Specializing in reverse osmosis seawater treatment, Leo Cannyn was one of only a handful of people in the United States capable of designing plants that can trun sea water into suitable drinking water. Quickly, Cannyn realized this career path wasn’t sustainable long term and went back to the drawing board.
“They don’t seem to put those (drinking water) plants in the same city over and over again. Essentially I was having to move around a lot,” he said. “I wanted to develop some roots in a city I loved, so I decided to quit my job. I formed this company so we could offer the services of field inspection and design in the resident commercial market which is where Beryl came from.”
Beginning in 2013, Beryl Project Engineering got its start doing home inspections, which at the time, Cannyn thought would only be temporary.
“We started off doing home inspections because we needed filler work to keep our people busy while we were hunting larger capital projects,” he said. “It turned out this filler works was very profitable, and it became its own very big division. The work that we thought we’d would grow out of, was actually very scalable.”
Six years later, with satellite offices throughout the state, Beryl assists their clients with construction inspection, residential home inspection, roof consulting, 203k consultant, structural design and project management.
“We’re helping people directly in their largest investment. This entails the buying and selling of their house through inspection by giving them a detailed report about the house. Additionally, we take people who can’t afford a new house but want to remodel or add a new addition to their house and give them the guidance to do so” Cannyn said.
“What’s really nice about what we do for the 50+ clients we get per week, is we’re positively and directly impacting their lives where it matters most – their home and their family.”
Keeping a Competitive Advantage
With one company focusing on two very different things – home inspection and design engineers – Cannyn runs it as just that but takes the competitive edge from each of them and used that as a competitive advantage for the other.
On the home inspection side, Beryl’s problem-solution approach sets them apart from others in their market.
“Most of our competition are residential home inspectors with strict limitations on their licenses. Home inspectors can tell you by license in Florida that something is wrong, but engineers can tell you why something is wrong, how much it’ll cost to fix and how to go about fixing it,” he said. “Our competition on the home inspection side can’t do any of that, so we have a higher level of credibility. I’m a firm believer that you can’t offer a problem without a solution. Home inspectors by license, can’t do that.”
On the other hand, Beryl can excel on the design side of operations due to the skills of their inspectors.
“We’ve got inspectors who are used to going in and out of houses collecting data and we can operate a lot faster than our competition. Whereas it might take you four to five weeks before you even get an appointment with an engineer, we can have someone out there in less than a week. It might not be an engineer, but they’ve been trained by an engineering on what to collect so we can do what we need to do,” he said.
These two aspects of Beryl have allowed them to operate from a more expert standpoint in one arena and from a faster standpoint in the other, setting them apart from their competition.
Overcoming Challenges and Looking to the Future
In growing his business, Cannyn has found, like many others, that finding the right people to hire has been the biggest challenge.
“I want to outsource as much as possible by surrounding myself with technical experts in support functions such as HR, CPA, SEO, Legal that I don’t have time to get another degree and license in. Internally, we are headed in the direction that I will become a leader managing managers. We may get to the point where I don’t know every employee’s complete life story, which is sad but necessary to provide stability to the whole organization,” he said. “Finding the right people is challenging. I’ve been trying to find an engineering manager for over 12 weeks. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but I can’t find anyone.”
In Cannyn’s opinion, the shortage of talent isn’t due to Florida’s market but the overall trades industry.
“We’re economically blessed in Florida, especially in Tampa. Where other places are just starting to enter a cooling market or a buyer’s market, we’re still very much a seller’s market. You put a house on for sale and you will get 10 to 15 offers in the first two weeks, we’re still in that arena and there’s still a lot of people that want to move here,” he said.
“Finding the right people is tough. Technical trades or physical trades have a shortage of people entering down that career path because they are taught in school to find a desk job. It’s not glamourous but you don’t have to worry about losing your job to a robot in the future.”
As for the future of Beryl Project Engineering, Cannyn is always looking for what he can do next.
“We operate this company assuming due to legislation, a large portion of what we do can be taken away from us. In that regard, we’re constantly trying to reinvent what we do to keep us relevant. This year we’re growing into solar design,” he said.
“It’s offering another level of design to our clients. Maybe room additions because of Chinese tariffs threats are too expensive. Instead people want to save money on their utility bills so they put solar panels on their roofs with the help of government subsidies,” he said. “But these government subsidies might disappear, so we’ll lose the solar designs, that’s just one example of needing to reinvent ourselves.”
Protect What Matters Most
Driven by their motto ‘Protect What Matters Most, Your Family,’ it’s not a surprise that Beryl has a strong company culture.
“We have quarterly outings, the wives and the husbands all know each other, some of them hangout socially outside of the outings as well so I like to see that. We’re all very supportive of each other,” he said. “When Irma came through and everyone was out of power, I gave them two weeks’ pay to help with extra expenses. We’re very family oriented and it goes beyond bagel Fridays, well beyond that. I truly believe that they envision and embody the protect what matters most – your family.”
What it Means to be an Honoree
“The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce nominated us for two years ago, but we didn’t qualify because of revenue. Last year we were nominated, and I thought we had a great application. We should have won but didn’t,” he said.
“This year I submitted the same exact application without any edits as last year and we got it. It’s just persistence,” he said.
“If you’re an entrepreneur and you want something, you have to go out and take it. We wanted this award, we’ve been chasing it for three years and we got it. It’s a sign of our accomplishments as a company through recognition by the industry.”
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
When asked what his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs was, Cannyn said it’s not can’t, but how.
“Everyone will tell you, you can’t do something. Everyone will tell you no, but there’s always a way to do it,” he said.
Notable Philanthropic Involvement
Beryl’s principal is an Envision Sustainability Professional (SP), which is the equivalent to LEED AP, but for Civil Infrastructure to include Water, Solid Waste, Transportation, and Energy. As an Envision SP, Beryl seeks to foster a dramatic and necessary improvement in the performance and resiliency of our physical infrastructure across the full spectrum of sustainability. This is demonstrated as they use their Envision Sustainability skills to assist the Country of Belize’s town of San Pedro and Caye Caulker in their water issues amidst explosive real estate growth.
You’ll notice Beryl’s logo is derivative of a sea turtle, which isn’t a coincidence. Beryl has donated profits to both The Florida Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation and the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet. Beginning in 2016, Beryl’s principals have pledged to donate 2% of corporate profits to Sea Turtle rescue and rehabilitation programs in Florida, funding the full rehabilitation of two sea turtles since 2018.
Beryl’s leadership is also heavily involved in Ybor City, serving on multiple boards and committees