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Atwell Executives’ Thoughts on Our Growth and Future
Chief Growth Officer David Richter and Chief Corporate Officer Tim Augustine took a moment to share their thoughts on the exciting growth of Atwell and what it means for our culture, people, and industry impact.
- Where do you see the future of the company going?
David: I see us growing into new geographies and breaking into new end markets. One of the reasons I was brought on board last year was to create a more proactive growth strategy, especially regarding acquisitions. Since I joined the company last September, we’ve acquired six companies and we are about to close our seventh. We expanded to Maryland and Washington State, and we’ve added to our operations in Florida and Ohio. We have a lot of national clients, and we want to serve those clients no matter where their projects are located.
Atwell has been very successful over the past twenty years. During that time, we’ve moved up the ENR Top 500 Design Firm List from No. 324 to No. 74, and there is potential to keep growing.
Tim: I agree. We continue to offer our clients local expertise and a national reach. Our growth strategy is intentional, and it provides an opportunity for team members to expand their experiences and add to their breadth of experience, whether that’s staying in their existing market sector or expanding into a new one like energy – power generation, power delivery, or hydrocarbons. It also provides economic sustainability for the company.
- Atwell has seen rapid growth in the last year. What has made you proud throughout the transition?
David: We’ve prioritized making the integration process as easy as possible. Once we have completed our due diligence and our strategies align, they see the value in being part of a bigger, more national brand and part of a company that has more resources and capabilities than a smaller firm. Helping them achieve their full potential as businesses and as professionals has been a very rewarding part of my job at Atwell.
Tim: We’ve also remained focused on our culture and people. We have a very adaptive, flexible working environment, and we’re constantly evaluating ways to improve it.
I’m proud that 35% of our hires this year came from referrals. It’s a great measurement of the health of our culture when people are actively recognizing and recommending Atwell.
Additionally, I’m proud of how we’ve been able to grow organically as fast as we’ve been able to grow on the acquisition side. It’s important to have that constant balance and focus on making sure that, as our geographic reach expands, we’re also expanding opportunities for existing staff to grow their skills.
- What principles do you use when researching a company for a potential acquisition?
David: First, we consider the additional capabilities and resources they might offer in a geographic market we’re already in. Second, we see how they can help us expand and grow our capabilities in new geographies where we’re not. We also look to add new services in existing markets so we can do more for our clients.
However, the most important question before we even look at the numbers is: “Would this business add to what Atwell does?” We want to continue to grow our skills and capabilities.
Tim: In addition to everything David said, I’ll add that they must have a comparable culture for the integration to work. If the culture is not aligned by being team-oriented, employee-focused, and client-driven, it typically doesn’t work for us. Also, they must add leadership to the company. If the acquisition would be an exit strategy, that’s typically not a strategy we want to employ for an acquisition, unless second-tier leadership is very, very strong.
I want to stress that in all the acquisitions we’ve done, we’ve been fortunate to add very strong talent and leadership skills to Atwell.
- What is one goal you have for the company in the remainder of 2023?
David: My goal is to close the acquisitions that we are currently working on. We’ve done three so far this year with great companies: Blueline, DexBender, and Bay Engineering, and we have several other conversations going on.
Tim: My goal for 2023 is to stay the course and stay focused on our active projects. Starting in October, we’ll begin our business planning process for 2024 as our leaders will start talking to our existing clients about their drivers for 2024. Not only will we grow through merger and acquisition activity throughout the end of the year, but I also aim to finish the year strong and continue pushing the momentum into 2024.
David: I’ve seen a lot of firms in this industry doing acquisitions to make up for or to mask a fundamentally weak underlying business. Atwell is doing the opposite. We have a very, very strong business that’s growing organically, and we’re doing acquisitions on top of that. That’s a great foundation for continued growth into the future.
- How do you help the company stay ahead of competitors when it comes to industry trends?
Tim: Number one is that we remain focused on our people. Our competitive advantage is our people, our culture, and our core values, all of which support our growth strategy. For instance, one of those values is to be bold, be creative, and unafraid to try. We constantly challenge ourselves to do better.
Number two is continuing to focus on our existing clients and committing to serve them more. For instance, we’ve done an excellent job this year in pivoting into the hydrocarbon space and introducing renewables or adapting things like green hydrogen or carbon sequestration.
We also spend a considerable amount of time and effort focused on intentional research for urgent industries, defined as an industry that will grow significantly in the next five to 10 years.