, point to a number of firms facing significant share redemption obligations in coming years.” states Frank Stasiowski, FAIA President and CEO of PSMJ. “If firm leaders aren’t planning for these redemptions, they are going to be reacting to them. That sort of strategy can leave the firm exposed to undesirable consequences such as a distressed sale or firm closure.”

PSMJ’s survey revealed that the smallest firms (those with up to 20 employees) are the least likely to have an internal ownership transition plan. Only 21% of the respondents surveyed in this subset indicated that their firm has an internal ownership transition plan.

The 2011 A/E Bonus & Benefits Survey from PSMJ is a comprehensive look at incentive compensation and other perquisites in the A/E industry. Readers can learn which benefits are "must haves" in today's turbulent economic climate, and which ones do little more than drain profits. Specific areas of data and analysis include:

• Varieties of cash and non-cash bonus programs
• Factors to consider when you determine incentive payments
• Bonus payments as a percentage of salaries and gross revenues
• Vacation leave, sick leave, retirement plans, group insurance and all-NEW data on firm relocation programs
• Staff turnover data, including turnover rates and reasons why employees leave

The 2011 A/E Bonus & Benefits Survey will be available for delivery on March 14, 2011 and can be ordered by visiting

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It’s a Hand-Off: Your road map to a successful transition

Managing changes to your project team is always a challenge. But what do you do if, in the midst of a project, you either inherit the project, becoming the new PM, or the client changes project managers, essentially creating a new client for the project team?

If the client is making a change to their project manager, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Getting your new client up to speed requires planning and time
  • Do not assume the new client will be able to figure the work out as it moves along
  • Be prepared to walk your new client through the major decisions made on the project to date
  • Be prepared for your new client to disagree with some of their predecessor’s decisions and bring their own (different) ideas to the project

If you are the new project manager, then you also have your work cut out for you. You need to do the following:

  • Get up to speed on the project
  • Keep the project moving forward during your transition
  • Get acquainted with the client and demonstrate that this change will not negatively impact the project
  • Engage the project team and keep them moving forward on the project

Four must-do steps to communicating a change in PMs

1. The PM and principal (or client manager) meet with the client or new client PM to discuss the transition.

2. If you are the new PM, meet with your project team to discuss the transition, any immediate project issues or concerns, and plans for an interim kick-off meeting.

3. Conduct an interim kick-off meeting. A new client PM or PM need to have a clear understanding of the status (scope, schedule, project) of the project. During this meeting you must:

  • Review the project PMP (project management plan) at the meeting and update it. If you do not have one, this is the time to put one together
  • Review each task to be completed on the project in the next three months and capture the status of the tasks and any outstanding issues related to the task
  • Review long-lead items or actions, capture their status and any outstanding issues
  • Identify imminent deliverables and deadlines

4. Prioritize tasks, actions, and resolution of outstanding issues and prepare a list of items to be completed before the next team meeting.

Having completed a thorough review of the project status, the updated PMP and action-item list are your road map for continuing forward with the project. The four steps provide an opportunity to review project goals and expectations. They also provide an opportunity for the new PM and the entire project team to confirm mutual understanding and buy-in on the project.

Let PSMJ take the guesswork out of running projects. With PSMJ’s Ultimate Project Management Manual, you can instantly and dramatically improve your ability to manage projects for quality, speed, and profitability. Click here to order, e-mail, or call PSMJ customer service at (800) 537-PSMJ.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Convert Doers into Seller-Doers the Low-Stress Way

Everyone in your firm must bring in new work, not just A/E Marketing and Business Development professionals.

Great idea in theory, but do the people in your firm know how to put it into practice? They need to. Fortunately, you can easily convert doers into seller-doers by following these three principles:

1. Learning to sell of professional services occurs on the job, not in the classroom. Learning those skill sets necessary for the seller of services doesn’t just happen by reading books and instruction manuals. It happens by getting out there in the field with a seasoned professional and watching and listening to clients.

2. Learning to sell professional services requires a mentor with demonstrated success in selling. Consider this example:

Jim, a civil engineer with five years’ experience, is at the stage of managing multiple tasks on projects. Like most engineering graduates, Jim has all the technical skill sets needed to handle his job, but has no experience in people skills. He is shy, but once you get to know him, he is a great guy and opens up to conversation quite well.

The question: How to get Jim to move up to that next level—selling? The answer: HaveJim “ease” into selling by taking on more responsibility for those clients that he is already serving with his technical expertise. Give him a few key questions to ask that are not part of the current project—what comes after this project; who else in the industry needs a similar project done; what other activities are you involved in, etc.

