By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
More than 60 construction industry professionals participated in a virtual program presented by small business construction industry experts on Sept. 15 entitled “Connections Build Contractors: How Small Construction Firms Can Leverage St. Louis Resources.”
Panel members and sponsors hailed from McCarthy Building Companies, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Associated General Contractors of Missouri, J. West Electrical, T. I. E. (Technology Integration Engineering) and the St. Louis Small Business Empowerment Center.
At the start of the webinar, guests were asked to weigh in on the question, “If you had to predict your company’s performance in 2021, which best describes your outlook: optimistic (positioned to succeed), satisfactory (continuing to show up), strained (struggling to stay afloat) or erratic (too many unknowns to wager a prediction)?”
Forty-five percent of respondents answered optimistic; 20 percent answered satisfactory; 25 percent responded strained, and 10 percent indicated erratic.
In addition to communicating an array of small business resources available to construction firms, the panelists/moderators – Heather Cirre with McCarthy, Jennifer Bardot with Enterprise Bank, Steve Lewis with AGCMO, Sabrina Westfall of J. West Electrical and Kevin Wilson with the St. Louis Small Business Empowerment Center – Shared their perspectives on the challenges facing minority-owned firms (WBE/MBE/DBE) in the built environment.
“Culture is the biggest issue that will continue to define our organizations and define who the companies and the employers of choice are in our industry,” said Lewis. “How you’re able to be agile to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges that are related to it is critical. I’d like to see owners that are willing to pay in a more reasonable fashion to enable small businesses to be less reliant on access to outside capital in order to fund the project revenue stream.”
Trust and the building of relationships, added Lewis, is always going to play a key role in the success of small and minority businesses working in the construction space. “Some people look at their jobs as their livelihood,” he said. “To small business owners, it’s their life.”