As current vice chairman of the National Association of Minority Contractors’ DFW chapter, Colón brings to the job significant expertise in building diverse partnerships and teams to increase McKissack’s capacity, readiness and growth.
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — McKissack & McKissack, one of the nation’s leading Black- and woman-owned architecture, engineering and program and construction management firms, announced today that Shandra Colón joined the company as vice president of business development in its Dallas, Texas, office. Colón, a Dallas native known as an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in the commercial real estate business, will focus on strengthening McKissack’s strategic partnerships in the fast-growing Texas market and with corporate clients nationwide.
Before joining McKissack, Colón, who calls herself a “serial entrepreneur,” was chief navigation officer and president of The Catalyst Firm, a consulting company specializing in business development strategy, especially for minority- and women-owned firms in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. She will continue her advocacy work in the AEC industry by remaining on the board of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors as its current vice chairman.
“Shandra’s drive, professional record, commitment to DE&I and demonstrated ability to build connections with corporate and civic leaders makes her one of the top business development executives in the DFW market,” President and CEO Deryl McKissack said. “I know she’ll help broaden our network in Texas, where we’re already leading significant projects that have given us great visibility, but we’re also pulling her into our national corporate work thanks to her strengths. She’s smart, focused and sophisticated, and understands the qualities that each party needs to bring to good partnerships.”
In Texas, McKissack is currently working on the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum both the Dallas and Fort Worth Independent School Districts, Texas Woman’s University and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Colón said she plans to concentrate on the firm’s K-12 education, aviation and convention business in the state and nationally.
Business Development for MWBEs Depends on Relationship-Building Skills
For MWBE AEC firms, navigating the public and private sectors and building partnerships with corporate and government entities is vital to success, according to Colón. “A lot of times when people ask me, what do I do? I say, ‘Well, I’m a market and teaming strategist,’ because my goal is really to bring the right players together to win the deal. And that’s what I’m doing with Deryl here in DFW and with corporate partners nationally,” she said.
Prior to her involvement with NAMC, Colón was a member of the board of directors of the Regional Black Contractors Association. Through her work with minority contracting associations, Colón said, she learned to navigate public entities, so member firms were positioned to fairly go after contracts. “I’m an advocate first,” she said. She saw a gap between the mostly small minority contracting firms and large real estate firms and property owners. “Mid-sized firms with industry track records, such as McKissack, can cross that gap and help their partners cross it, too,” she pointed out.
“Sometimes personality and charm can get you to the table, but your ability to communicate clearly, establish and set realistic expectations and ultimately deliver is the real game changer when it comes to business development. And working with strong brands like McKissack, with its reputation for excellence, is not only a tremendous opportunity but also a privilege,” Colón said. “I’ve always been very particular about who I work with, and make sure that I trust and believe in what they do so that we’re successful. Reputation, of course, is everything. My success has been due to tailoring strategy to those I work for and limiting who I work with to the very best in the industry.”
DFW Native Found Her “Warrior Spirit”
Colón, the Dallas-born daughter of Mexican immigrants, started in the real estate industry after high school at a property management firm. At first, it was just a job. “I can’t say that I was truly interested in the work,” she admitted. Over time, she built relationships with other property management companies. Eventually, a janitorial service firm that wanted to increase its DFW presence hired her to develop its business with property managers. “I went gangbusters and secured dozens of major contracts with buildings that were anywhere between 20 and 40 stories. And I did it the old school way—by knocking on doors and cold calling. That’s when I was bit by the business development bug,” she recalled.
Colón became the Southwest sales and marketing director for that company, Pritchard Industries. She went on to be a commercial real estate specialist at Dallas-based real estate investment firm Behringer Harvard, and to serve as a business consultant and performance coach for Halo Realty, another Texas firm. She founded Catalyst in 2013.
Colón and Deryl McKissack met through the Regional Black Contractors Association several years ago. “The association asked me to work with Deryl whenever she came to Dallas and go to her appointments with her, ensuring she had representation from an advocacy standpoint. So, we spent a lot of time in the car together, driving from meeting to meeting across the region over the past few years.” The two women discovered that they shared “a warrior spirit,” Colón said, both driven to succeed and to bring others along.
“I’ve had my own small business for 10 years now. And Deryl McKissack is the only person and the only company in DFW that inspired me to put down my personal brand and my hat and wave her flag all day, every day in DFW,'” Colón said. “Because that’s how much I believe in her company, what she’s built, her team and their mission.”