NSPE's Gateway to Private Practice March 2010 

NSPSE Advocacy and Outreach

On February 20, more than 6,000 people turned out for the Discover Engineering Family Day at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., as part of Engineers Week. At the NSPE booth, kids learned the “zip line.” The challenge: Design and build something that can carry a ping-pong ball from the top of a zip line string to the bottom in four seconds or less.

Also in February, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle joined to introduce the Engineering Education for Innovation Act (H.R. 4709 and S. 3043). The legislation would improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in K–12 schools. It would achieve this by creating competitive grant programs to fund the implementation of engineering curricula to increase student achievement and interest in the engineering field. The bill would also provide grants to research and evaluate the schools’ efforts. Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), who has practiced as a mechanical engineer, recognized NSPE as a supporter of the bill in a press release on his Web site.

Along with the Society of Women Engineers, NSPE will cosponsor an event on Capitol Hill, called “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM.” The grassroots event, March 23–24, will include a congressional reception and the opportunity to meet with legislators to discuss diversity in STEM fields. President Sam Grossman, P.E., F.NSPE, and Vice President Chris Stone, P.E., F.NSPE, will be among the NSPE attendees.

The Licensure and Qualifications for Practice Committee approved a white paper on Engineering Education Outcomes Required for Professional Practice for consideration by the NSPE Board of Directors.

The Licensure and Qualifications for Practice Committee approved a recommendation that the NSPE Board approve the February 4, 2010, recommendations of the NCEES Faculty Licensure Task Force and make appropriate amendments to the NCEES Model Law.

Participated in the American Association of Engineering Societies’ International Activities Committee and provided a full report on NSPE’s international activities. This includes leadership liaison with the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) and the Union of Pan-American Engineering Organizations (UPADI) and other activities.

NSPE is working with the Center for International Disaster Information to deploy PEs interested in helping with reconstruction efforts in Haiti and Chile.

NSPE has entered a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. Energy Star is a voluntary partnership between business, government, and others united to protect our environment by changing to energy-efficient practices.

NSPE and a growing number of other organizations and companies will be taking part in the USA Science and Engineering Festival, October 23–24, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event is being called the country’s first national science festival.

Details: www.usasciencefestival.org


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Professional Liability/Risk Management Brief; Project Documentation during the Construction and Post Construction Phase

 Construction Phase

1. Keep a record of all visits to the site. At a minimum, record the date, the time of day, and the work in progress. Good judgment might call for the recording of additional details. Thus, when asked what you did to protect the client from deficiencies in the work of the contractor, you can speak in specifics rather than generalities.

Usually, for lack of any evidence of error in design, plaintiffs will contend that the architect or engineer failed in a duty to supervise, inspect, or test the work of the contractor, and therefore failed to observe its noncompliance with the plans and specifications. Be sure that the contract with the client clearly states the extent and limits of your construction-phase responsibilities, and that the client understands them at the project’s inception.

2. Notify the client and contractor in writing, with supporting detail, of your rejection of any work or materials when more than trivial cost is involved.

3. Withdraw, in writing, any approval previously given of work thereafter rejected.

4. Put in writing any recommendation that you make to the client regarding a matter of serious consequence, and obtain, if possible, the client’s written response.

5. Communicate in writing to the client, your consultants, and the contractor any newly discovered fact that might call for a change in the plans, specifications, and project costs.

6. Put in writing your directions to the contractor concerning the performance or nonperformance of work that is essential to substantial completion of the project when, in your opinion, the work or progress is not in compliance with the contract.

Post-Construction Phase

1. Invite, in writing, the participation of the client in final inspections.

2. Request, in writing, from each of your consultants, written acknowledgment of payment in full for their services.

3. Obtain the client’s written acceptance of the work as substantially completed.

Project documentation needs to be consistent throughout the organization. The following guidelines should provide firms with strong defensive weapons in the event of litigation.

1. Make a written memorandum of any telephone conversation and conference in which matters of more than passing importance are discussed, information imparted, or directions given.

2. Confirm, in writing, decisions reached in the course of conversations and conferences.

3. Remember that your writing may someday fall under the eyes of the litigious, the professionally knowledgeable, a jury of nonprofessionals, or a judge who is a layperson. The technical language of an architect, engineer, or other design professional should leave no room for misinterpretation by any member of the same profession called upon to act upon it or explain it to a nonprofessional. Nontechnical language should be clear to any reasonably intelligent layperson.

