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New "Structural" startup with a few questions

New "Structural" startup with a few questions

(OP)
So I recently moved to a new city (no connections or known network of individuals) and have been having a real hard time landing a full time job. So in the meantime, I've put together a drafting and design business. I should note that I am an EIT with roughly 4 years in the residential design and consulting industry. I have been drafting structural plans for even longer, close to 7 years. I'm confident in my ability to draft plans for both residential and commercial structures, while I'm also confident in my ability to design these structures as most of them are straightforward. Of course I can't sign and seal plans (EIT), however throughout my marketing I've come across two or three engineers that have voluntarily said that if I come across work that needs sign and seal they could provide (for a fee of course). In the 1.5 months I've been doing this I've landed 4 good fast paying clients and have netted more cash in that time frame than I make in three months at a full time job, needless to say I really would like to keep pursuing this opportunity. I have a few questions though for anyone willing to offer advice or input:

1. Can I market myself as an engineering design company if I am only an EIT and no one on my payroll is a licensed PE/SE but I have lets say "partners" that can sign and seal for me.
2. For my area (South Florida) my typical rates are $60/hr for drafting services and $90/hr EIT services, does this seem in line with the market (it seems some people agree with this and some do not).
3. Who should I target for my core customer? Right now I have one engineering client whom I perform design and drafting work for his company, a contractor who wants architectural drawings (not my preferred job), and I do Threshold inspections occasionally for two different companies as a representative on their payroll (I am a W-2 employee for insurance reasons).
4. I'm still an EIT with roughly 6 months left before I can sit for my PE, can I have the engineers that I am doing work for as a 1099 sign my paperwork for work experience even though the work is not on a payroll? I am still working for a PE so experience is still being gained but I'm not sure how that is looked at through the eyes of The PE Board.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

My knowledge about the world of PEs amounts to a small mound of beans. What little I know is:
1) Read the state's PE Board's code, all answers are there in various degrees of obfuscation
2) People that will rubber stamp work for money are sketchy, at best

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

1. Can I market myself as an engineering design company if I am only an EIT and no one on my payroll is a licensed PE/SE but I have lets say "partners" that can sign and seal for me.
Depends on the state - but be very careful of using the word "engineer" as many US states prohibit the use of the term if you are not licensed.

2. For my area (South Florida) my typical rates are $60/hr for drafting services and $90/hr EIT services, does this seem in line with the market (it seems some people agree with this and some do not).
Seems about right.

3. Who should I target for my core customer? Right now I have one engineering client whom I perform design and drafting work for his company, a contractor who wants architectural drawings (not my preferred job), and I do Threshold inspections occasionally for two different companies as a representative on their payroll (I am a W-2 employee for insurance reasons).
As an EIT - you would have to limit your services to things that the Florida Engineering board considers as "not-engineering". For customers/clients - perhaps single family residential projects (if Florida allows non-engineers to design) or work for other licensed engineers until you yourself are licensed.

4. I'm still an EIT with roughly 6 months left before I can sit for my PE, can I have the engineers that I am doing work for as a 1099 sign my paperwork for work experience even though the work is not on a payroll? I am still working for a PE so experience is still being gained but I'm not sure how that is looked at through the eyes of The PE Board.
Check with the board

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RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

If you have not yet been there long enough to build up personal clientele connections, then your startup plans may get short-circuited fairly quickly. The engineering profession is typically cyclical, and you need good, established, long-lived clients to help bridge the lean times.
Good luck though,
Dave

Thaidavid

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

JAE's advice is right on target....and for Florida as well.

Florida is one of those states that protects the terms "Engineer","Engineering", etc. If either of those shows up in the name of your business or if you hold yourself out as providing engineering services, you will need a Certificate of Authorization (CA) in Florida. You cannot get one of those without having an engineer, as an officer of the entity, on staff. As an EIT, you do not qualify for a CA. If you set up a business entity of any sort (LLC, Corporation, LLP, PA, etc) you will need a CA. That means you have to formally partner with a licensed professional engineer in Florida or become one.

