Bieg always emphasizes the latter which he says influenced the company’s brand. The bold and iconic name is noticeably tempered by the treatment of the word icon. It is purposefully lowercase. Bieg said for him, it was all about
de-emphasizing the “i”.
“The small “i” is for humility,” he said. “We need to always be mindful of where and how we started. Staying humble has kept us grounded and hungry to identify ways to do things better.”
That Was the End of the Beginning
Parise was the first to introduce the idea that he and Bieg start their own mechanical design-build company. The two were business acquaintances, each with their own expertise.
Bieg knew the mechanical side of the business having a decade of experience in design-build, drafting, service, and estimating. Parise’s expertise was in construction-industry financials. It was a solid combination.
At the time, Parise was serving as the CFO
of a struggling Illinois-based boilermaker company that had just lost its largest contract. That loss turned out to be key in icon’s formation. Bieg and Parise’s start-up plan entailed entering into an agreement to use the boilermaker’s equipment and office space — both of which had gone respectively idle and unused.
The plan worked and icon Mechanical was in business.
Bieg and Parise were joined by Tim Schaeffer shortly after launching icon. Schaeffer was Bieg’s high school pal at CBC (St. Louis) and roommate at the University of Missouri at Rolla. He brought with him substantial design-build experience across multiple industries and Schaeffer soon became icon’s third partner.
The trio began building icon’s resume’ by bidding and winning public projects like schools and governmental housing — those initiatives where the lowest bid often wins.
This strategy didn't align with the company's founding philosophy, but the partners knew undertaking these types of projects was the only way to get their foot in the door and prove their skills to the area’s construction industry.
It was also obvious that icon’s proposed new market approach — leading the way through innovation — would require significant investment into technology. The early years were about survival and generating enough cash to begin conceptualizing their goal of reinventing the mechanical design-build trade.
“There were a couple of lean years in the beginning,” Schaffer said, adding that a diversified portfolio helped sustain icon's expansion. “Our ability to be a player in industrial, commercial, and national markets helped us grow. When one market slowed down, one or both of the other markets picked up."
The trio grew icon's revenue at an incredible pace. In fact, they grew so fast that icon earned a spot on Inc. Magazine's List of the Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies in the U.S.
GC's and project owners took notice.
The early days of icon. Partners, Mike Bieg (left),
Joe Parise (center), and Tim Schaeffer (right).