Saturday, March 4, 2017, a quartet of Latino business leaders conducted an outstanding 'how to' seminar on entrepreneurship and building a construction firm at the VFW Hall in Manassas Va. The opening speaker was Walter Tejada, leader of the Latino community in N. Va., a former Chair of the Arlington County Board and current member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Board of Directors. Walter was both inspirational and cautious with his message. He acknowledged the tough times Hispanic businesspersons are experiencing all over the region, but he was optimistic about the opportunities facing our businesses as long as they can qualify for projects by having the proper licenses, insurance and bonding. He spoke if issues relating to capacity building and the threat to our community given the current political climate.
Jorge Ramos, the highly successful owner of SG Inc., a leading installer of industrial solar panel farms based in N. Va. spoke of the centrality of five major areas of development for all businesses; 1.) The need for Clientele and nurturing and caring for your clients, 2.) the necessity of Experience in the field you've chosen, 3.) Resources (both human and financial), 4.) a Business Model and 5.) a Business Plan. The succinct and precise presentation by Mr. Ramos was both challenging and inspiring. A bit nervous about presenting before the two dozen young entrepreneurs in the room, Jorge created a great deal of empathy and touched them with his humility and common sense.
Board Chairperson of DC Metro Hispanic Contractors Association (DCMHCA), Carlos Perdomo, continued the discussion by outlining his personal journey and 24 years of experience as a small construction firm based in the District of Columbia. In prepared remarks Mr. Perdomo, owner of Keystone Plus Construction, outlined the various pitfalls, mistakes and dangers he faced as a young contractor. He spoke of the importance of maintaining a good reputation, being honorable and keeping your word. He spoke of the many obstacles he had to overcome and the number of times his company lost money on work he was committed to completing even when unforeseen conditions out of his control damaged the project. He spoke of risk taking and the uncertainty and cut throat nature of the construction industry. He gave an example of his recent partnership with the DC United soccer stadium which unexpectedly fell through. Mr. Perdomo remained at the venue for almost two hours after the presentation concluded speaking one on one with the gathered business owners who sought his encouragement and advice.
Finally, the serious and exacting Jumi Silva, Controller for the accomplished DC based development firm Jair Lynch & Partners, spoke about the importance of fiscal discipline and money management at a small construction firm. Ms. Silva is not only controller with a decade of expeience at a large development firm, but she is also a partner with her husband in a small general contracting firm, MVS Services. Her experience and insights regarding the importance of maintaining a solid balance sheet, keeping up to date with workman's compensation and other licenses and insurance, reinvesting profits into the company, etc., were received with great attention and numerous questions.
Also present at the workshop were officers of the new organization of Latino Safety Professionals (LSP). This incipient association has focused on increasing safety on construction sites and consists of expert technicians and trainers in the industry. Jorge Otalora who heads the association was present at the workshop and briefly described the goals and objectives of LSP. Jerry Rivera, another safety professional who works primarily with electricians also gave a brief presentation of his specialty. Our next workshops will be coordinated with our friends at LSP. Positions for bi-lingual safety technicians in the construction industry are at a premium and we're hoping to recruit qualified workers for the various training programs that LSP can provide.
For the first time, to our knowledge, Burke & Herbert Bank joined us for the morning session. Justin Shutters from the bank introduced himself and the Bank and handed out brochures about the bank's services.
The Construction Workshop provided by DC Metro Hispanic Contractors Assoc. this past March 4 in Manassas was extraordinarily successful and made headway toward identifying Hispanic, minority and immigrant owned small construction firms in N. Va. We are building new pathways to success for our small business owners and have created a N. Va. chapter of our organization that is beginning to make a difference in the lives of our community.
This workshop was sponsored by TURNER CONSTRUCTION CO. without whom this would not have been possible. Chata Bernal, owner and principal at Better Business Consulting, helped organize this event and was instrumental in its success. We'd like to thank them for their support.