How your SDVOSB can better sell to the Federal Government

Government, like all other business, is built on relationships.  Cost (of course) is also of primary concern, but not the only criteria for bids to be awarded.  Knowing how to negotiate the myriad rules that enable the federal procurement process to operate in a fair and transparent fashion has the downside of being difficult and slow to navigate.  To ensure your SDVOSB’s place as a player, you need to follow some important steps, from the basics, to those contacts your have built relationships with.

Some of these steps will make the government a lucrative client for your business.  Learning what the government wants, finding the key people that make purchasing decisions and make it easy for Uncle Sam to buy from you (sounds easy right?).

Uncle Sam wants to buy from your SDVOSB

You need to be completely accurate in your attention to detail – Your application can be rejected for the simplest things, like wrong font size!  Visit http://www.business.gov for examples on proposals that will help guide you through the maze of rules and regulations and access resources to help you succeed in your business.

You have to have patience and realize that the government can work at what seems like a turtles pace, taking a couple of months to 2 years or more to make decisions.

You need to spend a significant amount of time searching the internet – this time will pay off because you will find tons of useful government market information at no cost to you.

Along with the very important SDVOSB networking events, conference attendance, and submitting proposals, also be aware of the government’s use of  acronyms in their procurement process, if you learn their meanings you will boost your legitimacy.

No, the Government Does Not Operate Like Other Businesses.

Private companies use many different criteria for purchase decisions, from seat of the pants, to textbook precision.  Government on the other hand, must follow rules found in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) document – 1 book with no less than 1,600 pages.  Obviously this will complicate the process, but set a standard the make procurement decisions fair, transparent, and of value to taxpayers.

Because of their huge buying power, government also has the ability to make your business margins very tight, including having profits on some of their contracts capped by law.  The reason that buyers are willing to sell at these often extreme margins is VOLUME.  If you deal with a company whose typical contract is $10 to $20 million dollars, you can still make a tidy profit at a small margin.

What Do You Have that the Government Wants?

You may want to start with Procurement Technical Assistance Centers:  PTA Centers are local resources that provide assistance to business firms, at little or no cost, on marketing products and services to all levels of government.

Next, become familiar with fedbizopps (www.fbo.gov) , the government listing source for proposals (RFP’s) for most competitive bids over $25,000.  Also on the site are forecasts for all governmental agencies, detailing what they plan to buy, when to buy, and how much they plan to spend.

Other good sources for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses are SBA/Government Contract and Business Development, which list key people at the SBA who are involved with government contracting; Firstgov.gov, where you can search millions of web pages from federal and state governments, D.C., and US> territories, many of which are not available on commercial Web sites; and GovWorks, which maintains a vendor registration database that government officials can search.  GovWorks is a service-for-fee acquisition center under the US Department of the Interior Franchise Fund/

As you do searches, focus on procurement officers and key purchasing agents long term goals.  For example, see what problems they are having and bring them solutions that your company can provide; anticipate future business opportunities by watching bills working their way through Congress to find what their priorities are, and if your expertise will help;  and again, use your relationships to talk about forward thinking ideas that will help the government run better, budget better, or make processes go smoother a key to making the government want to buy from you, instead of the competition.

Learn about the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Schedules Program.

After you have procured a contract from the government, you will be introduced to the world of GSA, the governments purchasing agent, also referred to as Multiple award Schedules (MAS and Federal Supply Schedules.  GSA Schedules help realize cost savings, save time, and control the procurement.

GSA Schedule - it's that important

Note: GSA has delegated authority to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to procure medical supplies under the VA Federal Supply Schedules Program.

The GSA can make long-term agreements to buy from a business at “most favored customer” rates.  This lets the government buy quickly without going through competitive bidding, and can be very profitable, and just as important, prequalifies you for whatever type of work you are interested in doing, including competitive bids.

Profit and prequalification aside, the process of getting the schedule contracts is a difficult road; it can take months to process because you will be vetted for finances, operation quality and references.  They will do a very thorough examination of your business; so you need to be prepared.  Study the criteria on the GSA site to avoid surprises.

The schedules program is not a guarantee that you will get any contracts.  It just gives you a head start.  You may not receive any sales orders, and if no business is generated over some time, you can even be canceled.

The Devil is in the Details.

