National Entrepreneur Day: Interview with CEO, Fonda New
It's National Entreprenuer Day so we are honoring our CEO, Fonda Lindfors New. Ms New established QRI in 1986 in Baton Rouge from a love of restoring the oilfield legacy sites in coastal Louisiana and to provide environmental investigation, regulatory compliance, drilling and emergency response/remediation services in the Gulf Coast. Today, QRI’s services and service regions have grown to include five sections from 4 offices nationwide: Environmental/HTRW/Consulting, Geophysical, Remediation, Emergency Response, and Construction. QRI is now an 92-employee, a US Small Business Administration (SBA) Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB), a Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) and an Economically Disadvantaged Small Woman Owned Business (EDWOSB).
Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Ms. New moved to Baton Rouge in 1981 to establish, operate and manage the Louisiana State University / Louisiana Geological Survey radiocarbon laboratory, which was developed to complement her stratigraphic work in the Gulf Coast. Since 1986, QRI has specialized in geoscience investigations and regulatory compliance issues in coastal Louisiana and has developed technologies such as HTAS™ and Pulser™ to offer cost efficient and environmental friendly methods to investigate coastal and wetland areas.
Professionally, Ms. New has 32 years of environmental management and technical advisor experience directing multi-task contracts for federal and private sector clients and is responsible for business development, management of business lines, and profit and loss with the company.
Read our interview below with a few tips she has to offer.
Today is Entrepreneur Day, when did you know you wanted to be an Entrepreneur?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since as long as I can remember. I had a grass cutting business when I was 10 yrs old and I started a janitorial business to work myself through college.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Though I was an amazing scientist and I excelled at winning grants and designing and building equipment, my biggest hurdle was understanding banking and financial reports. I attended courses and trainings to help me understand what a business partner and bank was looking for. It’s great to work, but you must be profitable and be able to give your employees what they want to perform. A key performance indicator was the satisfaction of our staff and being profitable to grow the company. Money isn’t my driving force. I like getting dirty. I had to learn to care about the bottom line though.
What was your business’ original mission? How has that mission evolved in the time since?
The original mission hasn’t changed. It’s always been about innovatively advancing people and missions. Our community and country has been impacted by numerous disasters and as we grow we are able to have more impact on missions.
How do you facilitate a positive work environment that attracts and retains talent?
It’s fun to work for QRI! We have a diverse project portfolio. You can be at a plant one day then a swamp the next day or rescuing a seal on Fire Island. For anyone who has a sense of adventure and wants diversity, we have that for you. It’s a positive work environment with good benefits. Part of our core values is to be a team and be part of the QRI family. I treat the company like I do my personal family. Everyone wants to make money but in addition to be being paid good wages, you have the ability to make an impact in your community and nations through QRI.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
Perseverance. Believing. My leaps of faith. Having that heart to get it done and always showing up on difficult jobs.
What has been your greatest moment of success?
Knowing I can pass the baton and hand QRI to the next generation and it will continue to make an impact. This new branding is a great example. I’ve had nothing to do with this branding but as I look at our new website and the growth of our company, I can say “wow”, knowing I can pass that infrastructure and base on but most importantly, knowing it will grow and be successful. That is both a personal and professional success.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Financials, without a doubt. I wish I would have had the business training prior to earlier on. To grow your business, it’s about the financials and understanding how to run the company. It is critical.
Unfortunately, it took me 20 yrs. It wasn’t important to me in the beginning. Science was more important to me. The next generation will not have to suffer through that because the foundation has been set.