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Self-taught designer builds his own niche

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By M.L. Dehm
HBJ Freelance Writer
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 5:29 p.m.
  • Evolution Controls LLC owner Alfred Friedli (left) and his employee-brother, Nicholas, design control panels for wastewater management. Friedli's comp...

    M.L. Dehm / For HBJ

    Evolution Controls LLC owner Alfred Friedli (left) and his employee-brother, Nicholas, design control panels for wastewater management. Friedli's company is so successful that it is run entirely by word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Evolution Controls LLC owner Alfred Friedli (top) directs his brother, Nicholas, as they monitor a remote project from the control room in their Evere...

    M.L. Dehm / For HBJ

    Evolution Controls LLC owner Alfred Friedli (top) directs his brother, Nicholas, as they monitor a remote project from the control room in their Everett home.

EVERETT — Strict monitoring and control systems protect the environment from the wastewater that comes out of large municipal or corporate treatment facilities. One of the companies that builds those systems is Evolution Controls LLC, owned by 33-year-old Alfred Friedli.
What stands out most about the Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate is that he's self taught. Friedli didn't plan to design and build control systems. It was something he fell into at a young age.
“My cousin was working at a place that builds control panels,” Friedli said. “I got in the door as a go-fer.”
Friedli began sweeping floors and stocking shelves. But he spent every spare moment learning about the company. Soon, he tried his hand at building control panels and discovered he had a natural talent.
Friedli soon picked up computer-aided design and went into the field to program systems for customers. He spent about four years with that employer, during which time his skills drew attention. An engineer who liked Friedli's work suggested he get a business license and take advantage of project opportunities. He was soon working on Stevens Pass ski area's wastewater system.
“It was one of the first membrane biological reactor projects to go in the Northwest,” Friedli said. “It's pretty new wastewater technology. The effluent comes out almost drinkable.”
Another big project that Friedli landed was a SCADA Telemetry system for the Lummi Indian Nation northwest of Bellingham. By this time, his younger brother, Nicholas, had joined Friedli's company.
“And I worked on Brightwater,” Friedli said. “But that was a little bit different.” Most of Friedli's time at that project was spent in a control room with the monitoring and testing data that was coming in from the field to verify that everything was working correctly.
He also was involved with multiple county projects and the Sammamish Plateau water treatment facility. For the Washington Beef project in Yakima, Friedli helped develop a bio-gas processing system to capture gases from the holding lagoons.
“Most of our clients are set up on a remote connection so we can connect to the network and support them as if we were there locally,” Friedli said.
Right now he runs the company from an office in his home. While the setup is convenient, Friedli is the first to admit it can be challenging. Company mascot Zoey, a black Lab, is eager to interrupt work for a game of fetch and there are all the other distractions of home.
He plans to move to a new location and may add more staff.
But for the moment, Friedli is just happy to offer his knowledge, experience and customer service to both new clients and his existing client base.
“Part of how I've stayed in business for 10 years is creating a relationship with clients,” Friedli said.
Good communication, project management and follow up are vital. He's pretty sure he has the right formula because he has never had to advertise his business, but he is planning to create a website soon.

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