5 Questions With An Expert: Syed Jafar

August 18, 2021

Profile_Syed Jafar Syed Jafar
Vice President - HVJ South Central Texas

From staff engineer to executive vice president and franchisee, Syed has lived up to the potential that Herb Johnson saw in the shy young man from Pakistan. Twenty-one years ago, Syed Jafar, a recent engineering graduate of the University of Houston, came to work for HVJ Associates®. It’s been a rewarding relationship for both ever since.  In these five questions, Syed imparts the experiences in engineering and life that led him to success at HVJ.

1. Starting with some background about yourself, can you share how you got started in this field, and what inspires you most in your work? 

When I was a young man, I was enthralled with building and structural engineering, and thought I would one day design mind-blowing structures and marvelous bridges! Little did I know that, instead of designing them, I would be overseeing the earliest construction phase of these structures. After a brief time spent in geotechnical engineering, my career evolved into managing and ensuring quality for all types of infrastructure projects, including notable and landmark projects. This has been a gratifying experience - especially when I can showcase these projects to my kids on our drives.  

Only six months after I graduated in the general engineering field, HVJ Associates® offered me a position as a staff engineer. From there, I moved up to lead the construction services group for several years. In 2016, I became a partner and co-owner of the second HVJ Associates® franchise, located in South Central Texas, where we specialize in Geotechnical Engineering and Construction Materials Engineering and Testing (CoMET). I am the Executive Vice President at the South Central Texas location, which includes Austin, San Antonio, Laredo, Pharr, Corpus Christi, and surrounding areas. The Austin office was established in 2001, providing geotechnical engineering and CoMET.  

Above all this, building the company is what’s most inspiring to me about this work. I guess that is why I enjoy business development, and Herb saw the potential of success for me in that area.

2.  One of HVJ’s promises is a commitment to ongoing learning. What resources or training opportunities have you found to be most useful? What tips do you have for keeping up to date with ongoing education?

The learning environment that HVJ fosters is incredibly encouraging. Its focus on ongoing learning enables management to be consistent in the leadership quality we provide to our employees and consultants, as well as the quality of service we deliver to our customers.

For me, the ongoing learning experience has been life-changing. HVJ uses the innovative principles of Generative Leadership to train and mentor its management and leadership team. This, in turn, enables us to engage in meaningful experiences with our clients and teams and deliver on our promises. Learning is an ongoing journey where the journey itself produces lasting experiences through learning and practice. At HVJ, this opportunity is available to all the staff.

3.  HVJ describes itself as being built on service. What does client service mean to you, and what keeps clients coming back to HVJ? What are your tips when engaging clients for the first time?

As a company, HVJ listens. This is what ultimately keeps the client coming back.  Gaining the client’s trust is the most important thing for me. If the clients trust me, they will know I'm looking out for their best interests. I'm constantly meeting with clients to build on their trust and get feedback about what is most important to them.

Client service comes down to relationships and communication. That’s why listening to your clients is so important. If you listen to the clients’ pain points, you engage; you won’t give them run-of-the-mill responses, and you will have a much more productive relationship. With this, the project is likely to go more smoothly.

4.  Can you describe what you found most interesting or rewarding in your work with HVJ Associates®? What was the most significant achievement that came out of it?

Speaking in the context of the franchise, I never had any doubt that this model would be successful. But very early on, we had not yet thought through all the issues and challenges. These included the discrepancies and complexity of everything that was going to come up between the franchisee and the franchisor. We came across all kinds of challenges and had to come up with solutions. We had to figure out how we were going to play the game.

What emerged as interesting and satisfying was the ability for our core group to work together, even when confronted with situations that we had never experienced before. Being open to different options, some orthodox and some non-orthodox, we worked together as a team and, after five years, we still work as a team. When we were faced with those different scenarios and challenges, our ability to work together with the franchisor and a franchisee, the entire team - that's been very inspiring. I would say that that is a key accomplishment.

5.  What would you say is most important to a project’s success? What are the risks and barriers that need to be overcome?

HVJ has a system that provides multiple services. But in the context of the overall business being a project, I would say the most important element is none other than the leadership. Everything has to do with leadership. So, when the leadership team is aligned, everyone else in the company is aligned

Having a good business model in place that empowers employees right down to the cleaning service that comes in at the end of the day makes the company successful. This is why I can honestly say the most important factor of a successful business is the leadership itself.

For example, when Herb asked me to get into business development, I wasn’t sure about it, but I knew that when Herb puts his trust in you, his leadership ensures that you have the tools and techniques to succeed - every time. I said yes, and I have loved it. Twenty-one years later, I can truly say this has been a most rewarding time for me and my family.

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