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A Conversation With... Patricia Parker : Parker's Business Helps Tribes and Government

Patricia Parker, Choctaw of Oklahoma, owns Native American Management Services. NAMS provides management services to federal clients with experience in financial services, training, technical assistance and program implementation and support. The company has a national network of staff and consultants, and the company consults with tribes and the American Indian business community.

Parker graduated from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa, majoring in theater and journalism. NAMS started in 1989 with an investment of $6,000 and last year turned a gross income of $10 million. Parker runs the business, which has 100 employees nationwide, with her sister, Tania.

Indian Country Today spoke with Parker about her life and international business.

ICT: How did you get into this type of business?

Patricia Parker: I came to work in D.C. for one year. My sister, Tania, my business partner, got me here because she said she was lonely. I worked with the federal government in the Indian Health Service. I worked with ìsmall businessî with the tribe and was amazed at the fact that I watched ìsmall businessî get million-dollar contracts and a year later the government would pull the contract, the company would go under ñ thatís when I learned fiscal responsibility. I learned a lot about small business from inside the federal government.

After 10 years with the federal and tribal government[s] I found out I was not a good employee; democracies are not my thing. If there is a problem, I want to get something done and governments donít always do that.

I always wanted to work with tribes and work with the federal government; I wanted to be of service.

We are there to help tribes and tribal communities to work the entire grant cycle. We found out we were correct, we have been more effective in helping a community as a facilitator and mediator, to be able to solve the problem, sit down and put together ways to solve a problem.

ICT: You just came back from China?

Parker: We found a very unique group in China and formed an alliance with Lakota Express in Kyle [on the Pine Ridge Reservation]. The folks in China are a data center and they do data entry in the morning (it is nighttime here), and the data comes to Kyle, they can do quality assurance. We use the labor pool of both China and the reservations to come up with a quality product that is not totally outsourced; we call it Best Shore.

The company is only a year old and we have had good response from corporate and government as well.

We work under [an] American business license, itís very much Western with team-building, empowering and to watch them work Ö they are happy. We promote and teach team-building and empowerment. They are hard workers and the wages are within the rate of China. I Ö didnít realize [that while] wages may be low, [some benefits are] provided ñ housing [and] access to medical [care]: a lot of corporations have to provide their workers with these benefits other than just wages.

ICT: What are the Chinese people like?

Parker: The people are so warm and friendly. I never felt threatened, and by having a business there I always had Chinese speakers. Itís a comfortable way to explore the country. I had a little trepidation; it was the first time I was that far away from home for that long.

It wasnít what I expected. In other parts of the country, you see the consequences of being the factory to the world. They donít have the same environmental standards as we do, but those are the realities. At the same time, in the Pearl River Delta it is beautiful, tropical and the people are warm and pleasant.

ICT: You were there on business, but did you have a chance to experience the culture?

Parker: I saw [The Great Wall of China], Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City [in Beijing]. There is a little capitalism ñ some shops and, just at the entrance, a Starbucks. I imagined thatís where the emperor had his latte.

ICT: What about the arts and culture?

Parker: What I found fascinating [were] the similarities between the Chinese culture and the Native American culture. I went to Fushun, the capital of pottery. I had just been in Albuquerque and took a tour of the cultural center and went through the pottery. The pottery was exactly the same in Fushun.

The respect of elders was very similar, and a promise is a promise: Your word is good and you donít need a piece of paper. With this experience I had to rethink that Bering Strait theory. It depends on who you talk to ñ maybe the cross was the other way.

The warmth and sense of community is much the same. We did a giveaway to show our appreciation. The ceremony could have been on any reservation. How they saw the ceremony was touching.

Our numbers [in the American Indian community] are small; and I giggled and thought to myself, ëIt might be kind of nice to have 1.3 billion cousins.í

ICT: Do you have interests outside of work?

Parker: I decided in the last couple of years to work on that. I basically dedicate myself to work. My work is not my work; it is a joy. I have been blessed with success. I do a lot of volunteer work Ö Part of what I believe in the culture is reciprocity. If you give back ñ itís a universal law ñ it will come back. Iím fortunate to have the ability to do that.

I took up golf and really enjoy it. Iím bad at it now, but [I] have fun. I love being able to get out on the golf courses; they are beautiful and outdoors. Iím also getting back into gardening.

Has your theater background benefited you in your work?

Parker: Theater taught me how to breathe. Breathing is very important for relaxation; itís a form of yoga and meditation. I breathe, I put a character in ñ I do, every morning: I put the character of the CEO in me. I breathe, relax and put on my face, makeup: I consider that war paint.

With theater, you have a responsibility of going out on stage in front of people and convincing people of your character as written. You have to find something of you in the character. That training helped me in business. The majority of business is relationships. Everyone I meet, whether I thought [I] had anything in common with them or not, in five minutes I can find common ground. I learned how to listen.

