Culture of Trust
Rocked by a $36-million embezzlement scheme, PBS&J finds the same corporate culture that got it into trouble may help it weather the storm.
In 1959, Howard M. "Budd" Post, a young engineer with the Florida road department, was offered a chance to help create Miami Lakes, the state's first master-planned community.
Putting up $500 each, Post and three fellow engineers formed a company that grew as quickly and dynamically as Florida itself.
Along with managing design and construction of Miami Lakes, the young men who made up what became Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan engineered the 65-mile Card Sound Bridge that connected the mainland to the Florida Keys. They designed the first reverse-osmosis water treatment plant in Florida, Aquarina, and created the Orlando Easterly Wetlands, one of the biggest wetlands for wastewater treatment.
By the 1980s, the Miami-based firm, now known as PBS&J, was on its way to becoming the Florida Department of Transportation's largest engineering consultant. It was named general engineering consultant to the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority in 1981 and to Florida's Turnpike Authority in 1988.
But when Florida tumbled into recession in the early 1990s, then-Chairman Bill Randolph decided that PBS&J needed to focus growth outside the state. Acquiring firms from here to California, he doubled PBS&J's size by the turn of the century. Between 2000 and 2005, the current chairman, John B. Zumwalt III, doubled it again -- to more than half a billion in annual revenue.
Zumwalt was particularly proud of preserving PBS&J's trusting, small-firm culture as the company grew to 4,000 employees in 75 offices in 24 states and Puerto Rico. But he and the rest of PBS&J's engineer-dominated leadership also made some key miscalculations. The biggest: As the employee-owned firm grew -- it posted $540 million in revenue last year -- it was slow to institute the kind of basic accounting procedures that are standard in large companies. "The firm grew far more rapidly," Zumwalt acknowledges, "than our internal-control system."