2024 is a huge milestone for Empire Engineering as the company turns 10 years old.

From a desk in Karl’s spare room, there are now 20 employees in offices around the globe.

Karl Davis, Managing Director, took some time out to talk about why he started the company and how the industry has changed over the years.

Hi Karl, tell us a bit more about how Empire Engineering got started?

It all started because I was curious to go on a journey of running a business and being the master of my own destiny. I liked the idea of building something and having a good group of people to work with. Where I have a loyalty and obligation to those people with it working both ways.

I saw an opportunity within our sector, it was mainly big organisations delivering these services and they have drawbacks. Big companies are not responsive and can be very formal which doesn’t work for everyone. So I wanted to provide a responsive company that could work with people how they want to be worked with. So I took advantage of this opportunity and Empire Engineering was born.

From a personal point of view I chose to set Empire up when I was relatively inexperienced and I could do that as I didn’t have any responsibilities back then. I’d just got married but had no children. If you’re starting a new business and entering on this journey, it helps to be as unencumbered as possible to take the pressure off. So although it would have been easier in a way to wait for 5 or 10 years, there would have been more personal pressures.

How it started – Empire desk #1

What was the original vision for the company?

The original vision was all around the clients, it was just myself delivering in the beginning. I didn’t hire anyone for a year or so. The clients came first, then the people came as we grew.

We had some really good clients in the early years who saw our value and liked working with us, but it was tough and challenging to win work and get continuous projects. That will always be the challenge.

Has that vision changed as the company has grown?

Not really. Clients are the core of everything we do, we are here to serve the clients and that’s the way it’s always been and always will be. Our clients have typically been offshore wind developers, they are big companies and working alongside them as a smaller outfit can be challenging. 

We are unique being engineering focused and run by engineers. Technically we are very very good but we worked out how to run a business as we went along.

How has the company grown and evolved?

This is an interesting one. We are a bit unusual being an organisation with lots of little offices and we have always been quite dispersed. We embraced remote working from an early stage and have always had to be good at communicating because of that.
The focus has always been on hiring good people where and when we find them and then put them to the best use.

Good people are our basis.

We have always been technically strong and like to share technical information with people which is where the idea for Foundation Ex came from. We also regularly publish technical content and our popular Guide to offshore wind foundations.

Team group shot on a boat

How it’s going – Empire Team Day 2023, read more here.

What challenges have you faced over the years?

We started back in 2014 and over those 10 years offshore wind has changed massively as an industry with really big ups and downs. The size of what we deal with has changed drastically and the technology has changed and evolved. There are a lot of peaks and troughs so it can be difficult to win in the industry when it’s in a trough.

Finding good people and retaining them is a challenge but we have been fortunate to work with really good recruitment people to help with that.

Our next challenge is thinking about how the organisation is growing, making the leap to a company with 20 plus employees is huge. We have always grown the company a bit, then consolidated, then grown a bit more then consolidated again. At each stage we have to work out how the company now runs and we are facing possibly our biggest challenge in that regard this year.

Would you do anything differently?

No, I’m pleased to say I don’t think so.

What would you tell a younger self?

It took me a while to learn the value of being a specialist and being really good at one thing.

So I’d definitely have liked to know that early on.

Do you have any advice for others?

If you want to set up a small organisation, focus on being really specialist at what you do and focus on what you are good at. If you focus on solving problems for people and understanding what your client needs, you can help them better.

And very importantly hire the best people you can get your hands on!

What is your fondest memory?

Moving into our nice new office in Bristol last year and buying a proper coffee machine. That took 10 years to buy and is a good indicator of success I think.

What are your plans for the future?

Our current plan is to continue with steady growth, we have a target to double to 40 people in the short term. But we have learnt that growth can bring challenges so we need to think past that in 2024.

What have been your highlights to date?

Without doubt working with lots of really talented people. The nice thing about offshore wind and the foundation space we work in is that no one knows everything so you have to be able to collaborate with others and I really enjoy that. Collaboration and teamwork is really important in our industry as it’s so technically challenging and I feel that’s special to offshore wind foundations.

Talk with Karl

We’ve been a part of some of the worlds most exciting and
complicated projects in offshore wind.

If you need more eyes, brains and hands, we’re ready to help.

Empire specialists can effectively and efficiently assist with your offshore wind project. To find out more, please get in touch with the team at Empire Engineering.


Read our Guide to Offshore Foundations

Packed full of knowledge about the technical developments and challenges facing our industry in both fixed bottom and floating offshore wind.

Read our Guide to Offshore Foundations

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