In its early days, Golder Associates said that it had three governing principles: do good work, have fun, and make a profit. These ideas have evolved and taken on new intricacies as the company has expanded. Cohen has watched the evolution happen, as his job has grown along with the organization. “We used to work in silos,” he says. “The legal team worked on legal matters; the other corporate-service groups worked independently to support the business. But, we realized that working together proactively in a collaborative way would be a better model, and we changed the way we did things. This enables us to better support our people and build stronger relationships with our clients.”
Cohen cites an example from 2013, when he, along with other members of the global legal team, opened a dialogue with Emmanuel Rodriguez, Golder Associates’ chief information officer. Quickly thereafter, Cohen got involved in a number of information technology (IT) projects, one of which involved negotiating a global network system contract. In keeping with the three aforementioned principles—do good work, have fun, and make a profit—Cohen says, “I enjoyed learning more about our IT operations. IT is a very dynamic and vital part of our business. Ultimately, the effort allowed us to leverage our size, improve the connectivity with our people around the world, and save money.”
Cohen says a significant part of Golder Associates’ success stems from its ownership model. The fact that there are thousands of employee shareholders, all working together, creates a pervasive sense of accountability. There is a sense that “this is my company, and I have to do this right,” Cohen says. This sets the bar for quality high. Additionally, Cohen says, being an employee-owned organization gives Golder Associates some flexibility in how it deals with long-term planning and investments. “Sometimes we get too focused on the day-to day numbers, and profitability is, of course, very important,” he says. “But finance is a lagging indicator, by which I mean, if you focus on the right things, the financial piece takes care of itself. We’re not operating quarter to quarter, so we can invest for the long term in our people. Combine that with building sustainable relationships with our clients and supporting it all with efficient and responsive systems—you end up with a winning formula.”
If Golder Associates’ growth is any indication, it does indeed have a winning formula. After it was founded in Canada, the firm extended its reach into the United States in 1968, then the United Kingdom and Australia in 1972, and it has grown both organically and through a combination of mergers and acquisitions since. Over the past decade, it has posted a 15 percent compound annual growth rate—right through one of the worst recessions the world has ever seen. Natural resources, energy, and infrastructure will continue to be major needs all over the globe, too, so US-based company president Mark Swallow says those markets will continue to drive Golder Associates’ expansion for years to come.