One Businesswoman's Secret to Success
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 4:38 PM
Helen Callier attends almost every METRO board meeting. She reads the METRO Web site, its blog and any news articles on the agency.
She even eats at the deli in our administrative building at 1900 Main St. Ask any staffer, and most will assume she works here.
She's a certified small business contractor who has learned to work with a huge government agency. Her No. 1 secret?
"I live and breathe my client, which means I live and breathe METRO," says Callier, the founder and principal of Bradlink, LLC, a firm that provides facilities design, engineering and technology support.
Callier has become so successful, teaming up with the big vendors - known as prime contractors - that METRO recently asked her to share her story with other wanna-be METRO contractors at a workshop on what happens after certification.
Callier, a high-energy, upbeat person who says "try" isn't in her vocabulary, said she started pursuing opportunities with METRO in 2004. "Some things we went after initially were not a good fit, or we didn't have the proposal packaged in a manner that showed our strength, or we were not on the right team with a prime," she recalled.
She began embracing the small contracts - those ranging from $5,000 to $7,000, while learning all she could about METRO to see if her firm could fill in any gaps.
"That allowed me to build my portfolio to show METRO what we could do. Baby steps," said Callier. "We started being successful with METRO with small contracts, and with those successes on our resume - even if it were $7,000 - we were a prime contractor with METRO but with a smaller dollar amount. That was ok."
Later, when her company wanted to team up with a bigger firm that was a prime contractor, she could prove she had valuable experience working with METRO. "That's what they needed, too," she said.
Erik Oistad, METRO's vice president and chief information officer, called Callier a true small-business success story.
"Her success is a result of her technical training, organizational ability and desire to follow-through on commitments," said Oistad, recalling Callier's involvement from the beginning with METRO's Q Card program.
As a small businesswoman and president of her firm, Callier said it's up to her to learn the complex procurement process - a challenge for many small businesses.
"If we're submitting a bid and don't understand the procurement process, we could automatically be kicked out," she explained.
Deborah Richard, METRO's vice president of business services, says Callier has taken the time to become familiar with the type of business METRO conducts.
"She has developed and expanded her firm's skills to coincide with METRO's business needs. She has aggressively marketed her firm's services to the prime contractors in those specific areas of work that METRO contracts out," said Richard. "Bradlink consistently satisfies performance standards."
To other small businesses wanting to participate in business opportunities here, Callier offers this advice:
- Use METRO's products - ride the buses and trains, use the Park & Ride lot. "Know the product. That's important to provide solutions to METRO," points out Callier.
- Follow up on leads. Nurture relationships. Let METRO know where you're being successful. If you're not selected as a vendor, get debriefed and find out why.
- Take advantage of the small business development group's monthly workshops at METRO and any program advisors.
Click here to learn how to become certified to do business with METRO. Click here to learn about future workshops. Click here to go to Rail Means Business, where you will learn about opportunities available with the light-rail lines.