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From day one, William Bracken made a commitment to stay away from debt. It’s a strategy that’s paid off for his Tampa-based business, Bracken Engineering. Though he didn’t foresee the looming recession back when he founded his niche engineering firm in 1995, Bracken knew that starting off small and independent was the best way to stay in the black.

"We're very sound and are actually growing," Bracken said. "Our growth is all organic; nothing is financed. Everything has been done based on the cash we had."

Bracken's strategy also included hard work and patient growth. For a year, the business was a one-man show. "I went from working 40 hours a week for someone else to working 80 hours a week for myself," he quipped.

Later, he hired part-time help and began growing methodically from there. "I believe we've succeeded in building a culture here that is focused on honesty and integrity first. Everything flows and follows from that," he said.

"As a small entity starting out," Bracken explained, "we went for the smaller projects that the mid-size and the larger firms didn't want to touch. That evolved into recognizing, exploring, and developing niche markets. I prefer to think of us as a very large niche firm that has gotten very good at identifying niches."

His ability to become a recognized specialty firm has helped Bracken avert the woes many large engineering firms experienced during the recession. While several firms reliant on government contracts have closed, Bracken Engineering has remained solvent. "We've stayed plugged into our markets. We've always been into these niche markets, and they haven't gone away. We're actually busier now than we were in 2007."

By using proactive communication throughout a project, Bracken's team builds client relationships that are based on trust, respect and confidence. "When our clients give us an assignment, they know it's going to get done, and it's going to be done right."

"It's never the same from day to day. We have a unique set of engineers and technical people here, and we are constantly pushed outside our box," Bracken said. He recalls coming to work one day expecting to catch up on paperwork, getting a phone call from a client, and then finding himself on a plane to Alabama. He and two engineers would spend the next two weeks there, stabilizing a 250-foot smokestack that was teetering on the verge of collapse after an explosion blew out the bottom third of its foundation.

Bracken and his team embrace a business ideology of giving back by volunteering as trained structure specialists, assisting Florida and FEMA with search-and-rescue when structures collapse or communities are devastated, often spending weeks away from the office to help save lives and minimize damage to property. 

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