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A Video Conversation with James Angelo, President of TAI- Part 3 – On Leadership

Click Here for Part 1, Part 2

Providing a multitude of industry and manufacturing as well as buildings and facilities engineering services

angelo-picJames Angelo is the president of TAI, an engineering, management, and technical services firm. For 27 years, TAI has served a wide range of industry and manufacturing clients in market sectors that include food and beverage, natural gas, chemical process, wireless telecom, power generation, and many more. TAI also designs buildings and facilities for healthcare, laboratory, government and military, and commercial and office clients, as well as building envelope systems. The company employs over 200 professionals in more than 16 divisions across five office locations. TAI’s corporate headquarters are located in Owings Mills, MD.

EDWIN WARFIELD: What does TAI deliver to its clients that other engineering firms cannot?


JAMES ANGELO: At TAI we try and be the easy partner who you want to work with. Whenever you get done with the end of a project, it wasn’t a painful process. It’s an enjoyable process for you: you have an expansion, a new product that is rolling out the door that you’re able to get done on time. It’s because of that approach, where we understand that what matters most to you isn’t necessarily lowest install cost and you’re driving to a bottom price—what’s most important to you is being able to manufacture your product on time, in accordance with the amount of capital you’ve appropriated to roll that project out. And, for that to happen—you as the owner, we as the engineer, the contractor who’s building the facility all need to be on the same page, all working together. Our typical contract is structured in a time–material basis to help facilitate that relationship. We don’t want people looking at us saying, “You’re just trying to cut hours.” Whatever you want, we can provide those services back to you. You ask for them, we will all work together because we understand what’s truly important for you.


What leadership qualities does TAI value?

As far as the leadership style within the organization, I think engineers by and large are observers and pragmatists, and watch how the world works around them. I think that life’s always handing you lessons, and watching those, learning from those was definitely critical in how we think as a firm; things like being opportunistic over strategic at times. Whenever I was with the first firm that I worked for, coming out of college, the firm was focused heavily upon profit centers. It seemed like every decision that was made was being made to the detriment of the overall company. Each individual division manager was getting their profit sharing. Everyone was hitting their goals, but the business was suffering. There were opportunities where one division would go out and bid a job and then they would bid within their own company out against work on the street. And even though the internal division within the company didn’t have work, the price on the street was cheaper and it helped them make their numbers and they gave the work away.


That’s heavily influenced our thought process of working together. All of our whole company is structured as one team. The way our compensation is structured is as a team. How the company does is what matters to us as a whole. Do we have to have accountability? Sure we do. But we can do that and take into consideration something beyond hard numbers, and look and understand that it’s for the benefit of the overall company: Is that why the decision was made? If so, we’re in a better place.


How much of your business is public versus private?

Due to the nature of customers that the company has, we by and large service large private multinational corporations. Servicing private corporate America has enabled us to have a flexibility that we need to be able to service as clients, sometimes without worrying about necessarily how you’re going to get paid for this job, but looking at what is really important and knowing that the long relationships we have with those customers. They’re interested in having a long-term relationship with us as a service provider, and by and large they have supported us over the years and continued to work toward a relationship between us, the owner, and the contractors building the facilities.


What do you envision for the next five years?

TAI envisions continuing the build out of various markets. We are in most industrial manufacturing markets currently. We continue to push into corporate engineering groups who desire to buy services from a firm with our characteristics. We believe that trend will continue, and we’ll continue to grow both locally and building out our regional offices.




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