During a Bible study group years ago, Harris Floyd heard a member say a quote from Sir Winston Churchill. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Floyd now has the quote displayed in multiple locations including on the wall of her home office and saved on her phone and laptop.
“It was so impactful,” she says. “It was very salient to me. … Wherever I am going to be looking and sitting, I will have that quote directly in front of me.”
As a small minority business owner, the quote is a constant reminder of the constant hard work needed to maintain a thriving company.
“Success is not final,” she said. “We can’t rest on it. We can’t be like ‘We made it’ because we have to continue to make it.”
Floyd and her husband Shelvin own the Largo-based Easy AV, an audiovisual company providing consulting, design concepts, system installation, programming, training, service and maintenance.
After graduating from Kee Business College in the mid-1980s, Shelvin Floyd got his start in the AV world after a friend from school recommended him for a job. He worked at several companies before deciding to start his own, Easy AV, in 2011. With a background in business development, marketing and sales, Floyd joined the company in 2017.
One of the struggles the couple has faced owning a small business is what Floyd calls the chicken and egg situation. A company needs certain infrastructure like certifications and insurance in place before they place bids for particular work while also handling day-to-day operations. This year, Floyd made a priority for the business to get a pay performance bond.
They had worked in different areas such as commercial and local government and were not required to have a bond. Yet Floyd saw other projects asking for businesses that were bonded. After receiving the bond, the business is now able to bid on additional work.
Last year, the company had three major projects lined up together. “We were going to be able to fund them ourselves until one of those major projects didn’t pay,” she said. “There was no reason for us to suspect that we would not get paid.” Though the check came five months late, the couple had to scramble to secure financing for the other projects.
“I learned from that and I will not be in that position again ever,” she said.
“If I get contract funding upfront, I can pay these individuals — period. And they don’t have to wait for us to get paid from the client,” Floyd said. “Those are things that are critical and important to us because we’ve been there and we are still there and it is difficult to come and work on a project that is however long, six weeks, six months and you are still waiting for payment 8 to 10 months out.”
Their ability to adapt as well has added extra layers of infrastructure to the company making them stronger than they were before. Working as local, state and federal contractors and subcontractors, the business regularly participates in the procurement process. Floyd notes that if she were to give advice on the practice, she would tell someone there are no shortcuts.
“There are straighter paths but there are no short cuts to any kind of government contracting,” she said.
Businesses also need to understand the importance of compliance. “Do not skip steps, educate yourself and don’t rely on other people’s experience,” she said. “Take that experience in but educate yourself.”
Floyd notes her favorite aspect of her work is that her job doesn’t feel like work.
“There is a freedom inside of this (business),” she said. “It is like music. In music, you can do whatever you want to do within the structure of what you are trying to do. There is a level of freedom that I really appreciate in being the owner of a business. I can choose who I want to work with.”
This article is featured in the 2020 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.