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A Win-Win Proposition

image Doug Nunnelly, F. A. Nunnelly Company

EXTENDING THE REACH - F.A. Nunnelly Company is one of the oldest general contracting firms in San Antonio. Celebrating 95 years in business, they not only believe in conducting their business with integrity, but also in helping others develop with the right tools so they too can achieve success.




CN: When did your company become involved with mentoring other companies?

DN: We probably started doing this in the mid ‘90s.  The schools were the first ones to step up and say, ”We need more subcontractors and minority participation to help spread the wealth.”  They started providing us with opportunities to mentor business owners.

CN: Did you mentor before Bexar County and Associated General Contractors started their program?

DN: A true mentorship program kicked off with Bexar County but before that, we always did things to help subcontractors with advice and other things.

CN: How did you decide who to help or mentor?

DN: There wasn’t a formal selection process.  People have always come in to us wanting to do work.  Through that process, often we would find people who needed help.
    We would talk and meet with them, introduce them to bonding companies and bankers, and let them know some of the things they would have to start doing to run a viable business.
    That’s everyone’s problem – being a good craftsman, owning a truck and not really having a business plan.

CN: Heading them into the right direction?

DN: We want to teach them the importance of the business and running it like a business and not like a paycheck. That has always been the issue.
    I don’t care what scale of program you are in, that’s where it all has to start.  We have always done that and Scott and I are probably the most active due to our specific knowledge.
    A simple statement I use all the time is, “I have never seen a company go out of business from not enough work.  But I have seen a ton of them go out for too much work.”
    They don’t have the money saved up to carry them and they don’t understand what their expenses are going to be to start a job.  That has been a major issue with all small companies.
CN: So now you’re involved with the Bexar County/AGC mentor program. How many people do you mentor at a time?

DN: Right now we have six protégés and 12 mentors. We mentors work in a two-person, two-company team.  Typically for a company like us, I work with a larger GC and I will bring the smaller picture to the game.  It gives the protégé a good comparison of how different sized companies do things.
    We go through a whole process. They first have a classroom process that all prospective companies must go through.  It’s an eight-week program covering financing, accounting, and other basics.  Then they graduate.
    Then as a company, they can apply to the mentor protégé program.  We take their application and review them and based on the number of mentors we have, will determine the number of protégés. 
CN: What is the length of the program?

DN: We work with the protégé company for two years meeting once a month, so it is a pretty extended pro-cess. Everyone really has to commit to make it through this program.
    The real benefit with working with the county is that they hire additional consultants who are part of the package.
    For example, my first partner was Rene Garcia with Zachry.  We were teamed up with Julissa Carielo of Tejas Premier Building Contractor.  She was in the first class.
    We worked with her and found her technology was lacking, so then the Country paid for a tech expert to tell them what they needed and trained them.
    It’s a very thorough process. There is not anything that we don’t touch on.  It is a great program for people to get in, but is also a big commitment on their part. They have to commit their time and we will grill them about getting things done for the next meeting.

CN: This industry is comprised of folks who are very independent thinking and may think they might know more than they really do.

DN: When you have so many people going through, you have many different types of people.  Some people do have difficulty in meeting the expectations of the program.
    We have an application and interview process to get selected into the mentorship program.
    There is a point where I would say some people have been eliminated because they are not really ready to run a company or they are not really here to learn.
    A lot of people think that getting into this program is going to guarantee them work.  They think since I’m their mentor they are going to get all my work.  That’s not what we are here for.     We make that clear from the beginning - not why we are here or they are here.  We are here to help them and their business.

CN: How many companies have you mentored over the years?

DN: In the Bexar Country program I am preparing to graduate my 5th protégé.  Besides that, there have been 15 to 20 companies.

CN: You have to take that as a compliment. There are a lot of people who would not spend the time to do it.

DN: It does make me feel good, but in our office, we also know we need them. Everybody that we can get into the industry running a real company is a benefit.
    The industry needs to grow and we need good people in it.

CN: There is a terrific value these protégé companies receive going through the mentor protégé program.  What do F.A. Nunnelly and you personally get from being on the mentor end?

Now we are partnering with another mentor and we are each learning from the other.  The protégé is asking questions and we’re trying to answer them, so there is a discussion going on. We are often reminded of what we know and haven’t said for a while or haven’t used in our own office.
    It’s an ongoing thing that keeps you sharper and gives you some different viewpoints. It also reminds you of some struggles you want to avoid.
    We are extremely proud of what we have done because we feel like it is putting back into the industry.  We are all making our living this way.  It’s up one day and down the next.  It’s a struggle.  It’s not a dream world.  When we succeed we are pleased and proud,  whether it’s the building we built or the people we helped or worked with hand-in-hand.  You want to accomplish and see your accomplishments.

CN: What advice would you give to other companies who are considering becoming a mentor in the Bexar County program?

DN: Call Renee.  The pride, the self examination. and the benefits to the industry all pay off to you.  And if you have the opportunity to be a mentor, you should definitely get involved.
    You will enjoy it and it’s not a real task; it’s kind of a labor of love.
CN: Your final thoughts Doug?

DN: I think anybody who reads this article should stop and think about where they are and which side of the fence they could be on – maybe a potential protégé or a potential mentor.
    As a protégé, take advantage of what is being offered to improve your company.
    As a mentor, there are a lot of corporate benefits that you would get from being a mentor.  And there are a lot of personal benefits like pride and all those kind of things that you will reap or receive from doing it.  -bd

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