Where Culture leads industry
With the simple flip of a coin Wood and Grieve Engineers was born. The company was founded in 1961 by two college friends, Tony Wood and Kip Grieve, but when it came time to decide whose name to put at the front of the company they used a coin toss, and Tony won. The company was named Wood and Grieve as opposed to Grieve and Wood. With this decided they also became the youngest engineering company in the world, with both founders being in their late 20s. Wood and Grieve Engineers began as a structural and mechanical services company. However, through time and growth they expanded their range of services to influence electrical, civil, and hydraulics services. They currently have 9 offices, 8 of which are in Australia and 1 in China. These 9 offices are multi-discipline firms of consulting engineers, which offer their services to the private industry, government, land development, commercial, industrial and retail property sectors.
Advancements and new technology
As the company has grown in both size and influence they have received more design and construct opportunities. They are now being approached by a different client base. Whereas much of their work used to come from architects and project managers, it is now also coming from builders and developers.
Since 2008, Wood and Grieve has been developing and using a new design and drafting process known as Business Information Modelling (BIM). The main advantage of this new technology is that they not only create a drafting package but it is also a design tool. “It allows you to place a lot more information on a drawing,” says Jose Granado, the National Building Services Coordinator at Wood and Grieve Engineers. “We integrate the services in the building in 3D. It is more interactive. Once you hand that over to the client, they can click and get all the information they need that is related to the equipment installed. It’s a powerful tool,” says Granado. However, such developments do not exist without challenges. As BIM becomes more popular, there is difficulty in the transferring of information. For example, draftspersons are starting to use BIM and they now need to be familiar with more than just drafting or tracing, they also need to understand engineering design. “Once you use that package as a designer or engineer, you send the completed model over to a constructor who in turn has subcontractors working under him. They need to take this model and they need to carry it forward during the construction period. They need to be able to utilize the very same BIM tool. It’s challenging enough for the professionals, but it’s even more challenging for builders and contractors to be up to date with it,” says Granado. “A big challenge ahead is for the trade to pick it up and be as proficient as the professional industry”.
A second major challenge for Wood and Grieve Engineers, as well as many other companies within the industry, is finding and retaining skilled workers. Particularly in the West, there has been a skill shortage which has affected many different industries. Wood and Grieve understands the importance of young staff. “We have a huge push on graduate programs,” says Granado. They hire graduates yearly and spend both time and money training them. In the face of such efforts, Granado explains that they sometimes lose their young staff after only a few short years. They tend to go to oil and gas companies where their salaries are much larger. Granado explains how difficult and yet how important it is to keep good staff. Even throughout the global financial crisis, Wood and Grieve made an effort to retain key members of their company. “Because the culture of the organisation is not to let go of great people, we kept all the staff we possibly could because we knew there would be a turn around, and you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Good people are hard to come by. To find them again is such a nightmare. We’d rather reduce profitability to keep those people,” says Granado.
Professional development is also very important in regards to retaining staff members and keeping them happy. Wood and Grieve encourages their staff to get involved in industry bodies, especially the younger staff. “We encourage our young people and engineers not only to take part in the industry functions but also to get actively involved,” says Granado.
Wood and Grieve takes extraordinary measures in keeping all staff members pleased. “We are firm believers that our greatest asset is our people – without a question,” says Granado. Wood and Grieve takes great pride in their employee-company relations. “We are a very transparent company. We do business with our clients and employees in a transparent manner.” In addition to open, honest relationships, Wood and Grieve offers a terrific social club in all states and offices. They believe it is important to nurture relationships between all staff, both senior and junior. They host drinks in their offices every Friday, organise pasta evenings, movie nights, and Christmas parties. All of these events are all very well attended by staff, their families, and all prior managing directors, including co-founders Tony Wood and Kip Grieve.
Wood and Grieve Engineers have also implemented a staff profit share program. Upon reaching a certain threshold, they begin to distribute a portion of all profit to all staff members, in an equitable manner. This is done twice a year. “We’re very transparent. We promote the fact that we made money, usually done around the fridge at Friday night drinks. The more we make, the more we distribute,” says Granado. He believes the staff profit share, amongst other things, encourages staff members to use their full potential and drives them to success.
A culture of difference
A major point of difference for Wood and Grieve Engineers is the culture they have fostered within their company over the years. They are a very inclusive company in terms of their projects. No project is too big or too small for them. Much of their work is based on repeat clientele. “We are very selective in the way we choose clients rather than projects. We have 20 or so key clients in each state and we will do anything and everything for those clients at the drop of a hat. We’re a relationship based company,” says Granado. “Our culture is one of doing everything you possibly can for your client. That will carry us forward and it has done so for many many years.”
Name and shame
While Wood and Grieve don’t claim to be the most sustainable company, they have attempted to reduce their footprint in any way possible. Simply managing their energy within the office is important. “We have a little policy, we name and shame,” laughs Granado. “Every Monday we send an email around saying who has left their computers on over the weekend.” Additionally, they have implemented an environmental management policy in Perth. It is their largest office and they have had great results thus far. They intend to release it to all other states sometime in the short future.
The future of Wood and Grieve Engineers
Jose Granado predicts that the growth of Wood and Grieve Engineers will continue for some time. “Our strategy is to become a truly recognised national company first and foremost,” says Granado. Their aim is to double in size within the next 5-7 years, which they have accomplished in the past, so hopefully it won’t be particularly difficult for them. “Our strategy is to keep providing excellent service. The rest will follow.”