GHD’s people passionate about their ‘own’ practice

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20 September 2013

One of the world’s leading engineering, architecture and environmental consulting companies, GHD, continues to deliver to clients the benefits of a robust private ownership model.

Established in Australia in 1928, GHD entered the market as a pioneer for a business model built around diversification. In its formative years, GHD quickly developed recognition as an industry leader, firstly in water supply and sewerage systems in Australia, then expanding into transportation, property and buildings, environment and energy and resources markets globally.

In having surpassed a recent 85 year milestone, GHD’s CEO Ian Shepherd attributes the company’s longevity to its employee ownership.

“GHD is 100 percent privately owned, with its shareholders being employees. Our people have a vested interest in how we perform as an entity; their interactions with clients, the systems we use and ultimately how we pursue growth and opportunities. Everything we do is calibrated with the level of passion and professional pride associated with being private.

“What’s more, the inter-generational knowledge transfer and mentoring that our private-structure offers is invaluable. Quite often on projects we can have professionals with more than 20 years’ experience with the company working alongside graduates – this is a powerful combination, and one that emphasises the value of our offering to clients.”

“Long-term client relationships are the mainstay of GHD, which has helped build an enviable reputation in the infrastructure markets. Having clients who are loyal and hold in regard how GHD can help improve the efficiency of their assets is paramount – there are examples of clients who have continually engaged with us over a number of decades,” Ian continues.

Since 2000 there has been a significant extension of the resilient model, with international and market sector experience, allowing the company to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16%, through to 2013.

Predominantly, growth has been organic, with mergers being strategically placed in particular areas where additional market presence or momentum was required. Currently, 25 percent of revenue is derived from outside Australia, and this is expected to grow significantly in the next few years.

“What is less known is our long-lasting exposure to mining, and the oil and gas sectors. GHD is particularly dynamic and agile. We have quickly adapted to changing market conditions, and developed opportunities in emerging fields,” Ian says.

“We’re now observing unprecedented growth to our team in the Americas, where we’ve seen the team grow to more than 1000 people in the past two years alone.

“Throughout our history, we’ve remained focussed on professional service delivery and the application of project and program management. Additionally, the employee-owned nature of the company has allowed us to set long range strategies and develop a culture that is underpinned by some of the best technical capabilities in the world.”

Ian continues, “Our clients are now far more sophisticated, in that they now look towards longevity of their assets, delivering improved returns on their investment, and of course – they expect to be at the forefront of technology, whilst combining tight awareness of environmental impact.”

The combination of a growing footprint and diverse service offering is underpinned by the same core values that sat with those who founded the company.

On the question of growth beyond GHD’s current business structure, Ian comments, “At present, we’re confident that our current model is as it has always been: robust, dynamic and rewarding – to both our people and our clients.

“Over the next few years, our revenue is forecast to increase to more than AUD1.5 billion, clearly placing us in the top tier of the professional services industry world-wide. With a strong financial base, GHD is well poised to see these forecasts ring true.”

Ian says GHD’s international experience is significant, having completed projects in more than 50 countries. “These extend from billion dollar mixed-use buildings in the United Arab Emirates, through to coal deposit analyses in Turkey, to rail asset management in the UK, desalination projects in the USA and China and power generation studies in Malaysia. Also wider afield, a 2000 kilometre transmission line environmental impact assessment in Chile.”

Explaining what is unique about GHD in the context of recent changes to the ownership structure of GHD’s competitors, Ian offers, “GHD has built a reputation that is enviable to most. In particular in its founding country of Australia, but growing well in the other countries we operate in.

“This brand awareness has been protected through multiple inter-generational changes in leadership over the course of our history. Our model of employee ownership is highly sustainable and creates substantial value for our clients. We provide a distinctive alternative for talented professionals who are not satisfied with just working for a great company, but are also keen to be a part creating an enduring legacy of ownership for themselves and younger colleagues.”

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