Richard (Rick) Shroads, P.E., L.S. is the original founder of Civiltec Engineering and Principal Engineer in Charge for projects in the Prescott, Arizona office. He has been responsible for design and construction surveying for hundreds of infrastructure improvement projects, construction management issues, housing projects, condominium projects, industrial, commercial and government facilities, county drainage studies, floodplain studies, and many other types of projects. On the firm’s 35th anniversary, Rick offers an inside look at the early history of Civiltec.
At 27 years old, I decided to create a professional engineering and land surveying company. After graduating from college with my civil engineering degree and working in the consulting engineering and land surveying business for a number of years, I obtained my engineering and land surveying licenses. I was mentored by some very talented engineers and land surveyors, and after some time spent with them, a vision came upon me: I was going to start a company of my own.
It took me almost a year to assemble all of the legal documents needed to incorporate a new firm. On March 21, 1986, Civiltec Engineering, Inc. was officially incorporated. This was a big step. I experienced the powerful realization that the journey I was about to embark upon contained plenty of risk, no income guarantee, no constant client base, and an uncertain future. On top of that, there would be a constant stream of bills to pay. Looking back, it was a bit frightening. But there was never a doubt in my mind that with help from a few industrious people who supported the vision, the company would succeed.
I contacted a number of potential clients and asked them if there was a need for a new, small engineering firm that could be of service to them. The response was extremely positive. Youth tends to gift us with a sense of confidence that was ever so important in the creation of our firm. This, accompanied by hard work, a little “blind ambition” and some good luck enabled the growth process to commence.
During those early days, the firm was headquartered from a one-office suite in Pasadena, California that had just enough room for three drafting tables, a computer with 16-inch diameter external hard disks capable of storing 1 MB of data, a few chairs, a copy machine and a small refrigerator. Civiltec then moved to various buildings that were more suited to the engineering practice, and during these growth-oriented moves, it was apparent to me that our company was not just in existence but properly established. Our client base was growing, we had employees, an accountant, an attorney, insurance people; and, most importantly, we had family support.
As most engineers would agree, management skills are not our strong point. As time marched on, I came to recognize this shortcoming and enrolled in a management program to learn some skills and converse with colleagues in the industry. This was truly a rewarding experience for me, personally and professionally.
It was after my training in management that it became apparent to me that Civiltec needed a brand. The start of this brand was the creation of a company logo. We hired a graphic artist to provide a number of alternatives for a corporate logo. I remember the exact day we gathered around one of the drafting tables in our office and turned through the potential logo schemes one by one. When we turned to the graphic page with the “Blue C,” we all turned to each other and said, “That’s the one!” It was a triumphant day. From then on, we included the new logo on all plans, maps, reports, and correspondence. It has grown now into a respectable and recognizable symbol of this fine firm.
Occasionally, I am asked what I am most proud of when it comes to Civiltec. This question can only be partially answered, because the reasons for my pride are innumerable. One of the things that come to mind as a source of pride is the wonderful group of partners I have had over the years. I was proud of my past partners, and I thank them for their exhaustive efforts to grow the firm. I am proud of the current management of the firm as they move forward in new ways, implement new ideas and tackle some of the most challenging issues a company can face in today’s times. My pride extends to all of our employees, who are like family to me. Our company flourishes today thanks to their extreme dedication.
I am also proud to have taken part in the expansion of Civiltec to an interstate firm. In the early 1990’s, it was clear that there was much more opportunity for growth if we were to provide engineering and surveying services for clients in other locations. For that reason, we looked “across the river” and established a presence in Arizona. As we honed in on locations in Arizona, it was decided that we target northern Arizona first, and follow up in central Arizona. Our Arizona family has now grown significantly, and I extend my most sincere gratitude to our managers, employees, and clients for making this so.
One of the most exciting things that has made a huge impact on our company has been learning about how other engineering firms run their businesses. As we began to attend professional engineering seminars and engineering/architect management round tables, it became clear that Civiltec lacked a strong planning effort, that’s when we embarked on the creation of a strategic plan for Civiltec.
Visions are important, but writing and following a plan to make visions realities is paramount. Although always in need of a little “dusting off,” many of our visions have become realities through strategic plan implementation. I see our self-written core values which emphasize a family relationship amongst us. I see a mission statement that reminds us of the importance of our clients. I see a vision statement that encourages us to always look ahead to new ideas. I see a company whose people work together, no matter where they may call home, knowing that as a unified team we are as strong as can possibly be. Having multiple offices allows us to have local representation in a community and maintain the ability to engage any of our staff, wherever they’re rooted, to make use of their expertise. What a wonderful reward it is for me, as the original founder of the company, to see the successes derived from this endeavor.
We are fortunate to be a part of a system of capitalism that encourages success, rewards creativity and allows us to choose for ourselves how we define our future. We have freedom to dream of new ideas, try new things, expand our workforce, present ourselves in new locations and engage clients who need different services, all without constraint. It is important to recognize these elements that are our hidden assistants in supporting the successful future of the company.
I look forward to being able to help Civiltec achieve many more goals in the future. I believe it is critical to learn from past experiences, so one of my goals is to ensure that our history stays alive. I will gladly share more detail of our company history with any manager, employee or client who is interested. I would also like to set aside time to share my experiences in company management, finances, engineering, and land surveying so that people with less experience can benefit from some of the successes and failures that I have learned from. I stand eager to mentor and hope to be an asset to anyone who is thirsty for knowledge. After all, I have been in this game for over 40 years. As the virus subsides, I will continue to represent Civiltec at professional seminars and keep involved with current client relationships, as well as foster new ones. I am in the process of creating an internal advisory board that our shareholders and directors can utilize for management, legal and financial advice to assist them in making corporate decisions.
As we celebrate Civiltec’s 35-year anniversary, I would like to thank our clients, employees, and managers for being exceptional people and placing trust in our firm during all these years. You are the reason for our existence. We have accomplished many grand achievements together, and I am excited to see future achievements unfold. You have been there for us, and know that we are there for you. Happy 35th birthday, Civiltec!