Veterans Business Resources

a portal for all Veterans and SDV Small Business Owners

Solid Business Foundation

Over the past several weeks we received the Contracting Checklist, learned how to understand it and how to use it.  Some of us might still be working on various parts of the checklist and that’s OK.  The important thing is that you now have the tool, understand it and are using it.  As I mentioned throughout, this checklist can and will be used often as you always want to project the best possible image of your company and yourself.  We accomplish that objective by ensuring our company information is always current.  That sounds like another list doesn’t it?  For me it is.  That is one more thing on my ever growing list of things that must get done.  You may have another system or method that works best for you.  Again, the important thing is that it gets done.  “OK, I understand why keeping my company information updated is important, but why is keeping that information updated important to my image?”  That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked.  Your company image and your personal image are inseparable and all part of your branding efforts.  We are in the process of building world class companies and perhaps one day going public and trading on the stock market.   

Many of you already operating a successful business can use this checklist to go back and rework or fine tune your foundation and potentially help increase the amount of new business you receive.  It is never too late to get your house in order and reposition yourself.  The business of Government Contracting is a marathon and not a sprint.  It is not for the faint of heart or for the person that just got in it to make a few quick dollars until the economy turns around then go back to their regular customer base and continue business as usual.  Oh no, this business of Government Contracting is almost tailor made for Veterans.  We already know how to hurry up and wait.  We understand the Chain of Command and how to respect and follow it.  We know how and why to use checklists.  We already understand the need for intelligence.  We are already well versed in leadership and management.  We have been preparing for this opportunity all of our military careers.  We are going to take all the intangibles we possess and the training, guidance and structure from the Veterans Business Resources and apply them to secure our share of the American dream.  We are going to practice and rehearse just like we would if this was a real wartime situation.  For those of us that ever had field duty, we know the kind of things we had to do to ensure we were ready to go and perform our mission under sometimes difficult conditions.  We know how to motivate ourselves and others.  We will discuss some of these qualities and other aspects of this business in more detail later.  Until then, see you on the high ground!

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U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

The FREE Workshop hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship at the Bill J. Priest Campus of El Centro College on yesterday was awesome! It is not everyday that we have an opportunity to interact with people that help craft policies that directly impact Small Business.  The picture below is of our distinguished panel, they are from left to right; Chuck Waldrop, Director Government Contracting Small Business Development Center, Herbert Austin, District Director U.S. Small Business Administration, Royalyn Redi, event organizer and business owner, Don Cravins, Staff Director and Chief Counsel U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Elizabeth Klimback, Executive Director North Texas Small Business Development Center Network, Gregory James, Director Minority Business Enterprise Center and Jeff Blatt, Director Dallas Small Business Development Center.    

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Understanding the Checklist; Part 5

Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Spend some time researching proposals.  Learn the basic elements of a proposal and the kind of information typically included in each element.  I’ve already listed some places where you should be able to find examples.  If possible, get your hands on examples of winning proposals in your particular field/industry.  Most people believe that the Government is more concerned with price than any other factor when it comes time to award a contract.  That might be true in some selected cases, but generally that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The Government is looking for the best value.  Proposals are where you get to display your superior written communication skills and convince the Government that your company can and will provide the best value to them.  Remember, you can’t win unless you submit a proposal and give yourself a shot.  Don’t be overly concerned about winning or not winning.  The first several times might be tuff and very stressful to pull the solicitation together, but the process gets better and so will you.  Oftentimes people choose to have outside consultants write proposals for them with the goal of increasing their opportunity to win.  This can be an expensive undertaking and is an individual business owner decision.  To me, proposals are really where the rubber meets the road.  Everything before proposals is important, but unless you deliver the goods on the proposal, all the earlier work is slightly diminished in importance.  With that said, let’s look at this another way.  If you’ll allow me to use a sports analogy; in professional baseball we call a batter with a .300 batting average a really, really good batter.  All that really means is he is getting 3 hits every 10 at bats.  When you are winning 3 of every 10 proposals you submit, you are doing really, really well!  You will not be there out of the gate, but you will get there over time, of this I am certain!

Notice how the marketing opportunities jump out and scream at you as you read through Part 5 of the Checklist again.

5.  Proposals:

  • Research other proposals to use as a template (target customers, SBDC, other small businesses, etc)
  • Submit proposals and follow up on leads.
  • Consider “no’s” as learning opportunities.  Ask why you didn’t get the job.  Ask for specifics so you can be better prepared next time.  Ask for referrals again!
  • When you get a “yes” and you certainly will, ask for specifics again!  Now, you want to know what you did right and why you won.  These are the positive actions you want to repeat time and time again!  Perform the job in a professional and timely manner.  Ask for referrals and testimonials.  Post past performance and success stories on your company’s Website and in company literature.  Let people know that they can count on you to get the job done.  Word of mouth of your company’s abilities will spread and more business will follow! 

Filed under: Getting Started, Government Contracting, The Checklist,

Understanding the Checklist; Part 4

How ambitious are you?  How hard do you want to work?  How organized are you?  How are your time management skills?  How disciplined are you?  Why do I ask these questions?  Well, your honest assessment of your own capacity and capabilities will determine the schedule you develop here.  I have found that a schedule/list is necessary when it comes to successfully accomplishing most things, networking is no different.  You must be really good to great in time management, you must be organized and you must be disciplined to effectively do justice to these requirements. 

