Scott Chyko, former president of Delta 3 and now a semi-retired engineering consultant talks about founding and growing a business, working with partners, proudest moments and Christmas trees. Learn how he downshifted into semi-retirement and what still gets him up in the morning.


[Koziol]: This is Kate Koziol and I'm with the Driftless Makers podcast, and this morning we have Scott Chyko, who is a consulting engineer as our guest this morning. And we'll talk to him a little bit about his career, his partnerships and his new phase in life, which is a semi-retired and enviable position. Good morning, Scott. 

[Chyko]: Good morning, Kate. 

[Koziol]: So tell us about your career and what you've recently retired or semi retired from where you got your start. 

[Chyko]: Back in 2003 I started up Delta 3 Engineering. Myself, Dan Dreessens, Bart Nies. We were three principals and started the company up with five, a total of five of us. Two other employees came with us when I retired last year, semi-retired, we were up to 36 or 38 employees. So we built a thriving engineering business together and had a great time doing it and a lot of great people along the way. 

[Koziol]: And now enjoying the next phase which is semi-retirement and just spending more time with family and friends and having a good time. That's great. D3, where did you come up with a name? 

[Chyko]: I was laying in bed, I think. I woke up one morning at like 4:00 o'clock like I usually do and we were going through all kinds of different names. And I'm sitting there what is going to work here? And I thought delta, you know delta is change and there were three of us, us, principals starting. So I thought, you know a change for 3…delta 3. That doesn't sound too bad. So I bounced it off Dan and Bart, and they're like, yeah, that doesn't sound too bad. It's better than the other ones that we had up on the board. So that's where it came from. 

[Koziol]: Were there any loser names that you remember? 

[Chyko]: I think what was that movie? It was Magnus Engineering and I was thinking the Gladiator movie was kind of bigger on them, so it's going to be Magnus Engineering after one of the main characters, but that one dropped out. Fortunately Delta 3, very memorable and quite an impression. 

[Koziol]: Tell us a little bit about the work over the years. You've really made your mark, literally. Across the region, tell us a little bit about the scope of work that Delta 3 does. 

[Chyko]: There's three of us. Like I said, there's, you know, Dan, Bart, and myself. We all have different areas of expertise. I was structural. Dan is Land development and survey and work and some municipal work and then Bart was mainly municipal work, you know water and sewer plants and projects like that you know, streets. So between the three of us, we bring a pretty diversified approach to any type of project. So the nice thing was that we all have different areas of expertise we can bring to the table, we can offer to clients and when it comes to our project, when we first started out, we were one of the few companies that could really take a project from the very raw land development stage all the way through to turn the set of keys over if you want to do a building project or something like that. So it was a good combination. I'm still part time consulting with them right now, but really more laid back and do more of the retirement thing. But it was a great combination for the three of us to build the company well. I've driven by libraries and water treatment plants and all sorts of things. 

[Koziol]: What was the project that you think was probably the most challenging or the most memorable over your career? 

[Chyko]: I've done quite a few. The one for me personally just because I was. Involved with it more than the other two because of the structural aspect, was the New Glarus Brewery work with Dan and Deb Carey, the owners of the brewery. They're great people, smart, just a great approach to doing business. They took a chance on us, which was surprising considering some of the companies that were well established we were going against. But they took a chance on us, flew us out to Germany to learn everything that we possibly could about a brewery because I I had never done a brewery before. None of us had. So they flew us out there and really gave us time to figure out what it was that they wanted and great business, good people and it's still going strong today. 

[Koziol]: If any of our listeners have not been to the New Glarus Brewery, I refer to it as the Disneyland of beer. It is amazing and I had, you know, love to sample the local brews when I had first started going to New Glarus, I don't know, 20-25 something years ago when they were sort of in a garage, like, barely. 

[Chyko]: They had a small small brewery north of north of town and then they brought the bought a hillside further further South of town and developed that but a lot of the artistic part of the vision for that was was Deb Carey and she's good on putting her ideas down on paper and it, yeah, I think it turned out great. 

[Koziol]: It's really stunning. So alright, Scott, so let's go back a few years. You and Dan and Bart are, you know, just starting at the Platteville Business Incubator. What was your dream like? Where did you think this was going to go and has what you've accomplished exceeded what you thought it might be?

