In a recent post, I explained how government agencies use the Small Business Administration (SBA) Certificate of Competency program to mitigate their risk in working with a small business.
As a follow up, TAPE CEO and President Louisa Jaffe will expand on what small business owners need to emphasize when seeking a certificate of competency.
Ultimately, to present a case to the SBA you need to demonstrate financial viability, understanding of the proposed work and the ability to do it, and documentable, repeatable management processes.
To begin, prepare a binder where you will have copies of everything neatly organized. This binder must be able to speak for itself as to your competency.
There will be a standard list of things the SBA wants to see, such as your articles of incorporation, your operations plan, and your financials, but since a certificate is ordered for a particular project or award, you must also be prepared to be specific about why you can do that particular piece of work.
You must be able to present yourself, preferably in person, to the SBA, even if you have to travel to another city to do that. Be prepared to explain exactly why you can do the job that is required, and to back up that explanation with the documentation in your binder.
For your financial viability, that means evidence of a line of credit, whether it is a letter of credit from your financial institution or from another lender. You have got to show them not only that you are prepared to take on the work of this contract, but also to pay people – that you can financially handle this project.
Your personal interaction and communication skills are also very important. You want to present yourself very well, be dressed appropriately for business, and be able to tell your story. Practice talking about how you started your company, about your company values and business culture, and your plans for how you will take care of employees (such as benefits, and job descriptions with metrics that are written for success, not failure). The SBA puts great importance on best practices concerning employees.
Something that small businesses often overlook is the importance of detailing your executive structure and management practices. Even if your company is still very small and you do not have much structure, you need to demonstrate that you will know what to do with structure as your company grows, and how to manage a small business structure for success.
For example, you will want to discuss that you have a CFO – chief financial officer – in place, and a plan for handling the financial operations of the business. (There are reputable accounting firms who will serve as your CFO on a contract basis so the CFO does not have to be an employee of your company.)
Similarly, the certificate applicant will be required to demonstrate that there is someone to handle operations (running the project[s]), and someone to handle business development (acquiring new work).
Even if there are only one or two people collectively holding all of those positions right now, the SBA wants to see that you have provided for those key responsibilities, and that the business owner understands these three separate functions (financial, operations, development) with a plan for managing them.
As well, you need a specific plan that outlines your management practices for your own employee and for sub-contractors. You must be able to demonstrate to the SBA that you will be able to manage both large and small subcontractors with repeatable and documentable processes.
What the SBA does not want to see is a small business just appearing as a front for a large business. You must explain how you are your own business entity, how you will keep track of what is going on, and how you will handle accountability.
Depending on the size of project, this may include communication practices between the project manager and other leads, particularly if those leads are in another company (a subcontractor). You need to demonstrate how you will stay on top of what is going on in the project at all times, even if some or all of the work is happening in a different city from your own business.
Even if you are not ready to go through a formal quality management program certification such as the ISO 9001, you can create your own transparent plan that serves as an umbrella of all of your management systems; management systems are repeatable and documentable processes – key systems that keep you accountable for every aspect of your business.
If you have accountability and transparency, you will be golden. That way you can sit in front of the SBA and say here is our plan, here is how we will implement these processes, here is how we will document how well we do on these processes, and here is how we will upgrade these processes as we go, if we find we need to do something differently.
The SBA is not looking for someone who is perfect and never makes mistakes, but for someone who is agile enough to see when something needs to change, change it, and document that change.
With all of these documents and artifacts in hand, collected in a professional binder with your logo on the front, you will go in looking very organized and well put together, and you should have no problem getting your certificate.
By the way, when the time comes, this identical type binder of information will go a long way towards qualifying your company for a bank credit line. But that is a topic for another day.
This is a guest post by David Moyer.
David Moyer is our Army Reserve Command subject matter expert, and the capture manager for our largest contract, the Army Training Models. He formerly was the Director of Resource Management for the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7 US Army Reserve Command (USARC), where he was initially our USARC customer, and then a consultant for TAPE, advising the USARC.
