Important Legal Resources Updated

Two Important Legal Resources Updated for GBA Members

The Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA) has published new editions of two important legal references, both prepared for design professionals without use of “legalese”; both available free of charge.

Limitation-of-Liability Case Index and Economic-Loss-Doctrine Case Index were prepared for GBA’s Legal Affairs Committee by Seattle (WA) law firm Skellenger Bender, P.S.

GBA introduced the 400-year-old limitation-of-liability (LOL) concept to the design and environmental professions in 1969. By applying the concept, now upheld in most states, a client agrees to limit a design professional’s liability to a given amount, most commonly $50,000 or the fee, whichever is higher. The Index describes each case in terms of its background and the points or holdings involved, and – to support additional research – identifies the case by name, jurisdiction, and citation. The cases span the period 1956 to 2017.

The economic loss doctrine (ELD), another important protection for design professionals, bars use of tort claims (e.g., professional-negligence and negligent-misrepresentation claims) to recover purely economic losses, such as those stemming from property damage or construction delays. In states that uphold the ELD in full, claimants against design professionals may recover purely economic damages only via breach-of-contract suits, limiting claimants to design professionals’ clients. In other states, third parties, like constructors, can sue design professionals directly. Economic-Loss-Doctrine Case Index provides a state-by-state status report on the economic-loss doctrine, describing the cases involved and providing the additional information required for more research.

Download Limitation-of-Liability Case Index

Download Economic-Loss-Doctrine Case Index


Join the Conversation – The Puzzle of Motivation



JOIN THE CONVERSATION – The Puzzle of Motivation


GBA has a rich history of uniting to tackle tough problems, collaborating on common issues, and working together to elevate our profession.


GBA is sponsoring a program to promote growth and collaboration, interested GBA Members will independently watch the TED Talk “The Puzzle of Motivation” then gathering together to discuss the contents in on a webinar in a facilitated “book club” format.  Together we will learn, share, and grow.


Friday: January 5, 2018

Time:  2:00 PM Eastern, 1:00 PM Central, Noon Mountain, 11:00 AM Pacific

Duration: 1 hour

Facilitated by: Joel Carson

Space is limited: Sign Up Here


The Puzzle of Motivation by Dan Pink

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.


Watch Here



What are your Peers Reading?

GBA’s Most Downloaded Resources in 2017

GBA provides hundreds of highly effective resources developed to satisfy the unique needs of geoprofessionals, giving members essential tools for achieving success. However, we also know that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. So, to help, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 GBA resources by numbers ordered in 2017. This is a great place to start your exploration of GBA’s resources, or to get acquainted with a publication loved by your peers and “new to you”.

GBA’s CASE HISTORIES were very popular downloads with over 1,100 downloads of updated Case Histories during the year.

The list below is the top 10 GBA resources, in order by popularity, with the most ordered resource at the top. Topics cover a wide range of geoprofessional business issues, so we are certain that you will find something on this list that could help your business succeed. Select a title to learn more and download it today.

The top downloads are:



Click on any title to order your copy today.  All reference documents are free for members.

Ethics and Professional Conduct Training Program Available


GBA’s Business Practice Committee has compiled information from several GBA Member Firms to develop a complete Ethics and Professional Conduct Training.  The materials have been developed for GBA member firms so that they can perform comprehensive ethics training for all employees in small, manageable parts that will enhance discussion and retention.  The four-part PowerPoint presentation and support information consist of the following:

Part 1 – Introduction to Ethics

Part 2 – Codes of Ethics

Part 3 – Ethical Decision-Making Guidelines

Part 4 – Business Conduct

This training is recommended to be facilitated by a Senior Leader within your firm, and can be performed in a lunchtime learning environment or in small group settings.

Download Ethics & Professional Conduct Training

GBA Provides Members with Workplace Harassment Training

We have all seen the headlines and our attention on workplace harassment is elevated.  GBA Member-Firms have a unique opportunity to promote proven business practices to educate our employees about workplace harassment.

GBA’s Business Practices Committee has taken the opportunity to refresh and update a lunch and learn titled Workplace Harassment.  Those taking the training will learn:

  • Each is personally responsible for their workplace behavior
  • We all have a role in maintaining a harassment-free work environment
  • We need to support an environment of respect and value of individuals
  • Skills to set boundaries and confront harassment

The process is simple.  Download the Lunch & Learn instructions and PowerPoint.  Review the contents and modify as you see fit for your firm.

GBA’s Education Committee developed the Lunch & Learn seminar series to help GBA-Member Firms conduct high-quality, to-the-point seminars for staff members and, possibly, others, including client representatives and colleagues.   Each Lunch & Learn seminar outlines key points to be made, and includes note-taking forms participants can use to help reinforce key lessons learned, as well as a PowerPoint presentation. Each seminar uses GBA materials that members can obtain free of charge, in unlimited quantity. Many of these also are available to nonmembers, for a fee.

