March 21, 2024

Episode #131: Rajiv Huria – SJCA Inc.

I was born in New Delhi, India. My father was an architect for the Military Engineering Services for India. He had to move every three years. We lived in Delhi, Chandigarh, Udhampur, and then back in Delhi. When I was 12 years old, in 1976, the family moved to Canada. I attended Jr. HS to HS. I graduated in 1991 with a BSc in civil engineering from University of Waterloo in 1991. I move to Connecticut, USA in January of 1994 due to the recession in Canada. I have been following work and career opportunities throughout the USA. In fall of 1998 I moved to Michigan to work on a large project. Then I met my wife Jill in 2000 and we got married in 2003. I moved to Toledo, OH when we got married. We had Lydia/Corey in 2007. In 2011 I was working for the City of Toledo when I was approached by Stephen J. Christian and Sherly George to become a partner in Stephen J. Christian and Associates. We, Jill and I, discussed the opportunity and decided that it was something I should pursue. I accepted the position and we moved to Indiana, in spring 2012. Initially, I was supposed to take the position as a partner and the president in January of 2013. I chose to delay taking the position until 2014. From 2014 we have grown from about 20 total staff and about $2 million to over 90 staff and $14 million in revenue. We acquired an environmental company, Green 3, LLC in 2020 during the pandemic and added construction inspection. We have grown from one office in Indianapolis to five offices in Indiana and one office in Columbus, Ohio.

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Transcript

you’re listening to the self-made is a myth make a difference together show with your host coach Tim campsall where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their Journeys in building their successful businesses and more importantly we recognize the folks who help them Excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our [Music] own hell hello everyone this is coach Tim campel and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest is a commercial diver and has been practicing martial arts since he was 14 in his downtime he enjoys following developments in the renewable energy space and the thing he’s most proud of uh is that he’s failed a lot and I love that it’s the first time we’ve had somebody share that but really what that means is that he’s persistent and you know doesn’t give up when uh ad uh gets in the way so it is my pleasure to welcome reiv to the show today hello Riv hi how you doing Tim good to see you awesome thanks for asking well hey let’s start with uh introducing yourself give tell us your full name and a little bit of your personal story like where you were born and live and about your family yeah uh absolutely uh my family is originally from India I was born uh in India in New Delhi uh grew up there for the first first 12 years of my life uh uh my father was a an architect and in the military Engineering Services for the Indian government and so he moved around about every three years and so consequently we ended up living in multiple locations in India uh and in the mid-70s he got my my mom and he were sponsored by my uncle who lived in Canada uh and and in 76 we moved to Canada and that’s where I went to school in junior high school starting junior high school and uh High School uh Nelson boand uh up near uh Lawrence and ke area if anybody knows that I don’t know how many people would know that it’s a fairly small school I ended up going to University of waterl for my undergrad in engineering uh I became a civil engineer uh while I was in Canada uh and in uh I graduated in 91 but unfortunately due to uh uh economic recessions going on we were still coming out of it so positions were not quite available so I ended up moving to Connecticut for a position that I got through a family friend who had just started a business as an engineering uh company there um I had some experience in Bridge inspection while I was doing Co-op work uh uh while I was doing my undergrad so I had some experience that I could apply and and so I ended up in Connecticut in 94 January of 94 I actually drove there during a storm uh and uh then in 7 uh 97 I moved to Utah and took a position with a company called Parsons uh Parson Transportation group now or I think actually they’re back to Parsons now um so they kind of switch back and forth actually it was Duo Cather which was an company they had acquired but it was part of the Parson Transportation group and then yeah eventually just ended up being Parsons anyways it was with Parson in uh in Utah and then when the position when the work was ending uh we were doing a major uh Transportation um uh renewal basically due to the Olympics occurring in 2000 uh it’s a big design build project and they did a lot of engineering uh they we’re working on 230 some odd structures or something like that and so I took the opportunity to get into a larger firm and bigger projects from where I was uh which has served me fairly well while working there and I while at Parsons I ended up working in Colorado on the E470 project uh and I think there was another job that I worked on for Parsons