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November 6, 2018

The Cadnetics Story – From humble beginnings to national brand

From the Desk of Jim Mauler, Cadnetics Founder & CEO

It all started back when I got my first architectural job, working for JSA Architects. They had one of the first CAD systems running one of the first versions of Autocad and needed someone to learn it. I volunteered and took an 8 week course through CCAC. Autocad back then, for those that were not privileged, was DOS based TI computer with 2 floppy drives and no mouse. You literally had 8 commands with no undo and no color screen. I remember going to a CAD reseller and looking at a program called Arris and comparing it to this primitive Autocad program. I wanted them to get Arris because it did so much more, but the price was so much more too. JSA decided to keep Autocad. Best decision ever, considering where the two programs are today! But going from board drafting to CAD, at that time, was revolutionary. I was definitely one of the early pioneers in Pittsburgh!

After getting really good at drawing in CAD, I had a desire to help other companies, and develop CAD in their firms.  I worked for other companies and then went to GNC, where I was tasked into automating their drawings, and creating a process and system to be able to quickly generate drawings for over 300 stores in one year. I even developed a 3D system over 25 years ago to automatically generate drawings from a 3D prototype. The files became too large and the computers could not handle the file size. We scrapped that, and went to a 2D system with menu blocks and easy ways to generate their plans with our system. It worked beautifully. My company was called Mauler CADD Group.  While working at GNC, I was also moonlighting with other companies and generating additional revenue. I had a vision…… instead of helping one company, I wanted to help as many as I could. In May of 1993, I went into work at GNC and I was fired! It was the best thing that could have happened to me. The next day I started my business full time and never looked back.

Several months later, Terrence Arrington joined me and became my partner. He was an interior designer and brought another perspective to the business. It was a challenge in the beginning because our focus was architects, and back then, it was unheard of to outsource CAD production work. We started working for an architect doing a large corporate interior renovation job. I also started during a recession, which made it even more difficult. We picked up our first retail client in National Record Mart. We started doing drawings for their stores, and then designed their flagship store at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach.

During our early months, we were looking for a good name to call the company. We went through all kind of names using our last names and other ideas.  Then we thought of merging CAD and kinetics (energy, movement) and we combined it to make Cadnetics. The name has stuck and seems to be a great name that we continue to brand today.

Our original vision was to provide CAD support services to small firms and give them a support staff to compete against the larger firms. We found out shortly after that the larger firms needed us for overflow support. We then added the services of measuring buildings and interior spaces. We bought our first handheld laser directly from Sweden, when you could not even buy any in the US. We were always trying to be on cutting edge of technology as it pertained to our industry.

We then expanded our services to include 3D renderings and animations. When we were commissioned to produce the Pittsburgh Convention Center animation project in 2001, it was a launching pad for success in our 3D capabilities. We got to work side by side with Rafael Vinoly Architects. The animation was used to market the new convention center while it was being built. It spearheaded us to do many more high profile projects in Pittsburgh.

Twenty-five years ago, I was focused on getting through each month and surviving to the next. I thought if I just continued to work hard and try to provide the best service and customer support, I would continue to have a company. I did that, and it seemed to work. We had some consistent continual growth, and it became a daily grind. Then about five years into the company, my partner informs me he is moving to Atlanta. At first, panic set in. I thought, what am I going to do?  How am I going to do this alone? Then I saw opportunity and I said wait a minute, I just doubled my salary. I never looked back. I continued to grind and complete year after year in business, then came September 11, 2001. After 9-11, we hit a recession without realizing we were in one. I kept all my employees, thinking we were going to get work any day. Months went by with hardly any work. I almost made the biggest mistake of my life. I was going to keep all the employees until I finally realized, that if I keep them any longer, we will be out of business. I even told my wife, after just building and moving into a new house, with 2 young kids, that we might have to sell the house and I might have to close my business. It was one of the scariest times of my life. Miraculously, we pulled out of it. I will never make that mistake again.

Shortly after that, I realized that I am just grinding away without any purpose. Then I read a book that changed my business life forever, the E-Myth revisited. This book made me realize that I was working in my business, not on it. My company was like a boat sailing in the ocean, without any one steering it. I saw myself in this book, as I am sure so many other entrepreneurs do.

Ever since, I have been working on my business, and over the past 10 years, we have added laser scanning services, BIM services, shop drawing support, and a media division. The addition of Travis Johnson to our staff has made our latest growth possible. His hard work and expertise have been a vital part in our growth and success. In the past 3 years, we have been awarded fastest growing/Top 100 companies in Pittsburgh, two years in a row, and awarded Best Places to Work in Pittsburgh two years in a row. I am especially proud of this accomplishment, because I want an environment for employees that want to come to work and help be a part of Cadnetics.

Twenty-five years has been a great accomplishment. Cadnetics is only getting started. We have done over 6500 projects, worked with over 1000 clients, done work in almost every state, and also outside of the US. We have mentored over 100 internships and are now are preparing to take Cadnetics nationally. We have opened an office in Charlotte, we have a presence in Columbus, and Vancouver and our goal over the next 5 years is to open offices in at least 10 cities. We intend to become the premier technology support company for the entire AEC industry. We have created a unique and niche company. There is no one I know that offers all the services we do, and works with every single team member in Building Construction. We want to be a national brand that will be recognized all over the entire country, and create a national network of experts unmatched by anyone else. We are a company that is entirely driven on technology and providing the best possible solutions for our clients. I am excited and looking forward to what we can accomplish in the upcoming years. I am blessed and have a wonderful support staff. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I owe it to the hard work and dedication of my team.

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