Can one firm adapt to any industry?

The engineering expertise of Rombald Inc. is making a case, as it is shaping up projects across the board while keeping them sustainable to boot

Rombald’s engineering prowess is adaptable to any project, assisting buildings like the AGFA Healthcare complex in reaching LEED standards.

Going green is nothing new for Rombald, Inc.’s owner, Roy Ojala. He notes the company has been aware of the importance of energy conservation and has been creating designs with energy management in mind since he launched the firm, in 1998. “Because these practical principles have always been a consideration for us, the leap to LEED was fairly straightforward,” Ojala says.

Rombald delivers integrated services in electrical and mechanical engineering, telecommunications consulting, and energy-efficient building-system design. With a staff of 10 people, it averages an astonishing 250 projects each year.

Ojala’s favourite part of the work involves client interaction. “I really enjoy sitting down with clients at the very start, determining their objectives and envisioning the end result,” he says. “In order to be successful, the project must be successful in their terms, not our terms.”

At the end, the company sits down with the client to review what went well and how the company could improve the process. Doing this for each project has led Rombald’s management team to develop five key elements for the success of its business.

The first key is that the successful completion of a project will be determined by the degree of involvement and communications between Rombald and the client; no other single factor is as important. Second, a fast response time to client requests and design changes is essential. “Everything is faster now,” Ojala says. “When [the client] asks for a change, the response has to be almost instant.”

Rombald also identifies that site issues need to be identified and addressed quickly, “before they become critical,” Ojala says. “If they are not, you end up with a bigger problem on your hands.” Furthermore, Rombald is never content with the status quo. The company consistently seeks ways to improve the speed of its response and the detail of its work. Finally, time and effort invested in implementing extensive, efficient software systems has paid serious dividends.

“Our general manager, Chris Blazek, has been instrumental in implementing our new accounting and management software systems,” Ojala says. “He exemplifies our focus on customer service and continuous improvement.”

Although Rombald looked at custom solutions, in the end it went with an existing software package that was customized to support the company’s systems. “We deal with projects from Ontario to British Columbia, each of which involves reams of documentation,” Ojala says. “These projects come in fast and furious, and we absolutely needed a system to manage the business as it comes in. For example, one feature that Chris implemented into our system automatically sends an e-mail to a person if they are late delivering a component of the job. This level of automation does not seem to be very common with many other consultants.”

Ojala credits his wife, Vivienne, as being his most important mentor. “I was an employee at an engineering firm; she was the president of another engineering company at the time, and she sensed I was ready to move out on my own,” he says. “‘What have you got to lose?’ was her philosophy. She encouraged me to just go for it, and we’ve never looked back.”

For young engineers who hope to run their own firm one day, Ojala suggests to volunteer for as many of the tough jobs as possible. “Gain all the experience you can, as quickly as possible,” he says. “Dive right into the processes and learn how to deliver work quickly and accurately.”

Those actually starting their own firms “should be ready for long hours and lots of rejection,” he says. “You need to have long-term goals so the short-term difficulties don’t bog you down. And figure out a market specialty, whether it is a service you deliver or a sector in which you work. You cannot be all things to all people.”