[Chyko]: I don't know if it exceeded what we wanted. I think we're all, we all have decent enough egos, believe it or not, but we figured we're going to be successful. We wanted to build it up to a decent number of employees. I think at one time we probably shot out the number, you know, at least 50-100 employees, something like that. I tell people. The hardest thing to manage on a business sometimes is your success and growing a business and keeping all of the balls in the air and being able to pay attention to not only the financials but the marketing part of it, keeping your customers happy and doing a good job and then bringing in great employees that share your vision, that are willing to dive into what you're doing and work long hard hours. There's just a lot to manage there. But I think when it comes to everything that we did and the employees that we put together, it was just a great experience. It was was a lot of fun. And they're still going pretty strong without me, so they're doing a good job. They, you know, they say you're replaceable and I just check in once in a while, but they're doing a great job without me. 

[Koziol]: That's really important information and I think it's important to dream big when you can. Not everybody does that. They think, well, I just, I want enough so I can take care of, you know, my family, but you and your partners really did have a big dream and really have accomplished, you know, great things both for the business but also for the region. You know where else are we going to find a, you know, a population of 10 or 12k,in Platteville, such a great resource and an ability to, you know, build out infrastructure or build out municipal buildings and land development very important plus your contribution, I think you've been on the Platteville Incubator Board for I don't know how many years.

[Chyko]: I don't know exactly how many actually.

[Koziol]: and I don't know if you were aware of this, but there is no retirement clause. From the Platteville,

[Chyko]: No? Is that right?

[Koziol]: I don't know if you read the fine print. You're on for life and Dan's work with the board and you know Bart's contributions as well. So really, it's across the board. Alright. So partners are terrific because you have someone to sort of bounce an idea off. You have different expertises that come into play, but it’s also can be somewhat challenging. Tell me a little bit about how you manage in a partnership when you're 1/3 of the vote. 

[Chyko]: Good question. It's not easy all the time, but I can tell you that when we first started my comment to those two was when you walk in the door, check your ego, you know, check it at the door, don't bring it inside because as long as all three of us are on, our goal is to grow the business and that's what we keep at the forefront. Then we're going to be fine. It's when we have to start keeping store on whose idea was this and who did that then we're going to have problems. So I think we started out with a good basic understanding of how we're going to operate the three of us. I was president of the company, but as you said, it was really more just the day to day operation things and then when it came to actually the vote, it was, you know, like I said, if you've got a good idea and a good point they go along with it. It's like I said if it's the best thing for the company, that's really what we shot for every day. 

[Koziol]: So did you always want to be an engineer, Scott? Is that sort of a dream from a child? How did you come to want to do that? 

[Chyko]: I was basically raised on a farm, so I was used to tearing things apart, putting things together, building things, and I knew I liked to do that. The engineering part, I don't know if I always wanted to be one. As I got older, I just thought the design part was more interesting than tearing apart and putting it back together sometimes. So I thought I'd give that a shot. But I think the way I grew up and and just seeing how things worked probably gave me the advantage on just understanding and getting a foothold in the engineering field. 

[Koziol]: Based in Platteville, we've got the University of Wisconsin Platteville Big engineering school. What would you tell some of the new engineering grads that are just coming out of school and getting their start? Anything you wish you would have told yourself?

[Chyko]: You know as a young college grad well, I can say that Platteville is a fantastic place to go to school for engineering. It was the best choice I made. I could have gone to Madison. I was thinking of going. I was actually in the Air Force at the time when I was deciding I was going to school part time and it's like, you know, do I go to engineering school in Illinois? Do I go to Milwaukee? Do I go to Madison? I went to Platteville. I was a little bit older, had been in the Air Force. I had two little kids and I picked Platteville. It was a great choice. The ratio of instructors and professors to students was exactly what I needed to help me learn. The professors were unbelievable. The group that I had was just phenomenal and they still have great professors there. It was a great choice. It worked out great for me and the campus has grown, my gosh, since I graduated. But it's a fantastic place to go and get an education.

[Koziol]: Running D3. Big job, lots of responsibilities, lots of things to manage. What do you do to, like, break the stress or take a break? What are you? What are some of your tips for other business owners when they're feeling kind of at capacity? 

[Chyko]: That's a tough one because you never really get away from it, you know? If you don't own a business, and I think owning a business is a great thing, but if you don't own a business, you can, you know, at 3 o'clock, or whatever, you can go home and kind of be away from it. You really never get away from it. When you own it, there's always something that's on your mind. I mean, you're taking calls all hours of the night, early in the morning. The stress is real. It's something that you just have to learn to deal with. Working out, running, different hobbies. That's one thing that I have always had hobbies. I just love doing different things. And I can throw myself into restoring a 1950 pickup or doing some woodworking or assortment of different things, so. Being able to try and disconnect and get away from it. We've got a great family, great supporting wife, she was huge and keeping me on track, you know, being able to keep my head about me at times. So a great support network, family, friends and a couple hobbies don't hurt. 

