Sunday, June 03, 2001

Bringing big and small together

Consultant bridges gap between small and minority-owned businesses and corporations

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        Darraugh C. Butler specializes in windows and doors.

        She creates windows of opportunity for small and minority-owned businesses. She opens doors that allow those businesses to communicate and work with large corporations on major projects.

        Her firm, D. Butler Management Consulting, aims to increase business opportunities for small, minority- and women-owned businesses (known as SMWBEs).

[photo] Darraugh C. Butler of D. Butler Management Consulting
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        Her biggest assignment now is to oversee the participation of SMWBEs in the construction of Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

        “There is a lack of inclusion of minorities and women in the business arena,” Ms. Butler said. “Even though this is 2001, there is economic disparity. Not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the quality of life they would like to.

        “I'm the person that's trying to bridge that gap on behalf of those companies that don't have access. It's so critical to ensure that doors are open, that people have a fair chance at opportunities.”

        Increasing the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in major construction projects requires Ms. Butler to be a good listener, problem-solver, communicator and negotiator.

        When large companies go looking for SMWBEs to bid on project components, they are sometimes disappointed in the small number that respond.

        To improve that, Ms. Butler has helped corporations look at obstacles faced by SMWBEs that sometimes aren't apparent. She has also helped identify stumbling blocks in the bid process that keep small businesses from participating.

        “Sometimes, the work packages are too big,” she said. A small company might hesitate to bid for a broad scope of work, but would welcome a chance at a more narrowly defined job, she said.

    Darraugh Butler began her career at Ohio State University as a personnel director. When OSU began a formal effort to increase procurement from minority-owned businesses, she directed that program.
    She came to Cincinnati in 1993 to work in a similar capacity for Federated Department Stores, then became president/CEO of the Cincinnati Minority Supplier Development Council. She started her own company in 1999.
    Some results: During Ms. Butler's tenure at OSU, minority purchases increased from 5 percent to 12 percent and purchases from minority-owned construction firms increased to more than 35 percent.
    At Federated, minority purchases increased from $50 million to more than $130 million by 1996.
    As of April 30, SMWBE purchases are at 42 percent for Cinergy Field site improvements and at 24 percent for the Reds Ballpark.
    Ms. Butler can be reached at 671-3558.
        The cost of bonding employees can be another obstacle for a SMWBE. So can a lack of experience. Ms. Butler helps to find ways for emerging but capable suppliers to find necessary financing or build mentoring relationships with more experienced companies in the same field. As a result, SMWBE purchases on the Cinergy Field site improvements project are up dramatically. On the ballpark project, they're climbing.

        Although she's spending a lot of time with ballpark construction these days, the consultant doesn't limit her clients. Her prior experience in human resources and procurementhas acquainted her with the wide range of minority endeavors.

        “The traditional fields for minority businesses are things like janitorial, construction, trucking and hauling, and catering,” she said. “But there are also minority- and women-owned manufacturing companies, information technologies companies and financial services companies. There are companies that provide safety equipment and supplies, hospital equipment and supplies.”

        Providing opportunities for all kinds of SMWBEs to showcase themselves is essential to her efforts.

        “Building relationships is very key,” Ms. Butler said. “I always encourage organizations that are trying to increase minority-owned businesses in their procurement to do some type of outreach component to foster relationships. I don't give them a directory.”

        Instead, the consultant urges those companies to create occasions, such as business open house events, where their representatives can mix with potential suppliers.

        “Put them together in an environment where they can engage in conversation and establish a level of comfort,” she said. “Then the buyer feels that if he does select a particular SMWBE, he has made a good choice.”

        Ms. Butler's consultation is not solely directed at corporations. She also works with SMWBEs to help them assess themselves.

        “Some minority-owned businesses are very good at what they do. Sometimes, their shortcoming is they don't know how to market their services. They can come to someone such as myself and say they're having trouble finding these opportunities. A lot of times, I'm able to find the opportunities as well as help them market themselves.“

        Said Dale S. White, president and CEO of D.A.G. Construction Co.: “Darraugh Butler has been very instrumental in getting the (minority procurement) program adopted that Hamilton County has implemented. She has a wealth of experience, coming from Federated Department Stores. She has made it affordable for minority-owned businesses to participate in the bid process and has orchestrated the way packages are bid.”

        Taking advantage of what SMWBEs have to offer is good business, Ms. Butler said, noting that minority groups make up 26 percent of the U.S. population, and that number is growing.

        “It's business-prudent to think of increasing minority participation as an investment in the future,” she said.

Summertime, and the spending is easy
The checks (will be) in the mail
- Bringing big and small together
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