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Starting an Power Engineering Firm

Starting an Power Engineering Firm

Starting an Power Engineering Firm

Good morning all,
My name is Chris and I am brand new to the forum.

I have been thinking about this for quite some time, but I believe I am ready to take the leap into starting my own engineering practice. I have 10 years of electrical experience. A majority of my work has been with an electric utility. I worked primarily in distribution engineering, large scale distribution project construction, and operations but I also have some experience with control panel design, construction, plc programming etc.
I am also a licensed professional engineer in my state.

I have an interest in working more on the customer side of the meter...perhaps doing design, consulting, auditing etc. I also could include control panel design, programming, repair etc.

My question is where to begin to find work? Most people I meet transition to independent practice already having several contacts and knowing the business. Since a majority of my work has been with a utility, I know very little about bidding jobs, design-build, and private construction in general. I don't have many contacts in this specific type of work. I know I need to really read up on this type of design/consulting work as it is different codes and practices from what I am used to...but any additional tips and guidance on how to get into this business?

Thanks for the help!

RE: Starting an Power Engineering Firm

If you have to ask the question of where to find work you should not be venturing into a consulting engineering practice. I have been doing consulting engineering for 5 years now and before I retired I had reached out for possible engineering clients over the many years I worked (much more than 10 years). Once I felt the time was right I retired on very good terms with a promise of contracting work with my former company. This was the start I needed and it continues even today.

RE: Starting an Power Engineering Firm

I'd say "you know when you are ready". However, be prepared for lean years and long hours to start. Are you a member of each society in the area related to the work? Sometime other members are good sources of work. How "liked" are other consultants as far as you can tell? When I started in by myself after some 26 years (public and private). I knew many potential clients personally and once I stated in was told by a few some of the problems they had with other firms and a few were glad I broke off and they welcomed me. (sorry about the "ands") So already having a reputation helped a lot.

Having a brochure also can help, but you don't mail them, you stop in and hand then to the managers, not a lower level.

You should think about professional liability insurance also. The cost may set you back more than you might like to hear. Home office can work for a while, but look into the cost of computer preparation of plans. Cost can be a problem there also.

Maybe consider getting a job t a consulting firm and see where it leads.

RE: Starting an Power Engineering Firm

I applaud you for considering this. It's not an easy task, and it's a crazy rollercoaster. You'll go from crazy highs to very low lows 50 times a minute, and love it (hopefully)!

I started my business a few years ago. I was similar to you, working at a utility as a mechanical engineer (in nuclear power). I had a number of contacts throughout the industry, and when I left, I had work lined up for me.

I would recommend that you start with a business plan, and focus on the marketing section. How are you going to let others know about your business? online? SEO? contacts? I understand that this is your question, and I think writing it out in a business plan is absolutely crucial.

Also, sit down with some others in your area that have started engineering firms that are in a parallel industry. You won't be competing with them, you'll be building contacts, and learning valuable information. You might be surprised at how many owners of firms are willing to sit and talk with you.

You can also try SCORE for business coaching. Show them your business plan. I've never tried it, but I believe the idea is that they have some people that were successful in business help coach others.

As for a concrete answer to your question, I recommend going to industry events. Join local engineering chapters that are active. Follow people/groups on social media, attend meetings, attend conferences, shake hands with people. Do you have competitors (answer is almost always yes, or the business model may not be valid)? If so, what are they doing? Where do you see them advertise? The hardest part about obtaining work IMO is that you can't close a deal every time you meet someone. They simply may not need an engineer at the moment. You need to be at the top of their mind/rolodex when they need an engineer.

Good Luck!

Jim Breunig P.E.
XCEED Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
FEA Consultants

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