Remember the above referenced attention to detail?  If you want to win contracts from the government, you need to understand that federal agencies are very detailed and precise in what they need and you have to follow the rules carefully.  11 point font does not mean 10 point font, no phone calls to the procurement agent, means just that.  Read all of the fine print and find out how they want to be contacted.

Government Business is Based on Relationships, Just Like Other Businesses

Cultivating connections with people inside the government is very important a number of key ways; you build credibility, create awareness of what you have to offer, and let them know that you are a serious contender in the marketplace.  Ultimately, your connections will allow you to be prepared before Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Quotes (RFQ) are issued, so the process of preparing bids will have already begun.  Having those connections, you will have a better understanding about the agency or department’s mission and requirements.  How do you cultivate these connections?  Lots of networking, such as trade-shows, hosted events, even cold calls/cold emails to key personnel.

Why Didn’t Your Proposal Win the Bid?

Finally, an advantage to you as a potential, but losing bidder is that the government, unlike the private sector, has to be much more transparent for their reason in choosing another company.  If you lose a contract in a private endeavor, you may never know if it was due to a lower bid, a golfing friend getting the job, or just bad timing, but with Uncle Sam, you have the right to a debriefing to find out exactly why you lost the bid.  The agency has to let you know what areas you may have been weak in, and what areas showed up your strengths.

So you lost your first government bid....get in line.

Debriefing requests to the federal government are actually quite common; can be helpful for your next bid, and are even useful if you are the winner of a particular bid, so its always helpful to request one, in either case, to keep you apprised of the thinking process that went on, and what strengths you led with, or weaknesses that held you back.

Obama Calls for More Small Business Contracting.

More and more attention is being focused at this time in making SDVOSB’s and VOSB a larger part of the procurement process since President Obama’s Executive Order on the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development Act of 2008.

President Obama on small business

“In recent years, the federal government has not consistently reached its small business contracting goals,” Obama wrote in the executive order.  He went on to say “I am committed to ensuring that small businesses, including firms owned by women, minorities, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and service-disabled veterans, have fair access to federal government contracting.  Indeed, ….we should strive to exceed the statutory goals.”

S/F,
PrepFire Solutions
A Verified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

Direct your contracting officer here for sole source justification.

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-15902.htm

[Federal Register: July 2, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 127)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 38687-38689]
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
 
48 CFR Part 19
[FAC 2005-43; FAR Case 2008-023; Item IV; Docket 2009-0017, Sequence 1]
RIN 9000-AL29
 

Federal Acquisition Regulation; FAR Case 2008-023, Clarification
of Criteria for Sole Source Awards to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned
Small Business Concerns
 
AGENCIES: Department of Defense (DoD), General Services Administration
(GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
 
ACTION: Final rule.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense
Acquisition Regulations Council (Councils) are issuing a final rule to
amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to clarify the criteria
that need to be met in order to conduct a sole source Service-disabled
Veteran-owned Small Business (SDVOSB) concern acquisition.
 
DATES: Effective Date: August 2, 2010



Federal Acquisition Regulation

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For clarification of content, contact
Rhonda Cundiff, Procurement Analyst, at (202) 501-0044. For information
pertaining to status or publication schedules, contact the Regulatory
Secretariat at (202) 501-4755. Please cite FAC 2005-43, FAR Case 2008-
023.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
 
A. Background
    The Councils published a proposed rule in the Federal Register at
74 FR 23373 on May 19, 2009, to revise the language in FAR
19.1406(a)(1) to clarify the criteria that need to be met in order to
conduct a sole source SDVOSB concern acquisition. The final rule
contains language that more closely mirrors the Veterans Benefit Act of
2003 (15 U.S.C. 657f). The final rule revises the language in FAR
19.1306(a)(1), which deals with sole source awards to Historically
Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) small business concerns based on
15 U.S.C. 657a(b), to match the language in FAR 19.1406(a)(1) to
alleviate confusion on the appropriate use of the criteria needed to
conduct a sole source SDVOSB concern acquisition.

[[Page 38688]]
 
    The public comment period for the FAR proposed rule closed July 20,
2009. Eight respondents submitted comments to the proposed rule. A
discussion of the comments and the changes made to the rule as a result
of those comments is provided below. Three respondents concurred with
the proposed changes to clarify the criteria that needed to be met in
order to conduct a sole source SDVOSB concern acquisition.

