Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Small Business Specialists Share Insider Tips

Get The Inside Scoop

Here's what I heard these top small business specialists say on how they can best help you.
  • JP: Jodie Paustian, Small Business Specialist, Internal Revenue Service, Office of Procurement Policy
  • KR: Katherine Rachubinski, Navy Inventory Control Point (NAVICP), Philadelphia
  • TB: Terry Budge, Industrial Specialist, Small Business Administration, Philadelphia
  • MM: Michael Miller, Chief Logistics officer, Department Of Veterans Affairs
  • ME: Marcia Easton, Small Business Chief, Army CECOM, Ft Monmouth
  • DD: Dave Dickson, District Director, SBA, Philadelphia
    Thanks to AFCEA Small Business and the October 2009 conference team led by Tammy Goehrig.
  • KR: Know what part of the agency you want to do business with. Even if it's another part of the agency than the one you're in, the small business specialist can usually refer you to the right person.

  • KB: Be thorough, and stick with it. A Company had been brought into SBA for a certificate of competency. Issues came up between the agency and the company, which had to revise their proposal. Then, SBA reviewed the proposed joint venture and its flaws. Over three months, the contract was eventually awarded for $140M over ten years.

  • DD: Explore the opportunities! Of over 300,000 businesses, only 1.2% of small businesses are registered in CCR. Even excepting home based businesses, still only 2.5 % are registered. Not enough small businesses know how to do business with the U.S. government

  • DD: Help government meets its small business award goals. Government just barely made its 23% goal last year. Talk to the agencies you're targeting, get on CCR, complete your certifications on ORCA and represent all the preferences for which you're eligible. If you have several boxes checked, "'re gold. If you're a HUBZone, Woman Veteran Business owner, the agency can count you in all those."

  • MM: Focus. Nobody specializes in everything. Public Law 109-461 set up VETBIZ.GOV to provide preferences for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses. But even with that preference, you can't register as "specializing" in too many things, or your company looks like it has no actual strength.

  • JP: Make a strong first impression! Here's an example: the IRS had a requirement for a Client Relationship Management System, a $600,000 project which we designated for 8(a) companies. Everyone got invited to make presentations. Four made technical presentations. The first one had done its homework, asked additional questions, and knew we didn't want an IT approach. Another company said they'd develop a web site, so they hadn't researched us at all! And another one showed up a half hour late. Work with the small business specialists, and find out where to focus.

  • KR: Meet us in person, at the small business office. Present a concise capability briefing. "A company cannot do everything!" We talk during the meeting about areas your expertise might relate to in our command. We follow up after the meeting with suggested points of contact, and a blurb about programs you might fit. Then the onus is on you to contact those people, and say you've been in to see us. That usually means they'll call you back...but we want to know if they don't, too.

  • Work your way in: based on those introductions, you should be able to set up another meeting with technical specialist who will be really interested in your expertise. At that point, you want them to understand what your company can do and the special preferences you're eligible for.

  • Be ready to team: If we have a lot of IDIQ's, we may ask you to work through a major prime that holds this contract vehicle.

  • Strong online presence counts! Small business officials check your web site. Procuring agencies and primes use the Central Contractor Registry.

  • Make the most of your past experience. Performance history need not be limited to government contracts. The more you keep that up to date, the more valuable it is. The systems no longer limit the NAICS codes you can use... but don't be distracted, be very specific.

  • ME: Respond to RFI's, even if you can't meet every requirement. CECOM is definitely open to that, and may pass that information on to primes doing source selection, too. IRS also uses RFI's actively.

  • TB: Attend OSDBU events for fact-finding. See who the big guys are who are winning work in your domain. Then be able to explain how you fit into what they do. Just because you're one of those small businesses, that's the icing on the cake. Government wants to know how you can effectively do the job. Start out small, get your feet wet, get a track record.

  • TB: Let SBA help you. SBA has 68 district offices that will teach you how to use these free tools, how to use the system, and coach you through it. Contact the SBA district office that supports you.

  • ME: Stay in touch with the small business office. You don't just come in one time. Things change with your company, and with the command. Come back. I met with 175 companies last year. Your visits keep you fresh in our minds when the primes come in.

  • JP: Keep us up to date! Tell us when you've won a new contract, got a GSA Schedule, completed CMMI. and make your messages complete! If you email me to say "I want help doing business with the IRS", then attach a capability statement.

  • KR: Personalize your message -- beyond mailmerge! Don't send mass email. Your email and its content should be very specific to the addressee and her responsibilities.

  • DD: Be patient and prepared. Many companies ask for introductions to technical officials. Many commands will shield these people from contractors because they just don't have the time to deal with them if they haven't done their homework and are only going to waste valuable time!

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