Whitfield Consulting Services (WCS) now boasts over 40 staff in two offices, and supports Tier 1 contractors across a number of sectors with civil engineering design and consultancy services. Here we explore how the company has grown, and how it’s been careful to maintain its core values throughout the expansion.
WCS was founded in 2007. Founder and Managing Director Asa Whitfield had been working on a variety of projects, often with partners that had a focus on rail and/or power. “As a Chartered Civil Engineer, leading on the civil engineering side of projects I saw a clear opportunity for a company founded on a passion for what I had been doing within large organisations – assisting blue-chip engineering organisations by providing civils design expertise.”
For several years, Asa worked in roles such as Lead Civil Engineer, bringing civil engineering expertise to large, electrical engineering firms. Initially, most of the work was in one specific niche.
“Power for rail came first”, adds Asa, “including substations and cable routes, both overground and for London Underground. But it quickly diversified. Clients were happy with the work, so I was being asked to do further rail projects – bridges and so forth – and other energy work, such as substations unconnected to transport. Later diversification and growth meant a requirement for support from others.”
“Construction is a huge industry”, comments Asa, “but it can be a small world, where word of mouth matters. Once a few clients decide they like your work, and then may mention you to colleagues they know at other firms, you can become the ‘go-to’ for certain types of project, and that’s what happened with us.”
In 2017 WCS opened its first permanent office and by 2021 the company employed 20 people; today there are over 40 staff. The company has also opened an office in Northern Ireland, to directly serve clients working across the island of Ireland, as well as to tap into an under-exploited talent base for all of our projects.
WCS identifies its core strengths as experience, agility and collaboration:
- Experience – senior engineers like Nick Lowe, Matthew Smith, David Crumley, Natalja Petkune and Ioannis Iliadis have extensive careers working with Tier 1 contractors on a wide range of projects, and WCS as a team has unrivalled experience in civil engineering for power and rail.
- Agility – we understand that contractors face tight deadlines and significant potential penalties, and need partners who are responsive and flexible, with a can-do attitude to getting the job done.
- Collaboration – we often work on multi-disciplinary projects alongside other engineering colleagues and several stakeholder companies, so a co-operative, team-oriented mindset, with a focus on good communications, is key.
In addition, Asa adds that a common-sense, practical approach has helped the company: “We’re not one of the consulting firms that generate extensive and costly document packages designed to impress in the boardroom as much as support the engineers. We concentrate on delivering top quality technical drawings that assist our clients in the construction of their projects.”
When recruiting, WCS always focuses on hiring people, not just engineers; if you take on individuals with the right, open and committed mindset, then the team characteristics of agility and collaboration will follow.
Growth has brought challenges as well as opportunities; small companies often work without many formal procedures, relying on the fact that everyone knows everything that is happening. The WCS of today has evolved formal, written processes in everything from communications to team structures, approvals and workflow, as well as areas such as HR and CPD which makes us a stronger team going forward.
Growing the team through recruitment is a challenge, as Asa explains: “Due to Brexit and people leaving the labour market, there is a skills shortage, but despite the challenging circumstances we have taken on fantastic team members, and continue to do so. All in all, things are going very well. Our average project is much larger than in the past. Recently we had a client discuss a job that was very much our traditional bread and butter – and then he hesitated, and asked if this one was too small for us to be interested, which certainly made me think how far we’d come, though we assured him we would be happy to take on the project.”
Looking forward, WCS is committed to careful growth rather than maximum growth. “If you have forecast work, and you know you can deliver it, that matters far more to us than artificial targets”, Asa adds.
With this steady growth in mind WCS will soon be moving from its current home in Kingston-Upon-Thames to much larger premises in Surbiton, having outgrown their current location.
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