    1. Comment: Increase knowledge of the marketplace and SDVOSB
advocacy. One respondent expressed concern that the contracting officer
does not have sufficient knowledge of the marketplace to make a sole-
source determination without the advice of the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration (SBA), or other
entities that advocate for the veteran community. The respondent
further added that the regulatory language needs to mandate that the
contracting officer exercise a higher level of advocacy for service-
disabled veteran-owned firms to ensure these firms receive greater
representation in the procurement process.

    Response: The purpose of this regulatory change is to clarify the
circumstances under which a contracting officer may award a sole-source
contract to a small business concern owned and controlled by a service-
disabled veteran. This case does not address market research or
advocacy; therefore the respondent's comments are considered outside
the scope of this case.
   
     2. Comment: Correction to FAR 19.1306(a)(2). One respondent
requested an additional review be conducted regarding FAR
19.1306(a)(2), because paragraph (c) does not exist.
   
    Response: The reference to paragraph (c) is deleted.
    

    3. Comment: Revise the language in FAR 19.1306(a) and 19.1406(a).
Two respondents recommended revising paragraph (a) of FAR 19.1406 Sole
Source Awards to Service-disabled Veterans-owned Small Business
concerns to match the language in paragraph (a) of FAR 19.1306 by
adding the language: ``(a) A participating agency contracting office
may award contracts to a service-disabled Veteran-owned small business
concern on a sole source basis without considering small business set-
asides provided-''.
   
    Response: FAR 19.1406(a) has been revised to be consistent with FAR
19.1306(a).
   
   4. Comment: Revise the SDVOSB language to mirror the 8(a) language.
One respondent recommended that the language in the FAR for SDVOSB sole
source criteria mirror the language of the 8(a) criteria.
   
   Response: The SDVOSB program and the 8(a) Business Development
Program were established under two separate statutes with different
sole-source award requirements. The statute for the SDVOSB program does
not require the FAR language to be similar to the FAR language for the
8(a) Business Development Program.
   
   5. Comment: Raise the prescribed $3 million threshold to $3.5
million. One respondent recommended that the dollar limit for the sole
source awards to a Service-disabled Veteran-owned small business be
raised to $3.5 million from the prescribed $3 million to be consistent
with the dollar limits for non-manufacturing 8(a) awards.
  
    Response: Threshold changes are based on statute. Federal
Acquisition Circular 2005-013, FAR Case 2004-033, published in the
Federal Register at 71 FR 57363 on September 28, 2006, was based on a
statutory requirement, raising thresholds in the FAR due to inflation.
The escalation calculation for the inflationary threshold for sole
source awards to Service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses was
not eligible for an inflationary increase (see http://acquisition.gov/
far/facsframe.html). However, FAR Case 2008-024 is the case handling
the next round of inflationary increases, and when that case is
published as a final rule, the threshold may be raised; the Councils
note that the inflation calculation is different for SDVOSB than for
8(a) and HUBZone because these statutes were enacted at different
times.
   
    This rule is a significant regulatory action and, therefore, was
subject to review under Section 6(b) of Executive Order 12866,
Regulatory Planning and Review, dated September 30, 1993. This rule is
not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act
 
    The Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration certify that this
final rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial
number of small entities within the meaning of the Regulatory
Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601, et seq., because this rule clarifies the
intent of the existing language and is not a change in policy. The
Councils did not receive any comments on the Regulatory Flexibility Act
or a perceived burden on small business.

C. Paperwork Reduction Act
 
    The Paperwork Reduction Act does not apply because the changes to
the FAR do not impose information collection requirements that require
the approval of the Office of Management and Budget under 44 U.S.C.
chapter 35, et seq.

List of Subjects in 48 CFR Part 19
 
    Government procurement.
    Dated: June 25, 2010.
Edward Loeb,
Director, Acquisition Policy Division.
 
0
Therefore, DoD, GSA, and NASA amend 48 CFR part 19 as set forth below:
 
PART 19--SMALL BUSINESS PROGRAMS
0
1. The authority citation for 48 CFR part 19 continues to read as
follows:
 
    Authority:  40 U.S.C. 121(c); 10 U.S.C. chapter 137; and 42
U.S.C. 2473(c).
0
2. Amend section 19.1306 by revising the introductory text of paragraph
(a), paragraph (a)(1), the introductory text of paragraph (a)(2), and
paragraph (a)(3) to read as follows:
19.1306  HUBZone sole source awards.

