Minority Business Issues Survey

Kansas City Business Journal | May 11, 2007


The Kansas City Business Journal asked area minority business executives about minority business issues. Below are responses from Rita Cortes, president of Hoffman-Cortes Contracting Co.; Lenora Payne, president of Technology Group Solutions LLC; Christina Sloan, vice president and director of sales of Li'L Guy Foods; John Walker, owner of Perfect Output of Kansas City LLC; and Nasi Zarinkia, president of Modern Maintenance Inc.

What advice would you give to a non-minority company seeking contracts with minority companies?

Cortes: The irony of this question is that the advice is so simple. Quit the "for show" outreach, and follow some basic rules of mutual respect. Non-minority companies should conduct business in the same manner with all companies. Communicate effectively and fairly, pay your bills promptly, and educate your clients as to how important these two elements are for a successful project. When a company performs well on a project, give it a meaningful opportunity to bid the next one, whether or not there are minority goals. If a company does not perform well, communicate effectively with the principals about what the issues are and where they need to improve to be a contributing member of your construction team. Do not automatically ask for performance and payment bonds from the minority firm. Apply the same tests you would to any subcontractor (e.g., capacity, performance history, size of project).

Payne: A non-minority company seeking to do business with a minority company should investigate that company the same as any vendor. The non-minority company should look at: their experience in their industry, core values (such as a mission statement), background of their staff and their ability to deliver what they offer. The potential buyer should also try to work with the supplier on terms if the buyer has a history of late payments. Also, they should require a copy of their minority-certified certification. In other words, the minority supplier should be held to the same criteria as other potential vendors. In most cases, the minority supplier wants to be given an opportunity to display their value.

Sloan: Diversity in business procurement as well as employment is near and dear to minority business owners. Here at Li'l Guy Foods we seek first to do business with minority-certified businesses, and if none are available we evaluate non-minority businesses based on their commitment and sincerity to business diversity issues. We also encourage them to be actively involved in the minority business community.

Walker: Any large business that wants to contract with a small business should be in a position to help nurture and grow that business and share with the small business their goals, their objectives and what it is they're trying to achieve. They can help that small minority business help the large organization successfully meet their goals.

Zarinkia: Do your homework. Check their credentials; verify that they are a minority-owned company. Will the company be able to handle your business needs? Is this a good fit for both companies? It takes a lot of work and effort to become minority certified. It is a very difficult process. The company you are partnering with wants to succeed, and your hiring them will bring positive results for both.

What's the biggest misconception about minority businesses?

Cortes: That they are substantially different from non-minority firms. We all face the same challenges -- relationship development, pricing pressures, employee recruitment and retention, time management, financial management, quality performance. The different challenge is really about opportunity. Don't just call the minority firm because of its certification. Make a meaningful effort to allow it to compete for work where its status is irrelevant.

Payne: The biggest misconception is that the minority supplier does not provide the same value (service) as the non-minority supplier. Once again, the minority supplier needs to be given an opportunity to demonstrate that they can meet or exceed the buyer's needs.

Sloan: In my opinion, I believe the biggest misconception by far is that all minority businesses are small or too small and really not able to perform on large contracts or large volume business. In reality, this is a generalization that is very unfair, and minority businesses usually have to outperform their non-minority and major corporation counterparts to counterbalance this misconception.

Walker: I would think that the biggest misconception is that it costs a lot more money to do business with minorities, which is not true.

Zarinkia: I believe the biggest misconception about minority-owned businesses is that they are lacking; that they do not have the resources, skills or funds to compete without that extra edge. This is totally false. To own and operate a business, regardless of who you are, requires extreme dedication, ambition and drive. This is the American dream, and it is available to anyone. Look at our credentials. Check out our references. Are we a good fit with your business needs? If the answer is yes, hire us.


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