A series of unexpected events and one wild idea have PSI's new president revving up employees for an aggressive growth campaign via a coast-to-coast bus tour of the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based firm's 100 offices.
Behind the wheel of his own motor coach that was rewrapped with the corporate logo, Randy Larson launched the tour in June. He plans to visit every PSI location by November.
Larson's motor trip is the result of an unexpected detour. After more than 20 years with Tampa, Fla.-based PBS&J, capped by the presidency of its infrastructure, water and environment division, Larson retired in 2011, about six months after Atkins purchased the company.
Murray Savage, PSI's CEO, soon phoned Larson—who formerly served as chairman of the Construction Management Association of America—with a proposal: Would he become president after Hal Branum, then 69, retired?
"We were looking for some fresh opinions and energy," Savage says, citing Larson's experience growing companies.However, while Larson mulled the offer, Branum died on July 1, 2011. Soon after, Larson accepted the position.
After coming aboard last October, Larson says he and other executives soon settled on a goal to grow PSI to $500 million within five years from approximately $200 million in annual revenue. Moreover, both Larson and Savage now say, they want to achieve this "500 in Five" goal largely through organic growth.
Reaching that goal means gaining significant increases in existing business, such as the firm's environmental sciences and non-destructive testing work for oil and gas producers, says Larson. However, he admits acquisition may prove the best route to growing other sectors of PSI, which is owned by a private-equity firm.
To boost existing business, Larson says the first task was to change the firm's collective mind-set. The tepid recovery from the years-long recession had lowered morale, making mere survival, not growth, the accepted norm, he says.
"We had to figure out a way to re-instill the idea to employees that it's OK to grow," Larson told ENR.
To do that, "we knew we had to touch everybody," he says. "I had to get out there and challenge them, and you couldn't do that by e-mails and memos. It had to be done personally."
As company leaders started planning the logistics of visiting 100 offices, Larson suggested he drive his own motor coach.He received a few quizzical looks.
"I don't know if we used the word 'crazy,' " recalls Tom Boogher, executive vice president. "But as we thought through it, we knew we needed to do something different."
Coupled with a "500 in Five" Facebook page, the unconventional campaign apparently is achieving the desired effect of energizing employees. When Larson visited Nashville, for instance, an employee sang a country song he wrote upon the "500 in Five" theme.
Barb Hart, who works in PSI's construction services department in St. Louis, commented, "This '500 in Five' has been the greatest thing ever in the 12 years that I have been with PSI. Now, I can really feel a connection between the offices."
Local managers also are responding by ramping up hiring, says Boogher.
Larson sees the enthusiasm as a reflection of the recent economic downturn. "People have been yearning for something like this, for the encouragement that everything's going to be OK," he says.