Monday, April 14, 2014

Black & Veatch: “About Us” Evaluation by Corporate

Ernest Bateman Black and Nathan Thomas Veatch founded the firm Black & Veatch in Kansas City in 1915. The company now provides engineering, consulting, construction, and operations management in water, energy, and telecommunications. It has completed contracts in more than a hundred countries on six continents. With revenue of $3.3 billion, Black & Veatch is one of America’s largest employee-owned companies as well as one of its largest privately owned companies. The main About Us page (“Company”) is here.


Products/Services: D
There’s good material on the Company page, but the order isn’t effective. The graphic at the top of the page, “Approximately 10,000 professionals in 100+ countries worldwide,” gives no indication of what Black & Veatch does. The opening sentence of the text is no better: “Black & Veatch strikes a balance that is rare for any industry.” The slogan in the second sentence (“Building a World of Difference”) doesn’t seem clever until one reaches the second paragraph, where we finally learn that Black & Veatch does global engineering, consulting, and construction.

From this main About Us page, there should be links to the pages on Black & Veatch’s mission, rankings, and awards, all of which are well described elsewhere on the site. Other pages would benefit from some links as well: why not send visitors from Rankings to Awards, and vice versa?

On the main About Us page, Black & Veatch makes good use of a narrow column at the right to offer a PDF on the company, the company magazine (Solutions), and an annual report. On some other pages, the right-hand column offers impressive facts and figures about the company – unfortunately (again) without links to further information.

Our Commandment 6 of About Us pages is, “Honor thy visuals.” The images on Black & Veatch’s site are mostly cheerful office workers who could be from any company. Are these stock photos? Why not show some photos of the spectacular projects in exotic locales that Black & Veatch has worked on over the years?

Personality: C
The History page has an unusual and helpful layout: a narrative account at left, a timeline at right of about 20 events in the company’s 99-year history. The narrative puts Black & Veatch into historical and global perspective, while explaining how it grew to its current dominant position: an excellent piece of corporate storytelling. It could be dramatically improved by including archival photos. Such images (plus some headings) would also make that dense block of narrative more enticing.

But about that timeline: has Black & Veatch done nothing noteworthy since 2010? The timeline ends abruptly there. Our Commandment 10 of About Us pages is, “Remember to keep holy the updates.” Outdated information suggests that no one’s sweating the details – not a good first impression for a company that handles multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects.

The bios of Black & Veatch’s current management (Executive Committee) are standard format, with qualifications and current duties. None gives much sense of who’s driving the company, or what direction it’s heading. In an employee-owned company, this is a missed opportunity.

Accessibility: B
The Contact page helpfully tells the Black & Veatch office nearest to you, based on location data in your computer. Other contact information is standard: mail, general email, and phone number for the company headquarters, plus an online form.

If your company offers a wide range of services, use your corporate history to show why they’re cohesive – and don’t forget to make it vivid with images.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). To talk about your About Us page, contact us!
Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.