Ten years ago, with our economy mired in a deep recession, Carla Walker-Miller’s business was at a critical crossroads.
Walker-Miller is long-time DTE supplier. In 2000, she left a successful engineering career to launch her own company. She became CEO of Detroit-based Walker-Miller Energy Services, a distributor for medium-and high-voltage equipment. DTE was among her first customers. Initially, her company thrived; and then in 2009, growth stagnated because of the recession.
Rather than quit, Walker-Miller adapted.
“The passage of the energy efficiency legislation created new opportunities,” she said. “So, I pitched my ideas and launched what is now my core business.”
Walker-Miller Energy Services began working as an energy waste reduction subcontractor, and slowly acquired prime contracts. A decade later, that persistence and patience is paying off. The company is an industry leader in energy waste reduction consultation, employing specialists that show DTE customers how to reduce their energy use.
Walker-Miller started with 11 employees. Today, the company employs 120 people in three states, and revenue is growing. DTE’s 2019 spend with Walker-Miller will exceed $11 million.
Beyond hard work and competitive pricing, Walker-Miller says a caring corporate culture is the secret to her success.
“Early in my career, I focused solely on the bottom line – just dollars and cents — but now it’s about creating the type of environment I would want to work in, where everyone feels valued,” she said. “We hire for character and train for skill. It’s been an effective strategy.”
Walker-Miller is turning that culture of caring outward, to create opportunity for Detroiters. The company strives to ensure 60 percent of its local team members are Detroit residents.
“Talent is divided up equally, but opportunity is not,” she said. “That’s why we’re intentional about hiring Detroit residents.”
An example is the company’s Green Jobs program, which hires Detroiters without experience and trains them to become certified energy auditors. Walker-Miller guarantees employment for program participants that pass the energy auditor certification test.
“This is a chance for training in a growing profession,” she said. “It’s not just a job, it’s a career path.”
DTE Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer Tony Tomczak says Walker-Miller’s community focus is the foundation for a successful partnership.
“DTE strives to be a force for growth in the communities we serve. Diversifying our supply chain and bringing jobs back to local neighborhoods is a big part of that,” he said. “Walker-Miller demonstrates the same commitment, and together, we’re changing lives.”
After nearly two decades as a supplier, Walker-Miller credits the DTE supplier diversity team with allowing her business to maximize its opportunities.
“In terms of embracing diversity and inclusion, DTE is way ahead of the curve,” she said. “They’re a clear leader in supplier diversity. Their program is the best-in-class, in every way.”
Walker Miller Energy Services is a National Minority Supplier Development Council-certified, minority-owned business.