Two years ago, Link Howard, III, president and chief executive officer of Powerlink Facilities Management, knew he needed help with his business. While the Detroit-based provider of facilities maintenance and management services was generating nearly $11 million in revenues, Howard was unable to land more than a $150,000 line of credit from his bank.
Howard heard about the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation from a business contact. With offices in Kansas City, Detroit, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the non-profit program centers on educating entrepreneurs so they’re able to build scalable businesses. “I went on line and filled out the initial application and as a result of that we went through the rigorous screening process that the Kauffman Foundation at the UEP require of all of its companies that they partner with,” recalls Howard. “Interestingly enough, that is one of the most valuable parts of the entire process and I’ll come back to that.”
A business coach looked over Powerlink’s strategic plan, marketing plan, and offered advice on how to strengthen the business. “Going through the process of providing all the documentation information they were looking for caused us to really look at all of our processes of how we captured data, how we report things, and made us look at it operationally,” Howard recounts. “Going through that process really helped us strengthen our internal processes and really helped us to continue to grow our infrastructure, which is what I think is so important for businesses that are going to be successful.”
“We have a process that includes heavy assessment up front, a rigorous assessment up front,” says Daryl Williams, CEO, Urban Entrepreneur Partnership Inc. “We give each and every client a Personal Development Plan, which is an actual document that dictates what it is you want to do, where you are now, and the challenges that you face in order to reach those entrepreneurial goals, and we provide you an individual coach that will really walk you through those and have accountability model throughout.”
This doesn’t come without a cost. UEP workshops run about $400 and business coaching is $125 per hour. The coaching also helped Howard and his team gain a better understanding of what banks look for before extending credit. “Up until two years ago, up until last year, we were not able to secure the type of credit line that we needed from traditional banking institutions so we were doing a lot of factoring,” he says. “[the coaching], along with some other factors, certainly helped us to present a picture that the banks wanted to see.”
Two years later, Powerlink now employs 585 people, and is expecting to grow to 675 in 2012. Revenues are expected to approach $22 million at the end of 2011 and reach $27 million for 2012. And perhaps most importantly, the company was able to secure a $2.5 million credit line.
For Howard, the coaching is an ongoing thing. “We meet consistently with our business coaches. They are, right now, helping us to transition into businesses that are target industries that we’re not involved in now,” he says. “They are providing coaching and mentoring in that regard. They have seminars, so you can continue to learn.”