50 Years History

Design and construction are both high risk and low margin industries. Because of this risky nature, one would suspect that the lifecycle of companies in these industries is relatively short. To empirically evaluate this issue, this study profiles the top 100 firms in the United States in both the design as well as the construction industries from 50 years ago (1964 – 2014) to identify how many firms survived and how many failed. The study also explains the common reasons for success and failure, so current design and construction firms can better position themselves for long term success and understand how to avoid common pitfalls that lead to failure.

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One failure trend that both design firms and contractors face is a lack of understanding or willingness to change during fundamental market shifts. Both types of firms must be keenly aware of current and future trends, as well as economic shifts, which provides senior leadership the ability to pivot when necessary to take advantage of new markets and to mitigate the effect of over-emphasis on languishing markets. That said, this study also evaluates new trends in the design and construction marketplace.

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Bill McConnell, PE, JD, MSCE, CDT