Winning the International award for three years running puts Mott MacDonald in a class of its own as a truly global firm. NCE talks to chairman Peter Wickens.
Ongoing global economic troubles highlight the importance of taking a long-term view − both in running a business and in meeting customers’ needs.
Mott MacDonald’s strong performance in the last year is underpinned by a rolling five year plan that has seen the company diversify geographically and by market sector.
“As an employee owned company we are not subject to the whims of the stock market and can make long term plans in the best interests of our staff, our customers and for the prosperity of the group,” says chairman Peter Wickens.
“By being forward looking we have retained the staff − the experience and skills − necessary to respond to economic growth,” Wickens continues.
The company’s approach enabled it to grow by 11% in 2009 and to avoid the major redundancies suffered by some competitors in the same period.
“By being forward looking we have retained the staff necessary to respond to economic growth”
Peter Wickens, Mott MacDonald
Wickens says Mott MacDonald is “staff-focused” and is proud that, for three years running, it has been a top 10 employer in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For list. This year the firm was the only engineering consultancy to make the list.
Wickens describes Mott MacDonald not as a British firm that works internationally but rather as a global consultancy with principal offices in 50 countries and a UK head office. The firm is working on projects in 150 countries.
“Mott MacDonald’s internal ownership, structure and systems mean that, wherever in the world it works, it can provide local service backed by global resources − all to world class standards,” he says.
A huge skills base enables it to provide an all-inclusive service, covering the whole lifecycle of even the largest and most complex projects.
Mott MacDonald has been honing its systems for knowledge management in order to get the most out of new ideas and promote innovation.
The firm’s multidisciplinary capability and inter-disciplinary working enable it to realise synergies that add value to its many projects, Wickens adds.
The company is putting energy into understanding customer needs and improving its agility in responding to them. The result is constant evolution through the addition of new services and growth.
In the last year Mott MacDonald has increased its presence in Europe with new principal offices in Serbia, Albania, Kazakhstan and Turkey, and strengthened its business in Africa by creating sub-regional offices in north, southern, east, west and central Africa.
Its fast growing business in South Africa has been boosted by the acquisition of local power specialist Merz & McLellan.
“As an employee-owned company we are not subject to the whims of the stock market.”
“While bringing additional skills and strong industry relationships to the Mott MacDonald family, customers in Africa’s fast-growing power sector will benefit from the huge resource offered by the group,” says Wickens.
Acquisition of clinical management consultancy Teamwork has boosted the firm’s health sector capability, while Fulcrum Consulting, specialising in low energy and low carbon building services design, augments Mott MacDonald’s award winning strengths in sustainable building design.
Fulcrum has a portfolio of landmark projects. Its advisory services are also sought by government.
What about the future? In 2010-11 Mott MacDonald is planning further acquisitions to boost its technical capability and presence in markets including Australia, the Netherlands and Japan. And Mott MacDonald has added new muscle to its sustainability offering by launching a methodology known as INDUS.
This integrates sustainability into design, making it part and parcel of the decision making process alongside technical, financial and statutory planning, safety and regulatory considerations.
“INDUS addresses the gap that can exist between the aspirations embodied in a customer’s policies and the performance of their projects,” Wickens says.
The methodology is supported by a growing portfolio of tools, which examine and score whole life costs, impacts and performance, enabling a longterm view of sustainability to be taken.
Among those tools, Mott MacDonald claims to have developed the industry’s first whole life cost and carbon assessment tool, LifeCYCLE.
The firm has created a climate change adaptation and mitigation team, working across all its core sectors. The team advises on institutional practices, resource management, decision making processes, policy, governance and behaviour, and on the way buildings, infrastructure and transportation are designed and managed.
Mott MacDonald has a proud tradition of innovation, Wickens notes: “NCE itself said that, ‘while other firms could claim world-leading abilities in specific sectors, we achieve extraordinary levels of innovation right across the business’.”
The firm’s strength across all sectors has contributed to its success in winning the International Consultancy of the Year Award three years in a row. “We’re aiming to keep it,” he quips.
The Mott MacDonald story: From UK firm to global player
In the face of global financial difficulties, last year Mott MacDonald grew by 11%, earning over £1bn. The company’s performance is down to a range of factors, says Wickens.
Mott MacDonald is deliberately diverse, working in 150 countries and with projects spanning transport systems to HIV/AIDS programmes, satellite communications to renewable energy, water supply to education and buildings to social development.
Wickens says this “unique diversity” protects the group as a whole from a downturn in any one market. The company is forward looking and anticipates the issues and pressures faced by its customers.
Mott MacDonald is internally owned, enabling it to act in the best interests of staff and customers, rather than the financial markets. The company has a motivated and loyal workforce thanks to the energy it puts into employee welfare.
Mott MacDonald has the same structure, management and quality assurance systems, culture and values worldwide. This helps to deliver the same standards across the globe. Sustainability is central to projects and the company’s corporate behaviour.