President of Lynn Engineering, a windstorm, structural, and civil engineering firm specializing in residential, commercial, and infrastructure development projects on the Texas Gulf Coast.
By Liisa Andreassen
In 2007, Lynn attended a seminar on personal development. It’s that seminar that would change the course of his career. He was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and sick and tired of being sick and tired. So, with five weeks of salary and a dream to make a difference, he started Lynn Engineering (Bay City, TX) in 2008. It was during the recession and he figured, “Well, we have nowhere to go but up from here.”
“Income follows your personal growth,” Lynn says. “You have to keep learning to be a better person and by default, you’ll become a better boss, employee, and overall person.”
A conversation with Stuart Lynn.
The Zweig Letter: Your company visions states, “We think big to work big to give big.” Can you provide a recent example of how this vision comes to life?
Stuart Lynn: During a company retreat in 2009, myself and 15 employees came up with that concept. It was inspired by the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, which talks about setting a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” (BHAG). Out of that retreat, our BHAG – Vision 2030 – was born.
By 2030, it’s our vision to give back $7 million. Some of the issues that mean the most to us are: sex trafficking, affordable housing, hunger, and clean water. As a result, we hope to work with companies to rescue 500 people from human trafficking, construct 500 new homes for disadvantaged families across the globe, feed 1,000 orphans, and dig 30,000 new water wells in developing nations. 2030 is more than just a number to us.
TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients?
SL: There’s a book, The Five Dysfunctions of Team, that details how to have vulnerable trust. You have to be authentic.
TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap?
SL: I have five kids who work in the business as well as nieces and nephews. My parents, who are now retired, even worked alongside me for a while. My work and family life are intertwined. My wife has enabled me to be able to take some level of calculated risk which is a tremendous help. You’re only as good as your core unit. My wife has very little to do with the business, but she has raised our family and worked full-time at home. The good of this mixing of work and family far outweigh the bad.
TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?
SL: Income follows your personal growth. You have to keep learning to be a better person and by default, you’ll become a better boss, employee, and overall person.
TZL: Since founding the firm, what’s been your one greatest challenge and how was it met?
SL: In the beginning, I was a one-man show with eight kids. That was challenging enough already. Next was keeping the company’s core values. EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) is what now helps me to lead. It’s a process-driven approach developed by Gino Wickman, and is a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. Implementing EOS helped me to put a healthy leadership team together that’s all working toward a common goal.
TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”
SL: It’s easy to get caught in the weeds. EOS has been a game changer. It makes me put specific time on the calendar for business. Business has to be process driven – 50/50.
TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way?
SL: When I started the business, I did everything. I’ve since learned that you can’t do everything. The good thing is that I can do everything; the bad thing is that I can do everything. It’s important to let people fail their way to success. Let go of some of the control. I once had a staff member lose about $25,000 for the firm. We reviewed what happened and it’s never happened again. You learn by doing and usually won’t do it again.
TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s?
SL: We have 42 employees and half of them are younger than 30. I find that people who are hungry are the most coachable and teachable. Older people think they know it all. It’s important to have a small ego in this field and a thirst for knowledge. This goes back to our core values.
TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility?
TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around?
SL: People want to work for a cause and I’m working to promote that culture.