EPCM Holding Group – Handling Growth

We listen to EPCM as they tell us about the triumph and trials of a rapidly growing business.

EPCM Holdings is a global engineering project and product development house. Their expertise stretches over all phases of project development in the oil and gas, mining, infrastructure, energy, and health sectors. Their clients include leading government and private-sector companies, with whom they have formed successful and sustainable relationships.

“ECPM is doing key projects focused on the oil and gas sector, predominantly focused on the African continent but also other areas and industries,” explains Group CEO, Tom Cowan. “We do everything from concept stage to commissioning and maintenance afterwards.”

The turnkey solutions that EPCM offers have granted them a competitive position in the marketplace.

“We are effective,” Cowan points out. “We are definitely able to deliver the sort of robust system in the African environment without all the flaws and fuss while being very cost-effective.”

Growing Pains
However, Cowan also readily admits that success brings its own challenges with it, and as EPCM has grown it has also been forced to adapt.

“We are a growing organisation and growing quite quickly means really adapting to the challenges of being a growing organisation,” Cowan acknowledges. “In the early days cashflow was a challenge, it’s not so much anymore but attempting to manage the growth has been a challenge.”

The company is growing so rapidly because it has brought a truly unique service to the market.

“The reason we’re growing so quickly and in such a disruptive way is we’ve changed an old market with consulting engineers and contractors turning it into a turnkey market, which in our region was not really the way guys do things,” Cowan points out. “We’ve turned the market upside down, being the first to offer a turnkey solution like that which is why we’re growing and expanding so quickly. We want to take that model into America and Germany where their approach is very different from the turnkey one-stop-shop approach.”

EPCM has been able to meet the challenges that come alongside growth thanks to the culture instilled in all of their staff.

We have got a culture that embraces change. Obviously, what we’ve done is appointed really sharp youngsters to work with us and they are growing within our business, almost running their own little businesses within our business,” Cowan explains. “That has made us a big business growing to where we are now.”

Nurturing Talent
Acquiring and nurturing new talent is something that EPCM has always taken extremely seriously.

“We are close to a lot of the universities in South Africa, specifically the University of Pretoria,” Cowan says. “We sponsor their final year projects and give them projects to help us with and they do research and development for us. We identify really good youngsters that can perform well within our organisation. We give them holiday and vacation work when they’re studying so they get used to our environment. Then when they finished there’s an interview process to get them on board and that’s a great way to attract good talent.”

It is not just about bringing talent into the company; however, Cowan believes strongly in investing in EPCM’s people.

“We’ve got a lot of internal training. We spend a lot of time every Friday in a tech talk session with internal training within the company,” he explains. “We use a lot of our processes and how to do things using YouTube and videos to get people up to speed quite quickly. We also pay for a number of our people to study, giving bursaries in that space as well and embrace especially MBAs which a lot of companies don’t invest in.”

Adapting to COVID
Of course, while the company has seen impressive growth in recent times, like all businesses they have had to reckon with the fallout of COVID-19. Fortunately, the wide range of services EPCM offers means they have been able to stay in operation.

“So it has an effect on us obviously. Some of our construction sites have been closed. They’ve now all opened up again,” Cowan says. “The most important thing with the COVID issue has been to be diversified enough in locations and services. We do engineering and procurement as well as construction, so our work in engineering and procurement could continue while construction was stopped.”

The company has also looked into how it can use its tools and skillsets to help combat the virus.

Cowan explains, “We spent quite a bit of time and effort developing ventilators for Africa because we saw that was a big shortcoming in our region. It’s actually opened up a new avenue of business for us. When you’re out of your comfort zone sometimes you come up with your best ideas and we’ll survive and go forward from here.”

Looking through the other side of the COVID crisis, EPCM still has big plans for further growth.

“I think we’re growing very nicely within the African footprint. We’re everywhere from South, East, West and North Africa and will continue to grow in those avenues. We’re seeing quite a bit of scope that’s been added in countries where we’re already working in on other pieces of infrastructure,” Cowan says. “We’re quite established in that location. Then it is baby steps because we have opened up the business in Germany and the USA and we are driving hard there to get the business established. I see a lot of growth for the next few years in additional scope and location.”

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