Sustainable Success, National Reach and a Local Focus


A local Minnesota engineer, with a commitment to innovative civil engineering in land development, started a small consulting firm in 1972. Over time, the company expanded its service offerings into surveying, followed by traffic and environmental services, and enjoyed ongoing successes with clients who kept the company with them as they transitioned into bigger, diverse projects.
By the early nineties, the business was reincorporated into Westwood Professional Services, reflecting the company’s breadth of services across a diverse body of industries.

What started as a small-scale, civil engineering group would eventually evolve into one of North America’s leading providers of multidisciplinary surveying and engineering services. From oil and gas to residential, commercial and even the alternative energy development of wind farms and solar plants, there is no project too big or out of reach for Westwood.

The company which began with four staff now employs over four hundred, working across nearly every state in the continental U.S. According to Kevin Larabee, Vice President of Human Resources, it now has, “more than one hundred professional engineering licenses across thirty-six states, and a similar, but larger cadre of licensed surveyors who are licensed to work across forty-two states.” Westwood also deploys an average of 100 survey field crews annually.

Westwood’s national reach with a local focus has made the company a clear choice for developers. The company is particularly skilled in surveying and engineering, representing about 90 percent of the business, with the remaining 10 percent being complementary and environmental services. From multimillion dollar pipelines to large-scale residential and commercial projects, Westwood exemplifies the benefits of national representation, driven by local initiative.

With offices located in Minnesota, Texas, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota and Colorado, Westwood operates in forty-five states, and the number is growing. Westwood’s interstate operating capabilities are a crucial component of the company’s development. The firm’s national reach has unique benefits for Westwood clients, and national licensing is something which continues to separate its services from the competition.

One of the most unique features of Westwood is the way in which it has facilitated growth; interstate licenses have been a crucial component of this success. “I think what is interesting about who we are and what we do is that we don’t have a dedicated sales force. We have a few employees who focus on business development but the majority of our business is repeat business that comes in as a result of the client satisfaction that we have built with our project managers,” says Mr. Larabee.

Skilled and knowledgeable project management is at the core of the Westwood approach. Since the company operates on this underlying ideology of good service, it is crucial that project managers have the expertise and mobility to travel with clients. This flexibility enables Westwood to work closely with its clients throughout the development of both singular projects and larger developments. Since the company is involved with the development of the country’s biggest projects such as pipelines and wind farms, this national capability is invaluable.

By enabling developers to take Westwood services with them across the country, the company is able to guarantee the viability and consistency of results. The national mobility component of its model continues to drive its success, earning it sought after positions in the country’s biggest projects.

There are obvious benefits to the wide national presence of Westwood but, according to CEO and President Paul Greenhagen, the local industry is an equally important part of its strategy. Since the company’s services are ultimately predicated on the knowledge of its staff, local awareness is an invaluable resource to the overall design and implementation of its multidisciplinary services.

“Being a leader in the national industry certainly is beneficial to the business overall, but we see an equal importance in remaining reputable on a local level,” says Mr. Greenhagen. Consequently, the firm has employed a unique approach which enables its national company to remain in touch with the localities in which it operates.

According to Mr. Larabee, years of experience has brought Westwood to the realisation that, “the hardest part (of being a national company) is duplicating your culture and having a presence in a local market.” This challenge continues to drive Westwood’s commitment to hiring local talent. It finds that local knowledge is not just practical, but an essential part of sound design.

“In addition to hiring excellent surveyors and engineers, we also hire directly into the markets we serve, so that, in addition to having engineering and surveying expertise, we also have market expertise, because you need both of those to be successful on a project,” explains Mr. Greenhagen.

When one considers the company’s growth in the absence of a sizable dedicated sales force, it is clear that Westwood is doing something different. According to Mr. Greenhagen, it’s not just what the company does that drives success, it’s who doing it.

Marketing and Communications Director, Clare McDonough, explains that, at Westwood, “Our people are everything.” Ultimately, it is the highly skilled staff who have led to the national successes of the company. The surveying and engineering industries are knowledge based, driven wholly by the expertise of workers. As any seasoned professional knows, skills come with experience. Westwood’s experiential knowledge is unmatchable, and it is the firm’s multidisciplinary projects which continue to bring creativity and innovation to the development table.

According to Mr. Greenhagen, “to be successful on a project, you need a real understanding of what the client wants as well as a professional expertise to deliver those results.” Westwood works across six markets, including: residential development, commercial development, oil and gas, power delivery, wind energy and solar. This variety has granted Westwood experience in a range of skills sets which enable the firm to approach projects in unconventional and innovative ways.

When hiring, Westwood seeks out professionals with a diverse range of backgrounds, believing that there is strength in incorporating an array of perspectives, says Mr. Greenhagen. “Throughout each one of our markets that we work in, we look for people who have that expertise from our side of the business, but also from the developer, builder and contractor side of the business. Because it gives us a totally unique perspective […] we spread that through process across the company.”

Although the sustainable energy market is a relatively new industry, the company has been working within the sector for nearly two decades. It began as a surveyor for the wind energy market back in 1997. As the company built a name for itself, the firm teamed with experts and developed a cohort of staff with expertise in the industry. The outside expertise the company brought on board was integral to implementing change in the form of strategic alignment of staff, positions, and getting everyone headed in the same direction.

“As a developer, you may have done a few sites over time, but you don’t get to do sites in various terrain, different states and different climate, where we have seen just about everything; we have seen almost every scenario,” says Mr. Greenhagen. This experiential knowledge base allows Westwood to continue bringing expertise and learning from its clients on each new sustainability project.

On the back of several successful wind energy projects, the company moved into solar, following through the company’s growth policy of working with satisfied clients to enter new areas. Its success in the wind farm and alternative energy sector is directly related to its national reach according to Mr. Greenhagen. “Wind farms are in multiple states, so that really influenced Westwood to acquire licensing in multiple states as well.”

Additionally, Westwood has taken on board staff with first-hand experience in wind farm development, believing once again, that there is power in having knowledgeable staff who provide diverse perspectives. Mr. Larabee explains: “We have hired from the development side, believing that having that knowledge would help us to understand what our clients really want to accomplish – not what an engineer or a surveyor thought they wanted to accomplish – was important.” Westwood’s continuing strategy is to hire staff members who are well-rounded in the business.

Although alternative energy remains a prime industry for the company, it facilitates sustainable design and implementation across each of its projects. Years of experience within the sustainability sector has influenced Westwood to help companies outside of the sector incorporate features of sustainability into designs. “Sound engineering and surveying are crucial to the sustainability of projects across the board, whether a sustainable energy site or an oil or gas site,” says Mr. Larabee.

Integrity is an ideal to which the company is committed– an ideal which is reflected in its long-standing customer relationships, its commitment to energy independence and, most importantly, its dedication to building sustainable futures.

In addition to Westwood’s aim to remain a leader in the professional services industry, it is heavily invested in the development of its staff and the communities in which it operates. From initiatives which centre on young women’s growth in the engineering and sustainability sectors, to staff-driven Toys for Tots drives, the company is continually seeking out innovative ways to remain an active feature of its many communities.

Westwood’s approach is unrelenting, and its national successes have gained it international recognition. Being awarded a prestigious spot on ZweigWhite’s Hot Firms List of 2014 as the sixth fastest growing architecture, engineering, planning and environmental consulting company was reaffirmation of the firm’s place among the industry’s best.

Each year, as Westwood expands, its staff become more skilled. Ultimately, it is this which ensures that it will remain on top for years to come.

July 19, 2018, 3:36 PM EDT

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