We can all learn a lot from Dave’s experience, so I asked him to write about it here.
What are some of the organizational conflict of interest (OCI) issues that arise when a former government official comes to work for a company that they formerly supervised?
There are legal and moral issues associated with a former government official going to work for a contractor. The legal issue is one of whether or not the official influenced the hiring of the company or the awarding the contract in order to obtain employment.
Federal regulations and statute specifically preclude government employees from working for a contractor if a pecuniary relationship existed while the employee was still employed by the Federal Government. In this case, while I had TAPE employees working with me and in my directorate, I was not a signatory on the contract nor did I have a direct bearing on who won the contract.
If a federal employee anticipates working for a contractor after retirement a letter recusing that employee from all contract negotiations must be circulated within his or her organization.
As a funds certifying officer, I was more aware of the OCI issues than most. I was approached by the Graduate School USA to become an instructor prior to my retirement. I solicited Staff Judge Advocate guidance and was told to circulate a letter regarding my intention to become a contractor, which I did. When I was approached by TAPE three months after my retirement, neither a moral nor a legal impediment existed.
Federal employees do not supervise contractors, but task them to perform those tasks identified and specified in the Statement of Work. They are supervised by someone within the company awarded the contract.
What are your tips for how to handle these issues?
All government employees must know the regulations surrounding working for a government contractor. To ensure this occurs, employees are required to take annual classes on ethics provided by legal counsel. These classes address the issue in depth. Again, in my position I not only had to attend these classes by had to fill out an OGE 450 financial disclosure form on an annual basis. As I mentioned above I am also an adjunct professor for the Graduate School USA and one of the classes I regularly teach is Federal Appropriations Law. This course covers many of the issues associated with outside employment and future employment of government employees.
How can someone best prepare for being in this situation?
If an employee anticipates or even considers the possibility of working for a contractor upon retirement they should seek guidance from their department legal team. The requirement is well publicized and all legal departments deal with this type of inquiry on a regular basis.
What are some of the benefits your previous experience brings to your new position?
My case is somewhat unique in that I am for the most part assisting my previous organization. The turnover of government employees tends to be high in most organizations. Historical knowledge is rapidly lost even though the environment remains fairly constant.
In my case I was in the same directorate for almost 22 years and was the director for 18 of those years. Prior to that I had worked in resource management for over 11 years as an Army Officer. I either reviewed the work or assisted in the development of virtually all of the models used within the Army Training Model umbrellas in both the Active Army and then the Army Reserve.
In that 33-year span, I was part of every change and modification to the models and assisted in the development of the algorithms associated with the model designs. In my current capacity, I receive inquiries as to whether I remember how something was generated, what issue was it designed to address and what were the benefits or drawbacks of doing it another way. That knowledge is not easily replicated.
Can you give us an example of how you navigated or avoided a conflict?
I was well prepared for avoiding a conflict of interest due to the nature of my position. I was required by both regulation and statute to be an “honest broker” in all my dealings within my organization and with contractors. I was also keenly aware of what my relationship with all of my contractors was to be.
I always considered contractors an “asset” to be applied wherever and whenever prudent. I was able to incorporate their actions with the actions of my employees to obtain a synergy not previously possible. I considered them an integral member of my team and ensured they knew their role in achieving the goals and objectives my superiors had given me.
In 2007, TAPE won an Army support contract that catapulted our growth. It came out of work that our founders had done as employees of a large business, and built on that customer relationship when the Army decided to try a small business solution. After much travail and many late, sleepless nights, we found ourselves the proud winner.
During the transition, many of the same folks that we’d known since the 1980s proved to still be working the job, much expanded. This core group of folks has supported this contract for nearly 30 years, many of them first in uniform as officers, and then as contractors for the various primes and subs. Joel Fleck is one of the key people, who’s been Task Leader, Deputy PM, and now PM/VP of the Training/Optempo Sector. This is a little bit of his story.
How do you keep the perspective and enthusiasm fresh?
