April 22, 2019

Opening the Door to Greater Opportunities

150 Small Business Owners Enroll in Clark’s 2018/2019 Strategic Partnership Program

This year, in cities across the county, more than 150 small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses are investing in their futures and opening the door to new opportunities through their participation in Clark’s Strategic Partnership Program (SPP). The executive education program provides participants with comprehensive business and construction management skills training to increase their business acumen, prepare them to pursue future opportunities, and realize smart, sustainable growth.

Clark developed the MBA-style course in conjunction with Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business in 2006 with the goal of building capacity within the small business community. Now in its 13th year, the program has more than 700 graduates and is positively impacting small business communities in six cities across the country, including Bethesda, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri; Irvine, California; San Francisco, California; and Seattle, Washington.

The intensive training program is free to small business participants and features a comprehensive curriculum designed to give students a solid foundation for growth. Clark’s building professionals shepherd the program in each city and work alongside outside industry experts to lead in-depth classroom discussions on topics such as finance and accounting, insurance and bonding, project management, contracts, estimating, and purchasing, as well as general business competencies, such as networking and presentation skills. The curriculum is also supplemented by special workshops and extended learning opportunities.

Doug Parrish, president and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Red Dipper Electric is among an esteemed group of 54 Bay Area small business owners who have completed Clark’s San Francisco Strategic Partnership Program. “The program delivers more than just an education, it helps small contractors establish a solid foundation upon which to build and grow,” notes Parrish when asked about his experience in the eight-month course.

In addition to building business and project management competencies, the Strategic Partnership Program underscores the importance of teamwork and forming strategic relationships to strengthen competitive advantage and likelihood of success on new pursuits. The program’s final Capstone Project, which requires students to work in groups to develop and present a business proposal to a panel of industry experts, reinforces just how vital collaboration and partnering are when it comes to successfully competing for new opportunities.

One of the Capstone Project teams in a recent Kansas City SPP class celebrates after earning first place on the final project.

“I was pleasantly surprised at the way the class brought companies together,” recalls Sasha Chamberlain, SPP alumni and office manager of San Francisco-based, women-owned small business BEI Steel. “A huge part of running a successful project is the ability for companies to work together and communicate. Becoming familiar with other trades and learning to work together is extremely beneficial on site, and in the office.”

Anthony Arnold, owner of Kansas City-based construction firm A. Arnold & Associates, echoed Chamberlain’s thoughts. “The Strategic Partnership Program showed me how many minority-, women-, and disadvantaged firms were going through similar things and demonstrated how we could work together,” noted Arnold.

Arnold’s Kansas City Strategic Partnership Program classmates Jennifer Hart of Hartline Construction and Clark Parrish of Parrish & Sons Construction are a prime example of the successful outcome a strategic alliance between small firms can yield. The two business leaders met in Clark’s inaugural Kansas City SPP class in early 2018 and joined forces post-graduation to pursue an opportunity with the Kansas City Area Transportation Association (KCATA). Leveraging the combined skills and experience of their firms, Hart and Parrish were successful in winning a contract to revamp 20 city bus stops for KCATA.

While completing the Strategic Partnership Program does not guarantee participants a contract on a Clark project, the class helps position small businesses for the next big opportunity. Today, scores of past graduates are leveraging the important lessons they learned during the Strategic Partnership Program to be more focused and successful in their approach to winning new work.

Project Manager Jackie Rivera, who completed Clark’s program in Irvine, California, has also seen her firm, Alliance Building & Construction Services, grow and thrive since she graduated in 2016. “Alliance increased its capacity and performed painting work of nearly $750,000 in 2017,” reports Rivera. One year after completing the program, Alliance also saw their bonding capacity increase from non-bondable to $1.5 million in aggregate. The firm recently completed its first painting project with Los Angeles World Airports. “I had so much to gain from Clark's program,” notes Rivera, when asked about the course. “It still remains the best experience of all construction classes and boot camps that I’ve been in.”

“It is extremely rewarding to watch graduates leverage the knowledge and skills they’ve gained through the Strategic Partnership Program to be well-positioned for success in the real world,” notes Wesley Stith, Clark vice president who helped found the program more than a decade ago. Stith adds, “It is even sweeter for us when an SPP graduate is successful in securing work on a Clark project.” To date, Clark has awarded nearly $1 billion in contracts to SPP alumni; a number that continues to rise. Doug Parrish is among the many SPP graduates who have been successful in securing work on Clark projects. “We worked hard during the program and to become qualified with Clark. As a result, we were awarded a contract performing work at Chase Center, which has opened doors for us on other projects as well,” states Parrish. “We are well positioned now to grow into a successful and sustainable electrical contracting business.”

The current San Francisco SPP cohort, which includes leaders from 22 Bay Area businesses, meets each week at Clark’s office on Howard Street.

Small business owners aren’t the only individuals who appreciate the impact of professional development programs like the SPP. Officials in Chicago, San Francisco, DC, and Kansas City have been important proponents of the program and understand the value it brings to the greater community. “Clark’s Strategic Partnership Program provides invaluable technical and capacity building assistance to our local small businesses,” said Romulus Asenloo, director of San Francisco’s Contract Monitoring Division. “We consider Clark an important partner in helping build both the capacity and experience of our local small contractors.”

The Strategic Partnership Program is a key element in Clark’s holistic effort to support small businesses on a national scale. Marivic Bamba Chennault, Clark’s director of community relations and small business development who oversees Strategic Partnership Programs in San Francisco and Seattle reaffirms the company’s commitment to having a significant and meaningful impact on the small business community. “We strive to give local small firms the support and training they need to take their businesses to the next level, as well as present them with opportunities on our jobsites that will enable them to grow, hire additional employees, take on more complex jobs, and be in a position to give back to the community.”