By Liisa Andreassen
The Zweig Letter recently caught up with Tony to ask him about the recent acquisition of Texas firm Lippe and Associates Consulting Engineers. It’s 100 percent about culture matches.
A conversation with Tony Mirchandani.
The Zweig Letter: What’s the recipe for creating an effective board?
Tony Mirchandani: To be effective, a board must understand and be aligned with the mission of the business and work to uphold its integrity. The recipe to creating its effectiveness lies in its members – who should be independent from the business and a mix of individuals who possess best-of-class skills, both within and outside of the industry. A fiduciary board is required to protect the shareholders’ interest as well as find opportunities to increase value through strategy. While the CEO is responsible for proposing strategies and operating plans to achieve certain results during the year, it is the responsibility of the board to hold the CEO accountable for accomplishing these proposed outcomes.
TZL: What’s the greatest problem to overcome in the proposal process?
TM: The unpredictable nature of the proposal process is an ongoing challenge. Since each proposal is different and takes time to produce customized responses – and oftentimes requires last-minute preparation – your agenda for the day, or even the week, gets thrown right out the door when an RFP pops up. However, we’re able to tackle these challenges head on with our business development and marketing teams working hand-in-hand to efficiently produce thorough and compelling proposal documents.
TZL: How does marketing contribute to your success rate? Are you content with your marketing efforts, or do you think you should increase/decrease marketing?
TM: Whether it’s getting the word out about a new office or educating our industry on trends and best practices, marketing is a vital part of bringing in new business. Our multi-dimensional program helps nurture our current relationships, while also opening the door to new opportunities that we would otherwise miss if we weren’t actively engaging with new audiences.
When it comes to marketing – or any other aspect of our business – we focus on being smarter than we were the year before. So, it’s not a matter of increasing or decreasing the marketing program as a whole; it’s about increasing efforts in avenues we know work and will provide results and decreasing our emphasis in tactics that were not as impactful.
TZL: What’s the best way to recruit and retain top talent in a tight labor market?
TM: At RTM, our people are our most important asset. We cultivate talent from top universities and provide the continued education, mentorship, and hands-on experience it takes to truly grow as a professional within this industry. RTM also empowers team members through a culture that values a healthy work/life integration, which contributes to personal, professional, and company growth.
TZL: What’s your preferred strategy for growth, M&A or organic? Give us a synopsis of how your firm effected growth in the recent past.
TM: RTM has employed both M&A and organic growth strategies to become a 120-person engineering firm with seven offices nationwide. We have expanded our reach and deepened our expertise by merging with like-minded firms, while we have organically increased the capabilities of each office to provide reliable and innovative designs to clients in our existing markets.
Our recent merger with Lippe and Associates, a full-service MEP firm located in Dallas, Texas, allowed us to take advantage of opportunities and big wins in that market. We also grew across our offices and markets outside of Dallas – through leveraging relationships with clients who have offices in multiple cities. Both growth strategies have played a crucial role in where RTM stands today, and the partnerships we form have strengthened our service capabilities and our customers continue to benefit from that.
TZL: What’s the greatest challenge presented by growth?
TM: Part of our mission here at RTM is to overserve our clients. As we continue to expand into different markets, we want to ensure that every client is given the care they need and deserve. It’s all about striking the right balance between providing our clients the attention of a local boutique firm, while providing the resources and reach of a national multidiscipline engineering firm. We have continued to accomplish this balance through our studio approach and the empowerment of our millennial team members, who place the utmost importance on delivering superior engineering consulting services to clients.
TZL: What’s the key benefit you give to your employees? Flex schedule, incentive compensation, 401(k), etc.?
TM: If you ask any of our team members what they like most about RTM, more often than not it would be the feeling of working with an extended family. Although we encourage this in many ways, such as a flexible schedule to promote work/life integration and numerous company outings combined with a fun work environment to facilitate comradery, it really comes down to the dedication and trustworthiness exhibited by our team. We all embody the “succeed together and fail together” motto, which creates close ties among colleagues that transcend the standard working relationships.
TZL: What’s your philosophy on fee/billing and accounts receivable? How do you collect fees from a difficult client?
TM: That is a great question; this continues to be a challenge for us and we’re open to advice.
TZL: Is there a secret to effective ownership transition?
TM: Effective ownership transition is all about aligning cultures. We strive to merge with companies that have like-minded owners, which typically drives compatible cultures. All other logistics can be worked out; in other words, it’s 100 percent about culture matches.
TZL: Once you’ve won a contract, what are the “marching orders” for your PMs?
TM: Once we win a contract, our mission is to go in and overserve clients from day one. We don’t necessarily go after jobs; we pursue work with clients who we can develop long-term relationships with, and we accomplish this through overserving.
TZL: What has your firm done recently to upgrade its IT system?
TM: We have built a national RTM cloud that provides team members with access to resources across all offices as well as a dynamic internal information system for knowledge share.
TZL: What’s your prediction for 2017 and for the next five years?
TM: Bullish; we’re optimistic about continued expansion in the U.S. real estate market.