Success in a Coastal Niche
Listening to Shailesh Patel, founder of Dredging & Marine Consultants located in the Volusia county community of Port Orange, speak about his many business, community and volunteer activities, one is tempted to ask whether he has discovered a way to squeeze 26 hours into a day. Patel heads a successful civil engineering and environmental consulting company, is active on community and educational boards, volunteers in high school athletics and also operates two non-profit companies to boot. “One of our company’s core values is giving back to the communities that we serve,” Patel said.
Wherever we are, we want to make the community a better place.
Dredging & Marine Consultants has four offices in Florida with another planned to open in South Florida in 2017. The firm has been growing ever since Patel launched it in 2002. “We consider the area of dredging and waterfront or marine structures as a unique capability,” he said. “We understand the harsh salt water environments and the impacts of corrosion on structures and so we are always looking to learn of new materials that can help our clients build amenities that last longer, yet have strong aesthetic appeal.”
Patel partly credits the firm’s success to the strategic decision to occupy a market niche. “The name Dredging & Marine Consultants was selected to give us a niche market within the field of civil and coastal engineering,” he said. “When we conceptualized the company, we knew that having both the engineering and environmental capabilities was important to our success. It would enable us to offer a holistic approach to all our planning, design and permitting projects for both our municipal and private clients. So, we are a coastal engineering firm, but we also have capabilities that include site planning, stormwater and drainage design, and environmental assessments as we have ecologists and biologists, besides the stormwater, civil and geotechnical engineers.”
Many Facets to Their Expertise
Because many Florida community parks occupy waterfront property, Dredging & Marine Consultants has developed expertise in that niche as well. “We have developed several parks and amenities for many municipalities, including the seaplane marina, the first of its kind in the City of Tavares, America’s Seaplane City,” Patel said. “We have now secured multiple Continuing Services Contracts for Planning, Environmental Services, General Engineering, Stormwater Design, Ports Engineering, Dredging and Bank Stabilization, Coastal & Marine Engineering and for most of these services we help write and secure grants and funding for all our clients.”
Patel was encouraged to think entrepreneurially by his parents who launched and grew several businesses themselves. Patel moved to the Daytona Beach area as a regional manager of the engineering firm he worked for at that time.
“The three years I was managing the office gave me great insights on managing and learning about the engineering business,” he said. “I felt that starting a business would give me the opportunity to pursue something I enjoyed. More importantly, I wanted to have the flexibility to spend time with my family. My goal from day one was to develop a company that would provide myself and my employees a lifestyle that would allow us to enjoy life.” I am fortunate to have great mentors in my parents. That was a great advantage that provided motivation that helped build a strong foundation for DMC.”
After experiencing more than 10 years of business success, Patel began contemplating how to foster ongoing growth. He decided to continue learning and working on his company instead of resting on his laurels. To that end he is taking advantage of resource agencies dedicated to assisting businesses’ growth, such as the Small Business Development Center, SCORE and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“As a business owner, I know that there is more to learn if we are going to be the best at what we do,” Patel said. “Why settle for mediocrity when you have the ability to be the best? We too, like many startups, had our challenges. But failure was never an option. In fact, the obstacles provided the best opportunities to learn the most and made us think outside the box so that we could improve. So after a decade in business and some reasonable growth, I knew that we needed some change to grow consistently and that is when I decided it was time for a ‘business renaissance.’”
Along the 14-year path of entrepreneurship and his business renaissance, Patel has picked up a few pointers he likes to share with aspiring entrepreneurs. “Speak to other business owners,” he said. “All businesspeople love to share their experiences and you can learn a lot from that. In addition, be willing to commit the time. If starting a business was easy, everyone would do it. Lastly, reduce unnecessary expenditures and manage your limited finances well. Look at ways to save every penny. Make your dream a reality. We live in the greatest country in the world.”