In a recent POB poll, 69 percent of respondents said that the most challenging issue facing their firms is a lack of available work.[1]

In the community for geospatial professionals, common themes have included the continued downsizing of large and midsized firms and the seemingly bleak prospects for surveyors in the future.

But take a closer look, and you might see something else. Some surveying firms are still doing well. Not as well as several years ago, perhaps, but they’re getting business. And it’s not just the large and midsized firms with substantial resources at their disposal, although these are often the most visible examples. Many small firms and solo practitioners are also staying profitable. So what’s their secret?

According to Bill Crumb, president and CEO of Machine Control Technology Inc., a GPS training facility in Meeker, Okla., the surveyors with the most potential to succeed in the future have a proactive, forward-thinking Yes, I can! mentality. “We are on an automation road, and it’s best to master the task at hand and keep the cash flow rolling,” he commented in response to a recent POB blog.[2] “My advice is: Advance you and your team to a level not heard of; offer new services in your geographical area; grow your opportunities, manage your time wisely, and grab another gear.”

Ted Madson, director of the Land Surveyor’s Council in Douglas, Ga., and founder and director of the exam-prep training firm LSS Seminars, offered similar advice in a series of posts on[3] “We traditionally define the boundaries and shape of the land, [but] we need to rethink our role as surveying licensees as [now] being the lead professionals for issues dealing with the other uses of the land,” he said, adding that this might mean hiring or partnering with engineers or other specialists.

New services? Grab another gear? Lead professionals? These might be foreign or even distasteful concepts for anyone who got into this profession expecting to practice the same way and produce the same product indefinitely. But as Mark Meade, PE, PLS, CP, vice president of Photo Science, notes in “From the Ground Up” on pages 40-42, the only constant is change. “There are days that I would love to do one of my tasks just like I did it yesterday,” he says. “But in the end, the changes in technology and processes--and the challenges that come with them--are one of the reasons that I enjoy my profession as much as I do.”

According to Harry Ward, PE, president of the training and services firm Harken-Reidar Inc., numerous opportunities for surveyors exist--often in less-traditional fields. “BIM [building information modeling], GIS, machine control data prep--these are all areas where the expertise of surveyors is needed,” he says. “Technology and training can enable surveyors to expand their services and provide a better product, which can help them gain new business.”

It’s like an optical illusion. Look at it one way, and you’ll see a specific image. But step back a few feet, squint your eyes, or read the hints, and suddenly the other image becomes visible.

The opportunities are there. You just have to know what you’re looking for.


1. August Quick Poll. See the Web TOC on p. 6.

2. Comments in response to Technology Benchmark: Business 101, online at blog_Tech_Benchmark.

3. The Future of Surveying - Point #1, Point #2, Point #3 and Point #4,

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