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Both Thompson and Croft were assisted by a former colleague who had left the same firm they had left prior to forming Rally’s Sarnia office but again, what was key to the proposal they made was to “right size”—focusing on business that could drive value for customers on a consistent basis. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call Rally’s approach a variation of the “Goldilocks” strategy—not too big or too small but just right. “That’s exactly right,” says Croft. “As an organization, with a reach across Canada, we’ve got the horsepower to accomplish what needs to be done but we don’t have the policies and procedures that a megaproject requires. But we don’t want to do that kind of work anyway.” From the perspective of Thompson and Croft, who say they’ve achieved their original business plan numbers, being flexible while having a team that represents the full line of engineering disciplines allows them to engage customers in a way that builds lasting relationships they expect to reap the benefits from over time.

It’s work that both Thompson and Croft say will continue to be the bread and butter of Rally. And for good reason. “We’ve seen far too many companies take on projects that end up having them ramp up followed by having to slash staff when things slow down,” says Croft. “They’ll balloon up, then shrink down. Those projects don’t happen every day in the industry and we have no interest in chasing those mega projects.”

In any business, understanding who your customers are (or should be) is key and for Rally Engineering in Sarnia, that’s no different.

“When our customers come to us and say ‘that’s what we wanted’ we know we’ve hit the mark,” says Croft. And that kind of success, he adds, doesn’t happen by accident. “In the past,” says Croft, “we’ve seen instances where the IFR [the Issued for Review part of the engineering lifecycle] has come back and the customer says it’s not what they wanted. Now with the process we have in place, there’s typically very little comment. It’s our belief that if we do our job, the customer is going to get what they wanted in the first place.” Thompson adds that the Rally approach is one that is built with a focus on early engagement. “It’s not only early engagement but continuous engagement for the life of the project,” he says. “We don’t throw it over the fence and hope it’s what they were looking for afterwards.” The relationship between Thompson and Croft, the employees who call Rally Engineering their preferred place to be, and representatives from the firm’s head office in Edmonton is an ongoing one that emphasizes regular conversations around strategy and keeping upto-date on various projects. Skype video calls are a regular part of what makes the entire system flow smoothly. Those connections include conversations that take place between designers and engineers in Sarnia and their counterparts in Edmonton.

Thompson agrees. “What we want to focus on is the long-term relationships that come from us working on site sustaining capital projects,” he says. “Every January, those numbers reset and we’ll get a proportional share of that work. While the big guys are ramping up, we’re doing what we do, giving good service. When the big project goes away, we want to be the people a plant turns to, recognizing the good work and good service we have provided in the past.”

What’s also key is just how important the people in the office are to the future success of any company, Rally Engineering included. “It may be a trite expression, but your people are what you have,” says Croft. “When we bring someone on board it’s for the long term. We’re not a ‘hire and fire’ type of company and one reason is that we’ve seen that kind of thing happen over and over.” Indeed, both Thompson and Croft have been on the receiving end of that kind of downsizing, which is one reason why they talk regularly, making sure that there is the kind of sustaining work, with a limit on the “crazy hours” that end up creating undue stress and overloading of staff. Currently, Rally’s Sarnia office has a complement of 36 staff and while future growth is anticipated, the intention is to maintain a relatively flat organization, with many of the back office type of services that are able to be performed in Edmonton remaining there, although there are some basic locally based positions as well. Today, Croft and Thompson say their early results are “bang on” with what they originally proposed to Rally’s owners. “They’re extremely happy,” says Croft. “Mike and I are happy with the support we get out of Edmonton and things are even better than we anticipated on all sides.” Thompson echoes what his colleague has just said, adding one key point: “Without the support of the senior management team, there’s no way we could have gotten this big this fast.”

In any business, understanding who your customers are (or should be) is key and for Rally Engineering in Sarnia, that’s no different.

Still, when it comes to growth, Croft makes it clear that growing at a pace that’s sustainable will be clear.

“Our niche now is the brownfield capital projects that every plant in the area has,” says Croft. “They’re the site sustaining projects, like an upgrading of a piece of equipment.”

“We knew if we were able to execute our vision, which is to provide good quality work at the right price and the right time, to predict WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 17

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Lambton Shield - March/April 2019  

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