there uh and then um in Missouri I worked on the metrol link project um and then in Detroit I worked on several projects including a project [Music] in where is it it’s um God I’m not going to remember now where uh but anyways it was a a belt line uh Grand Rapids area um fairly large project $350 million construction or something along that line I ended up designing like 14 structures on that on that project uh and then um eventually uh in 2000 actually I met my wife uh she lived in Toledo uh we got married married in 2003 and I decided to move to Toledo um Parsons was a little far in Detroit from traveling so got a position with a firm called SS soe uh which was starting a transportation group and uh Unfortunately they closed it down in three years and then I ended up working for the city of Toledo who was looking to replace one of their uh Engineers who had moved on to another position so so I ended up working for streets bridges in Harbor in uh for about six years and then um while I was with SSU I was actually looking at becoming a partner there and considering that so I kept considering that while I was in Toledo uh city of Toledo and uh things weren’t going anywhere so I just put out feelers to go ahead and you you know try to you know develop that ambition a little bit more and so I ended up uh um getting interviewed for several positioned and one of the positions was with Stephen J Christian and Associates uh they were looking for a partner uh to replace a partner that had just left uh about a year I think or 10 months or something ago in 2011 and so I accepted the position there in March of 2012 and um and didn’t accept the position of a president uh or a partnership right away um I waited I I I think we needed to wait just learn something about the company I needed to learn about more about the company so uh I I did not take it right away um they wanted me to take over in 2012 I at the end of 2012 and I like no it’s not that’s too soon so anyways uh in 2013 we changed the name from Steph J Christian and Associates to SJC APC um because of the you know the number of Partners and we did have two other partners join us also um and so accepted the position in 2014 for um newly rebranded firm as jcap awesome um and I also became a diver um joined one of the things that SJ Stephen J Christian Associates did at that time was that they did diving inspection for the bridges and I was not a diver so I had to learn to scuba dive and eventually set up a commercial diver program where we could learn how to be commercial divers and be uh be able to continue to do the work with the the state uh in Indiana uh due to Federal Highway requirements and Ash uh OSHA requirements anyways so we took that program we built it in inside and we actually are now a company that can do its own train its own commercial divers fantastic so reie at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own [Music] business I wanted to do that for a very long time I’m not sure I would say that I developed the confidence I think that’s work in progress yeah yeah uh it’s I still have times when I don’t know what the hell to do Fair uh and I I need help frankly I mean I could I don’t think I could do it without my partners you know I mean we have discussions all the time how do we deal with this how do we deal with this things change I mean it’s so Dynamic uh there is uh I think once when you’re a an employee you don’t always understand what the company has to do to uh you know keep the business running keep the employees employed keep everybody satisfied there’s a lot of dynamic interactions occurring yeah uh and you’re trying to balance a lot of things um and it’s you can’t do it long I just can’t yeah I I I appreciate the the cander and right and the in the vulnerability of of sharing that right there’s stuff that comes up all the time that we just don’t we haven’t faced before so we don’t know how to deal with it right yeah I mean I employ a business consultant we have the two part three Partners we got multiple lawyers continuously helping us out on things uh it’s you know we have the HR Specialists we have uh you know contract you know is is constantly the we work with a lot of our Prime Consultants who are always putting stipulations in the OTS always putting stipulations in od do and it’s like we’re trying to protect ourselves from all different angles and continue to work yeah um and and it’s it’s it’s it’s a it’s a very Dynamic environment it is not a simple thing reie tell us a little bit more about the company so say the name again and what do you guys do how do you help people okay so we uh company started out as Steph J Christian and Associates and I think I mentioned that uh Stephen l he started the company in 98 he incorporated or became a professional Corporation in 99 February of 99 um and has operated under that conditions and then um Shirley George became uh a partner in 20 2006 or something like that yeah 2006 along with another partner who is no longer with the company um and uh the the company started out as a bridge inspection bridge design primarily a bridge focused company Stephen was there from uh background was in bridge design and that’s what he did and he specialized in