Chad X. Slater, PE is the Founder and CEO of Source2load Engineering and Consulting. As a child, he was always fascinated with electricity and electronics – going around the house taking apart remote controls, TVs, blenders, etc. to understand their components and how they all worked together. One time, he wired some tweezers to two nails to see if it would produce enough energy to weld the nails together. It was enough to shock him and burn his fingers to the point of blisters forming all over his hands. Instead of being dissuaded, this actually fueled his passion to learn more about electricity. He would eventually attend Barbara Jordan High School for Careers, a technical career high school in Houston, Texas that offered a 2-year electronics program. In this program, he would excel as one of the top students while competing and win a lot of VICA competitions.
Serving as V.P. of his senior class and graduating in the top 5%, he continued leadership and passion for electricity and electronics at Prairie View A&M University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.
In 2000, he started his professional career in generation as an Associated Nuclear Engineer at the Commanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant. He would later continue his career down the “power path” on to distribution working for the Houston local utility, CenterPoint Energy. He then went on to work in the oil and gas industry for over 14 years. In 2015, he launched his very own MEP engineering firm based in Houston, TX which aims to provide quality MEP Engineering Design Services and Consulting throughout the state of Texas. However, it was not until 2019 that he decided to leave the corporate world and focus his energy on his company. Together with his team, the firm is now licensed to provide Engineering and Consulting Services not only in Texas but also in Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana. In this article, let’s find out how he was able to find balance between his personal and entrepreneurial life and how Chad became the entrepreneur he is now.
What were your aspirations to start Source2load Engineering and Consulting?
Even as a young kid, I already had entrepreneurial ambitions. As a teenager I worked for the Teens Sales Club where, on the weekends, we would go from city to city selling candy, household products, figurines etc. Each item was five dollars and the average teen salesperson would sale 15 to 20 items a day. I was able to sale 50 items a day very consistently. We made a dollar on each sale, which looking back may have been robbery but for an intercity kid I loved the honesty of it. I was the kid who would sell snickers, M&M’s, skittles, etc. to my fellow classmates. This was not just making a quick dollar, I treated this as a business. I had an inventory sheet, a profit and loss sheet, a forecast, measurable goals, etc. My aspirations to start S2L was due to my passion for entrepreneurship, my love for engineering and problem solving coupled with my interpersonal skills.
What skills do you think are essential for those in your role?
Critical thinking, people skills, leadership, problem-solving, and a winning attitude.
What do you do to stay ahead?
Personally, I am constantly researching and staying abreast of the building codes that govern our work. I subscribe to several MEP related editorials that discuss commercial and residential development topics and market trends. I have an extensive library of self-help and technical books that I have read several times. In our office, Wednesdays are lunch and learn day. Each person in the office is empowered to present a technical subject they desire to share with the team. The goal is to share a technical topic or present an issue and solution on a specific project. As a leader, I am charged with ensuring the exchange of information is an engagement as opposed one-way presentation. I ensure my team have access to and time off to attend applicable training be it technical or personal development.
Can you share what daily routines have helped improve your life?
My experience as a charter member and President of the “Shell We Speak” Toastmasters Club enhanced my leadership and speaking skills tremendously. I learned how to conduct efficient and purposeful meetings and develop successful programs. I would highly recommend an aspiring entrepreneur to join a local Toastmasters Club. I exercise 3 – 4 times a week. Every night I make a to-do list which includes business and personal goals for the following day. I have begun daily meditating in which I attempt to put my mind at peace and mentally walk myself throughout the day based on my to-do list and what I desire to achieve.
With the expansion of your Engineering Services from Texas to other states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, do you still have enough time to spend with your family? Do you have hobbies outside of work?
While building the foundation of the business I found myself in a bubble, not having the time for family or personal time which I previously enjoyed so much. I have since developed a schedule that allows me to spend time with my family and do the things I enjoy. I love spending time with my family, fishing, working out, classic car restoration, and biking. I am a very process improvement driven person hence I have incorporated processes into my business that will soon earn me more leisure time to do the things I love.
What’s the best career advice you have received?
My first mentor I engaged with was during my time at the Nuclear facility, 20 years later he is still my mentor. He gave me advice on how to be a professional early in my career and continues to mentor me today. The most impactful career advice I was to outwork my peers and study my craft even with was off the clock. I was told to work in my technical discipline for at least 10 years before moving into a leadership role. This afforded me the opportunity to be exposed to many problem-solving issues. In addition, it was a milestone that gave me the respect of my peers and my clients’ trust in my ability to solve problems.
You took a big leap when you left the corporate world and became an entrepreneur. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to step out of their comfort zones and step up to the next level?
The decision to leave must be preceded with a strategic plan and some moonlighting experience. It took me 3 years of developing my business and building its foundation. Sleepless nights while and basically losing the social life for a while was a major sacrifice before I took the leap. My advice to anyone preparing to make the leap is to fully understand your business of choice, what you plan to gain, and what you are about to embark on. Make sure you can distinguish between a hobby you like doing and the business you would like to run. Routinely meet with a SCORE counselor, get a mentor, pay down debt, build your savings, and get business capital.
How do you manage your time and juggle multiple projects?
Every day I develop a prioritized “To-Do” list which helps me manage my time. I do allocate contingency time for things that may come and believe me… they do. In our office, we conduct Monday morning direction setting meetings. During this meeting, we discuss what projects we completed the previous week and prioritize on the project we have for the current week. We have a project priority ranking system that drives results. “Low hanging fruit” projects or issues that can be taken care of in a short time completed using the contingency time.
What particular project are you most proud of?
I am always proud to do projects for my alma mater, Prairie View A&M University. Field visits on the campus, working with the team there, and knowing that I am contributing to the systems enhancements of the school brings great pride. We have also been successful working on projects for Rice University. I would have to say my proudest project was designing the MEP systems for Cadeco Sugars, a very large packaging and distribution client who imports organic sugar and agave nectar from all over the world, re-packages these into several different brands of granulated and liquid sweeteners, and then ships these products out to distributors throughout the United States and globally. I really enjoyed learning the production process as it allowed us to deliver a robust, fit-for-purpose design. The total facility was over 350,000 sq. ft. and how great it was for us to contribute to this project.
What do you like best about your career (both as an engineer and an entrepreneur)?
As an engineer, I really enjoy the problem-solving process. Using critical thinking skills and developing path forward options is truly intriguing. I also like the inventive freedom because while you have an idea of what you are trying to create, the process to get there is so rewarding. As an entrepreneur, it is very gratifying being a leader, leading a team through an evergreen vision in which you have created. Investing in my team and witnessing their growth and development is the best part of leadership.
What is the most challenging about your career?
The most challenging aspect of entrepreneurship, especially in small businesses is wearing multiple hats. Over time, you begin to develop systems and increase your team to help you take off some of those hats. However, in the beginning, you are the marketing department, the business development department, the HR director, the payroll clerk, the admin, etc. While this was challenging in the beginning, it is a must for you to work in the process so that you can later work on the process.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with young people to encourage them to pursue engineering?
Engineering is a wonderful career that allows you the opportunity and satisfaction of problem-solving. It is an elite title and career that can afford you a particularly good lifestyle. Work hard, find a mentor, have a questioning attitude, be a consistent learner, and be the best you can be.