The Attain Group – Smart Buildings and Great People

What can I tell you about Derrick Hanson that you don’t already know? Those of you who have had the pleasure to do business with The Attain Group know that Derrick, President and co-founder, is a people person. He is family oriented. He is also the kind of person who will use his knowledge and skills to make the world a better place.

How did Attain come to be? When Derrick was 31 years old, he had already sold a profitable business. And, as he tells me, he stayed on for another nine years as an executive. “I realized after a while I didn’t want to
do it anymore. I wanted something different. A big driver was that my kids were little, they were 5 and 9.” Derrick told me that he quit his job, took the summer off to spend time and play with his kids. “Eleven days after I quit I got a call from one of our clients from my old business.”

Turns out that was his now business partner Robert Horne, who suggested they go into business together. But again, Derrick had a stipulation, he wanted the summer off to be with his kids. Once the summer was over, Derrick met Robert on October the 4th. November 9th they incorporated Attain and landed their first client in December. They make it look and sound so easy. 18 years later and Attain is a 37 employee, coast-to-coast, professional engineering firm! Oh yea, they also won Ottawa’s Best Places to Work Competition in 2022!

What Exactly does Attain do and how do they stay ahead of market trends? Have you seen those really fancy modern new commercial buildings? It’s all about how the building connects to the outside world. Attain can tell you how to best do it. In 2022 we all know what smart buildings are, what they do and why it is necessary to design smart. Let’s go back 18 years ago when Attain first incorporated. Was there a market for this? “No.” according to Derrick, “We managed to find ways to do work that was viable for clients”  Derrick told me how they “created a market around technology consulting and engineering.” This to me is what makes Attain exceptional. When Attain started in 2004, it was how Derrick puts it, “a new brand, new market and a new concept.”

As I mentioned earlier, Attain was awarded the best place to work in Ottawa. I wanted to get an inside scoop on why that is. What makes Attain so special? “I wanted a place where I could still be connected to my family and a place where people recognized me as a person.” explains Derrick. He spoke a lot about his two sons and I could see that the driving factor behind a lot of what he does is his family. Therefore it was easy for me to understand the need for a work life balance. Derrick also told me that they treat their people like family. “Go to your kids’ play, we will cover your work.” is what Derrick would say to any of his employees because he understands the value that family brings. I keep coming back to that notion of like-minded people and companies finding each other and working together.

“No one is going to care what I did for a living, they’re going to care about how I treated other people.” Derrick says to me as he speaks about the Boomer generation, how for them it was all about work work work. This is where Derrick tells me “I think the next generation taught us something” as we speak about flexible work hours and drawing boundaries when it comes to bringing your work home with you.

It was so refreshing to hear Derrick talk about giving chances. Try something new and ask for what you need. Attain will hire inexperienced people as long as they have some education. “What we’re looking for is someone who is hungry, humble and smart. Is the person applying hungry? Do they want to make a difference in the world? Are they humble, are they willing to be taught and be part of a team, listen and contribute? And are they smart?” Those are the three qualities we look for in candidates”.

Are people willing to spend more money for smarter buildings? Derricks tells me “yes they are”, without a moment of hesitation! Especially since Covid. With smart buildings we can make sure each individual’s needs are met. We can monitor lighting, heating and air quality. It’s energy efficient and more personalized.” Of course, that’s one aspect of commercial buildings. How do we get people back in the office? “The office has to become a place that’s a destination, a magnet that attracts people back. We are helping bring people back to the office. We try to make it a place you  come to.”

What I’ve learned about Attain is that not only do they have state of the art offices, they have state of the art managers! That does sound like the best pace to work. Don’t get me wrong, the buildings are great but Attain is still giving their employees the option to work from home. “Today, half of us are in the office, they want to be here. We try to make it a place they want to come to.” What they are doing seems to be working.

As we were finishing up our call Derrick told me “I love Eric, I love Colin, I love Joel and I love Madison. Those are the four people I deal with, they’re terrific people!” Coincidentally enough, Joel has been an accountant with Attain for 18 years, since they first incorporated. They wouldn’t have it any other way. Attain has lots of new projects coming up with a projection that their business will skyrocket in the very near future. Look out, Canada (and the world) Smart buildings are taking over.

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Mia Markovic, Experience Coordinator

Mia Markovic, Experience Coordinator

Mia graduated from Concordia University with a Bachelor in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in Public Relations Management from McGill University. Her wide range of experience includes organizing media ethics events worldwide, political and marketing campaigns, teaching at summer camps to founding two experiential learning centers in Belgrade, Serbia. Mia loves hiking, adventures and exploring with her family. Environment, ecology and reducing her carbon footprint are issues she finds very important. Her dream is to one day have a backyard and garden.

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