I practice primarily in Florida. I have two offices....one in Jacksonville, one in Orlando. Four of us are licensed professional engineers in Florida (and other states). I am the "qualifier" for the CA, though all of the others could do so as well if appropriately designated as corporate officers.

Florida has waffled a bit on residential design....actually allowing at one time for licensed contractors to do residential structural design. I think that has gone away as it was protested by anyone with a brain.

I would hope that those engineers who are willing to develop an alliance with you are not just "plan stamping" and will have engineering overview sufficient to meet the "test" for responsible charge. If not...stay away from them. It isn't worth it.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

Quote:

4. I'm still an EIT with roughly 6 months left before I can sit for my PE, can I have the engineers that I am doing work for as a 1099 sign my paperwork for work experience even though the work is not on a payroll? I am still working for a PE so experience is still being gained but I'm not sure how that is looked at through the eyes of The PE Board.

Like JAE said, you need to ask the board that one. But I wouldn't worry too much about employment status.....every PE application I've ever seen just asks: were you working under the direct supervision of a PE? The first state I ever got my PE in, several jobs I had (on my application) were contract positions (i.e. through a shop). It didn't matter. In fact, they said it wasn't even worth mentioning.....they just wanted to know if the design experience I claimed was under PE supervision.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

(OP)
Thanks everyone for the responses, and that's good information to know about the CA @Ron. I am actually a W2 employee with one of the PE's that signs for me (strictly for Liability insurance purposes) but I suppose if I were to use his certificate of authorization from his company, any marketing I would do would have to be under his company name and not my own. That really bites as I'm trying to build a network and grow my own company name but I suppose I'll have to wait the six months to take my PE. I do trust the people stamping my plans as one of them is my previous employer and they have enough faith in my design capability to sign for me when needed (for a fee obviously).

What do you think about changing the word "Engineering" to the word "Design" in all my communications and advertising? I do strictly say on all my correspondences and advertising that I am not an Engineer, but work with Engineers to provide a design for them. I make it very clear that I am an EIT whose company does design work and has someone provide a signed sealed copy, so it kind of just makes me the middle man. Thanks again everyone for your input.

James Farris
Structural Design, E.I.T., M.ASCE
DARC Member Engineers Without Borders
Office (239) 896-3147
Web: www.farriseng.com

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

Is your current website the name of who you work for, or is that your own? Having it say engineering may be an issue.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

(OP)
@structSU10 yes that is my site which is mainly why I was asking. I want to make sure to correct if if needed. Most likely I will be registering a new domain name (considering farrisdesign.com or something similar) until I receive my PE. Will migrate over the information to the new domain and then migrate it back once receiving my PE.

James Farris
Structural Design, E.I.T., M.ASCE
DARC Member Engineers Without Borders
Office (239) 896-3147
Web: www.farriseng.com

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

2
Your website clearly advertises that you are offering engineering services. The word "engineer" or derivative of, is on your homepage in eight places. If this was in my state, I would (and have in similar cases where I've seen CADD drafters hawking engineering work) report you to the board. Not only do you need to be a licensed engineer, but your firm likely needs to be registered as well. Guess what? You can't register a firm with the PE board unless there is an engineer in charge (doesn't have to be the owner).

You need to wait till you have your PE before you advertise that you can provide engineering services. Quite frankly, I suspect you are getting in over your head and don't even know it simply because you clearly don't know the engineering regulations.

I speak from the perspective of the laws in my state. Most states are pretty similar and there are several states more stringent than mine. Why not just wait a bit to get your PE? You should be able to get it by now if you are an EIT with four years of design experience.

You don't need to change your domain. Its not against the law for the url to have "eng" at the end. You just need to remove "engineer".

