CTL Engineering – Columbus, Ohio

January 2, 2024
CTL Engineering - Columbus, Ohio

CTL Engineering

Engineering Success: The Employee-Owned Revolution of CTL Engineering


CTL Engineering’s unique Employee Stock Ownership Plan and innovative governance shape a future of exceptional growth, employee empowerment, and industry leadership.

CTL Engineering, a prominent consulting engineering firm based in Columbus, Ohio, offers a comprehensive range of services catering to the construction industry’s diverse needs. CTL Engineering has established itself as a leader in its field with a focus on environmental, geotechnical, construction administration and inspection, accident reconstruction, roofing, building envelope, and specialized testing services.

This employee-owned Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) distinguishes itself through its unique Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). This plan incentivizes each participating employee by giving them a stake in CTL Engineering’s success and fosters a culture of work ownership, collaboration, and teamwork. This approach has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and success, ensuring that each project benefits from its team’s collective expertise and commitment.

CTL Engineering’s expertise is broad and deep, covering a wide array of services critical to the construction industry. From ensuring environmental compliance to providing geotechnical solutions that underpin the safety and stability of structures, the company’s services are integral to the successful completion of construction projects. Its construction administration and inspection services ensure that projects are executed to the highest standards, while its accident reconstruction expertise provides vital insights in the aftermath of construction-related incidents.

CTL Engineering is more than just a service provider; it is a crucial partner in the construction industry. The company’s comprehensive suite of services, combined with a unique employee-ownership model, positions it as a critical player in the engineering consulting sector, dedicated to delivering excellence and innovation in every project it undertakes.

A Legacy of Growth and Innovation

As CTL Engineering approaches a century of operations, its journey from a local firm to a multi-state enterprise is a narrative of strategic growth and commitment to its roots. This expansion, coupled with the transformation into an employee-owned company, underscores its dedication to engineering excellence and fostering a unique corporate culture.

Jessica Donley, Marketing Manager and ESOP Communications Committee Representative, vividly depicts CTL’s origins and evolution. “CTL Engineering was established in 1927 in Columbus, Ohio. Over the past 96 years, we’ve expanded significantly. Today, we have a presence in several states, with two offices in Indiana, two in Kentucky, two in West Virginia, and five in Ohio.”

In 1990, a pivotal change occurred. “Before 1990, CTL was a traditional corporation,” Donley explains. “But that year, we transitioned to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). This shift was largely due to the vision of a few key individuals, including our current President, CK Satyapriya, who was then looking to sell his major holdings in the company.”

Ali Jamshidi, vice president of finance and CFO, explains CTL Engineering’s decision to adopt an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). “Initially, selling the company using employees’ 401K funds was considered, but this plan was not feasible. After unappealing offers from private equity firms, the ESOP option emerged, offering tax benefits and aligning with the desire to preserve the company’s legacy.”

CTL Engineering - Columbus, OhioCultivating Relationships and Excellence in Engineering

At the core of CTL Engineering’s philosophy is a focus on relationship building and maintaining a standard of excellence that distinguishes them in a competitive industry. This ethos is not just about providing services; it’s about offering unparalleled quality and expertise through a team that embodies the company’s values and ethics.

Donley articulates the essence of CTL’s approach to business. “Our business is built on relationship building. We don’t sell a product; we sell our people and their expertise. Being an ESOP company fosters a culture of ownership that attracts top-tier talent. This, in turn, enhances the services we offer our clients.” Her emphasis on relationship building as the cornerstone of their business strategy highlights CTL’s importance on human connections and trust.

She also emphasizes the company’s dedication to quality and ethical services, setting them apart in the industry. While not the cheapest, their clients recognize and value their high standards, often returning for solutions to problems encountered with other firms. CTL offers a wide range of services, acting as a one-stop solution for clients, encompassing environmental assessments, geotechnical engineering for foundation structures, and extensive testing to ensure compliance with building standards.

Jamshidi adds historical context, highlighting CTL’s legacy since 1927. Their significant role in foundation design for high-rises demonstrates their long-standing impact. CTL is a guardian of construction quality and standards, ensuring industry compliance and safety.

The Transformative Power of ESOP

The ESOP at CTL Engineering is more than a financial structure; it catalyzes growth, employee retention, and a distinctive company culture. This approach has influenced the company’s bottom line and reshaped its employee relations and business strategies.

Donley highlights the impact of the ESOP on employee retention and company expansion. “Since adopting the ESOP, we’ve strongly emphasized retaining employees, which is a key strength for us. Additionally, our growth strategy includes acquiring other ESOP companies, fostering the ESOP culture, and expanding its benefits.”

Jamshidi highlights the positive impact of the ESOP on employee turnover at CTL Engineering. “Before the ESOP, employee turnover was high, but as employees saw their ESOP stock value often surpassing their 401(k) savings, their inclination to leave for slightly higher pay decreased,” he explains. “Now, the average employee tenure is an impressive 8.6 years, with instances of employees retiring after nearly five decades.”

