“You need to dream big. Do not box yourself in, do not think things are not possible, “ said Ed Haynes, of Haynes Security Services. “But you have to prepare yourself for success.”
This successful Miami-Dade small business owner prepared for the world of government contracting with the help of Florida SBDC at FIU, he said during a recent Webinar. He won the bids and successful executed on local government contracts over the years by starting with one as a sub-contractor for the Miami-Dade MetroRail, getting the experience from that and learning how the system worked. From there, Haynes Security Services was able to win contracts at Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Schools and Miami International Airport.
He and George Ray III, a consultant at Florida SBDC at FIU and a specialist in government contracting, shared advice for other small businesses interested in government contracting in an SBDC at FIU webinar. Take advantage of the workshops, seminars and webinars that are available to you, Haynes advised.
By absorbing the Miami-Dade Schools contract, Haynes had to go from 40 employees to 120 employees almost overnight, plus since he then had over 50 employees he had to provide insurance, an added cost. Luckily he was prepared because he understood the process and what would be entailed. “You have to understand that it is very important to have an organization such as SBDC, that is there for you, that is constantly looking out for you. It is a dream team.”
Because of his success with local government contracting, Haynes shared that his first year in operations in 2014 the business generated about $150,000 in revenue. Last year: Over $2 million. Haynes Security is now pursuing federal opportunities too.
One of the most important things to consider is that doing business with the government can be expensive for you and you have to be properly capitalized to absorb costs, such as Haynes experienced having to hire 80 people in short order. Florida SBDC and PTAC have specialists that can help small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties at no cost; contact the center at (305-779-9230 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are other SBDC centers throughout the state to service other counties.
Here are some tips Ray and Haynes shared in the webinar:
- Set realistic goals, and be strategic in your approach. Start by targeting one or two contracts. Develop a niche you can own.
- Start small and start local, taking advantage of teaming or subcontracting to build past performance, which is most important in government contracting. Work your way up to larger contracts, Ray advised. “Local government contracts are a really good way to build your name and your brand,” Ray said.
- As part of your research and preparation, through the Freedom of Information Act you can obtain the RFP from the previous award winner. You can learn from that and it will help you prepare your bid when the contract comes out again.
- Network, network, network. Look for key agencies, procurement contacts and upcoming RFP workshops or vendor outreach events. Have your capability statement (a one-page document of your capabilities – the resume for your business), your elevator pitch and your business cards at the ready.
- Follow up is critical, shared Brian Van Hook, regional director of SBDC at FIU. A lot of businesses go to these meetings and don’t follow up professionally, to the point, and with the right information, he said. Write follow-up notes promptly and set up follow-up calls if possible.
- Understand the certifications you may be eligible for. Local governments have them too.
In government contracting, “you must hustle if you want to see success,” Ray said.
The hour-long Webinar, “Building Networks to Successfully Secure Local Government Contracts” is chock full of advice and resources for identifying opportunities, learning about certifications, nailing your elevator pitch, preparing a capability statement, and other tips for success. View it here:
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