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Ensuring a smooth exit

Thursday, October 11, 2007   (0 Comments)
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Planning is the key to successfully graduating from the 8(a) program

Hundreds of small and disadvantaged companies enter the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) business development program each year, enjoying nine years of favored status. But when that time runs out and they graduate from the program, many are unable to succeed in the full-and-open government contracting market.

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Happy Graduation

To move your company from 8(a) to a successful life beyond, remember these best practices and lessons learned from companies that have already taken that step.

  • Protect your reputation. One instance of nonperformance or employee malfeasance can kill an 8(a). “They don’t give small companies second chances,” said Amos Otis, chief executive officer at SoBran Inc.

  • Narrow your focus. Too many companies try to take on half the government at the start, “when they’d be better off to start off by zeroing in on one department of one subagency of an agency,” said Guy Timberlake, CEO at the American Small Business Coalition. “Then get to know and understand that customer.”

  • Evolve. It’s important to realize that those characteristics that got you to this point, such as the 20-hour days and being involved in every minute decision, “won’t get you to where you want to go,” Otis said. “You’ve got to put your team in place and learn to think and act like the CEO of a major government contractor.”

  • Invest in your future. It goes against the grain to sink money into initiatives that won’t pay off for some time, but training employees, developing relationships with large and small industry partners and potential customers, improving your infrastructure, getting key certifications, and pursuing full-and-open competitions will be critical to achieving long-term, post-graduate success.

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