Patricia Parker, Choctaw of Oklahoma, owns Native American Management Services. NAMS provides management services to federal clients with experience in financial services, training, technical assistance and program implementation and support. The company has a national network of staff and consultants, and the company consults with tribes and the American Indian business community.Parker graduated from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa, majoring in theater and journalism. NAMS started in 1989 with an investment of $6,000 and last year turned a gross income of $10 million. Parker runs the business, which has 100 employees nationwide, with her sister, Tania.Indian Country Today spoke with Parker about her life and international business.ICT: How did you get into this type of business?Patricia Parker: I came to work in D.C. for one year. My sister, Tania, my business partner, got me here because she said she was lonely. I worked with the federal government in the Indian Health Service. I worked with ìsmall businessî with the tribe and was amazed at the fact that I watched ìsmall businessî get million-dollar contracts and a year later the government would pull the contract, the company would go under ñ thatís when I learned fiscal responsibility. I learned a lot about small business from inside the federal government.After 10 years with the federal and tribal government[s] I found out I was not a good employee; democracies are not my thing. If there is a problem, I want to get something done and governments donít always do that.I always wanted to work with tribes and work with the federal government; I wanted to be of service. We are there to help tribes and tribal communities to work the entire grant cycle. We found out we were correct, we have been more effective in helping a community as a facilitator and mediator, to be able to solve the problem, sit down and put together ways to solve a problem.ICT: You just came back from China?Parker: We found a very unique group in China and formed an alliance with Lakota Express in Kyle [on the Pine Ridge Reservation]. The folks in China are a data center and they do data entry in the morning (it is nighttime here), and the data comes to Kyle, they can do quality assurance. We use the labor pool of both China and the reservations to come up with a quality product that is not totally outsourced; we call it Best Shore.The company is only a year old and we have had good response from corporate and government as well.We work under [an] American business license, itís very much Western with team-building, empowering and to watch them work Ö they are happy. We promote and teach team-building and empowerment. They are hard workers and the wages are within the rate of China. I Ö didnít realize [that while] wages may be low, [some benefits are] provided ñ housing [and] access to medical [care]: a lot of corporations have to provide their workers with these benefits other than just wages.ICT: What are the Chinese people like?Parker: The people are so warm and friendly. I never felt threatened, and by having a business there I always had Chinese speakers. Itís a comfortable way to explore the country. I had a little trepidation; it was the first time I was that far away from home for that long.It wasnít what I expected. In other parts of the country, you see the consequences of being the factory to the world. They donít have the same environmental standards as we do, but those are the realities. At the same time, in the Pearl River Delta it is beautiful, tropical and the people are warm and pleasant.ICT: You were there on business, but did you have a chance to experience the culture?Parker: I saw [The Great Wall of China], Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City [in Beijing]. There is a little capitalism ñ some shops and, just at the entrance, a Starbucks. I imagined thatís where the emperor had his latte.ICT: What about the arts and culture?Parker: What I found fascinating [were] the similarities between the Chinese culture and the Native American culture. I went to Fushun, the capital of pottery. I had just been in Albuquerque and took a tour of the cultural center and went through the pottery. The pottery was exactly the same in Fushun.The respect of elders was very similar, and a promise is a promise: Your word is good and you donít need a piece of paper. With this experience I had to rethink that Bering Strait theory. It depends on who you talk to ñ maybe the cross was the other way.The warmth and sense of community is much the same. We did a giveaway to show our appreciation. The ceremony could have been on any reservation. How they saw the ceremony was touching.Our numbers [in the American Indian community] are small; and I giggled and thought to myself, ëIt might be kind of nice to have 1.3 billion cousins.íICT: Do you have interests outside of work?Parker: I decided in the last couple of years to work on that. I basically dedicate myself to work. My work is not my work; it is a joy. I have been blessed with success. I do a lot of volunteer work Ö Part of what I believe in the culture is reciprocity. If you give back ñ itís a universal law ñ it will come back. Iím fortunate to have the ability to do that.I took up golf and really enjoy it. Iím bad at it now, but [I] have fun. I love being able to get out on the golf courses; they are beautiful and outdoors. Iím also getting back into gardening.Has your theater background benefited you in your work?Parker: Theater taught me how to breathe. Breathing is very important for relaxation; itís a form of yoga and meditation. I breathe, I put a character in ñ I do, every morning: I put the character of the CEO in me. I breathe, relax and put on my face, makeup: I consider that war paint. With theater, you have a responsibility of going out on stage in front of people and convincing people of your character as written. You have to find something of you in the character. That training helped me in business. The majority of business is relationships. Everyone I meet, whether I thought [I] had anything in common with them or not, in five minutes I can find common ground. I learned how to listen.