4. Keep in good order only one set of relevant project information—including all contracts, plans, specifications, correspondence, reports, and memoranda—and follow a consistent policy for record management and storage. In most cases, it is wise to maintain records for at least as long as any applicable statute of repose.


To have to “put it in writing” will cause you to stop and think. Thus, there will be tangible evidence of your thought and work in the event of any claim or controversy. By law, you are held to the only reasonable standard of care—the exercise of professional judgment in conformance with the standards of an ordinarily careful and capable practitioner facing similar situations. As long as this standard is met, you are not negligent, even if hindsight reveals that you made a mistake. In the event you are drawn into a lawsuit, those writings are likely to be admissible evidence as proof of what was said and done, even when those who participated either cannot remember, seek to misrepresent the facts, cannot be found, or have died.

© 2010, Victor O. Schinnerer & Company Inc. Statements concerning legal matters should be understood to be general observations based solely on our experience as risk consultants and may not be relied upon as legal advice, which we are not authorized to provide. All such matters should be reviewed with a qualified advisor. Victor O. Schinnerer & Company Inc. is managing underwriter for the CNA/Schinnerer Professional Liability Insurance Program, commended by NSPE/PEPP since 1957.

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CSI: The Sales Meeting
Richard Friedman

For all of the business development (BD) and coaching I’ve provided as a consultant to the A/E/C industry (to professional service firms and vendors to the industry), it's rare that I observe a client directly during a BD meeting. Recently, an opportunity arose to be a "fly on the wall" for a client to whom I had provided lead generation assistance. Ever since that meeting, I've been chomping at the bit to share what I learned.

As hard as it was, I kept my mouth shut through the entire meeting, busily taking notes and making observations about my client (what he said and didn't say) and the prospect (what he asked; his body language). After the meeting, I walked my client out and stayed to debrief the prospect (an architect friend of mine). It was sort of a BD lab, minus the fingerprint analysis.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I can be picky and detail-oriented. Now that my confessional is complete, I present the following advice based on what I observed. Note that while my suggestions assume the meeting is with a prospective client, much of the same applies to existing clients.

Prior to the Meeting:

  • Understand and anticipate your prospect's pain points and know what keeps him/her up at night.
  • With respect to your firm's services/products, be sure you can clearly articulate:
    • How they address your prospect's pain points and make them (or their clients) more successful
    • Qualitatively speaking, the value conveyed (this should be customized to the prospect — not a "one size fits all" proposition)
    • Why your service/product is superior to competitors' offerings

The prospect shouldn't have to drag this information out of you during the meeting!

Your Entrance and Introduction:

  • Establish/reinforce rapport with your prospect.
    • Take a deep breath before entering the room, and practice smiling if you need to. Smiling relaxes both you and others (a caveat: visit the restroom before your meeting to avoid the embarrassing "pesto-in-teeth" phenomenon).
    • Take note of what's on the walls of your meeting room. This could provide clues to the individual's family, passions outside of work, professional association involvement, alma mater, and many other conversation "connectors" that facilitate relationship-building. If your business model necessitates selling to architects, you may find a set of drawings lying around — the perfect entrée to learn more about a particular project.
    • Ask probing, often open-ended questions. Your goal is to get them to talk. Then, keep your mouth closed until either they convey a challenge that you can address or they ask a question. Examples of useful questions include:
      • "In reviewing your web site (or print article about your company), I see that you….
      • "What have been your biggest challenges/frustrations with respect to…? "
      • "Tell me more about Project XYZ."
      • "What do you know about our firm?"

The Meeting:

  • To the extent that you can control it, the pace of the meeting should be deliberate, but not rushed. Speaking fast and rushing through a presentation indirectly conveys the concern that the value of what you're trying to sell does not warrant the person's time. Instead (without ignoring cues), adopt the attitude that your client cannot afford to not hire you/your firm.
  • Carefully read verbal cues. To do this, one needs to maintain eye contact. If more than one person is present, be sure not to focus solely on the perceived decision-maker.
  • Most people feel more at ease having a thoughtful discussion versus presenting/being presented to — never lose sight of this! In the meeting I attended, it was clear that my client was relaxed and at his best when fielding questions and participating in a robust discussion with his prospect. In contrast, his introduction and "elevator speech" were rushed, stilted, and ripe with nervousness. So go easy on yourself and the prospect — present less and engage more.
  • Stay on message and don't digress unless your prospect invites you to do so. When this happens, be sure to steer the conversation back to the subject at hand so you don't run out of time.

