Ascend Business Development Program

L-R: Andy Davis (Turner Construction); Mary Bright (Turner Construction); Jarrett Logan (Castle Black Construction); Jonathan Logan (Castle Black Construction); Briggette Green (TopCat Masonry); Robert Green (TopCat Masonry)

It is a proven fact that small businesses fuel economic growth and are the major pipeline to equipping low skill workers. In fact, a 2016 study by the SBA Office of Advocacy Data found that small businesses accounted for 34% of net growth in 2014 among firms with 1-49 employees; 64% of new private sector jobs from 1993-2011 and 67% of net new jobs from mid 2009-2011. Any city striving for sustained economic growth must devote their efforts and attention to ensuring that the small businesses in the area are successful and thriving.

In 2016, the Greater Memphis Chamber launched the Ascend Business Development Program. Ascend is a year-long program that pairs a Chairman’s Circle business (“leader business”) with a small MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise) business (“member business”) with a goal of helping that smaller business build capacity, increase revenue and establish relationships in the marketplace. During its inaugural year, many of the member businesses experienced success as a result of their participation in the program and saw measurable growth in various areas.

Now in its second year, the Ascend Program has a new cohort of member businesses. Seeing the value and importance of a program like Ascend, many of last year’s leader businesses signed on for a second year—one of which is Turner Construction Company.

Last year, Chairman's Circle member Turner Construction was partnered with Briggette Green, owner of TopCat Construction. This year Andy Davis, MidSouth Business Manager and Mary Bright, Community and Citizenship Manager for Turner are partnered with the construction firm Castle Black, owned by twin brothers Jonathan and Jarett Logan.

We asked Andy Davis and his member businesses to share their insights about the program.

Andy Davis, Turner Construction

2017 & 2018 Leader Business

Why did you become involved with the Ascend Program?

There are many reasons why Turner wanted to participate in the Ascend program, but one of the main reasons is that as a Leader Business in the Memphis community, Turner has the responsibility to reach back into the community and share some of its best practices in the construction industry.  This sharing of information not only makes Turner a better company, but it also allows smaller construction companies the opportunity to partner with one of the largest construction in the United States.  Turner Construction has been building projects since 1902, and in 1969 we started what we refer to as “Turner School of Construction Management.” This school was developed to help MWBE firms develop their people so they could elevate their companies. To date, well over 30,000 individuals have completed this program. So, I can honestly say we became involved with the Chamber’s  Ascend program because it is in our DNA to help grow MWBE firms.

What are the intended outcomes as a result of your participation in the program?

As a Leader Business, Turner would like to assist the Member Business in the areas in which they would like to grow and to become more efficient.  As a partner with the Member Business, Turner has the opportunity to form stronger community relationships with other businesses in the area.  Participation in the program also gives Turner the opportunity to evaluate its processes through a different set of eyes and find ways to become more lean.  Lean is “a transformational business strategy focused on maximizing customer value while eliminating waste through continuous improvement and respect for people.” In the end, we hope we can show the Member business tools, processes, and techniques on how to grow and be business in our industry for 116 years like us.

How do you see the Ascend Program as a benefit to the Memphis community?

The Ascend program allows companies of different sizes in the same trade or professional area to come together and learn from each other.  With this program we grow, Memphis grows!

How has the program been a benefit to your business?

It has allowed Turner to establish a more personal relationship with community partners not only in the construction industry but also in the business community.

What have you gained as a result of your participation in the program?

Friendships and stronger relationships with our Member business partners and the also a different perspective to help us be a better company.

What would you say to other business leaders, as yourself, to encourage their participation in the program?

There is a saying that “a closed hand cannot receive more”.  If other Leader Businesses in the Memphis Community want to continue to grow, it is imperative that these businesses pour back into the smaller companies that are trying to grow.  By giving back to the community, the Leader Business positions itself to receive all that the Memphis Community has to offer, and Memphis grows at the same time.

Jonathan Logan, Castle Black

2018 Member Business

Why did you become involved with the Ascend Program?

We joined the Ascend Program because we understand that the opportunity to learn from a much larger company doesn’t come every day. Furthermore, the opportunity to partnership and learn from a company like Turner Construction is even more rare.

What are the intended outcomes as a result of your participation in the program?

We expect to learn and apply some of Turner’s business practices and processes from different functional areas and apply them to our own. We understand that they may apply different to us because Turner is much larger than Castle Black, but we know we can shape them to fit our business model.

How do you see the Ascend Program as a benefit to the Memphis community?

With the need for small businesses to scale I see the Ascend Program as a positive impact to that growth. When small businesses are mentored by larger companies they have an opportunity to refine operations, develop incumbent employees, and hire new ones. It also gives owners the chance to foster new relationships.

How has the program been a benefit to your business so far?

Having a professional relationship with Turner as our mentor supports and encourages us to develop specific skills and knowledge that will maximize our business potential and improve performance.

What have you gained as a result of your participation in the program?

Simply put, the sharing and transfer of knowledge and information. This has been the greatest asset of the program.

Briggette Green, TopCat Masonry

2017 Member Business

Why did you become involved with the Ascend Program?

We became involved with the Ascend Program because it offered an unique opportunity to work with a larger company in a mentor capacity. We understood that the benefits realized would avail TopCat an opportunity to better understand the processes for running a larger organization, as we are looking to grow and expand our offerings within the next 3 years.

How was the program a benefit to your business? 

The first benefit we received was a tangible, workable plan. Our Leader firm initially met with our management team to establish a game plan to determine our path for growth and outlined a plan and implementation benchmarks for sustainability.

What have you gained as a result of your participation in the program? 

Our participation in the program has allowed us the opportunity to foster a relationship for sustained growth for our company.  The relationship with our Leader company is a value that is priceless.  We now have a straight line to an already proven, successful company that we would not have otherwise had the opportunity to work with on a one-on-one basis.

How do you see the Ascend Program as a benefit to the Memphis community? 

When Leader and Member firms are strategically aligned and true relationships are formed, the mutual benefits are immeasurable. And as we benefit from each other, the City of Memphis wins.  Those relationships help MWBE businesses to grow, which in turn makes it possible for those businesses to create jobs, as well as taxpaying citizens.Click here to learn more about the program, and click here to learn more about joining the Chairman's Circle as a Leader Business.