Our Company's 14 Year History
From 2001-2005, Peter Viola, Kamal Abdulrazak, and Jay Bendler all worked as apprentices to Dr. James S. Mellett, CPG of Subsurface Consulting, LTD, one of the pioneers in the geophysical surveying and mapping industry. Towards the end of this apprenticeship period Dr. Mellett was nearing retirement, so he suggested Peter start his own company to take on the smaller jobs he was no longer interested in doing. After thinking it over for a few months, Peter and Kamal took his advice and formed Underground Surveying, LLC, in the state of Connecticut on March 8, 2005. When the company was founded, however, they were both working at Watson Laboratories as Microbiologists. Thus, between March 2005 and May 2006, the company was only capable of performing residential and small commercial utility mark outs during evenings and weekends. After about 6 months of doing these types of small jobs, Peter and Kamal did not make much progress at all, so they started to neglect the business and do small residential mark outs only occasionally.
In April 2006, Peter and Kamal performed one of these occasional homeowner mark outs for John Hardman of Southbury, CT. After marking out his gas line with yellow paint and flags and packing up their equipment, he asked for some business cards. He then proceeded to explain that his wife, Sheri Hardman, was the regional manager of Sovereign Consulting of Sandy Hook, CT, a local environmental consulting company that might have a need for their services. As it turned out, her company had recently been awarded a contract with a major nationwide petroleum company to perform remediation work at various gas stations throughout Connecticut, and a new policy had just been instituted mandating that a private utility mark out be conducted at their gas station properties anytime digging or drilling is going to be performed. Excited over the potential for additional work but not thinking it would lead to anything serious, Kamal handed John a bunch of business cards.
In June 2006, Peter and Kamal decided to leave Watson Laboratories to work for Mannkind Pharmaceutical, a high-tech pharmaceutical start-up company located in Danbury, CT. After one week on the new job, Peter was miserable and knew he had made a huge mistake. Quite surprisingly, this giant blunder turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For during his second week on the job, Sovereign Consulting employees started calling him to schedule utility mark outs at various gas station sites throughout Connecticut. He couldn't believe it. Handing out business cards had actually worked! Now Peter had a difficult decision to make: keep the job with a steady paycheck or become an entrepreneur. After a couple of sleepless nights and much debate with himself and those close to him, he decided to quit his job and commit himself to the business full-time. The first thing he did was call Sovereign Consulting and schedule the mark outs they had requested. Fortunately, after marking out a few sites with his mentor Dr. Mellett, Sovereign was immediately impressed with his prompt customer service and the accuracy and precision of his mark outs. This caused them to call him back again and again and to pass his name to other companies. In fact, for the next 6 months, he did about 2 gas station mark outs per week for them, just enough work to help stabilize our finances and catalyze some small growth.
By October 2006, job requests were coming in from Sovereign Consulting regularly, making it difficult for Peter to perform all the required fieldwork alone.Therefore, he reached out to Jay Bendler, a former colleague of his at Subsurface Consulting, and offered him a position with the company. Fortunately for us Jay accepted the offer, and became our first employee. Jay's strong organizational skills and natural project management abilities, something Peter was still lacking at the time, immediately helped us take on larger, more challenging projects. In addition, by working with Jay on a daily basis, Peter learned how to improve his own organizational skills and project management abilities, which would help him become a better leader over time.
In January 2007, we secured a contract with Peter Zeiss of Skanska to provide concrete imaging services for a large project at 1351 Washington Blvd., Stamford, CT. This project helped us become profitable and cash flow positive--something we have been ever since. As a result, in March 2007 we purchased our first company vehicle. A few months later, in June 2007, we purchased our first set of GPR and Radiodetection equipment. This meant we no longer had to drive on site with a beat-up Buick Regal or Hyundai Sonata (which was quite embarrassing) and no longer had to rent equipment from Subsurface Consulting (which was quite expensive). By June 2007, Kamal decided to sign over his interest in the business so he could focus on advancing his microbiology career in the pharmaceutical industry. Despite his departure, we left the door open for him should he ever decide to return.
In October 2007, Dave Giro was hired, who still works for us today and is currently our most experienced Senior Project Manager. In addition, in October of 2007, we secured a contract with Don Gesick of Gesick & Associates to perform a utility mark out within the entire property at GE Headquarters, Fairfield, CT. This is where Dave received his trial by fire training. In December 2007, the profits from this job enabled us to purchase a second company vehicle. In February 2008, we purchased our second set of GPR and Radiodetection equipment, enabling us to handle the increasing demand for our services by doubling our work load. In 2008, we developed a close relationship with many Connecticut-based environmental consultants, such as ARCADIS, GZA GeoEnvironmental, and LBG, all of whom are still regular clients of ours today. In December 2009, we purchased leak detection equipment; however, despite this purchase, it would not be until a few years later that we really pushed this service.
Although growth was slow and steady heading into 2011, this is when our business started to grow rapidly--and without any warning whatsoever. Early in 2011, we quickly added a third company vehicle along with a third set of GPR and Radiodetection equipment to keep up with the demand for our services. This rapid growth forced us to double our staff from 4 to 8. Fortunately, during this time, we were able to hire some really good people, thereby keeping our clients happy and generating even more repeat business and referrals. Two of these new hires--Mike Gulla and Pete Giro--are still employed with us today. In 2012, we added a fourth vehicle along with a fourth set of GPR and Radiodetection equipment. In 2014, we added another field crew, bringing us to a total of five.
After putting the brakes on growth from 2013-2017 in order to bring some order to the accompanying chaos, in 2018 we once again recommitted ourselves to growing the company. In almost no time, we were forced to add a sixth field crew to keep up with the demand for our utility locating services. Over the past three years, we have been growing our video inspection services by investing in three different sized GatorCam4 Pushrod systems and a P350 Flexitrax video crawler system. In addition, we have finally been pushing our leak detection services, which had been ignored for the past few years although they were added several years ago. As a result of these investments, over the next couple of years we plan on building, improving, and growing our leak detection and video inspection services. Over most of 2017 and 2018, we prepared ourselves for the future by creating and improving the systems and processes required for delivering these two services, and building this website so we can educate people about them. Finally, in 2018 we hired three new trainees to keep up with the demand for our utility locating services, with the hope two out of the three will be able to lead a seventh crew by end of 2019 and an eighth by 2020.
The most important team goal for this year is to build a performance management system to track individual performance and how it contributes to overall company performance. Unfortunately, many companies institute strict controls rather than hold people responsible for doing their jobs, which is the harshest task master of all. In October 2016, Kamal finally left his corporate job and rejoined our team. He is in charge of creating a system that rewards high performers, improves average performers, and eliminates low performers. A company is only as good as the people who compose it!
If you or someone you know is interested in joining our team, please visit the careers page and leave us your resume. However, if you are simply looking for a job to pay the bills, please do not bother applying. We only want people who believe in our business philosophy and are dedicated to building a great company.
Unfortunately, in May 2018, Jay Bendler left the company, and passed away soon after in January 2019. We will forever be indebted to him for the solid foundation he helped us build. In fact, many of the systems and processes we run on a daily basis were created by him; his fingerprints can be found all throughout the company. May he rest in peace.