David Williams, founder and president of Hickman Williams and Associates, Inc (HWA) has been leading the company located in Bend for 25 years. HWA provides civil engineering, surveying and land use planning services.
How has your business been impacted by the economic downturn?
It has been fairly substantial. In 2007 we had 35 employees, now we have 12 employees, it was a pretty sudden shift from 2007-08. There was a lack of work; we are tied pretty closely with the building industry.
How have you reinvented yourselves to stay in business?
A couple of things: one, you look to see where the work is. From 2000-07 our firm did 60 percent of the subdivisions in Central Oregon. Those came to a stop, so we refocused and took a look at where the work was. Most of the work that was left over was in the public sector; we had always done public work but that wasn’t our primary focus. We looked at doing work state-wide, but with the size of our firm our market is the Central Oregon area. We now work with the City of Bend helping them with ADA compliance and the recent bond measure on the roundabout project. Because of the size of a lot of these projects, we have been teaming with other companies like HDR and Brown and Caldwell.
What are your goals going forward in our present economic climate?
We will continue to work with the City of Bend and City of Redmond. We have some projects with Bend Park District, and will continue to serve the private clients we have. We also are looking to work with ODOT on some of their smaller projects and team with OBEC and some other larger firms to get more state work.
One of the main focuses we have going forward is the transition of the company. I have always felt we have been very fortunate to have some very talented people working for us; myself and some of the partners are getting up there in age, one of the goals in two-five years is do a hand-off to some of the younger employees so they could buy into the company and take it forward. I started the company 25 years ago, and personally would like to see the company continue.
What have been the keys to your continued success?
I have always wanted a company that had good quality people working for me, to put out good quality work everyone could be proud of and have a group of people who got along well together and have some fun doing it. My philosophy is you have to laugh a bit everyday and have some fun; if you are not enjoying what you do, you should find something else. We like to foster a positive work environment.
One of the other things we like to provide is flexibility. We live in Central Oregon with great mountain biking, skiing and want our employees to spend time with their families. In this business I have always told my employees that the client comes first, but if you take care of your client, and tomorrow is a good powder day, as long as business is taken care of, go ski. The most important thing you are going to do is raise a family. With the size of the company, we can be flexible. Many employees have been here over 20 years.