This is the third installment in a series of profiles of the North Bay’s Most Influential Leaders. Nominations are welcome at www.northbaybusinessjournal.com.
Previously profiled: James A. Andersen, Dante Benedetti, Russell A. Colombo, David I. Freed, James B. Keegan, Brian Kelly, Thomas B. Klein, Gary D. Nelson, Steve Page, Lawrence Simons, Matt White, Jim Adams, Rachel M. Dollar, Rob McMillan, Al Coppin, Daniel J. Duckhorn, Mark Idhe, Stan Mead, Dave Siembieda and Iver Skavdal
Title: Principal and vice president
Company: BKF/Carlenzoli, Consulting Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors
Company address: 325 Tesconi Circle, Santa Rosa 95401
Staff: 17 local, 220 companywide
Residence: Santa Rosa
Professional background: Professional civil engineer, LEED-Accredited Professional
Education: BSET Civil Engineering
What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? Listen to your clients and always be available to do the job that needs to be done. Follow up with your commitments in a timely manner. Be honest and tell it like it is. Find ways to get the job done even if you have to think outside the box. Be creative, responsive and move toward a shared understanding. Be sure to spend time with your family.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry? The biggest change to providing consulting engineering services that I have seen over the past 22 years has been the increasing complexity of the regulatory process. There are so many agencies and individual groups that want to have input on any particular project that didn’t in years past. Even with the best intentions, these various regulatory agencies and neighborhood groups have the ability to delay the best of projects, which in turn causes increased fees that eventually get passed on to the end user.
What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Stick with it. Get involved with like-minded individuals and organizations. Participate when invited. Stay current with technology and regulations. Call people back even if you know you’re not going to like what they have to say. Remain positive, optimistic and ask questions.
What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment? Hang in there and stay current. Call your clients; don’t wait for them to call you. Stay active in your professional societies and organizations. Be efficient and make decisions quickly. Put your ATM card away and make coffee at home.
How do you think your business will change in the next five years? I think the next five years will be as challenging as the previous two. It is hard to predict during these times, but if we stay the course and are engaged with the community and its needs, those businesses who can survive will be that much stronger when the economy comes back. In terms of finding and maintaining work load, we have had to go farther geographically. We have had to specialize in various technical and legal areas to offer the best possible advice for our clients. We will have to stay very focused on regulations and laws affecting public works and land development projects. Obtaining financing and funding for private development and public infrastructure projects will also be challenging.
What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it? Procrastinating on making hard decisions that have an effect on family and/or business
What is your most memorable business experience? My most memorable experience was contemplating and then merging Carlenzoli and Associates into BKF Engineers. Having worked for a small engineering firm over the past 22 years, it was very exciting and now rewarding to change the way I have conducted business. There are both pros and cons going from small to big, but my next challenge is to overcome the new ways of working for and being part of a large business. So far, it has been nothing but memorable.
What is your greatest business success? Being trusted by clients who embark on a development process who know nothing about it. Having provided good and reliable services produces repeat clients, which is one of my measures of success.
What was your toughest business decision? Deciding to go with either Pepsi or Coke in the break room. Eventually we had both but what a stressfully business decision.
What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? I worked for the California Youth Conservation Corps one summer while in high school. We were working in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and I got to live in a jail cell on Alcatraz for a week while we maintained the island after the Clint Eastwood filming of Escape from Alcatraz.
First job: KVAL Machinery in Petaluma
Most admired businessperson outside the company: Irv Kvalheim, former CEO and president of KVAL Machinery
Current reading: “My Life in and out of the Rough,” by John Daly
Most want to meet: Both of my grandfathers, I will someday.
Stress relievers: Working in the yard, fishing, golfing, eating good food and drinking good wine
Favorite activities outside work: Spending time with my wife, Gina, and my boys Garrett and Grant. We enjoy camping, boating swimming and being outside.
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