First off, the work is important; it has the potential to affect soldiers and units everywhere in all three components – active Army, Reserves, and National Guard. So at the end of most days you go home feeling good about what you did. Second, the people both within the project team and within the Army are so dedicated and appreciative. It is hard not to want to give your best all of the time.
Third, you have to read professional publications to stay abreast of what is going on in the Army and what is the senior leadership trying to do. You need to keep your language up to date, and your empathy fully turned on.
You cannot be a curmudgeon. You can not sound like you came from a different century. You can not become complacent. The longer you are providing them support the more careful you need to be that what you say and do is accurate. You cannot get lazy about fact checking. Credibility is your greatest asset but it is easily lost if you get complacent.
What have you found is the best way to adjust to changes?
Be part of it. Keep an open mind. Try to provide advice and assistance in implementing the change. Being part of it always allows you to lay out the potential challenges and mitigating solutions which helps maintain your relevancy and your credibility.
The focus has to be getting things done right for the Army and always making the client look good. Don’t worry about getting credit.
How do you maintain continuity in your work when new leaders come in at the client, with different leadership styles?
Adjust where you can. Continue providing the best support to those people under the new leader. Continue to build credibility and value. Most of the new leaders got to where they are because they are smart. Once they figure you are an asset, and that you can support and advance their goals, things get better.
Supporting the same client for almost 30 years – inside and outside of uniform – requires several different things: patience, flexibility, honesty, un-abrasiveness, high degrees of accuracy, great co-workers, responsiveness (sometimes 24/7), and assistance to not only the client but those around him.
This is a guest post by TAPE Communications Specialist Walt Long.
My name is Walt Long and I work for TAPE as a communications editor and reviewer, with a special focus on our company’s color teaming process.
Color teaming a proposal document is a kind of “group editing” of the content. While I was already very familiar with editing a document on my own for clarity, grammar, and word flow, this multi-person process of sculpting a draft into a strong proposal was a new challenge for me.
Color team reviewing of the documents and graphics within a particular proposal not only involves editing by one’s self, but also includes presenting your edits and general experience of the document to others. This happens in a series of team review meetings, with each team identified by the colors pink, red, gold, green, and white.
Color team participants are made up of writers and reviewers, each with very different roles to play. I have learned that it’s important to assign the right people to write to the particular volumes required by the government’s formal parameters for each proposal.
There will be representatives from each team of Prime and Subcontractors, both employees and hired subject matter experts (SMEs)/consultants. It’s also important to line up experienced reviewers who can see things from the perspective of the government evaluators and explain what specifically is missing.
The color names given to different teams tell you which part of the editing process is being conducted. While individual companies may assign the colors somewhat differently, here is how I understand the color distinctions:
The Pink Team is the starter group, who clarify what the federal government is actually requiring be included within a particular proposal, and agree on an outline.
Next is the Red Team phase, where more focus is placed on refining certain sections for universal themes such as Corporate Capability, Transition Plan, Technical Approach, Management Plan for Primes and Subcontractors, Sample Task Order, etc. In addition to refining content, Red Teams have to look at the actual size and look of the proposal by considering page counts, the ratio of graphics to text, and the clarity of graphics and charts.
Meanwhile, on a parallel effort, away from this mostly word-centered review of the proposal, the Green Team is a separate group of folks who look at the always delicate task of what financial numbers will be presented in the proposal. Green Teams are made up of those with company proprietary information about how much to pay individual positions as well as how much to propose to the customer i.e., the government client.
Pricing is always both an art and a science when it comes to proposals; too high is always a risk but too low means that in the eyes of the customer, you are not facing the realities of the work in question, nor might you be able to hire and keep the talent needed to fulfill the contract.
Next comes the Gold Team, whose reviewers take in the entire proposal. These participants must have both the authority and the time to read their assigned volumes in their entirety, line by line. While Pink and Red Teams usually discuss their edits by phone, in my experience Gold Teams present their edits directly to the writing/production team.
