Some things never change. Throughout our 50-year history, we’ve remained focused on people. From an employee-centric culture to a client-first mentality, people and the relationships we have with them have always been just as important as our projects. Creating environments where people can thrive has helped us attract the best people, build successful client relationships, and foster a culture that’s second to none. Half a century later, we’re still the same company — just with more people and projects.
BUILDING A BETTER WORLD
50 years is a long time, and we’ve gotten a lot done. But we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. 50 years of changing the industry...and if you ask us, we’re just getting started.
Man with a Plan
As far as founders go, Fran Henderson was legendary. A math genius, skilled engineer, and company culture visionary, he opened Henderson Engineers on March 16, 1970 to create an environment where people came first. Fran traded in his white button-down and tie for new office attire (jeans and what became his trademark bucket hat), and the new team of three began to pursue work in many of the same verticals we do today.
It wasn’t long before the early #TeamHenderson made a name for ourselves as fast and efficient, particularly in grocery and retail design. By doubling down on the importance of technical quality and client service, we earned the attention and business of several trailblazing brands — many of which we still work with today.
Throughout the 80s, Henderson began building a portfolio of repeat clients and a reputation for technical efficiency, problem-solving, and client service. Pretty soon, our client roster included grocery and retail stores, restaurants, schools, and office buildings on Kansas City’s famous Country Club Plaza.
Near the end of the decade, Fran’s son, Duane Henderson, took over and led us through 25 years of successful growth. We also had an unexpected visit from two Bentonville execs, which started what remains our longest-lasting client relationship. In 1989, Walmart asked for help with a new store concept combining retail and grocery under one roof, and we haven’t looked back or stopped innovating retail design since then.
Decade of Growth
The 90s introduced acid washed jeans and a lot of fresh faces. New clients like Sprint, Blockbuster, Applebee’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Harps helped the firm grow from five to 100 employees. One new face would eventually change the trajectory of the company. Rich Smith, our firm’s former President and CEO, became Henderson’s 50th employee joining just as Fran was stepping into retirement.
Henderson had several other milestones this decade, including a new company logo featuring the “Power H,” and the introduction of three specialty divisions — Impact Illumination, Fire Dynamics, and Collective Tech — which are all services we still offer today. We also held our first client golf tournament, an event so legendary it has expanded to four locations around the country.
Henderson opened a lot of new doors over the next 10 years — literally. We established six of our nationwide offices as we doubled in size, again. We also landed our first venue project, Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon, which has since led to game-changing projects for collegiate and professional sport teams across the country. We also helped repair damage from Hurricane Katrina for clients like Walmart, Office Depot, and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It was also around this time that we solidified #TeamHenderson as we expanded our family of services by introducing Henderson Building Solutions. This new group specialized in commissioning, construction management, and all the logistics and supply chain needs in between.
By 2010, our iconic projects were coast-to-coast, and Henderson officially is too with offices opening in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. At this time, we had a leadership change as Duane Henderson officially retired and passed the role of President/CEO onto Rich Smith — a position he held for 9 years.
Fran’s once small team has grown to 900+ employees, but his founding principles have remained the same. Quality standards became an entire department dedicated to quality control and technical training. Parking lot beers turned into monthly office happy hours. And, helping fix a Habitat for Humanity house transformed into paid time-off to volunteer. Half a century of changing the industry… and we’re just getting started.
A NEW STRUCTURE
In what was supposed to be a celebration of Henderson’s 50th anniversary, the 2020s began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through these challenges, we adapted to changing health restrictions and continued our commitment to integrating sustainable, resilient design concepts into our standard business practices.
The beginning of 2022 brought new senior leadership as Kevin Lewis became the CEO & President of Henderson Companies, replacing former CEO Rich Smith. We restructured to align our nationwide engineering and construction experience into five sectors: Business, Community, Health, Retail, and Venue. We also prioritized our focus on employee equality through our DE&I initiatives and proudly became an employee-owned company.
FAST FACTS FOR FIFTY
Seem like a lot? It is. We work hard.
More industry-changing employees every day.
We've been casual since before casual Fridays were a thing.
CONTINUING OUR STORY
Looking back is only half of the Henderson story as we’re really more focused on what’s coming next. We’re pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past five decades, but we can’t help but think our next 50 years will be the best ones yet. See how we’re keeping focused on what got us here in the first place.
building great partnerships
We’re just as committed to technical excellence and creative solutions today as we were in 1970. See how we’ve helped our clients bring their projects to life.