The Closing:

In our meeting, the prospect metaphorically grabbed my client's hand and dragged him across the sales process finish line, as he perceived that my client wasn't seizing the reins. Again, questions (especially open-ended ones) play a crucial role in closing:

  • What additional questions do you have?
  • What additional information can I provide?
  • Are there others within your organization I should meet with?
  • When are you planning to… begin soliciting proposals/make a decision/etc.?

When closing, always move the discussion towards an actionable event. For example, "I will follow up with you in 10 days. Do you prefer phone or e-mail? If by phone, typically what's the best day and time to call?"

As the potential client in this sales meeting summarized, "I need to hear from the presenter what they can do for me. How can they save me or my client time or make us money?"

Hopefully, these pointers have been useful. Please tell me how they work out and share your own pointers and pet peeves by calling (508-276-1101) or e-mailing me.


Friedman & Partners is a marketing and management consulting firm serving the U.S. and Canadian A/E/C and environmental consulting industries. Our niche is in crafting and implementing growth strategies through: market research, strategic market planning, market positioning and PR strategy/implementation, business development consulting and training, mergers and acquisitions research and outreach, and organizational and leadership development consulting. For more information please visit: http://www.friedmanpartners.com.

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PEPP- Nominate Fellow Engineers for PEPP Awards

PEPP offers several awards that have upcoming deadlines in 2010. Below are just a few of the award programs PEPP will be conducting this year. For details, visit the NSPE Awards Web page

PEPP Award:
The PEPP Award is given annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement and recognition of the role of private practice in serving the public interest.

The ACEC-NSPE QBS Awards Program was established by NSPE to recognize public agencies that make exemplary use of the QBS selection process at the state and local levels.

PEPP Professional Development Award: 
The PEPP Professional Development Award is presented to employers who exhibit exceptional career development initiatives and employment practices that advance the engineering profession.



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Synergy: The Super Roundtable HR and Finance Partnership


Synergy: The Super Roundtable HR and Finance Partnership

Sponsored by the Professional Engineers in Private Practice, the NSPE Human Resource Directors' Roundtable and the National CFO Roundtable bring together a unique community of human resource professionals and CFOs of architecture, engineering, and construction firms to benchmark current activities, discuss emerging trends and issues, participate in continuing education network with peers, and to share best practices.

During Synergy, the two groups will participate in joint sessions designed to generate discussion on issues of importance to both finance and HR. In addition, there will also be separate sessions and discussion on topics of specific interest to each individual group.

Topics for this year include:

  • Update on Healthcare Reform;
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Panel (HR & CFO impacts);
  • Crafting Compensation Competitively in the Engineering Industry;
  • HR Legal Issue Update—what's new for 2010 and what's coming;
  • SHRM Advocacy Program;
  • Developing Leaders in your Firm—Leadership Development Training Programs;
    ESOP Issues; and
  • Keeping on Track: Adapting to Changes in the Marketplace and Banking Industry.

Synergy will meet May 5–7, 2010. The event will kick off on Wednesday, May 5 with a joint dinner and presentation and runs through 12:30 p.m. (E.D.T.) on Friday, May 7.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Lorien Hotel for a room rate of $209 single/double. This new hotel is conveniently located at 1600 King St., Alexandria, VA. The cutoff date for the group rate is April 2, 2010. To register, call 877-956-7436. Ask for the “National Society of Professional Engineers function” to get the group rate.

Early Bird Registration: January 11–March 15, $495
Regular Registration: March 16–April 30, $595

Register today. Attendance is limited.

Contact: For additional information or to answer any questions, please e-mail education@nspe.org.

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Spring Webinars

NSPE is committed to bringing you Web seminars and workshops that incorporate the ABCs of continuing education by being affordable, beneficial, and convenient. Online registration is now available through Shop NSPE at www.nspe.org. Register today to take advantage of these excellent education opportunities!


How to Start Your Own Firm

April 20, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)

Have you considered starting your own firm? During this Web seminar, you will hear the experiences of others who have gone through the process and been successful. Learn some tips for success and what potential pitfalls you may encounter.

Product Code: WS-100420


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Task Force Addresses Alternatives to Masterís or Equivalent
Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

One of the charges to the NCEES Engineering Education Task Force this year was to formulate and evaluate alternatives to be considered to add to the “master’s or equivalent” requirements provided in the Model Law beginning in 2020. As NSPE’s representative to the EETF, I can report that the task force has completed that task, and is in the process of preparing a report that will be considered by member licensing boards at zone meetings this spring and likely at the NCEES Annual Meeting this August.

