Insight from a 2016 Small Business Person of the Year on best practices within & outside of your company

Terry Douglas, president of Alliant Corporation in Knoxville, Tennessee, was recently named the 2016 Tennessee Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Douglas recently joined other award winners in Washington, D.C., during National Small Business Week, May 1-7, 2016.

“While it is an honor to be recognized, this award is a reflection on the outstanding people who make up, and contribute to, Alliant, and our clients who give us the opportunity to do what we do,” said Douglas. “Without either one of those two ingredients, recipients of this award are no more or less distinguishable than the next person.”

Started in 2000 by Douglas and Greg Galaher, Alliant Corporation provides consulting and professional services in environmental management, occupational safety and health and project control for governmental and commercial organizations across the U.S. Alliant Corporation also offers Job Hazard Analytics, a web-based application created to help users ensure that job hazard analysis accurately and consistently delivers maximum worker protection, minimizes risk exposure for individuals and corporations and increases work quality and productivity.

CBO caught up with Douglas to discuss leadership and business best practices. Read his insights below.


CBO: Tell us a bit more about what Alliant does—especially in relation to construction.

TD: We operate a professional services company focused in environmental management and safety. This involves working with our customers to solve waste management, compliance, and energy management issues. The company branched into that area about 5 years ago. Alliant looks at facility design and operations, occupational safety and health, such as industrial hygiene, and looks for ways to improve such processes and environments.

The company also focuses on project control as it fits in to these areas. We often work with construction companies in developing cost estimates, claims and processing and project scheduling. Our client base is largely federal—so we spend a lot of time supporting federal contractors. We’re often involved with decontamination and demolition of facilities and with cleaning up complex waste forms that require specialized treatment and disposal techniques.

We are not geographically limited—we mobilize based on where our contractors need us to be. About 14 years ago, we began developing a web-based solution for safety and health job hazard analysis. We encounter job hazard analysis issues on our own while out on the jobsites, so we decided to stop complaining about the limited options we had at the time and create a tool on our own—Job Hazard Analytics.

We recently commercialized the software because we had people coming in saying, “Your company’s JHA process is quick and thorough—how do you do it?” It’s easy to start the conversation with, “Our mission is risk management on behalf of the worker.” But when you start quantifying that risk, you have to optimize risk mitigation. It starts with inventorying risks that are relevant to the industry by asking specific questions about risk factors that might be present which would leave workers exposed to hazards. Weighted scores are assigned to each question’s response based on the risks present on a particular jobsite.


CBO: What innovative processes and business best practices do you employ at Alliant that make you Tennessee’s Small Business Person of the Year?

TD: The business processes we have in place are secondary to the level of commitment to our clients. We started from day one with a commitment to service excellence. It’s not unique to our industry, but my belief is this: You have to understand that, in our business, there are lots of people that do what we do, and it is the quality of the service we deliver that separates us. We started the company 15 years ago with a core commitment to operate at the highest level of quality possible.

We want to be skilled professionals who do not just address a particular challenge, but ones who take the time to understand what it means to the customer and leverage our expertise to anticipate the customer’s needs that they may not even see coming yet. In other words, how do we plan our solutions in a way that will help our customers get over as many hurdles as possible? We are committed to making sure that we are responsive to what comes next for the customer.


CBO: You give credit to your employees for your award. Do you have any advice for business owners looking to attract and retain key talent this year? What do you do in your company to attract top workers?


TD: We also made a commitment within the company to make Alliant a destination employer. We understand that there is a certain environment we have to create to be that, though. A starting place for us was to make sure we offered good compensation packages and that our employees were awarded for the quality of work that was done. We took care of any medical and retirement concerns early on—as well as anything else that could distract employees from their core mission while working for Alliant.

I always tell employees that I have a huge appreciation for what they know—and I want to reward that knowledge and leverage it. I wanted to expand employees’ core competencies as well. We try to give employees the latitude to do that. While an employee may be in one particular role, we try not to be so prescriptive about how to do that specific job that there is no room for movement or imagination. We don’t want to stifle our employees. The bottom line is this: Look for the best talent you can find, and when they join you, don’t shut them down when they have ideas. Focus on leveraging those attributes that attracted you to them in the first place by giving them the room to grow professionally.

For more information, visit Alliant Corporation.