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Breaking through the boys’ club to do things differently in general contracting

How a CAMSC event fostered a relationship that drives innovation through an open dialogue

The “boys’ club” is what Nicole Matos knew she was up against when she first started her company in 2009, an Indigenous-owned construction and design firm which successfully merged into H2P Group in 2021. “As a Métis woman in construction, I knew I stood out,” says Nicole.

“I also recognized the many barriers that women face, especially women of colour, in industries that are male-dominated. Lots of deals are done on the golf course or over a beer. (I thought), ‘Don’t fight them; figure out your own way.”

To make her business stand out intentionally, she sought training in interior design. Giving her an edge on other businesses that only offered general contracting, Nicole expanded her services to full construction and interior drawings and interior design for commercial spaces.

There was at least one corporate member who took notice of this at CAMSC’s 2021 Procurement Fair.

“Nicole is one of those individuals that you just connect with. You want to work with her because she takes time to listen to you, and it was that open dialogue that piqued my interest,” says Nadine Shah, Senior Strategic Sourcing Manager at CBRE.

“Hearing about Nicole’s vision for her business was wonderful. Her determination and willingness to collaborate is  really what sparked our relationship,” explains Nadine.

The event connection evolved into a two-way street of opportunities for both a CAMSC supplier and corporate member, but it started small and organically. Emails began flowing between the two, where ideas were shared, problems were solved, and new opportunities were discussed.

Over time, the value of these exchanges led them to embark on a project together: a project that has since expanded in scope. Nadine has also shared her experiences with H2P Group across CBRE’s Canadian accounts, exposing Nicole to further opportunities.

Nadine also mentioned that Nicole aced CBRE’s onboarding process, “Vendors (typically) take weeks—Nicole did it in less than 72 hours. This in itself is amazing. She’s very persistent and she doesn’t let anything slow her down.”

Nadine says that’s what’s different about a diverse supplier: their agility and their customer-centric approach.

“They’re able to adjust. They never just look at this item only – they are always creatively looking at the next opportunity and expanding their services.

You may start a relationship where you have one stream of services, and then start building and growing from there. And that’s the evolution, that’s part of inclusion. That is the growth that we want and the innovation that we need to have.”

So, how have both the supplier and corporate member leveraged the relationship?

Opportunities and Growth

As a diverse entrepreneur, you are always looking to expand and grow your business. Being part of CAMSC helps expose you to new opportunities—but not each and every one lands.

One of the best lessons Nicole has learned is that every bid is an opportunity to learn something new. “Investing the time into those clients and bidding on the work, even if you don’t get that opportunity, at least you got the chance to bid on the work. There’ll be another opportunity later,” explains Nicole. “You can learn from the experience.”

Nicole mentions that the chance to bid is really what will end up growing her business long-term. “All I ever wanted was an equal opportunity to get a chance to bid on the work and show what we could do. With CBRE, we got an opportunity to do some work that shows we are capable, because we knew that the work would speak for itself.”

For corporate members, the opportunity lies in letting these diverse entrepreneurs find efficiencies and bring new thinking to your work. “The reliability of Nicole is a major energy-saver,” says Nadine. Plus, “she shares her contacts with us. That’s the (additional) value that she has brought to our relationship.”

Reliability and Trust

Understanding is a key element to building trust. By listening to your partner’s needs, you have the capacity to deliver on them, to address concerns appropriately, and to get the job done well.

For Nicole, as the supplier, she was able to understand the needs of CBRE’s project and find unique ways for H2P to accomplish them, leveraging her business’ way of doing things differently.

“Because the capability and work is being performed well, we’re able to build that trust. If there’s another project coming up, of course, they will be included,” says Nadine.

Leveraging Connections

When one door closes, another door opens. The two have gained multiple contacts through one another’s referral—making H2P more discoverable to new markets and allowing CBRE to engage more diverse suppliers.

“Nicole doesn’t just look at what she can bring to the table as a service provider. She always looks at other opportunities, engaging other diverse suppliers. She lives and breathes it,” explains Nadine.

Nicole’s ability to refer other diverse suppliers is not only part of her competitive edge, but it brings a refreshing take to the usual competitive environment.

“I love supporting other woman-owned business of any size of any type… But to actually get the support back, from Nadine, meant so much,” says Nicole. “I’m a big proponent of what you do for me, I want to do at least twice as much back for you. It’s a pretty Indigenous framework. I don’t think, in business, anyone has ever been on my side as much as Nadine has been on my side. I only met her this year, but she goes out of her way to support us in any way that makes sense.”

Because of Nicole’s holistic and inclusive approach to doing business, she is not only setting herself apart from other business owners in her industry, she is also bringing other equity-deserving business owners to the table with her. And that’s something CBRE, and CAMSC, is happy to be a part of.

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