GBA Peer Reviews Improve Geoprofessional Firms

By Bob Rabeler, PE, past Chair of GBA Peer Review Committee (1998–2002), completed more than 30 GBA Peer Reviews over the past 25 years

In October 1999, Engineering News-Record lauded GBA’s Peer Review as one of the 125 most innovative construction industry developments of the prior 125 years. Peer Review was the only association concept so honored. Why such recognition?

Years ago, geoprofessional firms found themselves facing numerous legal battles, to the point that they could not obtain Professional Liability Insurance (PLI). Leaders in our industry borrowed a concept from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which willingly shared its materials and experience to help GBA initiate Peer Review. As a result of this successful program, as well as other valuable GBA programs, PLI for geoprofessional firms went from the highest cost to one of the lowest costs among design professionals.

So why is Peer Review so valuable? There are many reasons. Peer Reviewers with years of experience can sometimes see issues that the firm’s leadership misses. Peer Reviewers can also provide ideas and guidance for issues that the firm’s leadership are aware of. Peer Reviews are not solely focused on liability issues – they also look for ways the firm can improve their business.

Typically, Peer Reviews are comprehensive by looking at nine different core management components. Management and operational documents are reviewed, as well as example proposals, reports, and client contracts. Questionnaires are completed by staff and clients, providing valuable feedback. Key staff are interviewed, typically leaders and managers but also front-line staff from all sections of the firm. Armed with this information, the Peer Reviewer(s) provide meaningful feedback to the firm’s leadership typically in the form of a written report and an exit interview. Today, with the help of recent available technology, Peer Reviews can be completed virtually using Zoom, MS Teams, or similar programs making Peer Reviews more accessible, flexible, and less costly.

Many GBA firms have seen the value of GBA Peer Reviews and have completed multiple Peer Reviews over the years (typically every five years or so). Terra Insurance Company, who insures many GBA firms, has been a Peer Review believer since day one and has seen first-hand how Peer Reviews have lowered PLI costs and improved geoprofessional firms. Terra has even helped pay for the cost of Peer Reviews.