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This is a story that shows how differently my customers treat hiring their engineer. It involves four Tims that I have run into along the way as a structural engineer. Two of these Tims in this story are architects, one is a contractor, and one is my neighbor. Each one approaches their business differently, and deal with their consultants differently.

Note:  The stories in this blog are true.  I’ve just changed the names and a few facts have been slightly altered to protect the identity of the individuals. 

Tim #1

Tim #1 is a small studio architectural office. They do some nice size residential and commercial buildings, and is the kind of work we want to do. I have never actually worked on a job for Tim #1. I have met with Tim #1 a few times and have submitted proposals for a few jobs. Each time, he found a different engineer with a cheaper fee. The business model for this architect is that he gets a set price for his overall package, and he must pay all of his consultants from this fee.

In this model I suppose that it does behoove him to get the cheapest engineer he can find. I will probably keep working to get a job with this Tim, but I am not sure if I will be able to compete with this cheaper engineer.

Tim # 2

Tim # 2 is also a small studio architectural firm that does some nice sized residential and commercial work. Tim 2 begins with the assumption that I am on his team for the project. He knows structural needs to be right, and he does not want to pinch pennies on his structural engineer. He has been burned with poor structural design in the past and trusts us to keep him from getting burned again. His business model is to first assemble his team, then get prices from each team member. He then adds markups to his fee, and then gives a combined price to the customer. I still keep my fees reasonable, and my pencil sharp, but I am not forced to ‘bid’ against other engineers.

With Tim #2, the fees are nice, and the projects are good. We do things out of the office as well like going to lunch and going fishing. There is one issue with Tim 3. There is a clause in the contract that can really bite. That little clause is the ‘pay when paid’ clause. This clause says that he cannot pay me until he gets paid by his client. This clause has the issue of slowing down payment and hurt cash flow for the company.

Tim #3

Tim #3 is the owner a design-build company specializing in a particular area of industrial building construction. This company also assumes we are on their team. This Tim sees the value that we can bring to their work through efficiency and creativity without ego-driven personality conflicts. This Tim wants the fees to be reasonable, of course, but is primarily focused on the delivery of the project or bid. So far I have billed him three times, and each time I was paid via credit card within 2-days of the billing. 2 days! This Tim is enjoyable to spend time with as well.

Recently Tim #3 realized that we needed to go see some of his work and do some training for future projects. He actually paid our travel expenses, and even offered to take us deep-sea fishing while there. (The fishing did not work out, but perhaps another time it will).

Tim #4

Tim #4 was my neighbor from about a year ago. He is a retired marine and cop from New Jersey. He is tough as nails, drives a vintage pickup truck, and smokes a cigar on the front porch every night. If you want him to talk for an extended time, just bring up a political topic, and he will carry on a conversation with you until the sun goes down. If you want to end a conversation, just bring up religion. If you bring up engineering, he will talk about the time he designed a sump in his garage back in Jersey.

Actually, this Tim has absolutely nothing to do with this article, but his name is Tim, and a rather interesting dude whom I miss, love, and just get cracked up thinking about.

Okay, back to the primary point – I have 3 Tims that I have run into at our structural engineering company. I like each of them and am happy to work on their projects. The financial part of a project is important, and there is one Tim that makes my life the easiest in this area.

Which Tim do you relate to the most?