Steve Tindale, 66, tells Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn he's the only person who's worked for the city for 48 years. In high school, Tindale worked for the city of Tampa as a parking attendant. Tindale quickly moved his way up the government ranks, eventually to serve as Tampa's Public Works director for 20 years.
“I thought I was a lot happier than I was,” he says. “There were so many controls.” That's why he decided to move to the private sector and start his own company in 1989. “I could apply my government-sector experience to private development work,” Tindale says.
Since then, his transportation planning company, Tindale Oliver, has grown from three to 80 employees dispersed among six offices. Specializing in government consulting, the company works on transportation, community planning and design, public finance and transit.
This year the firm expects to bring in about $10 million in gross revenue, with a 10% profit margin. “We're teetering on a lot coming in to us,” Tindale says, with expectations to continue to grow 10% each year, though much of that is market driven, according to Tindale. The company is on call for community planning work under 40 government contracts. For public projects, it provides the knowledge to research answers and evaluate costs, more than complete the physical design of them.
Last year the company opened offices in Baltimore and Seattle, after winning contracts like one with the Maryland Transit Administration to monitor customer service and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. However 35% of the company's business is with the Florida Department of Transportation, and most of its work is concentrated in Tampa, Orlando, Collier County, Palm Beach and Broward County. In the last year, the company acquired a small firm in Orlando to expand into landscape architecture and design.
Now Tindale is leading the company through a rebranding effort to really focus on what makes it valuable — the company's insight. The company decided to rebrand not only because it wanted a modernized look and feel, but also because it wanted a “little more substance behind the brand,” Tindale says. The company's new tagline is “greater insight, greater outcomes.” Tindale wants to help clients and his internal employees understand that they don't take the cookie-cutter approach to solving problems.
Specializing in knowledge, Tindale says the company holds on to a massive amount of information dating from his years in government. “Hindsight foresight creates insight,” he adds. For example, the firm has a ton of data on wages, incomes and salaries in Collier County. It can provide specialized insight to the county government by reviewing the history and looking at the trends on where the city is going.
“It's an interesting thing to see a 25-year-old company rebrand itself,” Tindale admits. Schifino Lee helped with the year-long rebranding project. Though Tindale managed to talk the price down to one-third of what the marketing agency pitched by taking on a bulk of the work internally, the firm did invest $75,000 over two years for the branding updates.
“We wanted more than visuals, we wanted to educate our staff,” Tindale says. The company wanted to find a way to help employees “convince the client that you know more than they do, without being arrogant,” Tindale says.
What's even more important is educating the internal staff on how it approaches its business, says Bill Ball, Tindale Oliver's chief operating officer. “We brought the branding back into the culture.” One way of doing that was upgrading the company's employee development program to an ongoing program rather than an annual review. The company also invested in outside training from PSMJ Resources to formalize its materials for approaching clients, from marketing to sales to project management.
Tindale Oliver's biggest challenge has been helping company managers work most effectively with the younger employees, Tindale says. “You have to understand what motivates them.”
Part of that culture shift was adjusting the company's traditional approach to working hours. The company now offers a more flexible working environment, with options to telecommute or work flex days. Tindale and Ball believe that as long as employees get the job done, they can set up the environment that works best for them. In turn, they believe this environment makes them excited about what they're doing.
Tindale decided to make the move after he saw both of his daughters successfully working from home for large corporations, managing a better work/life balance. It's one thing Tindale wishes he had done a better job of when his kids were growing up. It's also another example of how Tindale uses “hindsight foresight to create insight.”
Though Tindale Oliver does do some work with private companies, Tindale doesn't see them leaving any of the government work. “I have a respect for the public sector,” he says. “A lot of people in the private sector just don't understand.”