Setting the Standard for Success: Infinite Energy Construction
"Success can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have."
Infinite Energy Construction
Founded by Dr. Nilson Goes Sr., PhD, operated by Nilson M. Goes, COO and general manager | Martin City, Mo. | Second Stage
Founded in 1996, Infinite Energy Construction is a Kansas City success story. In its twenty years as an electrical and general contractor, the company has been recognized as a Small Business of the Year by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, KC Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Area Development Council. In 2012, IED was named one of the top 10 minority-owned businesses in Kansas City and in 2014, Nilson Goes was named Missouri's Small Business Person of the Year.
The company got its start as an electrical contractor in Blue Springs, Mo., and has since expanded outside the Kansas City region as a general contractor renowned for its on-staff expertise. It's one of the few companies its size that can boast a PhD electrical engineer as well as civil and mechanical engineers.
IEC has an impressive roster of national and local clients, including the U.S. Armed Services and KC's own trifecta of sports teams. They did the electrical contracting at the home stadiums of Sporting KC, the Chiefs and the Royals.
With satellite offices in Fort Irwin, Ca, Knob Koster, Mo., and Fort Worth, Texas, IEC currently employs more than 40 people. IEC is MBE, DBE, and 8(a) certified.
Below, we chat with Nilson Goes, COO and general manager, to get the scoop on IEC's success.
What’s your big news in 2014/2015?
In 2014, IEC maximized the contract value with the U.S. Air Force at Whitman Air Force Base and in 2015, IEC was the first company to ever re-procure the SABER contract (5 year contract) with Whiteman Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force.
What inspired you to start your business?
IEC was started in a blend of necessity and desire to build something on our own.
How did you finance it?
Initially, the business was bootstrapped; financed through personal savings.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
A sharp financial downturn that was compounded by the decline in construction, a tough project and the post-9/11 business climate. It put a significant crunch on cash flow.
When times got tough, what inspired you to keep going?
Necessity is not only the mother of innovation; it’s also the sister of tenacity…so to speak. We didn’t have the luxury of cashing out without meeting obligations (fiscal and others) so we had to keep going. There’s the saying, ‘If you’re going through hell…keep on going." That sums it up pretty well.
What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
Personally, I thrive on an environment that recognizes, supports (through mentorship, education and connecting) the entrepreneurial community with business at large. In small businesses, you have to create and nurture your own support system.
At a macro level, I think small-businesses and, more specifically, entrepreneurs need to have access to various resources, such as talented workforce, local political representation (city council members, city attorneys, state representatives) and a constructive forum to identify business opportunities. This is where we have benefited from our relationships and participation with our local chambers of commerce, which has allowed us to identify and access these resources.
Which resources have you worked with?
We have worked with many chamber partners including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the South KC Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, Small Business Development Center and the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP).
Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
In some ways, sure. We are an MBE-certified company and that has impact on our business and what markets we compete in. Secondly, it has an implicit impact on our philosophy toward diversity and inclusion.
We do, however, have a strong commitment to ourselves and to our customers that we are a company that does exceptional work…….and happens to have a MBE certification. We do not lead with this and don’t believe we are owed anything because of it.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
As a small business and now fast growing company,we forwent some structure that is necessary as we grow. Implementing this structure (policies, guidelines, processes) in a reactionary manner is fine, but you contend with some organizational memory or ‘inertia.' So, you have to expend a lot more horsepower/resources to apply something that would have served you best in the beginning.
What can/should Kansas City do to be more business friendly for Hispanic Entrepreneurs?
Continue to support the MBE programs that are in place with the City of Kansas City and neighboring governments. There truly is benefit in diversity and inclusion that is quantifiable and also intangible. These programs should be protected and targeted to include more Hispanic businesses.
Additionally, increase the awareness about the great resources that KC already has for its entrepreneurs (like Betablox and the Independence Regional Ennovation Center). These are great programs that more people should be taking advantage of. Lastly, provide some hard skills training in cash flow management, accounting and banking.
Where does the city get it right?
Kansas City has made significant investments to be an entrepreneur-friendly environment. In my opinion,it has struck a great ratio of resources to access. More specifically, bigger cities like Los Angeles or Chicago could have similar programs, but you get lost in the mix and may not have the same intimacy when participation.
What is your favorite quote?
As it relates to owning your own business, it’s a quote by John A. Shield, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
What lessons did you learn the hard way?
TRUST YOUR INSTINCT! There have times that my gut has told me to run away from something/someone. I could have saved myself from sleeplessness and unnecessary expenditure by listening to my instincts.
I’ve also learned that you should embrace the tough conversations. I heard that success can also be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have. I think that’s true. I didn’t learn or embrace this until later.
What has been your biggest triumph so far?
It’s not a metric that can be quantified, but more of a personal triumph (as it relates to the business). This goal was to create/build a company that wasn’t a company with a few multimillion dollar contracts, but a multimillion dollar company that is capable and sustainable. We’ve come a long way and have a long way to go, but the ship is moving in the right direction and that, to me, is a triumph.