The passion to own a business and be the architect of my own success began when I was growing up in Andhra Pradesh, India. As a boy, I was fascinated by all things American. At the age of 10, I wrote a letter to the U.S. Embassy hoping to get more information about the United States. I simply scrawled, “U.S. Embassy, New Delhi” on an envelope, unsure of the actual address, but somehow my letter reached an embassy worker who sent me a stack of information on the United States. I was hooked. After getting my engineering degree in India, I eventually fulfilled my dream of living in the United States.
When I arrived, I was in awe — amazed at the infrastructure in this country; something we lacked in India. Everything ran so smoothly and was so well designed. That led to my interest in highways and my focus on transportation.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a master’s degree in civil engineering and earning an MBA from the University of Louisville, I worked as a project manager for a mid-size consulting firm in Louisville. Wanting to start my own business, I determined that a small Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firm had a wonderful opportunity to enter this market and be successful. This sparked the idea to start Global Solutions, LLC.
Initially, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to establish a small firm in a field as traditional as civil engineering. Because Global lacked experience with clients and had limited resources, it could not compete against well-established firms that had resources, networks, and relationships in place. So I decided to change the marketing strategy. I began marketing Global as a sub-consultant to successful prime consulting firms. Global also teamed with these firms in a lead role on some projects.
However, to survive, Global needed to focus in the DBE, Minority Business Enterprise and 8(a)/Small Disadvantaged Business niche market. So I began obtaining all of the certifications that Global needed to compete in this market.
During this time, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) was soliciting proposals for the Louisville Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project, the third-largest federally funded transportation project in the country. I started marketing my company’s services to firms that were pursuing this project as prime firms.
Global soon partnered with Michael Baker Corporation, which was responsible for designing a new bridge in downtown Louisville. James “J.B.” Williams, vice president and regional manager for Michael Baker Jr., Inc., is the project manager for this portion of the project and has become a great mentor to me.
As part of the Ohio River Bridges Project, KYTC launched a new mentor-protégé program to promote DBE firms in Kentucky. Our firm gladly accepted this opportunity, and it became a major breakthrough for Global Solutions.
During the past three years, I met weekly with Williams, who has mentored me in Earned Value Management — tracking expenses and accomplishments — which plays an increasingly important role in project management. He also helped guide me for the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification test, which I passed last year.
Mentoring has not only helped me gain experience, but I’ve been able to interact with executives from top notch firms. That’s an opportunity I would otherwise never have. The DBE mentoring program is opening doors for me in a really competitive market. I am like a sponge, soaking in all of this information; it’s a great way to grow.
Furthermore, being part of the Bridges Project’s DBE mentoring program has changed the course of my business. When I was first starting out, I would meet with companies and they’d question how stable my company was. Now, clients see my work on other projects and know that Global is a viable company, and that leads to more work.
Today we are also responsible for various tasks on the Bridges Project, as well as on several other KYTC projects, as a sub-consultant. We are constantly approached by large and small firms and asked to be on their teams, and have won federal government projects as a prime consultant.
My firm’s success and the personal recognition I have received is a dream come true. I view success as a constant drive to improve myself; always adding new skill sets, not only to grow professionally, but also as a person in general.
Vinay K. Polepalli, P.E., PMP, is principal, Global Solutions, LLC. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.