One of the few regrets that Patrick Edwards has as he reflects on his career is that he didn’t find his way to his current employer sooner.
“When I was being recruited to this position, if I would have known how wonderful it was going to be, I probably would have fouled up the interview process with excitement,” said Edwards, who has been serving as vice president and general manager for the Arizona regional offices of Burns & McDonnell for eight years. “My only regret is that I didn’t land at this firm 20 years ago. Sometimes you have to sail through rough waters to get to where you want to be.”
Edwards has definitely found just where he wants to be with Burns & McDonnell, a full-service engineering, architecture and construction firm based in Kansas City, Mo., with 11 regional offices managing 70 locations and more than 7,000 employees throughout the country and, increasingly, around the world. Edwards leads offices in a three-state region with a primary office in Phoenix, which is home to more than 120 employee-owners. Edwards had more than 25 years of engineering and architecture experience with three different firms during his pre-Burns & McDonnell career. He began his career designing airports in the Pacific Rim, which gave him a chance to travel the world as a young professional. He and his wife lived and started their family in Hawaii before being asked to move to Phoenix when he was 30 years old. He climbed up the ranks but saw no window into company ownership, something he had always seen as an important aspect of what he wanted to accomplish.
Eventually, he landed at Burns & McDonnell, an employee-owned firm, and has never looked back.
“Being at Burns & McDonnell has given me a tremendous foundation for my leadership values and my belief in how people in this position should operate,” Edwards said. “It’s given me clarity that has guided the rest of my life. It’s changed my life and my family’s life for the best and we’re grateful to be here.”
Edwards, who grew up in rural Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, sees himself as a simple-thinking person and attributes that trait to his longevity in the industry. He admits he does get worked up from time to time, but does not overthink things when it’s time to find solutions to the various challenges that a large engineering, architecture and construction firm faces each day.
“What we do is very, very complex. How we do it doesn’t need to be,” Edwards said. “I’ve found that the vast majority of challenges really come down to just a few issues. Most of the time you can unwind a problem and focus on those root challenges. The rest is generally just noise.”
The Phoenix office of Burns & McDonnell is a national leader in traditional and renewable energy engineering and construction, a field that has enjoyed tremendous growth here in the Southwest, as well as across the country. Solar, wind and hydro electrical generation, distribution and transmission have proven to be key facets of the Burns & McDonnell operations in the region. In recent years, he’s expanded services to become a leader in manufacturing, aerospace and microelectronics. Edwards hopes to continue to be an industry leader in these fields, but also plans to expand the Burns & McDonnell operational footprint in the region. Recently, the team celebrated an office expansion in Tucson, where the firm is focused on industrial mining, higher education and mission-critical facility projects. In the future, Edwards wants to add general contracting and project development to his regional offerings, something Burns & McDonnell does in other markets. .
“As an employee-owned company, growth is a byproduct of what we do. It is not an objective,” Edwards said. “If we are really, really great at making our clients successful, we’ll grow as a byproduct.”
For Edwards, any growth means more opportunities for the company’s employee-owners. In his region, Edwards estimates that there are only a handful of employee-owners that he didn’t play a key role in hiring. He may spend 10 minutes or a couple hours with candidates during the hiring process, but he makes sure they have the attributes that will allow them to succeed at Burns & McDonnell.
“I look for talented people who are good people,” Edwards said. “You do have to be talented, no question. That is the first checkpoint that you have to pass through. You have to be very good at what you do or the capacity to be excellent.
“But the second checkpoint, which is far more difficult, is you have to be a good person. You have to be the type of person that if you’re driving down the highway and see someone pulled off the road with a flat tire, your first instinct is to help them. If that isn’t who you are, this isn’t the right spot.”