A Change in Corporate Culture

Article excerpt

As a member of the architectural and engineering giant Dewberry & Davis, Dewberry Design Group bears little resemblance to HTB, the company it merged with nine months ago.

As CEO of Dewberry Design Group, Larry Keller faced the task of shaping a new image and leaving behind the rocky past of HTB, where he was a former partner.

Keller, 55, left HTB in 1995 to work for Dewberry & Davis in Washington after 12 years with HTB. HTB formed in 1942 and developed a reputation for its work on the expansion of the Will Rogers World Airport and a strong international presence. But then allegations surfaced over the design and construction of the $52 million Oklahoma County Jail, which HTB designed with RGDC.

An Oklahoma County Grand Jury investigation in October 1995 placed blame on both the firms and county officials for a lack of communication that contributed to the problems.

Last summer HTB put its office in the old Maywood Presbyterian Church up for sale, and started to look for a larger partner for a possible merger. RGDC changed its name to Triad Design Group in May.

Dewberry Design Group acquired HTB's stock and took over the corporate structure. HTB's 90-person staff shifted into 24 in Oklahoma City, 40 in Tulsa and 58 in Arlington and Fairfax, Va. Staff in each of the offices send architectural documents back and forth through the Internet.

"This is not unusual in architectural and engineering companies because of transition problems and other things," Keller said. "It wasn't one of these things where it was everybody gnashing teeth. I'm not saying there weren't ups and downs, and there are still things that need to be worked out, but it was more of a gradual meshing together of the two rather than wholesale change, which I don't think works very well."

The new company has many of the same technical employees of HTB, but a new management team, corporate philosophy and marketing strategy.

"Every company has its different modus operandi, and management changes change the company," Keller said. "Obviously we don't have much relationship with the old HTB. When that management went that all changed. We ended up with a couple things different. Number one, we ended up with a very financially stable firm."

The result, Keller said, is an entirely different corporate culture.

"We want to be known as a firm that if you hire us, we're going to take care of it and we're going to take care of it promptly," Keller said. "Another thing that the Dewberrys do is we stand behind our work, and that is something that I think may have been a little bit of a change."

Dewberry & Davis specializes in institutional, educational, medical and transportation architectural and engineering work. When Dewberry Design Group formed, Keller set out to establish the firm in Oklahoma City, but most of the largest public works contracts, those for the nine entertainment and sports complexes included in the MAPS projects, were already awarded. …

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