You have to follow the same schedule/list week after week, month after month.  I will go out on a limb here and say that most of us don’t have an open ended operating budget to cover our Networking efforts and associated expenses.  Even if we did, would unfocused, undisciplined and haphazard spending be the best possible use of that resource?  Understand that to do this properly and effectively, you will spend money.  Your networking efforts are covered in your Marketing Plan that is part of the Business Plan you created way back in Part 1 of this checklist.  I think I said something similar to that earlier.  The Marketing Plan must be kind of important?  Yes, it certainly is. 

Focus your efforts:  I know that you are excited about the possibilities and ready to get in the game, but a word of caution here, you can’t do business with everybody and you can’t do anything.  There is something that you do really well, perhaps even better than anyone else.  If you’re lucky, this might be the business you’re in.  If not, don’t despair, you can learn to be really great in whatever you do.  Part of the trick is to focus.  Don’t make the whole watch, just make the spring for the watch.  Get rich in a niche!  Now that you’ve successfully completed all the earlier tasks in Parts 1, 2 and 3, you have a really good idea who buys what you sell.  I suggest choosing the top 3 to 5 target customers from your list and focus all your efforts on them for a period of time.  I have found that if you do this right, you can’t effectively handle more than 5 target customers at a time.  You are going to be very strategic, very deliberate, very focused in your approach when marketing to and networking with these targeted customers.  The idea is to take the rifle approach as opposed to the shotgun approach. 

Contacting:  When contacting targeted customers, lead with your ability to solve their problems and meet their needs.  Why are you in business?  You are in business to solve your customers problem(s), making money is just a consequence of being really good at what you do.  

SBS, SBLO or SDO:  Get to know these people.  Form professional business relationships with them.  They know and work with the people you ultimately want to meet, know and form professional business relationships with; the end user and the buyer.  

Research and Prepare:  Everyday is Showtime!  Know what you know and know that you know it.  Whatever you don’t know, learn it.  Always, always bring your “A” game.    

Company Marketing Material:  Professionally done marketing materials send the message that you’re a professional and that you’re serious about business.  Perception is reality!  Never leave your marketing material with someone without asking permission to do so.  Why?  It shows respect for the person you’re meeting with and it potentially keeps your material from going into the trash or a file cabinet some place that never gets opened.  

Where to Network:  The idea here is to go where other serious minded business people gather, meet and form business relationships.  Some places to visit include; Chambers of Commerce, Contractor Associations, Professional Industry Groups/Organizations, Trade Shows, Veteran Procurement Conferences etc, etc.  It is your mission to Network with a purpose.  When you are strategic, deliberate and focused in your approach to networking, you will soon determine which events deliver the most bang for your buck.  Once you have this knowledge, you can adjust your schedule/list accordingly.  After going through this process to determine which organization(s) offers the right fit for you, you might want to become a member.  This will represent part of that Networking expense that we spoke about earlier.  Ensure this expense is covered in your Marketing Plan.  

NOTE:  Everybody has a trade show, or so it seems.  You can’t attend every trade show, so you have to do some more research to determine which one(s) is right for you and your business.  Once you have identified the right trade show(s) for you, you have to work it.  When the Exhibit Hall opens, find your targeted customers booths and spend some quality time talking with them.  After you have talked to them, move on.  You should continue to meet other business people and build professional relationships with them.  Seize the moment and control it.  Ask for their business card if you see potential for a future business relationship.  Follow up NLT 48 hours after the show is over.  The timeframe to follow up is determined by the number of business cards you received.  Be smart and use good common sense here.  The objective is to follow up in a timely manner.  They will be pleasantly surprised and you are now successfully marketing yourself to potential future business partners.  

4.  Networking:

Based on your initial research, develop a list of 1 to 3 target customers.  Start with the ones that are most likely to do business with you.  Don’t expect overnight results.  However, as a veteran-owned business, you will certainly have the attention of federal agencies, federal contractors and large businesses.  Most have specific supplier diversity goals for veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. Use this fact to your advantage!

  • When contacting targeted customers, lead with your ability to solve their problems and meet their needs.  Don’t forget to let them know that you are a veteran-owned business. 
  • Start with the small business personnel first; Small Business Specialist (SBS) at federal agencies or the Small Business Liaison Officer (SBLO) or Supplier Diversity Officer (SDO) at public/private companies.  These people can lead you to the appropriate buyer or contracting officer.
  • Be professional and treat them like any other customer.
  • Fully and completely research your targeted customer’s needs.
  • Develop a 1 page capabilities statement.
  • Develop professional-looking company brochures, business cards and a business capabilities presentation.
  • Attend 1 on 1 counseling/matchmaking sessions with your targeted customers.
  • Attend and actively work selected trade shows.  Wear a suit and go prepared with company literature and business cards.  Be prepared to give a quick, professional synopsis of your company and how it can meet your target customer’s needs.
  • Ask for referrals.  If a business doesn’t use what you sell, they may know someone else who does.

Filed under: Getting Started, Government Contracting, The Checklist