What began as a simple spreadsheet created by founder Doug Matern 20 years ago has become one of the most important management and forecasting weapons in the arsenal of Matern Professional Engineering, a Florida-based MEP engineering firm.
With offices in Orlando, Ft. Myers, and Tampa, Matern provides professional engineering design and consulting services throughout the Southeast United States. The 66-person firm, which was recently selected to the 2020 PSMJ Circle of Excellence, serves a range of markets including aviation, community spaces, education, federal, healthcare, hospitality, municipal/government, office spaces, retail and tenant build-outs.
Controller Judy D’Angelo says the firm is weathering the pandemic as well as could be expected.
“We’re fortunate that we do a lot of government work,” she says. “Those long-term contracts have kept us going through the year, and the future looks good. Right now, our business development department is going after a lot of new RFPs.”
D’Angelo credits the Excel-based workbooks that evolved from Doug Matern’s original spreadsheet, and says much of the firm’s success is a result of how they do projections. The workbooks let them forecast six months out by department and market niche.
“Since Doug created the first spreadsheet, it has grown organically,” D’Angelo says. “Over time, the management team decided what other information we need. We then add another spreadsheet to feed into that data. Most of the data, however, is contained within Ajera, our software program, which we download into the excel spreadsheets.
JUST A TOOL
“Of course, it’s just a tool like anything else—you have to know how to use it,” she adds. “We are an engineering firm, so many of our leaders are not only engineers; we are also astute business people. In addition to providing a great technical and collaborative experience to clients, we always have our eye on the bottom line.”
D’Angelo says the workbooks are updated monthly based on input from project managers.
“We get projections of where we will be in terms of billing and we get break-evens by department and discipline,” she explains. “We also know what to expect from jobs in the proposal stage, based on probability factors we get from each PM. We work on a very quick turnaround—sometimes one month from proposal to contract—so that’s critical to our ability to staff up.”
For example, she says, a surplus of electrical staffing in the commercial market and not enough on the education team might mean moving people around: “It’s important to cross train, so that when our forecasting shows a need to relocate staff to different departments, they are prepared to assist.”
Accurate forecasting about allocating human resources also pays benefits in terms of staff longevity.
“We hire for the long term and prefer to offer overtime when we are not positive we have a long term need for a certain type of employee. Thirty percent of our staff have been here over ten years,” D’Angelo says, “Commitment to our staff is part of the culture here. We’re a family.”