The Rock Brook Consulting Group Founder and President, Gregory J. DeMarco, was recently featured in The Zweig Letter, a weekly publicized management newsletter highlighting significant trends, best practices, and tips in the architectural/engineering (A/E) industry.
In the conference call segment, DeMarco and Zweig Letter correspondent Liisa Andreassen discuss internal transition, tax cuts and current challenges firms in the industry encounter.
“Sharing knowledge is extremely important. I try to teach the principals and senior level managers the business side of the profession. The more they know, the better they’ll do. If we again, work as a team, the strength of many will be a better outcome for the individual,” DeMarco says.
The Zweig Letter: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s?
Gregory DeMarco: I would name principals in their 30s. I believe people in their 20s are too young. They just haven’t mastered the experience of dealing with delicate situations. I would look at a principal to bring in $1 to $3 million worth of work.
The Zweig Letter: Do you tie compensation to performance for your top leaders?
Gregory DeMarco: Yes. This is a large part of their compensation. However, it’s not everything. I believe in the team approach. A person’s efforts can greatly affect the outcome of a project where that person may not be directly involved.
The Zweig Letter: Internal transition is expensive. How do you “sell” this investment opportunity to your next generation of principals? How do you prepare them for the next step?
Gregory DeMarco: Sharing knowledge is extremely important. I try to teach the principals and senior level managers the business side of the profession. The more they know the better they’ll do. If we again, work as a team, the strength of many will be a better outcome for the individual.
The Zweig Letter: How do you promote young and new leaders as the firm grows?
Gregory DeMarco: My attitude is, if you want to do it, go for it. There is no age restriction on this concept. If the person proves that they can take on additional responsibility and are comfortable handling the challenges, I will promote them. Mentoring is key. I fully encourage an open-door policy. Anyone who wishes to speak with me – I’m available.
The Zweig Letter: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO?
Gregory DeMarco: Keep my employees motivated and my clients satisfied.
The Zweig Letter: What happens to the firm if you leave tomorrow?
Gregory DeMarco: There is a great network of support and talent. There are principals in each office who have, will, and can maintain client interaction. Also, our marketing group is well entrenched in the geographic area.
The Zweig Letter: If the worker shortage continues, do you see wages increasing to encourage more talent to enter the AEC space, or will technology be used to counter the reduced workforce?
Gregory DeMarco: I see wages increasing. Our group is up on all the current technology which is cutting edge in some areas. We will always need the right production staff and management to implement the work.
The Zweig Letter: There is no substitute for experience, but there is pressure to give responsibility to younger staff. What are you doing to address the risk while pursuing the opportunity to develop your team?
Gregory DeMarco: We have brought in younger staff to execute various tasks. However, these employees are heavily managed. We typically have the younger employee paired with a senior employee to direct and oversee their work. We strongly encourage questions to be raised by the younger group, so they can learn.
The Zweig Letter: Engineers love being engineers, but what are you doing to instill a business culture in your firm?
Gregory DeMarco: I try to share the appropriate financials at company meetings and remind staff that our work efficiencies and emphasis on client satisfaction go a long way in improving profitability. That being said, we are a professional “service” organization and it’s important for us to remember it is our responsibility to take the client’s view and perspective into consideration when helping to solve their issues.
The Zweig Letter: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around?
Gregory DeMarco: We have developed and are developing various benefits to encourage the employee to stay long term. Many are financial, others are geared more to family/work-life balance. We are in the process of examining different succession plans, some of which involve employee ownership.
The Zweig Letter: Benefits are evolving. Are you offering any new ones due to the changing demographic?
Gregory DeMarco: We are always looking to improve our benefits. We ask our employees what they would like, or what have they heard about that we could possibly try. For example, there was a suggestion to try every other Friday off. We instituted it on a trial basis two years ago. It was successful and continues today.
The Zweig Letter: How have the tax cuts impacted your firm’s valuation? Do you plan on doing another valuation due to the tax cuts?
Gregory DeMarco: Yes. We have been in contact with our external accountants and legal team to access and evaluate how this change may affect us.
Read the interview on the Zweig Letter website: https://thezweigletter.com/conference-call-gregory-j-DeMarco/
The Rock Brook Consulting Group, PA is a multi-discipline engineering design firm providing effective and innovative solutions for clients in a variety of market sectors, including corporate & commercial, science & technology, data center, pharmaceutical, and hospitality & entertainment.