In the construction industry, finding ways to continuously improve is important, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. But recognizing opportunities to engage minority partners is only one step toward inclusion. A key piece is understanding the unique needs of XBE companies.
"It's rare that a minority company gets to have a conversation about what they need with a primary contractor. Without a relationship, there often isn't enough trust to speak up and find ways to be on the same page and work together." Maurice Dunn, Founder and CEO of The Carpenter's Son
We've previously stressed the importance of building relationships with diversity partners as a means to help us be better partners. As construction companies continue to assess the impacts of the pandemic, it's more important than ever to listen and find new and creative ways to work with our minority partners.
Listening to XBE needs
Pepper's diversity program has benefited our own company, as well as our partners. Despite the program's strengths, we continue to ask ourselves one very important question: how can we better support M/W/V/DOBE companies? Knowing that we can't solve problems that we don't understand, we went straight to the source.
Over the past two years, we've contacted minority organizations directly to zero in on what they hope to achieve through a partnership with Pepper. The feedback was eye-opening. We were surprised to learn many XBE companies didn't know how, nor did they have the resources to navigate the pre-qualification process to secure a Pepper job. Not only that, but many were either too busy or not comfortable asking for assistance to navigate the process.
"It matters how you approach minority companies. If you just do what you've always done, then you're going to get what you've always gotten." Maurice Dunn
It was clear we needed to do more than a few things differently if we wanted to improve the results. So, we took the feedback from minority partners and prospective partners and developed an improved program based on the following principles: Diverse, Inclusive, Collaborative and Entrepreneurial. Mentorship is still at the core of the program, and while many of our goals are the same, Pepper is taking a new approach to reach smaller, diverse companies with the objective of helping them better position to become a prime contractor with our company.
Providing resources to potential XBE partners
Fully understanding the expectations and requirements of XBE contractors is the first step, and we have experienced firsthand how building strong relationships contributes to meeting our company and project diversity goals. One of the best examples of this is our ongoing relationship with The Carpenter's Son Founder and CEO Maurice Dunn. His perspective, guidance and partnership further opened our eyes to the challenges smaller companies face, and we worked together to provide additional resources to ensure their success.
"I am a minority contractor, so for me it wasn't about trying to understand other companies' position because, simply, I'm in their position. I thought about the first challenge a minority faces in answering pre-qualification and bid questions: can we do it and will they let me? Those are pretty simple questions, but they're at the heart of every minority company looking for opportunities," Maurice Dunn.
Even if a company comes in without the specific experience the project requires or the infrastructure in place to answer those questions, we wanted to provide them with the tools they need to succeed and to help them take a more holistic approach to the work. With Maurice's guidance, we asked companies that specialize in providing XBE-specific services – such as bonding, accounting and legal – to join us in an outreach event for an upcoming project. We lined up 11 speakers to explain their services and how they could help companies in the bid process. Despite a relatively last-minute switch to a virtual event early in the pandemic, attendance was double what we expected, and we went over the allotted time because of attendees' questions.
"It's definitely rare for a minority company like us to have a platform with a primary contractor like this. I'm still climbing up the ladder, but I have a seat at the table and I can now speak intellectually from that seat to help others," Maurice Dunn.
We expect it will take time before we see the long-term results from this type of outreach, but our mission to continuously improve drives us to keep listening and tailoring our approach to meet the needs of XBE companies.
Ensuring they not only have a seat at the table, but an environment that amplifies their voice, will only make our industry stronger.
If you're interested in Pepper Indiana's mentorship program, call 317-681-1000, or send an email to Pat Kinder at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chris Rayner at email@example.com.