NV5 the new Hot Firm No. 1
Global firm catapults to the top spot due to meteoric gains in revenue. Firm chairman and CEO Dickerson Wright says cross-selling services is key.
By Liisa Andreassen
The 18th annual Hot Firm List by Zweig Group features a new No. 1 – NV5 Global, Inc., a provider of technical engineering and consulting solutions headquartered in Hollywood, Florida. Appearing on the 100-firm list for the first time, NV5 replaced Houston-based oil and gas giant Gate, Inc., holder of Hot Firm’s top spot in 2015 and 2016.
Publicly traded NV5 is followed by CMTA Consulting Engineers, a leading sustainability firm based in Louisville, Kentucky, at No. 2, and the Vertex Companies, Inc., a global technical services firm based in greater Boston, at No. 3.
The full list can be viewed at hotfirm.com. Hot Firm rankings are based 50-50 on percentage growth rate and dollar revenue growth rate over the previous three-year period.
All 100 winners will be celebrated at the Hot Firm and A/E Industry Awards Conference held at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington, on September 21-22. Awards will be given out at a black-tie ceremony on the evening of September 22. Registration for this year’s event is still open.
NV5, with a combined 104 offices across the United States and in China, Vietnam, and the autonomous territory of Macau, is a truly global enterprise that serves the infrastructure, construction, real estate, and environmental markets. Over the last three years, the firm has experienced meteoric growth, from 2014 gross revenue of $108 million to $224 million in gross revenue last year – a 107 percent increase, according to figures published in the firm’s 2016 Annual Report.
The firm’s chairman and CEO, Dickerson Wright, has more than 35 years of experience managing engineering firms. Wright earned a bachelor of science in engineering from Pacific Western University and is a board-certified engineer in California and Wisconsin. He took time out of his busy schedule to discuss a few key aspects of running a powerhouse firm.
A CONVERSATION WITH DICKERSON WRIGHT.
The Zweig Letter: What’s the recipe for creating an effective board?
Dickerson Wright: In addition to having deep knowledge and a wealth of experience in our specific industry, our board members must understand and support the culture of our organization and our growth strategy. Everyone on our current board brings a different point of view to the table. They feel very comfortable voicing their opinions if they disagree with a particular deal or potential decision, but they all understand NV5’s goals and our business philosophy. Many of our board members also come from very large successful firms, so their input comes from a standpoint of growth and looking to the future, which is what we always want to remain focused on.
TZL: Is there a secret to effective ownership transition?
DW: Culture, culture, culture. Our definition of culture is very specific at NV5. We are a public company because we want partners, not key employees. We are a company focused on growth. The companies we acquire must agree to be integrated into our shared services platform so we know everyone’s progress is being measured the same, so we are all working toward the same goals, and so everyone has the same protections and resources that will allow them to do the best work possible. By being a public company and putting stock into our deals, we also eliminate the polarization of company owners who are seeking an exit strategy, and their employees who have been growing the business and the client base and are seeking ownership.
TZL: What has your firm done recently to upgrade its IT system?
DW: Great question because this is something we have been giving a lot of attention to lately. In addition to making sure we are maintaining the highest standards of safety and protection of our information, we now have 104 offices throughout the United States and abroad and that comes with opportunities and challenges of another kind. With such talented experts so geographically dispersed, we want to make sure that any engineer can support any project, no matter where it is, and having cutting edge technology is key to that ability. Eliminating sub-consultant fees where possible is a big focus of ours and we do this through cross-selling our services among our verticals. Technology is one thing we can do to make this initiative easy and intuitive for our team.
TZL: What’s the best way to recruit and retain top talent in a tight labor market?
DW: We drive stock very deep into our organization and that is one key reason we are a public company. It ensures that our employees own the same shares as our management team, as our investors, and that everyone has an opportunity to share in the company’s success, which can be measured objectively through public disclosures and our stock performance. Each of our verticals is run by an entrepreneurial leader who has a particular interest and expertise in his or her specific practice. They have an opportunity to grow those verticals and shape the business, but they also get the support needed to spur growth from the other verticals and the corporate organization. For this reason, we tend to attract employees who are interested in a fast-growing, flexible organization with clear opportunities for autonomy and leadership. Our company is flat and vertically structured, so there are also many points of access to leadership and our management team is constantly accessible to our employees.