ACEC Spring Conference

Thoughts while flying home from the ACEC Spring Conference in Washington, DC
April 23, 2013, 5:00pm

The Good

A great presentation by Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor-at-Large at Fortune, emphasized that business models used by firms in many industries have a much shorter shelf life than in the past. All firms should evaluate their business model and modify it to adapt to changing conditions. He presented four key tips that successful companies use:

1. Innovate your business model.
2. Manage your business for value.
3. Invest in human capital.
4. Align with your customers.

There was good attendance at the Small Firm Council and CAMEE meetings, which yielded thoughtful discussions concerning healthcare costs, transition plans, company cars, satellite offices, technical tool development, Bachelor’s Plus 30, etc. The firms attending these meetings are very willing to help one another with sharing knowledge and experience for all to use.

The Not-So-Good

The following are my comments and observations from a variety of other sessions I attended.

Capitol Hill remains toxic. Federal and state funding for water, energy, and transportation (infrastructure) all have budget issues. Transportation has a fiscal cliff looming in 2015 if the budget is not adjusted. There are a number of bills in the works, including ones that allow public/private partnerships that could help alleviate funding issues.

Qualifications-based selection (QBS), while still widely utilized by the federal sector, appears to be under attack at the state level and is certainly in decline in the private sector. A question was raised: Is the bid process to obtain engineering services an ethical practice for licensed engineers? The registration boards in several states do not allow bidding for professional engineering services. This is a question for all of us to ponder.

Comments overheard in sessions, breakfasts, and luncheons seem to confirm that business and profitability for ACEC member firms could be better. Everyone is hoping for an improvement in funding and the economy.

Bottom Line

All in all it was an informative and interesting conference! I look forward to attending future ACEC events.

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