16 Years Later: Engineering Firm Founder Shares His 3 Secrets to Success

Leanna Michniuk

Updated: December 19, 2023
April 9, 2021
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16 Years Later: Engineering Firm Founder Shares His 3 Secrets to Success

engineering-firm-founder-shares-3-secrets-to-sucessWe’ve recently partnered with The Civil Engineering Podcast to create a new series, Civil Engineering Entrepreneurs, to help industry professionals gain insight from engineers who have grown businesses themselves and have succeeded. We are now on our second episode and the advice that has come out of these interviews is beyond helpful. (If you haven’t yet, make sure to listen to the first episode and subscribe!)

In this second episode, our host Anthony Fasano sits down with Brian Smith, P.E., Founding Partner of Urban Design Partners to learn more about how he’s been successfully running his business since 2005. Throughout the episode, Brian mentions 3 key pieces of advice that he has learned first-hand during his 16 years of running his own firm.

1. Time is money

Throughout the progression of the company, Brian and his partner were the ones doing everything, from the accounting to the administrative work, it was all hands on deck. But there comes a time where you’ll need to identify and fill some of these different roles that are taking up a lot of hours in the day. When addressing this issue, Brian shared advice from his own experience, “we decided to look at the time being spent by our technical staff doing those roles and the time being spent and the value of those dollars not being spent on billable work.” For example, Brian mentioned they recently hired a marketing professional because they were spending a lot of time figuring out what they wanted to do and how they were going to execute it. “It’s a process of continuing to identify at what time a role becomes large enough to get someone else to do it. One of the best ways to identify when that time comes is the ability to track and measure hours. Having some kind of metric to flag those things is extremely important.

2. Invest in your people

The people you hire can really make or break your company’s success. Finding the right team and then investing in their growth as well as company culture can do wonders for all involved. You want to make sure that people are still engaged and on the right track for what they want to do in their careers. Brian recommends quarterly sit-downs with your team members and different people from your leadership team to talk about what they want to get out of their careers and where they want to be headed. Based on that feedback you get, find courses they can take that aligns with their goals. Whether it be the management side or the more technical side, the knowledge and skills they learn will be brought back to the company.

3. Remain hopeful during the ups & downs

When Brian’s firm first opened up in 2005, things were comfortable but when the recession hit in 2008, things took a turn and the fear of having to close up shop was real. When you grow a firm of any kind, especially in the civil engineering world, you’re inevitably going to encounter problems along the way but it’s how you handle those problems that make all the difference. During the episode, Brian mentions how important it is to collaborate and rely on your team to resolve an issue and get to the other side. Now on that other side and experiencing steady growth since 2010, remaining hopeful and pushing through helped Brian get his company where it is today.

Listen to the rest of Brian and Anthony’s great advice in the full episode here and make sure to subscribe!

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