Houston, TXINDUSTRY: CONSTRUCTION
BUSINESS: GCI SOLUTIONS, LLC
YEAR FOUNDED: 2008
PROGRAM: BUILD UP HOUSTON
Partnering To Scale
Gina Diaz knows how to leverage her networks to get new contracts. She and her son and business partner, Casey Simien, just completed the Build Up Houston (BUH) program, delivered through a partnership between Interise and the City of Houston. Gina approaches partnering for bids as more than a sub-contracting opportunity – for her, it is also an opportunity for mentorship. She has partnered with larger construction firms, such as Gadberry Construction (Interise Dallas alum) and Texas Pride (Build Up Houston alum,) to build her company’s capacity and expand into new markets. She has observed how they approach bidding, competitors, and properly training employees. These partnerships have allowed Gina and Casey to build the capacity, confidence, and networks to go after larger contracts themselves.
“My biggest learning from working with these companies is how important it is to understand the client and make sure that marketing is good. It’s not just about giving the lowest number.” With admiration for how these two companies approach their growth – a direct result of their experiences writing and implementing growth plans through their Interise programs – Gina and Casey applied for the Build Up Houston program themselves. “At the beginning of the program, we used to show up in construction gear, coming directly from the work sites,” said Gina. They were both completely involved in day to day, on-site operations. “At the end of the program, we told our classmates, ‘Look! We aren’t in our work boots!’ We put systems in place and didn’t have to have our hands in everything.”
Some other notable achievements during the last 7 months while in the class include:
- Hiring 5 full-time employees, with 10 additional new hires planned for 4th quarter
- Securing 4 new contracts (2 are subcontracts with Build Up Houston Alumni), totaling $1,075,000 in new contracts
- Negotiated a few partnerships with Primes for work in Houston, Dallas and Austin markets.
- Secured a line of credit, an equipment loan, and a capital loan, all to support her growth
Gina’s biggest takeaway from the Build Up Houston class is: “Develop and Work the Plan…Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail! After 7 months [in the class,] we now have a comprehensive detailed roadmap for implementing our growth strategy to include: branding, marketing and sales, financial management, hiring, recruiting and resource planning, government contracting.”
With their growth strategy in place, Gina and Casey are eager to grow their commitment to their community as well. They run an apprentice program for training women and minorities with careers in construction and giving individuals with criminal or misdemeanor records a second chance. This commitment to serving her community is actually what drove Gina to leave a construction management career of over 20-years in corporate America to start her own business.
Gina recognizes the value of cultivating relationships with other construction companies, classmates, local government agencies, capacity builders, and her own team. “The City, quasi agencies, Interise, Houston Community College and Build Up Houston 2018 colleagues are all valuable assets for growing our business. We were already aware and appreciative of the City of Houston’s commitment to small businesses and the BUH program added to that commitment and helped us to dig deeper to develop a detailed roadmap to implementing our growth strategy.”
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