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The ASBC: It’s not just for start-ups (Click here to find out why!)

Monday, October 06, 2008   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Guy Timberlake
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It’s not just for start-ups


10/06/08
By David Hubler, Associate Editor  

Since its founding in 2004, the American Small Business Coalition has grown from a loose networking group whose members exchanged tips on winning government contracts to a membership organization that includes contracting professionals and even some large organizations.

Members include Cisco Systems Inc., Concurrent Technologies Corp. (CTC), the Center for Naval Analysis and MasterCard.

“Each of those companies is working with us specifically because of their involvement in providing products and services to government agencies,” said Guy Timberlake, founder and chief executive officer of ASBC. They view the Columbia, Md.-based group as an opportunity to increase business for themselves and the small-business members, he added.

Arrow Electronics Inc. came up with the idea of buying memberships for its small-business partners in 2007, Timberlake said. “They came on board and paid for 10 of their companies at the time to work with us.”

Chris Marin, manager of channel operations and advanced technology and small-business strategy at Cisco, met Timberlake at a trade show last year.

Cisco was seeking to expand its small-business strategy and provide the tools and resources its partners needed, Marin said. “We wanted to ensure that we had an alliance with someone who could provide additional advisory services to a core group of our small- and disadvantaged-business partners.”

“Unlike some of our prime contracting partners, within our federal organization we do not have a small-business staff,” Marin said. So he convinced his superiors at Cisco of the merits of joining ASBC. Managers saw the value of the coalition, and the Blue Bell, Pa.-based company joined ASBC in January.

As a member of the coalition’s Prime Connection Program, Cisco’s government division can use ASBC to identify new small-business partners.

MORE THAN TECHNOLOGY
Marin’s team also looked for businesses that already had government contracts, were well known within the federal community or had the small-business credentials Cisco’s partners and government customers wanted, such as 8(a) certification or ownership by a woman or service-disabled veteran.

As a result, 20 small-business partners can now take advantage of ASBC’s services to expand their market share. “And that obviously benefits Cisco because that means their people are selling more products,” Timberlake said.

The coalition has provided a venue for small businesses to meet government contracting professionals, Marin said.

ASBC also provides the kind of go-to-market strategies and advice that senior business developers provide within their companies. “The process involves the vetting of a company’s strategy by some people who have a lot of experience within the federal market, specifically the ASBC board, which is made up of former generals and admirals and the like,” Marin said.

UNDERSTAND THE CUSTOMER
Stacy Trammell, president of Zavda Technologies LLC, of Glenn Dale, Md., joined ASBC two years ago because she wanted to better understand federal contracting and find ways to grow her disabled-veteran, woman-owned small business.

“They actually helped me understand and set up my [human resources], and they have members who are able to provide legal advice and accounting advice,” she said. “They told me about some of the things they did to get their businesses established.”

Trammell said she learned how to focus on those government agencies that would be most likely to contract for her information technology services. “That helped keep me from running all over the place and stretching myself too thin,” she said. “Soon after joining, I got my first contract.”

Trammell said she also discovered that other small-businesses were experiencing the same problems she was, such as finding contracts they could win, getting a fair share of the work from their partners and sometimes feeling they were being taken advantage of by their prime contractors because of their small-business set-aside status. CTC, a nonprofit, applied scientific research and development organization in Johnstown, Pa., has been an ASBC member for three years. CTC had $160 million in government contracts in 2007.

One of CTC’s business objectives is to help small businesses and socioeconomically disadvantaged companies partner with large government contractors. So it has been a key sponsor of ASBC’s Small Business Intelligence Community Working Group.

“CTC provides free space for those folks to work out of, and we host a lot of their meetings so they can collaborate,” said Chris Strasser, executive director of national intelligence solutions at CTC. The company also has helped ASBC members with security clearance issues, marketing strategies and recruiting qualified employees.

Last year, with ASBC’s help, CTC pursued and won one of eight Solutions for Intelligence Analysis contracts from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which were awarded in April. The five-year awards are worth a total of $1 billion.

“We worked with [CTC] for about six months prior to that contract win specifically to assemble a small-business team,” Timberlake said.

The idea was for CTC and ASBC to act as a clearinghouse that would form a coalition of small businesses capable of competing with some of the larger systems integrators, Strausser said.

“It can be very challenging to work with small businesses sometimes because you don’t know what you’re getting,” he said. “There are a lot of them, and they vary from a mom-and-pop [shop] that just wants [a contract] handed to them to very competitive, very aggressive entrepreneurial folks who are going to make a tremendous difference in your projects and programs.”

Timberlake helped CTC build a small-business team of more than 30 partners by personally vetting many of them, including some that were not ASBC members. In the end, 10 nonmember small businesses were selected. “They specifically had capabilities we were looking at under the proposals we had worked up,” Strasser said.

ASBC’s greatest asset is that it offers small businesses “completely independent feedback that tells them where they fit in the [government] spectrum and what the value of their offering really is,” he added. “So they can either hone their skills and improve their offering or target their offering at the right place so they get the full benefit of it.”

David Hubler (dhubler@1105govinfo.com) is associate editor at Washington Technology.

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Comments...

Art Medici says...
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008
This is great press and a fine tribute to the ASBC. We need to build on this to generate other positive press. Art

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