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Professionals in the modeling, simulation and training community gathered at the Central Florida Tech Grove (and virtually), for a “Juice Bar” event to discuss Seven Attributes of a Company that is ‘Defense Industry Ready’ on April 12, 2023.
Steve South, director of the APEX Accelerator at the University of Central Florida, led the informal information session, wherein he shared his insights on attributes that help companies appear credible when the Department of Defense is considering prospective contractors. Previously, the APEX Accelerator was (and sometimes still is) also commonly known as the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).
“We’re essentially small business consultants who work with government contractors,” South said in describing his organization’s role. “Our job is to meet businesses where they are and help them in their journey to government contracting.”
South began by acknowledging the complexity of government and defense contracting, which can provide difficult barriers to entry for small businesses. They may not have experience navigating various policies and regulations, or their obstacles might involve simply getting noticed by the right agencies.
“You can’t just ‘sell to the government,’” South said. “It’s too big, too dynamic, and it’s hard to craft a message that resonates with [the appropriate parties]. You want to aim with lasers, not shotguns because there’s so much noise out there, you’ve got to be focused on your target [and] relationships still matter.”
South based his seven attributes of a company that was ready for the government industrial base/defense industrial base, or “GIB/DIB ready,” on a charter his organization received from the DoD’s Office of Small Business Programs.
Developing necessary business controls and skills to perform on contracts is the first step, according to South. This involves establishing processes, procedures, financial controls, as well as having quality/safety policies in place.
Second, businesses should have a capability statement and competitive market strategy.
South said that businesses should put a lot of thought on their capability statement because it’s the entry card into government contracting. “It can’t all be in the mind of the entrepreneur,” he said. “If you can’t get it out of your head and summarize it on one page, you don’t understand it.”
Third, business leaders need to understand contractor responsibilities. South said government agencies want to be sure that contractors know how to maintain a quality program and hold subcontractors responsible for quality programs. They should understand the quality specifications the government is requiring for a particular job.
Fourth, South described the necessity of prospective contractors being registered in SAM, state and/or local vendor registration systems.
“Even if contractors aren’t targeting federal agencies directly, we often suggest they get set up in SAM [System for Award Management],” South said. “There is some marketing panache in being able to speak to a CAGE number and being in the DSBS [Dynamic Small Business Search] database. A lot of county and city [officials] say they check DSBS when they’re meeting a new prospective contractor.”
Fifth, entrepreneurs need to be aware of FAR [Federal Acquisition Regulation], state and/or local regulations requirements. When contractors are listing pricing, if they aren’t reading FAR clauses, they might be missing some costs. According to South, for county or local contracts, businesses should go to procurement websites and read what those agencies expect of a vendor because different government organizations’ expectations might differ.
Sixth, South emphasized the importance that businesses understand and be progressing toward cybersecurity requirements.
“That’s becoming more and more a priority for all levels of government,” South said. “Even counties and cities are saying they’re vulnerable if their vendors don’t have good, strong capability. On the Department of Defense level, it becomes a national security issue if a small business doesn’t have good cybersecurity, and small businesses have to find a way to keep up.”
Finally, it can help vendors to recognize the potential for certified business status. Certain businesses are eligible to claim certain status, such as “veteran-owned” or “woman-owned.” Small businesses that qualify can receive formal certification to receive benefits of specific programs for federal procurement.
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