Competitive technology has always affected the survival of a community or a people–think bows and arrows vs. cannons. Make no mistake: The economic survival of many black-owned businesses is tied to the strength of their digital readiness. Government agencies award a percentage of contracts to small businesses, and digital prowess increasingly determines which ones win.
“Government agencies are changing the way they do business by investing in and upgrading their technology infrastructures. Businesses must adopt this same mind-set or be left behind,” says Victoria Parham, president and CTO of Alaska-based Virtual Support Services L.L.C. (www.vsscyberoffice .com). The company is a 100% virtual office-support-and-training firm that serves both the government and corporations. (See Techwatch, February 2002.)
George Walker, webmaster for the African American Business Directory (www.africanamericabusiness.com), applauds the government’s move toward a paperless operation because it saves money and protects the environment. But he adds that African American businesses must prepare themselves to take advantage of the new opportunities that technology brings. “In business-to-government (B2G), most transactions are handled on the Internet,” says Walker, adding that it’s now easier than ever to search for government contracts. His site offers a free Web presence to more than 5,000 African American-owned businesses.
“Technology can save money for your business and the agency you’re pitching,” adds Parham. “Web conferencing, for example, includes such features as voice-over IP (VOIP) and application sharing, allowing businesses to meet, communicate, and collaborate in real time on the Web with government clients,” which helps reduce telephone and travel costs. Although investing in technology doesn’t save you money in the short-term, it “adds leverage, packaging power, and marketing influence to your business,” says Parham. “Not only is your business bringing its services or products to the table but technology as well. From a government standpoint, a packaged solution is attractive and cost-effective.”
But there’s more to doing business with the government than just adding technology. Adds Larry Barrett, CIO for the Small Business Administration (www.sba .gov), “Businesses also need to establish and maintain contacts in agencies so that they know what types of problems the organization is trying to solve; [they should be] educating agency managers about innovative approaches that can be applied to the problems they are facing.”
Parham agrees and says businesses that want to explore opportunities with the government must research the agencies and “find a way to convey how their technology reduces costs, provides solutions to immediate needs, and sets them apart from competitors.”
For Walker, surviving the government’s paperless office initiative starts at the place where the gap begins–in the home. “Some households don’t have a computer,” says Walker, “but they have a DVD, HDTVs, and CDs. Somebody has to make people understand the importance of technology.” Indeed, the next generation of tech-savvy business owners will gain their first exposure to technology at home. Does your budding entrepreneur have the tools–or just toys?
Start the Bidding
Not sure how to find government jobs? Start with these sites:
- Federal contracts–www.fedbizopps.gov
- Find defense jobs to bid on–http://progate.daps.mil/home
To find local jobs, start with your state government’s Website.