President, Williams Engineering Canada Inc.

The shock of losing company founder Allen Williams in a plane crash in October 2007 still weighed on employees at A.D. Williams Engineering when the unthinkable happened.

Exactly five months later, Williams' son and new president Reagan Williams was killed in another plane crash, along with four others. They included Williams CFO Phil Allard and Rhonda Quirke, director of business integration strategies.

"It was a fairly surreal," recalls Naseem Bashir of what it was like that snowy
Friday in March.

Bashir, who became president afterwards, says that "when you lose that many senior people who were shareholders, I think a lot of our people-and probably a lot of people out on the street-were thinking how can [the company] survive?"

Not only has Bashir brought the Edmonton-based consulting engineering services firm stability, under his leadership it also has a new name-Williams Engineering Canada Inc.-and employee ownership structure. And it has quite dramatic growth plans: To double in size over the next five years.

"People say to me, ‘That's pretty ambitious-to grow by 20 per cent a year.' But the last two years, we grew by 50 per cent, and part of that period we went through the worst recession we've seen in a long period of time. Our revenues at the end of our last fiscal year, which ended May 31, were still 25 per cent higher than they were the year before."

Part of that growth strategy, he adds, is based on acquiring other companies.

Bashir, a 19-year veteran of Williams, is quick to credit his colleagues and other employees for its success: "We have a great executive team. It was pretty key for us to build that strength back up [after the accidents]."

Bashir admits that leading the company in those days immediately after the second plane crash was the biggest challenge he's had to deal with.

"The most important thing to do at that time was to create stability," he says. "Rolling up in a ball and rocking yourself to sleep is not an option. The families and the people who work here are really important."

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