TBLS FIRM No. 10193990
McMichael Land Surveying offers the latest equipment and master-level surveying to meet your needs. Our New Braunfels office is well equipped with up-to-date software and computers. All drawings are produced in CAD.
San Antonio Construction News, "Surveyor Launches Firm on a Wing and a Prayer":
Fred L. McMichael, R.P.L.S., felt the timing was right to form his own firm,
McMichael Land Surveying. The New Braunfels-based surveyor and father of six,
who has honed his skills for over two decades working for local firms, has been
holding his own since the company opened its doors in August 2003. San Antonio
Construction News spoke with Fred to discuss the 25-year professional journey
that brought him to this turning point.
Impatient with high school and eager to move
forward, Fred requested and was granted permission to begin civil engineering
studies at Texas State Technical Institute, Waco, TX, in lieu of his senior
year in high school.
“TSTI is a school where the professors are
people who were practitioners in their respective fields before turning to the
classroom,” Fred explained. “I valued their practical perspectives. As a good
math student who liked to be both inside and outdoors, surveying was a good
match for my natural tendencies and gifts.”
After graduating in February 1975, Fred endured
three months working offshore for a large Louisiana-based firm before opting
for a job on dry land in west Texas, working for a small surveying company,
W.H. Roome Surveying Co., in Ft. Stockton.
“It was oil field pipeline work,” he continued,
“which was a bit boring compared to the offshore experience, but I enjoyed it.
I applied myself to the tasks at hand and married my sweetheart. After one
year, I was assigned a job on a 9,000-acre ranch in the Davis Mountains near
the McDonald Observatory. I gained valuable experience, enjoyed the autonomy
and considered it a mountainous training ground as I hiked and carried my
equipment all over the ranch.”
After two years, Fred and his bride moved to New
Braunfels, where he worked for engineer Ed Ford’s new company, Comprehensive
Design. He remained there for two years.
“During that time,” Fred added, “Ed encouraged
me to apply and take the test for my surveyors license. Because of its
educational reputation, the testing board applied my school time at TSTI as
credit toward my work-in-responsible-charge experience. I became a licensed
surveyor at age 24.”
Fred spent the next 12 years working for
Seguin-based H.S. Bettersworth & Associates, where he gained more practical
experience and worked on a wide variety of jobs. While he liked his work very
much, the company’s structure precluded further advancement and Fred’s head was
turned one day when he received a call from his friend Ed Ford, now the owner
of Ford Engineering.
“He approached me with an opportunity to
spearhead and revive his survey department, which was abandoned when I left
Ed’s employment the first time around,” he said. “We had remained in touch over
the years, and I was glad to go back to work for Ed. Over the next twelve years
I developed the department, which staffed up to three full survey crews.”
Time devoted to his management duties far
surpassed his time in the field, which Fred missed. About three years ago he
started to dream of the day he would set out on his own.
“My love for surveying took over my heart,” Fred
admitted, “and I knew I needed to do this. I trained my replacement at Ford
Engineering and started buying equipment.”
Fred initially invested in a robotic surveying
instrument, which he outfitted with selected components, radio modems, a
collector, a laptop and software. He converted his 1991 Ford XLT Club Wagon
into a survey vehicle, which he said is extremely comfortable but gets poor gas
mileage. His low overhead and depth of experience allows him to be competitive.
“I understand the value of the professional
relationships I’ve developed through the years,” Fred confirmed. “They allowed
me to survive thus far. Some of the surveyors and engineers with whom I have
worked directly are now in positions to need my services. My experiences and
capabilities are certainly a major component in the equation, but you won’t
make it without a little help from your friends.”
In the final analysis, Fred’s goal is to take
care of his family. As he began this dream to have his own business, part of
the motivation was to include his youngest two children in the experience; not
to impose it on them but to allow them to have a taste of it.
“My son, David, likes the computer side and my
daughter, Emily, likes the outdoor, physical side. While it’s too early to tell
if they’ll embrace the business, they do like the wages I’m paying.”
Although he hasn’t turned away any work, Fred
prefers the tough and difficult jobs.
“In time, as my schedule becomes booked, I hope
to become more selective in the work I accept. I love specialty surveying; the
stranger it is, the better I like it! Working with the Department of
Transportation, they discovered that I like the difficult jobs, so they
funneled some tough jobs my way. I take pleasure in the challenge!”
As busy as the new entrepreneur is, he still
reserves Sundays for his other calling. In the shadows of the past fifteen
years, Fred has also served as the pastor of a small church.