Principal of Vector Structural Engineering (Draper, UT), a full-service structural engineering company licensed in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
By Liisa Andreassen
Proctor is a senior engineer who has been with Vector since 2004. He says he’s a leader because he can quickly recognize when someone can do something better than him. Empowering employees is important to him and he believes it’s important to encourage others to be their best. He delegates often and trusts others to perform in return.
Vector has completed thousands of projects across the U.S. and in Canada. The majority of its business comes from clients that have been with Vector for years, and although each office is independently owned, they frequently collaborate to provide increased capabilities.
And, as the demand for licensed engineers in the solar market has increased, Proctor has been instrumental in developing and managing a solar branch inside Vector Structural Engineers.
“We have companies that hear about us from a current client and they realize it’s a good fit for us to work together,” Proctor says. “This also comes from having a great team that helps our existing clients succeed.”
A conversation with Jacob Proctor.
The Zweig Letter: Your firm is in the process of opening two new offices. To what do you most attribute this new growth?
Jacob Proctor: We’ve been able to find and keep great engineers. As they have a desire to grow in their careers, we try to find a new location and means to allow that to happen. We’re also having organic growth in all disciplines of our company. We have companies that hear about us from a current client and they realize it’s a good fit for us to work together as well. This also comes from having a great team that helps our existing clients succeed. We love our clients and we hope that is apparent to all as they work in their respective businesses.
TZL: How has COVID-19 permanently impacted your firm’s policy on telecommuting?
JP: We have several employees who now work completely from home or have a hybrid schedule. At one point, we tried to pull everyone back into the office, but then started having some employees who wanted to leave. We now leave it up to the managers and the individuals to determine a work situation that is best for them and Vector. Most people feel that working in the office is their preference.
TZL: What’s the most important thing to consider when opening up new locations?
JP: Having a high level of trust with the individual who will be managing the new office.
TZL: Have you had a particular mentor who has guided you – in school, in your career, or in general? Who were they and how did they help?
JP: I would say this would be the former owner of the company, Roger Alworth. He sold the company to several of us who worked for him for many years. He is a great engineer and a very good businessman. He helped me learn the value of working on both of those skills through my career. He continues to work for Vector and continues to mentor engineers in the company in their engineering skills and knowledge as well as helping us all understand the importance of great service and communication to our clients.
TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”
JP: Because I am surrounded by such a great team, I am able to spend probably 60 to 70 percent of my time working on the business, rather than in the business.
TZL: As a firm principal, what’s your top agenda item right now? Why?
JP: I’m working on creating a clear management structure with clearly set job descriptions that include quantifiable success measurements for all employees in the company. Why? To make sure that the success we’ve experienced in our main branch office with a culture of customer service, quality engineering, employee satisfaction, and growth mindset can transfer to all the new locations. This will help us to continue to grow into more offices in other states. We hope to be in Arizona and Nevada in the coming years.
TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients?
JP: This comes in a few ways. Oftentimes when they are new clients they have come as a referral from someone who they trust. Over time, they learn to trust us as we work very hard to do what we say we will do. We own up to mistakes when they happen and we return money if they overpay on an invoice. And, due to industry standards, many of our clients require that we sign an NDA agreement in order to work with them.
TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about?
JP: Along with competitive benefits and compensation, we work really hard to make sure that our culture is family friendly and our employees can have successful lives and families outside of work. This is done by paying all of our full-time employees at an hourly rate, where we pay overtime for all work that exceeds 40 hours in a week. This helps us to find a good balance of setting competitive deadlines and ensuring our employees are well taken care of if they are putting in extra hours.
TZL: It seems you’ve been working in the solar arena for a while. What changes do you foresee in this niche? What excites you most about the future of solar?
JP: Due to our ability to work throughout the country, I do not see many changes in this niche. At times, we see that more work is coming to us in one state versus another state as government incentives start taking effect. And, as the industry continues to mature and systems become more efficient and affordable, I think we’ll see it impact more and more households throughout the country.
TZL: Does your firm work closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, innovation, and/or recruiting to find qualified resources?
JP: Our Draper office is located between Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. We have provided employment to several engineering students at these schools and have also been advisors on some capstone research projects that the schools require as part of their course work.
TZL: Vector Engineers is licensed in all 50 states, but you only have offices in four states. How do you find projects in different states and how are they managed?
JP: Currently projects come to us by referral and existing clients as they grow into new areas of the country. Last year, we did at least one project in every state. We also do several projects in Canada. The projects are managed as needed by either meeting via video conference when needed or traveling to the client or construction site when needed. We have a very effective project management tool that was developed in-house that allows us to work through all types of projects, and in many different locations.
TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced?
JP: We have an internal valuation done each month based on the profits of the last 24 months. This was put in place when we purchased the company a few years ago and the metric is based on the equation that determined the value at that time.