Appleseed Strategy

Appleseed Strategy

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New Survey of AEC Firms Reveals Pandemic’s Mixed Impact (Appleseed Strategy)

By ccsullivan
Dec 22, '21 5:05 PM EST
The new study of AEC service firms by Appleseed Strategy.
The new study of AEC service firms by Appleseed Strategy.

The national consulting group Appleseed Strategy has unveiled the results of a U.S. business survey of AEC firms to understand the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this service sector.

Querying a sample of 39 companies in architecture, engineering, landscape architecture and other consulting services — ranging in size from 5 people to 1,000-plus — Appleseed Strategy paints a vivid and decidedly mixed picture of the impact that the global pandemic has had on AEC companies. For example:

  • Nearly 77% of respondents were back to pre-pandemic staffing levels
  • About 9% were even larger than they had been in March 2020
  • Nearly 53% of respondents had implemented salary cuts in at least one staff category because of the pandemic.
  • Of the firms that received PPP loans or other pandemic relief funding, about 88% had their loans fully or partially forgiven.

Based on the survey, Appleseed Strategy's Kacey Clagett offered the following advice: "As we reach equilibrium with the 'pandemic new normal,' we have a few recommendations that apply to design construction companies of all sizes, disciplines and ages:

  1. "Keep focus on higher return, lower risk ventures. Build from your core strengths. Create efficiencies. Establish performance metrics that matter. Build effectiveness. Inculcate a company-wide business development culture. Develop your future leaders through mentoring and increasing their accountability for company performance.
  2. "Invest in technologies that advance the disciplines you practice. Think about what will be automated ten years from now, so you can position yourself as a market leader. This applies to both what will happen with your clientele and your own work processes. Keep aware that these will be areas where nontraditional competitors may enter, yet this too presents opportunities for partnerships.
  3. "If you are heavily concentrated in services, market sectors or regions that are struggling, think strategically about how to reposition. In many situations, you can repurpose what you do with relatively modest efforts. But if a service or market sector you have relied on will not come back to previous levels, scale back or eliminate it. As hard as it can be, don’t let sunk costs influence your decisions.
  4. "Likewise, get ahead of other industry trends like building repurposing, net zero energy and water, design/build, modularization and ESG/CSR policies. Ask around, survey to get a well-rounded perspective on where your markets are headed and how you can bring innovations to your clientele. Set the standard, and you may be rewarded with better fees and less competition. Remember that creativity never gets replaced."

For Appleseed Strategy’s full report, visit