Hit the Bull’s eye

Take steady aim to secure corporate contracts

by attending NMSDC’s annual conference in October, which features industry group and committee meetings, power breakfasts, luncheons, a business opportunity fair, plenary sessions, workshops, an awards banquet, receptions and other social outings.

You can also meet decision makers by serving on boards and handling community projects. Paul Smith, COO of A-1 Professional Property Services Inc., a $7.5 million exterior maintenance service firm in San Mateo, California, won a $1.5 million annual contract with Kaiser Permanente through his membership in the Northern California Supplier Development Council.

“We had built a very strong reputation in the development council as a result of being named Supplier of the Year on the local and national level several times over the past six years. When a minority contractor that was providing services to Kaiser Permanente filed for bankruptcy, they gave us a call at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon to take over the contract at 5 o’clock,” recalls Smith. “It took 11 months of performing janitorial services to satisf
y Kaiser Permanente. We bid with 20 other companies-some that were very large prime contractors-and won based on our quality performance.”

Trade shows, conferences and expositions are also excellent bets for meeting corporate supplier honchos and getting the inside scoop, says Smith. Before you go, research what companies will attend, determine who you’re perspective customers are, create a short list of potential contacts and plan to meet them at the event, advises Michel. Schedule in as many workshops and information sessions as you can and make the rounds at trade fairs. Don’t forget to party hardy, too-this is an opportunity to rub elbows and socialize with your peers, Michel adds.

It’s also critical to research the company you’re interested in on the Internet, and read trade magazines and newsletter such as NMSDC’s Minority Supplier News, Washington Technology and Purchasing magazine, which identify key players and provide information on procurement opportunities.

If you think a company is a good fit with your firm’s goals and mission, you should send in the company’s qualifying application to see if you meet their needs and standards. You’ll then be invited to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) if the company feels you’re qualified to bid on a contract. At this point, all of your research and contacts will come into play.

To prepare the RFP, you need to ask yourself the following questions, says Armentha “Mike” Cruise, president and CEO of Aspen Personnel Services, a $12.5 million human resource recruitment firm in Takoma Park, Maryland: Do I understand what the company’s needs are? Can I fulfill the contract? How many people will I need? What are the insurance requirements? How will I finance the project? Do I need a line of credit or can I finance it myself?

“Be very careful to read the RFP thoroughly, understand it, ask questions and get geared up to meet the deadlines,” says Cruise, whose clients include MCI and Unisys, NationsBank and AT&T. “Your pricing has to be right-you must be aware of what your competitors bid and the conditions of

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