Finally enters the White Team also known as “White Glove,” where basically every one of the final editors and compilers gets one more chance to look over the document for obvious mistakes or any visual space or sizing problems. This final edit and production phase is just as important if not more as all the work that has led up to this point. It is their job to create a physical hard copy of the entire document must now make it physically into hard copy via either CDs and/or paper, then be physically delivered.
In other cases the customer has asked for the information in electronic-only form, in which case software issues and transferring the information over the web by the deadline become the make or break process for the entire effort.
Here are a few caveats for effective color teaming I have learned along the way:
- Find or hire the best writers and reviewers you can afford. Such expertise pays off in the end.
- Writing and reviewing proposals is difficult work, dealing with large volumes of complicated information. Those in charge of the teams must allow enough time for both sides to finish their tasks with reasonable and professional process. (Having the right people who specialize in the writing or reviewing of their assigned parts goes a long way towards the efficiency needed.)
- If you are a color team writer or reviewer, it’s best to put your ego off to the side, and hear (or give) criticism as graciously and honestly as you can with only one thing in mind: What will make this document a winning proposal in the eyes of the customer? Towards that end, everyone’s opinion can be valuable and needs to be heard, within reason. Those who see things differently must be encouraged to speak up, while the others must refrain from judgment. It is this process of considering and using different perspectives that is the heart of the color teaming process.
During my experience as a newcomer to color teaming, I have learned that it is an expensive and time consuming prospect, meaning that some proposals/documents are simply too small in size and scope to justify such outlay of a company’s limited resources.
That being said, I also think that such a process is a very good way to sculpt and process a proposal or any other document from start to finish. If done right, you get a finished product that has been examined from many different points of view, resulting in a polished and evolved document.
If you’ve had no interface with the military at all, you may not realize that it’s where you find the best and brightest that the nation has to offer. As a norm, most veterans are very dedicated to what they do, have a high level of integrity, and will always put in their best effort. They’re used to a good, identifiable chain of command or organizational structure, and like working in that type of environment.
Keep in mind that veterans may not know the nuances of business. There will be a learning curve. In the military, people are used to going after a task and breaking it down. Using a distinct decision making process, they find the best people for the job and direct them to execute.
Mission execution is what it’s all about; financial considerations don’t come into place.
On the civilian side, the veteran employee has to learn to consider costs, understand people’s set roles and responsibilities and who’s doing what; work around the logistics of moving someone from one role to another.
Making the transition as a veteran
As one of TAPE’s own employees tells us, veterans facing this transition need to make a plan, upfront and early. Put a lot of critical thought into it, and then execute your plan.
He suggests a self-assessment – where you are, and where you want to be. The bottom line. You have some choices you need to make. First, when you get out, are you going to follow the job (move), or do you want to stay where you are? That’s your first fork in the road.
From there you’ll have other choices depending on which route you take. Of course a lot of these choices will depend on your family, for example wanting to let your kids finish up high school in the same place before you would consider moving.
TAPE, like all government contractor firms, is very veteran-friendly. But over and above the obvious legal and HR issues, our experience is that veterans, even with the direct-from-service learning curve, are trained in a particular way, and respond to direction by just heading off and doing it.
By the way, a similar experience comes from direct-from-the-retirement-pool civilian employees of the Federal Government. Both of these pools are also likely to have that magic word, relationships. And that will be the key to success, to utilize the skill sets and maximize the relationships.
The key and universal truism linked to mission success is “Train as you Fight.” Realistic training is critical not only for mission success but for soldier survival.
The challenge is that live, realistic training is often expensive and time sensitive as the resources are finite and required by multiple units. To overcome the limitations of live training resources, the Army has developed and employed virtual, constructive, and gaming capabilities.
One such capability is the U.S. Army’s Synthetic Environment Core (SE Core), a Program of Record (POR) under the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation (PEO STRI). SE Core provides fully correlated, common, geospatial terrain databases; ultra-high resolution cultural and common moving visual models; Common Virtual Components (CVCs); and a common Computer Generated Forces (CGF) for Training Aids Devices Simulators and Simulations (TADSS).