    (a) A contracting officer may award contracts to HUBZone small
business concerns on a sole source basis (see 19.501(c) and 6.302-
5(b)(5)) before considering small business set-asides (see subpart
19.5), provided--
    (1) The contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation
that offers would be received from two or more HUBZone small business
concerns;
    (2) The anticipated price of the contract, including options, will
not exceed--
* * * * *
    (3) The requirement is not currently being performed by an 8(a)
participant under the provisions of subpart 19.8 or has been accepted
as a requirement by SBA under subpart 19.8.
* * * * *

0
3. Amend section 19.1406 by revising the introductory text of paragraph
(a), paragraph (a)(1), and the introductory text of paragraph (a)(2);
redesignating paragraphs (a)(3) and (a)(4) as paragraphs (a)(4) and
(a)(5), respectively, and adding a new paragraph (a)(3) to read as
follows:

19.1406  Sole source awards to service-disabled veteran-owned small
business concerns.
 
    (a) A contracting officer may award contracts to service-disabled
veteran-owned small business concerns on a sole source basis (see
19.501(d) and

[[Page 38689]]

6.302-5(b)(6)), before considering small business set-asides (see
subpart 19.5) provided none of the exclusions of 19.1404 apply and--
    (1) The contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation
that offers would be received from two or more service-disabled
veteran-owned small business concerns;
    (2) The anticipated award price of the contract, including options,
will not exceed--
* * * * *
    (3) The requirement is not currently being performed by an 8(a)
participant under the provisions of subpart 19.8 or has been accepted
as a requirement by SBA under subpart 19.8;
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2010-15902 Filed 7-1-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6820-EP-P

S/F,
PrepFire
A Verified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business

The Service Disabled Veteran Own Small Business Guide to Google Apps

Google Apps for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses has a number of benefits over traditional business IT and desktop software. Using the full suite essentially places all of your data and entire workflow in the cloud, meaning you can access it all anywhere, any time, from any Internet connection (mobile phone, hotel, gas station, etc)

At $50 per year per user, the fully integrated apps system is certainly cost-effective and even adding the free versions of Gmail, Calendar, Tweet, and Google Docs into your workflow can keep your employees coordinated.

For more casual users, or even those who might not be acquainted with Google Apps, here’s a guide to how the software can benefit your small business.

GMAIL:

The many advanced features of Gmail make it really leap forward in the web-based e-mail space, and a lot of these are ideal for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB).

If you’re not ready to take the full plunge into the paid Google Apps suite, you can still configure Gmail to function as your business e-mail client through your existing domain name by following the steps outlined by Google under their “Help” section with Gmail.

The first big advantage of Gmail, like all the apps discussed here, is that it functions in the cloud. You don’t have to worry about downloading messages to multiple locations or syncing various devices. Your inbox will look the same from any web or mobile connection. And with 25 gigs of e-mail storage per user (with a paid apps account), it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to clean your inbox or delete old messages.

Gmail works a bit differently than traditional desktop email clients and webmail services by using what Google calls “threaded conversations.”  This means that e-mails with the same or related subject lines are grouped together in a thread so you can see all the messages sent and received on a topic in one place. When a new message is received, the entire thread is bumped to the top of your inbox, making tracking complex and multi-party conversations easy.

Gmail also has a chat feature built right into the interface that lets you send a quick update or discuss a project with an employee if you’re not in the same office. Chats are also stored in Gmail so that you can search and refer to them later.

Google search, the asset that started it all for the company, is of course built right into Gmail, which makes finding information from e-mail conversations (even very old ones) extremely efficient.

Additionally, Gmail Labs offers some extra settings for your inbox that can be extremely valuable for business use:

  • Signature Tweaks – puts your e-mail signature before the quoted text in a reply the way that Outlook would.
  • Title Tweaks – is a great feature that puts your unread message count first in the title of the inbox web page. If you have many windows open while you’re working, you’ll still be able to see when new messages arrive.
  • Default ‘Reply to All’ –  allows you to reply to group e-mails with one click, instead of from a drop-down menu.
  • Forgotten Attachment Detector – will notify you if you’ve mentioned an attachment in an e-mail, but forgotten to add one.
  • Undo Send – gives you a few seconds after sending a message to click “undo” in case you forgot something, or sent it to the wrong party by mistake.

