Written by The Business Journal Staff
Title: Principal engineer and partner
What we do: We provide civil engineering and land surveying. We serve small cities, developers or individuals that need properties surveyed or new streets designed. We’ll do the calculations and the design plans before they start construction.
Education: Bachelor’s of Science in civil engineering from California State University, Fresno. Minor in math and surveying.
Family: Married for 10 years to Amy. Son Micah (3), daughter Clair (1).
Who started the company, Dave?
My father Gary Horn and Ron Yamabe were the two founders of the company. They started it in 1979. Later, Ron sold his portion of the company to us three younger partners — myself, Brandon Broussard and Phillip Romero. We are based in Fresno.
How is it to work with family, Dave?
It’s really good. [My father and I] have a really good relationship. He’s real good, as a businessman, at keeping personal and business matters separate. We understand what we’re doing here is to do a job. When I first started here, right out of high school, it was very evident that I was going to have to carry my own weight. I had to be here at 4 a.m. to go out on a survey crew. That was my first day of work. I appreciated that because I need to work as hard, if not harder, than anybody else. Now the benefit of him still working is the long-term experience and wisdom of going through a cycle like we’re going through now. He’s been through this before and he knows what it takes to maintain relationships with clients. He and I have a great relationship. At home and on the weekends, we’re a real close family. I enjoy it.
A lot of people are hesitant to go into business with family, because they feel it may ruin relationships, Dave. What advice would you have for them?
When I had the choice to become a partner, I talked to my father-in-law and asked him for advice. What he helped me understand, when you get into business with family, you need to get into it understanding that everyone is going to know everything — salaries, good jobs, bad jobs, etc. So you can’t go into it without realizing it does affect your personal relationship. I think we’ve been successful being open and honest with things such as “I don’t think we should do this” or strategic placement of the company. We were just honest about everything. I think where it fails is where you lose that honesty and then you can’t talk at home, you can’t talk on the weekends, you can’t talk at all, because you’re not sure what’s going on. The advice would be there is no place for greed, there’s no place for pride. It’s real evident … We’ll talk at home, but it’s never business. I think that really does help, that you’re able to leave it at the office and talk about it on Monday.
What are some of the major projects that your company has been involved in, Dave?
We are the acting city engineer for the cities of Kerman, Sanger, Orange Cove and San Joaquin. Those four cities don’t have the budget to hire an engineer, so they consult with us to do all their engineering work. Some of the other projects we’ve done recently include some work with the Sierra Vista Mall and the expansion where the movie theater is. We helped Fig Garden with their expansion when they redid their site. Same thing with Fashion Fair, when they did the new outdoor mall, where Fleming’s steakhouse and Cheesecake Factory are, we did all that work.
What are your ties to the Central Valley, Dave?
I grew up north of Sanger. Born and raised on a ranch out there. Went to Sanger High School and went to Fresno State and received a civil engineering degree there.
What was your first job growing up and what did you learn from it, Dave?
I think I was in seventh grade and I was able to work at Wolf Lakes Park out on Ashlan Avenue. It was a family business and back then they did picnics and weddings out at the Lake. My job was to pick up trash and manage the paddleboats and do that sort of stuff. I worked there through high school. As a young kid, it taught me to be there on time and be available to do whatever they told me to do. I think that was the biggest lesson — to get paid, you show up and do exactly what they ask you to do. It really was to teach me to work hard and do it right.
What do you do in your spare time, Dave?
Most of the time it’s playing with the kids and being at home. I really enjoy being a father. I enjoy the young age that my kids are at and getting to see them grow, learn. My son talks constantly and it’s fun to see his brain grow and learn. Otherwise, my wife and I love the outdoors. We try to go out mountain biking and hiking. We went snowshoeing this year, which was a lot of fun during the winter. We go camping when we can. If I could spend a whole day, that’s where I’d go.