BENICIA -- Like father, like son.
So it was for Sean Finn, who followed his dad on construction sites and into the land-surveying profession.
Then their relationship came full circle when Finn and two partners -- brothers Gene and Fred Feickert -- started F3 & Associates 10 years ago in Benicia, hiring Finn's father as a surveyor.
What's it like being his dad's boss?
"It's as cool as it can be," Finn said with a smile. "He never pulls the father card, and I never pull the boss card."
"I'm always the father, no matter what," his father, Terry Finn, 70, said with a laugh.
From the start, the firm has practiced traditional land surveying at construction sites -- providing boots on the ground to tell workers where things go. "When something is getting built from the ground up, there's always a survey element," the younger Finn said.
But the company also has embraced change, investing in cutting-edge 3D scanning and printing equipment to provide more services to refineries and other clients. The technology allows F3 to use scanned data to create scale models of construction sites that can be used as visual communication tools by project managers -- something the company says no one else is doing.
"Looking back on it, we made a very gutsy call to acquire this equipment ... the most expensive equipment we've ever bought, in the middle of the worst recession we've ever seen," Finn said. "But it paid off. It was a move we're proud of at this point."
The firm has grown to more than 50 employees, serving big clients such as Google, Apple, Chevron, Shell Oil and Disney.
Its local projects have included the Bay Bridge, UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium and the BART Warm Springs extension project. The company's use of 3D printing is attracting attention. At a recent industry conference in Las Vegas, the firm snagged two first-place prizes against competition from larger firms.
"We're a small shop," Sean Finn, 39, said. "There were companies there that probably have more HR employees than we have employees."
Investing in new equipment cost "millions," but Finn said it was a risk worth taking.
"My partners and I just jumped off a cliff flapping our arms hoping this stuff takes off," Finn added. "It's proven valuable to our clients. They visualize how they're going to approach the welding, how they're going to erect the scaffolding, where the crane is going to be set up, so they have a plan of attack they can feel good about."
The company has seven scanners and four 3D printers, which work around the clock at F3's cozy headquarters on East H Street.
"It was like we invented the wheel," Finn said of the first 3D model F3 delivered to a client about a year and a half ago. "Not only did we solve the challenge that the client put before us, but we delivered so much over the top that it exceeded their expectations."
Sensing a business opportunity, the firm patented the way it uses 3D printing. "No one else is doing this," Finn said. "It's industrial long-range scanning to 3D printing."
A Benicia native, Finn said he's proud of working in his hometown, where he attended Mary Farmar Elementary School and St. Dominic School. He graduated from St. Vincent-St. Patrick High School in Vallejo in 1993.
"Personally, I like the commute," said Finn, who's married with three children. "When I go to lunch, I get to see people I grew up with. I have my parents here. It's great."
He said he's happy to still work with his dad, who taught him about land surveying growing up.
"It's a family atmosphere," the son said. "We try to be a big company; we service these world-class clients, but at the end of the day, we're a tight-knit group."
He added he's proud of his father "because at a moment when he could have retired, he came on board to help us out. And when we embraced this new technology ... well, he's the main guy who does that for us now. He's out in the field running one of the scanners."
The older Finn also gets a kick out of working with his son and his partners.
"I've known them forever," he said. "If I wasn't working for Sean, Gene and Fred, I would have retired. I think it keeps me young working with the young kids."
Contact Tony Burchyns at 707-553-6831.