Investor Spotlight: KPFF Consulting Engineers

We recently had the chance to speak with Mark R. Steepy, P.E., Principal at KPFF Consulting Engineers. Here is our conversation. Enjoy!

Mark R. Steepy, P.E., Principal at KPFF Consulting Engineers. Photo courtesy of KPFF.

Thurston EDC: How long have you been in business?
Mark: KPFF has been in business since 1960, and established our office in Lacey in 2006.

Thurston EDC: What is your product, and who is your customer?
Mark: KPFF is a civil & structural engineering, surveying, and environmental permitting consulting firm. We work with public agencies, private property owners, developers, architects, contractors, and other engineering firms.

Thurston EDC: What inspired you – or the founders – to start your business?
Mark: I was born and raised in Thurston County and moved away after high school to attend college at Western Washington University and the University of Washington. Graduating from UW in 1993, I joined KPFF working in our Seattle office. In 2005, after 12-years of employment at KPFF in Seattle and Tacoma, I was given an opportunity to move back to Thurston County and open a new office of KPFF. My children were young, and we wanted them living close to their grandparents, so moving back to Thurston County had always been a thought. Starting a new engineering practice was not a goal of mine, but the opportunity to move back home with my family coupled with staying at KPFF, an employer I wanted to be an owner of, was an easy and seamless decision.

Thurston EDC: What inspires your work and sets you apart from the competition?
Mark: Our staff and clients inspire me. I am a people-oriented person, and the consulting business is people-oriented. The success of our team and clients are KPFF successes, and this makes me tick. KPFF’s core values of TRUST, PASSION, RELATIONSHIPS, STABILITY, and EXCELLENCE allows each individual the flexibility to view these values as their foundation to build their career path within a shared vision. At KPFF, we strive always to improve and embrace new technologies, the needs of our staff, and the goals of our clients, but ultimately we know who we want to be and how we want to do things. Our focus is internal on what we do best.

Thurston EDC: What has been your most significant success to date?
Mark: The family atmosphere and culture in our office are what I am most proud of. It takes years to develop a culture and environment people want to work in every day. Our environment does not work for everyone, but for those that embrace our core values, they can thrive at KPFF just as our current thriving staff who works hard every day following their career paths.

Thurston EDC: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Mark: The recession of 2008-2011 in Thurston County was a huge challenge to overcome for our staff and clients. KPFF lost many clients due to the recession that are no longer involved in the development community. We had to let staff go, many of which are no longer involved with our industry. However, the majority of staff that survived the recession with us are still with KPFF and a large part of our successful culture and business.

Thurston EDC: What does your typical workday look like?
Mark: In the consulting world, ‘typical workday’ is difficult to define. Schedules and deadlines need to be managed and followed. In the engineering world of design and construction, permits and weather are factors to be managed. In the leadership of any organization, there are staffing issues to manage, office operations, budgets, market awareness, staff, and client development, and the list goes on and on. All of these things occur regularly and need to be dealt with as they arise. Being a people person, I am always available even if not present in the office, so I prioritize the needs of others and tackle them one-by-one. The daily routine is busy, but not chaotic, and for me, the constant on-the-go mentality energizes me.

Thurston EDC: What is your best advice for someone for an aspiring entrepreneur?
Mark: Be true to yourself, your goals, and PASSIONS. Develop obtainable goals, find partners who share your goals and vision, and finally build lasting, TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS with these partners. Partners that work together with shared ideas and goals can achieve more.

Thurston EDC: Do you have a business or personal mantra or inspirational quote you’d like to share?
Mark: We provide experiences that create a lasting, positive impact on our PEOPLE, CLIENTS, and COMMUNITY.

Thurston EDC: Is there a common misconception about your business within Thurston County that you’d like to address here?
Mark: KPFF is a 30-person and locally owned operation able to make our own decisions on almost every aspect of our business. Although we are part of an extensive 1,200 plus employee consulting engineering and surveying firm supporting nearly any kind of client in the development and redevelopment of our communities, KPFF offices share a common philosophy, culture and business approach. The Lacey office of KPFF can make our own decisions on clients/projects we pursue, fees for our services, and who/how/what we invest in our local communities. KPFF believes that decisions are best made at the local level, closest to the action with decision-makers. The Lacey office of KPFF thrives on being part of a larger corporation, with the benefits of local ownership and management.

Thurston EDC: What is your vision for the next 10-20 years of Thurston County, relative to your contributions to the local community?
Mark: Thurston County is a small community, both in area and population, relative to the larger communities we associate with to our north. Yet we are larger, population-wise, than many of our neighbors to the south and west. With our size, presence of the state capital and location between two large metropolitan areas of Seattle and Portland, Thurston County will continue to be one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. Thurston County has room for growth, a desire to attract new business, and developing more cultural opportunities for the community. Therefore, an excellent opportunity to be a leader in effective planning, design, and construction of such facilities, including the redevelopment of aging areas and protection of environmentally sensitive areas while also making them accessible to human activity. My vision is for the communities of Thurston County to work together within a shared vision to be leaders in how we grow, redevelop aging areas and develop intelligently by developing thought-out and locally specific policy and regulations.