A Noble Approach

William Parrish knows how to strategize and play the corporate game with the best of them and win. The owner of Noble Strategy, a construction management firm based in South Orange, New Jersey, landed a major contract with the School Construction Authority of New York. Parrish believes that the deal was the catalyst his firm needed to help maintain financial stability.

In late 2005, Noble Strategy secured the contract with the SCA to manage more than $30 million worth of construction projects throughout the City of New York, including the design and construction management of a culinary room conversion at August Martin High School in Queens. Parrish says the two-year deal, which includes various provisions for extensions, was the linchpin for his company.

“The injection of cash from the deal allowed us to improve [our] technology, increase staff, and market,” he says.

Parrish says the SCA awards contracts by evaluating technical proposals and presentations to prospective clients rather than by using a bidding process. He attributes his success to his knowledge of the client. “I worked with them as an employee for seven years and as a consultant for four,” says Parrish, whose company is a certified minority-owned firm. “I was able to transfer my knowledge about the agency to my team and explain how we could lead their program in the right direction.”

Michael Garner, senior director of business development and head of SCA’s Minority Business Development Mentor Program in New York, lauds Parrish and his team for being thorough and consistent. “Bill [Parrish] makes sure that the work is done accurately and timely,” Garner says. “They follow up regularly and ensure that deadlines and goals are achieved.”

Parrish says one drawback to winning city contracts is the time gap between landing a contract and being paid for it, because of the bureaucracy and paperwork involved. In some cases, he says, a firm may not begin work until four to six months after winning a contract.

“During this time, a business owner still has to pay employees and keep the business fully operational,” he says.

Parrish started Noble Strategy as a part-time job out of his home in 2002, while maintaining his day job as director of design and construction for the Newark Public Schools. He used about $20,000 in personal savings and a $10,000 micro loan from the Greater Newark Business Development Consortium, a city-sponsored program that provides guidance and limited funding to small, minority-owned businesses in the city.
The 40-year-old entrepreneur says his company saw modest gains in the first few years–before seeing revenues spike between 2005 and 2006. Earnings increased from about $30,000 to $750,000–due in part to the contract from the SCA.

“I started out with two part-time employees,” he says. “Today we have 14 full-time employees.” Noble Strategy posted revenues of just under $1 million in 2006 and is expected to top $3 million in 2007.

And Noble is still winning contracts. Recently the firm started providing oversight of the new Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts, a three-year, $142 million