When Joyce Johnson left her job to take care of her first child in 1984, her employer convinced her to return and work from home. Taking full advantage of the situation, and using her electrical engineering background, Joyce began experimenting with CADD (computer-aided drafting and design) to launch her own company.
She was an early adopter of AutoCAD at a time when most engineering companies were still utilizing manual drafting techniques using pencils and mylar. In the 1990s, she was again ahead of the technology curve by offering GIS services using ArcView and integrating intelligent database support with AutoCAD. More recently, in 2007, the company rebranded itself as CCI Engineering Services, converting to a 3D design driven professional engineering and support services company.
Today, CCI Engineering Services is an interdisciplinary, highly-specialized engineering design consulting firm comprised of architects, engineers and planners that provide a host of technology and design services to improve quality, lower costs and optimize project coordination.
CCI’s business model is one of continuous reinvention. As new technology becomes adopted by the industry, CCI must be looking forward to the next generation of engineering tools and positioning themselves to assist their clients to leverage those tools to improve their performance.
Working across industries and disciplines also gives CCI the ability to identify innovations in one industry and study how they can be applied to improve the approach in a different industry. Healthcare and Automotive were two of the earliest adopters of Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology and the lessons CCI learned working on those projects helped them add value to their client’s projects working on casinos and hotels in the entertainment industry, and water/wastewater treatment plants in the utilities industry.
“Staying at the forefront of an entire industry comes at a cost,” Johnson says. “High-end workstations and software come at a premium, and we must continuously be investing in training and R&D. The money is always a challenge for a small business.”
CCI forged its path without funding from financial institutions until 2005. More recently, Joyce accessed small business capital through ECDI, capital that included funds from the Columbus Foundation.
“It came at a time when we really needed it,” Johnson says. “It happened quickly. It took a month to six weeks to get the whole thing done, and it really made a huge difference in our ability to operate as a company and pursue opportunities we might not have otherwise been able to.”
In addition to the efficiency of the loan process, Joyce is grateful to ECDI for their support throughout the life of the loan.
“ECDI helped me to understand how to manage my cash flow for growth,” she says. “They didn’t just provide the loan and leave me alone. They are there as a partner to offer advice and guidance as you continue to grow.”
While speaking on a panel, Johnson met ECDI’s CEO and Founder Inna Kinney, who introduced her to Ellen Harvey, Director of ECDI’s Women’s Business Center of Ohio.
Impressed, Harvey then joined CCI’s volunteer advisory board, where she assisted Johnson with financial strategy, collections and diversifying CCI’s customer base.
“We’ve had great success from those advisory board meetings… We’re a different company today because of it,” Johnson says. “We’re much stronger and positioned better in the market. We have better terms on our contracts.”
Johnson has embraced the role of trailblazer for women in engineering. She acknowledges the strides made by women in math and science careers, as well as the enduring need for women to gain exposure to all disciplines.
“Women weren’t encouraged to go into math and science,” she says. “I feel that I need to help change that.”
In fact, Johnson’s passion for technology is fueling her desire to make sure that the next generation is prepared for careers in technology.
“The passion comes from seeing how the new technology works, taking things off the shelf and making them work better… and being able to teach that,” she says.
In January, CCI launched a nonprofit affiliate to support a technology training and workforce development program, providing work experience and comprehensive training to better prepare participants for job placement.
Johnson has led CCI for 31 years through innovative and proactive thinking. This mindset manifests itself in every aspect of her company, from strategy to company culture.
“Keeping up with change is part of the passion that makes us what we are,” she says. “We’re problem solvers. The company culture is focused on innovation. Our passion is to ignite people to use their imagination and to not be afraid to try something new. We are always focused on finding a better way, and keeping an eye on the next emerging technology that can benefit our clients.
“It may seem that in the technology industry that the value of a company is in the technology and intellectual property that it owns, but in the end, the true value of a company lies in the experience and quality of the people who work there,” Johnson says.
To learn more about CCI Engineering Services, visit their website at ccitechs.com.
For more information on the robust services ECDI and the Food Fort provide small businesses and budding entrepreneurs, visit ecdi.org.