Google Calendar

Google Calendar provides an efficient and intuitive way to keep appointments and events synced across your entire business. With calendar sharing and permissions (similar to those in Docs), you can add other employees’ calendars to your own, and vice versa, in order to see and manage the big picture of your team’s time.

For example, if an executive has an assistant, their calendars may be shared so that the assistant could manage his boss’s appointments remotely from his own account. It’s also a smart tool for coordinating meetings, calls, and shift staffing for multiple employees to avoid scheduling conflicts. Sharing multiple calendars with one “master calendar” creates a color-coded scheduling table for the coordinator that updates automatically when users make changes or additions.

The Calendar app can also be used to create events through Gmail. By adding your employees’ e-mail addresses to an event, they will receive an invitation to respond. Responding ‘yes’ automatically adds a shared event to your calendar that each invitee can view and add notes to. It’s a smart way to coordinate meetings and keep everyone in the loop.
Google Docs

Google Docs is a web-based suite for word processing, presentation building (similar to PowerPoint), spreadsheets, and web forms. All the work is done in a web browser, and all the data is saved in the cloud.

The software can be a bit quirky at times, which may frustrate users of more stable products like Microsoft Office, but the payoff in online storage, share-ability, and collaboration options may be worth the adjustment for many SDVOSB’s.

Because the data is online, streamlined document sharing and collaboration are big perks with Google Docs. Any file you’re working on can be shared with individual team members, or the entire group within the apps system. You can also set permissions for specific users to view and edit documents. And, multiple users can simultaneously view and edit documents, which can be useful for real-time collaborative projects or presentations during conference calls. You can also grant permission for those outside your office network to view and edit documents, which can be especially useful for sharing information and presentations with clients or colleagues.

As you create and share documents, your Google Docs dashboard may start to get a little messy. Be sure to create folders to keep your work organized just as you would on your desktop. You can also share entire folders if you need to collaborate on multiple documents related to the same project.

Google Sites

Google Sites is a drag-and-drop web development tool that you can use within your business’s apps to create online information hubs for employees. The websites you create exist within your Google Apps domain, can be public or private, and permissions for employees to add, change, and contribute information can be set from the main account.

Beyond simply being a WYSIWYG web editor, Sites makes it easy to integrate data from other Google Apps into dynamic pages that team members can use to collaborate on projects. Integrating spreadsheets or data charts from Docs, a deadline schedule from Calendar, and team-specific messages from Gmail could essentially create a one-stop project dashboard full of dynamically updating information.

Sites here can be purely functional or informational, or with the aid of some built-in templates or a good designer, a full-fledged dynamic public website for your business that team members have easy access to.

Google Groups

Google Groups have long been public forums where users across the web gather to discuss specific interests or get technical support. Groups for small business brings that same functionality into your private internal network.

E-mail can sometimes be cumbersome when coordinating a team. When you need a central space to collect ideas and share documents (but you’re not interested in building a web page in Sites), Groups offers a solution.

Employees can create discussion groups on their own and subscribe, either by e-mail or via a Groups dashboard, which lists new posts like a news reader.

Rather than e-mails going out to individual inboxes, a group thread remains visible to all of your subscribed team members, and users can go back to it for reference, to add more information, and even share docs and calendars.

Using Groups for business discussions and project management creates a communal and searchable database of information that employees can go back to whenever needed.

Google Apps Marketplace

Google’s recently launched Google Apps Marketplace allows developers of other business web apps to integrate their offerings with Google and sell software directly to Google Apps users. The marketplace currently has over 50 partners, including Intuit, Zoho, and Aviary This additional space for third-party software means that Apps users will have even more options to tailor their suite for specific business purposes.

Great Integration Across All Google Portals

While each app has worthwhile features, perhaps one of the best advantages is the way that they all integrate with one another.  Documents and appointments can be easily shared via e-mail, and your inbox can be used as a portal for productivity via embeddable widgets, chat, and other notifications.

If your SDVOSB (service disabled veteran owned small business) is ready for a web-based, collaboration-minded IT solution, Google Apps is certainly a cost-effective way to go, and you can investigate the free versions simply by signing up for a Gmail account to determine if the suite is right for your workflow.

