Acquiring the specialist Brusselsbased structural consultancy TCA is turning out to be a very successful move, according to Waterman International managing director and Waterman TCA chairman Simon Harden.
But, he adds, a structural engineering practice was far from top of Waterman's shopping list when it began to look at its strategic options in Europe.
'We saw Brussels as a good base for our European operations, but we were actually planning to take over a local M&E practice.
The impression we had was that M&E consultancies in Belgium were about 10 years behind the UK, and our M&E expertise would give us an edge in the market.'
The Waterman Group is in the UK's top 20 in terms of overall turnover (NCE Consultants File 2004). In the building sector, however, Waterman is in the top 10. Its M&E skills are acknowledged - but it began life as a classic structural consultant.
So when its trawl through the Brussels market turned up five 'unattractive' M&E consultancies it was ready to consider the merits of TCA - and the benefits its specialised expertise in high technology precast concrete could bring to the group's European development.
At the time TCA was owned by a local industrial group but had developed its market since its formation in 1981 to the point that 95% of its work was for outside clients. 'TCA's reputation was very high, and it was a simple purchase logistically, ' says Harden.
'So instead of following our original plan - which was to start with M&E and add structural design later - we decided to add our M&E expertise and other multi-disciplinary skills to an established structural practice.
Just like we did in the UK.'