Is my employer healthy?
Is my employer healthy?
My employer is in New England providing civil consulting engineering services including civil design, state and local permitting, storm water and septic engineering, surveying, traffic engineering, architectural services, and then there’s me with the structural engineering.
I’ve been with the firm for 25 years. I am the office’s sole structural engineer(PE). The firm has a good local reputation with repeat clients, despite increasing competition from neighboring areas. I run the technical part of my department largely autonomously. As an employee, things are pretty good with some minor gripes. What follows are my concerns. I just want to put out there that it is not all bad.
So here goes.
The firm has 12 employees. This includes two part time admins, one licensed surveyor, one site tech, four PEs and two soon-to-be PEs. One could describe the firm as “top heavy” with respect to the expensive PE and common business models. There’s no “workers” to support the PEs, really. With a big, beautiful office building, the firm has a fair amount of overhead.
The company is known to be expensive. The PEs get billed at similar rates equal to owners of other consultants. More and more often, the firm is loosing out to competitors on price.
The former owner is now a part-time employee with lots of info. A great way to transition into retirement. He deserves it. He sold the business to one of the employee PEs. This new owner appears to be loving the income and the company is running with the momentum established by the former owner. He was operating at a staff level engineer prior to the purchase. He has taken over the company but arrives late, leaves early, and doesn’t come in on weekends. He doesn’t appear to be doing anything to learn about how to run a business and doesn’t appear to be working to drum up more business. While waiting for the phone to ring, he complains about lack of work.
There are no sour grapes here; we all get along well.
Biggie: The architecture department has issues. It gets by but is rooted in basic, industrial “box-building” architecture. The architecture department will have major issues when the former owner fully retires in the near future. There isn’t the work to go full AE with the hire of an experienced, licensed architect. The architecture department was a happenstance “add on” to the company several years ago and is venturing into territory it doesn’t belong beyond industrial buildings because they are chasing dollars.
The summary, about me:
I’ve been working hard, including overtime while business has been slow. I’ve been successful and my clients are happy. I’m told little to no raises because the firm as a whole isn’t making the level of money the owners want. I’m floating the firm, financially.
NO other architects will hire me/us for structural engineering because we directly compete with them with our mediocre architectural department.
While I’m busting ass trying to make client’s happy, the mediocrity of the arch department may soil my name by association, I fear. This situation is only going to get worse with the departure of the old boss. The arch is in my office several times a day asking questions about architectural details just because I have experience he doesn’t. He fears asking the former owner. I’m not in a position to remedy this situation.
I worry about the health and business model of the firm it is unlikely to change. Maybe it will suffer until getting bought by a competitor. Hit me up with any questions. I couldn’t spell it all out here.
I look forward to your responses.