NSPE's Gateway to Private Practice May 2013 

Elevator Speeches
Dawn Edgell, P.E., PEPP Chair 201213

Time and time again, we NSPE members are told to put together an ‘elevator speech’ on the benefits of NSPE and how we can sell our organization to potential members. We see the value of being a part of the Society, and we hope others will see those benefits also.

In recent weeks, I realized that there are other types of ‘elevator speeches.’ This has been particularly important to me over the last few months with the company change that I recently went through and having to quickly learn the talking points of my new company. I know why I joined this company, but translating that into something to sell to potential clients is a different conversation. When attending client meetings and they already recognize the name of your company, it’s fairly easy to discuss ‘why you should hire me.’ But what about those occasions where you’re attending pre-bid meetings, volunteer events, conferences, and so on?

Trying to sell the brand of your company to someone who doesn’t know your company’s logo involves more thought. You usually don’t get more than a few minutes for that conversation, and you don’t always get a second chance. Whether you are new to a company, as I currently am, or have worked for the same employer for years, it’s worth reviewing what you say about your company; in this day and age, things are always in a state of change.

Another opportunity for an elevator speech I was recently presented was at a

STEM high school career fair. When talking with hundreds of high school students during a small window of time, you are lucky if you get more than 5 to 10 minutes to speak and answer questions that a group of students may have. Most of them are there because they have heard of engineering or a teacher pointed them in that direction—but how do you answer their question about why they should consider engineering for a career?

Many of us participate in volunteer events such as MATHCOUNTS, the Future City Competition, and EWeek, but during those events do we really address ‘why engineering?’ If you give a few minutes thought to why you selected this career, you may be able to touch and influence a student.

I’m sure most of you know the influence we have with our kids, families, friends, coworkers, and those we interact with daily, but take a few minutes to think about how a small conversation can have an impact on someone you just met.  I was recently reminded of this myself, when I received a thank you note from a student who is now going to pursue civil engineering this fall because of a 10-minute conversation we had at a career fair. 

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Keep Your Client's Information Confidential

Increasingly, clients seem concerned about the confidentiality of information shared with an engineering firm and the security of the information developed by the firm for the client. While some standard contract forms require that clients identify information that must be protected, the law usually requires protection for all information specific to a client that is provided to the consulting firm or created by the consulting firm for the client. In some cases, clients—especially large corporate clients—require firms to sign nondisclosure agreements with both financial remedies and injunctive relief contractually mandated for any exposure of client information.

Internal Procedures Should Acknowledge Project-Specific Concerns

The standard of care for confidentiality is changing. Leaving information on a hard drive built into a photocopier was not seen as negligent behavior in the past. Now, if a firm does not wipe the hard drive images manually or have a photocopier that does so automatically, the firm is at risk for a variety of confidentiality breaches, privacy violations, and other regulatory problems. Similarly, the very existence of Facebook and Twitter has changed the standard of care for confidentiality. Some of this affects confidentiality in the performance of professional services.

If a firm approaches all client information as confidential and properly alerts and trains staff that client information must be safeguarded, then the firm is acting prudently. And it is highly likely that if there is any leak of confidential information during the performance of professional services it would be subject to professional liability insurance coverage.

Security and confidentiality concerns may force a firm to change its internal practices on some projects to better protect information provided by a client. Some firms (especially those that perform design services for federal agencies, large or high-tech corporate clients, or individuals with expressed concerns over privacy and security) have special internal procedures and educational programs to prevent the intentional or inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information. Often, a nondisclosure agreement guides any changes to internal procedures.

Confidentiality Agreements Are Business Agreements

There is nothing in a confidentiality agreement that changes professional liability coverage. Professional liability insurance exists to cover actual damages caused by the failure of the policyholder to perform professional services in a way that meets the standard of care for the services provided. This results in significant business risk to firms that do not appreciate client confidentiality and information security. A client requiring contractual indemnity for any harm caused by the release of proprietary information rarely is willing to tie that obligation solely to negligence. The client might require protection irrespective of the reason for the release, creating a risk to the firm that might be manageable through careful practice, but the risk is not insurable through professional liability coverage. This is because a client is harmed just the same whether private information is divulged intentionally, with malice, for financial gain, because of physical or digital sloppiness in the protection of information, or because of negligent procedures in using the information during the performance of professional services.

Engineering firms should therefore pay special attention to any contractual obligations that require keeping their client’s information confidential.

© 2013, Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. 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 & Co. Inc. is managing underwriter for the Schinnerer and CNA Professional Liability Insurance Program, commended by NSPE/PEPP since 1957.

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15 Free PDHs For NSPE Members

The new lineup for 15 free professional development hours is now available. See the complete list below.

For more information on how to sign up go to: http://www.nspe.org/MemberBenefits/fifteenfreepdhs.html. Don’t forget to click on the FAQ button at the bottom of the page for answers on how to "purchase" the PDHs.

