Did you read the article published by Matthew Weigelt in FCW on August 25th entitled Making noise for small business? You should as it was a good article highlighting some of the activities underway by many folks serving as OSDBU's and OSBPO's who are genuinely committed to creating parity for small business while keeping the best interests of their agency in the forefront.
More coverage like this is needed for obvious reasons and
more education of practices and policies related to set-aside programs needs to
occur within government. The OSDBU/OSBPO community needs to be further
empowered by their respective agencies so their efforts can be more fruitful.
The comment made by the Treasury OSDBU about the "certain way of
working" by agency program managers is a valid statement, but at the same
time, it's not necessarily "the fault" or "a fault" of
these Program Managers. Their job is mission-oriented and it's up to them to
find an efficient and compliant means of accomplishing whatever piece of the
overall agency mission they are responsible for managing.
This is where a significant mindshift is needed among
stakeholders of the small business community. Too many companies, small, medium
and large, do not undertake the necessary steps to prepare themselves for
business in the government sector. Business here is often seen as a bailout
when the economy slides in traditional commercial markets and a place where
companies can "pop in" and try and grab a few pieces of business,
as-needed. Companies like this typically fail to have insights as to the level
of relationships constantly being established in our community, and assume that
their reputation in their native market, possibly coupled with a GSA Schedule
and various socioeconomic designations, will carry them where they want to go.
Today, there are many small businesses supporting the government who operate
from a mission mindset. That is, they understand their customer and their
customer's needs, gained their trust, and have oriented themselves to
understand the program objectives associated with the task assigned to them by
an agency, or by a contractor organization issued an agency contract.
It does not matter whether it is related to understanding
the "rules of engagement" for our marketplace or simply determining
which agency buys a particular product or service. In my opinion, the
very visible level of unpreparedness on the part of some companies is a stick
in the eye to Government and Industry small business advocates trying to
advance small business participation. The effects of which are presented as
broad resistance to engaging small businesses, a general lack of confidence in
small businesses and tactics to avoid leveraging small businesses. These
behaviors can be viewed on some fronts as risk mitigation, while viewed as
socioeconomic prejudice, unfair treatment and a general disregard for the small
business community on opposing fronts. Not to say that unfair activities do not
occur, but often disingenuous companies with little to no regard for the impact
of an unsuccessful engagement with the government, create lasting obstacles for
other small businesses who follow them.
There is no question that sweeping attitude and policy change
is needed in the government sector if the segment of our Country's business
community that generates the most new jobs is to survive. There is no one
answer that will alleviate the many challenges facing Government and Industry
in this area. The chasm between where Government states it wants small
business, and where small business actually exists grows wider everyday. The
"noise" for small business should not only include internal efforts
to change the minds of those in Government (and Prime Contractors) about small
businesses, the fragmented small business community needs to collectively
demonstrate justification for the change.