Whitbybird plans to double in size from 500 staff to 1,000 in the next five years. 'We want to develop every person to the full extent of their capabilities, ' he explains. 'If you're going to do that and not lose these people, you've got to have opportunities for them to go to, ' says chairman Mark Whitby.
Growth is also required if the company is to respond to the needs of its clients. 'As they get bigger jobs we need more people, ' says Whitby. This growth will come about in three ways: diversification into different engineering disciplines; and opening and expanding more offices in the UK and overseas.
'We're at the forefront of structural engineering, but there are areas we are not known in where we feel we could do a lot better than the people out there, ' says Terry Dobbins, UK director, Structures & Civils.
The company's civils team is 40 strong and there are a further 30 people working in environmental and geotechnical engineering. Both teams are set to expand to between 150 and 200 in the next five years.
At the moment half the company's staff are at its London office, but this will change as more offices are opened. There are eight UK regional offices, and three abroad - in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Mumbai - with a fourth, in Verona, set to open this spring.
Much of the company's success so far has been 'opportunistic', says Whitby.
'Where we've been fortunate in the past is that we've been able to attract key people who are thinking of opening their own practices who have realised they would be better off joining us.
'We are very keen to meet people with like minds to work in places such as Australia, Singapore and China.'
Innovation 3D CAD modelling Whitbybird has invested heavily in 3D CAD and now models all of its projects this way. The latest development is parametric CAD software, which, says director Stephen Melville, can be thought of as 'software with intelligence'.
'We use Digital Project and GC to construct and manipulate complex geometric forms that can easily be regenerated if an element is changed, ' he says. 'This enables us to work even more closely with other designers.' Element Energy Whitbybird spin-off Element Energy is a low-carbon consultancy that provides a range of services from strategic advice to engineering consultancy in the low-carbon energy sector. It has high levels of expertise in hydrogen and fuel cells.
What's it like to work at Whitbybird?
Insiders often describe Whitbybird as having a 'work hard, play hard' culture. The open plan offices and flat management structure suit people who work well in teams, are willing to take responsibility at an early stage in their careers and are not afraid to stand up for themselves.
IT-based management systems are designed to enable senior engineers to continue doing design as well as managing teams and a transparent attitude ensures that all staff can see how well projects are progressing.
Other benefits include:
rofit-related bonus and staff share ownership schemes
enhanced maternity/paternity/adoption policies
office lunch every Friday
annual five-a-side football tournament
PhD/MSc and professional chartership sponsorships
Investors in People accredited
significant interest-free graduate loans
'Give as you Earn' participation for nominated charitie
free art and language courses, together with architecture tours
Whitbybird was also ranked 36th in the 2007 Sunday Times list of 100 Best Companies to Work For.