This month marks five years of #LoudounPossible success for Top Level Engineering, a structural engineering firm that provides clients with a creative approach. Despite the pandemic, the business was able to retain all of its employees and complete several local projects, including Lost Barrel Brewing in Middleburg.
Top Level Engineering Founder and Principal Kirby Hartle reflects on the business anniversary, while providing insights to office space design trends and advice for professionals ready to become entrepreneurs.
What led to your decision to start Top Level Engineering in Loudoun County?
I wanted to provide structural engineering services with a fresh perspective. I started as a manual draftsman many years ago and then learned CAD all while gaining my engineering training. While practicing engineering I moved into management roles. “Working my way through the ranks” gave me a solid understanding of every role and the skill and time needed to perform those tasks. This greater understand allows me to know what we need to deliver, how it should look, and how to do it efficiently. That’s not to say that I know everything. I learn new things every day and the feedback and insight provided by our staff are invaluable.
Locating our office in Loudoun County has allowed us to strike a balance between operating costs and close proximity to our projects and clients. Our employees have found that the area offers a lot of activities and events that cover many different interests. City life can be found to the east in Washington DC, the county has many wineries and breweries, and the mountains and other scenic activities are available to the west. The county is also very vibrant offering an ever-increasingly wide variety of nightlife and restaurants. All of this increases our quality of life, something we encourage our employees to pursue.
What advice would you give to another professional who is considering to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur?
You must first define what your business is about. What are your core values and what can you offer that is different or better than others? It takes a lot of courage to step into the unknown but by starting with a solid understanding of the basics you’ll have a foundation upon which you can build. I can’t help making structural references. 😊
How has Top Level Engineering adapted operations during the pandemic?
The first decision was whether we would operate remotely or in the office. While we did work remotely for a few weeks we all felt that there was no substitute for working together in the office. We promote a highly communicative and collaborative environment. Our work product is better that way. We lose too much team mentality and comradery by working separately. Fortunately, we had plenty of space in our office that allowed us to meet the requirements for social distancing. It required a higher level of self-discipline and frequent surface cleaning, but we got through it.
What new requests are you noticing in tenant build outs? Do you think these features will be a lasting trend in structural engineering and building design?
We saw a reduction in tenant fit-outs across nearly every market with office spaces being one exception. A number of companies were opting to reduce office space or reconfigure due to staff working remotely.
I expect to see some longer term effects for office spaces although I think that we’ll see an increase in all markets as the restrictions ease and companies are looking to expand or occupy new spaces and build or modify buildings.
What’s next for Top Level Engineering and how do you plan to build on your #LoudounPossible success?
We will continue to do what we do best, providing high level structural engineering services for our existing and new clients. We are always on the lookout for new teaming opportunities and expanding our portfolio in different markets and welcome calls and emails from those who need structural engineering services. Loudoun County is poised for continued and accelerated growth and we look forward to being a part of it!
Thinking of starting or relocating your business in Loudoun County? We are a full-service economic development organization, dedicated to your #LoudounPossible business success. Working with us is like adding a team of no-cost specialists to your team, with expertise in the following areas:
- Site selection and real estate searches;
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Contact Chris Hunter today to launch your #LoudounPossible journey.