When Sonia Garapaty was young, she spent most Saturdays at the office of FSC, Inc., her father’s engineering business. Little did she know, one day she would become the company’s CEO and help it grow exponentially.
“Our family had a tradition of eating dinner together every night and most of the conversations were about the business,” said Garapaty. “At the time, it looked like he just made a bunch of drawings. I didn’t exactly understand what the company did.”
Garapaty’s father, Hasu Doshi, came to the United States from India in 1969 to earn his master’s in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he started working as an engineer for a Kansas City fire sprinkler contractor.
In 1979, he started his own fire protection services company in partnership with his employer called Fire Sprinkler Consultants, Inc. with only two employees. Within five years, he acquired the contractor company’s shares, making him the sole owner.
As the company grew, Garapaty had dreams of her own. After earning her master’s degree in electrical engineering, her father asked her to come work for the family business. At the time, Garapaty wanted to make a name for herself first.
“I felt like I needed to go do something on my own,” said Garapaty. “In the back of my mind, I knew the opportunity to work for him would always be there, but I just wasn’t ready to do it yet.”
Garapaty moved to Dallas to do her master’s degree and worked for a large company. The job allowed her to travel all over the world and earn good money, and she gained valuable experience along the way.
“My job involved customer relations, so I learned about meeting with clients and competitors, giving presentations, and negotiating,” said Garapaty. “I was able to interact and work with people in a male-dominated industry.”
In 2005, Garapaty’s parents visited Dallas for her son’s birthday. When she noticed her father looked tired and burnt out, she asked him how the business was going.
“He said, ‘If you don’t move home soon to help run the business, I am going to sell it,’’ said Garapaty. “The timing was perfect because I wanted my children to grow up close to their grandparents. My husband was offered a position with his company in Kansas City so it was like the opportunity was meant to be.”
Garapaty started as the company’s vice president and soon became the CEO in 2008. With her father as the president, and her mother, Subhi Doshi, as the CFO, she was excited to work alongside her parents. She believes coming onboard rejuvenated her father and energized the entire company.
“My parents built the company into something they were proud of but knew they were close to retirement so they lost the motivation to make it into something more,” said Garapaty. “When I joined the company, it sparked something in my dad and he became excited about building it into something bigger.”
Once Garapaty started, she immediately knew the company needed to make changes to grow. Her first step was to apply her previous customer relations experience to improve the company’s culture.
“I believe a company isn’t successful unless you are hiring the right people who fit the culture you want to establish,” said Garapaty. “Our goal is to grow our people and the services we provide because those two things go hand-in-hand.”
Two years after she started, Garapaty helped lead an acquisition of a larger engineering company. FSC, Inc. moved into that company’s office space, and the company grew from 15 to 40 employees almost overnight. This presented a problem because their office space couldn’t handle the growth.
“The other company’s office wasn’t a good fit for us, so we started looking for a place where we could grow and attract the right people we want working here,” said Garapaty. “One of the first places we looked at was Corporate Woods and it immediately felt like home.”
The company subleased their Corporate Woods office space in 2011 and signed a full lease in 2013. The Corporate Woods staff helped remodel the entire office and Garapaty said it’s exactly what the company needed.
“When you tell people you are at Corporate Woods, they instantly know where you are located,” said Garapaty. “It is great for attracting top-notch employees, and we still have room to grow.”
If you walk past her father’s office during lunch, you’ll see the family eating together, just like when Garapaty was growing up. The conversations usually focus on the business, but they also touch base about each other’s personal lives. In fact, her teenage children are already expressing an interest in working for the company.
“My kids see me working with my parents, and they say they want to join us one day,” said Garapaty. “Just like my father built something that I was able to be a part of, I want to grow this company and give my children the same opportunity if that’s what they choose.”