Walden Associates, Inc. began operations on May 19, 1995. Joseph M Heaney III PE started the business at 31 years old after working for three other engineering firms. Joe graduated from Lafayette College in 1985 with a BS in Civil Engineering followed by a ME in Environmental Engineering from Manhattan College in January 1987. Joe’s college education started at the United States Military Academy at West Point with a congressional appointment to the Class of 1985. Joe’s West Point experience began with Plebe Beast Barracks on July 1, 1981 just 6 days after graduating from Uniondale High School. Joe left West Point in early June 1982 after Plebe recognition day or R-Day with many important leadership lessons Joe has used while running and growing Walden that were taught first hand and not from a book in that brutal and short stay at West Point.
Joe’s desire in opening Walden was to allow more focus on local work (New York Tri-State area) instead of work all over the country. While working for Eder Associates, Joe was titled Project Manager with responsibilities for corporate business development, and account management for CSXT, a national railroad. Walden was started on the principal of providing highly professional and knowledge-based, cost effect engineering compliance services to municipalities, industrial and commercial clients always believing that a mix in the client base was required to ensure continuous work. Walden’s first employee started on day 1. Her name was Regina Guerra and she stayed and helped Walden grow as office manager, bookkeeper and operations managers for the first year. She had been Joe’s marketing assistant at Eder and decided, when told, Joe was leaving to start Walden that she would fearlessly come along. One of Joe’s initial goals was to be present for my children’s lives (at the time Walden began operations Joe had 1.5-year-old twins and a wife who was managing and growing a family owned stainless steel service center located in Port Washington, New York). Her role in the company was purchasing and import/export sales and in this role, she traveled around the globe regularly (including 34 trips to china etc.). With this as a backdrop it was decided that a nanny was not the way we wanted my children raised and so began the family/community focus of Walden.
Many People have asked why the firm is named Walden. Walden was selected for a combination of reasons: (1) it sounds very environmental; (2) Henry David Thoreau’s famous book, Walden Pond describes a time when the author decided to leave 18th century boast for a simpler life living on Walden Pond and Joe believed he could open and grow a high quality consulting firm in a simpler way where the firms values were best expressed as …: and lastly (3) Walden was to be run in a way where many of the good lessons learned by Joe at Eder Associates were incorporated and many discarded in a more utopian form of consulting.
The Start (May 19, 1995)
On day 1 of Walden, Joe sat down with a list of contacts and began to call them all. By the time the 7th person on the list was called an opportunity was unearthed and a 5:00am Meeting established the next day to help him solve a health and safety problem the client was having on a construction site. That problem turned out to be a 6-month project for Walden at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Joe staffed the project for 3 weeks and then Walden hired its first professional staff (Dave O’Sullivan from Eder) and Walden’s payroll doubled. Walden was able to obtain work from the Town of Hempstead within the first 5 months of business and Walden has continued to work for Hempstead since that initial hiring. Slowly over time, Walden took on more and more assignments for various clients, mostly New York and New Jersey based projects likely located within 100 miles of our office. In 1998, Walden was named Village Engineer of Oyster Bay Cove and set up a separate company to do that work. Walden kept that role for 2 years and learned a lot about local zoning, site planning and home owner’s construction needs. Walden developed underground storage tank (UST) compliance programs for the Town of Hempstead and decreased their total tank count from 104 down to something like 50 over the course of the years by consolidation and conversion to natural gas. Walden expanded its role into capital budgeting and grant writing to attract additional small municipal clients over the years.
Walden purchased a building at 16 Spring Street in Oyster Bay, New York in 2001 and after 6 years of renting moved the growing company into the newly renovated building. Walden’s revenue passed $1,000,000 in 2002 and Walden has maintained steady slow growth rate up to 2014 when our revenue was 1,900,000. This growth was organic in nature and mostly fueled by marketing efforts following a seller doer model (networking and upselling project-based work to existing clients). Walden began time tracking with Timeslips, and then QuickBooks timer until in 2011, Walden purchased BillQuick, which is an integrated accounting and time management accounting package. Currently Walden uses BillQuick and QuickBooks in combination. Walden uses AutoCAD and Revit as our CAD and three D design tools, we map using ARCGIS, and Walden use Microsoft Office. As we have done since the beginning of Walden’s existence, Walden hosts Thursday brown-bag lunch and learn sessions for all staff to attend. The Lunch and Learns support the company phycology that consultants sell professional knowledge and the more educated Walden staff is the more value the staff can provide to our clients. This resonates within screening and hiring decisions Walden makes. Walden looks to hire the smartest and most motivated engineers and scientists and supports their professional development during their employment, this is a core value at Walden.
Walden began its “Day of Service” back in 2004 in celebration of the firms’ anniversary. The service day includes taking a day off from our work and doing volunteer work in our community. Some past volunteer activities include working for: Long Island Cares, Habitat for Humanity, North Shore Land Alliance, Mill Neck School for the Deaf, Oyster Bay Sailing School, the Community of Breezy Point (after Hurricane Sandy) among others. If you have a not-for-profit who could use volunteer help please feel free to contact Walden.
