Hit the Bull’s eye

Take steady aim to secure corporate contracts

firm whose clients also include Southern Co. and Lucent Technologies. “We buy underperforming companies that aren’t able to compete to expand our network of facilities around the country. By acquiring them we are able to offer expanded and diverse capabilities to our clients and demonstrate we can take on more of their business.”

Indeed, acquisitions, joint ventures and mergers-trends affecting large, majority companies-are trickling down to small firms, says Michel. African American entrepreneurs have the opportunity to expand their expertise and market base by using these strategies to acquire corporate contracts.

TAKING THE BACON
Entrepreneurs should be aware that securing a contract doesn’t happen overnight-it could take one month or three years, unless you’re asked to perform ASAP in an emergency situation like Smith of A-1 Professional Property Services. However, you must stay in contact with the diversity supplier manager throughout the process and have a plan in place to stick with it to the end, which includes building a client base and having the financial means to pursue contracts and maintain existing ones.

According to Holland, most companies put out an RFP 30-45 days before they ask for a response. An evaluation may take up to six months if the company has an existing contract and the bidding process may take several months as well. It’s also key to maintain a consistent, measurable level of service, so you can always foster continuous growth, says Stokes.

If you make the right contacts, do your homework, thoroughly understand what you have to offer and what potential clients need and stay persistent, scoring corporate contracts will be within your reach.

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KEEPING A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
To stay in the game of private or federal procurement, follow this advice from procurement officials and the players.
Develop your core competency or niche and aggressively market your products or services by establishing relationships with procurement officers.

  • Become familiar with corporations’ or agencies’ needs for products and services and their specifications, deliverables and quality of work to be completed before bidding on a contract.
  • Bidding as a sole source contractor gives you the experience to bid on other contracts, but to expand your market share, consider partnering, merging, acquiring or forming joint ventures with other small and large firms as a prime or as a subcontractor.
  • Seek out a small business development center, which can show you how to contact agencies, get your company’s name on a bidder list, help you understand solicitations, get bonded or construct a business plan to obtain a bank loan or become 8(a) certified.
  • Submit your offer with examples of commercial prices you have charged and references from satisfied customers.
  • For subcontracting opportunities, check out lists of past contract awards and firms that have responded to announcements of pending procurements. This can provide you with valuable leads.
  • Ask a successful federal or corporate supplier to help you navigate the corporate maze, mentor you or provide legal, accounting or human resource management if you lack this expertise.
  • Become technically savvy.
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