Joe Vazquez, owner of Vazquez Commercial Contracting, LLC, thought he wanted to pursue a career as a CPA. After earning an accounting degree, Joe believed that he was on his way to becoming a “big time” accountant. However, after five years in the profession, Joe decided to change his career. He was burnt out!
His father-in-law owned a small construction firm performing mainly residential work. Vasquez had also gotten to know the construction industry in the course of conducting construction audits. His father-in-law knew how miserable he was in the accounting world and urged him to leave accounting and join him. He told Joe, to come and work with him and to see what real work is about.
The father-in-law brought his son and Joe into the business as partners. He took his business and split it three ways.
Soon after, the three partners started a home building business and was fairly successful until the downturn of the housing market. The father-in-law encouraged Joe to start his own business.
In January 2008, Joe opened Vazquez Commercial Contracting and shortly received certification with the state of Missouri as a minority business enterprise (MBE).
“I thought once I became certified, people would automatically call on me for work,” said Joe. “But it doesn’t work like that. You have to market.”
Vazquez immediately joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City and went to every possible meeting he could — General Service Administration (GSA) breakfast meetings, industry lunches, dinners, workshops.
“This is how you do it,” said Joe. “You have to let people know you are out there. You can’t just sit in an office thinking people are going to call you.”
Eventually, he received a project with the state of Missouri for $38,000. That contract was his total income for the year and his first contract as Vazquez Commercial Contracting, LLC.
In 2010, Vazquez received its certification into SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program. The 8(a) program is a business development program that provides management and technical assistance to participating firms as well as access to government contracting opportunities.
“When we received notice via e-mail, we were very excited,” said Joe. “We knew the certification would be huge but we didn’t know how huge.”
Their first 8(a) contract was in 2011 and was with the General Services Administration (GSA) and consisted of putting doors in at The Bolling Federal Office Building in Kansas City, Missouri.
“It was a $28,000 contract,” he said. “Things just started going up from there. Soon after, I got my first $1.0 million contract”
“8(a) has been a phenomenal source for us,” said Joe. “I don’t see how I would’ve gotten opportunities in government work. I am HUBZone certified, as well. It is a wonderful thing to have both certifications.”
Once certified in the program, the business is assigned a Business Opportunity Specialist (BOS). Joe encourages other 8(a) participates to always keep the lines of communication open with your BOS.
“The SBA can’t do it for you,” he said. “As a business owner you have to make your own connections. I hope to push the limit in 8(a) until [Mr. Surmeier] BOS has to kick me out because I’m too big. That’s a dream!”
Vazquez Commercial Contracting has since been awarded several federal contracts. They have performed contracts at Ft. Leavenworth Army Base, GSA, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture, National Park Service, etc.
“Going from $38,000 to $6.0 million is just unbelievable,” he says. “But I didn’t do it on my own. There’s no way I could have opened all those doors and grown my business in this economy. I can’t thank SBA enough for the opportunity at Ft. Leavenworth. Too many things have happened that have just been amazing. At the end of the day, God gets all the credit.”
Vazquez has utilized the SBA’s 7j program. This program is designed to provide managerial and technical assistance to 8(a) and other disadvantage firms. Through the 7j program, Vazquez received assistance in the development of a logo, website and QuickBooks. They have also looked into the use of the surplus property program.
“When you start with the SBA, you get exposed to other resources like the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC),” stated Joe.
Joe’s advice to other entrepreneurs is to don’t stop marketing and to continue to beat down doors. He tells the story of a contracting officer that he constantly called for three years.
“I would call her every six weeks for 3 years,” he said. “Finally, she gave me a $5,000 opportunity. This little job led to future jobs, totaling $500,000. You can’t take no for an answer.”
In 2011, Vazquez Commercial Contracting, LLC, was named the Minority Enterprise Development Construction Firm of the Year. In May 2012, the company was awarded a three-year, multi-million dollar basic ordering agreement from the Department of Defense for construction work at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. And this, says Vasquez, is just the beginning. He sees no reason the company can’t become a $20 million a year or larger firm.