Stronghold Engineering, Inc. (or SEI) is an award-winning construction and design firm based in Riverside, California. Founded in 1991 as Stronghold Electric by Beverly and Scott Bailey, the company was incorporated as Stronghold Engineering, Inc. in 2000. The company specializes in full-service design and construction support services, including design-build, electrical construction, new construction, and modernization.

To date, Stronghold Engineering has completed several civil, infrastructure, and electrical projects exceeding $2.5 billion in construction costs. These projects have included high-profile, ground-up facilities, technically challenging repair and renovations for historical and non-historical facilities, significant seismic upgrades, renovation and new construction, renewable energy, and electrical contracting. In 2020, Stronghold led the design and construction of its own headquarters in Perris, California.

Stronghold Engineering is one of the nation’s most successful graduates of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program for small, disadvantaged businesses. The company has received significant recognition for its outstanding performance evaluations, and earned a Top Workplaces Distinction every year from 2015 to 2019. SEI has also received national construction and design awards from DBIA, AGC, ENR, and ABC, highlighting the company’s commitment to teamwork, integrity, safety, commitment, and quality. Stronghold has also earned an outstanding safety record, and is a WBENC and MBE/WBE Certified company.

October 2021 marks 32 years of operation for Stronghold Engineering, Inc., which has been led by Beverly and Scott Bailey as the CEO and COO since its founding.

Where did the idea for Stronghold Engineering, Inc come from?

Beverly Bailey: The word Stronghold comes from the Book of Psalms in the Bible, Psalms 18:1 and 2 that talks about the Lord being our strength and our Stronghold. At the time my husband and I were 30, just turned 30. I was working in the real estate business and my husband was working as an electrician for an electrical contractor. I had two babies at home and I was on maternity leave. It was really trying times for us because we were, like a lot of families, living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to make things work and happen. And at the time I really didn’t want to go back to work and so just started praying about it.

I really had a strong feeling and also just talked to the Lord about it, but I didn’t want to go back to work, and He led me to a scripture that was Hebrews 10:23, which says, “Hold onto your confession of faith without wavering for he who has promised is faithful.” At that moment, I felt really strongly that he was going to take care of things and show us a path to go, so I spoke to my husband about it when he came home from work and he said, “You know what, we’ll figure it out. You don’t need to go back to work.”
We had tried a couple of businesses before, I had a little cafe and he had a construction business and both, they were challenging in their own perspective, but we got through them and this is the time that we decided to start a business together for the first time as a partnership.

So, we launched down the road of starting Stronghold. We didn’t have any money, like I was sharing, but what happened was my husband used our family truck to do a job out in Yuma, Arizona. And while he was having lunch, somebody plowed into the truck and the insurance company gave us $3,000. With that $3,000 we bought back the truck, pounded out the dents and used the money to get workers’ comp and liability insurance to start Stronghold Electric.

Scott Bailey: I knew that I wanted to be in the construction industry since I was probably about 10 years old. One summer, they were building a track at home near my parents’ house and I watched every step of the way of this track of houses being built, and I thought, “This is something I want to do.” I knew very, very early on that that was what I wanted to do as a career.

When we started Stronghold Electric, I had been in the electrical industry probably for at least eight years, I’d say roughly. I had gotten my electrical license initially, so starting as an electric company was kind of a natural fit. We had an inspector on a project that I was running a large electrical project on for another company and he introduced me to a general contractor that was struggling with their electrical contractor they were using, and this company pretty much set us up in business and provided us a substantial amount of backlog and we kicked off, and there we went.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Beverly Bailey: I like to start my day, when things are really running well, I love to go for a walk first thing in the morning with my friends and just get the blood flowing, then come back home, grab my coffee, and spend time with the Lord. I generally read from the Bible and do some kind of devotional, sit there and think about the day and place it at His feet and ask for direction. I think that’s part of the abundant life, when you don’t try to figure it out so much yourself and just go with the flow, because it’s God’s flow at that point. It makes it very exciting.

Once I’ve committed the day, I get ready, head to the office, and I do a lot of delegation via email. I get on top of things. My daughter’s office is close to mine, so we’ll have lunch together, which I always enjoy. Then, in the afternoon, generally I’ll have meetings, as needed.

The fun thing about my job is that it’s not just all focused on the construction company. We have various entities as well. What’s fun is that my day varies, I don’t always have to just be stuck in what’s going on at Stronghold all the time, because I believe that our good managers can think for themselves and they lead a good team and if they don’t, it becomes apparent and we’ll do something about it. But for the most part, everybody takes care of what they’re supposed to do and we function well together.

Scott Bailey: I start my day at my home office and go between reading and responding to emails and making sure that everything is headed in the correct direction and making various different phone calls. My day is much different than it was 20 years ago. That probably would have been getting up at five in the morning and jumping in my truck and heading off to a project site, but with technology and the cameras that we have at specific sites that I can see actively what’s going on on our project sites and other different things, makes our job a lot easier today that I don’t have to necessarily get in a car and be out there. We have very good upward reporting and most of our project sites will take progress pictures once a week and upload them into our systems. I can review projects, pictures on the status of where we’re at, also reports that I get financially that I will review daily and just see where the revenue flow is of a project. I can see a lot in the numbers. That’s my normal day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Beverly Bailey: I’m always thinking about some good idea I want to do, and always have something that I think could apply to the company – then I have to get more reasonable and back down to earth. So I’ll take a moment, I’ll think about it or pray about it, especially if it impacts the company or our family or maybe another entity that we have. Then, I’m surrounded by just great people, so everybody has their talents and abilities of what they bring to the table and so it’s looking, “Okay, who has the capacity? Who can get it done? Who could be excited by the challenge or the opportunity?” Asking all those questions and then reaching out to others to try to bring it to fruition.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Beverly Bailey: There’s a level of AI that excites me. I look forward to technology getting so smart that things that are taking people multiple days to do, perhaps there’s going to be that software that’s integrated that can talk to another one that brings things faster to fruition, with a level of accuracy that is mind boggling. I also really like the autonomous car. If I’m still working at 80, 90 years old, I can just jump in my car and tell it to take me to work.