that uh he was also also a uh professional surveyor U there was a time when you could get dual licensing as a s you still can but it takes ex there’s a lot more work involved with it now than it used to be um but the uh the company was primarily bridge design Bridge inspection uh and and added the survey component uh in 2011 when they purchased a company called Beacon surveying and one of our current Partners GRE quey came from there uh and um then um uh from 2011 to 20 14 when I took over you know we continue to work as a a Steph J Christian Associates and then in 20 late 2013 we changed the name to sjcc um you reflecting more of the change in the because you know it wasn’t just Stephen J Christian anymore so it it was you know so we had to adjust for that um and everybody pretty much always contracted it down to sjca anyway so it was what the hell are we fighting it for uh so so we just made that and then uh in 2014 when I joined uh we continue to operate mostly as a engineering structural company uh and then we started looking at adding other services like roadway design and civil site design um as part of the services we offer um because we wanted to make it more rounded firm uh more full service um and so we uh we started looking at other sectors that we could naturally add to the firm um and uh one of them was site design that’s where Ben dykman came in he was used to working with con uh he was he came from the site design side of things um and he worked with Architects and so on although that business has kind of declined because our in that business blew up so much or you know our Consulting business for design of structures and roadways become so became so much that you know kind of like sight kind of slowly fell off um we’ve also added Hydraulics we do hydraulic analysis and things like that which is part of kind of the natural development in the system from the fact that yeah a lot of bridges are over water so we kind of need to know the Hydraulics and things so and in the meantime the um the growth of the bridge inspection has continued and so has the uh growth of the underwater inspection program that we do um in 2020 during we actually had started talking to an environmental firm in 2019 and we finished the acquisition in September of 2021 sorry in 2020 we finished it middle of Co yeah um and uh so we have we acquired a firm called Green three uh environmental firm uh and also historians and archaeologists so we also do a lot of the permitting for the um the transportation projects okay we continue to be a primarily a transportation company um just multipronged we have the roadway we have the environmental we have the cultural resources our historian and so forth we have the survey we have we added construction inspection we used to do that a lot before uh we it had shrunk but now it’s just kind of ballooned up again so these have been progressively getting bigger and bigger fantastic so what’s what’s been your biggest learning as a business owner the biggest learning is is Don’t Close Your close yourself off to ideas from other people um it’s you don’t know where your next growth is going to come from so don’t pigeon hole yourself essentially yeah um that’s and um the one thing I kind of fail to mention is that actually one of the things I did do when I was in undergrad was take management Sciences okay uh and then while I was uh that was a my that I took with it as well as environmental actually I ended up with u major in I had the structural the environmental and management Sciences well I was doing undergrad it actually took me a little longer to graduate because of that uh but I ended up with a lot more um and it actually has come very useful um surprisingly um part of the reason was also we were going in a recession I’m like it’s a recession I might as well take a few more pores yeah right [Music] yeah um so and then um and then I did my masters while I was in Toledo and again I did structural emphasis but then I also took business courses also and I actually finished the Masters while I was in 20 it was in 2014 while I was actually here in Indiana okay so I actually started there but actually finished here so uh as far as learning don’t stop just yeah I love it what a great perspective hey we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so tell us one of the the biggest challenges that you had uh in terms of this business and maybe you know a a fellow business owner or a colleague who you know came alongside you and helped you through that well uh I think they all have contributed I would not say that all all our partners have contributed I me and Stephen when he was with us I he was with us till 201 17 so that’s when he retired and he and I used to talk you know it’s like what do we want to see you know uh what comp you know where are we going what do we you know what are we you know yeah and so one of the conversations we had is like we’re primarily an engineering firm that’s in business you know uh our f focus is engineering we you know and and we want to make sure that we do a good job the business will come right over time have found that the business needs to be brought up a little bit more a little bit more as we get bigger it needs