3. Don’t send Jim (or Jane) out in the field to do “marketing” without experience. That is a high-stress method, and almost never works out for Jim or the client. Instead, ease your good technical staff into marketing through more and more frequent interaction with their existing clients and well-placed “open-ended” questions designed to get the client talking.

Looking for a way to give ALL your firm members all the skills they need to bring in new work and persuade current clients to give you more…send them to PSMJ’s 2011 A/E/C Marketing Bootcamp: THE Program On How To Get And Keep Clients. This spring, PSMJ is providing 5 locations all across North America to give your whole firm the tools and confidence you need to succeed in bringing in more work for the firm. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The New Year off to a Strong Start for M&A Activity

29 transactions booked for January; includes GPD Group’s recent acquisition of Jester Jones Schifer Architects which was initiated by PSMJ

With a new year comes new energy and, as such, January is often one of the busier months of the year for M&A announcements. However, according to data from the A/E M&A consultants at PSMJ Resources, Inc., 29 transactions were announced last month and that could be a positive indication of what is to come in 2011.

“January was certainly a busy month. If we keep this up, we could be getting back to pre-recession levels fairly quickly.” comments Gregory Hart, a consultant on PSMJ’s M&A advisory team. “Simply put, we are just seeing more activity and energy on both sides of the transaction. Buyers are looking to put some of their capital to use in acquisitive growth and more and more sellers are seeing the opportunity to either create liquidity or capture growing market share with more resources from a larger player or even a little bit of both.”

One deal that took place last month was the acquisition of Jester Jones Schifer Architects (Marion, OH) by multi-disciplinary GPD Group (Akron, OH). This move allows GPD Group to continue to strengthen its footprint in the Ohio market and bring architecture capabilities to an even broader client base. Jester Jones Schifer has been providing architectural services for more than 30 years.

“We are very pleased that Jester Jones Schifer Architects is now part of GPD Group. Their expertise and project management are well respected within the architectural community, we’re excited about our future together.” said David B. Granger, P.E., President of GPD Group.

PSMJ initiated this transaction and advised GPD Group. According to Brad Wilson, Senior Consultant for PSMJ and the lead consultant working on this transaction “This really was a win-win transaction. GPD continues to gain a deeper presence in the Ohio market and Jester Jones Schifer now brings a full range of architecture and engineering resources to its client base.”

About GPD Group: With locations in Ohio, Georgia, Indiana, Arizona, and Washington, GPD Group specializes in providing engineering and architecture services for a wide range of clients. Markets that the company serves include community facilities, education, housing, parks and recreation, power distribution, public works, retail, commercial, site development, telecommunications, transportation, and wireless systems.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stop Delegating!

Delegating is quickly becoming one of those overused management buzz words that PMs are tired of hearing. Why? For too long, principals have “dumped” on PMs in the name of delegation. PMs end up doing all the things that the principals don’t like to do. And, don’t stop there. Ask those under the PMs about how they feel about delegation. Same answer. And, why? They, too, are tired of just doing the things the PMs don’t like to do.

So, stop delegating, and start leveraging. Okay, it may mean the same thing, but it sure sounds a lot better!

Leveraging yourself has a synergistic effect. You can begin to accomplish more than singularly is possible. So, where should you begin?

Start by understanding there is a difference between transactional activities and transformational activities. Management is transactional. It involves those important day-to-day activities. Leadership is transformational. It’s trying to create a different outcome, a new possibility. As a PM, you are responsible for both. However, PMs get so caught up in the transactional that they don’t spend enough time on the transformational. PMs need to get transactional activities off their plate.

Example transactional activities include:

  • Project set-up
  • Building and updating a schedule
  • Tracking project costs
  • Reviewing who is charging to their job
  • Putting together meeting minutes, action items, and progress reports
  • Getting invoices out the door
  • Keeping project files in order
  • Project close-out and archiving files

PMs need to leverage themselves out and get the transactional activities completed by someone else whom they oversee. Then, PMs can spend more time on transformational activities.

Example transformational activities include:

  • Managing the client
  • Managing change
  • Mentoring staff
  • Managing risk
  • Giving technical direction
  • Building client relationships

As PMs begin to spend adequate time on the transformational, they will quickly see client relationships begin to flourish, the quality of their deliverables improve, and projects becoming more profitable.

To learn more tips and techniques you can use to become a better and more successful project manager, come to one of PSMJ’s upcoming Project Management Bootcamps!

PSMJ’s Project Management Bootcamp is a revolutionary training seminar like no other-- through interactive case-studies, real-world examples, and proven solutions, you will foster innovation, elevate communications, increase productivity, and improve your firm's bottom line.

Click here to regiser or call PSMJ Education Department at (800) 537-7765.

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