The Power of Mentor-Protégé Agreements: Q&A with Legacy Restoration’s Noel Williams
While “bettering the surrounding community in which we live” has served as one of Landis's guiding principles since its founding in 1956, this year, the company took a significant step forward by entering into a formal Mentor-Protégé Agreement with local DBE firm Legacy Restoration and Referral, LLC. As another family-owned company with similar values and standards of integrity, this partnership was truly a perfect fit.
Under the leadership of third-generation CEO Anne Teague, Landis has increasingly sought out new opportunities and ways to be more intentional about supporting the local minority-owned business community here in the city we love. Through a mutual connection, we have been fortunate to get to know Legacy’s President Noel Williams both personally and professionally and work alongside his incredible team on a variety of projects, including Behrman Elementary School and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Linear Park.
Together, we’re helping pave the way for other local small businesses to find opportunities for growth and success. Learn more about our Mentor-Protégé relationship from Noel’s perspective in the interview below.
- What is the story behind the company and why it was created?
We opened Legacy Restoration in 2017 while nearing the conclusion of my service in the military. Upon relocating to New Orleans in 2015 and beginning my transition from a military to civilian career, I realized just how great of a need there was for fair, trustworthy and knowledgeable contractors in the area. At the time, my son was studying to be a civil engineer and I wanted to build a business that could generate opportunities for success not just for my own family, but for other New Orleans families for generations to come -- which is why we landed on the name “Legacy.”
- What are the key points in the history of the company?
Since I opened the company while I was still active-duty and had no existing client base, we started by hanging real estate signs in the French Quarter every day in the morning, during lunch, and in the evening, hoping to catch the eye of local residents there. While it took some time, we eventually became affiliated with a prominent real estate company - French Quarter Reality - in the Spring of 2017, which opened a lot of doors for us in those early months.
To begin building my reputation and clientele, I began doing small handyman jobs wherever I could, which allowed me to build a small but reliable number of recurring clients and hire two additional people to support. Upon completing my service and attaining my commercial license in 2019, the type of projects we could take on broadened substantially, and I saw just how many opportunities existed here for those who were willing to put in the work to capitalize on them.
As the company started to grow, I was constantly working to build up my own personal network and gain as many certifications as possible, including our status as a Disabled Veteran Business, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), etc. These resources were instrumental to our continued success, having provided us with valuable resources and knowledge pertaining to administration, investing in the right technology and back-office HR policies and procedures.
After starting out in residential and developing a growing network of clients who sung our praises, one of my proudest professional moments occurred in the Spring of 201 when we were awarded our first federal contract with the VA. The project’s massive scope and number of partners was huge for us in terms of networking and relationship-building, which led to future opportunities such as the New Orleans African American Museum Project.
We’ve been so fortunate over these past few years, and are now proud to employ 12 talented, hardworking and trustworthy individuals that speak to our core values upon which Legacy was founded.
- How did you become aware of/affiliated with the team at Landis? What makes them unique or draw you to them as a company?
As a certified DBE, there were a lot of different workshops we were invited to that were put on for rebuilding schools throughout the area. During one of those events, I was introduced to Larry Jordan with Jacobs CRS, who recognized our company’s value and wanted to help us do things the right through licenses, insurances, and building a really solid foundation for the business. Larry was actually the one who connected me with Landis as a DBE subcontractor for their Behrman Elementary historic renovation project.
Almost immediately from the time I walked in the door for our very first meeting with the Landis team, I recognized that they were different from other general contractors throughout the area. They are a company deeply committed to inclusion, and they’ve proven that; not just in their words but through their track record of working alongside minority-owned businesses such as ours and providing them with opportunities they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
Another thing that really attracted me to Landis was their treatment of their employees as family and their willingness to go above and beyond for each one of them. You can tell everything about the way someone does business by what their employees say about them, and this was clear about Landis from Day 1. They have fully embraced Legacy’s employees as their own, inviting them to regular meetings maintaining open and transparent lines of communication with them.
After just a short time of knowing and working with the Landis team, I can genuinely say that they are who we/I aspire to be as a company and as a leader in this community; which is why I was deeply honored for the opportunity enter into a formal Mentor-Protégé Agreement with them this year.
I can’t stress enough the value of that relationship - from daily conversations and strategy sessions to providing access to resources and contacts - the team at Landis has been there to support and guide us every single step of the way.
- What projects are you currently working on or plan to work on together?
- Behrman Elementary School (currently underway)
- New Orleans Ernest Morial Convention Center (currently underway)
- South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center (Landis has helped us receive Division 1 requirements to start and complete a state-level project of this size)
- Several smaller jobs for Cox Communications
- Goals for the future? Federal projects!
- What are some of the largest challenges you face as a minority-owned business in New Orleans?
- Human Resources: The availability of people that fit the mold of what you’re looking for that fit your company culture. Unfortunately, I don’t have the flexibility to pay exorbitant wages so I have to rely on creating the right vision and culture and find the right employees that will buy in to that vision and long-term goals.
- Talent Recruitment: I really don’t believe in hiring, but “recruiting” people who fit our company culture and believe in what we’re all about.
- Bonding Capacity: The ability to increase bonding capacity is what drives your ability to complete larger-scale projects.
- How has your relationship with Landis helped you overcome any of those challenges?
The mentorship piece is huge. They have taught us so much by detailing the mistakes that they have seen and/or made over the last six decades and showing us what to do to be proactive and avoid those in the future. To know that one of the city’s most respected firms has and continues to face the same challenges as we do is so refreshing.
With a company as large, established and prominent as Landis, I’m constantly amazed at their humility and willingness to give to those around them. Something really special and unique to our Mentor-Protégé Agreement (which speaks volumes about their leadership team) is that they’ve also encouraged us to let them know if they’re doing anything wrong or ways in which they could approach things better. Through my monthly meetings with CEO Anne Teague, we have developed a truly two-sided and mutually beneficial partnership in which we constantly learn and grow from one another’s unique experiences as Black- and women-owned businesses in this industry.
While we continue to face challenges and pitfalls almost daily, having the team at Landis as a readily available sounding board to talk through them in real-time as they arise has been immensely beneficial. What I think is really special about Landis and speaks volumes about their leadership team is that they’ve also encouraged us to let them know if they’re doing anything wrong or ways in which they could approach things better.
I know they genuinely have our best interest at heart and want us to continue to grow and succeed, even though that could mean competing with us for business. So many companies, especially in today’s world, talk a big game when it comes to supporting minority-owned businesses but have very little to show for it. With Landis, what you see is what you get. They’ve never once made us feel like a small company, but have always treated our team as equal peers. The real, long-term relationships we’ve built with Landis, both on a personal and professional level, is something really rare.
- What are your goals for the future?
Of course, we want to continue to grow and receive larger, more complex projects. But most importantly, I want to be able to do what Landis has done for us by reaching out and helping smaller, emerging business owners achieve the same levels of success. Because when our small, minority-owned businesses win, we all win -- something Landis intimately understands and believes in.