Fuss & O’Neill embraces entrepreneurial engineer

by Gregory Seay | Hartford Business

Engineer Lawrence Bouvier long dreamed of one day running his own enterprise.

Since starting his career in Plymouth, Conn., three decades ago, Bouvier gained experience and a passion for helping foundry operators and engineers plot maintenance regimes and schedules. But he was less involved in the administrative and non-revenue generating areas of a business.

So, Bouvier, after six years with Manchester engineering-services provider Fuss & O’Neill Inc. (F&O), approached his current and former bosses there with what he saw as an opportunity for a more visible — and hopefully profitable — role as professional engineer cum entrepreneur.

“I had a couple of discussions about where this could go,” Bouvier said. “They said, ‘bring it on.’ ”

In August, F&O announced Bouvier’s appointment as an equity partner in one of its affiliates, Fuss & O’Neill Manufacturing Solutions LLC, which helps producers fine-tune their operations and does about $2 million in annual billings.

The other F&O affiliate is EnviroScience LLC, a consultancy specializing in mitigating hazardous materials in buildings that F&O acquired in 1987, which does about $4 million annually.

Bouvier, who telecommutes from his home in Syracuse, N.Y., said he invested $50,000 for an unspecified stake in F&O Manufacturing Solutions, whose other owners include two unit partner-executives and the parent company, closely held Fuss & O’Neill Inc.

Robert Levandoski, president of F&O Manufacturing Solutions, and whom Bouvier describes as his biggest champion within the company, said the partner model lets Bouvier and Fuss’ 29 other shareholders share in the firm’s strategic focus and profits, giving entrepreneurial-minded employees an incentive to stay if they’re looking for more control and independence.

The model also makes it easier for F&O to jettison an affiliate if it runs into trouble, said environmental engineer Peter Grose, who is F&O’s president and chief executive officer, as well as CEO of its two engineering affiliates.

Although rare, Grose and Levandoski said versions of the equity-leader model exist in other engineering-focused companies and industries, or at least they should.

“I believe it allows me to bring in someone like Larry and I can say to him, ‘we’ve got this bus and we can drive it wherever we want to go,’ ” Levandoski said. ” … Larry picked out his own seat. All I did was give him the seat.”

Bouvier, whose background is in heavy industrial maintenance as a technician, plant engineer, and maintenance- and plant-engineering manager, began his career in 1987 with former Plymouth electrical-products maker O-Z/Gedney Co., now part of Emerson Electric. Later, he worked for several steel foundries that made castings for automotive parts.

He joined F&O, which provides civil-engineering services to the construction, energy, environmental, facilities and infrastructure sectors, in the summer of 2010, starting as a contractor before coming aboard full time.

He said he was drawn to the company by peers and clients, all who had nothing but good things to say about it.

“I find people in my environment like dealing with the firm,” Bouvier said.

As for balancing his intuitions as an entrepreneur against the expectations of his employer, Bouvier, 52, is learning to manage both. He likes, he said, having corporate resources to back him, as well as the ability to tap the counsel and expertise of his Manufacturing Solution peers and staff.

Nothing about his experiences before or since joining F&O, Bouvier said, are so unique that others cannot aspire to the hybrid equity-leadership perch he achieved.

“Anyone can do it,” he said. “It’s a small stake … but it afforded me a lot of autonomy. I’m involved in operating-level decisions.”

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