The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2006 List

September 2006 » Feature Articles
A combination of growth tactics is paying off for 320-person architectural, interior design, and engineering firm Cubellis (Boston), which broke into the top 20 for the first time on The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2006 List.
Franceen Shaughnessy

The 100 fastest-growing A/E/P and environmental consulting firms 

A combination of growth tactics is paying off for 320-person architectural, interior design, and engineering firm Cubellis (Boston), which broke into the top 20 for the first time on The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2006 List. "It has been a goal to grow annually," President and CEO Len Cubellis said. That the goal emanated from a strategic planning meeting.

The firm placed 17th on the 2006 list—in 2002, the organization ranked 34th; and in 2003, it landed in the 48th spot. Cubellis saw its 2002 revenues of $9.9 million increase to $25.6 million in 2005—a growth of 159 percent.

 Free download: The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2006 List

Qualifying for the list

This is the seventh year in a row The Zweig Letter has ranked the fastest-growing architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms. The process began in early March with a call for industry firms in the United States or Canada to complete a short entry form with questions about their firm type, size, and 2002 and 2005 gross revenues. Eligible firms had to be in business as of Jan. 1, 2002, and had to have 2002 gross revenues of at least $1 million.

To ensure that both small and large firms are recognized for their success, both dollar growth and percentage growth are equally weighted in the contest. Each firm was assigned a dollar ranking and a percentage ranking, and then the two numbers were combined for a total score. This method accounts for the fact that a $5 million firm may have an easier time doubling in size than a $5 billion firm. The 100 firms with the best combined scores are the winners and made The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2006 List.

A strategy for growth

"Part of the Cubellis strategic plan was to bring the structural and MEP engineering services in-house," Cubellis said. In 1999, the firm merged with an 18-person civil, survey, and architectural firm, Bradford Saivetz Associates (Braintree, Mass.). "This was our first foray into engineering. Up until then, we were purely architecture, interior design, and planning.

"The experience was so successful and our ability to leverage more architectural, civil, and survey work between groups gave us the confidence to add other in-house engineering disciplines," Cubellis said. "Prior to bringing these groups in, we felt as though we were a bit too reliant on other consultants; sometimes, their priorities did not align with ours. Having in-house engineering allowed us better control of our projects."

From 2003 to 2005, Cubellis said, "There was a lot of organic growth. The firm was adding senior-level staff and principals. We were growing in regions in which we already existed, like Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and Braintree, Mass.

"Also during this time," he said, "there was a strong focus on boosting marketing and business development. Before, the firm really didn't practice either of these services. We hired dedicated business development leaders in our major market regions of Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. We created a consistent direct-mail marketing campaign, we rolled out a new brand identity, we created a business development process, and we made it clear to our principals that, from a business development standpoint, it was up to them to 'eat what they kill.' Our business development leaders' responsibilities were geared to seek out new long-term opportunities, essentially planting seeds for the future."

A merger in 2004 with nine-person, Detroit-based Marco Design Group added more people to Cubellis, while strengthening the organization's retail design expertise. There were two more mergers in 2005 that were the result of the firm's past strategic plan of growth.

"We needed institutional expertise and strength," Cubellis said. In July 2005, the firm merged with 20-person New Jersey-based Ecoplan Architects. This also helped fill a geographical gap, giving the firm a location in New Jersey that was between its Philadelphia and Boston offices.

In September 2005, the organization merged with 22-person Chicago-based Mann Gin Dubin & Frazier. "We already had a presence in Chicago, but we needed to generate more critical mass," Cubellis noted. "We had six people in our existing Chicago office and combined the teams shortly after the merger.

"Cubellis' growth is due to great strategic planning, marketing, and business development, coupled with mergers and acquisitions," Cubellis said. "All of these have contributed to the firm's growth, and they still continue to do so."

 Free download: The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2006 List

Franceen Shaughnessy is an editor with ZweigWhite in Natick, Mass. She can be reached at 1-508-651-1559 or fshaughnessy@zweigwhite.com.


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