Founder of The Rock Brook Consulting Group, PA (Best Firm Multi-discipline #58 for 2018), a 48-person firm based in Monroe Township, NJ.
By Liisa Andreassen
“We are always looking to improve our benefits,” DeMarco says. “Our employees are often asked what they would like, or what have they heard about that we could possibly try. We instituted every other Friday off on a trial basis two years ago. Today, it’s ongoing.”
A CONVERSATION WITH GREGORY J. DEMARCO.
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?
Greg 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.
TZL: Do you tie compensation to performance for your top leaders?
GD: 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.
TZL: 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?
GD: 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.
TZL: How do you promote young and new leaders as the firm grows?
GD: 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.
TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility as CEO?
GD: Keep my employees motivated and my clients satisfied.
TZL: What happens to the firm if you leave tomorrow?
GD: 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.
TZL: 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 work force?
GD: 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.
TZL: 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?
GD: 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.
TZL: Engineers love being engineers, but what are you doing to instill a business culture in your firm?
GD: 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.
TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around?
GD: 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.
TZL: Benefits are evolving. Are you offering any new ones due to the changing demographic?
GD: 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.
TZL: How have the tax cuts impacted your firm’s valuation? Do you plan on doing another valuation due to the tax cuts?
GD: Yes. We have been in contact with our external accountants and legal team to access and evaluate how this change may affect us.