JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 2549

Engineering excellence Featured

7:00pm EDT March 29, 2006
Farah B. Majidzadeh isn’t afraid of a challenge.

And the biggest challenge for the CEO and chairman of Resource International Inc. was, undoubtedly, completing road construction services in Kuwait from 1974 to 1985 and in Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1996.

“I was the only woman who walked through the Saudi Arabian Ministry,” Majidzadeh says. “The culture is not friendly to women, not to mention the fact there is a drastically different way of doing business in these countries as compared to the United States.”

Resource International Inc. — which offers services including geotechnical engineering, surveying and mapping, and environmental services — was founded in 1973 when Majidzadeh’s husband, a professor of engineering, was researching equipment that analyzes conditions under pavement without disturbing the surface. Majidzadeh was intrigued.

“I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to start a business around this service,” she says. “I had many ideas but not a lot of financial resources. I sent 400 letters out to potential clients and immediately received two responses.”

Resource International employs 170 to 200 people, depending on the season, and generates more than $10 million in annual revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Majidzadeh about how she finds the best employees to grow her business and how she measures success.

How do you find and keep clients?
So much of our business — and any other, for that matter — is built around trust. Building a reputation of quality and reliability is essential. It is a direct result of the excellence of our work, timeliness and ability to stay on budget.

If we had not done so in Kuwait, we would have never been invited to Saudi Arabia. I’ve never been impressed with quantity — quality is what strengthens relationships with clients and builds loyalty.

How do you monitor the financial side of the business?
When I started Resource International, I needed basic training on finances. I enrolled in a six-week course focusing on ways to analyze the books and budget resources. Since then, I have been very disciplined about taking a hard and honest look at the numbers every month. To do so less frequently means you will repeat mistakes.

There are two ways companies lose money — employees hiding under the radar and wasting dollars, and management not being strong enough to control expenses. I have regular meetings with my directors to keep them mindful and hold them accountable when it comes to where our dollars are going.

How do you maintain balance and manage stress?
I accept stress as a part of life. My work is like a roller coaster at times. My heart will drop on some of the turns, but I am always ready to take the next ride.

You have to love what you do and keep things in perspective. I have four adult children, all of whom are actively involved in the business. As I have continued to pass the reins to them, my stress level has gone down considerably.

What is your best advice for business managers and owners?
Stick with what you know well. Although our projects in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were great learning experiences, I consider myself lucky. There were enormous cultural differences and nuances in the ways business is conducted.

Although the money was good, there was a lot of suffering throughout the years we worked the projects. I would suggest this to other presidents and CEOs: Stay in the U.S. — there is plenty of work and opportunities here.

I also strongly recommend that business owners develop a strong relationship with their bankers. We would not be where we are today without (our bank’s) support. They truly understand our business, trust us and have enabled us to have many opportunities we would not have had otherwise.

What is your management style?
You must know your employees not just as workers but as human beings with lives outside of the office. When someone has a baby, we honor him or her with a shower. We have loaned employees money to buy houses and granted college scholarships.

During another interview, I was asked what makes an employee stay at Resource International. I suggested that the interviewer ask the employees directly. The answer was flexibility. We are responsive to our employees’ needs, and our turnover is extremely low as a result.

How to reach: Resource International Inc., (614) 823-4949 or www.resourceinternational.com