When Richard M. Maser, P.E., P.P., C.M.E., president and CEO, ventured out in 1984 to establish a consulting firm, his goal was to provide "the next generation of engineering services." Twenty years later, with a client-conscious approach and a multi-disciplinary capability, Maser Consulting P.A., has grown from a three-person practice into a 240-employee, diversified company operating out of six offices in New Jersey and New York. The firm serves the expansive New York City metropolitan area and beyond.
"When I first went into the business, I was looking to establish a firm that would be, in effect, one-stop shopping for all the different services," explained Maser. "I've gradually added services to meet that goal. It allows us to service our clients to the maximum.
"My business philosophy has always been to take client satisfaction and turn it into customer loyalty by listening and understanding, adhering to schedule and budget, and being responsive 24 hours a day," Maser said.
From left to right: Richard M. Maser, P.E., P.P., C.M.E., president and CEO;
Joseph A. Dopico, P.E., principal and director of transportation services;
Leonardo E. Ponzio, P.L.S., principal and director of surveying services.
That philosophy is consistently communicated to staff at every level and modeled by managers and principals through their close involvement on projects. "[Clients] don't just see us in the beginning when we're trying to get the project," said Joseph Dopico, P.E., manager of Maser's New York operations, director of transportation services (highway and bridge projects), and a firm principal. "We stay involved with the project from beginning to end. I try to have continual communication with clients. When a client has to call us and ask what's going on [with their project], then we've failed to be that proactive service provider."
Building relationships - built throughconstant communication between the firm's principals and its clients - play an important role in avoiding conflicts and resolving problems, Dopico said. The firm also uses surveys to obtain feedback from clients. Maser said he visits some clients himself, spending 45 minutes to an hour going through a list of questions.
The company recently implemented a client manager-type of corporate structure to support its business philosophy by establishing discipline leaders, regional leaders, and client leaders. "For larger clients, we've assigned an individual [to] be the point person to make sure that client is kept happy," Maser said.
Based on its record of client loyalty, Maser Consulting's client-conscious approach is effective. Maser said that from 85 percent to 93 percent of the company's work during the past few years was repeat business from existing clients. And that has occurred during a time of rapid growth for the firm. For the past two years, ZweigWhite, a Natick, Mass.-based management consulting firm for the design and construction industry, recognized Maser Consulting as one of the top 100 fastest-growing A/E firms in the industry, based on its consistent growth over a three-year period while maintaining a high level of profits.
While rapid growth through acquisitions and expanded services provides many opportunities for a firm and its employees, it also can create internal conflicts that can affect client relationships. Acquisition of smaller companies (the largest involved a 10-person firm) is a painstaking process, said Dopico, which includes careful evaluation and "Maserizing" the new operations - affirming the Maser business philosophy of communication and client satisfaction.
Avoiding culture clashes has helped smooth most growing pains, said Leonardo Ponzio, P.L.S., director of surveying services, department manager of the Red Bank, N.J., office, and a principal. "We have acquired the right personnel and companies that merge with our existing culture," he said. "This fosters the right chemistry among the employees for a successful environment, allowing both professional and technical people to grow into their own careers."
Ponzio knows about growing into a career at Maser. He began with the company 16 years ago as a rod person, having obtained an associates degree in civil engineering technology. While working for Maser, he attended school at night to obtain a four-year degree in surveying.
Ten of the 20 people who Ponzio manages in the Red Bank office have been with the firm for more than 12 years. "We do not have a high turnover rate," he said. "Besides training, it allows us to grow as a group."
Bringing a growing range of disciplines together under one corporate roof provides the one-stop shopping Maser set out to establish. "We can pretty much sell to our clients that if you come to us, we can handle your project in-house and not have to deal with other consultants or farming out part of the work," said Dopico.
From the client's perspective, a multi-disciplinary approach can improve project results, according to Maser. "It provides for a better design ultimately because we have professionals talking to each other internally," he said. "Less coordination [between firms] gives you the opportunity for an improved project schedule to get things done more quickly."
As the firm continues to expand, however, managing all the disciplines and their project involvement becomes more complex. "It's one thing to sell the multi-disciplinary approach," Dopico said, "but if it breaks down internally, that can be a detriment. Our challenge is to constantly deliver what we preach."
Maser said that as the firm expands geographically, one of its goals is to offer multi-disciplinary capabilities at each of its branch offices. Nevertheless, technology currently allows the company to operate as if it had its entire range of expertise in each office. "We have eight servers in [the Red Bank] office and servers in all the other offices," Ponzio said. "If a client comes through any one of our other offices, we are interconnected, allowing us to use all of the personnel in the company - 240 strong - to react and do anything the [client] needs from us.
"Using technology has allowed us to be very profitable," Ponzio said. "We're staying ahead of the curve, doing things at a new rate and using our personnel efficiently."
Technology advances at Maser Consulting include robotic surveying instruments; computer- generated data from the field; in-house GPS, GIS, and photogramatic services; and continuously updated software programs and computer hardware.
The depth of Maser Consulting's expertise and technology also has helped it garner significant business as the engineer-of-record for more than 30 municipalities and public authorities. "Most of the towns we represent do not have in-house capabilities," explained Maser. The firm also supplements the capabilities of inhouse engineering staffs in some larger municipalities and helps meet seasonal demands to complete engineering work on capital projects in time for summer construction.
In 20 years, Maser Consulting has matured rapidly into a full-service firm. Its focus on client satisfaction has created a business foundation of client loyalty that, if maintained, should support the firm's continued growth.
Profile by the Numbers
Headquarters: Red Bank, N.J.
Offices: Hackettstown, N.J.; Hamilton Square, N.J.; Clinton, N.J.; West Nyack, N.Y.; Newburgh, N.Y.
Ownership: Privately owned (29 owners)
Areas of Practice: Civil engineering/site development, construction administration, environmental engineering, hydrogeological services, landscape architecture, municipal engineering, park and recreation design, professional planning, road/highway/bridge services, structural engineering, land surveying, traffic and transportation engineering, and water and wastewater engineering
Current Staff Breakdown
CAD technicians: 16
Project assistants/administrative staff: 42
Junior engineers (0-3 years experience): 15
Staff engineers: 28
Project managers: 35
Department heads: 13
Branch managers: 6
Other support staff:
Landscape architects (9)
Professional planners (8)
Environmental specialists (12)
Construction inspectors (13)
Total billings for last fiscal year: $25.5 million