Foundation for an excellent professional reputation

August 2006 » Columns » BEYOND WORDS
Our columnist believes that an excellent professional reputation is the single most important attribute necessary for the long-term success of an organization.
C.R.Pennoni, P.E.

It has been my long-held belief that an excellent professional reputation is the single most important attribute necessary for the long-term success of an organization. There are several important foundations of a professional reputation—honesty and integrity in our conduct, knowledge of our trade, dedication to the community, passion for our work, and a dedication to a quality product or service. In the 40 years since founding Pennoni Associates, Inc., I have found that all are equally important.

Honesty and integrity

In business, as in life itself, we cannot guarantee a profit from our endeavors; however, we can guarantee that we will conduct ourselves with honesty and integrity. It is that guarantee that makes a mark on the people with whom we come into contact and with whom we do business.

In any endeavor, there is an entity charged with defining ethical conduct. As a civil engineer, these guidelines exist in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Code of Conduct. And as a licensed professional engineer, ethical conduct is mandated in the State Licensing Act. Ethical conduct is governed by some very basic rules, including those outlined in the 1940 Definition of the Profession of Engineering by ASCE.

Honesty and integrity are the cornerstones of this definition. In the post-Enron business climate, nearly every business’s actions are under a microscope. It is easy to declare publicly that we conduct ourselves with honesty and integrity; it is instead necessary that we demonstrate on a daily basis that we practice our profession in an ethical manner. To build an excellent professional reputation, we must understand clearly what is expected by ethical conduct and act accordingly. This conduct is important throughout an entire organization and of paramount importance within an organization’s leadership.

Specialized knowledge

We must also deliver a quality product or service, demonstrating a specialized knowledge in our area of practice. I once heard that a professional engineer is one who can design and construct a structure for $1 that any fool can do for $2; professional engineers may not be the only ones who can complete a project, but they are the ones who possess the knowledge, ability, and skills to do it correctly and economically.

The combination of ethical conduct and specialized knowledge defines the professional, and are among the important building blocks necessary to achieve an excellent reputation. This status must be created over time, though, and is built one block and one event at a time. In the 40-year history of Pennoni Associates Inc., we have placed excellent professional reputation first and foremost in our vision, mission, and goals. The firm’s leadership is challenged not only to keep this mantra out in front, but also to lead by example.

Pennoni’s professionals are held to high standards; they are expected to maintain their expertise through continuing education; to conduct themselves with honesty and integrity, both within the firm and externally to their clients; to participate in professional/technical organizations as a means of education relative to the expectations of ethical/professional conduct; and to be involved in their communities and in the political processes of their local governments.

This certainly is a tall order, especially when they also are expected to deliver their work as per the scope, on schedule, and within budget. These expectations, though, are what should be expected of every true professional engineer. In building an excellent and long-lasting reputation, it is not good enough simply to provide quality engineering services; one must also consistently be striving to maintain professional development, ethical conduct, community involvement, charitable giving, and involvement in the political process. All of these help to shape the engineer’s reputation in the community in which they live and work.

Ability and skill

We as professionals are measured by our capabilities, ability, and skill. Ability can be learned and developed, but skill is a Godgiven art. We can all take piano lessons and develop the ability to play, but without natural skill we cannot all be Lang-Lang. I have strived to identify the skills of our staff and to give them the opportunity to succeed. Allowing people to perform using their natural skills goes a long way toward ensuring happy and successful staff that have a passion for the profession, a sense of pride and ownership in the firm, and a dedication to providing a quality product or service. This, in turn, results in the satisfaction of our clients, and is necessary to build an excellent professional reputation.

While it takes time and hard work to cultivate and maintain, an excellent professional reputation is the number-one ingredient for long-term success. While Pennoni Associates, Inc., has worked on some truly amazing and important engineering projects, the excellent professional reputation that our firm has enjoyed for the past 40 years is perhaps our greatest achievement.

C.R. "Chuck" Pennoni, P.E., is chairman of Pennoni Associates, Inc., Philadelphia. He can be contacted at cpennoni@pennoni.com.

Pennoni Associates, Inc.
Headquarters: Philadelphia
Number of branch offices: 18
Total number of employees: 700
Year firm was established: 1966
Total billings for last fiscal year: $66 million


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