Download:  Workplace Harassment Training – Lunch & Learn


Join the Conversation:Leading with Greatness

The next GBA TED Talk group will be discussing How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek. Together we will learn, share, and grow. Please join us!

Friday: December 1, 2017
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern, 1:00 PM Central, Noon Mountain, 11:00 AM Pacific
Duration: 1 hour
Facilitated by: Joel Carson
Space is limited: Sign Up Here

From the Archives



From the Archives – GBA 20 Years Ago

As we start planning for the kick-off of GBA’s 50th anniversary in May 2019, we are dusting off files, opening storage boxes, and reviewing our archives.  One of the most interesting finds are the boxes of historic NEWSLOGs (currently titled NEWSlog).  This discovery prompted us to see what was happening 20-years ago in our association.

NEWSLOG Volume 27, No. 3 from September/October 1997, included discussions on:

  • fiduciary liability claims,
  • ASTM Standards,
  • contract guides, and
  • writing right.

We were also warning members about El Nino and we were battling with the Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors of California (CELSOC) against a California ballot initiative sponsored by the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) that would exclude private companies from winning state and local contracts in California.

Many of the issues discussed in the 1997 issue of NEWSLOG were items on which GBA built a foundation.  They are also issues which still require our unified support so we can continue be the preferred source of business-educational resources, specifically risk management and business performance optimization, for geoprofessional firms.

Throughout our almost 50-years, GBA has helped its members and their clients confront risk and optimize business performance by delivering unique professional resources, programs, and services that make them stronger, smarter and more successful.

To read NEWSLOG from September/October 1997 – READ HERE


Join the Team – GBA Team Gear Available for Order

GBA has teamed up with Champion System to create top of the line team athletic wear which is now available to all GBA members!  You can order from a catalog of biking and running apparel (i.e. shorts, tights, singlets, jerseys, vests, and jackets) for winter or summer sporting events.

Order now by contacting Sara Menase in the GBA Office.  She will send you images of the apparel options and a price sheet.  We will be submitting a GBA group order on December 1, 2017.

BONUS:  When you order your GBA Team Gear, you will be given a coupon to support your next walk/run/bike registration fee.


Call for Abstracts “Optimizing Performance by Leading from the Heart”



“Optimizing Performance by Leading from the Heart” 

2018 Spring Conference – April 5-7, 2018
Westin Chicago River North Hotel – Chicago, IL


 Are you a dynamic, engaging, inspiring speaker with something valuable to teach industry leaders involved in the Geoprofessional Business Association? If so, we’d love to receive an abstract submission from you for our upcoming conference in Chicago, IL. There, 150+ senior leaders of GBA-Member geoprofessional firms will gather to network, share best practices, and improve their business performance and elevate their industry.

 The Conference Theme: 

Optimizing Performance by Leading from the Heart 

As GBA convenes in Chicago, IL for our 2018 Spring Conference, we will focus on helping those in attendance to recognize that exceptional leadership requires we lead from our hearts.

Business owners who genuinely lead with their heart — not just their head — are also more equipped to connect with the emotional needs of employees. They understand that people have the need to be valued, respected, listened to and involved. By acknowledging and honoring the human element, heart-centered leaders possess the wisdom and capacity to positively transform any organization and run extremely successful and profitable businesses.

Our Conference will include presentations on subjects that will help our members to embrace a heart-centered approach to business and recognize true power means listening to and from the heart and having a commitment to humility.

 How You Will Benefit

For almost half a century, GBA’s twice-a-year conferences have been the place to engage senior business leaders of the geoprofessional industry. You will gain visibility and credibility; create important new relationships; and generate valuable awareness of your expertise in our industry.





Geoprofessional Business Association Midyear Report


President Charles “Charlie” Head, P.E., P.G. (Sandborn, Head & Associates)

GBA Members,

GBA is a great organization, with great people, and a great legacy.

For the entirety of GBA’s almost 50-year history, it has thrived under the tenets of openness and sharing so that all may understand the risks that face our businesses and learn from others how to mitigate them.  The founders of GBA worked to build a kind of “professional capital” that did not previously exist and has benefited the geoprofession greatly to this day.  Those that followed have added a tremendous amount to this foundation.

Now, almost 50 years later, GBA is a thriving organization with an incredibly bright future.

As we now turn to that future, the challenges that face our businesses are as great, if not greater, than those we have faced in the past.  The need for an organization that helps member firms confront risk and optimize performance, especially in a world of accelerating and disruptive technology, is more vital than ever.  The foundation we have built is strong, but there is a lot more to do.