But a lot of people are talking about corporate culture and that’s something that I’ve always been excited about, about how you can engage your workforce and keep them excited and just reminding everyone, our company runs on our core values. Continually reminding everyone about our core values is important, and it’s exciting how I can continually keep that in front of them and continually build our culture so that we have an engaged team that really enjoys coming to work, including myself.

Scott Bailey: For Stronghold, in the last 12 months, I think we’ve very much solidified our executive management team. We have a new CFO that’s been with us for a couple of months now, and so I feel like our executive management team is very focused and driven to not only individually work in their areas of expertise or maybe a division manager, but collectively as a team how we work, so we’re excited about that.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Scott Bailey: Communication. I’m constantly in touch with probably 10 various different people within our company multiple times a day that are key to the success of our operations. Vice Presidents that are leaders of the division, three divisions, and other different operational portions. Challenging projects, I’ll probably be more in touch with supervision and managers of those than I would be with something that’s maybe not as significant and flowing well without my involvement. So communication.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Beverly Bailey: I think the reason that we’ve been around for 32 years is the fact that, there’s some days that I want to put a cover over my head and, depending on what the challenge was or what happened, in a course of 32 years of business, I’ve seen, knock on wood, everything under the sun. I’m sure I haven’t. But there are those moments and it’s all about getting up out from under those covers, washing your face and going back to work and keeping it going.

Scott Bailey: I don’t know. I’m pretty satisfied with what we’ve accomplished and done. I don’t know about my advice – I think we did very well for my younger self. I think it’s more important that we stay focused like we did when we were younger today as we are older. Probably more critical to my older self.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Beverly Bailey: Believing the Raiders will win the Superbowl.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Beverly Bailey: Don’t quit and don’t be afraid of success. Remain steadfast and commit to what you’re doing, and just keep going. Also: figure out what you do best and delegate the rest.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Scott Bailey: We’ve always been very entrepreneurial and we’ve adapted to the flow of money, depending on where it came from and the type of work that we were doing. Working for the government one minute, a certain type of project and program is important to them. And then the next minute, something else is important. Remaining flexible and being able to adapt to those trends and changes has always been important. Initially, when we started the company, our focus was to create a good living for our family.

Beverly had just given birth to our daughter, Alyssa, and didn’t really want to go back to the company that she was at. And so Stronghold was actually our third attempt in a construction company of the other ones, just being challenged and economic times not providing quality work, so we had had some prior challenges. The difference with Stronghold was that it was both of us together as a team – not only as husband and wife, but we were true partners in the company, as we have been for 32 years, so we were both focused on a common goal and direction.

We were always putting money back into the company to grow it. And that, still to this day, is something that occurs. We’ve always somewhat been a self-funded company, maintained a minimal amount of the debt, more today than we used to. But in the beginning, we really didn’t manage and run the company with much outside assistance.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Beverly Bailey: We hired a team member that didn’t benefit or work well with the team, and created a toxic environment. We acknowledged the mistake, and overcame it by letting that person go.

Scott Bailey: We had a couple of challenging projects out-of-state that didn’t go so well in the end. Moving on from it, we decided not to chase that type of work out-of-state and made sure that we focused in the right areas.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Scott Bailey: I don’t know. I’m not trying to create more challenges in my life at this point. I’m trying to figure out how to get out of business, not in a business.

Beverly Bailey: If you can come up with that spray that keeps flowers intact, not only would I save money, it would just be a very cool thing. I’m throwing it out there so maybe somebody will run with it – just because I have an idea doesn’t mean I have to be the one to bring it to fruition.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Scott Bailey: Gave $100 to a young man that had a birthday and it made his day.

Beverly Bailey: I went to Vegas and I pulled $100 bet on the Raiders to win the Super Bowl. Like I said, I believe I’ll win, and when I do I’ll win $8,000. So that was a good bet.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Scott Bailey: I think that we’re very much a technology-driven company, making sure that we’ve trained up everybody consistently to work in similar ways, and I think that consistency is the key. We’ve been reworking some of our SOPs and to allow that, we have some estimating software that we’ve been working on trying to get our multiple divisions working in the same environment, which has not always been easy. Definitely our bid-to-win software.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Beverly Bailey: The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews. This book is an easy read and full of life’s nuggets to increase your potential.

Scott Bailey: The Bible. It gives you a very good outline of life in general and how to make decisions well.

What is your favorite quote?

Beverly Bailey: Proverbs 3:1-6, because it’s so relevant. If somebody wants to look up a scripture, it gets them in the Bible. That doesn’t make me sad at all.

Scott Bailey: The 5 Ps. Prior planning prevents puny performance. I’m big on planning and making sure that the team executes the plan.

Key Learnings:

  • Build a team you trust and that can fill in for your own weaknesses. A reliable team makes all the difference.
  • Stay focused on your goals, and maintain your vision. Put in the effort to see your goals through.
  • Building a work environment that makes people excited to be there results in better work from your employees, so listen to your employees and adjust accordingly.

This article was originally posted on ideamensch, a collection of interviews with entrepreneurs, creators and doers.