Somehow, though, Necole Parker’s small company hasn’t let up on the throttle. Quite the opposite. In terms of job creation, Parker has gone from zero to 60 — 63 employees, to be exact — in seven years flat. And Washington has taken notice.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has named Parker — owner of ELOCEN Group, which provides construction, consulting and design services to public and private-sector customers — the District of Columbia’s Small Business person of the year. Her company was also named one of six finalists for the agency’s national small business of the year award, to be announced at an event at the White House on Friday at the conclusion of National Small Business Week.
Started in 2007 as a one-woman consultancy, Parker’s ELOCEN (her first name spelled backward) Group began to add employees around 2010 and has expanded steadily ever since. The company provides start-to-finish support services for federal departments going through a relocation, from designing and outfitting the interior of their new space to sweeping the floors and turning in the keys to their old offices. Her current clients include the Army, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Science Foundation.
The company recently expanded into the commercial sector, signing Coca Cola as its first private-sector client and taking ELOCEN north of $20 million in revenue last year.
“Our goal is to help our clients get out of their old building and into their new one with minimal disruptions to their operations,” said Parker, a Prince George’s County, Md., native who holds a business degree from Virginia Union University in Richmond.
In large part, Parker says her company’s success over the past five years stems from lessons she learned while working for a quartet of other government contractors earlier in her career, including lessons about both what to do and what not to do.
“I think it’s as much about learning and adopting best practices as it is learning and avoiding the not-so-good practices,” Parker said in an interview, later noting that her team, even as it continues to grow, still carves out time to meet as a large group periodically to discuss what’s working well on one contract that could potentially be duplicated on another. “That didn’t always happen at the companies I worked for in the past, and I have tried to learn from that in building our business.”
In addition, Parker believes that her hiring strategy has helped sustain the company’s growth. Rather than seek prospects who can fill a certain contract ELOCEN is competing for, she tries to identify bright and versatile candidates who could shift from contract to contract or even double up on more than one project. That allows her to invest more time and resources into helping those workers grow professionally without worrying that they may up and leave once their current project ends.
“I want our people to grow just as our company grows,” Parker said.
Looking ahead, Parker says her priority is expanding the company’s private-sector work while also strengthening the relationships she has built within the federal government. Down the road, she says she may entertain the idea of expanding her business globally.
“One thing at a time,” she said. “It’s important that we continue to grow organically and that we don’t bite off more than we can chew.”