Hargrove Engineers + Constructors is a Mobile, Alabama-headquartered engineering, procurement, and construction management (EPC) company with the capabilities to handle both larger and smaller projects. Construction in Focus magazine last featured the firm in a 2017 article titled “The Engineers and Constructors Who Build Relationships,” wherein we analyzed the unique qualities that have helped Hargrove to advance from a sole proprietorship in 1995 into the multi-operational business it is today.
Simply put, Hargrove is a team-oriented ESOP company that emphasizes business-client relationships, always looking for ways to give the customer as much value as possible. Since we last featured Hargrove, it has only continued to grow. It has recently opened two new offices, continuing its trend of expansion into the Texas and Louisiana regions, with a new office opened every year since 2014.
The last four offices Hargrove has opened are: Lake Charles, LA, in 2018; Angleton, TX, in 2017; Port Arthur, TX, in early 2016; and Houston in 2014. Altogether, the firm now has 14 offices.
“The office openings were each prompted by client need – our clients with multiple U.S. sites have asked Hargrove to expand into the region based on strong relationships elsewhere,” Fred Robertson, Professional Engineer and Vice President of EPC Services, tells us.
Hargrove’s growth has been monitored by the ENR (Engineering News-Record) Sourcebook. It has risen from the #20 provider of design services in Industrial Process/Petroleum to #15. Within this category, Hargrove was ranked #3 in the chemicals sector, #4 in pulp and paper, #10 in pharmaceuticals, #11 in refining, and #15 in fossil fuel power generation.
When asked which factors have helped to spur the company’s double-digit growth, which has continued over the last five years, Robertson remarks that Hargrove has been expanding its capabilities and bringing on new teammates who are eager, entrepreneurial, and responsive. As a result, the firm has been able to offer more to its clients.
“We intentionally make what we call strategic hires to increase our overall capabilities. We’re an engineering company, so it’s the people that form the core of our business,” he explains.
As we mentioned in last year’s feature, things changed dramatically for Hargrove when its Founder and President Ralph A. Hargrove opened up partnership to other teammates. The 100 percent employee-owned company’s growth skyrocketed as Mr. Hargrove grew a dedicated team committed to customer service, working together, and contributing to the communities where the company is active.
“The overall success of a company in this business is 99 percent your talent pool. We are constantly looking for talent. The president of our company has said that if we find the right person, we are going to bring them on. We’ll find a way to put good people to work as opposed to finding the work and then worrying about how we are going to put the people there,” states Robertson.
But as the dynamic company grows – it now employs well over 1,000 people – maintaining a cohesive corporate culture is something that must be done purposefully. Hargrove’s motto is “One Team,” and its ESOP (employee stock ownership program) is known internally as a TESOP (teammate stock ownership program). Hargrove never hires staff, but it is always looking to hire teammates.
The team at Hargrove operates in a collaborative manner to do what’s best for the customer and ultimately the company, because teammates are literally invested in the business. In addition, teammates are invited to make tax-deductible donations through their payroll to The Hargrove Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports hundreds of local and national causes each year, just a few of which include the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, March of Dimes, United Way, the American Heart Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and other scholarship, mentorship, and workforce development programs. Being able to participate in Hargrove’s philanthropic efforts financially as well as through volunteer work and community events has also helped to foster the company’s team spirit.
In order to reach more communities and children in need, the Foundation is working to expand the Hargrove Adaptive Toy project, in which engineers at Hargrove volunteer their expertise in order to provide drivable, motorized toy cars for mobility limited children. 10 additional recipients are set to receive these life-changing gifts this year.
Moreover, Robertson tells us that the Hargrove Foundation has also hosted an annual gala in Mobile, Alabama for the past three years. “The 2017 Gala was a huge success last November raising funds in support of the Hargrove Foundation and the Hargrove Adaptive Toy Project. Our 2018 Gala promises to be even more exciting, and is currently slated for November as well,” he adds.
When it comes to serving customers, Robertson notes that the EPC firm is flexible in meeting their particular needs, big or small. Turnkey EPC projects involve the contractor taking responsibility for activities including design, procurement, construction, and commissioning. This option allows clients to continue running their own business while Hargrove manages their project.
“Hargrove is executing projects using a design-build strategy, which has proven to resonate with many of our clients. As a full-service EPC contractor, we assume the bulk of the project risks including construction safety, cost, schedule, and quality. This allows the client to focus on what they do best and provides them with better overall project cost and schedule predictability,” says Robertson.
Another area of Hargrove’s growth has been through its site-based teams within clients’ facilities. Today, the Hargrove Technical Services Team offers highly capable and efficient site-based teams to deliver small project excellence.
“There are some clients who like to perform their own construction management with their own central engineering organization, and just want to hire Hargrove to do the design work. There are other clients who prefer a more hands-off approach and want an EPC firm like Hargrove to take on more risk. Whether they want a small portion of the job done or they want a full design-build, we are able to provide that. That adaptability has allowed us to gain client share and increase our project portfolio,” Robertson remarks.
In the future, the Hargrove team plans for continued growth, tied to that of its clients as it continues to evaluate additional markets and regions that sync up with client needs. Hargrove has internal initiatives aimed at utilizing the ever-changing role of technology to boost productivity and thus its client value.
Also in response to client need, Hargrove has opened a newly developed Consultancy Division to offer its clients even more value. “When top specialists in a given field are needed, we bring a team of the industry’s leading professionals to serve in advisory roles combining high-level business and technical analysis. When our clients are looking for better capital utilization, Hargrove experts understand the business and market drivers that will ensure success. Consultants work with plant leadership on capital project analysis, due diligence, configuration, process unit design, control and automation, supply chain, reliability, and plant safety programs,” Robertson shares.
The Hargrove team noticed that many clients who were reaching out didn’t really need a large engineering firm, but instead required one or two subject-matter experts who could work with them in a project engineering role or as a representative. Staying true to its value of always looking out for the client’s wellbeing, Hargrove saw an opportunity to fill a gap for these clients.
“That’s where this consultancy service offering started. It gets back to listening to the client, seeing where they have gaps, and Hargrove being flexible in establishing a business model to fill those gaps. The motto that we stress is ‘Team Speed’ with respect to being strategic with our clients and listening to their needs, not trying to oversell certain functions or come forward and say, ‘this is the way we think it should be done.’ Instead, we ask ‘what is it that you need?’ and we’ll adapt our work processes to make sure we are always giving you value,” Robertson concludes.