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Meet Brian Dersch of Dersch Design & Engineering

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Dersch.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in a small town, 60 miles west of Chicago, Illinois. I learned at an early age the Midwestern work ethic – hard work paid off. In high school I was named “Technology Education Student of the Semester” for teaching other students how to program a website before there were simple website editors. I bought my first computer in 8th grade with money from my paper route. It baffled me that I could type a character and see it appear on the screen. It was then a light bulb went off – I would need to go to college to become an engineer to have a career in computers. This path led me to electrical engineering.

I graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering with a minor in mathematics in 2004. Most young electrical engineers begin their career as supporting staff on small projects – it was quite the opposite for me. I started working on the largest construction project in the history of Illinois, the tallest building in the world, and the most energy efficient high rise building in the world. Eventually this experience led me to receiving a design management offer from a renewable energy contractor. I got hired on as their Director of Engineering, and I had five engineers working for me. That job taught me what it takes to succeed in small business. I saw how resourceful the owners were – in how they pursued new business, managed and finished projects and got paid.

I moved to San Diego and got married. My wife and I had talked about having her pursue her career as a travelling nurse. So, after working almost a decade as an engineer, I quit my job for a year and a half to travel with her – moving from city to city. It was the first time, since 13 that I didn’t have a job. During that year and a half, we visited 35 states and I had a lot of time to think.

As we travelled, I started taking on electrical engineering side jobs figuring I can make a success as an independent consultant. I essentially used the rest of the travel time to focus on starting a business — strategizing and getting all the infrastructure in place. Looking back, I realize that working on the infrastructure was critically important. A lot of people start immediately doing the work, whereas I took a step back and came up with a plan. If I could give any advice to anyone looking to start a business, it would be to focus a lot of time developing strategy and not just “doing work.”

At this point, I am a Professional Engineer with more than 10 years’ experience in electrical engineering and the construction industry. I am also a LEED Accredited Professional by the US Green Building Council. When we came back to San Diego, I was home-based. I had a marketing plan. Yet, my business seemed to come from random sources, and it wasn’t very fulfilling. I got to thinking there’s got to be more to it than this. Two and a half years ago, I joined Vistage, a peer-to-peer membership organization for coaching and mentoring CEOs, business owners and executives of small- to mid-size businesses. That’s what helped me forge a vision of what my business could be and gave me the keys to figuring out how to make it happen. Since I never had any training in operations and management, my Vistage group helped me with how to run and grow the business. When I rented space in La Jolla and hired my first employee, Dersch Design & Engineering took off. Since then, it’s all been about going upward with managed growth. I was recognized as a member of the 2017 San Diego Metropolitan 40 Under Forty honorees. And Dersch Design appeared on the 2017 San Diego Business Journal’s Top Engineering firms list.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Has it been a smooth road? Yes and no. Yes, fortunately there’s a lot of business opportunities. San Diego’s construction scene is booming.

Known for our quality, attention to detail and customer service, Dersch Design is decidedly in the right place, at the right time.

I, like many small business owners, face two everyday challenges. Balancing family life and managing cash flow. Running a business is not a 9 to 5 job. Likewise, being a great husband and father to my cute 17-month old daughter is also on my mind. I’m not one to bring paperwork or plans home . . . but my thoughts can stray to an upcoming project or status of a project approval. My challenge is to be present as I navigate between my work and my family.

Cash flow can also be an issue, but I am fortunate that I’ve never been cash strapped. Dersch Design takes on large projects. I hire staff and pull the resources to execute the projects. There can be quite a few months between the work, invoice, and payment. With good credit, I have loans and the infrastructure in place to ride these waves.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Dersch Design & Engineering story. Tell us more about the business.
On April 4, 2017, the Frontier Group and the Environment California Research and Policy Center released its 2017 Shining Cities Report on America’s top solar cities that are developing a cleaner energy future. This report ranked San Diego number one for solar panel installation, surpassing the three-year record holder Los Angeles. The report shared that as a “Solar Star City”, San Diego leads the nation in total installed solar PV (303,000 kW) among the 66 cities surveyed.

How do we keep this trajectory moving forward? We do so with the drive, determination and enthusiasm of a professional electrical engineering rock star firm like Dersch Design & Engineering. Over the years more than 60,000 kilowatts of solar panels have been installed under my design and direction.

Dersch Design teams up with structural engineers, general contractors, and architects to solve complex engineering design challenges for higher education, commercial and government projects. We have a broad range of experience in many engineering disciplines, with a primary focus on designing power and lighting systems for construction projects with a major emphasis on renewable energy, and customer service.

Dersch Design & Engineering was founded in 2013 on the principles of setting a new standard for the industry. We employ four full-time engineers and are a professional, proactive, and approachable Small Business S-Corporation, certified Small Local Business Enterprise (SLBE) in San Diego, California. I am licensed to perform engineering services in the following states: California, Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. We pride ourselves on that fact that we employ engineers you can hold a conversation with!

I’m most proud of the fact that my company helps engineers and support staff put food on the table for multiple families and affords them the opportunity to buy or build homes and create a great life for themselves. In addition, I like the fact that our renewable engineering projects are contributing to clean energy production for our State and the country–whoever has a project we’re working on around the world. At Dersch Design we are involved in doing projects that benefit the environment and civilization at large.

What sets Dersch Design apart from others? We are unique because our team of engineers can actually hold a conversation with people. We connect with people easily and are outgoing. Also, we have a keen eye for quality, are self-motivated, and have attention to detail that others in the industry may lack. We are extremely responsive and proactive. It all comes down to the customer service.

We approach our projects from a variety of different perspectives. We look at the motivation of all the people who are involved in the project. I’ve seen how utility companies interface, how the design teams design, and how the construction teams build projects. We take multiple people’s opinions and goals into account. It ultimately boils down to having a clear view of the big picture.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I do not believe in luck. I believe that you can set yourself up for success and failure. My approach is to increase the odds as much as possible towards success and let the chips fall where they fall. Overall, through supportive family, friends, and business acquaintances, I feel like the odds have been stacked in my favor towards success in both personal and business life.

But I do recognize that when I started my business I had a business plan in place and I thought I was going to get solid business from a lot of different contacts in the industry that I had previously identified. As it ends up, I only ended up getting business from a small percentage of those contacts. Better business seemed to pop up elsewhere. At first it seemed random. But after pondering this for a while, I realized it was not random at all. I had put myself in good situations and set the company up for success. Others recognized this and approached us with business opportunity when the time was right.

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