A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

There is no Trying, There is Only Doing or Not Doing!

Have you ever received an invitation to a function at the last minute where you wanted to attend but you’re already booked?  Frustrating isn’t it?  I hate it when I receive an unsolicited bid invitation to bid from an unknown prime contractor three days before a bid due date.  The MWBE bid process is like living the Ray Charles’ song, “You Don’t Know Me”.  We see each other’s firm name on a list, we see each other in public, but we don’t take the time to get to know one another or our capabilities in time to make a viable team for the bid.

Brother Ray’s song was in my ear as I witnessed the dissention and frustration at a recent City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity meeting.   The new Minority and Women Business Enterprise forms meant to streamline the current arduous M/WBE process were introduced to a room of contractors, subcontractors and business owners, Black, White, Hispanic, male and female.  When the phrase “good faith effort” was brought to the forefront, new business owners and old established firms took sides.

It reminded me of attending a middle school dance where adolescent boys and girls separated themselves to avoid dancing with each other.

After years of discussion, talking about “good faith efforts” still makes people uneasy.  Eyes roll, gestures are made, and statements such as “I tried, but…” are sarcastically uttered by disillusioned participants and even by me.

Statements like, “I tried to contact MWBE firms, but they didn’t respond”, “I tried using the MWBE forms, but the process is too complicated”, and “I tried to get on a bid team, but I wasn’t selected” echoed throughout the auditorium.  Failure and finality are often associated with the word “tried”.  Phrases like “I’ve tried it; it didn’t work for me” and “I don’t want to do it, so why are you making me do this?” are commonly heard from both sides of the table in these discussions.

We do it because the hiring agencies and good business practices require prime bidding firms to add an MWBE firm to their bid teams.  The uneasiness is due to a misconception that “good faith effort” mandates that you have to hire a MWBE contractor or supplier – which is untrue.  It’s only a bid document monitoring your MWBE recruiting efforts.

That misconception needs to be corrected soon.

Typically, those who complain either have their team set and they don’t want to go there, or they want to find a way to avoid having to consider the MWBE effort entirely.  On the other side, MWBE firms need to gain the experience on larger teams so that they can become prime contractors in the future.

One of the major problems in the process as it exists is the weasel phrase “best effort”.  The contracting agencies should add MWBE to their bid docs and then the bidders will be required to add MWBE firms and get considered for the award, or not add them and get dropped from the bid list.  As Yoda said in one of the Star Wars movies, “Do, or do not.  There is no try.”

Winning teams have added their MWBE firms months before bids are due.  Successful MWBE firms court major prime contractors months before bids are released.  Either way, the system needs to be strengthened so that there is no best effort, there is only doing or not doing.

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