SE Core is the Army’s central link for all common virtual environment requirements, helping to ensure that simulators and simulations correlate and interoperate across critical training platforms.
One critical aspect is the integration of new virtual terrain representations to align with current operational environments and missions. The Army has a requirement to quickly develop and integrate new and accurate digital terrain that corresponds with potential future missions. Fulfilling such a requirement is a fair amount of work and is very complex.
Mr. Thomas Kehr of PEO STRI and Mr. Trey Godwin of Strong Point Research, A Division of TAPE have investigated using Google Earth Pro to track and generate terrain representation requirements in order to produce higher-quality digital terrain products. Their paper, published in Army AL&T magazine, can be reached via the following link:
The best and brightest of your staff are the ones who will carry a company far into the future, and every time you promote someone, that act resonates through the entire organization.
This is one such of the “million stories in the Big City” – a Junior PM job opened up, and we promoted a billable supervisor to an overhead PM position. The following is a first-hand story about that transition, and what we as senior staff and managers can do to help the folks going through a similar transition.
Meet Ken Geary, retired Marine, and newest PM on the TAPE block.
What was the biggest change going from being a supervisor to being a project manager?
“I would have to say the scope of management. I went from directly supervising a relatively small team of five individuals performing a task that I was intimately familiar with, to managing a much larger group of people through delegation and direct communication.
Also management is no longer my sole responsibility. I work to not only provide exceptional service to our customers but also focus on business development, seeking to grow our current contracts as well as procure new ones.
I see this as a general trend, where business development is less one person’s specific role, and more rolled into all program management roles.”
A year later, what would you tell yourself when you were about to start?
“Keep better notes and to-do lists. When I first started in the program management role, I was assuming I could continue to just remember everything I needed to do, as I did when managing a smaller team and wasn’t being pulled in so many directions.
Now that I’m often switching from one project to another, I’ve found that writing everything down helps me to ensure that I complete all of my tasks. I can quickly see the current status and be reminded of the key points that are relevant when working with different contracts.”
What do you think are the most important traits of a good project manager?
“When I was in the Marine Corps we affectionately changed the slogan from semper fi (short for semper fidelis – Latin for “always faithful”) to semper gumby (“always flexible”) and I believe that holds true here.
As a program manager many things fall into your scope of work and you need to be ready to switch gears instantly, manage multiple things, and perform those tasks – proposal writing, performance reviews, and anything that comes along in day-to-day program management.”
What are the biggest benefits to having a project manager in place?
“One of the major benefits of putting a program manager in place is to provide a single point of contact for any issues. This is something that benefits our employees as well as the government points of contact by delivering to provide accurate information effectively and directly.
I can work with them to solve a problem directly, or find the answers for them without them having to get passed around. I know when I call up to get answers or solutions it can be frustrating to get passed around from one person to another.”
Is there anything else you would tell a new project manager?
“Ensure that you are asking questions daily. There is a lot of information to learn and if you don’t ask when you have questions people will assume that you know and understand the information and tasks that have been delegated to you.
If you’re not sure about acronyms or other shop talk, say so. Don’t be scared to ask questions, you need to make sure you understand everything.”
So there you have it – Ken’s story, a year later. Without blowing up his ego too much, he’s done a superb job. What he didn’t tell you is that several of our contracts were coming to a close and needed bridging, and his relationship skills with the customer saved TAPE a lot of problems that would or could have surfaced.
As a follow-up to our recent post about targeting cybersecurity work in your contracting business, I sat down with TAPE’s cybersecurity program manager Stewart Wharton to give you a glimpse behind the scenes.
Stu, what does a typical day look like for the TAPE cybersecurity team? Is there any such thing?
It’s a very high visibility, fast-paced environment, working for one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The team is involved with all aspects of analyzing threats and vulnerabilities.
