Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why Government Needs Healers -- And Not Just Medics

Government Contracts Rising for Determined Visionaries

Despite all the effort that it takes, even solo consultants and owners of very small businesses (including but not limited to those in groups like eWomenNetwork) should be looking into, and thinking about, how they can bring their expertise to a nation that need them.

Did you see Phaedra Hise's article, "Everyone Wants to Start a Business" in the February edition of Fortune Small Business?

Phaedra's article got me jazzed when I thought about the bumper crop of new business owners in Chris Anderson's "Long Tail" world AND an environment of growing government spending at federal, state and local.

Here are a few things I think are worth watching.

- government contracting has become more accessible for both buyers and sellers: there are more ways for very small suppliers to reach government buyers, and there are more ways that government has to do business with them.

- while on one hand there is a trend to bundle government's needs into the biggest contracts possible, we're also going to see a trend at the small end for more purchases of highly tailored services.

Now watch for this:

- We're especially going to see that in HR, as the government workforce shrinks over the next five years. Some will have the resources, connections, and courage to come back as independent contractors -- a life that, believe me, is not for the faint of heart.

Among those who remain, at least two things will happen: employee retention will be come an even bigger issue, as salaries can't rise much. Governments will need to rely on improving other quality of work life initiatives, like even greater schedule and logistics flexibility as well as fostering a more creative, renewing, nurturing work environment where employees will want to stay.

There are also thousands of government employees who can't be forced to retire, but are totally burnt out, have no idea who they are or how they would make a living if they didn't come in and warm a chair every day. Some of them are counting off six, seven, eight years or more to retirement (imagine that many red "X"s on your calendar! How horrible!), and have become "social" workers -- that is, they come in because they just enjoy a place to socialize and get paid for it. Their performance is nominal; not bad enough to get fired, but will never set the world on fire.

Now, what kind of service do we as citizens get from governments that have both of those forces at work? A morale pit that is an immense challenge to any leader, especially one facing significant responsibilities and, certainly at the federal level, budgets decimated by war in Iraq.

- That emerging need is the natural niche for hundreds of small businesses in the business of executive coaching, facilitation, and group dynamics . Many of them are sole-proprietorships owned by women who checked out of a hostile corporate or government business environment and set up on their own. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, NASA, EPA, State Department and DoD are among the many who are calling for help from these very small businesses. Their owners often have masters degrees, diverse personal and professional experience, exceptional credentials and extraordinary compassion to bring healing to strife-ridden government workplaces.

- Then there is the work and family environment decimated by war in Iraq. The recent series in the Washington Post that galvanized DoD to action on conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is only the beginning of reporting we are going to keep seeing on the shredding of the social fabric of military families. The federal government that pays for the entire active duty and reserve military, in combination with the state government budgets that also support the National Guard, is going to be under pressure to provide much more comprehensive social services to help those families and children cope, function, and heal.

While TRICARE -- the military medical health care system -- is in place to deal with some of those needs, and the Department of Veterans Affairs with some, the need for help far outstrips that which is available right now.

Very small businesses operating in the communities where military families live are also a natural choice to help.

The "Long Tail" theory is going to show up here, too, over the months ahead. Government buyers will make maximum use of the current processes, and, if need be, push for improvements, to make it easy for them to connect with small niche providers in communities close to them, and the smartest of these emerging small businesses will quickly figure out how to connect with those who need their services.

Online resources will help, but ultimately the connections that count most will be in person, and based on personal referrals.

See more stats on my blog -- -- or contact me to explore possibilities for YOUR company.

I've been interviewed on more general directions for small business and government contracting most recently by Entrepreneur magazine, and also by WPAB Radio in Dallas, and Amtower on Success; my articles have appeared most recently in FrontLine Security, CanadExport, and the SOHO Business Report.

But on these emerging small business niches for government contracting...You heard it here first.

Judy Bradt
Principal & CEO, Summit Insight
703 627 1074

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