Making Your Biz Media Savvy

Interesting article from Porfolio.com – by Romy Ribitzky

Making Your Biz Media Savvy

The Tastee Sup Shop didn’t mount a full-scale PR campaign advocating itself as the quintessential presidential stump stop before President Obama visited Wednesday to talk about small businesses. The Edison, New Jersey, restaurant doesn’t have a fancy website. And it gets by without a Twitter account.

But the amount of media attention the shop got because of the presidential visit—not to mention the future folklore allure it stands to gain—show that small businesses don’t necessarily need to have big pockets to get the media’s attention. A news hook, a celebrity visit, or a killer product launch can all help to get buzz swirling among sometimes fickle and jaded reporters.

So what’s the best course for a small business that’s trying to get out a branding message or news of a product launch so its customer base knows what’s going on?

Trying to hold a media event involves multiple moving parts, and making sure that they come together properly can be tricky, says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national PR firm based in Clearwater, Florida.

“Getting a television crew to your event requires some finesse, and the format of the pitch is different than that of a press release,” she says. “A media alert is the appropriate tool which gives a TV producer or assignment-desk editor all the information they need to decide on whether the event you’re holding is of interest to them.”

When it comes to the pitch, concise and to the point is the way to go, media experts say. Since the media tends to ask the same major questions, structure the pitch to answer the following: Who, what, why, when, where, and visuals, Friedman recommends.

But even before writing a single word, do your homework. A quick Internet search can help businesses identify local (and national) reporters who cover their beat, product type, branding element, or business interest. Knowing who to send alerts to takes the pitch from a blind send to a targeted campaign that is more likely to yield results since you’re connecting reporters, editors, and producers—who have to find fresh material every day—with subject matter already of inherent interest to them.

Once you’ve identified the initial core audience, focus on the basics:

  • Who: This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure to include your company’s name as well as the names and titles of any people who’ll be in attendance.
  • What and Why: Make sure to let editors and producers know why you’re holding a presser and what the announcement is.
  • When and Where: The worst thing about putting time and effort into creating a media opportunity is doing all that work and having no one show up. Let outlets know exactly what date and time—as well as the address—of your event. Include your expected duration, a set of directions to the venue, and a link to Google Maps, Mapquest, or mapping site of your choice.
  • Visuals: If television is your medium, make sure the crew has something exciting to shoot. Demos, graphs and charts trump talking heads any day and have a higher chance of catching the media’s attention.

Have the basics covered? Now it’s time to follow up. Editors and producers can get hundreds of emails in a given day. After you send the email, find an artful way to touch base with them that’s assertive but not overly invasive, experts say. There’s a fine line between being informative and being annoying.

If the team’s interest is piqued, find out who to keep in touch with and keep them informed of any last-minute changes and confirmations up until—and following—the event. Don’t forget to call or email on the actual day of your happening, just to make sure nothing else has come up in the meanwhile.

If holding a media circus—big or small—is not in the budget, fear not. Other avenues, such as radio or being booked as a guest commentator, analyst, or expert either on a local or national show, can go a long way toward gaining the public’s trust.

Working with a PR team can help focus your message and take the responsibility of following the news minute to minute to identify opportunities out of your already-overloaded hands. But if hiring a public relations firm is too expensive, consider doing it yourself. After all, no one knows a brand better than the person heading the company. And these days, thanks to social media, reaching out to a target audience is easier than ever, and often all it costs is time.

“With access tools like HARO [Help a Reporter Out], that bring the media opportunities to you, being reactive is easy and cheap,” says Margo Schneider, vice president at Ketchum, a full-service global public relations firm based in New York.

The same search and pitch tips still apply here. Find out where your audience is communicating, drop in and listen to the conversation, and jump in where it makes sense, social-media and PR experts say. It’s important not to bombard your Twitter, Facebook, and other social-media platforms just with information about your brand. Rather, find out where people are already talking about a similar product or need and give them information of value.

“Your audience is actively seeking you, or your product, through online research. Make sure you’re active in their arena so you can be found,” says Katherine O’Hara, vice president of New Jersey-based S3, an advertising, media, and public relations firm. “Blogging creates HTML-based text that is tapped by search engines and smiled upon given its constant refreshing of content.”

