In May 2012, Sabra, Wang & Associates, Inc. was voted in the top 100 Minority Owned Business Enterprise firms in the Mid-Atlantic region, among 5,000 applicants. Headquartered in Columbia, Md., Sabra, Wang & Associates, Inc. (SWA) is one of the most unique consulting firms in this area. It is the product of two determined entrepreneurs: one born in Taiwan, and the other in Lebanon.
What started as an eight person minority consulting firm in 1998 has grown dramatically over the past 15 years. Now, SWA employs 135 people in three locations in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and actively manages many traffic and bridge projects in Maryland and Virginia.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Ziad Sabra and David Wang shared their insights on how SWA was formed, and how their journey became a great success story.
Sabra joined Daniel Consultants, Inc. in July 1985 as a Design Engineer with a Ph.D. in Transportation Systems Engineering from West Virginia University. After more than seven years of service for Daniel Consultants, Inc., he became one of the best traffic engineers in the mid-Atlantic region. Then, in 1993, Dr. Sabra started his own business—Sabra and Associates in Columbia.
A few states away from Sabra, David Wang obtained his Master’s degree in Bridge/Structure Engineering from New York City College. In 1988, he started working for Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, LLP (RK&K) as a Bridge/Structure Engineer in Baltimore.
Similar to Sabra, after eight years’ services for RK&K, Wang also started his own business—Wang and Associates, in a small dark office on the second floor of an old house in 1997. Although his new consulting firm won a contract from the Annapolis Road Bridge project, the funding process was too slow to sustain the business. As Wang desperately searched for a rescue plan, he and his wife poured all their savings into the business, and took out a second mortgage on their home to operate the firm. Even so, their efforts were only enough to sustain the business for a mere three months.
SWA provides the highest quality of work, [and that] is the main reason why we have been working with SWA since 1998 and continued contracting many projects to them.
—Khalil Zaied, Director of Transportation, City of Baltimore Department of Transportation
It quickly became clear to Wang that he alone could not save his firm, and he began to search for other options.
Wang called Sabra one day in February 1998. Sabra and Wang had known each other previously when they had worked for their former consulting firms. As both admired the other’s expertise, work ethic, and professionalism, their phone conversation led to a meeting, and ultimately a momentous decision. The two entrepreneurs joined forces, and Sabra, Wang & Associates, Inc. was born.
But it was not all smooth sailing when they first began. Sabra stated, “It is very difficult to transform from working for a company to running your own business. I only had enough savings to run my business for six months; either I survive or quit. There were many ups and downs, you were not sure if you could make it until you got your first contract.”
During the first year that SWA was in operation, Sabra and Wang had to work as long as 15 hours a day to secure a potential contract. But luckily, their business started to take off after one year. Sabra said, “Since Wang, with a Ph.D. in Structural/Bridge Engineer from Morgan State University, is a well-recognized engineer in the Baltimore-Washington region, and I am very experienced in traffic engineering, SWA has two major disciplines in this field. That opened doors very quickly.”
SWA is a dream match of two well-known engineers: Dr. Sabra—one of the best Traffic Engineers, and Dr. Wang—a well-respected Bridge/Structure Engineer.
The high quality work accomplished by SWA has earned them many competitive contracts and allowed SWA to grow during the past four years of economic downturn. Over the past couple years, SWA’s staff size has grown from 80 to 135. Today, SWA employees work on more than 100 contracts a year, serving as the planner, designer, and system integrator construction manager for big projects, such as City of Baltimore Integrated Traffic Control System ($25M).
Mr. Khalil Zaied, Director of Transportation, City of Baltimore Department of Transportation, said, “SWA is a minority business and offers cost effective services; these are all minor factors. SWA provides the highest quality of work, [and that] is the main reason why we have been working with SWA since 1998 and continued contracting many projects to them.”
Mr. Morteza Tadayon, Division Chief, Maryland State Highway Administration, also highly praised SWA: “SWA provides excellent customer service as well as great technical, management and leadership skills that we need. We always look forward to working with them in the future as opportunity arises.”
After many achievements and much acclaim, Sabra and Wang still remain humble. Wang stresses, “The best resource of SWA is our dedicated employees.” The two entrepreneurs insist that the total commitment, dedication, and striving for excellence of every employee of SWA is the key factor for SWA’s success.
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