to be brought up more as we get bigger it needs to be brought up more and you need to start specializing um so that was you know I think that was kind of self-realized a little bit uh I think when stepen left we weren’t quite as big big we were still fairly small we were like about 30 people 34 people or something like that uh to give you a perspective when I started we were closer to 20 we’re almost at a 100 right now okay oh wow yeah so uh the the uh and you know we were one office in Indianapolis now we have offices in Evansville we have an office in Washington we have an office in actually we have two offices in Indiana Indianapolis we have an office up in uh South Bend and uh we also have an office in Columbus Ohio uh and we are looking at adding offices in other places at this point uh you know because you know the business is grown to where the customers are kind of like hey if you had an office here we can you know give you more work yeah my current challenge is Staffing I cannot find I mean I think that’s throughout our profession in industry and throughout the entire country for anything yes it has been a big challenge for the last three or four years absolutely yeah yeah did I answer your question I’m not sure I did absolutely you did yeah so reiv if um I’m going to put you on the spot here a little bit if uh if I asked you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for them being there to help with the business’s growth who are those three people and how they help you well uh I would say surely definitely uh who’s who’s my partner uh I mean I think without her making the decision to say hey I need somebody else to help uh and then uh and you know having Ben and Greg uh I kind of one of the reasons I wanted them was they don’t always see eye to ey to me and just I I one of the things I kind of was watching when was going on in a lot of the businesses before I accepted the position was that if if you don’t have people who see differently you’re not going to be able to grow and capture things that you you need people to be different than you y you cannot be you cannot have Yes Man in your absolutely yeah it doesn’t always create a comfortable situation but I’m they’re there because they can actually reel me in when I’m going off the off tangent or something you know so I’m I’m I’m I’m you know I’m I’m willing to fly and take risks and they’re a little a little more risk averse and they’re kind of like hang on a second you know let’s take a look at this a little bit more yes yes so yeah I’m I’m I’m very grateful for them not always happy about it well I love I love the fact that you had that awareness of the one of the things that we we do when we’re coaching uh owners and leadership team is is acknowledging exactly what you said is hey in order for the team to be awesome right we need people with different thoughts and perspectives and we use disk the disk assessment as a way to help understand that and so yeah if we’re if we’re all the same type of person we’re going to view the world the exact same way and we going to make the same types of we’re going to process the information the same we’re going to make the same decision but it doesn’t mean it’s the right decision so if we if we have our opposite to our ying and yang idea right of oh can now we get a full better understanding of a situation and we can make a better decision yeah and actually having four I kind of think of it as a compass we don’t always you know you need sometimes uh like for me I have a lot of authority right so sometimes you need enough Mass behind the other groups to kind the you know the other side to kind of say hey hold on a second this is not right and you know you’re gonna take us off the cliff yeah uh we don’t you know you kind of need that I’m not always happy about it like I mentioned before right yes yes I do appreciate it that they pulled me back sometimes and on the other side you know the the the more concern conservative people they need somebody that’s that has that more inspirational and and optimistic view of we’re going to figure this out and you know let’s just take a you know a couple steps forward so you it’s a good balance yeah and and you got to be also be able to willing to say okay let’s take a couple of steps back and take a look at it yeah you need that and you know uh we did hire a uh a business consultant to help us manage you know when we started hitting about 50 people I started feeling overwhelmed and you know so I you know I looked around and we got somebody that one didn’t turn out to be too good but then Greg found someone that was able to help us out and and I would say John uh that’s his name John Franks has been great in trying to get us focused uh and you know deal with some of the business aspects of things U that you know we don’t necessarily have the background for we were not we’re Engineers we weren’t prepared I mean even though I had some experience and Greg quebe had he was a partner with a firm that we acquired yeah but you know they were small they were still operating mostly As you know it’s mostly Cash Direct it’s not you know it’s not the same as what we do yeah so um you know we’re a lot more measured a lot more planned