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HUB Mentor Protégé Spotlight

Building Partnerships through the Mentor-Protégé Program
September/October 2011

  • State Agency Sponsor: Texas Workforce Commission
  • Mentor: Unisys
  • Protégé: Advant Tech Solution
  • Industry: Information Technology

Texas Workforce Companions

Good partners can be essential in the business world. And when those partners are also teachers … all the better. Businesses working together through mentor/protégé relationships around the state combine the experience and expertise of the mentor business with the hope and desire of the protégé. When the pairing is right, the result is a strong team. As part of the state’s Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) Mentor/Protégé program, all Texas state entities with a biennial appropriation of more than $10 million must support mentor/protégé relationships. In these relationships, the mentor business is typically larger than the protégé — which must be a state-certified HUB — and may possess skills and abilities the latter lacks. This can prove helpful in several areas, including business plans, financing, cost estimation, paperwork reduction and others.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) began its mentor/protégé program in 2001 and, over time, has learned to trust its mentors in creating these pairings.

“Early in the program, we took applications from potential mentor and protégé companies and paired them up,” says Jane Haney Rivera, director of procurement and HUB services for TWC. “Those were not very successful and usually did not last for more than a few months.”

Participating businesses often cited a lack of trust in their partner’s abilities as a reason for opting out of the program, Rivera says, which prompted a change. Now, businesses are asked to provide input on potential partners based on previous work experiences.

“Those pairs have been our success stories,” she says.

Powerful Pairing

The pairing of Unisys and Advant Tech Solution has become one of TWC’s most successful partnerships. Unisys, a global information technology giant with more than 100 years of business experience, maintains a four-person Texas staff to work its TWC contracts. The company had its own mentor/protégé program at the corporate level and was introduced to the TWC program in 2001. Its previous experiences in mentoring smaller businesses made the decision to participate an easy one. “Unisys has always strived to participate in client initiatives to grow business relationships and assist small business owners in development,” says Chris Chandler with Unisys.

Houston-based Advant Tech Solution provides its clients with computers, toner cartridges, printer maintenance kits, speakers, external hard drives and more. In its relationship with Unisys, being a small, Texas-based company enables Advant Tech to respond quickly to Unisys’ needs.

“Being part of the mentor/protégé program has been beneficial to Unisys because it helps streamline our responses to TWC requests,” Chandler says.

Cindy Moreno founded Advant Tech Solution after several years in the IT industry, with a vision of focusing her business on state and local government contracts. TWC contracts that are above $100,000 require the prime contractor to use a HUB subcontractor, which fit the pair’s business relationship. Working in support of Unisys through the mentor/protégé program opened opportunities for her business and helped it grow.

“The program has allowed us to reach new goals every year, expand our employee count fourfold and even support part-time employees during the summer months,” Moreno says.

Familiarity and repeat performance has helped turn the pairing into one of mutual trust. Chandler credits that trust with enabling them to work collaboratively without the need for constant monitoring, and opening conversations that might not occur. Moreno agrees, and recommends mentor/protégé programs for businesses looking to grow and/or work with state government.

“Unisys and TWC have been instrumental in the growth of my business, and if I have any concerns or questions, the door is always open,” she says. “I would strongly recommend this program to anyone who is seeking business on a government level.”

More information about these mentor/protégé companies is available online at http://www.advanttechsolution.net/ and http://www.unisys.com/unisys/.