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How to be the Company Everyone Wants to Work With

Although most of the small businesses in Louisiana work as hard as fabled Cinderella, not many of them expect the “Fairy Job Mother” to come along and wave a magic wand instantly making their business “The Company Everyone Wants to Work With.” Luckily for small businesses in the state, LED has a number of tools and resources available through its office of Small Business Services, particularly the Small and Emerging Business Development (SEBD) Program that can help by providing managerial and technical assistance to small business owners to help them run, sustain and grow their businesses.

Jacobs Engineering is a company partnering with LED on one of its new programs and Program Manager Amanda Gaze offered a few thoughts on what prime contractors are looking for in vendor companies and subcontractors. She shared that Jacobs looks for firms with strong communication, flexibility, and those that are creative problem solvers. The company especially enjoys working with businesses that eventually grow beyond the prime/sub relationship and become true partners. “Jacobs understands that we cannot do it all,” Gaze said. “We need diverse businesses in our shared marketplace that have the experience, confidence and resources to help us deliver projects efficiently, cost-effectively and successfully. This principle makes it ideal for Jacobs to help nurture a pool of companies that we can readily utilize on the vast amount of our projects.”

Last year, LED launched its pilot Mentor-Protégé Recognition Program. This endeavor seeks to assist small and emerging businesses, including those owned by minorities, women and veterans, by connecting them with mentor companies that can provide technical and developmental assistance so they may better compete for public- and private-sector opportunities.

Under the program, companies work together for a year, with an option for renewing the partnership for up to two additional years. As part of the application process, protégé companies identify business practices in which they need assistance, and mentor companies offer to provide assistance in specific areas. Mentorship can include a range of business activities, such as financial management, inventory control, access to capital, risk management, marketing and more.

The Mentor and Protégé Speak

On a corporate level, Jacobs Engineering participates in a variety of mentor programs in its offices across the United States, so the company was a natural fit to join LED’s pilot Mentor-Protégé Recognition Program. “Jacobs has mentored small and diverse businesses for more than twenty years, helping the protégé companies enhance skill sets to allow them to operate more efficiently and develop a sharper focus on what is needed to grow,” explained Gaze. “We recognize the importance and benefits of making a positive economic impact in the communities where we live and work. Jacobs is passionately dedicated to building a strong, diverse, small business network that provides flexibility, market-specific insights, and economic and environmentally sustainable solutions—so that we can effectively serve our communities together as a team.”

Amanda Gaze spearheaded the initiative for Jacobs who chose ILSI Engineers in New Orleans as their protégé. After collaboratively identifying some of ILSI’s business practice goals and opportunities, Jacobs put together a plan to assist. An overtime practices assessment and action plan was developed along with mentoring sessions on targeted hiring, which resulted in the hiring of two senior-level, highly skilled engineers. The two companies partnered on proposals for both a federal and a maritime contract, which were two marketplaces that Jacobs and ILSI had previously not explored together. Currently, a financial resiliency assessment is underway, which will yield strategies to recognize revenue, track work in progress, and provide some different approaches to monitoring project financials.

ILSI and its CEO/President, Iam Tucker is excited and proud of the partnership with Jacobs, and especially thankful for the team that the company works with here in Louisiana. “We work with a wide variety of large multinational engineering firms, so we understand how large corporate culture can be,” said Tucker. “The team at Jacobs is excellent at working with us, and treating us as a teammate and a trusted business partner, and not looking down on us as a mere subcontractor. We seek to always be a partner that can be creative and innovative in our approach to all facets of the business relationship, and we appreciate our mentors at Jacobs who work in the same spirit of camaraderie.”

The Jacobs team is equally complimentary of the ILSI leadership team and the relationship they have developed with the company. “ILSI has been tremendously dynamic with finding new resources and skill areas where they can support the project and help accomplish our overall deliverables while also expanding their own offerings,” said Amanda Gaze. “They (ILSI) also have a commitment to making the whole team successful. ILSI monitors the reputation of our shared programs and projects, and is very communicative when we need to make changes. In fact, their team is often part of the problem-solving process. They have become a truly dynamic and trusted partner.”

ILSI has used additional LED resources to help facilitate growth, including Economic Gardening and CEO Roundtables. Economic Gardening is an intensive market research program that provides companies with virtual access to information that is tailored to a company’s specific business issues and challenges. CEO Roundtables bring together small groups of key decision-makers from Louisiana-based small businesses 10 times over the course of the year for peer-to-peer learning and support through growth-oriented, collaborative roundtable sessions. Companies who have participated in these two popular programs come away with a wealth of knowledge and practical experience that they can directly apply to their business. The company is also part of the LED Growth Network which consists of companies that have completed either the Economic Gardening Initiative, CEO Roundtables, or both programs. Companies meeting the eligibility requirements for these programs are defined as “second-stage” companies. They are beyond the startup phase, have not yet reached maturity and are poised for future growth.

As a testament to its hard work and many of the business practices developed from the suite of programs provided by LED, ILSI Engineering was recently selected as a Louisiana Growth Leader, which honors LED Growth Network companies based on different categories including growth, innovation, leadership, culture and community contributions. Gov. John Bel Edwards recently recognized ILSI as part of the inaugural class of companies participating in Louisiana’s Mentor-Protégé Recognition Program.

Interested in the Mentor-Protégé Recognition Program?

LED is accepting applications for protégé companies to enter the program. Applicants must be certified in LED’s Small and Emerging Business Development program and be in good standing with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. The protégé pool is made available to mentor companies, and the companies can select protégé companies at their discretion.

To apply, visit For additional information about the program, contact Tatiana Bruce of LED at or 225.342.5663. For information about LED’s suite of programs for small businesses, visit

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