June 17, 2024

Catching Up with Courtney and Andy, Wood Harbinger’s Executive Leaders

Catching Up with Courtney and Andy, Wood Harbinger’s Executive Leaders

What do a college journalism dropout and a sociologist by education have in common? They’re running an engineering firm alongside a bona fide professional engineer.

Wood Harbinger is six months into our sixth generation of leadership, with Sean Bollen, PE, as our president, which we announced earlier this year. Controller Courtney Montgomery and Director of Operations Andy Brown joined him to form our Executive Leadership Team, and both took on new roles in the company as part of the transition: Andy was promoted to vice president, and Courtney was elected to the board of directors. Courtney is both our first female controller and the first female member of our board.  

We sat down with Andy and Courtney to see how things are going for them in these roles and get their take on where we’re headed as the Wood Harbinger journey continues.

So, what’s new for you in these roles?

Courtney: As part of the leadership team, we’ve both been attending board meetings for a while. Now, as a voting member, I’m actively participating in discussions and guiding our financial strategy. As controller, I’ve always been involved in informing our firm-wide strategic financial direction, and now I’m leading it. Through the recessions and the pandemic, we’ve achieved hard-earned financial stability and have made good decisions over the past year. We have a very stable base from which to continue to build. I’m honored to keep guiding us into the future.

Andy: My day-to-day role is very similar in a lot of ways, working side-by-side with our principals and project managers to ensure the successful execution of our work across the whole project lifecycle. Our clients see us as a reliable, trusted partner, and I aim to make sure it stays that way.

One of the major changes is really driving our strategic plan alongside Sean and Courtney. Our strategy of a leadership team supports us in doing this effectively. Sean can count on Courney and me to keep strategic things moving while he remains in a very client-facing role, managing client relationships and serving as principal on several projects. Our goal is to keep him able to do this by supporting him fully.

I’m also now leading the strategy of our business development efforts, and we’ve been doing some exciting new things this year. We’ve expanded our BD team to include more of our emerging leaders across all our disciplines, which has brought more creative minds into the room with ideas on ways to engage and build relationships with our clients and partners.  

What’s been most exciting for you over the past six months?

Courtney: It’s empowering to be making decisions on our own, coming up with a vision of what we as a leadership team want for the firm and actively pursuing it. We’ve streamlined some of our operations with the full support of the board, and we’re trying new ideas, such as Andy’s business development initiatives. We’re taking calculated risks, thinking really creatively, and involving others. We’re working on the culture of the whole firm, making decisions that are the best for our team, and that includes everyone.

Andy: I’m passionate about Wood Harbinger, its success, and building the best possible company we can be for the future. Getting the right work in the door is always the first step to the success and resilience of a business, and taking full creative license and responsibility for how we’re doing that is both challenging and exciting.

I’m also passionate about building relationships, about the idea that people want to work with people they like. Most MEP firms offer the same core services, and we’re lucky to have a lot of great firms in the area that are highly capable. So, differentiation comes down to who we are.

It’s about who you’re standing next to, who you can count on in a pinch, who’s got your back, who makes the time you spend working—which we all know is a lot—worthwhile. Life’s too short to not enjoy what we do while making a paycheck and who we’re with while doing it.

The three of us—me, Courtney, and Sean—really want to make this the best possible place to work, where we have a sense of camaraderie and a common mission that’s easy to identify. From the executive assistant to the president and all our project teams, we want to all be going to the same place, and the only way we get there is together.  

What’s been most surprising?

Courtney: It’s not surprising, necessarily, but it’s just really rewarding for me to see how many of us have come up together here. There’s so many of us who have been alongside each other as long or longer than Andy and I have been here, which is 15 years for both of us. We’ve been through thick and thin together.  

There’s a lot of earned trust amongst this team. That makes moving the needle, taking risks, and doing new things easier. People know we always have good intent, and that we’re not changing something just to change it. We’re small and trusting enough to make change fast, to adapt to social conditions overlaid with economic and market conditions, and we trust each other to confront and handle any challenges that come our way. Everyone is putting their faith in us, and they see that we’ve been with them. We’re one of their own stepping up.  

Andy: Courtney nailed it. Seeing one of their own end up in leadership is proof that this place is what you make of it. You can start here straight out of college and become president. You can start as a receptionist or CAD operator and be running the firm in 15 years or less.  

My mom used to say, “failure isn’t fatal.” I’ve carried that with me. We encourage it here, making mistakes and learning lessons. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. If it’s a good idea and it doesn’t work, no one thinks less of you. I think more of you because you had the courage to give it a shot.

That’s one of the things that’s always been special about this place: we are truly that greenfield for your career, that blue ocean. You can come in, put in the work, and if you’re motivated, driven, courageous, and have the energy and intelligence, then the sky’s the limit.

Courtney: It sounds cheesy, but it’s so great to see people empowered and excited about the future and their role in it. Seeing everyone’s growth, individually and together, really drives home that we’re a team. And we’ve seen folks taking the idea of being senior employees in the firm to heart. They’re stepping up and providing leadership, too. The work is still hard, but there’s so much support.  

Andy: I tell people all the time, “come and take it; be here beside me.” I think people realize we’re not just full of it. That we mean it, that folks can actually do what they want to here; can take risks, have ideas. If someone wants to lead in 10 years and they’re ready, we’ll make space for them.  

What’s next?

Andy: All business stuff aside, for me our mission is to take care of our folks and grow our people so they can achieve everything they want to and more, and the same goes for our clients and partners. We genuinely care about their success. When the time comes, I want to hand over the keys of Wood Harbinger to folks who have relationships with our clients’ next levels of leadership as strong as the ones we have with each other. I want our clients to achieve their goals. We just want to be part of it alongside them.

Courtney, Andy, we think you’re doing an awesome job. Six months in and you’re nailing it! We can’t wait to see where this journey goes with all of us together.