We do a daily assessment of risk to the systems; we do a lot of reporting using a variety of dashboards. We can suggest fixes, and make sure those fixes are acceptable. We also follow up to ensure that the systems people have implemented them.
It’s a lot of analysis work – analyzing data to see if it’s a threat, a vulnerability, or a mitigation, and also determining the likelihood of the impact of the vulnerability to a system, and the overall risk to the system.
We just wrote in this blog about how government contractors can find cybersecurity work by approaching their existing customers. How has TAPE used this strategy?
Our customer base has grown twice in the year and a half that we’ve been here. And we continue to look at other entities within the agency that could use our BPA (blanket purchase agreement) – an existing contracting vehicle that any federal customer can funnel money to, as long as the scope of the BPA is within cybersecurity.
What is the most common misconception you hear about cybersecurity?
That cybersecurity is all about tools and technology, when really a lot of breaches are socially engineered and simple, such as a user opening an email or attachment they shouldn’t have. Yes, breaches in security can be highly technical, but it can also be amazingly simple.
What do you wish everyone knew about cybersecurity in the workplace?
No matter what job you’re doing, whether you’re at work or at home, everyone should be more aware of how simple it is to give away the keys to the kingdom, just by doing the wrong thing with your email.
- Don’t open an email if you don’t recognize who it’s from or it’s not from an official account in your workplace.
- Don’t open attachments if you don’t recognize who it’s from. Attachments are the easiest way to get a bug or virus into your system.
- Don’t share your password or write it on a sticky note and keep it on your laptop. When working remotely in an airport, you’d be amazed how easy it is for someone to look over your shoulder. They can find out a lot about you, and then pretend to be you.
What do you see going on in the cybersecurity industry right now?
There is a huge demand signal for people doing this kind of work, but at the same time, the quality of people able to do this work is increasing. A lot of graduates are hitting the streets with certifications or degrees that used to take somebody five or ten years of experience to get.
These young workers have all the right credentials but not a whole lot of experience. While this means the cybersecurity market has been flooded with talented individuals, what used to be a high value work area has been somewhat watered down.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your work in cybersecurity?
That at the end of the day, our team and I have helped national security across the United States. Cybersecurity is officially recognized as a domain where the enemy can wage war against you, so we need to be prepared on that same kind of footing.
In The True Cost of Proposals, we talked about the effect of ambiguity on the capture and proposal process, and how contractors shouldn’t waste time or money writing proposals unless they can clearly answer three questions:
- Does this customer have money allocated to solve this problem?
- Can your company solve this problem?
- Do you have the capabilities to win this job?
I asked Bo Nak, a sales engineer at TAPE, to talk about how TAPE navigates through this process.
How do you see these three questions fit into the capture and proposal process?
At TAPE, our capture process really begins after we’ve identified an opportunity – through a government proposal site, third-party analyst, word of mouth, etc. Our first step is talking to the customer, learning what kind of problem they’re trying to solve, what they’re trying to do.
This really goes back to building a relationship with that customer. No one wants to do business with people they don’t know. You can win business [with strangers], but it’s a lot more difficult. Building that relationship is probably most important thing you can do.
That leads into TAPE’s bid/no bid, gate review process. Our own self-critique of our odds of winning that opportunity. Answering those three questions is going to increase our PWin (“probability of winning”) percentage. Whatever we can do to increase that, we should.
If you don’t have a good PWin percentage, you probably won’t or shouldn’t get to the proposal writing stage.
To answer Bill’s second key question, “Can your company solve this problem?” take an honest look at yourself and your company. Is the potential work within your company’s capabilities and will it take you in the direction you want to be going?
The third question follows along the same lines and asks us to take a hard look at our own company and team. Do we have the manpower? Do we have the time to put forth the proper effort into the proposal?
If you don’t have the people or the time, do you have or do you know of other companies you could bring on to form a team? Obviously you want to find strong partners for your team to build the strongest response and proposal.
Note from Bill: Also consider whether your company should act as the prime or sub.
