Celebrating ETM's 40 Year Anniversary

Anniversaries don’t have inherent value. The age of a company really says more about what the company does best -- the ingredients in the secret sauce -- than it says about the firm’s longevity.

But milestone anniversaries do offer the chance for celebration and reflection. And celebration naturally brings people together. This year to celebrate our 40 year anniversary at the 2017 ETM/RMA Annual Company Meeting, leadership gathered its employees along with the original founders Jim England, Bob Thims, and Doug Miller. Celebrating with our founders was not just about revealing pride in our past but shaping our future.

As the meeting unfolded, employees learned the stories of the many individuals that came before us and shaped the company we now call ours. Our founders reminisced with us about their early challenges and their hard work and optimism. They took us all the way back to 1977 through the retelling of their memories and experiences and reminded us how dramatically the company has grown and changed.

The dichotomy of that change is reflected in more than the size of our firm and the portfolio of services we now provide. The field of civil engineering itself has changed a lot since 1977. One of the biggest changes in the last four decades has been in the tools engineers use. As we traveled back in time, we could envision our founders using slide rules for calculations or doing them by hand. They also relied on drafting instruments and their own abilities at sketching and mechanical drawing. Their drafting tables held T-squares, triangles, compasses, pens, and at least three colors of pencils for quality assurance reviews. Everything was drawn by hand, not rendered by machines.

Advances in technology have also changed how engineers communicated. Today’s engineers are accessible 24-7 with e-mail, cell phones, and video conferences. But in 1977, our founders had to get by with landline telephones, payphones, fax machines and the postal service. The room erupted into laughter as our founders recounted the following memories.

“We were afraid to buy a fax machine. It cost about $1300.  Our fear was ‘if no one else buys one we won’t have any one to fax’.” – Doug Miller

“When mobile phones came out, I said ‘what do you need a mobile phone for? We have all these phones in the office. The only time you can get away from them is out in the field. If you have to call someone, stop and use a pay phone’.” - Bob Thims

Our founders lent perspective to our longevity. They helped us remember what made us great to begin with. It was fun and nostalgic. By definition, Nostalgia is a wistful desire to return in thought to a former time. But wedon’t reallywant to return to 1977. Progress is good and necessary. What our founders reminded us through their memories and their advice to current employees, is to maintain the balance between holding on to our past and embracing change in the future. Remembering who we were helps us understand who we are now. And most importantly, it offers fresh motivation as we move forward and determine how we each will contribute to our future and if we will  leave our own legacy.

For now, the legacy left by founder Jim England is still the foundation of our success. Our secret sauce…

“Nothing is more important than your integrity. You have always got to do the right thing. Treat people the way you would want them to treat you. It always pays off. By the way, that is the Golden Rule.” – Jim England


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