Throughout the process of starting any business, you learn quickly to deal with unforeseen circumstances on a regular basis. Things like missed deliveries, unexpected costs, delays by a government body, missing parts, etc. Recently we had one of the biggest curveballs sent our way, from the most unlikely of places. Our Structural Engineer who has been working with us a lot lately, just had a heart attack.
For starters, we wish him all the best in his return to health. Having worked as a pharmaceutical salesperson, I have learned the effect ill health can have on a persons physical and mental well being. It can effect different people in a number of ways. So we wish our engineer all the best in getting back to health after such a traumatic experience.
Let me give you a little context to the situation. A structural engineer is pretty important on most any building process, as there are lots of decisions to be made around making sure big components are sound. Things like; making sure our floors are structurally sound, the grain hopper is fastened to the building properly, connecting the new curbs to the old concrete slab properly, and making sure the walls and ceilings are properly built so they can handle a heavy load …. you get the idea. So having someone that understands your project, and someone that works within your timeline is key.
More importantly, when you are at the point our brewery build-out is right now, a structural engineer and their work is critical in moving things ahead. For instance, there is a list of about 10 things that our engineer is working on, and without his guidance and advice, we can’t make any progress.
Let me now recap a few of our issues with our engineer and you will see why we need to make such an uncomfortable decision. We picked our structural engineer about 6 months ago, and like a lot of decisions we make, it was based on personality, a referral and price. He was not from a company or firm, rather just a guy who works on his own … he is the only employee. Early in the process of things, he gave us some advice, and it seemed very good and we looked forward to working with him on things.
Fast forward to the day we took possession: February 1st, 2014. All of a sudden we needed our engineer to start producing some drawings and work for us, but our emails and calls went unanswered. We reconnected with our architect over this, and they handled things, allaying our concerns and repointing everyone in the right direction (they are good at this). As our general contractor kept sinking his teeth into the building of our brewery, he had more and more questions for the structural engineer.
He put these questions to the engineer on a regular basis for the next month, until about the beginning of April, when we really started to worry about not getting drawings and answers on what exactly he was supposed to be doing with certain parts of the brewery. This time we contacted the engineer directly to tell him our concerns. He gave us a few small little answers, but nothing concrete. Fast forward to the last week of April, and it was now critical to get answers. We needed to know about drain construction, floors, connecting old cement with new, etc., and we still didn’t get or have any answers.
A meeting was planned at the end of April to discuss what we needed, and how urgently we needed it, and it went amazingly well. The engineer agreed that he was late in getting stuff to us, and promised we would have this information for last Friday. We felt really good about things and moved forward with a positive attitude.
You can probably see where this is going. Last Friday came and went, and we received nothing. We were pretty disappointed to say the least. The bottom line is that we need these drawings for work that is getting done right now, and without them, we are opening ourselves up to major problems. The biggest of these is a delayed opening, which means we will loose even more money in our first year.
Well the news got even worse on Monday morning, as we learned that this engineer had a heart attack and was in the hospital. And since he is from a company of 1, there was no way to get anything he has done. So what would you do? Do you show compassion and wait for him to get out of the hospital, and let him finish the project …. or do we move in a different direction, avoiding any further delays. We ground our teeth on this one, but as of yesterday we have moved on with a new structural engineer.
In one way its good, as we get a fresh start with someone who hopefully be a little more proactive on getting things done. Moreover, in our initial consultation he gave us a lot of really good information and advice, something we didn’t get from our last engineer. In the another way, moving on with someone else is bad. We have lost all the work that he completed, there is definitely going to be some bad blood over the bill and invoice for work he has done, but not delivered to us on, and we feel bad kicking him when he is down.
At the end of the day, we need to move this process forward now. So waiting for our engineer to heal and get better, while the right thing to do, is not something we are doing. We do wish our contractor all the best, and we hope to recovers and gets back on his feet ASAP. This is just one of the harsh decisions you have to make when starting a business, one that kind of makes you uncomfortable.