Persevering Through the Unknown
Advance Construction proves that a little perseverance can go a long way for Liberian businesses. Founded in 2009 by Daniel Doe, Advance Construction and Engineering Corporation began with five employees and not a lot of business. Companies didn’t know Advance and weren’t willing to risk working with him. Meanwhile, Daniel wasn’t sure how to convince buyers to take a chance on him.
After his secretary attended Building Markets’ general procurement training, his entire business changed. During the training, Building Markets explained Expressions of Interest (EOI) documents, which introduce your business to potential buyers. The secretary convinced him to give it a try. So Daniel sent EOIs to 70 different businesses and 20 responded.
“At first [contracts were] for small concrete work then it became bigger jobs after they were satisfied,” Daniel, pictured below, said. “Then they started recommending me.”
Two of his biggest clients, UNICEF and ArcelorMittal, were of the 20 that responded to Advance’s EOI. With additional help from Building Markets’ tender distribution service, Advance won two contracts worth $229,681 from UNICEF and two contracts worth $518,544 from ArcelorMittal. He continues to win contracts with both of these buyers.
Advance’s first contract with ArcelorMittal came after four other companies said they could not complete the work as requested. “As a young company I said I could do this in order to showcase my work,” Daniel said. “This led to a contract worth $1.4 million. Before I didn’t even have [an annual] turnover of $100,000.”
To fulfill the contracts won by ArcelorMittal and UNICEF, Advance hires temporary workers as needed. In Nimba County where Advance is currently working on two contracts for ArcelorMittal, the company has over 100 employees, including 15 females. Back in Monrovia at their headquarters office, the company now employs 20 workers, quadruple the number it started with. Additionally, the contracts enabled Advance to send employees to various trainings or to pay their school fees with the idea that they will come back to Advance as loyal, full-time employees with skills.
“Overall, I’ve improved the lives of those that work here,” Daniel said. “The main objective of working is to feed your family and become more comfortable.”
Moreover, the four contracts won through Building Markets’ services allowed the company to purchase a variety of equipment, including a concrete mixer, vehicles, scaffolding and power tools. But Daniel won’t stop there. In the next five years, he wants to expand the business to include construction equipment rentals. He aims to target construction companies, mining companies and possibly the government. The company will need at least $300,000 to get started.
One of Advance’s biggest constraints is access to finance, particularly because most of the contracts he completes require pre-financing. Receiving an overdraft facility of $85,000 from FI Bank helped address this challenge, as well as being able to pay 25% up front to his material suppliers then pay the rest as after he receives first payment from the buyer.
Daniel says he hopes his story will inspire others in Liberia’s business community. “I always need Building Markets because they are a partner for growth,” he said. “The most important thing is to help businesses get funding and create opportunities to get work.”