When John and I started Smith & Burgess in 2007, we envisioned a company that would make the industry safer with a focus on Customer Service, Expertise, and Integrity. We felt these core values would create an engineering firm we could be proud of. Over the past 15 years, there has been a lot of change in the industry. Environmental and renewable fuels projects are more common now than ever. However, flares still seem to be undersized, facilities are still changing, and projects are ongoing. From the volatility in oil prices in 2009 to the boom prior to the pandemic… and then COVID-19: providing PSM engineering services has definitely kept us on our toes. But through it all, these core values remained stalwart and have served as a framework by which we make decisions in running the company.
The number of great stories and adventures that have occurred since the inception of Smith & Burgess illustrate how our people live up to these values. Below are a few examples that show the spirit of our company values and what they mean to us.
Although everyone has “Client Focus” as a core value, what it actually means to an organization is what’s important. For example, in a fast-food establishment their Client Focus is that you can expect exactly the same food in Singapore as you would in Amarillo. So, what does Client Focus mean to Smith & Burgess? It means dedication to our clients’ success. Usually, engineering problems occur in a nice and orderly fashion (just as a good engineer would want it). However, there are times when facilities don’t cooperate, and assistance is needed at a minute’s notice. I remember one time on a Saturday afternoon, I took a call while at a movie with my family from a refinery. A flare issue had shut down a facility and I was needed on-site the next morning in another state to help get the refinery up and running immediately. I know most of us here at Smith & Burgess have a story like this. The day-in day-out projects are great but being able to truly help a customer and be a part of the team that gets a facility back on-line really gets the blood pumping. That is what Client Focus means to us.
Nothing, I mean nothing at work makes me happier than to receive a call from a customer to commend our team for going above and beyond, exceeding their expectations, or “just” really caring about their problems. To us, Client Focus is caring about a clients’ problems enough to solve them with the same level of care and urgency that they themselves would solve them.
Most engineers get quite excited to solve that difficult one-off problem or provide an elegant solution to a project. Our dedication to expertise runs deep, which is expected for a company founded by two dorky engineers. We strive to demonstrate this expertise by leading the industry forward. For much of Smith & Burgess’ existence, there have been concerns surrounding the inlet piping of relief devices. We have long thought that a chattering relief device proposes a real hazard, but the frequency of these concerns is rare. To date, there does not appear to be any tool that can predict chatter or advise an owner operator when an existing installation is acceptable or if a new installation will perform satisfactorily. Dissatisfied with the state of data on relief device instability, we set up a testing laboratory and are in the process of testing over 25 relief devices.
We have also collaborated in published papers and webinars with fellow researchers and relief device manufacturers. The production of quality research is slow, but we are in it for the long haul. We are excited for what the future holds with this research. We hope to one day be able to give solid advice to customers on what installations will and won’t be a problem.
Along with our research efforts, our engineers take part in industry conferences and ongoing education to stay up to date on the latest engineering news and developments. With many team members on boards and committees dedicated to process safety, we are proud to be a leader in the process safety world.
Integrity is often described as only doing things that you would be proud to see on the cover of the local paper. And yes, following the rules and laws are critical, but I would argue that most organizations already do that. To us, Integrity is the glue that holds our Client Focus and Expertise values together. This is represented by treating others as you would want to be treated. In normal times, integrity usually involves us communicating to customers when a project is unnecessary or that “XYZ” can solve the problem quickly with a lower cost. However, the recent pandemic required us to really demonstrate integrity internally. As early as March of 2020, John and I focused our efforts on increased communication and transparency with our employees. At that time, the forecasts were dire, and customers were cancelling projects left and right. We both felt that to stay true to our value of integrity, we had to manage and communicate in such a way as to minimize uncertainty for the team. We made every decision with this in mind and the result was that our amazing team was able to devote more of their mental efforts into serving the customers’ needs instead of worrying about the state and future of the company.
Nobody’s perfect and we don’t always live up to our core values, but it is something to which we strive. We have found that whenever we collectively renew our dedication to our core values, it always puts us back on track and gets the company through any challenges faced.
At 15 years in, John and I truly appreciate all of our employees and clients. We are thankful for the great service and exceptional level of caring that our team provides our customers. I must admit, 2020 and2021 were some of the most challenging years by far, but we made it through. We both believe that our dedication to upholding the company’s core values during these tough times was what provided us with a level of stability for which we will always be grateful. To our incredible employees who go above and beyond to provide service to our customers and to the clients themselves who continued to entrust us with their projects these past two years, we thank you. I hope the next 15 years are as rewarding as the past 15 have been and that our employees and customers have felt our commitment to them. We are in it for the long haul… thanks for sticking with us along the way!
Dustin & John