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After Years of Decline, Principals Optimistic for A/E Industry Rebound In 2011

A majority of A/E principals are optimistic that business will pick up this year, according to the 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey. While only 11 percent say that the business environment will be much better in 2011, 57 percent believe that it will be somewhat better. Another 11 percent of principals say 2011 will be the same as 2010, while only 16 percent believe business will be somewhat worse. Not one (0 percent) respondent to the survey says that things will be much worse this year, while 7 percent express no opinion.

When it comes to international opportunities for U.S. design and environmental consulting firms, principals are beginning to see it as a viable option. According to the 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey, 16 percent are already doing international work and 18 percent are not doing international work now, but hope to do so in the future. Meanwhile, about half of principals (54 percent) believe that such option is right for some, but not for their firm. Only 3 percent see international work as a mistake, while 9 percent expressed no opinion on the subject.

Over the past five years, according to the 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey, the percentage of principals who say that their investment in their firm is worth more than what they paid for it has seen a gradual decline. After reaching a 10-year high of 94 percent in 2006, the number has dropped each year, sliding to 89 percent in 2009. However, the biggest decline occurred in 2010, with only 77 percent of principals reporting that their investment in their firm is worth more than what they paid for it.

If necessary for their firm’s survival, principals are increasingly willing to take a pay cut first before passing one onto their staff. According to the 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey, the percentage of principals who say they would take a pay cut first reached a six-year high of 66 percent, having declined to 53 percent last year. Meanwhile, the percentage of principals who say that principals and staff should both take a pay cut has reached a 10-year low of 24 percent, dropping from 42 percent in 2010.

For more information about or to purchase ZweigWhite’s recently released 2011 Principals, Partners & Owners Survey, please visit

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