...managed construction of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center as project executive for the Architect of the Capitol and a 34-year veteran of the U.S. General Services Administration. Both are tasked with expanding Hill’s share of the public- sector marketplace, which David finds a more reliable client base. “We know the public-sector clients are always going to have money and are always going to pay us,” he says.
Supreme Court work leads push in federal sector.
Hill also hopes to hone the same strong relationship with GSA that Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. enjoys, although Hixon emphasizes there will be no conflicts of interest with his former employers. Hill currently is program manager for the $122-million renovation of the U.S. Supreme Court, also run by AOC but not managed by Hixon.
Also recently hired to fill a new position as chief information officer is Michael DeFrisco, who used to direct global IT for AECOM. David notes that Hill will be implementing a virtually firmwide videoconferencing system. “We’re too global to have everyone sitting on planes all the time,” he says. The firm has been staking out work in Eastern Europe and Turkey, and the booming global industry has left plenty of new territory to conquer. “We’re not in the Midwest or the Southeast U.S, India, China, Western Europe or Africa,” says Irvin Richter. “There’s a tremendous amount of growth.”
Growth makes visits tougher for David Richter.
Hill also intends to expand its oil, gas and power work where the Richters claim there is a dearth of project and CM expertise. Irvin Richter says the firm is now negotiating a project management outsourcing contract with “a national oil company in the Middle East” that would propel a likely acquisition or top management hire in that sector, or possibly both. “There really is no pure PM player in oil and gas,” says David. The Richters see Hill as an alternative to EPC firm-led projects that may not have the owner’s interest as top priority.
Hill International’s dynamic duo seem to have settled into their niches of expertise and do not get in each other’s way too much, they and others say. David has taken the lead on key business and operational issues while Irvin globetrots for clients and market share.
“David and I get along very well. I trust his judgement in areas where he has more expertise, but in claims and sales, he has to convince me,” says Irvin. While the two have disagreed on strategy, “we’ve both learned a lot from each other as far as how to manage a company and grow a business,” adds David.
Says Martin S. Brown, a former Tetra Tech executive hired as a senior vice president to ply public sector markets: “Irv is more strategic and has the company vision. David makes sure it gets executed.”
Transportation and power are niches.
Employees blink somewhat in the new glare of being public and growing larger, but they say the firm’s management has not lost its connection to staff. “They come down, see the guys in the field and get their opinion on how to improve things,” says Pressley, a six-year veteran. “Like in the old factory days, they have to be on the floor.”
Growing and maintaining Hill’s talent base is a full-time challenge for global recruiting director Gregg Metzinger and the firm’s seven internal recruiters. It does not use outside headhunters, he says. Stock ownership extends down to vice presidents but that will be expanding, says Irvin Richter. “We are working on program to buy shares at a discount,” he says.
At one time, David approved all domestic job offers, but with new duties in the expanding company, his direct involvement is limited to vice presidents and up, says Metzinger.
The firm has a recruiting referral program that offers employees $1,000 bonuses for each new hire that stays on board for at least 90 days. “We’ve gotten some key hires through that,” he says. Hill also is implementing a centralized database for global résumés that can be accessed by the firm’s worldwide recruiters. “Now, they just share information by e-mail and informal communication,” says Metzinger.
Adds David Richter, “If you don’t hire good people, it’s a slippery slope to not being in the business anymore.”