Why Big Corporations Need Small Business

Contracts Available

Now, Desktop Video

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These articles by Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1

Newspaper on September 29, 1999. All rights reserved.

Government Contracts: Now Better Deals

Small businesses tend to shy away from doing business

with the federal government because it has always been a tedious,

overburdened process, bogged down by the kind of over-specifications

that produce a $96 hammer. Today, however, big brother is a more

agreeable

business partner, even for small businesses, says Madeline Britman

of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center (973-353-5950).

"The Army and Navy used to have specifications for chocolate chip

cookies, they had a recipes, but now they can buy them from

anyone,"

says Britman. "They can buy hammers and screwdrivers from a

hardware

company. Now if it will do the job, they will accept a commercial

product, and the government buys just about anything, from food and

clothing, to nuts and bolts."

Britman will participate in "Marketing Your Business for Contract

Opportunities," one of the workshops that are being offered during

Trenton Small Business Week `99. Five days of free seminars and

networking

events kick off on Monday, October 4, at the Fleet Bank networking

breakfast at Maxine’s Restaurant at 8 a.m. Britman speaks at 1 p.m.

at the Mary G. Roebling Building at 20 West State Street in Trenton.

Other speakers: Patrick J. Guidotti, manager of New Jersey

Commerce’s

Office of Small Business, and Susan Hogan, a supplier development

manager at PSE&G. Call 609-984-3408.

Britman has worked at the Small Business Development Center for nine

years and holds a BS in chemistry from Douglas College, Class of 1960,

and a masters in industrial relations from Rutgers University. As

director of procurement programs, Britman helps state businesses

"find

out if they are ready to sell to the government and try to get them

through the beginning steps with the state or the federal

government,"

she says.

A certain amount of contracts are set aside by both state and federal

government for "small business," defined differently at each

government level. In New Jersey, says Britman, a small business

employs

fewer than 100 employees and annual revenue is not taken into account.

The federal government considers much larger businesses to be small

businesses, but it depends on the industry. "Manufacturing can

be up to 1,000 employees," says Britman.

New technology and new laws have made it easier to learn about

government

contracts, make a bid, and get paid. First, says Britman, the

government

is making a conscious effort to do better business by looking beyond

the bottom line. "Price used to be the most important thing,"

she says. "Now they are looking for best value, which means they

will take other things into account." A business’ past

performance,

including delivery history, product quality, and technical capability,

are all weighed carefully.

That might suggest a longer review period, but in fact, the Internet

has sped up the process considerably, says Britman. "Now that

electronic commerce is the thrust, the time has grown much

shorter,"

she says. "Routine items might only appear electronically for

three or four days, and within a week a decision could get made. It

used to be advertised for months." In addition, businesses are

no longer prohibited from using commercial tools, video for example,

to vie for contracts.

The government has sped up the payment process as well, says Britman.

"The government has prompt payment acts, so you know you’re going

to get paid on time," she says. Payment is mandatory within 30

days (federal) or 60 days (state) upon receipt of an invoice, and

the government is now issuing payment electronically. "Progress

payments" can also be arranged for larger projects that involve

ongoing labor costs.

For the small business interested in finding opportunities to sell

to government, Britman suggests the following:

Obtain a procurement history from the government agency

in question, guarantied under the Freedom of Information Act (federal)

or Right-to-Know Act (state). Businesses can then see the figures

that won on a prior bid and create a strategy accordingly. "It’s

public information so you contact the agency and figure out who won

the contract last year and at what price," says Britman.

Limit business with government at first. "I usually

suggest a new company try to limit the amount of business with the

government to see if it’s going to pay off for them," she says.

"When you’re dealing with private industry they’ll continue with

you if they’re happy with you. But the government has to move around

and give others opportunities. I know businesses that have been doing

computer repair or support at one army base for 10 years, but they

still have to compete."

Build relationships with contacts even though competition

wins the contract. It’s still an important factor, says Britman.

"You

can develop relationships with the people who are using your product,

if you are tenacious enough and decisive enough to know the people

who are making the real decisions," she says. "In federal

government there are small business specialists in just about every

government agency and they would be a person to help the small

business

person through the maze."

Have electronic banking capacity. "The federal

government

doesn’t like to write checks anymore so you should have a bank account

that will take electronics funds transfer," says Britman.

Rely on the Internet to find opportunities in government

procurement. "If a contract opportunity is advertised

electronically,

it will not be advertised somewhere else," says Britman. Among

the most useful sites, says Britman: the U.S. Small Business

Administration

website http://www.sba.gov , where government agencies search

for businesses that are registered; the University of Scranton

Electronic

Resource Center http://www.ecrc.uofs.edu, a site commissioned

by the government for recruiting purposes that has nitty gritty

details

such as industrial codes that you will need to file bids; and

http://DoDBUSOPPS.com,

where all the government agencies are listed.

The New Jersey Small Business Development Center also offers

consulting

services for free.

Get certified as a women or minority-owned business if

you qualify: at least 51 percent of the company must be owned and

managed by either a woman or a minority. These businesses are eligible

for even more contracts.

Ask for an abstract if you lose the bid so you can figure

out where you stand in the bidding process. "You can find out

whether you’re being competitive enough, can you go lower, or maybe

the government isn’t the right place for you," says Britman.

Whatever you do, don’t go in blind, says Britman. "You

should

do a lot of preparation and understand how the government works."

