Managing Through Change: A New Leadership Role Takes Shape for Rory Causseaux at CHW

By Kristina Orrego

Rory Causseaux knows God didn’t make him a missionary or a preacher, but an engineer – someone who didn’t create anything but takes what he’s given and makes it better.

He’s known it since his earliest memory and he’s held tight to the idea at age 56, as he transitioned from CEO of CHW Professional Consultants to the role of Founder, effective January 1.

The change also comes on the heels of the company’s 30th anniversary.

CHW, which stands for its partners, Causseaux, Kevin Hewett and Robert Walpole, is an engineering consultant organization located at 11801 Research Dr. in Alachua. They specialize in planning and design, client advocacy, engineering, transportation, surveying and mapping and construction services, according to CHW’s official website.

Robert Walpole, president of CHW, is now CEO.

Rory’s New Role

Causseaux said there were a few factors involved in his decision to transition into his new role. The first was that he simply felt it was time.  

Always keeping the company’s best interests in mind, he said he also knew it was time when he realized his vision was more short-term than those of his younger partners, possibly causing conflict down the line.

“It felt like to me for the long term, I didn’t need to be a barrier or an anchor to the success of a company as it moves forward and advances itself,” he said.

The transition happened over the course of five years, during which his partner’s roles were increasing and his were decreasing and becoming more focused on different areas.

“I just became convinced that going from 100 percent to zero all in one day — in other words, like falling off of a cliff — might be more challenging than I would think,” he said. “The closer you worked to us, the more you might’ve [noticed the] change. But there was nothing sudden about it.”

So, his new role became threefold: an active role on CHW’s advisory board, CHW advocate and community liaison.

CHW’s advisory board, a group of six volunteers, has been in place for about six years. He said he’ll be providing individual advice to partners as a member of the board.

His advocacy role is akin to business development, he said. Using his established network of people who know him and trust his judgment, he’ll continue to market and represent CHW in the community.

Finally, as CHW’s community liaison in Alachua, he’ll work with non-profit organizations in town, such as Gainesville Peer Respite, Climb for Cancer Foundation and Created.

He said over the past five years, he’s also solidified connections with the Builders Association of North Central Florida and the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors, or GACAR.

Rory’s Start and CHW’s Growth

The company that eventually became CHW started when Causseaux was 26, four years after he graduated from the University of Florida’s School of Engineering.

Most aspiring engineers get their start by working for a few years in the industry and being led by a mentor. To earn the title of professional engineer, they must pass a state licensure exam.

Causseaux’s start was in 1983, when he joined Chance, Eng and Denman, Incorporated, during his senior year of college. The company had its origins in the 60s, when Wayne Chance opened a practice called Wayne Chance Surveyors. He added two partners in the late 70s, he said.

It was Ralph Eng, the professional engineer in charge of that company, who became his mentor.

He took his licensure exam in October 1987 and found out he had passed in February ‘88.

By March of that year, it was decided that he and Chance would begin a new partnership venture of their own.  

Between Causseaux and Chance, they started out the company with 13 employees. Despite a slow start, by 2008 they had 60 employees.

But CHW wasn’t immune to the recession at that time and they had to cut their workforce in half. They weathered the storm by improving their systems, processes, platforms, and other organizational aspects of the company, even when they couldn’t do much work.

Causseaux said they stayed in survival mode for three years. But the company has since grown back up and now sits at 85 employees.

“We were more intentional, so we had a bigger platform to grow from,” he said. “It’s almost like retooling or rethinking. That’s made us successful coming out of the recession because now we have the infrastructure and the platform by which to grow the organization.”

When asked what he enjoyed the most about being the CEO, he reflected on the meaningful relationships he’s established with his colleagues — one that’s like a family.

“While they [his employees] have a responsibility working for you, you also see their lives change through what they learn, how they become better professionals,” he said. “You see them get married. You see them have children. You see their parents die. You see life happen.”

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