Also, I'm not sure the statement "As an EIT with 3 years experience..." would engender confidence in any but the most clueless clients. Three whole years and an engineer in training to boot? That guy must really know his stuff!

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

(OP)
@Terratek - You are correct, a certificate of authorization from the board is required for work as an engineer in my state as well as PE license of course. In reference to the site, the wording was poorly chosen as writing up this content was unfortunately quick; a means of giving my potential clients a way of finding me. It has since been changed with the exception of the logo, which will require a bit of attention. I have done my due diligence to understand the rules and regulations, though it is always ongoing. I don't consider myself "in over-my-head", that is merely a subjective observation from your point of view. Though I can't say your observation is without merit since I was being short sighted with how I chose to construct my webpage. All businesses suffer growing pains and I consider all experiences to be chances to learn something. While your tone is somewhat condescending, I do still appreciate the feedback and will continue to pursue this business. I will do so with the intent to abide by all constraints of applicable laws and codes of ethic. I am happy to report that within the 2 months I have been conducting this work I have managed to find a niche market among small firms needing support. I have generated nearly $18,000 in revenue, most of which is purely profit, excluding taxes.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

jfarris....I have a problem with your website. You clearly are offering engineering services and you are not licensed and you have no Certificate of Authorization in Florida. These are violations of Chapter 471 of the Florida Statutes and Chapter 61G15 of the Florida Administrative Code. Please revise your website NOW and remove those references. You have put those of us who have read this thread and are licensed in Florida in a position we don't enjoy taking, but we actually have an obligation to report you to the board.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

jfarris,

Yes, my post was intentionally condescending. Once you get your PE, if you do, you will (maybe not) have more respect for the rule of law regarding it. Good for you that you made $18K in a month. But if the state revokes your PE (or ability to get one) because you decided to practice against the law, than that may be some of the last money you see doing engineering work. Anybody who takes that kind of risk, when they are so close to being fully qualified, is a fool IMO. When you are clearly breaking the law, then unwittingly advertising it to other engineers who are arguably vested in shutting you down, than my judgement of you being in over your head is far closer to fact than being subjective.

Just fix the website and wait to get your PE. You knew you were screwing and that's why you posted in the first place. You're probably a firecracker of a young engineer but you need to be careful when it comes to business and engineering law. Other than education and experience, these are really the only significant barriers to entry to start and maintain a consulting/design firm. You better believe that your competitors, and anybody vested in the game that is our laws, will use them against you if you make it so easy.

Every month I get a newsletter from the Board. It consists primarily of the publication of legal judgement decisions against people and companies who practice without licenses, expired licenses, out of their expertise, etc.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

Wow, he also offers website design! <shake head>

How do I take an engineering firm seriously that offers website design?

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

(OP)
I think the overall scope of the post has been lost, so I'll try to recap and summarize hopefully:

"1. Can I market myself as an engineering design company if I am only an EIT and no one on my payroll is a licensed PE/SE but I have lets say "partners" that can sign and seal for me."

This has been answered....thank you, despite the harsh criticism (deservingly so due to naivety). My website now doesn't imply I would actually be doing any type of engineering; rather that I offer support of engineering tasks. It specifically even states now that any designs "are preliminary and are to be approved and verified by the hiring companies in house engineers".

It was not my intention to represent that I want to perform engineering work on my own behalf. None of the work that I have performed is without the consent of an actual PE nor would I attempt to do so because quite simply I cant. Nothing would go through permitting without a stamp which I can not provide at this point and I am fully understanding of that, thus it would be futile to provide any service without a PE. I of course do respect the profession and wouldn't have dedicated nearly 8 years of school and professional experience to get here if I did not.

