Flatwoods Consulting Group Inc.
Shannon Gonzalez, President
Flatwoods Consulting Group Inc. Economic Impact
60% Job Growth
Flatwoods assists clients in navigating the complex network of environmental regulation. Their team of scientists and professionals have experience in successfully addressing the complex regulatory challenges associated with transportation and utilities, mining, agriculture, and municipal projects, as well as industrial, commercial and residential development. Their comprehensive approach, in-depth understanding of natural resources and regulatory experience results in invaluable project solutions.
Meet Flatwoods Consulting Group Inc.
Tell us about your business and the value it brings to your customers.
Flatwoods assists clients in navigating the complex network of environmental regulations. Our team of scientists and professionals has experience in successfully addressing the regulatory challenges associated with transportation and utilities, mining, agriculture, and municipal projects, as well as industrial, commercial and residential development. Our comprehensive approach, in-depth understanding of natural resources and regulatory experience results in invaluable project solutions.
What was the ah-ha moment that led to the evolution of your company?
Flatwoods was conceived by myself and Lee Walton, after we grew weary of increasing bureaucracy after the environmental consulting firm where we worked was purchased by a national engineering firm. The job was safe, but we felt we could do better. Our entrepreneurial aspirations stemmed from the belief that we could be more successful by maintaining focus on client and employee satisfaction, rather than a focus on financial and managerial metrics.
I had a short history of running a small business after the sudden death of my father, the sole owner of a Tampa Bay area real estate publishing company, in 2006. This history provided necessary training in small business operations that, coupled with the faith in our individual abilities and the strength of our partnership, led us to form Flatwoods.
Both Lee and I had young children at home and were intent on a balance between career, family and community for themselves and any future Flatwooders. On September 1, 2009, we began work at Flatwoods. We had no contracts, no clients and no employees, but we had a stellar reputation, a strong work ethic and a plan for success. The plan was simple: Build and maintain strong client relationships and focus on what we know best.
What were some major challenges you’ve found in growing your business? How did you overcome or solve them?
Flatwoods is a unique small business within its industry because the vast majority of our revenue is generated from very large corporations. In fact, over 95 percent of Flatwoods revenue is attributed to companies with gross annual revenues that exceed 250 million dollars. Sometimes, the perception is that a small business such as Flatwoods may not be able to handle large, complex project needs as well as a national firm. Flatwoods has worked hard to combat this perception and has a plan in place to continue to overcome it. The plan is simple and straightforward. We provide service that the large, corporate competitors cannot – rapid response and personal attention. Another way to state this is that we have a sense of urgency and a sense of ownership in every project we undertake. Our entire team understands that if we can make our client look good to their supervisor, a regulator, a neighbor or the community as a whole, they are much more likely to call us when they have a need, rather than a large corporation without the same sense of ownership in their project.
The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed the way business is being conducted. We are continually working to integrate and refine remote-work procedures that are compliant with cybersecurity protocols and ensure ample interactions between Flatwooders and our clients and regulatory staff. We anticipate some return to in-person interactions over the coming months/years but navigating the spectrum of these interactions from totally remote, to totally in-person, and all that lies between will be a challenge.
What’s it like working at Flatwoods?
We have worked to create and maintain a culture in which everyone enjoys coming to work in the morning and is able to enjoy a fulfilling personal life as well. This balance of work and personal life means different things to each of us.
For example, several Flatwooders either have completed or are currently pursuing advanced degrees while working full-time at Flatwoods. In addition to support provided by Flatwoods in the form of tuition reimbursement, there is the support and flexibility in the form of time. Sometimes leaving early for class or closing the office door to focus on school for a few hours on a workday to prepare for an exam is a necessary part of the process. Another example of maintaining this work/life balance culture is the volunteer participation of Flatwooders as coaches and managers of recreational sports leagues or as members of charity Boards of Directors. This participation takes place at various times and dates and does not require use of Paid Time Off (PTO) by Flatwoods, thereby preserving more of the Flatwooders’ PTO for use with family and friends.
At Flatwoods, we trust in our people to act responsibly and to do what they know is right.
Explain your company’s competitive edge over other companies in your market.
Many of our competitors can assemble a team of ecologists for a large project, but that team may be from around the country and may not be able to convene for 30-days or more. They may also be slowed by several levels of management that must approve contracts, travel, and the project approach. Flatwoods can typically assemble a team with local ecological knowledge on a project within a week and our entire management team sits within steps of one another. We have gotten together on a Sunday afternoon to work out project details or to ensure timely completion of some projects. We reinforce this sense of urgency with all Flatwooders on a regular basis.
In addition to the rapid response, we continually reiterate to the client and to all Flatwooders that our projects are a partnership between Flatwoods and our clients. Their success is our success. This strategy is not as common in large corporations where the “national service model” creates a division between those selling the services and those providing the services. Our innovative “seller-doer” business model ensures that there is no disconnect between what is promised and what is provided.
What does it mean to be selected as a GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree?
We are humbled to be selected as a 2020 GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honoree. The acknowledgement of an organization focused on supporting and encouraging entrepreneurial growth is validation for all the hard work put in over the past 11 years.
Lee and I have talked at length about this. We could not have begun this journey without the encouragement and support of our families. Starting a business takes an incredible amount of work and we did it with young children at home. Our commitment to family and our families’ commitment to Flatwoods is what made this work. We also would like to thank the clients that put their faith in us. They believed and continue to believe in our vision of Flatwoods working with them as a team to achieve success. Finally, we’d like to thank all the Flatwooders that have come to work with us over the years. Their belief in what we have built – and what we continue to build – makes coming to work every day a pleasure.