[Koziol]: Absolutely. I completely agree and you do carry it with you, but. If you can set it aside, even for a few minutes and kind of recharge, I've found in some instances you do come back with a better idea than if you stay in that stressed moment or that you know feeling overwhelmed. Just try to walk away and catch a breath. 

[Chyko]: Yeah, for sure. It's just the yeah, like you said, you know you know what that's like Kate. You just don't get away from it. And I don't know if I ever took a vacation where I didn't work at some point, not trying to make it sound like it's terrible, because it's not. It's a wonderful thing. I loved it. But you have to be on call for your customer. So something really important comes up and I'm in the middle of somewhere, I take that call and and try to help out and get through whatever question is or concern that they have. 

[Koziol]: So recently you've made a big transition and you're now just a sort of a consulting partner for Delta 3 and Dan and Bart are running the show perfectly. Tell me what's it like to go from always having you know your phone on and being responsible and 38 employees and however many projects are going on simultaneously? What's it like to not be in the corner office and running a big operation? 

[Chyko]: It's wonderful. It is. It really is. There are a lot of family and friends that told me I was going to struggle. But I think the key is to have different outlets for your creativity and your energetic side. I've got so many hobbies that I keep myself going. We got a small little farm at outside of Platteville. So I’ve got the honeybee thing now and am still working on that 1950 Chevy pickup that my wife says I'll never get done. And I’ve got a lot of gardens. We've got 3000 Christmas trees. So I've got plenty to keep me going and I stay energized every day. I mean, I love getting up and just going out and taking care of whatever project it is that I decided to do that day. But it's great. I love it. Marvelous. Now people have gardens, but not everybody has Christmas trees. No, no. When is the farm going to open so that we can come by our trees there? Well, when I started, I didn't do the greatest job because I was trying to run a business and keep all these Christmas trees growing and trimming and you know, picking pine cones off and things like that. But this year we'll probably have 20 to 30 trees. In the following year it'll probably double. So in the next two or three years, I think we'll be scaled up to been able to offer quite a few trees and do a little bit more advertising marketing to get. Trying to get people out here to see what we've got. 

[Koziol]: Well, great. Well, when you need an elf to, like, welcome guests to let me know, I'll come right. 

[Chyko]: You would be the person I think of, I tell you that. 

[Koziol]: So tell me a little bit about your transitioning out of the leadership role. So here again, we're going to go back to the partnership. There's the three of you. You're kind of all running your own, you know, entities within this, this coordinated effort. So how do you start that conversation with a partner? I think many of our listeners might be interested in how you start to transition out or or tell them that you want to step back and hand off. How does that get started? Any key tips you have on making that a smooth transition? 

[Chyko]: Well, it's never an easy thing for whoever it is that wants to leave a partnership. It's very tough. That was really a tough, tough thing but when you have partners like I had, I mean Dan and Bart, I'm very fortunate that I had two guys that had the same values, the same work ethic. They were just really good guys to work with. So when I told them it was time for me to go, they understood. I think I'm 10 years older than Bart and probably, I don't know, know, years older than Dan. So I was the old guy in the block and they were understanding, we work together. So especially for me, something that we'd built together for almost 20 years to pull back that process is difficult. But like I said, if you can throw yourself into something different like I did it, it helps you get through it. But it wasn't easy. But they were great, really helped me through the process and they're both, I mean, they're great engineers, they're good guys, they're good with people, they're doing great now and they were very accommodating and helpful to get through the whole thing. The skill set that they bring is still going strong and I have no doubt that Delta 3 is going to be doing great for a long time with those guys there and they've got some younger guys coming through. Joe Bailie is a partner there. Mark Digman is a partner. They're stockholders in the company and they're bringing a lot to the table also and it was great, great. 

[Koziol]: Did you work with some sort of legal advice and whatnot? Was there any other outside consultants or resources that you used or did you just hold these conversations within? I'm just wondering for others who might be seeking this, what advice did you seek out?

[Chyko]: We had a corporate attorney and he guided us through the whole legal aspect of it. We have our accountants that took us through the tax implications and then went outside from in to do the company evaluation. They set the stock price and if you can bring in professionals that know what they're doing, which is what we did, it helps keep some of the emotion out of it. As far as, you know, determining value, which is which is not an easy thing. And you know, we're engineers, we don't do that. So when you can bring it outside for a minute that says, you know, this is typically how it's done. The attorneys drop the paperwork, the accountants put things together. That's the way to do it, to try and take a lot of that on your own and figure it out. You know what a company's value is because you think you can do it. I would recommend you to bring bring in the professionals that do it for a living. It'll make the whole process a lot easier.

[Koziol]: Well, I think I can speak for the region by saying that the value of Delta 3 is priceless. Thank you. 

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