50 by 50 State High Point Goal
Starting in 2008 Joe began and fulfilled a personal goal of climbing the 50 high points of the United States. This goal was a fitness and travel goal. Joe went to a NOLS 14-day wilderness backpacking course in Wyoming’s Wind River Range in July 2008 and during the time away from family and work Joe reinforced long learned West Point leadership skills which would prove of great benefit in accelerating Walden’s growth after 2013.
Walden has supported Joe both emotionally, in my personal and professional growth, and in seeking my outside goals. Joe was able to leave work two days a week at 4pm to coach my children’s soccer teams for over 10 years. I ran the Oyster Bay Soccer Club as its president for 4 years and this took countless time away from Walden. Joe encourage all Walden employee to participate in their children’s lives and pursue community-based activities.
At the time Joe was traveling all over the country climbing 50 high points Walden’s COO took care and charge of day to day operations of the business. Walden will be forever grateful to Christian Monstert for fulfilling that role of COO during that period of time.
In Late 2013 Walden retained an outside business broker to seek, screen and analyze outside side engineering firms as possible targets for acquisition. In late 2014 after several “tire kicking exercises” Walden signed a letter of intent (LOI) to purchase a 6-person Valley Stream New York based firm called Shapiro Engineering. After successful due diligence, the deal closed in later December 2014 and the Shapiro Staff and clients were integrated into Walden operations. The key to the acquisition was the successful integration plan and a good cultural fit. Walden continues to actively screen and seek Engineering firms to purchase which meet our criteria of employee skill set, client mix and geographic location. If you know a firm or an owner interested in exploring sale of merger with Walden, please contact us.
Walden hired (August 2015) a former office manager of another consulting firm who lives in the Hudson Valley with the expressed desire to develop business in the area and then open an office. After 8 months of struggles, I found him to be plagiarizing blog text and had to fire him. A bookkeeper promoted to comptroller quit after increased scrutiny of her work indicated she was not keeping up. Losing these key employees as taught Joe that no single employee will control Walden actions and that all employees can be replaced with better and more motivated, skilled and knowledgeable staff and mangers, who come in understanding Walden’s expectations and aligned with the company’s growth goals.
Walden launched two new offices in February 2017 in Burnt Hills and Brewster New York covering the Hudson Valley and Capital District. Prior to these office launches Joe attend Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses program and developed a growth plan which includes geographic expansion. These two office represent the first Phase of that expansion. My enrollment in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program has rekindled my desires to learn more about business and the required skills and knowledge to grow Walden. Walden is pursuing a growth strategy with a combination of acquisition, opportunity pursuit and organically. Walden expected all Managers to stay active with client billable work as a project advisor and ambassador of the firm while coaching and mentoring key staff members and training and orientating new employees into the Walden culture.
Walden Culture – Culture is Key to a high performing company.
At Walden, we want to be able to set up and fund scholarships for aspiring engineering students graduating from Oyster Bay High School, (possibly Uniondale High School where Joe graduated from), Lafayette College and Manhattan College and as we continue to grow and expand our footprint so too will scholarship opportunities. Walden wants to continue to encourage, mentor and support young people as they decide what their future careers might be by encouraging the study of engineering, mostly Walden wants to leave a mark on the world in a good way. Joe has a burning desire to learn new things and in running Walden. Joe believes he has been challenged and forced to continually learn new skills and increase my knowledge. Joe demands all staff and project managers to continue to learn as well and Walden supports employee professional development efforts. Joe am an active member of a business advisory group (CEO round table called CompEl), works bi-weekly with a life coach to keep him on track and continue to discover blind spots in my being so that he can work on them. Joe has found that once something is learned (sort of ring the bell it cannot be un-rung) it is awfully hard to un-learn that for better or for worse.
In addition to this, Joe has a desire to expand my mentoring young engineers, engineering students and high school students desiring to study engineering. Joe serve currently as the co-chair of the Hofstra School of Engineering and Applied Science’s advisory board as well and a similar role with Lafayette College (my undergraduate college) career services office. It is through these outlets and others that Joe will seek out mentoring opportunities and continue to make an impact on the community. I understand that as I grow my business and attract more likeminded employees, Walden will be able to have a greater influence on the greater engineering community. Joe believe that government lack of attention and spending on existing infrastructure maintenance and lack of forethought on future infrastructure expansion is deplorable and I want to work toward reversing this trend. With money, currently as cheap as it is there is no excuse for this disregard for infrastructure.
The Walden Oyster Bay office has a friendly and comfortable feel to it. All future owned offices shall have a lunch area and an outside patio as possible. Each future office of Walden shall be modeled in the same fashion. Each office will have a culture committee who will work to keep and grow the Walden culture in each new office. The Walden culture includes: open space, common areas, fun with co-workers where successes and key life events are celebrated, learning environment, comfortable natural light work spaces made of natural materials, flexible hours where workers are treated as professionals, supportive professional growth PE, AIA, CPG, CIH, CSP etc., encouraging additional studies (graduate degrees) etc.
In order to accomplish this, Walden shall build out a management team featuring a growth COO and an operations COO, a CFO, a director of marketing, a director of human resources, chief design engineer and a series of office managers. Each office shall have an individual P/L system and shall be assessed 10% of their revenue for corporate functional costs. Walden shall continue to maintain a distribution of profits as follows: 20% dedicated to upcoming years training budget; 30% distributed to staff in the form of profit sharing; and 50% returned to owners proportionate to share of ownership. To be continued …