Great Promise for AEC Firms in 2019

January 14, 2019 by David Wantman, PE

This post first appeared in WGI’s Thought Leaders Journal.
To read more Thought Leaders content from WGI, click here.

The 2019 outlook for the AEC professions is strong, especially considering the federal, state, and local governments’ plan to boost infrastructure spending. WGI is poised to take advantage of these commitments to improve America’s highways, bridges, and other infrastructure projects. Like many of the most successful consulting firms, capitalizing on this infrastructure boon requires agility, technological proficiency, providing an array of services across a wide geographic footprint, and constant brand-building with existing and new clients.

Many firms lay the groundwork for their future success months or years in advance. Revenue projections and strategic plans are drafted, redrafted, and implemented as the pieces continue to move, the markets evolve, and the players change. In our experience, the ability to set revenue and profit records relies on exceptionally strong leadership working as a team, with clear objectives and responsibilities. Also, we know that internal systems and processes must evolve to drive efficiency. Those that embrace these changes and strategies are gaining traction and infusing their companies with new energy and confidence that in turn drive sales goals, deliver projects more expeditiously, and with even greater accuracy.

Implementing technology has always been part of the AEC professions; terms like Smart Cities, Autonomy, and Virtual and Augmented Reality are now commonplace and will forever change our industry. Firms that recognize, hire, and strategically address these elements will thrive. Those that do not will cease to exist. Leadership teams must passionately spearhead technology integration into all aspects of operations.

Adoption of leading-edge technology results in firms and clients both reaping the benefits. Companies that concentrate on technology find it easier to recruit and retain excellent associates yearning to increase their knowledge while maximizing their talents. What better way to invest in people than to invest in technology? Clients and the public will likewise see the benefits from firms elevating their processes with faster, better, and more comprehensive designs.

In our firm, the Geospatial Division is a great example. Once perceived as involving little more than conventional surveying, it expanded to include virtually every available geospatial technology for countless applications, all driven by technology that likely didn’t exist or was in its infancy just a few short years ago. Aerial, mobile and terrestrial LiDAR, photogrammetry, and hydrographic survey are just a few advanced geospatial services injecting new life into a once-static area. College students’ interest spiked like never before. Clients now receive information so comprehensive that they are overwhelmed by the data volume and accuracy — all delivered faster and more efficiently than ever imagined.

More so than in other industries, people are the backbone of our business. To keep them engaged and enthusiastic about their work, encourage continued training in their respective fields. In 2019, set new comprehensive training offerings and then reap the rewards from increased efficiencies that are vital to your business’s growth and profitability.

Remember that training and continuing education aren’t simply new or younger associates’ requirements to succeed. Even the most senior people, including the C-suite, will help achieve peak performance by thoroughly understanding the latest technologies and industry trends. We need to better understand ourselves.

For example, introduce your senior leadership team to processes like StrengthsFinder, which assesses their talents and offers ways to develop their greatest ones. The resulting insights improve their performance at work — and everywhere else. It can provide profound awareness of their personal psyches, with the goal of enhancing their innate skills and advancing themselves individually and collectively. It is most often an exciting process that is sure to reap rewards for all.

Affecting our industry is this record period in the mergers and acquisitions markets, as private equity and venture capital funding make no secret about their interest in participating in the infrastructure market. The AEC professions see record valuations, especially for those focused on public sector work. The details are certainly topic for another Thought Leaders Journal article, but my point with this one is that the best-run firms that are embracing strategic planning, technology, and training are best positioned to maximize shareholder value.

Last, please remember that our associates are often our greatest salespeople, on the front line promoting our firm’s values through their everyday actions at work — and during their free time. Encourage them to become opinion leaders by speaking at industry events; simply attending is not enough. They must also publish their thoughts within magazines, trade journals, and use social media to communicate whatever’s relevant to them. By providing a fun, safe, and professionally rewarding work environment, you will ensure that your professionals are as enthusiastic about the future as possible.

It is an exciting time to be in such a rapidly changing market, especially with so many positive forces in place. Plan, work and expect 2019 to be your most rewarding year yet — and just the beginning of fulfilling the promise that lies ahead.

This post first appeared in WGI’s Thought Leaders Journal.
To read more Thought Leaders content from WGI, click here.

Written by David Wantman, PE

David Wantman, PE

David Wantman, PE, is chief executive officer of WGI, the firm his father founded in 1972. He is passionate about providing professional growth opportunities, and the efficient delivery of quality projects on budget and on time, if not before. These values are cornerstones of WGI’s culture and instilled in every one of the firm’s nearly 600 professionals. David has been providing infrastructure design and management services for three decades.