In 2008, DCM Architecture and Engineering owner Eduardo Guzman, a Haddonfield resident, was left with only two employees. The company had been hit hard by the economic downturn that so many felt.
“We lost a lot of our contracts and we just couldn’t sustain our expenses,” Guzman said. “So, we had to let a lot of people go and we were left with just me and my partner Robert Benson.”
The company has grown by leaps and bounds since then, culminating in Guzman being named the 2014 New Jersey Minority Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“It is a great honor to be recognized,” Guzman said. “Our story is one of perseverance and hard work that I think a lot of people can relate to.”
When DCM was forced to downsize, the company could not afford to stay in its office in Cherry Hill. With nowhere left to go, the company relocated to a business incubator at the business school at Rutgers-Camden. Guzman sees this time period as the lowest for the company, but also the most rewarding.
“One of the key pieces to our survival was the move to Rutgers-Camden,” he said. “The office was tiny, but it provided us with a lot of exposure and also helped us cut our costs to almost nothing, so we could continue to do business.”
During their stay at the business incubator, Guzman and DCM got their big break when Parkside Business and Community in Partnership were looking for an architect to design its office building.
“That was a huge contract for us,” Guzman said. “It gave us work and allowed us to get a foot in the community.”
Things began to pick up for the company after that, and by 2011, the company was doing more than $1 million in business. The company’s revenues have grown in every year since then, to $3.1 million in 2012 and $6.9 million in 2013.
The company has earned some big-name contracts during that time, including work at the White House.
“It has been a long ride, but to see where we are now is amazing,” Guzman said. “It’s been a very fast climb and with that comes a whole new set of things to think about.”
The work continues to flow in for DCM, but Guzman is now focusing on the business side of things for the company. As he puts it, they’re trying to “professionalize” the company.
“As a small business, we have not been used to handling such large contracts,” he said. “The work now requires a lot more working capital, which requires dealing with bigger banks and that’s what we’re focusing on now. Going from where we were, it has been a fundamental shift. Looking to the future, we need to button up the business side so we can continue to take on more projects.”
And with more projects comes more employees, which is something that has been very rewarding for Guzman.
“We are back up to around 20 employees, which is where we were prior to 2008,” he said. “We have even been able to reconnect with some of the employees we had to let go and rehire them. That has been one of the best parts of this whole thing.”