Waterborne's Founders: Waterborne is a Firm 30 Years in the Making
“We set out to create a company where our employees felt like valued, respected team members who had the license to innovate and develop into recognized scientific leaders. We knew that if we created such an environment, one that upheld a high ethical and scientific standard, we would attract the best talent - and the clients would follow. 30 years later, we’re proud to say we were right.”
So says Waterborne Environmental’s founders, Patrick (Pat) W. Holden and W. Martin (Marty) Williams who met at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticides Program. Waterborne officially opened the doors in May 1993.
“We began with six employees, including ourselves, in Leesburg, Virginia. Kristen Umbaugh and Mark Cheplick were among the original six and Amy Ritter joined us within the first months, and Nathan Snyder soon after. 30 years later they’re still with us and Leesburg, outside of Washington DC, remains our corporate headquarters.”
Throughout the years, Waterborne has kept steady to its original vision statement: “We believe that balancing quality of life for a growing world population and the health of our environment can be best achieved through the practice of sound science. Waterborne Environmental was established with the vision to provide superior environmental consulting services while maintaining high ideals in the protection of environmental quality.”
Growth came quickly to the small team. It took on its first project outside of the US shortly after its founding and quickly added work in other parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. It opened its first branch office in Missouri within two years. A satellite office in Philadelphia followed and the firm was on its way to national expansion.
“Our culture attracted talent. Word got around and we soon had people asking to join our team. Fortunately, we were also growing our client base in these same markets. Because our corporate culture has always been geared toward employee work-life balance, we found it made sense to allow significant talents to open a satellite office where they could best serve their clients.”
“A company is only as good as the heart and desire of its employees. They are the today and the tomorrow. We are proud to have started a company that has launched careers within and even outside of the company, where junior team members have learned and grown into leaders. We’ve always encouraged innovation and that has led to real change within our industry. Waterborne has a reputation for research and development, for creating new science. As we say internally, ‘think bigger.’”
Added to Marty and Pat’s vision for their firm was a list of core values that are somewhat unique within the business world: scientific transparency, value relationships (internal and external), humility, and adaptability. They anchored these core values with an emphasis on workplace culture and client satisfaction.
“We have a reputation as a company that values its employees. We’re an employee-owned company. Every employee has a private office in a casual, comfortable environment. We work our own hours because work-life balance is critical to long-term productivity.”
“We were very fortunate in that we began with a strong, supportive client base that has stayed with us through to today. Back then, our work was almost entirely agriculturally-focused. Today, Waterborne itself has expanded into many industries around the world and is helping to solve the biggest challenges this planet is facing - feeding a growing population, declining natural resources, and environmental degradation.
Both Pat and Marty have taken turns as Waterborne’s President and CEO (Pat from 1993-2010 and Marty from 2011-2017 and 2019-2021). While Pat retired in 2017, he remains on the Board of Directors. Said Pat, “my time was Waterborne is done and Marty’s is close. The future of the firm is in the hands of the next generation – Paul Barboza, Amy, Nathan, and Jennifer Trask. It’s up to them and others to guide Waterborne into the next 30 years.”
Whatever the future holds for the firm, it’s clear that its strong foundation in employee respect and care will serve Waterborne well. After all, in the words of its founders, “Waterborne is driven by the aspirations of its employees.”