Civil and Structural Engineer recently sat down with Nikhil Choudhary and Davide Renard, two members of the engineering industry making a splash with San Francisco-based, Zenith Engineers Inc. This firm takes a unique approach to its clients, project delivery, and technology, hoping to change industry standards for service, quality, and expertise. This approach has helped them land a prestigious place on the Inc. 500 list in 2019. The journey is far from over, and Zenith’s leadership has plans for a larger West Coast expansion in 2020. Nikhil Choudhary, CEO, founded Zenith in 2009, along with current president and CTO, Senthil Puliyadi, after seeing a need to address key areas they felt were missing from the engineering and construc- tion industries—service, expertise, and responsiveness. Choudhary graduated from Michigan State University with a master’s degree in structural engineering, then spent several years working in general contracting and construction management before founding Zenith. Prior to joining Zenith, David Renard spent nearly a decade in con- struction product manufacturing and modular construction project management. As Zenith’s vice president of sales & partnerships, he is in charge of partnership development and personnel growth manage- ment. He also sits on the board for the Society of American Military Engineers. C+S: Your growth over the time period measured by the Inc. 500 is 1,924 percent. That’s a pretty astounding number. Which of your four major service lines did the heaviest lifting in terms of this growth? NC: It goes back to how we grew so fast. We call ourselves recession- proof because we do service four different sectors. We take on the stuff that other engineering companies do not want to do. To the question of which division does the heaviest lifting: I would say it’s all of them together. It’s a combined effort of how each of our divisions work together for the overall gain of the company. For example, our resi- dential division is very low-profit. It’s really hard work because our end users are homeowners, and this might be the biggest investment of their lives. But for us it’s a very small project, so just imagine the coordination that goes on if you’re dealing with 500-1000 homeowners every year. Although it’s not very profitable, it gives us a cash flow because these homeowners do not have a line of credit, so they have to pay us a major portion of the fee up front as a retainer. This balances out the lesser profit margin from the division. On the other side, our commercial division is very profitable, but our clients are contractors who never get paid on time because they are larger projects. Although An Interviewwith Nikhil Choudhary and David Renard of Zenith Engineers Inc. By Editorial Staff
ICF Project in Santa Rosa, CA.
the commercial division is more profitable overall, the cash flow still comes from the residential division. C+S: We know that cash flow is the lifeblood of the engineering indus- try, and if you have that money tied up in accounts receivable you can go down the tube pretty quick. Now, David, as a VP of Sales, a big part of your job is business development. How are you going to use this Inc. 500 designation? DR: It’s a great accolade and it’s validation. We were founded in 2009 in the thick of a recession. It was a grind to build a great team of people who take ownership of their projects and want to be the best engineer that they could be. Getting this validation now is kind of fun for our clients, the ones that already make up our base that go: “We knew you guys were special, and we’re really glad you got this award.” What this hopefully does is allow us to get into different doors where clients will say: “Oh, you guys are Zenith Engineers. We’ve seen your name on title blocks and other submittals. We see the quality of your work, and we see how responsive you are. We see how you take ownership of a project and actually want to design what we’re used to building versus going in not knowing anything about either the contractor or
csengineermag.com march 2020
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