The term “Good Faith Efforts” or GFE is bounced around the industry but what that terminology is can be a mystery to many. Quite frankly even if the terminology is understood it can be riddled with problems. The definition in the transportation DBE requirement is “good faith efforts” means efforts to achieve a DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) goal or other requirement of this part which, by their scope, intensity, and appropriateness to the objective, can reasonably be expected to fulfill the program requirement”. This applies to all contractors where GFE is part of the contract conditions.
Meeting subcontracting goals should first and foremost be intentional. No longer are we in the decades of mass faxing of bid invitations to check a box that certified business were invited. I mention this as there are some “old regime” contractors out there who still look at goal achievement with the same lens – bare minimum to meet the GFE checkboxes.
There are GC/Primes that work with intention, that exceed the goals regularly, that practice real inclusivity and not because of a goal. We are grateful to these contractors, and I don’t need to list who you are because this industry knows. We also know who plays games, who are all talk, and who’s efforts boil down to checking the required boxes.
I am sharing some best practices with you on being intentional for meeting goals and inclusion on projects:
- Create relationships with certified contractors. This does not mean that the DEI specialist knows the businesses and puts them in a vendor list and sends out invites to bid. Creating a relationship may start with the DEI person but that is just a first step. The estimators and project managers must be introduced to, meet with, and engage in relationships with certified businesses.
- Work with the businesses on where they need to improve. If a business is bidding regularly and not winning bids meet with them, go over their bids, offer suggestions for future improvement.
- Promote relationships with certified businesses and your first-tier subcontractors. Goals are not only to be met by the GC but all contractors on a project. You need to enforce the contract language down the chain where there are bigger opportunities for subcontracting.
- Break up the contract scopes to target small business inclusion. When I mention that I don’t just mean for bidding but be intentional in your award of the subcontracts. I have seen where a small business is the low bidder for a scope, but the GC awarded a package scope to a larger sub where they only had to manage one contract. It might be easier in the long run but is not intentional inclusion.
- Mentor Mentor Mentor. You have heard this from me before but become a partner/mentor to a small contractor. Persuade your large subcontractors to mentor and partner to increase their opportunities with you.
- Use the AWC BidBoard when sending out your bid invitations. This targets the invite to members that perform the scopes that you are planning to subcontract.
- If you are self-performing part of the job, either bring a business in on part of the scope in partnership or don’t solicit bids for it. Smalls don’t have time to spend hours on a bid for a scope you are self-performing or already awarded.
- Support organizations that represent small contractors in town. These are your best resources for finding and creating relationships with certified businesses.
Being intentional means creating a culture from the top leadership in your company. A DEI person should be the conduit to PMs Estimators and ultimately the contract. Without a change in how this industry looks at meeting goals and recording GFE the bare minimum will be the bar to achieve. Small businesses are more than a box with a check mark. They are a vital part of this industry and need your intentions.