Celebrating Five Years in Edmonton
In March 2016, Entuitive opened its third office in Edmonton, Alberta. To celebrate five years of operations, we sat down with the person who advocated for establishing the office, Brian Shedden, Principal, and one of the first people on the ground Mohammad Moayyed, Senior Associate.
Through their efforts, Brian and Mohammad were able to build the office from the ground up. With a combination of boots on the ground strategy and help from the right mix of experts across the firm, leveraging our One Company philosophy, they were able to put in place a strategy that has mimicked the growth that Entuitive has seen over the last ten years.
Read on as the two share what it was like to start something new and reflect on some of their proudest moments so far in
Congrats on the anniversary, Brian and Mohammad, and thanks for sitting down with us today. Can you take us back to the earliest days of the Edmonton office? Why did we decide to open an office in Edmonton?
Brian: I had been responding to client requests to do work in Edmonton since about 2014, and I was spending an inordinate amount of my life driving between Calgary and Edmonton doing these one-off projects. I began to realize that Edmonton is just as big a city as Calgary, has similar demographics, and a more diverse economy, Why not consider opening an office there?
How long did it take to hit the ground running?
Brian: From the point of idea generation, it took about a year. We discussed it at our corporate meeting, and it was a bit of a big step for the firm at the time because it was our third office. Our main challenge was how to staff it, especially knowing that recruiting takes time. We knew we wanted a structural and a building envelope lead. Mohammad became our structural lead, and we also found a building envelope lead who is no longer at Entuitive. I was still doing my commute back and forth regularly as well.
Mohammad: I joined at the end of March and the office was already running out of the SMP Engineering offices. One thing I can tell you about those early days is that we followed the Entuitive tradition of starting out with the Costco table as a desk.
What was the first year like?
Brian: I was able to leverage my relationship with the CCI North Alberta (Canadian Condominium Institute) in Edmonton and our condominium clients, which has been a main focus of my career, and we’ve steadily been able to grow from that.
Once we began to get some traction, we moved into our own office space at 106 and Jasper Ave. Funny enough, we moved again, into our new space in the same building, in the middle of the pandemic and have not really been able to enjoy it.
Mohammad: It was August 2016 that we moved into our own space.
Brian: Looking back, I think we were sort of an unafraid mavericks which you have to be to build your way into a new city and establish a presence. And that’s what Mohammad and I were responsible for. It was a building from the ground up exercise for both of us.
Mohammad: I agree. It was a big change for me as well – to transition from an established engineering firm to more of a startup, although we had lots of support along the way.
I would have a phone call almost every day with Brock (Schroeder) and many times a week with Sean (Smith) as well. They helped me navigate the challenges of establishing a new office, as did Mike Lembke. Brian was more involved in project delivery at that point. I felt support from the whole firm, who would speak to me when I needed help and feedback.
Brian: Finally, in 2018 I got to the point where I couldn’t stand the commute anymore and at that point Heather Elliot and David Leonard took on the leadership role of the building envelope group in Calgary. That freed me up to make the move to Edmonton. It’s been terrific for me because I love the town and we’ve been able to grow the team to a dozen or so now.
What are some of the things you’re most proud of over the last five years?
Brian: I’m sure Mohammad would agree that one of the most satisfying things is the team of staff that we’ve been able to assemble here. They’re a terrific group of people and either Mohammad or I have had a hand in hiring or relocating those who work here now.
Mohammad: The current team that we have in Edmonton is fantastic. The level of trust we have and the ownership and dedication – it’s phenomenal. In my career I haven’t seen this level of performance or a sense of the overall picture the way that I have here.
Brian: The other thing we’re probably both proud of are the relationships we’ve been able to develop here. You know, we came to this market and had to introduce Entuitive to everybody and now there’s not an architect in town that Mohammad hasn’t met. It’s the same case for me with the property management and existing buildings market.
To be able to say that none of that existed five years ago and now it does? Sure, our marketing has helped us develop this market but a lot of it has been good old-fashioned elbow grease and a philosophy of “meet ‘em where they’re at.”
Mohammad: I think we have to be grateful and thankful to our clients in Edmonton across industries who were willing to take a chance on the newcomers and give us an opportunity to perform and participate in building the progress of the city.
The other thing I want to mention is that we’re trying to align with how Entuitive grew overall as a firm. We carry Entuitive DNA in terms of growth, in terms of culture. Edmonton is just a small branch of a young tree, but we share all the characteristics of the main tree and this gets to the heart of our One Company philosophy. Next year we’ll be celebrating five years in Vancouver. It’s the same thing.
Brian: The One Company culture that is central to Entuitive allowed us to go and meet with clients, secure in the knowledge that others had our backs to deliver.
What are some of your fondest memories from the past five years?
Brian: Opening this new office that we’re in now is a big deal. It’s a beautiful office and Mohammad did a great job in delivering that.
Also, the relationships I’ve built with the staff here have been terrific. You only turn 60 once and when I did, I came into the office and there were balloons and vodka and well-wishers. It was really nice. I didn’t even know anyone knew it was my birthday!
Mohammad: Last year, in the middle of COVID, they put together a tailgate party for me for my birthday. It was a surprise party, and it was a great moment. I felt very loved. We went and thought it was a normal gathering and then everyone started singing.
That’s so nice – it definitely comes through how tight knit and close your team is. Any final thoughts?
Brian: I want to see this thing continue to grow in the same fashion that it’s grown over the last five years: deliberate, attention to quality, good people. For me, it’s not a work-life balance. I just have a life and sometimes through the day I do building envelope work.
Mohammad: These past five years have brought me a new perspective on life. There was a time that I was enjoying designing and overseeing project completion. These days, I enjoy seeing our team and their growth and seeing junior engineers succeed. Enabling people and helping them grow feels very rewarding and that’s the outcome of the past five years at Entuitive for me.