With my ring light on, chat window opened, and cellphone silenced, I started what would be my final video call of the day. It was 7 p.m., and honestly, I was going to dub the call a success if I made it through without forgetting to unmute my mic.
As virtual meetings go, we traversed intros and set the tone with a well-thought-out agenda. Just as I was about to settle into business as usual, a familiar voice asked—what if my business doesn’t survive?
Throughout the pandemic, our industry–the construction industry–has been deemed essential, and a part of my week is dedicated to checking in with our small-, minority-, and women-owned business partners. The intention was simply to be a resource and update how they were managing a complex new normal. Some businesses were experiencing project delays, others were learning new virtual platforms, but all were certain they could hunker down and weather hurricane COVID.
According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs. In our region, minority-owned businesses generated about $6 billion in revenue and employed 31,377 people last year. Their thriving is crucial to the economy and our industry.
Coming off the heels of Thanksgiving and heading into the extended holiday season, I can’t help but reflect on the reminders ushered in by 2020.
Relationships Always Matter
All things being equal, we do business with those we know, like, and trust.
I can’t count the number of times I have heard and shared that message. The pandemic has changed how many of us connect. It has also heightened the importance of having sustainable relationships with diverse businesses, chambers, and other business advocacy organizations.
As the competitive landscape has advanced, diverse businesses have developed a new framework for selecting business partners. Trust is being defined by how we practice economic inclusion when a client is not driving a spending goal, value alignment, and the long-term prospect of a continued business relationship.
Agility, Adaptability, and Innovation
We all made swift changes in March. I could recount them, but the lessons are more important. Agility, adaptability, and innovation are a mainstay in every facet of business.
Study after study has shown that small businesses and historically underutilized businesses, in particular, are more agile than their non-diverse industry partners, making these businesses invaluable in challenging times.
Consider our teaming partner, DLB Consulting. Founder and Principal Demetria Bivens is always on the brink of her next big idea. Her firm was established in 2014, and throughout the pandemic, she has continued to expand her service offerings and her team to serve her clients better and compete for more work. Her ability to grow and add value is what good businesses are made of, and personally, I appreciate that she still has time to answer my 10 p.m. texts.
We’re all in this together.
There isn’t a business among us that doesn’t need a growing economy to succeed.
A Hacket group survey found that after the 2008 financial crisis, diverse businesses were crucial in creating new jobs that fueled the recovery. The same can be said of the post-COVID era.
While Dallas has added just over 7,100 new jobs since last October, the industry overall continues to work through labor shortages and compete for top talent. Most weeks, I’m on at least one industry call that includes clients, competitors, and partners alike. All of us are sharing best practices to understand that some things are just about making the industry better.
Thinking back on that 7 p.m. Zoom call, I’m encouraged by the perseverance of that business. PPP loans were secured, a few goals realigned, and they are preparing for a steady 2021.
That call also reminds me of the work ahead. As more companies make public pledges to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies, we can expect that these moments, and others like it, will be used to test the strength of our commitments.
Kamecia Mason is vice president of Diversity and Inclusion for McCarthy Building Companies.