DBE Success – Ed Holmes, President, ehi consultants
this issue, the KY DBE Program Manager spoke with Ed Holmes, President
of ehi consultants, a professional planning
and engineering consulting firm which has offices in Louisville
Ed has built his business on a strong foundation of commitment to his mission and professional philosophy. He has sustained a winning culture within his business that allows him to grow by his own terms.
“It’s about people – not us”, Ed explained, on the issue of his business philosophy.
“It is not important for ehi to have a style or leave a mark on any project undertaken. Rather, it is our objective to see our work sustained through its functionality and utilization by the people for which we are planning.”
In this article, we discussed Ed’s experiences as a KY DBE working on the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project (LSIORBP). His perspective supports the overall message of the KY DBE Program – that it’s important for business owners to understand the realities of acquiring business as a DBE. He stresses that success is driven by the business owner and requires commitment, thoughtful planning, persistence and quality work.
“I’m very careful about what I call success. When I was approached about this article I thought about ultimate success and I knew I had a significant way to go before I could claim that prize. As a small business and a DBE in the engineering design and construction industry, I realize there can be a perception of success, which is great but the reality is it means a lot of hard work.
“Before I started ehi consultants, I spent 16 years as the Director of Planning for the Bluegrass Development District and another 19 in business management roles in both the private and public sectors. During that time, I honed my skills for planning, development and for running a business. I started ehi consultants in 1985 and built its culture and mission with those skills I learned and a lot of preparation. Not to mention liability, risk and the certainty that I would learn so much more by owning and running my own business.
“I have never been a pessimist. I plan for the best outcome and prepare for the obstacles. Preparing yourself and your business for obstacles is as important as planning for success.
“I began the KY DBE certification process because I wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities for my firm to acquire work. I have never considered the DBE program an entitlement, but rather an opportunity. I think that as a business owner, you must inform yourself and make strategic decisions with the knowledge of the opportunities available.
“I think I should also stress that DBE certification is not a free ticket to work. It is a small first step toward gaining experience on federally funded projects. DBE certification only establishes that you are by the definition of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), a disadvantaged business enterprise.
“Prequalification is a process that should be understood before undertaking the task. It is the most important element because a KY DBE simply cannot do business with KYTC without it.
“I appreciate the prequalification process and how it is necessary to assure that a business has the leadership, professional skills, equipment and quite simply, the ability to do the work. Your firm’s ability to maintain liability insurance and bonding are also crucial factors in receiving prequalification to work.
“Unfortunately there are some obstacles in the process. In my experience, there is some subjectivity in the process of prequalification process which leaves room for improvement on the government’s part. But I am hopeful that the system will improve with the right focus on doing the right thing.
“Obstacles or not, prequalification is key and I can’t stress that point enough.
Lochner, the prime contractor for Section 4 of the LSIORBP,
is a Chicago-based national leader in transportation engineering.
Lochner asked ehi consultants
to join the team for the design phase of LSIORBP, Section 4, which
“Our contract with Lochner named ehi consultants the DBE Coordinator for Section 4. Our day-to-day responsibilities are the coordination of the DBE mentoring program set forth in Lochner’s contract and regular reporting of the progress of our work to the KY DBE Program Manager. Lochner also provides mentoring to HDDS, Inc. and Toni Levy & Associates - KY DBEs who have recently received prequalification in their areas of expertise.
“Our work on the LSIORBP has also given us the opportunity to be mentored by the prime contractor on Section 1, Kentucky Transportation Associates and our business has benefited by the time and mentoring support of a partner in that group.
“I would urge KY DBEs and those firms considering DBE certification as part of their strategic plan, to understand that certification and prequalification is a ladder and not a crutch. I have never felt entitled to receive the work we have gained and I will not be defined simply as a DBE firm. We must challenge those that would define us as such with the quality of our work and the value we add to a project.
“In fact, I have found that the ultimate success of working as a KY DBE is when a prime contractor comes to us with an offer of to be a member of their team when there is no DBE participation requirement. That tells me that they are considering us based on our reputation, our work and our integrity.
“It comes down to this, if you don’t aspire to take advantage of the various business opportunities that are before you like the LSIORBP, then, perhaps the LSIORBP and similar type projects are not for everyone or every DBE business. But you can certainly position yourself to get construction projects more suited to your size and build from there.
“You must prepare for the opportunities you seek. So commit yourself and your company to your mission and your strategy and get out there! No one’s going to do it for you. And if you can find the satisfaction of a job well done and stay motivated, success can’t be far behind.”
- Ed Holmes
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