A decade ago, Suzanne Stantley realized that billions of dollars in construction projects were going on in communities throughout the country and that most African American businesses were not in the loop to bargain for, identify and connect with the right decision-makers.
She learned these businesses’ inability to make connections impacted their ability to participate in the American dream, and she knew exactly what she had to do. Stantley took her more than 35 years as a trained marketer and parlayed that into a venture that would bring companies, small and large, together to do business.
Her vision was to bring diverse businesses, government, project owners, large prime contractors, suppliers and buyers together where they could network and talk about building relationships. And she named that vision the Construction Industry Conference, which will host its 10th conference virtually later this year, according to a press release.
While executing and planning the conference, Suzanne launched the contractor development side of her company, BE Group, that would focus its efforts on helping these diverse firms build the capacity to bid on and win contracts. After all, the end game is to win contracts and generate revenue. She realized that in many states, and in particular her home state of Illinois and home city of Chicago, African-American firms received less than one percent of the annual revenue generated in the commercial industry.
As she expanded her firm’s services, she rebranded the concept and named it TOOLS™, Transforming Organizations’ Operations and Leadership Strategies. TOOLS™ assists diverse construction firms increase their capacity to bid on, win and manage construction contracts through business assistance, training and focused individualized support. She has provided her program to the city of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Aviation and the Illinois Tollway.
TOOLS™ can be implemented in any state, city or municipality and Stantley’s firm is for hire. Its services can be procured by government, at any level, be it an agency like a transportation department, housing department or any department that has construction projects and has mandates for the inclusion of minority firms on their projects.
“Generally, the large primes, the big firms who win the multi-million-dollar contracts, have minority participation goals. Most are unable to find a pool of candidates who understand the inner workings of the commercial industry to win contracts with them to achieve their goals. They are the key buyers of our services as they are charged with the inclusion of minorities on contracts they win. And we are for hire,” says Stantley.
“Cities across America can no longer sit by as billions of dollars of construction is taking place and not have minority construction firms involved in those projects. Even before the recently signed massive $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill, many cities were slated to spend billions on roads and bridges, airports and a myriad of other types of building projects. And unless and until diverse firms gain a greater understanding of what it takes to operate in this arena, they will never gain access to even a portion of these contracts,” Stantley adds.
TOOLS™ offers its services free to minority construction firms, who are generally struggling to stay afloat, which is why the program seeks its funding from government, prime contractors, developers and philanthropists to make its services available to the minority owners. While many minority owners may have not obtained advanced degrees, their ability to perform their trade is unquestionable. Stantley believes what they need is what TOOLS™ provides, preparation so they can have a real shot at achieving the American dream.
Nationally, there are appropriately 750,000 minority firms who generate less than $500,000 of revenue annually each. These are the firms we want to support, “by expanding their capacity, we can increase their employee count 200-300% and add exponentially to the improvement of the lives of all they impact.”
BE Group, also publishes Building Entrepreneur magazine a valuable resource providing businesses information and later this year, the Group is launching a portal, Building Entrepreneurs, where businesses can promote their operations to an audience of project owners and others interested in identifying and connecting with them.