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General Session Panel on Procurement: Why should they Buy from you and Why now

October 26, 2012

written by Alexis Daly

Moderated by Nancy Allen, WBENC

Panelists:

Matt Thursam -Walt Disney World

Kathy Homeyer – UPS

Mercedes LaPorta –Mercedes Electric Supply

Sally Web – The Special Event Company

Mike Kelly U.S – Federal Reserve System

Lisa Marie Platske – Upside Thinking

Cathy Imburgia – Creative Communications

Nancy started this session with the question ”What challenges do woman business owners face today with procurement?”

Cathy Imburgia thought that Business owners might not know how to set the business apart or know what is important to the company in terms of what specific requirements they are looking for, or what types of businesses they are looking to work with.  Knowing what is important when dealing with government contracts can give you the edge you need to ensure winning the bid. Highlighting specific attributes or abilities your company offers will help your company stand out. She also added that people often get frustrated with all the paperwork required and can get stuck navigating the process. It can be tough, but it is worth the work so stick with it. And lastly, growing your network is key as you never know if someone in your networking group could be someone that wins a contract and will be seeking a woman owned sub-contractor.  It is all about who you know. Continuously develop those relationships without trying to “sell”. The benefits in the long run are worth it.

Mike Kelly said one hurdle that a woman-owned business might not think of doing when trying to get a contract with the U.S. Federal reserve is demonstrating their track record or being able to show that their company has the capacity to take on a large contract and do the job well.  Even if your company does not have a long track record or have any previous large contracts under-their-belt, you can still get the experience needed. Connecting with other companies that have track records of completing large jobs and doing them well are great resources.  This can open the door for an opportunity to become a sub-contractor and then you will have the clout after you completed the job to use on future bids.  He mentioned that the U.S. Federal Reserve is offering larger discounts to minority and woman-owned businesses.  Also meeting with the procurement officer or know who they are can be very integral into getting to the right person.

Sally Web mentioned one challenge is knowing who to talk to in the company, finding out who has the buying power.  In her industry the procurement officer is not the person to start with. Instead she focuses on the marketing department and wins them over and then lets them help get her into the procurement office.

Mercedes La Porta say the best advice for a woman-owned business is to build your network as you never know who know who could potentially get your foot-in-the-door with the company you are looking to do business with. Also know that an average contract can take 3-5 years to happen.  If you do not make it in the first time do not give up.  Keep trying and if the timing is right and there is a requirement match, you can get the contract.

Nancy posed the question to Kathy and Matt “How important is it to be certified?”

Kathy Homeyer recommends feeling out the companies you are bidding, not all companies are going to be a match. See if being a minority-owned business or a woman-owned business is important to them.  Also see if the type of business you have and if your business values are in line with what they are looking for in a vendor. A big hurdle for woman owned businesses sometime comes if they are not certified. Get certified for all that you can.  Think of who you are trying to work with and find out what certification they look for that stands out to them.  Having a certification or not can be the determining factor when in comes down to the final round. At her company DBE, certification is important. Also she warns business owners not to be fooled. You do not have to pay a company a lot of money to help you get certified. It might take longer but it is something a business owner can do by themselves.

Matt Thursman also agrees if you do not have the certification a company is looking for they might not even consider you.  Certifications give you authenticity and integrity.  Companies look at the certification and they know that your business has been properly evaluated and approved by a third party which then designates your company with a particular certification. Some important ones Disney looks for is WBENC and MNSDC.

Mercedes La Porta said getting certified is important but what is most important is taking advantage of the certification by getting out there and connecting with other members to make your company name more visible.

Nancy asked the panel “if you are a woman owned business and you are told that there are no opportunities out this time what should you do?”

Kathy Homeyer said don’t give up. If you are told no then stand back and reevaluate if you are speaking to the right person.  Find the right point of entry and don’t give up.  Think outside the box, think about what makes your business different by honing in on ways to really make these attributes stand out.

Sally Web said continue to cultivate your relationships, even if they might not see an opportunity for you at this time.  Taking the time to grow the relationship this will be the best way for them to get to know your business and build trust   It is also a great opportunity for you to keep your ear out for when an opportunity arises.

Lisa Marie Plastke says value the relationship as much as the opportunity.  If you nurture the relationship you might not get the job you thought you wanted but maybe a referral for another one.

Nancy asked the panel “to please explain what is a 1st or 2nd tier contractor and who can get these jobs.

Matt Thursam said to think of it as direct and indirect.  For example Disney uses US Foods for all its food needs.  But US Food does not manufacture a certain type of Hispanic food item they like to have so US Foods goes to another company to get this item.  The other company is the 2nd tier contractor or indirect, and US foods is the 1st tier contractor or direct.

Kathy Homyer mentioned to not get discouraged if you do not win a bid.  A lot of times in the contract the company needs to have a certain percent minority owned sub-contractors.  So the 1st tier might come to you to fulfill these needs.

The final question asked was “What other advice would you give a woman-owned business owner in regard to procurement.”

Sally Web said to position yourself as an expert in the field, write articles, and post content so they can see you are knowledgeable and remain top-of-mind.

Lisa Marie Platske stated that you should leverage your network and ask people to critique you and give you ideas to help you think outside of the box.  Stay connected with newsletters so that they are always reading about your company. Create a genuine connection.

Mercedeez LaPorta  says, the most important piece of advice is finding out what certification are beneficial, get them and then use them.

Mike Kelly says make sure your business is efficient so if cost is a factor, like with the government for example, you can compete with the budget cuts.

Cathy Imburgia says stop working in your business and start working on it.  It is import to strategically map out and plan how to chase money.  Keep operation and processes streamline so you can keep your overhead down.

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