Building up respect and the reputation of a trusted brand will get companies noticed, especially when reporters are looking for good sources. Sure, it may take more time out of your busy day, but if you don’t have the public relations team or political machine on the scale that the president does, taking a few hours a day to interact with your customers and the media people who follow your brand can result in a booking. Once you connect with a journalist, “make the most of this opportunity by asking the reporter to link to your blog or mention your Twitter handle,” suggests O’Hara. And while most outlets don’t pay a guest-appearance fee, the publicity that comes out of being tagged an expert can be priceless.

Another way to get noticed is by sharing insightful information with the community. “Build case studies of how you’ve tackled challenges all small businesses are facing (e.g., surviving the recession) or unique challenges you’ve tackled or tools you’ve employed with breakthrough results,” says Marie Wiltz, senior media specialist with Ketchum. Executives can take that a step further by writing byline pieces on leadership, management, and/or the issues that small businesses are facing, adds Wiltz.

To be even more relevant, “be ready to divulge real business challenges—cash-flow issues, mistakes you’ve made, and how you’ve dealt with them—these are the things the small-business media are looking to share with their readers who want key learnings,” says Schneider.

Finally, get in front of the crowd as much as possible. Speaking engagements are still one of the best ways to get yourself out there, O’Hara says. “It places you in front of a captive audience while positioning you as an expert. Make sure to promote such engagements on your website, blog, and fan page. Even if people aren’t able to attend, it adds weight to your credentials.”

Great News for SDVOSBs – Obama Administration Comes Through

Great news on the SDVOSB status. We caught this article that just came out before the holiday and wanted to share it with everyone.  R/S, PrepFire

Obama Administration makes it easier to award vets sole-source contracts

FAR amendment would more closely mirror language of Veterans Benefits Act

By Matthew Weigelt
Jul 02, 2010
WashingtonTechnology.com

The Obama administration today finalized acquisition rules to clarify that a contracting officer can award a sole-source contract to a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB), even if there is more than one company that can perform the work.  The contracting officer can make the sole-source award to that SDVOSB, as long as the officer expects to receive no bids from another SDVOSB, according to the amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The new rule was published in today’s Federal Register.
The rule, which goes into effect Aug. 2, only applies to SDVOSBs.

The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council have determined the FAR should be revised to more closely mirror the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 and lessen the possibility of misinterpretation. They first proposed the rule in May 2009. The changes are based on a 2007 Government Accountability Office protest decision. A small-business owner who is a service-disabled veteran objected to the Air Force’s decision to award a small-business set-aside contract instead of a sole-source award to a small business owned by a service-disabled veteran. The Air Force chose the set-aside because one other firm owned by a service-disabled veteran could have performed the contract’s work. However, the protester countered that the company didn’t respond to the solicitation.

See Original Article – http://fcw.com/articles/2009/05/19/clarify-far-sole-source-language.aspx

Who Were We Fighting For?

The Veteran Benefits Act of 2003, authored by Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey was meant as a benefit for service disabled veterans who gave up so much for their country, recognizing and rewarding these vets by mandating that 3% of federal procurement contracts be awarded to service disabled veteran owned small businesses.

This program has been, to say the least, falling far short of its goals. As of 2008, just 1.5 percent of all federal contracts went to SDVOSB’s, and among those, fraudulent awardees have been making the news as they flagrantly lie about being service disabled vets, yet reap the rewards on the backs of those service men and women meant to get these awards.
So, not only is the program being disregarded, or only given lip service by federal agencies (except for the VA) but is fraud ridden by greedy businesses because of a lack of true oversight of the program to verify their eligibility.

Education of our government representatives has to be a first step in changing our fight to root out fraud, and make these agencies meet the targeted goals called for in the Veteran Benefits Act. A good start might be to mandate 3% of an agencies budget be denied them when they fall short of their statutory goal. One way to create a groundswell of action is by calling, tweeting, facebooking, and yes, even old fashioned talking to our government representatives to make them aware of the needed reform.

Education of the public is needed also; use your contacts, use social media, call your friends, write your editors, and let’s get the ball rolling.

Memorial Day

IN THE SPIRIT OF MEMORIAL DAY, PAUSE AND REMEMBER WHY THIS DAY WAS SET ASIDE.

Our American Veteran heroes suffered for our freedom, living with disabilities that will always haunt them. Others made the ultimate sacrifice, never returning home. Take some moments this weekend to think of them.

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” Sir Winston Churchill

Semper Fi,
PrepFire