Engineering Firm Just Keeps On Growing And Growing And

May 17, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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HOLLAND — What is the recipe for creating a successful business?

According to Dan Driesenga it's a desk, a computer and a dream. The Holland entrepreneur started his own engineering firm, Driesenga & Associates Inc., almost six years ago with this simple recipe.

Now, Driesenga sits back like a proud papa and watches what started as a one-man operation in Holland grow into four offices with over 70 people company-wide. The engineering firm now reaches into Grand Rapids, Whitehall, Spring Lake and Holland.

“When I started I was doing geo-technical engineering, construction materials testing and environmental site assessment. Those were the areas where my background was; now we have grown into four offices and five areas of expertise,” said Driesenga.

After leaving Dell Engineering to follow his entrepreneurial heart, Driesenga started the new business. “The business took off immediately because there wasn’t anyone else in the area offering what I was. I saw that opportunity and decided to go with it,” added Driesenga.

The increase in business and size for Driesenga is a development that has taken place over time and with hard work. In July of 1997, Joiner Engineering of Spring Lake approached Driesenga with the idea of purchasing the company. Driesenga accepted and with that acceptance came 10 people and an established civil engineering and land surveying business.

“Joiner really took us into that arena that we did not have the expertise in previously. It added another field to our plate and allowed us to extend our reach not only into another areas but also to accept other jobs,” said Driesenga.

“When we began and were approached by clients to do jobs we had to turn down, it was difficult — because I didn’t like to say no. After purchasing Joiner, we didn’t have to say no anymore.”

The second acquisition came about a year ago when Driesenga & Assoc. purchased Sandel Chappell & Associates in Whitehall. With this acquisition Driesenga was able to move into Whitehall and complete the package of services and skilled professionals it had assembled.

The company now offers geo-technical engineering, construction materials testing, environmental site assessment, civil engineering and surveying. “Now, when the client needs soil borings, surveying, environmental site assessment, site planning, all drainage, all the utilities and then during construction, layout, staking and quality control testing, we can handle it,” said Driesenga.

Although Driesenga prefers not to put the phrase “one-stop shopping” on the company, he said the engineering firm can meet most of its clients' needs.

“One advantage is that we can cross-sell. If a client is looking for one service, we are going to try to sell them the whole package. A lot of the time people like that for convenience sake,” said Driesenga.

But convenience isn’t the only thing Driesenga is offering.

“We have established a great team of experts. The importance of the fact that we have so many services to offer isn’t so much being able to do the whole job but being able to execute every part well,” Driesenga said.

“In the beginning, if you wanted to speak to a different department, we may have handed the phone over or you may have been speaking to the same person in every department.”

Nearly six years later the company has a project manager heading up every department who hands the job on to the next department. “Not only do you get coordination, you also get expertise,” Driesenga added.

Not only expertise within the company but in every city the company is located. The move to Grand Rapids about two years ago, Driesenga said, was strategic because business was spreading out in that direction and if an office was opened in the area, more business would come, or so he hoped. It turned out he was right.

The Grand Rapids office is now equal to the size of the largest office, and, Driesenga said, will grow to be the largest office by the end of the year.

“Our work is expanding in Grand Rapids both in private work and the work we have been doing with MDOT,” said Driesenga.

Over time the company has worked with MDOT on the S-Curve project, South Beltline, the Kalamazoo and Eastern interchange, and M45 improvements. It has also worked on an office park in Kalamazoo, on over 10 new Wendy’s restaurants, worked with the City of Muskegon Heights and the Summit Avenue project, assisted on Spring Lake road projects and a mix of private work, not to mention pages of other jobs Driesenga & Assoc. can add to its list of credits.

To add to the mix, the company has just moved to a new location in Holland. “For the next year we are going to focus on what we have and grow that. However, we do a lot of work in Kalamazoo and a location there is always a possibility within a few years,” said Driesenga.

“We have had a good run; it was never my intention to be the biggest, just to be the best.”

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