This year we will adopt a new Strategic Plan to propel us forward to 2020.  Our Plan can be simply distilled to the following:

Strengthen Our Brand         Celebrate Success              Turbocharge Member Experience

First – Strengthen our Brand.  Our opportunity is to enhance delivery on our value proposition by doubling our efforts to focus on matters of business risk and performance.  We will strengthen our brand through impactful messaging in all that we do and with an abundance of warmth and friendliness so we can learn from each other in what really, at its heart, is a relationship organization.

Second – Celebrate Success.  Sharing our collective experiences is really at the core of GBA’s culture.  What better way to share these experiences than to celebrate member accomplishments that exemplify our values, purpose and strategy, and which continue to elevate our profession and foster pride.  In that regard, we have a great opportunity to deliver on GBA’s 50th anniversary in FY 2019-2020 to connect with our past and create a powerful platform for a bright future.

Third – Turbocharge Member Experience.  Developing a unique member experience to further drive value and connection is paramount to our success.  We believe the member experience starts first and foremost with our conferences.  As a premier value driver for our members, we will continue to enhance the conference experience to deliver unique value to us all.  But it doesn’t stop there.  The unique member experience must also be infused in our educational materials and development programs, and be fostered by the diverse thinking of GBA’s Board. Overall, we must stay truly connected to our members, including multiple generations within member firms.

Thank you to our members for your support and collegiality, and for the work that you do to help make GBA strong and vital.  If you are a member and not yet immersed in the GBA experience, I encourage you to attend one of our conferences and consider active participation through one of our committees and councils; I believe you will find that you get a lot more in return.  Finally, if you are not yet a member, I invite and encourage you to consider joining us on our road to a bright future.

Thank you.


Charles “Charlie” Head, P.E., P.G.

President 2017-18




JOIN THE CONVERSATION – Leading with Greatness

GBA has a rich history of uniting to tackle tough problems, collaborating on common issues, and working together to elevate our profession.

In a pilot program to promote growth and collaboration, interested GBA Members will independently watch the TED Talk “Leading with Greatness” then gathering together to discuss the contents in on a webinar in a facilitated “book club” format.  Together we will learn, share, and grow.

 Friday: October 27, 2017

Time:  2:00 PM Eastern, 1:00 PM Central, Noon Mountain, 11:00 AM Pacific

Duration: 1 hour

Facilitated by: Joel Carson

Space is limited: Sign Up Here

Leading with Greatness: A TEDTalk by Roselinde Torres

Regardless if you are just starting your career or an owner of your own business, you should strive to become a leader in your workplace. Roselinde Torres, a researcher in the field of leadership, spent twenty-five years observing and traveling around the world to study different leadership programs. Torres formulated three essential questions to ask oneself to be able to thrive as a leader at work. Through her TEDTalk, Roselinde proposes three crucial questions when trying to thrive as a leader.



New for Members: Troutman Sanders Legal Guide to Doing Business in China

Troutman Sanders has released the fourth edition of their popular eBook “Legal Guide to Doing Business in China.” The guide is an overview of the legal framework for making foreign investments in China and some of the complexities that may arise during the course of business.

China attracts investments from a broad spectrum of industries, and the last two decades have seen unprecedented economic growth. An understanding of China’s leadership system and corporate framework is critical to the success of any foreign investment. “China can be seductive to both newcomers and frequent visitors,” says Edward J. Epstein, managing partner of Troutman Sanders in Shanghai. “It is easy to lose your bearings in China’s radically different culture and when this happens … to lose your money as well. Therefore, it is important to have some touch points to keep yourself on track.”

This guide covers a broad range of topics including an overview of the Chinese government, market entry, capital structure and financing, labor, real estate, dispute resolution, and even helpful tips on culture, like how to conduct yourself during a business meeting. In addition, this fourth edition has been expanded to include sections on intellectual property and the free trade zones and revised to incorporate new legal developments in other areas since 2014.


At first glance, the way business is conducted in China might appear similar to their Western counterparts, causing foreign visitors to create an illusionary comfort zone and, essentially, let their guard down. It is important to have experienced advisors on your team that can counsel you throughout your investment. This guide will serve as an additional tool in understanding an increasingly sophisticated legal and regulatory system.

With offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, Troutman Sanders assists clients with both their domestic and international goals, and have graciously made this valuable resource available to all GBA members.

The Troutman Sanders “Legal Guide to Doing Business in China” can be downloaded in the following formats:


GBA Releases Five More Case Histories: 16-20

Refreshed GBA Case Histories have been downloaded almost 1,000 times since May 1, 2017 and they are being used by GBA members for loss prevention discussions in support of professional development and mentoring. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeating mistakes of the past which is why GBA case histories are so valuable, and why GBA is updating them all, while adding new ones, too. Five more case histories have been reissued.