"Question 2: Irrelevant at this point as I have defined and set my costs according to market value upon due diligence"


"3. Who should I target for my core customer? Right now I have one engineering client whom I perform design and drafting work for his company, a contractor who wants architectural drawings (not my preferred job), and I do Threshold inspections occasionally for two different companies as a representative on their payroll (I am a W-2 employee for insurance reasons)."
I would like to point out that all work described above is not actual engineering work (I am not personally providing Sign and Seal) but is on behalf of other engineers whom understand that I essentially am acting as an EIT that they do not have to pay a salary to.

I have come to find that some small sized firms need both an EIT to help with design work and also drafters to put documents together. I allow them this ability so that they are free to run their business and procure more work, I simply take a small chunk of the overall project and this allows them to budget my fixed costs into their bids.

"4. I'm still an EIT with roughly 6 months left before I can sit for my PE, can I have the engineers that I am doing work for as a 1099 sign my paperwork for work experience even though the work is not on a payroll? I am still working for a PE so experience is still being gained but I'm not sure how that is looked at through the eyes of The PE Board."
Once again, Irrelevant. I am on a payroll as a W-2 employee and therefore have verified with the board that this is acceptable. I will have to define if the work is part time or full time and this may become tricky but either way at this point Im okay with having to wait a bit longer to take the PE if the ultimate payout in this scenario is growing a business.

I honestly do value everyone's feedback on this thread, and I asked the question for the pure reason of finding answers.If I actually did intend to misrepresent myself I would not have bothered asking the question to begin with. I have updated the site and logo hopefully to reflect everyone's useful comments, and if you wish to provide further feedback I would happily hear you out on any further advice (hopefully with a bit less condescension).

I hope you see the amount of effort and time I put into this response, and that it reflects the overall good intent and excitement I have for my business. Though you may say I'm young and even inexperienced, which I can accept and acknowledge, I don't take on any task I feel uncomfortable with. I do have a lot of growing to do in this industry and no matter your age that will always be the case. I am with the firm belief that if you put in the work it doesn't matter your age. I have known many EITs to be partners in firms whom simply did not get their PE because they took the business route. I do however fully intend to gain my PE as it would be ignorant not to since I'm so close. I simply am hoping to capitalize on my current abilities and as I progress and grow those abilities will and my business will as well.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

(OP)
@McGyverS2000 - I do run a small business in addition to farriseng.com called RoyalBlue web design. It was actually my first business started 5 years ago while in school. I was using one source to cross advertise the other which I already have known to make it look unprofessional. It was actually half of the reason I changed the name from "Farris Engineering" to "Farris Desing Group" (the other half being the obvious reasons previously gone over). But by calling it "Farris Design Group" I can form an umbrella LLC having seperate DBA's for each business. I generate revenue from both at the moment, both of which are as a sole proprietor for now, but plan to make that transition at a point in the future. Yes its wonky for now and maybe even unprofessional, but I have generated leads from it and it will remain until I have the time to do all the necessary leg work (build a new site, form the LLC, etc.)

Criticize if you wish, I do not take any of it to heart. As I've already stated there is advise and lessons in all opinions.

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

I agree with the others jfarris: you need to be careful to avoid the appearance of offering engineering services.

On the other hand, I have to say: I sure do like your get-up-and-go attitude. You've got a lot of drive. cheers

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

@jfarris keep up the ambition! Just try to stay on the legal side haha

RE: New "Structural" startup with a few questions

I have been an independent engineering consultant for the last 17 years, here is my advice for you.
1. Decide if you want to grow (hire people) or stay independent. Manage your affairs accordingly.
2. Make sure you are growing relationships with the end client. People are busy now but once things slow down the first cuts will be sub-consultants.
3. Constantly network, especially if you are focused on residential.
4. Don't expect anyone to market for you. That means have your own lead generation process.
5. Reputation is everything, even if you end up spending more time than the client will pay for do it to ensure quality product.
6. Your expenses will go up, software fees , E&O insurance, etc.
7. Learn to recognize problem clients and avoid them.
8. This is a cyclical business make sure you have the financial wherewithal to go through the lows.

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