By Michelle Burkart | #LGBTB2B
Since our last column in March, I traveled to San Francisco to attend the Western Business Alliance (WBA) annual summit. The WBA is comprised of 22 LGBT chambers of commerce in the western part of the United States. This year, the host chamber, the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), sponsored a power luncheon and three-day meeting. The theme was the “LGBT Business Economic Summit” whereby participants were divided into groups to discuss five key issues affecting the success of our business community, and to suggest three to five concrete solutions that all the chambers could use and execute. The energy at the summit from the companies taking advantage of the LGBTBE opportunities promotes this issue’s title of “persistence does pay off!”
With that in mind, I will continue to introduce you to those LGBTBE companies and supplier diversity partners that are working to keep the LGBTBE certification momentum moving forward by persisting and not giving up. A prime example of this goal is found in Joe Maak, CEO of Pride Resource Solutions in San Diego. His company provides project management and other facility management-oriented services to public utility companies.
I first learned about this LGBTBE company from a feature article in the San Diego Business Journal, Aug. 28, 2017, titled, “LGBT Certification Gives Co. Visibility, Opportunity.” After reading his story, it was clear Maak benefitted from good timing, taking advantage of an opportunity, and persisting in following up wherever those opportunities could take his company.
According to Maak, “My aerospace job was ending with the relocation of the company I worked for as a facility manager. I wanted my own business so started it in 2014, at the same time California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) LGBTBE certification started. I was the first LGBT business to be certified by CPUC and I saw the opportunities and visibility a certification could provide to me. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. When I got certified with the CPUC, an affiliate company was looking for a LGBTBE-certified business as a subcontractor to help them win the bid. Thus, within a short time I got my first master contract and my business grew exponentially from starting up in 2015 to $5.5 million in revenues in 2017.”
He has not stopped there. In 2016, he received his National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) certification, which is nationally recognized and attended its annual supplier diversity conferences. He also attended local and state supplier diversity workshops, and matchmaking events to build his network of strategic partners. The impact of his LGBTBE certification certainly jump-started his business. It allowed him to grow to more than 40 employees in 15 categories of “mission specialists.” His business plan projects 250 employees by 2020.
Although Maak experienced rapid growth, he says he wants to diversify into other industries, and into the federal contracting world. He stated that the main impact of the CPUC LGBTBE certification, aside from revenues, was the growth of “reputation and credibility” in his company’s performance record as a certified contractor. This will support his diversification into other contracting areas. Since the LGBTBE certification is not mandated on the federal level, Maak is persisting in finding ways to climb this mountain, especially in this current climate that challenges most diverse communities.
I asked Maak the advice he would give to other would-be LGBT-certified business owners, to which he replied:
Be sure to have adequate funding sources, as you are paid 60-90 days out.
Persistence is really important and take time to talk to everyone even if there seems to be nothing to talk about, as you never know who you will meet.
Seek out the people in the supplier diversity department to build relationships in order to get to the decision maker.
One does not know everything, so find strategic partners, mentors, or other business owners that can help you navigate the ups and downs of growing your business. The LGBTBE-certified business owner has access to others across the nation so you are not alone.
Use the supplier diversity resources available to you. With the CPUC affiliates in California, for example, there are great trainings, mentoring and support that a LGBT-certified business has access to through the various affiliate supplier diversity departments. Sempre Energy spends 43 percent of its $9.3 billion budget with diversity-owned businesses, and in 2016 it spent $36.6 million with LGBT-certified businesses so the opportunities are there for us.
Maak built a business from a one-person startup and experienced the same growing pains all entrepreneurs do building their company. He may have been in the right place at the right time to start his company. However, to retain that growth and to expand, Maak concurred with our title that persistence pays off…so never give up!
— Michelle Burkart is the principal at Diversity Supplier Alliance. Questions? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on LGBTBE certification visit diversitysupplieralliance.com.