John Nobles weighs in on his tenure with the firm and the future of the Process & Industrial Group at Burns & McDonnell.
Gratitude and confidence.
Those are the words John Nobles, retired president of the Process & Industrial Group at Burns & McDonnell, uses to sum up his tenure with the firm. They are ideals afforded him both internally from leaders at Burns & McDonnell and from clients who actively participated in maintaining relationships and keeping the lines of communication open, even when times were tough for the industry.
"Burns & Mac gave me a second chapter to take what I had learned and match it with the wonderful culture at Burns & McDonnell and the knowledge I brought of the process business — and the scars," Nobles says.
Since Senior Vice President Bob Reymond took over as general manager on Jan. 1, the group has embarked on a renaissance of development to provide even greater customer service and foster stronger relationships with existing clients and new ones.
Faith and Loyalty
When Nobles joined Burns & McDonnell in 2001, the Process & Industrial Group needed life. It was operating in survival mode during a time when the entire industry was struggling. Work was sometimes scarce, and maintaining a foothold took determination from Nobles and his team, plus confidence and loyalty from clients.
"During lean times our clients stood beside us and made sure the relationships stayed strong even without a lot of work to support us," Nobles says. "They always found something for us to do."
That loyalty built the foundation for growth, and as the industry recovered, clients built on the trust they had in Nobles and Burns & McDonnell. The Process & Industrial Group moved from a small department working on a couple projects a year to a hundreds-strong group nationwide taking on eight to nine major projects annually.
"What John has done here has been remarkable," Reymond says. "He took a small, 30-person group and made it an engineer-procure-construct (EPC) business — virtually everything this group is, became so under John. And he is a big reason Burns & McDonnell is so focused on safety. Those two things alone are a fantastic legacy."
The Right Fit
Maintaining and building on that legacy and finding ways to serve clients even better is not something taken lightly — nor is it easy. Preparing for Nobles' retirement and planning the transition had been years in the making. Moving the Process & Industrial Group into the next echelon requires a heightened understanding of the business and direction of the industry, as well as each client's reasons for making the business decisions they do.
"Bob and I traveled together extensively so he could not only understand why I do what I do, but why our clients do what they do in relation to us," Nobles says. "He has really grasped the process business and a model by which we deliver both superior process design and reliable EPC execution."
Paired with his experience working on large projects and international work, that understanding sets the stage for Reymond's business model of an even higher focus on client service.
"What I'm proud and confident of is the leadership team we've built with Bob at the helm," Nobles says. "He's got the leadership skills and desire to do this."
With the turbulence in the oil and gas market over the last year, those skills are serving Reymond well in leading the group to guide clients through uncertain times. As the United States became a bigger player in the oil market, product prices dropped significantly and lessened certainty.
"It's a tough time for our gas clients," Reymond says. "They are acting prudently regarding the projects they move forward."
The consensus is that the market will rebound — it's a matter of when and how quickly oil and gas companies will feel comfortable restarting capital investment projects. Reymond is focusing on the continued improvement of the Process & Industrial Group while continuing relationships with existing clients and developing relationships with new clients. All of it keeps the firm at the ready for when clients decide to move forward with capital projects.
"Some think the market will come back quickly, but it's hard to know," Reymond says. "Really the future does look good in 2016 and beyond. This year will be a good time to get back to basics and focus on maintaining a high level of quality for our clients."
For more information, contact Bob Reymond, 816-822-4271.