Here one of our company’s founders, Jim Steer and our CEO, Hugh Jones reflect on our small (but global) beginnings and what has led to us becoming a company known for working on some of the most significant and globally-recognisable projects of our time.
Our Company was launched over four decades ago in a small office in Covent Garden, London. Three friends – Jim Steer, John Davies and Graham Gleave – a strategist, a planner and an economist. Their first projects found them spread across three countries Hong Kong, Brazil and Mozambique. International work was certainly in our blood right from the start.
Jim Steer remembers that from the outset Steer Davies Gleave sought to be an international business – he says: “it’s how to have the widest range of work and benefit from the richest experience”. Within just a few years, the Company had delivered projects in Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This ambition has continued through every decade of our existence.
Leading the pack
Back in 1978, analysis was generally conducted on main-frame computers – using punched-card decks. IBM was yet to introduce its PC, and Apple was in its infancy, a mere pip! Running programs was an overnight affair. Jim remembers, that one of our first purchases was a British-made microcomputer from Cromemco. While not a powerful machine, in comparison to our modern technology, this computer gave the company an early advantage, and helped us work on key projects.
Hugh Jones explains that progressive thinking continues to be a mainstay for our company – as we see ourselves head into new and exciting times, broadening our offer beyond transport to ensure that we help clients generate opportunities in their ever-evolving landscape.
Developing strong relationships
Back in the 70s, many of our clients, such as British Rail and London Transport, rarely used consultants, if at all. Jim recollects that building strong relationships with clients and demonstrating how our advice adds value and creates opportunities for them, became a well-recognised characteristic of the company. Hugh explains that over 80% of our clients work with us again and again, and often over many years. Our longest standing client is Canary Wharf, for whom we have worked from the earliest days, when we began initial discussions to develop an enhanced public transport solution to help create a business district – and so we were involved in developing London’s first driverless railway, the Dockland’s Light Railway. Another great example of our ability to create longstanding relationships is our work supporting Bogota’s Transmilenio, where we have been involved from its planning to its current day re-tendering. It is hard to think of other transport projects that have had a more transformative effect.
Looking back, moving forwards
These qualities of being international, progressive and developing strong client relationships built on delivering excellence and commercial advantage for our clients, have been with us from day one. Now over 40 years later, with some 28,000 projects under our belt, offices across four continents, and still as independent and impartial as ever, we changed our name to ‘Steer’ to mark our continuing growth and diversity as a business.
Our people are our greatest asset. We have many of the most respected experts in their fields, who combine commercial, economic and planning expertise to solve our clients’ most complex questions.