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John P. Bachner
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17 December 2020 Shepherdstown, WV: Fundamentals of Professional Practice (FOPP) Class 30 enrollment is now open. Participants – “rising stars” in the geoprofessional firms that employ them – will begin their FOPP experience with six months of home- or office-based distance learning starting on February 8, 2021. Working with a mentor – typically a senior member of a firm’s staff – as well as FOPP Program Director and creator John Bachner, each participant will read Bachner’s newly revised Practice Management for Design and Environmental Professionals and conduct a research study designed to enhance a firm’s business performance. Participants and their mentors can choose from 90 FOPP-developed research assignments described in the FOPP Research-Assignment Compendium or create an assignment of their own. “Most of the research involves important issues people can’t seem to find time for during the normal work week,” Bachner said, “like identifying why a firm lost money on some of its projects over the past five years, or developing new formats for proposals and reports, or creating a sales force for each branch office.” The course concludes with a powerful, 2½-day seminar, August 11-August 14, 2021, at the Hilton Denver Inverness in Englewood, CO.

According to Bachner, “The seminar is a vital element of the course. We looked into conducting it by Zoom or a similar mechanism, but the quality impact was unacceptable.” Accordingly, Bachner postponed the FOPP Class 29 seminar from April 2020 to August 2021, when he will combine it with the FOPP Class 30 seminar. “We’ll have well over 100 people at the seminar, close to the maximum we can handle,” Bachner said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The FOPP website – – provides a comprehensive description of the program itself, participant-survey results, and testimonials of participants and CEOs of the participants’ firms. Professional-liability loss prevention is one of the program’s key concerns. As stated on the website, “Sometimes it only takes seconds to commit million-dollar mistakes . . . . Almost always, they involve inadequate ‘soft skills,’ if only because a professional has neglected to establish a resilient relationship with the client representative. FOPP focuses on the soft skills that relatively few technical professionals have ever been taught. How to:
  • avoid disputes and calmly resolve those that cannot be avoided;
  • express oneself clearly, without ambiguity;
  • understand key contract issues;
  • perform active listening; and
  • become aware of professional-liability-insurance issues.”
Effective writing is a major concern, Bachner said. A Harvard English major with fifty years’ experience working with geoprofessionals, he states on the FOPP website, “What’s in writing comprises the best evidence because most claims arise more than two years after the fact; when memories have faded and become confused. And that’s precisely why the writing involved must be effective, without any of the ambiguity that attorneys can twist to show that the supposedly learned professional was not clear, allegedly leading a constructor, owner, or other party to make a mistake. Did you know that the notation ‘I observed the excavation’ cost one firm more than one-million dollars? That ‘In general accordance with ASTM E1527’ cost another firm more than a million-and-a-half?” Attributed testimonials underscore FOPP’s effectiveness. As one FOPP graduate stated, “I learned more about being an engineering professional in three days than I did in five years of college. I will take everything I learned here to my job.” Another commented that FOPP “was the best professional-development experience of my career.” FOPP is sponsored by six engineering associations, including:
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE),
  • Geo-Institute of ASCE (G-I),
  • Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA),
  • California Geotechnical Engineers Association (CalGeo),
  • Colorado Association of Geotechnical Engineers (CAGE), and
  • Geoprofessionals Serving Texas (TCEL).
Firms that are members of a sponsor organization or that support staff members’ individual memberships receive a significant reduction of FOPP tuition. So, too, do firms that are insured by the seventh sponsor, Terra Insurance Company, the highest-rated professional-liability-insurance company in the United States.

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