Don't let the khaki shorts and Polo-style shirt fool you. HSA Engineers & Scientists CEO Nick Albergo means business.
He just isn't your typical nerdy science guy — and neither are the folks he hires.
"We work hard and we play very hard," Albergo said.
The Tampa company packs 500-person tailgate parties, company cook-offs, golf tournaments and fishing trips in between handling some of the largest engineering contracts in the Southeast United States for top firms in the insurance, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries, among others.
Over the past couple of years, HSA has repeatedly received recognition by business magazines as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the Tampa Bay area as well as the nation.
A firm that began with Albergo and his partner in 1989 has grown to 300 employees with 14 offices in seven states.
HSA joined the list of the Tampa Bay Times' Top Places to Work for 2012. The company came in at No. 17 on the list for small businesses.
"It's a really great environment to work in," said Meeghan Casey, a seven-year employee who manages operations involving soil, rock and underground water as well as serving as the president of the social committee. "Every day is different."
Casey said employees never know what they might encounter on the job, such as landing in the bottom of a sinkhole while surveying a property.
"There was an incident at a condo complex," company spokeswoman Kim Lamrouex said. "It started as a small depression and opened up underneath him."
"He just disappeared," Casey said.
No one was hurt. But the incident highlighted the sensitive nature of the work HSA does.
Following Albergo's lead on making the work environment light and entertaining, the sinkhole analysis became a celebration in May — Sinkhole de Mayo.
Albergo said he looks for creative, multi-faceted individuals, not just book-smart scientists and engineers.
"If you've got just techno-geeks — you know them from school; they're brilliant — they won't move much out of that comfort zone," he said.
Albergo, who works as an adjunct instructor at the University of South Florida, draws many of his employees from the school. His offices are across from the campus, and his conference room was once the university's book store.
Join and stay with the company and perform, and employees can become shareholders of the private firm, as about 45 staffers are now.
The company also offers an anniversary bonus for each year of service with the company; education assistance for continuing studies; safety incentives and exceptional performance bonuses.
And the company contributes financially to activities organized by the social committee.
Along with the entertaining workplace fostered by Albergo — whose eight children often can be found roaming around the offices while he works in his short khakis — expectations of the employees run high.
"It's still a very competitive, performance-driven place," he said. "It's largely performance-based but in a casual atmosphere."
HSA provides engineer analysis and consultation for an array of issues.
In addition to sinkhole analysis, the firm performs hazardous waste clean up, roadway studies, industrial decommissioning and demolition.
In the company's laboratories, workers study such things as water damage to cabinets and ceiling fans.
There are secure rooms where mold grows so the company can help insurance companies better understand the origins of in-home water damage.
And in the end, Albergo wants these scientists and engineers to know how to have fun while they do it.
"To find someone that can walk and chew gum at the same time," Albergo said, "is a gem."