KPM Franklin was originally founded in 1995 as a surveying company. Stephen (Steve) Precourt, Central Florida native and current CEO of the firm, purchased the business with three partners in 2016 from the original founder. Since then, they've grown from 30 to over 65 employees with plans to expand into the mid 100s. Precourt shared the story behind the purchase and some of the other ventures he's pursued along the way.
"After I graduated from The University of Florida in 1983, I took a job with the Department of Transportation in Bartow, FL," he said. "Not many people were hiring, so I took what I could get. I eventually made my way back to Orlando and did traffic engineering and transportation planning for a few different firms. An opportunity came up in the early 90s to purchase an existing firm, so myself and a few partners jumped on it."
From the early 90s to the mid 2000s, Precourt, along with his partners, grew that firm to over 500 employees. During those years, he got married and had five kids. Up until that point, Precourt's career was focused on traffic engineering and urban area planning. That would change when they learned that one of their kids had special needs. Precourt and his wife quickly realized that navigating the regulatory and care-giving environment for a child with special needs was not an easy task. They were determined to do something about it. As such, Precourt made a decision to get involved with the legislature to help enact the changes he and his wife wanted to see. He spent seven years with the legislature gaining new skills and developing relationships. After becoming Majority Leader and helping to change things for the better, Precourt was ready for a new challenge. An opportunity to purchase a familiar firm presented itself and Precourt took action.
"I've known the original founder of KPM Franklin for decades," he said. "I was born and raised in Pine Hills and know a lot of people in the community. My dad was a surveyor and put together many of the parcels for Disney World. I pretty much grew up in the business. The original founder was in his late 70s and didn't have much of an exit strategy. He knew I was looking for a new opportunity and made us a great offer. Myself and three other partners, including his son and two former associates of mine, purchased the firm in 2016."
Precourt explained that some of the early challenges they faced after purchasing KPM Franklin included reworking what was basically a small mom and pop outfit into a professional services Engineering and Planning firm. They made significant updates and changes to things like the IT infrastructure, accounting systems and HR programs. The second challenge was recruiting good talent. After those pieces were in place, they turned their attention to standing up internal systems such as quality control and production management. With everything in place, the focus is now on aggressive marketing and business development.
Precourt shared some of the ways they set themselves apart from the competition. "From a client perspective, we have very engaged principals," he said. "Stuff doesn’t get turned over to a junior guy. The principals are always involved with our clients. Another thing we do is take a big picture perspective. When we work towards getting government approvals for a client's project, we take a holistic approach to create true value. From a recruiting perspective, we want high quality employees. We've created a place where people can have a challenging career but still be able to go home and have balance in their personal life. I'm a big believer that if things are bad at home, you'll drag that stuff into your business life. We strive to keep a good balance."
KPM Franklin is not only a great place to work, it's also a firm that provides its clients with a wide array of services including Engineering, Planning, Surveying & Mapping, Transportation Planning, Home Building Services and Government Relations. Specific projects include Civil Engineering Design, Site Master Planning, Right of Way Mapping, Traffic Impact Studies, Plot Planning and Approval Negotiations. With their main office in Kissimmee and a second office in Orlando, KPM Franklin is well positioned to service the needs of the growing Central Florida community.
Looking ahead, Precourt, who describes himself as a big Stephen Covey fan, is focused on continuing to grow the business, but is also well aware of the need for a solid exit strategy. As such, he'll continue to build the business to allow for a successor to easily step in or for a larger company to make an acquisition offer. He's currently helping develop one of the principals, Robert Moon, to take over the reins when he retires. Other goals include growing the firm to over 150 employees in the next few years and diversifying more into the public sector.
What advice does Precourt have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "You just have to go do it," he said. "Take that first step and avoid analysis paralysis. You want to do a reasonable amount of research and preparation, but at some point you just have to start. If you don't start, you'll never get there."