2013's 15 Free PDHs

1. Conflicts of Interest: Will Proposed Federal Rules Impact Engineering Practice?

2. Engineering Ethics: What Is the Impact of the Ongoing Economic Crisis on Engineering Ethics?

3. EJCDC Construction Contract Documents: Key Clauses and New Approaches

4. Got BIM? It's Not Just About 3D Models

5. Harnessing the Power of Change

6. How to Conduct Effective Meetings

7. IT Solutions for AEC Professionals

8. Key Federal Contracting Laws that Everyone Must Know

9. Legal Realities of Project Scheduling

10. Ethics Forum: Maintaining Objectivity, Truthfulness, Nondeception, and Preserving Confidentiality

11. Pending and Current Legislation, Rules, and Programs That Will Change How We Manage Stormwater

12. Project Management and Ethics

13. Ethics Forum: Protecting the Public Health, Safety, Welfare, and Demonstrating Professional Competence

14. Strategic Planning

15. Ethics Forum: Whistleblowing, What Are the PE's Obligations to Report Misconduct?

You can find more information on how to register for webinars on the
NSPE Education Web site.

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New Construction Contracts Reflect Best Practices

The new 2013 EJCDC Construction Documents for 2013 are better than ever before and are now available for purchase on the NSPE Web site. NSPE members receive a 50% discount.

According to a recent ENR article, the new "changes have the potential to head off the kinds of poisonous conflicts that ruin so many projects and threaten to bring losses and possible ruin to the companies involved." 

EJCDC contract documents are known to offer many benefits including reduced conflicts and litigation. Other key attributes that set apart EJCDC contract documents from other model contract documents:

  • Created and peer-reviewed by experienced industry experts, including practicing engineers;
  • Balanced and fair provisions;
  • User-friendly and easily customized; and
  • For use on multiple projects over multiple years (in Microsoft® Word and Excel).

Purchase a full set or buy single documents such as the Standard General Conditions of the Construction Contract, multiple bonds and forms, or the Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor.

Learn more about EJCDC documents through NSPE online continuing education.

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Network & Learn With Your Peers in Minneapolis!

The NSPE 2013 Leader Conference and Annual Meeting, July 17–21, in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center Hotel, offers many opportunities for engineers to network, earn PDHs, and learn about the top issues affecting the profession and the Society.

Listen to why NSPE President-Elect Robert Green, P.E., F.NSPE, started attending the annual meetings and Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers President Kerry Cooley Bruggemann, P.E., share her personal story.

Conference highlights include:

Wednesday, July 17
Private Tour: A/E View of Target Field
2:00–5:00 p.m.
Earn 3 PDHs while getting a private view of the Minnesota Twins' new baseball stadium while learning about its engineering and design features.

NSPE Networking Reception
5:30–7:30 p.m.
"Minnesota Nice" is the theme of this networking event hosted by the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers.

Thursday and Friday, July 18–19
Leader Conference and Annual Meeting

8:00 a.m.–5 p.m.
This year offers two education tracks for attendees to choose from. The Leader Conference will focus on building strong volunteer leaders with sessions to help enhance leadership knowledge, skills, and style. The Annual Meeting track offers 12 PDHs to attendees, which includes sessions with the "father of the smart grid" and stories from engineers who have responded to structural collapses.

Saturday, July 20
NSPE Networking and Installation Lunch
Noon–2:00 p.m.
This event includes the installation of NSPE President 2013–14 Robert Green, P.E., F.NSPE, the Board of Directors, and the House of Delegates. Ronald Bennett, Ph.D., founding dean of the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas, will motivate the audience to be proud volunteers when he talks about "Engineering Leadership: The Magic of the Mindset."

Learn more about all the Annual Meeting's events and register today. 

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Join your colleagues and competitors.
List your firm on the NSPE Web site
and link more business
to your future. 

ADCOMM Engineering Company
ARIS Engineering, Inc.
Bain Medina Bain, Inc.
Baird, Hampton & Brown, Inc. Engineering & Surveying
Barr Engineering Company
Bartel & Associates
BBFM Engineers, Inc.
Beardsley Design Associates
Bernard R Berson PE LS PP, Consulting, Forensics, Seminars
BMJ Engineers & Surveyors, Inc.
C Allan Bamforth Jr., Engineer-Surveyor, LTD
Commonwealth Associates, Inc.
CRW Engineering Group, LLC
CT Consultants Inc.
Davy Engineering Company
Design Alaska, Inc.
Exponential Engineering Co.
Foth Production Solutions, LLC
Fugro Consultants, Inc.
Gannett Fleming
HF Lenz
JK Consulting
Kellard Sessions Consulting, P.C.
Kuhlmann Design Group, Inc.
McMahon Associates, Inc.
MEP Engineering, Inc.
Michael Baker Corporation
Michael Ernst PE PA
Norris & Tunstall Consulting Engineers, PC.
Nortech, Inc.
Nussbaumer & Clarke, Inc.
O'Malley Engineers, LLP
Ostergaard Acoustical Associates
Palmerton & Parrish, Inc.
Providence Engineering Corp.
Rentech Boiler Systems, Inc.
Richard W. Rauseo PE Consulting Engineers
Ridge & Associates, Inc.
Schkeeper, Inc.
Strickland Engineering, LC
Suberroc Systems SUBSYST
Sundquist Engineering, PC
Tri State Engineering Inc.
TVG Environmental, Inc.
Van Note Harvey Associates, PC



PEPP 2012-13
Executive Board

Dawn Edgell (Chair)
Aurora, IL

Eric L West
Midland, TX

Andrea N Martinez-Graves
Tampa, FL

Kevin C Skibiski
Ozark, MO

Amy Barrett
Evansville, IN

Terrance N Glunt
Boca Raton, FL

Chris K Richard (Vice Chair)
Lafayette, LA




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