Want to be your own boss? Now is the time. With modern technology, starting an engineering firm, getting clients and coordinating workflow has never been more within reach.
Advanced technology, co-working tools and the ease of collaboration has leveled the playing field to the advantage of the small, and even one-person, engineering firm.
How Easy Is It?
Capital investment is needed, but robust and affordable, collaboration tools make co-working far less expensive now than in years past. With the help of advanced technology, an engineer can get much of his or her job done remotely and through the use of digital tools.
It’s okay to start as a one-person engineering firm and gradually expand. Don’t expect to be able to compete with the hefty salaries of big firms. The flexibility and increased responsibility offered by start-ups are very much in demand amongst millennials entering the workforce.
A start-up firm offers the chance to work at every stage of a big project. In a recent article on The Engineer, one student directly mentioned this competitive advantage of smaller firms.
“It’s really nice to work at all stages of a project. I’ve been involved in selling new projects and end-of-phase meetings of old ones. You can work on a project right from the very beginning and see it all the way through, something you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do at a bigger company.”
Tips for Starting Your Engineering Firm
Here are five best practices for launching a new engineering startup firm cultivated from various industry professionals:
Tools. Get the best tools to do the job. Whether one’s specialty is mechanical, design, software, civil or electrical, the right equipment to do the job is critical. For many engineering firms, CAD programs and 3D printers are necessities. Invest in the right materials to make prototypes, as bad production quality can be damaging to a fledgling reputation.
Connections. The nerdy engineer is a dated stereotype with little validity in today’s business world. If you love numbers and software better than people, that’s fine. But learn how to network with potential clients and others in the field. As every small business owner knows, no clients means no money and ultimately, no company. Attend trade events, lunch gatherings and follow up with prospects.
Finances. There is a surprising disconnect between numbers in a formula and numbers on a profit and loss statement for many new business owners. As a member of a small firm, you need to learn how to make accurate quotes and collect the money in a timely manner. Find a good CPA and take an intro accounting class.
Scheduling. Clients expect jobs to finish on time. Deftly scheduling multiple tasks, and organizing the people doing them, is a talent essential to starting an engineering firm. Fortunately, cloud-based project management tools like Basecamp, Trello, Microsoft Project, Asana and other cloud-based apps make it easy to setup benchmarks, assign tasks, communicate with colleagues all over the world.
Communicate. Communicate with clients, coworkers, suppliers, anyone and everyone involved on the project. To get the job done successfully, everyone needs to be in the loop with regular updates. Thanks to the capabilities of your project management software, as well as internet communication tools like Skype, email, messaging and video conferencing, this task is more easily accomplished than in years past.