um unfortunately we’re also a lot more administrative I mean it’s necessity y because you know Department of Labor you got to deal with that you got to deal for with reporting requirements you got to deal with HIPPA you got to deal with all kinds of things and and and unfortunately you’re forced to become more corporate you know uh yep we what you said is I think it’s important for everyone to to internalize is you know the school system doesn’t teach us how to be business owners right it teaches us how to be you know an expert in our art or our craft or our trade right and yeah when we when we’re running a business it’s a whole different learning curve and oftentimes we can feel like we’re you know we’re drinking from the fire hose just trying to figure it out so you know going through some type of you know re-education of how to be a great business owner is is important to to be successful as a business owner so I’m I’m glad yeah you’ve been going through that I’m not sure I’m a great business owner I’m just I’m just trying to work through it so reie as you think about the next one to three years what’s the number one priority or challenge that you see in order to achieve your goals so the one thing is that we’re trying to make sure that everybody has the same direction uh same values again like I said because we’ve had some growth fairly significant growth the culture of the company didn’t quite keep up with it sure um uh you know the level of training trying to get everybody to same understanding save delivery methodology uh you know we have qaqc procedures but trying to get everybody to work together and go in the same direction um so we you know we developed leadership group within the company uh we developed a cultural uh survey that we did we we reworked the mission and vision so we’re looking at you know we’re looking at implementing all that yeah over the year uh that going forward from 24 to 25 fantastic yeah that’s wonderful so last question Jim ran says that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that quote what advice would you have for business owners who are trying to do it all on their own don’t uh so one of the things I do try to do is um yeah with people who have similar who are currently business owners uh who started their own business who working on their own um I try even go back to AI Engineers which is uh the company I worked for in Connecticut who you know when I started out was three people and now like like 350 people in multiple States and Abul Islam was the is the owner U and I try to re reach out to him get you know get his ideas on it but I have other people locally uh closer which I uh talk to that can uh give me some direction sometimes um you know that sometimes they own a little bit bigger company sometimes they own some somewhat smaller company uh but you know and I also am uh in the local uh American Council of engineering companies um uh member of that so I’m on various I’ve been on various committees for that uh for that organization and I’ve made some contacts where I Tred to uh you know meet with them as regularly as possible I do have to still run the company uh um I try to get together with them as often as I can so I can you know sometimes pick their brain sometimes they ask me questions you know just try to learn from each other um so the advice I would say is uh you know and it doesn’t have to be peers or even in the same group uh it it can be just some people who have started businesses uh on their own um and you know learn from their experience um several of my cousins in India have businesses and that you know I talk to them too and kind of learn how their experience has been and how they deal with certain things and uh actually one of my cousin actually has a leadership coaching Consulting business oh it’s fantastic so along with his wife actually started he actually joined the company okay um and then and became a coach himself um uh he used to work for airel uh he was vice president and so he kind was doing this anyways so he’s like what the hell so anyways so yeah I mean I talked to a lot of people um you can’t cut yourself off mind you some days I come home and all I want to do is sit in front of the YouTube and find out what the hell is going on in the EV World re sounds like you’ve had some uh you know some pretty incredible people in your journey that have helped you along the way if they were all on the show today what would you want to say to them so thank you uh for being there and I appreciate it I did fail to mention one thing I could not have done this without my wife’s support in all the various Adventures I’ve gone on you know uh it could not have done it you know so I do want to say thank you Jill I appreciate you fantastic well Rajiv it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today thank you so much for being on the show you bet all right thank you Tim thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show please help spread this Movement by liking and subscribing to our show and following us on Facebook and Linkedin to join our movement go to bead together.com okay folks that’s a wrap please pay it forward and be sure to tune in next time to the C Sade is a myth podcast