With all the talk about diversifying the local economy, one of the heads of a local engineering firm says it could be a good and maybe profitable concept for businesses as well.
Managing Principal of Stantec, Justin Jennings-Wray said one of the good things about being a company with diverse talents, and even having local staff with several varying skills was that these elements could be brought to bear in tough times.
Noting that Stantec, which has offices in Canada, the US, the Caribbean and further afield, has had 55 years of uninterrupted profitability, he said, “The other reason is the diversity”.
“There are various sectors in Stantec. There is a transportation sector where we look at highways; environmental, urban land and for buildings and so on. There was a time when urban land was king, with work being done in Florida and those places, but with the bust in the States and the real estate it has dwindled away almost to nothing; but then the environmental has picked up.
“So what happens is that when one sector is down, the other one picks up. So there is strength in having a diverse range of skills and I would like to believe that the same applies to what we do locally. Whereas some of our competitors may be more focused on buildings and construction and so on, but that’s not our primary focus. We do environmental engineering, EIAs, drainage studies and one of the benefits of that is that it tends to bring the clients to you a little earlier, but also there is a market for it.
“So whereas construction might be at a low ebb, so to speak, there is still a lot of interest on the planning side. People are forward planning for future work they might do when things turn around. We are seeing more environmental and more drainage and other types of studies,” said Jennings-Wray.
He said additionally the fact that Stantec was a global firm, they had access to resources, almost literally at their finger-tips should jobs require skills that are not home-based.
While the other overseas firms might have persons that specialise only in one area, he said locally the staff were more widely skilled. Jobs in other countries of the region as well, he said, had contributed to their ability to market their skills.
“There is an environmental impact assessment we are about to start in St. Lucia. So we are going to be doing some work in St. Lucia. So we have been keeping a diverse skills set… and more recently we have also been exporting our skills to North America, to Canada and so on…
“All of those little things keep us going. It is definitely not the best of times, but we have our systems in place to try and improve our marketing and it is not just about getting yourself out there, but you’ve got to manage your business properly to make sure you have the adequate cash flow to keep yourself employed.”
As for other businesses, Jennings-Wray said he personally believed the principles adopted by Stantec in terms of its own diversification could serve other companies to weather the difficulties.
“I would say in any business, if there is an item that is your key item which is bringing in business, at some point the demand might go down so you always have to be scanning. Based on my experience in consulting, the more diverse your skill range as an individual person and as a company, the more outfitted you are to adjust in this market.” (LB)