What Were We Thinking?

Post by 
Matt Ninnemann
Published 
January 4, 2021

Who would form a new EPC business, from the ground up, in 2020? During a pandemic? While other small businesses are struggling, and potential clients are sequestered in home offices. When face to face contact to introduce the innovative concepts of the new company is virtually impossible. Yet, RL Simpson and I decided to do just that. So, what were we thinking?

I'm sure some people would say maybe we weren't thinking at all! Indeed, this is not the ideal time to start a business - but great opportunities rarely fall in your lap and declare that they're ready to be taken.

This wasn't a totally new concept. We had discussed building a business many times in the past - during the good times and the bad. We had discussed it on long car rides to isolated, far-away paper mills.  We had weighed the pros and cons many times while conversing on a front porch or a back porch somewhere. We knew we had the experience; we knew we had the relationships; we just never knew the right time to dare to make our move.

Having weathered the initial economic lock-down at our last employer, things were moving along well for the operation. Backlog was substantial, and prospects were stacking up at a solid pace. Then, circumstances presented us with an ideal time to make a bold decision; but first, we had to weigh the obvious alternatives. Do we use our years of experience and relationships to land a stable position back in the corporate world where we each spent most of our career? Do we make a lateral move into another mid-level EPC and help them combine their excitement and our energy into something special? Or do we bet on ourselves, our values, and our ideas to recreate the tremendous success of the office RL had established in 2018?

During all that happened in 2020, it might have been tempting to move back into a large organization that some people view as more stable; however, we're only a couple of years removed from that world, and we knew exactly what that would mean.

Having both grown up in the big corporate EPC world, we have an interesting perspective. We've been a part of the big EPC machine and marveled at what it can accomplish, but we've also struggled with how inefficient those organizations can be. As we all know, large bureaucratic organizations are rarely nimble, and this situation is compounded in the EPC world, where new approaches are seen as risks.

Serving in leadership roles at large EPC companies, we were often frustrated with the lack of innovation and the institutional lack of motivation. Unfortunately, some employees find it easy to hide out and provide little value in this size organization. The most disappointing part is that the organizations themselves are not motivated to remove those under-performers as their contracts were primarily structured around billing hours.

Innovation is near and dear to both of our hearts. Not in the sense that we need to buy every new tech-toy just to say we have it, but in the real sense where a job can be accomplished quicker, better, and more consistently by challenging old work practices. Both of us pride ourselves on striving for excellence in our work and delivering consistent results to our clients. We struggled with returning to a world where our passion might, at best, fall on deaf ears and, at worst, be stifled by management that perceives all changes as risks.

Once we concluded that returning to the corporate EPC world was not an option, our decision was easy. We had to build something our way. We wanted to structure a company that could help bring to life the many great ideas that flounder or drown in the space between large EPCs and specialty advisory firms. With the decision made, we immediately felt excitement and vigor for developing our vision.

We see a great need in the infrastructure development community, not just for advice and review, but for execution. We see a gap in implementing the details at every level - from initial feasibility studies to design and through start-up. Having spent the last couple of years getting to know this space, we've seen that there are several firms providing advice, review, and critiques. We've also noticed that far fewer firms are capable of supplying the guidance developers and investors are searching for and the full-service project execution that their projects must have to be successful.

Isomer Project Group is being built differently to drive better results. We think we are just what investors and developers have been looking for. In the coming weeks, we will reach out to our extended network to let them know we are here, and we are eager to help bring their ideas to life - even during a pandemic.

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