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With downturn, survey firm stays close to its mission

John Seelmeyer

On particularly tough days, the partners of Bigby and Associates sometimes look at one another and wonder how they’re going to make it.

The answer?

“You simply have to decide that you’re going to be here in three years or five years,” says Diane Bigby, who founded the Reno surveying and consulting firm with her husband, Greg, more than a decade ago.

The firm’s fortunes are tied closely to the land development business in northern Nevada and nearby regions of California.

When construction slumps, surveyors often are the first to feel the pinch because their work is the first that’s completed on a new project. Now, the staff of Bigby and Associates is working hard to hold on so they can be among the survivors when the business turns around.

“We’re doing OK,” says Bigby. “That’s the new measurement doing OK.”

The partners Diane and Greg Bigby along with Rusty Combest, who joined the firm in 2005 work longer hours and work harder these days.

The company’s staff, which peaked at seven in addition to the partners, now is down to three. Diane Bigby, who once had two assistants in the company’s office, handles everything herself, from billing to ordering

pens these days.

From a larger office next door, the firm moved into smaller quarters as the economy softened.

The firm’s survival, Bigby says, stems largely from some decisions that she made with her husband when they launched the business out of a spare bedroom of their house.

The business plan they developed was straightforward: Provide good service all jobs include the personal involvement of Greg Bigby or Combest in the field at competitive prices.

Even when business boomed in the early years of this decade, the partners stayed with their original plan and avoided the temptation to take on more work than they could handle well.

The emphasis on good service, Diane Bigby says, developed a cadre of clients who have remained loyal even through the construction downturn.

“That’s the most important thing right now loyal clients,” says Bigby.

That and hard work. The partners make personal calls to market the firm’s services to engineering firms and land developers. They take care of the work in the field. They divvy up the work around the office.

Along the way, they’ve picked up a few new clients, Bigby says, and the partners have expanded their sights into markets farther afield in outlying regions of Nevada and northern California.

They’ve also picked up some grit.

“We’ll be here,” says Bigby.