By Barrett Baker
Pablo Gonzalez, President of Tactical Office Solutions in Hampton, admits that it wasn’t easy getting started as a minority-owned business. “I had a partner, a retired military gentleman, and he and I were looking for a better way to build a mousetrap, as they say, to improve our personal lives,” he recalls. “So we joined forces and started going after government contracts in our area. We literally began in a room over a garage and knocked on doors for about 18 months before we got our first contact. After that, the rest is history.” Now 12 years later, they’re supplying office office furniture to businesses all across Coastal Virginia, Washington, D.C. and even around the globe.
Tactical Office is a commercial furniture dealership that supplies small, medium and large businesses with all interior work, including furniture, flooring, window treatments and more. They have interior designers on staff to help create the look and feel their clients want, and they have project managers to ensure that everything runs smoothly, from the moment the order is placed to the delivery and setup. “We do everything from a single seat all the way up to the entire building, depending on what our clients need,” Gonzalez adds.
The biggest challenge they faced when getting started was getting access to capital, although they eventually discovered there are a lot of organizations that provide minority businesses with monetary sources. They also discovered various programs available through the federal government, as well as the state of Virginia, that provide assistance. But even when they got the money they needed, they discovered that being a minority-owned business came with some challenges.
“This is my personal feeling, but I think you’re viewed differently that other businesses that aren’t minority-owned,” says Gonzalez, who is Puerto Rican and Mexican. “I can’t say it’s ownership, but based on the totality of the circumstances, potential customers kind of look at you like, ‘you’re a small business and minority-owned, and you haven’t been around as long as some of the bigger, non-minority firms.’ And sometimes I think we lose business because of that.”
But that doesn’t stop Gonzalez from giving back to the community. “What happens with a lot of government contracts is, they have existing furniture that’s still pretty useful,” he says. “So what we like to do is try to find a home for that furniture. Once the government releases it to go to the dump or whatever, we take it and reposition it to other small businesses that are just getting started or to charitable organizations like the Red Cross or Peninsula Free Christian Dental. So we have a little outreach program that repositions used furniture very quickly. It’s very expensive to warehouse and maintain that furniture, so we like to donate it to find a good home for it.” In doing so, they’re not only helping other businesses; they’re also helping to protect the environment.
In addition, Tactical Office mentors other small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses that may be early on in their development. They provide guidance and share their experiences as to what made them successful and some of the challenges they faced along the way and how they overcame them, to help those businesses learn how they can react to barriers and power through them.
“One of the things I try to pass along to others is that you’re not going to get business strictly because you’re a minority,” Gonzalez says. “I can’t say that by virtue of being a minority that we have gained any type of competitive advantage, but there are some programs out there that tell you, ‘if you get this certification or that certification, these contracts are going to be flowing to you because of your minority status. That’s just not the case. I think minority businesses have to work, but they have to work extra hard in making those sales calls, getting in front of people and showing them their true capabilities and how they can be of value to any business or entity. I think in most businesses, sales, sales, sales is the name of the game. As long as you have sales coming in and collecting money, you’re going to be in good shape.”
Learn more at TOSOffice.com.