Two alternatives have been formulated and evaluated as follows:

Alternative 1: “B-Robust”—a potential fourth pathway to licensure in 2020 (in addition to a “B-ABET” plus a master’s in engineering, a “B-ABET” plus 30 additional credits, or an “M-ABET,” an accredited master’s degree in engineering). This would entail an accredited B.S. degree that consists of a minimum of 150 total credits, of which at least 115 credits are in math, science, and engineering, and of which at least 75 credits are in engineering. There are a small number of four-and-a-half- or five-year programs in the U.S. that currently meet, or very nearly meet, these requirements. The Pennsylvania State University program in architectural engineering and the University of San Diego program in industrial and control systems engineering are two examples. This pathway would be deemed equivalent to a B-ABET plus 30 additional credits, if codified as part of the Model Law. Additional flexibility might be provided by allowing existing, relatively high-credit programs to provide a defined certificate for additional engineering coursework beyond the ABET-accredited B.S., to be reviewed and approved beforehand by NCEES, as an additional method of meeting the requirements.

EETF members in favor of this option cited this as a means to provide flexibility to engineering programs to meet the new requirements in a variety of ways, a means to recognize those programs that are currently at or near this level, and a way to comply with the 2020 requirements without the need to take coursework beyond the baccalaureate level. Those opposed to this option indicated that very few programs would take advantage of this flexibility due to the need to stretch the BS program to five years, that this is a prescriptive approach that limits program flexibility, and that this flexibility could be provided on a state-by-state basis as an equivalent for those few programs that are likely to be at this level in the future. The NCEES members of the EETF were split 5-5 on whether or not NCEES should consider modifying the Model Law to include this option.

Alternative 2: “BMEE” or “Bachelor’s Plus Mentored Education and Experience”—This alternative would entail a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited program plus six years of progressive engineering experience, of which at least three years would be under a formal, structured mentoring program of a licensed professional engineer, plus 30 days of continuing education over the six-year period. This is a concept at this point that would require further study to flesh out the details.

Those EETF members in favor of this alternative indicate that this will result in more focused training in the specific area of the engineer’s practice in some disciplines, be more appropriate for engineers in certain settings, such as in industry, and provide a solid start to necessary lifelong learning. Those opposed to this alternative indicate that this is limited training rather than foundational learning, which are two different things; that it is not an equivalent to additional engineering education; and that evaluation of mentoring programs would need to assure rigor and assessment of the mentored experience. The NCEES members of the EETF voted four in favor and seven against this concept. The decision as to whether to study this concept further will likely be made at the NCEES Annual Meeting in August.

In my opinion, the pros and cons of the “B-Robust” concept have been properly characterized by the EETF. NCEES could validly choose to add this to the Model Law, or could instead rely on individual states to recognize the few programs that are likely to exist at this level. With respect to the “BMEE” concept of reliance upon mentored education and experience, this concept merits consideration, but it has a potential significant flaw. Licensure is about assuring a minimum level of competence in order to protect the public. Mentoring is critical to the professional competence of the vast majority of engineers. However, at the basest level of engineering practice, at the level of minimum competence, mentored experience may be little more than, and of little more value than, a signature on a piece of paper. A lot of work is required with this concept to ensure that it is appropriately rigorous in all circumstances and that PE boards can reasonably review and judge that rigor.

To join in the conversation and comment on this blog entry, visit our Web site.


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PEPP 2009-10
Executive Board

Bill Clarke, P.E., F.NSPE
St. Louis, MO

Mark Davy, P.E.
La Crosse, WI

Andrea Martinez-Graves,
Tampa, FL

Immediate Past Chair 
Randy Rakoczynski,
Buffalo, NY 

Vice Chair, Northeast Region
Randy Petersen,
Washington, DC

Vice Chair, Southeast Region
Dan Dawson, P.E.,
Wilmington, NC

Vice Chair, Central Region
Kent Buehrer, P.E., F.NSPE
Maumee, OH 

Vice Chair, North Central Region 
Karen Stelling, P.E.
Kansas City, MO

Vice Chair, Southwest Region
Eric West, P.E.
Midland, TX

Vice Chair, Western and Pacific Region 
Wes Segawa, P.E.
Hilo, HI 

Young Engineer Representative 
David Conner, P.E.
Denver, CO
SSEC Representative
Pat Christians
Birmingham, AL

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