Paul Fischer, new head of Burns & McDonnell's regional offices, has a plan for growth that puts clients first.
Paul Fischer has a simple formula for success. Hire the best people, put them in jobs they love and keep clients’ best interests front and center. This formula helped Fischer turn a small Denver office into today’s thriving regional presence. It is also the foundation of his new role as vice president and general manager of the Regional Office Group.
“My job is to make our clients and employee-owners successful,” Fischer says. “We have tremendous opportunities for growth and diversity in the regional offices through access to new clients and to an expanded pool of employee-owner talent. This will make Burns & McDonnell successful long-term.”
Fischer succeeds retiring group president Joel Cerwick, whom he credits with building a strong foundation by establishing Burns & McDonnell in markets throughout the country.
“Clients want us to be where they are,” says Fischer, “especially in infrastructure projects. Being in their communities gives us closer relationships with them, local knowledge about their challenges and opens doors for us. This is how we will grow as a company.”
Among Fischer’s initial priorities will be expanding the local presence — adding two new regional offices in 2009 — and evolving all regional offices by honing their areas of expertise and carving out natural niches within their markets.
“Certain types of practices and talents have flourished in different geographic regions,” he explains, citing Chicago’s reputation for expertise in manufactured gas plants, Houston’s for transmission and distribution and Connecticut’s for program management. “We will develop regional centers of excellence, then send that expertise out to the other regions. We want each region to grow to have the diversity and sustainability to significantly contribute to our clients in the region and to Burns & McDonnell overall.”
Fischer understands first-hand about developing region-specific expertise. The Denver native joined Burns & McDonnell upon graduation from Colorado State University. After four years in Kansas City, Mo., he returned to Denver with the charter to grow the infrastructure practice. Fischer’s efforts of calling on potential clients and involving himself in professional associations paid off when the city of Westminster, Colo., contracted Burns & McDonnell to design a water transmission pipeline. The success of this first project led to others, including the expansion of the Wes Brown Water Treatment Plant for the City of Thornton, Colo. At the time, the project was the largest membrane retrofit of a water treatment plant in the world. Burns & McDonnell’s proposed delivery method improved the water quality and expanded the plant’s capacity from 28 million gallons-per-day (MGD) to 50 MGD to accommodate the city’s growth.
“I was very impressed with Paul’s foresight and the solutions he proposed,” says City of Thornton Support Services Director Jerry Dye. “He’s able to take the theoretical to the practical, and he has a wide range of skills both on the engineering and construction front.”
During Fischer’s tenure as Denver general manager, the office cemented a reputation for excellence in water treatment. Colleagues feel the leadership and professional expertise he displayed there make him ideal for his new role.
“Every decision Paul makes is client-driven, and he always tries to do what’s best for them,” says Mark Lichtwardt, who succeeded Fischer as Denver general manager. “He also leads by example and motivates others to perform at a very high level.”
Fischer and the regional leadership team will spend the next few months focusing on short- and long-term strategies. Key to those efforts will be ensuring Burns & McDonnell plays a role in government stimulus-funded projects in the infrastructure, transportation, transmission, aviation, energy or other arenas.
“Because of our diversity in practice and talent, we’re well-positioned to assist our clients with a broad range of services,” Fischer says. “We’re laying the foundation and are ready to mobilize the expertise we have to areas where it will be needed. With the expertise and commitment of our regional office teams, we can all be excited about our future.”