Case History 16: The GBA-Member Firm completed about 150 exploratory borings, excavated test pits, and conducted seismic surveys in support of design and construction of a new building and campus for a state-owned college.
Lessons Learned Include:

  • Take an Active Interest in the Project
  • Bedrock Contour Maps Should Include Important Advisories
  • Advise the Owner about the Importance of Construction Observation

Case History 17: The Member Firm performed a geotechnical-engineering study and submitted a report of findings, including foundation-design recommendations, for an oil-sands-processing plant to be built upon oil sands.
Lessons Learned Include:

  • Establish Relationships.
  • Don’t Guess
  • Learn About Construction Observation Up-Front
  • Be Wary of Settlement Estimates

Case History 18: A GBA Member-Firm conducted a geotechnical-engineering study, provided foundation recommendations, and performed related geotechnical-engineering services, for a small flood-control pump station to be built on reclaimed marshland.
Lessons Learned Include:

  • Prepare a Complete Proposal
  • Recognize That If It Isn’t in Writing, It Didn’t Happen
  • Educate Clients About Project Risks
  • Be Wary of Project Delays.

Case History 19: Perform a geotechnical-engineering study and observe foundation installation at a multifamily-residential, rental-housing project to be constructed in four phases on the site of an abandoned, suburban railroad yard.
Lessons Learned Include:

  • Be Wary of Residential Projects
  • Take Aim at Shoddy Experts
  • Recessionary Periods Increase Risk


Case History 20: GBA Member performed a geotechnical-engineering study, developed foundation-design recommendations, and provided construction-materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services at a marine chemical terminal
Lessons Learned Include:

  • Experience Counts
  • Be Clear about Risks
  • If It Isn’t in Writing, It Didn’t Happen
  • Cutting Corners Leads to Problems
  • Don’t Accept Foolishness.

Thank you to all who contribute to GBA.   The refreshed Case Histories are a collaborative effort of GBA’s Editorial Review Committee and a team of consultants.

DOCTOR ENGLISH: Taboo Words and Phrases

GBA reminds us regularly, words and phrases are critical to the success of geoprofessional consultants.  It is critically important that we are aware some words and phrases have troublesome meanings and can create costly problems. The following list comprises a few of these words and phrases. Some you should not use at all; others you should use only with deliberate care.  Keep in mind, that the best evidence is what’s in writing and the final arbiter of what words mean usually is a jury of one’s peers.


  • All/every/full/complete (these absolutes bar the exceptions that usually exist)
  • Certify/warrant/guarantee/ensure/assure/insure (guarantee-liability is not covered by PLI)
  • Client (seldom is the client representative the client, too)
  • Defend (not in contracts)
  • Excavation (the hole or the process of making a hole)
  • General compliance (means “We will not comply” or “We have not complied.”)
  • Work (constructors perform work; geoprofessionals do not.)
  • Investigate (“explore” usually is correct)
  • Inspect(or)/monitor (usually, “observe” or “observer” is what’s meant)
  • A number of, many, few, heavy, large, several, etc. (mean one thing to you and something different to others)
  • Product (geoprofessionals do not produce products unless they welcome product-liability claims)
  • Recommendations (“confirmation-dependent recommendations” excepted when the recommendations are not confirmation- dependent)
  • Represent (can create a fiduciary-responsibility liability)
  • Time is of the essence/a timely manner (list exactly when you want it)


For more references about “Risky Language”, “Taboo Words” and “Dirty Words” download the following:


GBA’s Lunch & Learn – Risky Language

Practice Alert – Dealing with Absolutes

Practice Alert – Taboo Words

eBrownbag Webinar – Dirty Words

new GBA Business Brief: Financial-Performance-Survey Report

New GBA Business Brief:  Financial-Performance-Survey Report               

For more than 15 years, GBA has been collecting key financial metrics from member-firms so our members can measure their success and improve business performance and optimize efficiency.  The newest GBA Business Brief — available only to members and free of charge – comprises the GBA Business Practices Committee’s 2016-17 Financial-Performance Survey report, covering key financial-performance issues surveyed firms reported :

  • predistribution profit,
  • discretionary-profit distribution,
  • net multiplier,
  • utilization rate,
  • predistribution overhead,
  • marketing costs,
  • group insurance,
  • collections, and
  • fee backlog.

Using some of the data collected from past surveys, we enhanced this year’s report with trend lines so our members can similarly track their progress on key financial indicators.

Thank you to all the firms that participated in the survey.  We had more responses to this survey than we have had in the past.  A special thanks to Lee James (Lee James & Associates),Matt Moler, P.E. (S&ME) and Phil Pettway, (GBA) for collaborating on the survey and for their efforts on compilation of the results.

Download GBA Business Brief: Financial-Performance Survey 2016-17 Report HERE

Learn how to compute these data for your own firm by watching Lee James webinar, “Benchmarking Your Firm’s Financial Performance (and How to Complete GBA’s Financial Performance Survey).”