In the Path of Totality: How Stress Engineering Services Found Its Sweet Spot

On the morning of August 21, 2017, as predicted by astronomers decades in advance, a total solar eclipse will traverse America from coast to coast. The moon’s shadow will first touch land in Oregon and then sweep across the country to South Carolina. It’s been 99 years since a total solar eclipse swept across the United States, and millions of people will anxiously gather in the path of totality to experience one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events.

So you may ask, “What makes a total solar eclipse so phenomenal and how does this relate to Stress Engineering Services’ finding its sweet spot of business growth?” I noticed the correlation when reading the hype of what headlines are calling the next “bucket list alert,” “The Great American Eclipse,” as summed up in one word, “syzygy.”  Syzygy [SIZ-i-jee] is the alignment of three celestial bodies such as the sun, earth, and moon. As seen from earth, when the moon aligns with the sun and earth as it passes between them, the moon occults the Sun and a total eclipse occurs. This cosmic coincidence only happens about once every 18 months due to the moon’s slightly tilted orbit (as compared to the earth’s orbit around the sun). Of course, most of the time, the moon’s shadow misses the earth.

After being founded 45 years ago, Stress Engineering Services landed on its own “path of totality.” Like a total solar eclipse, Stress Engineering found its syzygy, which co-founder Joe Fowler often refers to as our “sweet spot” of business growth and success. With the alignment of three guiding principles (we like it, we can be the best at it, and we can do it profitably), Stress Engineering entered into a business phenomenon.

To view a solar eclipse from earth, you have to be at the right place at the right time and use the right equipment to view it safely. Stress Engineering materialized when our three founders, Joe Fowler, Ray Latham, and Harry Sweet, gathered at the right place, at the right time, and were equipped to provide the right answers in a timely manner to our clients. With an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for engineering, our founders achieved industry excellence and profitability because they were able to help our clients solve problems and make better decisions.

In a recent e-mail to Joe Fowler regarding this blog, he really boiled down for me what the “sweet spot” is. He came across a new definition of business greatness in the book, Good to Great, by Jim C. Collins. Collins had commissioned a research team to help him investigate how great companies actually operate. Collins was able to graphically describe the definition of business greatness within the principle circles shown above—we like it, we can be the best at it, and we can do it profitably.

Joe also explained what the principle circles mean to him and to our business.  He said that the external focus on profitability “means that we are offering services that the clients really need and will pay for” and that the other two principles “are primarily internally focused on recognizing the reality of the type of work we enjoy and our commitment to focus on it and to be the best in that area.” Over the 15 years I’ve worked at Stress Engineering, Joe has continually emphasized this idea to our engineers as a client-centric foundation that focuses everything we do toward meeting the needs of our clients first and foremost.

After 45 years in business, Stress Engineering continues to thrive and achieve excellence by finding sweet spots. We still apply the sweet spot as a business model and formula for new business initiatives. Since the early days, we have diversified within a broad variety of industries, and each year hundreds of clients from all over the world rely on the expertise of Stress Engineering Services.

Sadly, many people seem to become complacent over time; they stop growing and they stop reaching for greatness. Professionally and/or personally, if you’re not where you want to be, it’s never too late to align yourself in a “path of totality” and do something great. Equip yourself by making the right sweet spot decisions, and be prepared to experience something amazing. Phenomenal is not only for the cosmos!

Shelley Hicks

Shelley Hicks – Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Houston Office

In addition to her daily routine of providing high-level marketing support to practice areas across the entire firm, Shelley aspires to contribute their skills to the Stress blog (a repeat blogger). Shelley offers a unique perspective to the blog of not only the company, but the people within the firm that make it all happen. Also, Shelley and her father are avid astronomy buffs and will be viewing the solar eclipse from a prime viewing location in Kentucky.

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