Interview with Brian S. Mihelich
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
True North Consultants is a consulting engineering firm made up of engineering and science-related professionals dedicated to providing sustainable site development and environmental resource management solutions. We partner with clients spanning both the private and public sectors to address their environmental management, land development, and public infrastructure needs locally and nationally.
Q: What made you start your business?
As an environmental consultant working in an industry that is directly tied to the various aspects of real estate acquisition, development and divestiture, my job situation was significantly impacted by the real estate crashbust in 2008. Many of the firms in my industry began downsizing and I anticipated that it would only be a matter of time before my employer followed suit. With limited prospects of finding another job at the time, I determined that I had just as much job security on my own as I did with another company. Having worked with my business partners, Mike and Ryan, for several years and sharing similar business and personal philosophies, we embarked on creating True North Consultants.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
There are many challenges in starting and running a small business. Starting out, it was cash flow and building name recognition. Now that True North is established, the greatest challenge is growing the business beyond the three partners. We've experienced significant growth over the last year and have struggled with servicing the needs of our clients in a manner they have become accustomed to. We must now hire staff if we want to continue to grow and become more profitable.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
Working for myself affords me the opportunity to directly benefit from True North's successes, whether it is financial or experience related. Being a business owner in my field has opened the door to many new professional and personal opportunities and has enabled me to develop meaningful relationships with our vendors, partners and clients. Additionally, clients have a higher confidence level in dealing with the business owner rather than an employee that has no vested interest in the company.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I can't remember what I wanted to do when I was growing up. I can tell you I never envisioned owning a business. I'm extremely fortunate to be in this position and recognize that I wouldn't be here without the positive influences of family, friends, my business partners and mentors.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
The typical issues that small business owners face: Is our cash flow sufficient to pay the bills? What are we doing to market ourselves to continually get work? Are we meeting or exceeding our client's expectations? What can we do to be more efficient and how do we make our product better without significantly increasing cost?
Q: You could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
Accept that you cannot do it all. Surround yourself with partners or employees who complement your skill set or supplement your deficiencies. I think True North has been successful because my partners and I each bring a different set of skills and experiences to the table that together fulfill all the components of successful business. Additionally, realize there are many small businesses out there struggling with the same issues as you. Consider strategically partnering with them to improve the services you offer. In our case, when we were starting out we were able to strategically partner with some of our vendors who then offered us terms and conditions that made it easier to manage cash flow.
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True North Consultants Inc.Business: True North Consultants Inc. Address: 1260 Iroquois Avenue, Suite 108, Naperville
Owners: Brian S. Mihelich, Ryan M. LaDieu and Michael D. Brennan Year business started: 2008
Web address: www.consulttruenorth.com