Donley highlights the financial growth since becoming majority ESOP-owned in 1999, with invoicing increasing by 11.1% and a notable rise in average employee tenure. Jamshidi further explains the economic advantages of the ESOP, stating that in the last 15 years, their stock value has grown by 13.5%, outperforming primary market benchmarks like the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Strategic Planning: Focusing on Employees and Growth

CTL Engineering’s demand forecasting and strategic planning approach involves a blend of relationship-driven business, reputation, and a comprehensive understanding of market trends and analytics. This strategy addresses immediate business needs and focuses heavily on employee development and satisfaction, reflecting a holistic approach to business growth and sustainability.

Jamshidi explains the company’s strategy in leveraging its reputation and relationships. “Much of our work is driven by our reputation and the relationships we’ve built over the years. We’ve reached a point where companies approach us for acquisition, a testament to our standing in the industry. In our strategic planning, we involve key employees extensively. We recently concluded a strategic session with around 25 key staff members, focusing on our vision for the next five years.”

He also mentions CTL Engineering’s ambition to be recognized as a top workplace. They have appointed champions in various departments to realize this goal and restructure the company. These changes are crucial for both revenue growth and enhancing employee shareholder value. Donley focuses on the employee-centric approach in their strategic planning. They prioritize employee development over mere financial metrics and believe in improving employees’ professional and personal skills.

She also introduces ‘CTL University,’ a program designed for comprehensive employee training in technical and leadership skills, based on staff feedback. This focus on employee growth and engagement is a testament to CTL Engineering’s commitment to fostering a thriving work environment. The company’s strategic plan prioritizes workforce development alongside traditional business growth, aligning with its ESOP culture.

Ethics, Relationships, and Recognition in Business Practices

CTL Engineering’s approach to supplier management and client relationships is deeply rooted in ethics and trust, strongly emphasizing building and maintaining long-lasting partnerships. This philosophy extends beyond mere business transactions, influencing every aspect of their operations and contributing to their notable achievements and recognition in the industry.

Jamshidi revisits the significance of employees in the context of supplier management. “About 20 years ago, when renewing our line of credit, the bank asked us about our assets. Our answer was our employees. This mindset is crucial in our business and is something we emphasize as part of our ESOP journey.” He shares a memorable instance, “Once, our receptionist when asked to speak to one of the owners, responded, ‘You’re talking to one.’ That ownership mentality is vital.”

Donley explains her client-oriented role at CTL Engineering, emphasizing the importance of nurturing relationships with previous clients. She notes that CTL doesn’t have an extensive pre-qualification process for sub-consultants or suppliers, but they ensure all necessary certifications and accreditations are met for their projects. Jamshidi highlights CTL’s recent honors, including being named the Ohio Kentucky ESOP Chapter Employer of the Year in 2023 and the National ESOP Company of the Year in Washington, D.C. These awards signify the company’s employee commitment.

Donley further mentions CTL’s local and national recognition, consistently ranking among Columbus Business First’s top 25 engineering firms and featuring in the top engineering projects, minority-owned firms, and top privately held firms lists. Engineering News-Record magazine also places them in the top 500 design firms nationally. CTL’s ethical business approach, solid relationships, and employee-driven culture have driven growth and stability and garnered extensive industry respect and accolades, reinforcing their leadership in engineering consulting.

CTL Engineering - Columbus, OhioNavigating the Present, Envisioning the Future: CTL Engineering’s Path Forward

As CTL Engineering looks toward the future, it grapples with the challenges of today while laying the groundwork for continued success and expansion. The company’s journey, marked by a strong emphasis on governance, employee engagement, and advocacy for ESOPs, sets the stage for its upcoming endeavors and aspirations.

Jamshidi stresses the significance of governance in CTL’s trajectory. “The most crucial aspect of any company is its governance. Since becoming a majority ESOP, we’ve ensured that most of our board of directors is external, non-employee, and non-shareholder. This structure allows for unbiased, honest input, crucial for our growth and success.”

Donley outlines CTL’s prospects and potential hurdles. “We’ve been fortunate to be part of high-profile projects recently, which we believe will lead to more such opportunities. Appointing a chief growth officer is strategic, signaling our intent to expand and evolve. However, a significant challenge we face is personnel recruitment. Finding qualified individuals to fill our expanding needs remains a hurdle in our growth path.”

Jamshidi echoes this sentiment. “Indeed, the scarcity of the right labor is our primary challenge. We have numerous openings but struggle to find qualified candidates to fill these roles. Despite this, we are optimistic about our involvement in high-profile projects and are confident that, with the right team, we can take on more impactful work.”

As CTL Engineering navigates these opportunities and challenges, its commitment to strong governance, employee engagement, and strategic growth remains central. With a blend of seasoned leadership, innovative strategies, and a focus on employee welfare, CTL is poised to continue its legacy as a leader in the engineering consulting sector, adapting and thriving in an ever-evolving industry landscape.

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CTL Engineering

What: A leading consulting engineering firm specializing in environmental, geotechnical, construction administration, and specialized testing services focusing on employee ownership and innovative business strategies.

Where: Columbus, Ohio

Website: https://ctleng.com/


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