Talk about your company culture. What’s it like for the people working at your company?
Claudia: Our culture is really agile. We have a team of 14 people, and we’re creative and highly collaborative, so our organizational structure is flat. We foster open communication, and we invite the entire team to sit at the table and take ownership and pride in the company’s success. We have leadership principles and encourage each employee to take responsibility for the company’s mission and growth. We really believe that success is conquered together, and it’s shared. It’s not my success, my project, my award, it’s ours. We have a rewards program that is designed to recognize team accomplishments and individual accomplishments of all sizes. We also have a benefits package that includes some policies that are traditionally found in Silicon Valley and technology companies but aren’t very common at traditional engineering companies.
Melissa: I’ve always felt that it’s important for us to be accessible to our team as we grow, and our team has felt open to come to us with new ideas, whether it’s for a project or how to fix our timesheets. We like to get their feedback and input because they come up with new approaches and ideas.
What benefits are there for operating in Florida for your future growth plans?
Melissa: There are a few things. One is obviously the environment. Getting people to move to Florida has not been a challenge. Two, there are excellent universities here. We’ve seen tremendous talent come out of the pool of new grads from across the state — not just the larger universities, but also some of the smaller ones like Florida Polytech and Florida International. Third, a big one for us, is the quality of the clients we serve here in Florida. Our clients are forward-thinking, innovative and progressive. They’re looking for new solutions and new way of doing things, and they are pro-data, which is good for us.
Claudia: Florida is becoming more of a technology hub. It’s becoming home for many other companies and industries that are moving into this state. The influx of new companies moving here is significant. That encourages us to focus on Florida. Because we have this level of confidence, we opened our second office last year in Tallahassee. So we’re planning to stay here
What keeps you up at night as business owners?
Claudia: What keeps us up at night is keeping the identity of our company and providing the best work environment and the best culture for our team. We always focus on our team’s wellbeing and professional growth, and we also focus on providing applicable innovation for our clients that can add value. One thing will not happen without the other.
Melissa: We’ve invested a lot in choosing, building and training the team and working together. Our team is our biggest asset. The task of finding projects is always there, but we can only deliver innovation if we have a happy and functional team. That’s our foundation.
Talk about some of the major challenges you’ve faced in growing your business and how you overcame them.
Melissa: We started five years ago. It’s probably the same for many entrepreneurs, but Claudia and I started this with an idea. We had zero clients. We had one laptop, no furniture, no office. The challenge was how to start a business from an idea and make it tangible. We stumbled upon the University of Central Florida (UCF) Business Incubation Program, and we applied and were accepted. That was so important. They provided office space, connected us with other resources like accounting, and provided us with training in business principles, which I desperately needed as an engineer instead of an experienced entrepreneur. In those early days, we partnered on projects with some of the big firms to introduce ourselves. It was critical to find those teaming partners so we could work together.
What challenges do you foresee in the next three years as your business grows?
Melissa: One challenge we’re all facing is, what’s the next step after this COVID period of how we want to collaborate? Do we work remotely or institute a kind of hybrid approach? Another challenge or opportunity will be to stay ahead of the future of transportation technology, which will be driven by autonomous vehicles and other factors.
Claudia: We have to bring the industry or the client along through a process of education to feel comfortable with any new technology, and sometimes you have a policy barrier. We created a proprietary platform that’s called InNovo Platform-as-a-Service, or IPAAS, which is a machine learning, computer vision artificial intelligence that takes regular videos and pictures from any types of camera — it’s vendor-agnostic — and extracts data and analytics. Our goal is to continue to bring innovation. Several solutions that were innovative five years ago are now commonplace.
What has been your proudest moment as the leader of this company?
Claudia: Every award we win makes me super proud because I know it’s a result of our work as a team, and that our vision as a company is being recognized by our peers, by industries and by others who have similar values as our company and ourselves — people who want to create a better community that is safer and more efficient.
What does it mean to you to be honored as a GrowFL Company to Watch?
Melissa: Being selected for this has validated what we’ve been working on and what we’re going to continue to work on.
What do you think this award means to your employees?
Melissa: We have people with unique skill sets: civil engineers who are also software engineers, and brilliant data scientists. They were all genuinely excited to hear about this at a group meeting. It’s good to get that kind of buy-in from the people you work with day in and day out.
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners? Is there something you wish you would have known when you were starting?
Melissa: Learning as we went and as we grew was like drinking from a firehose! But it probably provided the best lessons I could have learned. I think that was invaluable, so I’m glad it evolved the way it did. I would tell other potential business owners there is no perfect moment. If you wait for this one job to be over or this one life event to happen, something else will always come up. So you should just go for it.
Claudia: Owning a business is hard work, but it’s rewarding. It’s satisfying. It validates your goals, your personal dreams, your objectives. Despite how scary it sounds, it’s doable. And it’s worth every second you put into it.