Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Dinter Engineering and your position.
Keller Hackbusch: Dinter is a 50 year old, Reno-based small business that provides electrical, mechanical, and airfield electrical engineering for architects, engineers and contractors. We work in 10 different industries, including military, federal government, education and hospitals. We have 17 employees in Reno, two in Phoenix and one in Couer d'Alene, Idaho.
My role with Dinter as CEO is to provide five things: 1) business development in the form of marketing and sales; 2) oversee day-to-day operations in the Reno office; 3) department head/project manager/electrical engineer for airfield electrical projects; 4) oversee corporate administration duties with executive team partner; 5) as a partner in the firm I am also a member of the board of directors.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Hackbusch: My father, Pete Hackbusch, has worked in this industry and this company for my entire life, so I grew up in the industry and within Dinter Engineering. I attended job walks and inspections with my dad as a kid and enjoyed the combination of engineering and construction. This industry has stability and is a good career for a family man.
NNBW: What's the most important thing you have learned in your career in engineering?
Hackbusch: Organization. I have learned how to organize my business, my life, my time, my communication skills, my scope of work, my marketing, my planning, etc. Engineering has taught me how to organize every aspect of my life and business.
NNBW: What are the main challenges the recession brought about for your company, and how did you strategize to overcome them?
Hackbusch: Our existence is completely dependent on state, city and federal budgets. We have seen very few opportunities, and the competition is extremely tough for these limited projects. We have been creative in recent years, forming strategic partners, continuing to work on a regional or national level, and by immersing ourselves in federal design/build projects. We do more design/build for the VA, Navy, GSA, Army Corp on a regional level than any other type of project in the last two years.
NNBW: With the lack of construction projects throughout the state and country, what's the future look like for firms such as yours?
Hackbusch: If we depended on work in northern Nevada, we would be in big trouble. Dinter does currently have several projects in northern Nevada, but the bulk of our work is out of state and we expect that to continue for at least two more years. Many more companies will fail in the next two years and we are doing everything we can to avoid being one of them. However, there is not enough work to go around, so companies will shrink and some may close their doors. Small businesses are particularly in danger due to difficulties in cash flow and diversity of projects. We are prepared for a couple more years of difficulty before things improve.
NNBW: Have any advice for someone who wants to enter your profession?
Hackbusch: Determine what your personal strengths are and pursue the discipline that fits your personality. Decide what you like about the industry and go for that.
NNBW: Tell us about your dream job. Why aren't you working it?
Hackbusch: I am very pleased where I am and I believe that I am here for a reason.
NNBW: What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? How do you spend your time away from work?
Hackbusch: I spend time with my family and working on our little "fixer upper" ranch property. We spend a lot of time with our church family, I work on my theological studies for my masters degree program, teach multiple bible studies and Sunday school, read a lot and I write a lot. We also love to take road trips and see museums, zoos, parks, etc.
NNBW: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Hackbusch: "Don't take yourself too seriously; know when you can't afford yourself; and listen to your wife."
NNBW: What can you do that someone else can't?
Hackbusch: Touch an 8-foot ceiling with both feet flat on the ground.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
Hackbusch: Yes, without a doubt. I have so many things I still want to do!
Keller Hackbusch can be reached at www.dinter.com or by calling 826-4044.
Name: Keller Hackbusch
Number of years in this job?: 4 as CEO, 17 years at Dinter
Education: BS Electrical Engineering, UNR/currently pursuing a Masters in Theological Studies
Favorite flick?: "Braveheart"
Spouse, kids or pets?: Wife Maria, daughter Grace (8), son and Ashten (6), Lynley the Yorkie.