12/29/16 Construction News: Spotlight – Will Schnier, PE, CEO, BIG RED DOG Engineering and Consulting

January 11, 2017 by Amy Hageman

December 29, 2016

Construction News

By Cyndi Wright

Will and his partners at BIG RED DOG Engineering and Consulting put an emphasis on enthusiasm and high-level energy. That may be why the company, started during the height of the recession in 2009, has grown from three people with no clients and no money to more than 110 people pulling in $15 million in four offices across the state in 2016.

What’s in the future for this successful company with a quirky name? With a 10-year growth plan that includes a national ‘pawprint’, the sky truly seems to be the limit.

Read the original article here.

What’s in the future for this successful company with a quirky name? With a 10-year growth plan that includes a national ‘pawprint’, the sky truly seems to be the limit.

You were born in Virginia Beach, but didn’t stay long. What happened?
After a long stop in Minnesota, my father, Bill, who worked for 3M was assigned to run the Middle East operations, so the family moved there when I was 15 and I went to high school in Dubai.

Wow! That’s pretty fabulous. What was that like?
It was very surreal for a high school American boy. It was a heck of a place to grow up in. I watched Dubai being built from desert to a world-class city in a 10-year span. That’s what led me to becoming interested in building engineering.

Tell me about high school.
The school was the American School of Dubai. I played basketball in the Eastern Mediterranean Athletic Conference. That means we would fly to play other American schools in places like Oman, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. It was really cool. As a family, we didn’t take vacations to the Grand Canyon. We were going to places like Thailand, France, London and Geneva.

What was Dubai like?
The weather was hot and humid all year around. I think it rained twice in the three years I was there. Every day was a beach day! We took advantage of that!

What did you do after high school?
I only applied to colleges that had a good engineering program and a great football and basketball program. I’m a sports fan! I ended up choosing Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. I graduated in 2004 with a BS in civil engineering and a minor in business management. During my freshman year, Drew Brees was a senior and took the team to the Rose Bowl.

Tell me about your parents.
My dad retired from 3M five years ago in Austin. My mom, Teena, was a basketball and golf coach and she now teaches PE in the Round Rock ISD. Dad was a very successful and accomplished businessman. He had great negotiating and marketing skills. Mom was very competitive and athletic. She coached my 5th-grade basketball team and we were undefeated. They taught us ethics, honesty and financial management. Mom taught us the only way to have fun doing something was to be the best and win. There was no participation prize at our house.

Tell me about your siblings.
My brother Spencer works for Freese & Nichols. He has a Ph.D. in engineering. My brother Brent works for Oracle.

How did you end up in Austin?
Sheer luck! Dad had been moved here by 3M while I was still in college so I started coming here on school holidays and I thought it was great. The growth has been phenomenal and it was a heck of a place to start a career.

Tell me about your career path?
Before I graduated, I interned with Bury Inc. and that became my first job after I graduated. I worked there from 2004-2006 as an entry-level civil engineer, mostly on the Mueller Community. From 2006-2009, I was with Carter & Burgess as a civil engineer and project manager. In April 2009 I left and in May 2009, myself, Brad Lingvai and Bob Brown opened BIG RED DOG. We had no money and no clients, but we catered to locally based clients that were looking for someone who could give them a higher quality of service. The larger established firms could not respond to them so there was a niche to fill. By the time the recession ended, we had grown from three people to our 2016 numbers of more than 110 people and $15 million. We opened in Austin and we now have locations in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.

How did you, Brad and Bob meet?
I worked with Brad at Bury and Bob at Carter & Burgess. We now have 13 shareholders and will probably have at least four more by the end of 2017.

Do you have any mentors?
I consider my mom and dad as mentors. My boss and mentor at Bury was Peggy Carrasquillo. She was a tremendous role model and demonstrated great leadership. She works hard and demands the same, and at the same time, gave me space to develop. She’s now running her own shop in town and I’m sure she’ll do great at that. Also on this list is Cliff Kendall, who I worked with at Carter & Burgess. He’s now with BIG RED DOG and we joke that he is the only “named” partner in the firm because the firm was named in honor of him. His nickname is Cliff the Big Red Dog. He has an incredible work ethic, he’s sincere, he’s a good Christian man, and he has really consistently pushed me to keep up with his standards.

What advice do you have for someone starting out?
Have a goal and create a plan. Every five years I rewrite my personal goals and I review them all the time. If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t find the road there. I work on the goals for our business annually like clockwork, every May for the following year.

What do you look for when you are hiring?
Potential employees must be a culture fit. We are open, fun, energetic, positive and entrepreneurial. I like people who are into self-improvement and continuous learning. The surest way to be run out of BIG RED DOG is to be a negative person; team members need to be ‘yes, we can do that’ people.

Tell me a little about your personal life.
I am married to Jane, the love of my life. I met her when the firm was starting out and we shared office space with Dick Clark Architecture. She was their business manager. We started dating after BIG RED DOG left that location and moved to our second home at 5th and Congress in 2010. I called her up to ask her out and she screened my call! She let it go to voicemail so she could see what I wanted. She said yes to my invitation and I’ve been better off every step of the way since then. We got married in 2014 and we just had a baby boy, William Richard Schnier IV. He’s a seventh-generation Texan through Jane, which gives me some more Texas legitimacy. Our daughter, Grace, is 10 and is in the 4th grade. She loves to sing and ride her scooter. She’s very musical and she loves animals. Her favorite song is the Star Spangled Banner. I definitely married up with Jane. I got lucky there!


What do you like to do when you are not working?
Spend time with the family. We like to travel and take road trips. We go to Big Bend State Park every year. We are exploring the United States – we’ve both lived and travelled abroad plenty. We are excited to take the kids, especially to state and national parks. We like to hike and be outdoors. I started grilling seriously about three years ago and now I grill up to four times a week. I’m also a voracious reader.  I read everything I can get my hands on. One of my favorite books is “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. I also like John Grisham and Jon Meacham.  I also enjoy historical books. Some of my favorites are by Sam Gwynne, like his books about Quanah Parker and Stonewall Jackson. I have a detached air-conditioned garage that I’ve turned into a man cave of sorts that I really enjoy piddling around in!

Who would you buy a beer for?
LBJ. He was president during a pivotal time in American history. He may have lost the south for a generation, but his policies made our country a better place. His rise from poverty to leader of a world power is fascinating. A trip to the Texas White House is worth a visit if you have not been. –cw