Preparing for a Strong Recovery

07 May 2020
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Read the full article featured in Civil Engineering.


While wavering economic conditions continue to press businesses to make critical decisions, many leaders acknowledge that they have been in similar circumstances before and are sourcing lessons learned during previous downturns. Thinking strategically and scenario planning while clearly communicating with their teams is a common thread among top firms. Civil Engineering dives deeper into the long game with industry experts: 

“Walter P Moore has a considerable legacy of coping with bad economic times, having been started by its eponymous founder in 1931 during the height of the Great Depression. The firm’s current chair, Lee W. Slade, P.E., M.ASCE has personally experienced four substantial economic challenges over the past four decades. ‘We had better be learning lessons as we go!’ he notes.

Perhaps the most important distinction—and the greatest lesson learned—between the current crisis and earlier events is exemplified in how Walter P Moore is responding. In both the 2008 recession and an earlier downturn in the 1980s that resulted from falling oil prices in Texas, ‘we responded with a painful series of reductions in force to reduce costs as the backlog [of work] shrank,’ Slade says. But letting employees go turned out to be the wrong approach for Walter P Moore, Slade says. ‘It damaged the covenant between firm and employee and hindered our readiness to bounce back once the market recovered,’ he explains.

So this time, Walter P Moore is acting earlier and more decisively with a different solution, which the firm calls ‘staying together,’ Slade says. ‘Instead of [reductions in force], we are planning shared cost reductions, including salary reductions’ according to salary levels, with the highest earners taking the largest cuts in terms of percentages and reduced bonuses, Slade notes. ‘Our goals are to continue to serve our clients and be an asset to them through this crisis while keeping our staff intact to the degree possible, share needed sacrifices, remain financially healthy, and be ready for a strong recovery,’ Slade stresses.”

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