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30 Most Inspiring Leaders to Watch 2021

‘We Want to Push the Boundaries of What is Possible and Continue to Surprise Ourselves’: Martha Huk, Founder of Hedgeford & Berkley

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“We want to be working with other leaders who crave doing great things.”

Martha Huk, founder of Hedgeford & Berkley, is an engineer with an unparalleled drive for modern aesthetics. She began her career as a mechanical engineer, originally specialising in propulsion cooling for military vehicles. She soon found herself working as a design engineer during the day and renovating houses before, and after work.

Hedgeford & Berkley is one of Canada’s top recognized designers. With a dedicated, quality-focused team and deep portfolio working with bold, visionary clients, the company’s bespoke approach has generated multiple industry awards, media coverage, and a sizeable waitlist. With a focus on fostering strong client relations and working in partnerships with local craftspeople, the Hedgeford & Berkley team prides itself on tough work ethic, technical capacity, and unsurpassable drive for client satisfaction.

The company is based in Ontario.

Martha Huk spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review and shared her experiences about how she plans to stay at the forefront and lead the company to greater heights.

Below is an excerpt.

Q. What’s your story? And what led you to the establishment of Hedgeford & Berkley?

Early in my career, I was working as a design engineer, prototyping propulsion cooling systems for military vehicles. For years, I had one vision: create a better vehicle so our troops could come home safer. I left it all when I realized that the purpose to create something remarkable was being overshadowed by the need to just “get something out”. I saw first hand what happens when people lose inspiration and morale to do great things. I realized that if management could not create a progressive place for me to work in, I would create a company that could. So I set out to build a company with the other skill set I had — renovating. I never set out to create the greatest design and build firm; I set out to build the best company to work for. We just happen to be good at design and build.

Q. You have a passion for design, besides being an engineer. Did this motivate you to build your own company? Just out of curiosity, how passionate are you about designing structures or renovating them?

I built my own company so that I could facilitate a place where people could feel inspired to create and execute great things. I had no idea that I would take the passion I had for designing and building and use it to propel the company. During my schooling, when it was time to select an engineering discipline to specialize in, I struggled with which field to choose. I thought also about quitting engineering and switching to architecture but ultimately my passion for the military overshadowed everything. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of soldiers and I felt mechanical engineering would put me in the design seat of improving their machines. I never stopped continuing my interests in design and build though and when I realized that creating an environment that moves people was far more rewarding than creating the machine; I realized I could help change things in a different way.

Q. Besides being the founder, you work as a principal designer and project lead at Hedgeford & Berkley. Terrific! What exactly does this designation entail?

Dreaming is one thing, executing is a whole other ball game. Understanding the effort it takes to bring a design to life allows us to iterate between what we want to create, and what it will take to pull it off. We design structure into the designs as we develop the vision so we don’t get to the end and let someone else worry about the details. We are finding it rare to work with people who are obsessed with both the technical and creative aspects. We can't help it, we are addicted to all parts of the process and my job is to lead the facilitation of both.

Q. Who do you look up to and why?

There are many people I look up to, most of them are not in the design world, but I look up to them for their strengths in leadership and character. Eliud Kipchoge teaches me that if there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do no harm. He shows that your mental strength needs to be worked on daily and believing that you have no limits, enables you to reach heights you could never have imagined. David Goggins is another person who has taught me the ability to find your true potential and that you have no idea how efficient people can be. I look up to his ability to show that your mind can pull you through times you did not think you had the strength to face and that the limits we often set for ourselves can be surpassed.

Q. What’s the greatest challenge you have faced? And how did you overcome it?

Navigating growth has been my greatest challenge yet. Opportunities are rarely clear cut and easy to navigate. They’re messy and muddy the waters and are often the unpopular choice. I thought I would have an opportunity to slowly grow and create procedures along the way but instead, we exploded on the scene and leapt through bigger and more complex projects month by month. Knowing who to trust was especially difficult because everyone will tell you that they’re the best at what they do and until you’ve experienced how to define the skillset, it can be a painful trial and error. Early on as well, I hadn’t developed the experience needed to trust my gut instinct. The best way I have overcome it is by establishing thresholds early. Looking for checkpoints to monitor success and not letting my standards waver. Being ok walking away from things that once looked like opportunities because I realize that they’re not the fit we need.

Q. Could you describe your typical management style and the type of an employee that works well with you?

I find that my management style expects a complete commitment to the cause at hand. I expect needs to be anticipated, high precision, and a constant drive to create a better version of what the work product could be. I expect the clients’ needs to be fulfilled at all times and shrugging off accountability is my biggest pet peeve. I like to state the deliverables required, define success, and then back off and check in before key milestones. Employees that work well with me have the drive to succeed, they’re self-starters and they surprise me with a different way of getting to a better answer. I expect a lot, I realize, but I am driven to be surrounded by a hunger for greater things.

Q. What new endeavors is Hedgeford & Berkley currently undertaking?

We are currently undertaking the lead consultation in designing and building luxury villas. We love to facilitate a positive experience both during the build process and long after it is complete. Understanding that these villas are meant to be a place where entrepreneurs and busy people come to unwind, we strive to create easy living for the reset they value so much.

Q. Where do you think Hedgeford & Berkley will be in five years?

I stopped thinking about where we could be in five years a long time ago. Goals I thought we would reach in three years, we were reaching in months. Every time I think the projects can’t possibly get bigger or more exciting, another opportunity comes our way. One goal for us is always clear: we want to be working with other leaders who crave doing great things. We want to push the boundaries of what is possible and continue to surprise even ourselves. After all, we are known for setting audacious goals and finding a way to surpass them.

“We want to push the boundaries of what is possible and continue to surprise even ourselves. After all, we are known for setting audacious goals and finding a way to surpass them.”