Starting an Engineering Company Today Can Be Like Driving Into Death Valley
Anthony Fasano posted on March 17, 2011 |
I decided to try to make the move to a company that sounded like they would be prepared to ride out the upcoming recession in May of 2008. After being let go from that company, I wasn't sure what to do, especially since the company was supposed to have had the type of clients who would not be hit so hard by the down economy. I had always wanted to start my own company, however didn't think I had enough experience at the time. I had also not known of any single-owner civil engineering firm that had been around for a substantial amount of time. After talking with a buddy who had a government job (public works) as well as other previous co-workers, I decided why not dip my feet into the craziness that is known as the building industry. I was able to get in contact with a civil engineer who by chance was about to close his shop because of unforeseeable events. The perfect storm brewed into what would be my first LLC.

The LLC did pretty well from the beginning as I had always kept in contact with everyone that mattered to me along the way. We had job referrals coming from all different directions as we built up our brand awareness. We even started gaining a great reputation with repeat clients. All of this, with a new company that was less than one year old during the “Great Housing Depression Part 2” in Southern California. Then the partnership began to become wobbly. A partner had some events happen where he had to leave the State and take care of his personal life.

With two partners left, the falling apart of the LLC began. Now there wasn't that third opinion, that we originally had, on what we would charge or how we would approach projects. We decided to drop a couple of large Downtown Los Angeles projects, and then began to proposing prices that were too high for new work. This approach quickly reduced our income! This is where I learned that not all engineers make good business-people. We basically ran ourselves into the ground even though we had this great reputation and client base. Not to mention the Architects we were working with preferred us to competing civil engineering companies in the area.

After dissolving the LLC, I wasn't sure what I would do. I was pretty depressed as I put my all into it. I spent almost 18 hours a day 6 days a week trying to do anything I could to find more business, work on plans, and make more money. Fast forward about four months later with some pretty dark times in between and no real direction, I decided why not go for my own company again. I told myself that the outcome couldn't be any worse. Plus I had a good friend that has his own Mortgage Company, telling me that it takes multiple business tries before you are successful. I learned a lot, saw a lot, and wanted to make sure that I would not repeat the same mistakes from the original company. So here I am today, one civil engineering company dissolved that I started at the age of 29, starting a new venture at the age of 32, keeping very positive that my old mistakes will not be repeated.

I hope this story gives hope to all of those who have struggled so hard in this difficult environment.

Author - Guest Blogger Brandon Lee

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Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC

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