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Recap of Principals Roundtable on Ownership Transition

Options and Viewpoints Fuel Principals Discussion on AEC Firm Ownership Transition

Sixteen principals representing various AEC firms from around San Diego County shared options, opinions, and experiences related to past, current and upcoming AEC firm-ownership transitions. NV5 hosted and sponsored Principals Roundtable #3 for the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) San Diego.

The informative and sometimes eye-opening session offered viewpoints from both seasoned principals looking to retire in the future and a newer generation of owners that recently rose to the helm.

Beth Bateman, Principals Roundtable Facilitator, opened the meeting, sharing resources regarding the reasons for and the best time to plan for ownership transition. Various transition options, such as internal or external younger staff members buying-in, structuring an employee-ownership plan (ESOP), and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) were all on the table.

Carmen Kasner, Principal, NV5, shared lessons she learned throughout her career wherein she has experienced several ownership transitions, including NV5’s ongoing hybrid involving both organic leadership development and an active M&A strategy.

Everyone participated in the dynamic discussion, which covered a range of topics including best practices, firm valuation, integration of new staff and identification and mentorship of new leaders. Other issues included a process and timetable to relinquish power and control, as well as setting goals, expectations and responsibilities for rising leaders. Additional discussion covered determining if re-branding the firm was advantageous, creating a fair deal for both sides, and understanding generational differences that may come into play.

Sharon Singleton, Principal, KTUA Planning and Landscape Architecture, summed it up nicely, commenting after the event, “The discussion proved there are many, many options and opinions when it comes to figuring out the next generation for your firm. The sharing of ideas was truly enlightening.”

The SMPS San Diego Principals Roundtable is one of the first Principal-level offerings on the Chapter level. It is free and open to Principals Only with firms that have at least one SMPS member on staff. Designed by area firm principals, the Roundtable series meets quarterly to discuss firm management issues that weren’t covered in AEC college-level design and construction degree programs. Different area firms sponsor and host the early morning event. If you are interesting in hosting and/or attending a future Principal Roundtable or have a topic suggestion, please contact one of the Planning Committee members below or visit The next Roundtable is being planned for February 2018.

For additional resources on leadership transition and training, visit the Principals section of

SMPS San Diego Principals Roundtable Planning Committee:


Sharon Singleton, PLA, Principal, KTUA Landscape Architecture and Planning,

Theresa Casey, Principal/CEO, On Target Marketing & Communications,

Committee Members:

Elizabeth Bateman, Marketing Director, SMR-ISD Consulting Structural Engineers,

Kamala Kuresman, Corporate Marketing Director, NV5,

Karen Tournaire, Director of Marketing, Sillman Wright Architects,

By Theresa M. Casey, FSMPS, CPSM, SMPS San Diego Chapter Champion and Principals Roundtable Co-leader, Principal/CEO, On Target Marketing & Communications


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