Thursday, October 07, 2004

Federal contracting marketing shuffle

Small Firms Vie for Slice Of Security Pie

Under mammoth gold chandeliers, Vinod Srikanth, senior director of Synergii, worked a wood-paneled room at the Army Navy Club in downtown Washington. His quarry: government officials and major-league contractors who could award homeland security business to the five-year-old Springfield company that creates complex computer systems.

"We don't know people in the agencies," Srikanth said after a seminar Tuesday on the homeland security market. "They're inundated with phone calls and e-mails." And when you finally make a crucial contact, he added, "you've got one shot" to make your case. ...

Small technology businesses in the Washington area have learned that breaking into the homeland security business is a lot harder than they'd expected after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, created a large and urgent new market for everything from biometric security systems to massive databases. Just getting a call returned or a proposal considered is a victory. ...

Its first step was becoming certified by the government as a "disadvantaged business" through the 8(a) business development program, which offers such status to minority-owned and other firms that qualify. Contracting policies encourage big companies to set aside work for businesses with the 8(a) designation, which Srikanth lists on his business card. The second step was joining the Small Business Administration's Mentor-Protégé Program. It matched Synergii with McLean consultancy BearingPoint, which helped teach the company how to compete for federal contracts.

If you want to know the players in the federal market, it is far more effective to become active in organizations such as NCC AIIM, ARMA of Northern Virginia, DC SPIN or participate in the work of the Federal XML Work Group rather than participate in a federally sponsored cattle call. As a member of an organization you can get to know federal decision makers personally, and get a feel for their priorities before you make a bid for their business.

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