Profile of Mike Dresen and Weiss Associates

March 09, 2012

What it does: We provide our government and commercial clients with professional hydrogeologic and engineering services to assess and clean up contaminants in the environment, largely at superfund sites.

HQ: Emeryville.

2011 revenue: $8.3 million.

Employees: 54.

Founded: 1980.

Education: Bachelor’s in geology and Master’s in environmental geology from Cal State Hayward (now California State University, East Bay).

Age: 59.

Residence: Castro Valley.


Big picture
How’s business:
Business for us is stable. There’s been a bit of contraction in our industry affected by the recession. We’re seeing more growth in private sector work.

Biggest challenge for your company: Finding new clients who want good value for work they need done, rather than just focusing on the lowest price. A lot of price pressure in our industry.

What will change at your company in the next year: In the upcoming year we want to add new service areas in storm water and storm water management.

Business moves
Biggest business strength: We’re a small company, but we have capabilities of larger companies. We can be more nimble than large companies and also have technical strengths of large companies.

Biggest business weakness: Because of contraction in the industry, it can sometimes be hard to find experienced, more serious, top-end staff.

Smartest move: We recently hired one of the best in business developers in environmental field in the Bay Area, Ellis Wallenberg.

Biggest worry: The economy is showing some signs of improvement, but I worry it’s going to be slow and contracted.

What do you wish you had known from Day 1: I think it would have been better knowing more about the business aspect of running a company. I’m a geologist by training.

Work routine
Most challenging task:
Having to let go of staff. I lose sleep over that.

Favorite task: Each year, Weiss Associates takes a portion of profit and donates to a local charity. I really enjoy giving money to good causes. And I really enjoy leading a large team through a difficult, complex process to come to a successful conclusion.

Biggest frustration: Dealing with some of the human resource issues and all the other regulations that we’re subject to.

Source of support in a business crisis: Our shareholders. There are five of them and all actively engaged in company. In addition, I’m part of the Alliance of Chief Executives.

Key goal yet to achieve:
We’d like to have a consistent pattern of growth. We’ve grown, then not grown, then been in an undulating pattern. The economy has made that more difficult.

Five-year plan: We’re in the middle of a five-year plan and behind a little. By 2015, the goal was to grow the company to 15 million and grow staff to the low 80s.

Inducement to sell: One thing all the owners believe is not just to dress the company up to sell it. Our goal is to provide an ongoing viable company where people can come to work and do good work.

First choice for new career or venture: Fly fishing guide. I could also see myself teaching at junior college.

Most-admired entrepreneur:
Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric.

Favorite pastimes: Fly fishing, hiking and outdoor photography.

Favorite book: “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “Shogun” by James Clavell.

Favorite film: “Ben Hur” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

Favorite restaurant: Silver Spoon, a Chinese food restaurant in Castro Valley.

Favorite destination: Alaska.

What’s on your iPod: Country music. Also listening to a Great Courses on St. Augustine.

Automobile: A 10-year-old Honda Pilot — so not a Beemer