Tony DiLeonardo is the president of Wick Fisher White, one of Philadelphia’s preeminent engineering firms. Since 1901, Wick Fisher White has been committed to providing its clients with quality, innovative, and enduring mechanical and electrical designs. The company’s capabilities include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; lighting and energy generation, distribution, and conservation; plumbing; fire protection; commissioning; and a host of other auditing and planning services. Tony joined Wick Fisher White in 1985, quickly working his way up from a project manager and engineer to the leadership position he holds today. Earlier this year, he was one of three individuals recognized by the inaugural SMPS Philadelphia Honoring Legends Awards.
MATT GUERRIERI: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Wick Fisher White?
TONY DILEONARDO: We’re located here in Philadelphia. We’re approximately 40–45 engineers right now. Our main focus is engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection systems, as well as commissioning of building systems. We work in healthcare facilities, mission critical—like data centers, network operations centers. We do retail, malls around the country. We do mostly corporate offices, like high-rise buildings; we’ll do fit-out—Comcast was one of our fit-outs and our first tower. And we do religious facilities as well as entertainment peers and facilities. We’ve been around since 1901, so that’s a pretty good résumé of work we have.
Q. When and how did you get you start at the firm?
A. I started out at Wick Fisher White in 1985 as a draftsman. The company was maybe 12 people at that time. I started doing little engineering tasks, things that people didn’t want to do. [The firm] decided to send me to school—night school. So, I went to night school and I did design during the day.
I kind of rose through the ranks because of the relationships I had with people. I became project manager with General Electric—dealing with them a client—AT&T, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, then with Verizon. I worked my way up through the ranks, where I had managed about a $1.5 million worth of work in one year, and had a team under me. I eventually became a team leader, with a electrical engineer. We ran a team of 40-some people. This was in the late 90’s, when we were about 100 or so people.
Through the years, I became an associate and then a vice president at Wick Fisher White. I became an owner in 2006 or 2007. At that point, the latest transition, we had another group of shareholders in 2012, and then I became the president of the company. I have a vision, a strategic plan, that we want to move forward and we are now growing.
Q. What is your vision?
A. We’re a 115-year-old firm. We need to be ahead of the curve. We need to provide engineering services that are of quality, and also we’re service oriented, so we need customer service. We really need to have the client like what we do and have to like us to be able to call us for an opinion—for a price. So, we really need that relationship aspect.
Q. How have you been able to remain competitive and profitable throughout those many years?
A. In a competitive bid, some of our clients just give us the work, which is good—they appreciate what we do—but for some of them, it’s competitive bid. And we just need to be true to ourselves and say we’re not going to lowball projects. We put a fair fee out there. Hopefully they’ll recognize that if it’s close, they pick us because of our expertise and because of our knowledge of what we know about the buildings.
In existing buildings, we do teach our engineers to make sure you get to know the building. You may be designing maybe two rooms or retrofit or renovation, making an open space or making several offices—well, get to know that floor and what’s around it. Just don’t focus on that area. We hope to regain the respect and the trust that they want to go to Wick Fisher White. It’s like, why do you buy a BMW? Why do you buy a Mercedes or a Porsche? Because of the quality. We hope Wick Fisher White is right under there with those names.