to that side of things. I would want to service a client and had the tools, but I needed approval that would take 15 or 20 days. At that point, I said I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I spoke with my business partner who is now our CTO, Senthil Puliyadi. He’s an engineer’s engineer. I have a Master’s in Structural Engineer- ing, but I chose my career path more into operations and construc- tion management. That means I come from more of a management background and I understand how to scale up small businesses. That’s something that a lot of people lack these days. This is where we jive together because he can take care of all the technical aspects and I can focus on the business side. This makes us a good team. C+S: You are still a small company. You still have a long way to go. You’re out on the West Coast with a lot of big firms. Looking at your business development and marketing looking forward, what’s the plan to continue the growth trajectory you’re on right now with a predicted bear market coming up? DR: In a sea of sharks, we’re a school of dolphins. We have agility and adaptability in the team we’ve built so far. It goes back to the four divisions we serve. Residential taught us patience. A regular engineer will design the building, but they don’t actually design the construction methods to go it up. We do that, and it taught us construction phasing as well as the overall lifecycle of a project—how multiple designers and engineers could impact each other negatively to affect the builder’s deadlines. This taught us to look at things not from scratch and how we can deal with something that is already existing. We are now positioned to have the experience that no other engineer has, and the patience to deal with owners and changes. We aren’t thrown for a loop. We can deal with that. Then we have the construc- tion phasing knowledge to understand how this building is going to go up quickly with the most economical materials and labor. And then, of course on the seismic stuff we are creative, so we can come up with solutions on the fly. It’s an incredible future we’re positioned for.
C+S: How does all this fit into your company culture? NC: We are very ownership driven. It’s not the owners who drive them to work though. Each of our employees, whether it be admin or accounting or engineering or sales, takes ownership of their tasks or projects. We make sure our hiring process is so robust that we make sure a person coming in shares our ambition and has the same passion. Also, we take care of our team members or employees. Like you men- tioned, we are a small business, so we are also like a small family. We have just about 30 employees. Our employees stick around with us, and they are making the best salaries the industry has to offer. Also, like you mentioned, we have youth on our side. Our company has the youngest engineering managers because we rate performance by talent. We are not aiming for the next family-owned company. We are aiming for the next public company. We don’t want to create just a family business. That’s when I decided that every employee of Zenith an equal opportunity if they perform well and if they are talented. Last year was the first year where an employee who started as a junior proj- ect engineer got inducted as a partner. These kinds of opportunities are very unheard of, and are very unconventional in a conventional in- dustry. That’s where we want to take Zenith. It’s an employee owned company, not a family-owned one, and we respect talent and we want to retain the most talented individuals. C+S: In the future, do you want to stay in California, or do you want to grow geographically? DR: We’re based in California now, but we still have the ability to work in every state across the country as well as Canada and other places internationally. We carry all those licenses in-house. But we want that physical presence. We have a strategy now for next year to grow into Seattle, Las Vegas, and San Diego. That will let us cover a little more of Southern California, Nevada, and Washington. We have one, two, and five-year plans for the future, and we have the personnel to help manage it and the leadership to execute.
csengineermag.com march 2020
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