LOS ANGELES – Many corporations have sizeable contracts to award minority business enterprises (MBEs), but it can be challenging finding suppliers that have the capacity, or skills, to handle the jobs.
That predicament -- shared by several Southern California Minority Business Development Council corporate members -- served as the driving force behind the Capacity Building Initiative, a two-year program designed to help MBEs increase their capacity through resources and one-on-one coaching provided by corporate "mentors."
Launched in 2008, the initiative's goal was to increase MBE capacity and allow corporate members to share and utilize MBE participants. The initiative involved six corporate members -- AEG, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Southern California Gas Co., San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and The Walt Disney Company -- which partnered with seven MBEs, or "mentees."
Mentees included FCI Management Consultants, Long Beach; Genesis Professional Staffing, Burbank; Morrow Cable Construction, Stanton; NK David Constructors, Mission Hills; Southeast C&I Electric, Santa Fe Springs; Quality General Engineering, National City, and Thor Construction, Los Angeles.
Selected by mentors, mentees received strategic guidance and business advice, such as how to submit successful bids, access to key decision makers, technical assistance, ongoing evaluation of work performance, networking opportunities, and more.
During the program, which concluded last month, the council also organized communications skills and other workshops and monitored mentees' progress. Based on comments from program participants, "MBEs gained needed skills and knowledge to increase their business acumen and competitive profile, and thus, build capacity," according to Council President John W. Murray, Jr.
Randy Sall of Thor Construction, AEG's mentee, says, "We acquired management skills to take on large amounts of work in a short time frame and learned how to deal with cash flow, which was a big concern on these projects. We think it has put us in the limelight for other projects."
"I have my one-minute pitch down to a science," adds Patricia Watts of FCI Management Consultants, Edison's mentee. "Also, I believe I have a more strategic approach to marketing our products and services."
Bringing a corporate perspective, Carmen Herrera of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas explains, "Mentees have shown growth and gained additional business from our company. One mentee grew their business with the company three-fold since the inception of the program and another won a multi-million dollar contract."
While the initiative's intent was not to necessarily give mentees additional business from corporate mentors, there were several examples of contracts awarded to mentees. For example, FCI, Edison's mentee, was awarded a contract by AEG and Southern California Gas. AEG's mentee, Thor Construction, was awarded a contract by Disney.
"One of the great things about the initiative was the one-on-one exposure to multiple competitive MBEs able to compete for and win procurement opportunities within AEG," adds Aura McCracken, manager of supplier diversity at AEG.
Reflecting on the past two years, Murray remembers a corporate mentor asking, 'Will these suppliers be better off than when we first launched the initiative?' "Based on early results and feedback, I believe the answer is 'yes,'" he says.
The council plans to continue the program throughout 2011 with a new class of MBEs and corporate mentors.
Southern California Minority Business Development Council is the premiere organization strengthening economic ties between large, public-, private- and foreign-owned corporations and minority men- and women-owned business enterprises. As the region’s leading minority business advocacy organization, SCMBDC represents the interests of more than 600,000 minority businesses in its 13-county service area in Southern California. The council offers nationally recognized certification to minority-owned businesses, strategic networking between corporate members and certified firms, and education, information, and skills development to help minority businesses enhance their capacity. Headquartered in Los Angeles and one of 37 regional councils in the National Minority Supplier Development Council network, SCMBDC has made a positive impact in the minority business community since its founding in 1975.