StoneWall Engineering Firm Celebrates Expansion in Lafayette
Blaine LaFleur and his business partners – Justin Courville and Ben Moody – celebrated a milestone in May: They and their engineering firm, StoneWall LLC, graduated from the Opportunity Machine and began operations in a downtown Lafayette high-rise.
The company has come a long way in the two-plus years it’s been in business. In October 2015, LaFleur, 31, decided to hang a shingle on his own design/project management firm. A few months later he and Courville discovered the Opportunity Machine, or the OM, and took advantage of low rent, an array of business and social media classes taught by experts, an intoxicating environment teeming with entrepreneurs, and all the free coffee they could drink.
He and Courville decided back then that he didn’t want StoneWall to be like most others in the engineering space, one that made money only by charging hourly rates, one that dared not explore riskier ventures, one scared of the unknown.
LaFleur and his partners have worked to make StoneWall stand above the prototype engineering firm. LaFleur loves to take educated chances, like submitting a fixed price for a job with its share of unknowns, like taking an equity position in a customer’s research and development project instead of charging StoneWall’s full hourly rate.
StoneWall also likes being a more expressive and empathic company, not like prototypical engineering companies with dry, stodgy personalities.
“What makes us unique is the way we communicate,” Lafleur said recently at a meeting in the coffee shop at Red’s. “We’re relationship-driven.
“Most engineers are introverts. We’re not,” he said.
The company now has customers – mostly in the oil and gas sector – across the country and in the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve grown from having a few employees to now having a core group of eight employees that rises to 15 when freelancers are needed.
LaFleur, a former catcher at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said he credits Coach Tony Robichaux with instilling the leadership needed to run his own firm.
As a young but maturing company run by young entrepreneurs, StoneWall has caught the eye of veteran business people and elected officials. LaFleur and Courville (Moody joined the firm only recently) also stood out when they were starting out in the OM.
“StoneWall has been an ideal member of the Opportunity Machine,” Destin Ortego, program administrator for the OM, said at the company’s graduation ceremony on May 22. Ortego described LaFleur, Courville, Moody and their employees “motivated doers.” Ortego also said LaFleur has “impeccable hair.”
Tom Cox, chairman of the OM board and chief executive of golfballs.com, said the OM exists for clients like Stonewall, and that many more companies are matriculating through the OM.
Where else could they office for such low rent, have access to in-house business expertise, learn from visiting professionals of all stripes, and drink all the coffee they want? For free?