And it’s getting easier to understand.

Top Of Page
Why Big Corporations Need Small Business

Big business is doing its duty in fostering diversity

in the marketplace by putting women and minority-owned businesses

on their list of "most-wanted" companies for procurement.

To that end, many of the largest corporations have built diversity

development programs, says Herbert K. Ames, Mercer County’s

director of economic development. "I saw a list from UPS that

was a whole page’s worth of goods and services that they purchase

and look for small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses to

provide,"

he says. "Staples is another one that has a good diversity

program,

Bristol-Myers Squibb has an excellent program."

Ames will introduce several small businesses to representatives from

the area’s largest companies, including UPS, Merrill Lynch,

Bristol-Myers

Squibb, Staples, and PSEG. The program, sponsored by the Mercer County

Small Business Forum, is "Corporate Contacts for Procurement,"

and it is set for Friday, October 8, at 8 a.m. at the Sovereign Bank

Arena on South Broad Street. The event is free, part of Trenton Small

Business Week `99. Other attendees include Robert Prunetti,

Mercer County executive, William Mate, outgoing head of the

Mercer Chamber, and corporate participants from AT&T, NY/NJ Minority

Purchasing Council, McGraw Hill, NJ Transit, Johnson & Johnson, Merck

& Company, NMSCD of PA-NJ-DE, and Revlon.

Ames hopes to get companies in Mercer County to do more business with

each other. "When we had our last Small Business Forum meeting

I had people from major companies come up to us and say that we want

to get in with these businesses," he says. "Through some very

long meetings with some diversity development directors we found out

that they really didn’t have many Mercer County businesses on their

bidders list. We want to change that. The small businesses need to

know that the large business is looking for them, and the large

business

needs to know that the small business is out there."

Ames estimates that the larger corporations have set aside between

$100 million and $300 million for diversity program spending.

"After

this meeting on the 8th, businesses will have a corporate contact

in certain large companies that they can call to seek out

information,"

he says.

If you haven’t received certification as a small or minority-owned

business, now is the time to contact the SBA. "I think that the

corporations will request that these businesses be certified,"

says Ames, "but that’s up to each individual corporation."

Top Of Page
Contracts Available

The Middlesex County Department of Human Services is

seeking vendors to provide personal assistance services to

self-directing

adults with physical disabilities who reside in Middlesex County.

The services provided include direct personal care, but the department

is also looking for transportation vendors and social workers. The

deadline for Request for Proposals is Friday, October 15. Call

732-745-2587.

Top Of Page
Now, Desktop Video

Just as desktop programs bring publishing to the masses

so too new video editing software is making it possible to produce

corporate video, DVD, and CD-ROM on a basic PC. Instead of spending

a million or half a million dollars at a major studio or production

house, a business need only spend a couple thousand dollars for a

comparable product at one of the new multimedia start-ups, says Brian

McKernan, editor-in-chief of Videography magazine. "Assuming

they have creative talent, they can do the same level work that people

did with $1 million three years ago," says McKernan, who speaks

on "The Changing State of Business Media" at the Moving Images

Professionals meeting on Thursday, September 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Good

Time Charlie’s in Kingston. Cost: $10. Call 609-394-4818.

Some of these small homegrown multimedia shops can buy gear for

$50,000

that cost $5 million just a few years ago, says McKernan. "It’s

a consequence of the computer revolution and it’s a big business,

even in Hollywood," he says. "A great deal of this work is

being done out of boutiques, in some cases in people’s homes."

Bronx-born McKernan received a BA from the State University of New

York in Oswego, Class of 1976, where he was introduced to the media

business via a primitive cable network owned by the school. "It

gave us a chance to cut our teeth on the new technology," he

recalls.

He moved to radio, as an announcer near Syracuse, but returned to

New York City city following "the worst winter in 100 years."

He worked for Omni magazine and Broadcast Management Engineering

magazine

before joining Videography, one of the oldest and most respected

magazines

in the industry.

Now McKernan faces issues that would daunt the editor of any

technology

magazine. "Our most important challenge is to provide for our

readers the most profitable information for now to be successful

later,"

he says. "How do people cash in on the Internet, or DVD? How do

we transition from analog to digital? How does everyone manage the

change to HDTV?"

The media explosion of the last decade has made it possible to imagine

a situation in the near future in which television — as we know

it — no longer has a monopoly, says McKernan. "You have

generation

raised on television now raising a generation on Internet," says

McKernan. "The Internet’s streaming video may be compelling enough

to take viewers away from broadcast television."

As the technology matures and the media proliferates, businesses can

expect to have numerous inexpensive options. "A client may ask

you on Monday to do a linear video tape, and on Tuesday they want

DVD, which is interactive, and on Wednesday they want streaming video

for the Internet," says McKernan. And all for less than what a

business might have spent on a simple video.

McKernan’s advice to businesses seeking out production house for

video,

CD-ROM, Internet, or DVDs:

Don’t spend the big bucks. Shop around for a boutique

production house.

Look for those who can tell a good story. "When

everyone

has access to the equipment, the equalizing factor becomes the

talent,"

says McKernan. "There are certain constants that don’t change.

You have to have story to tell, you have to have a beginning middle

and an end. As the motion picture industry proves, you can have the

greatest movie in the world, but if you don’t have a story, the

product

isn’t there."


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