Sometimes we have a relationship with the customer, but no bandwidth to be the prime contractor, or the size standard (NAICS code) is too small for us to be the prime. So we seek partners, also those with whom we have a long-term relationship. Knowing how they will allocate staffing afterwards is a critical issue for choosing a prime contractor.
How does TAPE manage their proposal writing costs?
It’s true what they said in the podcast, that capture and proposal writing starts long before the RFP or RFI comes out. That’s really where your costs start to accumulate. As in most companies, our CFO and company leadership form annual budgets, and its our job to match our spending to that.
Obviously that means we can’t chase after every opportunity out there, so we make sure to put our time and effort into the proposals we have the best shot at winning, ones that match our company’s capabilities and direction and that we have a realistic chance of winning.
What did you think of the podcast about how much proposals cost?
A lot of the messages in the podcast and Bill’s post were things that seem like common sense, but that some contracting officers never calculate or see. There are a lot of costs attached to what we do as part of writing proposals that aren’t necessary considered by the government.
Ambiguity leading to mediocrity was a huge point that needs to be reiterated. And this goes back to one of the podcast hosts saying that questions aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
Industry wants to create a great proposal and put their best foot forward, that’s why we ask questions. Getting back answers in a timely manner and getting the answer sufficiently answered is highly important to us AND the government.
I can’t tell you how many times the same question was asked four, five or even six times in the Q&A section of an RFP, where the government gave a canned response, didn’t fully answer the question, or took forever to answer. This really puts a strain on our ability to write a good proposal.
Hopefully contracting officers in the future will be able to take that part of it more seriously and make more of an effort to help industry and contractors by giving them the answers that they need. It comes around full circle – the better answers you can give us, the better response we can give the government, saving taxpayers more money in the long run.
As they said in the podcast, putting an hour of effort in now can save many more hours on the backend. And that’s certainly something anyone would want to do.
Bo Nak is a sales engineer at Technical and Project Engineering, LLC (TAPE). A graduate from Virginia Tech with a BSE degree in industrial and systems engineering, he has worked as a sales engineer for over six years developing solutions and proposals for private, industry, and government customers. He focuses on developing credible solutions and proposals, building revenue, and driving organic growth opportunities.
In a small business like TAPE, our VPs need to be very hands-on in the day-to-day operations of the company. They’re responsible for business development, maintaining current customer relationships, building our repository of teammates and partners, and strengthening and maintaining those relationships, each for their specific line of business.
This “leaner, meaner” approach enables us to respond more quickly to opportunities and optimize our resources.
One of our VPs, Daria Gray, transitioned into this role from another leadership position in marketing and communications. I asked her to share her reflections on the challenges and opportunities of this type of change.
She says the internal transition happened quite naturally, “Once I’ve made up my mind to do something and am committed, I want to put in the time and energy to succeed.” Yet for some of the people around her, it took time to let go of Daria being in that former role, and to allocate her previous functions to others within the organization.
She says this is an example of a lesson that holds true in everything in life, and that is that you cannot change others. “They are going to continue to do what they have naturally done, but you can change your response or your reaction to their behaviors.”
Daria said that by being firm in her own mindset about the path she was on, she could gently remind others that she was no longer performing those capabilities.” For others in this same situation, she suggests you “stay focused on your new role and kindly redirect people to others who can provide guidance on matters for which they are seeking assistance.”
For Daria, this has been a really positive move, and she’s enjoying the responsibilities of her new role – managing not just the work, but the people and all the new endeavors that have come with it.
As many small businesses transition to a more lean/low-cost/low-overhead environment in the Federal sector, these kinds of transitions will become much more common.
It is much better to take a current, committed employee, who has demonstrated leadership, and train them in a few functions gaps, rather than go through the hiring process and then guess as to whether you were right or wrong on your choices.
As your existing customers are your greatest source of increasing growth and revenue, so too, your existing staff may be the best to fill new leadership roles. Reach out and see if someone wants to grow in a (sometimes surprising) new direction.