Archive for July, 1998
By Troy May
Business First, Columbus Ohio, July 17, 1998.
For more than 10 years, Eugene Griffin and Todd Mace had worked as mechanical engineers, solving other people’s problems on construction projects. Last year, they had a few dilemmas of their own. At the time, their employer didn’t want to pursue health care construction project contracts. But the pair thought the area would generate a steady stream of business.
“They’re always going to be around, so we thought it would be a good niche,” Griffin said. So the two engineers decided to go out on their own, which brought up another problem: Could they successfully run a business together?
“When two people start a business it’s like a marriage – you have to be compatible,” Griffin said. They traveled to Toronto for a week to meet with a business consultant. [Ralston Consulting Inc.] The objective was to develop a business plan and figure out if they could work together.
The outcome: Dynamix Engineering Ltd., which Griffin and Mace, now managing partners, founded in June 1997. A loyal following from before the company was founded helped generate $650,000 in revenues after the first six months in business.
Included in the company’s list of clients, both past and present, are such big names as the Ohio State University Medical Center, the University of Michigan, Marion General Hospital and the Nationwide Arena project.
This year, the company is ahead of its original revenue projections of $2 million; revenues are more likely to reach $2.6 million. “Our goal is to do $5 million in five years,” said Griffin, managing partner.
The company also is trying to diversify into other areas, said Bruce Vetter, electrical engineering manager with Dynamix. Company leaders don’t want any single industry to account for more than 45 percent of business to avoid being adversely affected if there is an economic downturn in either health care or school construction, which are two primary target areas for the firm.
Right now, however, there is a construction boom in both industries, which means there often is a need for mechanical engineers.
The business may be out there, but getting it is another matter. A good reputation is critical in the engineering field, Griffin said, because a company’s best marketing staff is its customers. For that kind of customer service, a company’s staff must work together like a symphony, he said, even though it’s not easy. But the company didn’t have a good administrative system in place, which caused some customer questions to go unanswered and cash flow problems to erupt.
So this spring, Griffin called a time-out period, and pulled the staff together for one day of brainstorming [with Ralston Consulting Inc.] to figure out how the internal office resources could be better utilized.
As a result, the staff of 22 now holds weekly meetings during which everyone is encouraged to offer some suggestions on how to improve customer service and operations. At the weekly meetings, teams of workers and individuals define what they are going to accomplish during the week. A project schedule was created to keep track of how everyone is using their time. “I can look at this chart and know what each of my staff is working on. It keeps us focused as a company,” Griffin said.
The objective is for everyone to get their work done within 45 hours a week, so the employees have a life outside of work. If we see that someone is working more than 45 hours a week, then we know it’s time to hire another person, Griffin said.
Another major accomplishment from the original brainstorming meeting was improving cash flow, which was being hampered at the time by projects getting billed to customers sporadically. Now, the goal is to monitor all projects closely and bill customers once a week. “It’s not that we don’t still have problems, but our cash flow has really improved,” Vetter said.
Meanwhile, the company has focused on keeping communication with its customers a top priority, making sure customers get their questions answered and their problems solved quickly. “We like to keep communication open with our clients and get feedback on how were doing,” Griffin said.
That’s why Bob Columber, director of facility services at Marion General Hospital in Marion continues to work with Dynamix Engineering, which mapped out the entire mechanical operations of the complex. “I can rely on them to return my phone calls, and if there is a problem I can get someone here the next day,” he said. “They are excellent communicators.”
Keeping problems to a minimum for customers keeps them happy, which is the ideal strategy for winning new contracts, Griffin said.
“We realize our clients can do a better job at marketing us than we could ever do,” Griffin said.