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Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm


I posted on this forum a while back regarding my ambition to start-up a new design firm. Just some background info; I am a mechanical engineer with a passion for business and engineering design. I studied at the Univerity of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and obtained a Bsc. of Mechanical Engineering.

I have been working for a consulting firm for around two years since I graduated and recently put my plans of opening a design firm into practice. So far so good, I've had a few clients that have allowed me to meet my monthly expenses so far and in general the business is going well. I am getting to a stage where I need to find new work...

I am posting here for two reasons, one; to update any readers of my previous post and two; to spread the word about my business and possible gain some new clients.

My website is fairly simple but has attracted around 300 visitors a month after entering it onto a few popular search engines. However, it does not generate much leads and new business contacts. It is for this reason that I have done some e-mailing to possible clients, my profile and a introduction letter. This also generated a very poor response. This brings me to my main points:

With such little experience in the industry, am I fooling myself into believing that I can generate enough clients to keep my afloat?
What steps should I take to generate more leads?
Should I put the business on hold and go work for a large international company for a while to gather some experience and more insight into the industry?

Thanks in advance,

W. Mann
D3 Engineering Solutions

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

FYI... website visits don't necessarily correlate with business.  With my site, the first several years showed a minimum of 600-800 unique views/month, but no business was guaranteed from it.  Some months went by and I received huge orders, others would go by with nothing.  Also, don't forget that automated spiders and bots crawling your site will raise the numbers, but since it's not a human looking for services, it does nothing for you.

Dan - Owner

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

I work alone in the residential area, doing house designs, additions, renovations, etc.  Do not depend on the website or mailings.  The business (small) you are in depends on personal contacts.

It is very hard to walk in cold and introduce yourself, rejection can be depressing.  Don't let it get you down.  Ask the folks whom you have worked for if they don't mind your using them as references.

At first, you may get only small jobs as they do not know you.  The first few jobs (in my estimation) are a test, go all out and provide timely, efficient, reliable service.

Keep up your old contacts as they may provide good leads in the future.

Be willing to pinch hit at a moments notice, it will come but it will be slow, then all of a sudden, you don't have time to sit down.

I've actually found jobs on Craigslist.org by approaching folks who needed a full timer and offering to fill in until they get someone and/or doing very small work.  Even that was full of rejection but I did get jobs and the customers did reference me later on to others.

Good luck,

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

A website is a great way to be seen to the world and involves only minimal expense and maintenance. However I wish I got a quarter of the enquiries from potential customers that I do from someone wishing to get me to change my mobile provider, my ISP, my power suppliers, sell me health insurance, be my personal Wall street banker the list goes on.

Flyers are another option, but repeat business and personal recommendation are the best IMO but they do take time. One of the biggest problems is most small companies are run by engineers and we tend to have poor skills in marketing and sales, essential skills especially in hard times when work is not plentiful, any fool can win work when there is no one else available to do it.

Seminars, business group meeting, shows and exhibitions all have potential, some of our best leads have come from sales reps who supply goods for specific industries as they tend to have great knowledge about what projects are coming up and who is in line for them.

I wish I knew the magic answer to winning new customers, but sadly I do not, basically it is hard work and you just need to keep plugging away, I do not see it getting any easier in the near future.

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

Your website isn't just "simple" it is truly worthless.  The two biggest sources of new clients for me has been people who go to the "samples" section of my web page and then sent their boss back to my CV; the other big source has been people who like my posts in eng-tips.com and follow the link in my signature to my web page (notice that it is clickable, the one in your signature above isn't).

When I click on your "example projects" I get a list of projects that the font is so small that I can't read it (also, yellow on grey is a hard combination for my eyes).  If I want a "tank design for storage of diesel and petrol" I want to know if you've ever heard of the API specifications, I want to see some details of the tanks you've designed (what makes your version of this commodity item unique?).  

Your "services" page says you do "2D/3D Drawings\Modeling using CAD", but doesn't say which CAD packages you have a current license for--it may matter a lot to some potential clients, if you are a hard-core Solidworks user and I only have AutoCAD, I can't use you without some logistical juggling.

Then if there is something that kind of catches my eye, I want to see your CV.  It ain't there.  I don't even know what continent you are on.

I've had very favorable responses to my web page (I'm getting 300-400 hits/day) because there is stuff on it that people find useful.  Yours doesn't read as useful, it reads as a poor grade of advertising.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts"  Patrick Moynihan

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

I think the presentation of your site is relatively simple and straight-forward.  I do believe that most clients will find you through previous work references and advice given to sites such as this one.  With that said, you should make your website linkable in your signature.  It is possible Eng-Tips.com doesn't automatically create a link based on your website domain.

Your website really acts as a means of telling people you're there (any amount can help), what you do and how to contact you.  If you can tell what you do with a little more detail such as sample CAD models (CAD software used as well) project descriptions and whatnot, that may be advantageous to the visitor.  FYI, most websites will never give exact project details nor will a visitor expect them.  This is engineering, not tell all journalism.  It most project cases, companies won't allow release of any details of their projects because of standing NDAs.  

Those are just a few suggestions.  Best of luck.



Kyle Chandler

"To the Pessimist, the glass is half-empty.  To the Optimist, the glass is half-full.  To the Engineer, the glass is twice as large as it needs to be!"

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

What I found best for my business is personal contacts. I attend conferences in my field very frequently and most of my clients met me at one of those conferences.

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

I've found the following sources for my business in order of success:
1) Personal contacts at previous employers that need to outsource work
2) Word of mouth from existing customers.
3) Direct email or mail. Hundreds of mailings per lead that actually develops into a project
4) Website - I have only a little business that finds me this way.


RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

Thanks for all the replies, they are much appreciated.
Since the opening of the business I've been spending most of my time in face-to-face meetings with potential clients and so far this has landed me some fantastic projects. From my past few months running the business I have come to believe that personal contact is the number one marketing tool and I will continue to build a client base using this technique. Another thing I have learned is that I have grossly underestimated the timeframe in which it takes to build up these leads and business contacts. That said, I have another few months of savings to supplment my business income and things are looking good in terms of potential projects.


W. Mann

Thanks once again.

RE: Start-up Mechanical Engineering Design Firm

Two years after college and you are getting some fantastic projects?
Be ware that someday you'll run into a technical problem you may not be able to chew, start thinking serious help with tangible technical experience instead of relying on your 2 years out of college.
You may be a born businessman, don't overestimate your technical capabilities. It takes a lot of experience to move to serious projects, AND... avoid serious life threatening mistakes. By all means, get your work checked.

No recession on your part of the word I bet.


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