A woman-owned engineering-consulting firm, Resource International Inc. provides civil engineering; construction management and administration; IT; surveying, geotechnical and environmental services.
2014 revenue: $18 million
Founded: 1973 by Farah Majidzadeh, 75
Employees: 164, six offices
Potential successors: daughters Stasia, 53, and Marcia, 50; twin sons Mark and Todd, 44.
Company profile: A woman-owned engineering-consulting firm, Resource International Inc. provides civil engineering; construction management and administration; IT; surveying, geotechnical and environmental services for a range of private and public projects in Ohio, across the U.S. and internationally.
Milestones: Projects include: the Ohio Turnpike Commission Mainline Pavement Evaluation, the South Runway Expansion at Port Columbus International Airport, the California Department of Transportation Bridge Deck Conditions Evaluation; subservice investigation, Scioto Mile Riverfront Project, many more.
Rii has received awards from the Builders Exchange of Central Ohio, the International Road Federation, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Road and Transportation Association, and more.
Rii was the first woman-owned firm to do business in Saudi Arabia.
Founded in 1973, Resource International is preparing to transition to the second generation of leadership.
Farah Majidzadeh is the founder, majority shareholder, chairperson and CEO. Her husband, Rii President Kamran Majidzadeh,75, holds 33% of company shares. The couple's four adult children each hold executive positions in different departments of the firm.
According to Farah, 85-90 percent of her employees have been with the company between 10 and 30 years. She plans on working as long as her health permits, but she is currently working with her personal estate attorney to develop a rotating succession plan between her children.
Family business background:
As soon as her youngest children-twin boys-were enrolled in kindergarten, the Iranian expat and registered nurse founded her business from the basement of the family home.
In 1973, her husband Kamran, then an Ohio State professor of civil and environmental engineering, was researching a piece of pavement structural testing equipment when the Dynaflect machine taking up space in their garage gave Farah a flash of inspiration. Between that piece of equipment and the potential employee pool among her husband's grad students, she knew she could run her own engineering services firm.
She began by mailing 400 query letters to potential clients. She promised herself that if she received just two responses from those initial queries, she would start a business. She landed her first contracts with the City of Worthington and Delaware County.
"I had a plan, and my plan was so organized because I didn't want to use a penny of our savings. I wanted to see if this company could succeed with my ideas or not," says Farah. After four years, she was moving out of the basement and into Rii's first offices. An employee visiting his family in Kuwait alerted Farah to the potential market for Rii services in the Middle East. She opened the Rii Kuwait office in 1974; by the 1980s, Resource was contending for the Highway Maintenance Management System Project overseeing all the roadways in Saudi Arabia.
Kamran took an early retirement from Ohio State to lead Rii's Saudi Arabia project. Farah had to convince him to become her business partner. "I went to his office at OSU. I noticed there was a bucket at his table, and it was raining. The water was coming through. I said, 'I can give you a better room and no bucket,'" recalls Farah.
"The biggest thing for me was when my kids said they'd love to come (aboard)," says Farah. Marcia Majidzadeh Lampman began answering Rii's phones at age 14 and joined the firm after college in the late 1980s; today, she is Rii's executive vice president of HR and marketing. Stasia Vavruska, the Majidzadehs' firstborn, is Rii's senior vice president and general counsel. Mark Majidzadeh, executive vice president of construction management, joined Rii in 1988. His twin brother Todd Majidzadeh, executive vice president of non-destructive engineering and IT services, was the last to join the firm in 2001.
There are eight Majidzadeh grandchildren between ages 10 and 25. Farah isn't sure if they will eventually join as third-generation employees. Right now, she says Resource is "only for my children."
Farah thrives on action. She fears that stepping down as Rii's CEO will leave her with too much time on her hands. "At the same time, in a family-owned business, you must let your children grow. Otherwise, if you want to do everything yourself and something happens to you, how will you carry on?"
With four successful adult children and a staff of accomplished non-family professionals working at high levels within the business, Farah's greatest challenge at this point in her life is to choose her successor--or successors.
She isn't shy with the second generation in assessing their competencies; in fact, she views it as her responsibility to the firm and her family. "Resource is another child that grew," says Farah. "Not only am I responsible to my grandchildren because of the income of my children, also it's for my employees and their families. They're my family."
She's in the process of working with her personal attorney to "pass the torch." She thinks, at this point, that her shares of the company may be allocated among non-family partners in addition to her adult children. As far as identifying a CEO, that's a long process of deciding who among her four heirs is the best suited to the role and who wants it. Those duties may even be allocated among the four on a rotating basis, she says.
Challenges, strategies & goals:
Farah's primary concerns as she considers succession are maintaining Rii's family-friendly culture, managing the firm's growth and keeping her company debt-free.
"The company pays all its bills and also grows gradually. That's the way I like it," says Farah.
As CEO, she likes knowing all of her employees. She enjoys getting to know their children when they come in for office visits. Her mid-sized company allows her to maintain that personal connection with her staff. "You lose touch on those things when you get too big, but if that's what my children would like, they should do it themselves."