In July, the CEO and a senior staff member of TAPE, LLC team attended the national conference of people who do acquisitions support for the federal government and work as contractors for the agencies. After one particular day of presentations and sessions, our senior staff member was letting loose on the dance floor. Her fun spirit was contagious and she made a lot of friends. One new friend just happened to be a senior government official, who in turn invited our team to come and visit his agency.
Lesson #1: Be yourself, have fun, be friendly and be open to new connections. You never know who you’re going to meet and where that meeting could take you.
This fellow was a pretty high-level official in the procurement function in that agency, which means he oversees the process of issuing requests for proposals and so on. In addition, they hire people to do acquisitions support, one of the types of work that we do at TAPE, LLC. It took awhile to arrange the visit, and the meeting was rescheduled at least twice.
Eventually, though, the CEO, the senior staff member and the government official did sit down for a meeting. It was a productive meeting, even though this person isn’t actually responsible for making purchasing decisions – that is handled by mid-level government officials, not their bosses.
Through that meeting, though, this high-level official heard enough to be able to determine that our company could help their agency, and he suggested we speak to someone else.
Lesson #2: Be persistent. Don’t give up just too quickly if you don’t reach your goal right away.
We arranged a meeting with that person, who in turn was promoted shortly before our scheduled meeting, and therefore was also no longer the one making actual purchasing decisions. So we were sent to a third person altogether.
We made the appointment, showed up the meeting, and the person we were meeting with had to go to a doctor’s appointment. So we sat down with a fourth person, one level down from the person we were scheduled to meet with.
This is not a unique situation. This is how things work when you’re doing business with the federal government. You’ve got to keep showing up and talking to the real customers – the ones with the money and the decision-making power.
This fourth person we met with had only been on the job for short time; he was brought on to support the woman who’d been recently promoted to replace the one we were initially referred to. Already, though, he knew he had requirements for things we could do. And not only that, but he knew about people in his old agency who we could also support successfully. He also told us a gem of information that we did not know before, about how his organization processes their annual budget money, specifically how they handle the money that doesn’t get spent by the end of the year.
This is the way it goes. And it goes this way again and again and again. And we still have more meetings to go to; this story is not over yet.
I’ll continue to update you on this story to see if we actually get any money out of this. These things have a long life cycle, and someone else may come along who is better or cheaper than us. You just never know. We could go through all these steps and still hit a roadblock down the line.
The federal government has a lot of money to spend on doing business with small businesses. The ones who get those opportunities, who survive, thrive and grow, understand that it takes time and persistence to succeed in this arena.
Take the time, enjoy the ride, play on!