Networking for Success

Charles Griggsby can often be spotted at minority business conferences. Whether it is a local Minority Business Development Agency event, a National Minority Supplier Development Council confab or the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, where he’s a regular fixture, Griggsby understands that such gatherings lead to networking opportunities that can grow his business.

As CEO of Dallas-based Facility Interiors Inc. (No. 43 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $80 million in revenues), Griggsby has snared clients that rank among the world’s largest publicly traded corporations. Some, such as Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Halliburton, and Electronic Data Systems, maintain a strong presence at minority business conferences.

A contract furniture dealership, Facility Interiors gets the call when organizations relocate, renovate, or consolidate. “When they move into a new building or decide that they’re going to open up a new building, then we can assist them in determining what the look will be and how it will go and they select the furniture or we give them different options for furniture,” says Griggsby, who founded the company in 1994. So while the company doesn’t manufacture the furniture, they will handle the delivery, assembly, and storage, and plot out the office layout.

Griggsby intends to capture as much of the estimated $64 billion contract furniture market as possible. And to do that, Facility Interiors must branch out into other industries– something he plans to accomplish partly through increasing his pool of contracts through networking. The firm has moved into academia and medical industries and plans to enter the hotel industry. In fact, Griggsby attended last summer’s meeting of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers to open doors.

It’s Who You Know
When a company decides to relocate, they typically work with a design firm that identifies a manufacturer that can make the furniture. Often, these corporations look to identify manufacturers with a minority business enterprise (MBE) supplier, which is where Facility Interiors steps in. While furniture supply represents roughly 75% of revenues, the company also generates income via project management, furniture storage fees, delivery, and installation.

But this isn’t a passive business. Relationships have to be established so these corporations specifically ask for your product or service. That begins with building trust and focusing on a need or goal you can address.
But that process begins with a plan. “It starts with building rapport and then understanding their agenda. What are this existing or potential supplier’s objectives? What are they trying to accomplish in their business? If I can frame what I do in the context of your bigger picture goals, then I’m going to be a valuable partner to you,” says Andrew Sobel, author of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others (Wiley; $22.95). “It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a client or dealing with a supplier or dealing with a business partner. If that other person views you as someone who’s really contributing to their growth and profits, then they will want to get more of you. But if they see you as a cost to be managed, they’ll cut you at any time.”

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