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Category — Small Business Expert Interview

Small Business Expert Interview – Mark Stevens, CEO of MSCO

MSCO CEO Mark Stevens

MSCO CEO Mark Stevens

Dollar Days Blog is pleased to share the small business expertise of Mark Stevens, CEO of MSCO, sales columnist for Entrepreneur.com and bestselling author of Your Marketing Sucks.

Dollar Days Blog (DDB) – Please summarize your business expertise in a nutshell.

Mark Stevens – My expertise is to identify and address what it takes for a business to grow and to move from one level of profitable revenues to the next.

DDB - Your bio indicates hat you did not attend business school, but that you got your business education on the streets of Queens. What did you learn there that helped you to succeed in business?

Stevens – The streets provide a far more enriching education than Harvard Business School. They teach you to learn from people who may not look “polished” enough to help you. To expect the unexpected. To act when your back is against the wall. To be prepared for random acts of opportunity and challenge.

DDB – Please explain your idea (written in a recent blog post) that less is more when it comes to advertising.

Stevens – Find a single key point about your business or product. For example, Walmart has chosen ‘low price leader’ as its single key point. Then push the accelerator on that. Avoid the temptation to tell everything about your business. The key messages will be lost in fog!

DDB - You’ve achieved considerable success with your book, “Your Marketing Sucks”. What are some of the key takeaways from the book?

Stevens – Throw out the traditional marketing playbook. It was written by professors who have never marketed/sold anything. Most important, measure everything you do in terms of revenue generation and stop all initiatives that don’t produce measurable results. ROI is king!

DDB – Lots of people might think that the title of your new book (God is a Salesman) is pretty cheeky. How could an omnipotent being, Creator of the Universe be a salesman?

Stevens – He is not really, and I address that right up front. But he teaches us the power of belief and faith, which are both critical for every businessperson.

DDB - What is the single most important thing that every small businessperson should do and why?

Stevens – Make the decision to be a big business person. Small business people work for themselves. Big businesspeople build a team to work for them….and to build their wealth.

What do you think of Mark Stevens’ advice? Is less really more when it comes to marketing? Join the discussion and leave your comments below!

November 30, 2009   2 Comments

Small Business Expert Interview – Adam Ishaeik, Hunter/Wellman CEO

Hunter/Wellman CEO Adam Ishaeik

Hunter/Wellman CEO Adam Ishaeik

Dollar Days Blog is pleased to share the small business expertise of Adam  Ishaeik, CEO of Hunter/Wellman, a company that assists small businesses with acquiring federal contracts.

Dollar Days Blog (DDB) – Can you please provide some brief background on yourself and your company?

Adam Ishaeik - I have been involved with federal business development for 6 years.  After my I received my MBA degree, I did a short stint with a large federal contractor and worked at the Department of State doing software release management as well as proposal support tasks.  I really enjoyed the business development aspects of the job. While developing small business subcontracting plans (which outline how a large business will allocate work to the small business community), I realized there were a lot of small businesses that would benefit from having sales support in the Washington DC area.

I broke off from the large contractor, and started working with small business vendors seeking to do business with the government.  As my success as a consultant grew, I knew the best way to grow was to incorporate as a company, bring in as many agency experts as possible and offer a full range of services to assist companies with their federal business development activities.

Thus, Hunter Wellman was born and we are proud to announce FY 09 was our best year to date.

1. Please give your own bio and describe your company’s business in a nutshell.
I’ve been involved with federal business development for 6 years.  After my I received my MBA degree, I did a short stint with a large federal contractor and worked at the Department of State doing software release management as well as proposal support tasks.  I really enjoyed the business development aspects of the job and while developing small business subcontracting plans (these plans outline how a large business will allocate work to the small business community – required for large contracts), realized there were a lot of small businesses that would benefit from having sales support in the Washington DC area.  I broke off from the large contractor, and started working with small business vendors seeking to do business with the government.  As my success as a consultant grew, I knew the best way to grow was to incorporate as a company, bring in as many agency experts (usually retired individuals who spent their careers at a targeted agency) as possible and offer a full range of services to assist companies with their federal business development activities.  Thus, Hunter Wellman (www.hunterwellman.com) was born and we are proud to announce FY 09 was our best year to date.

DDB - How big is the opportunity out there to win federal contracts?

Ishaeik – The Federal Government is the biggest customer in the world, with a yearly budget of over 500 billion dollars.  I would say the opportunity is huge.

DDB - What kinds of businesses have a chance at winning these contracts? For instance, is federal contracting just for defense industry businesses?

Ishaeik – The government utilizes almost every type of service and product imaginable, from janitorial work to cutting edge information technology design. Every federal agency procures a wide array of services and products from the private sector.  To get an idea if your service or product is in demand; simply go to www.fbo.gov and type your service or product into the search field.

DDB - What are some of the techniques and tactics that you recommend small businesses use to compete against much larger competitors in seeking federal contracts?

Ishaeik – The first item is to assess whether the federal government is a desired client.  It is a labor intensive activity to break into this market, however, once entry is achieved – the company can rely on steady income as many contracts are up to 5 years in length.

Second, treat the government like you would any other client – with a lot more bureaucracy and red tape.  The importance of building relationships with the users of your services and products, offering a unique product or service, providing competitive pricing, and all the other tried and true rules of effective business development all apply.  The element that separates government contracting from the private sector is the existence of comprehensive rules and regulations outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the contracting offices that are set up for each agency and sub-agency engaged in private sector procurements to enforce these rules.

Third, identify agencies that procure your offerings and the program managers who represent the end users.  It is critical to meet with these program managers to build trust and reduce the risk in their mind of sourcing their requirements to unknown entities.  The best way to do this is to bring in a connected sales professional who can navigate you through these waters – competent ones run about 250 K a year.  If your sales budget does not accommodate this figure, contract with a company like Hunter Wellman to manage this activity for you – there are a lot of federal business development companies in the beltway, all with differing specialties that can assist your sales efforts.

Lastly, establish a contracting vehicle such as a GSA Schedule, a SBA small business certification that allows sole source procurements (i.e. 8a, HUBZONE, SDVOB), or any other MAS IDIQ (Multiple Award Schedule Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity).  Having a federal contracting vehicle in hand will make your life a lot easier when dealing with the contracting officers.  You can make a brilliant sale to a program manager, but when the purchase order is handed to the contracting officer and they have no vehicle to source your services, you run the risk of the program being publically posted (www.fbo.gov) and attracting hundreds of competitors.

DDB – What are the opportunities for small businesses to partner with large companies to win government contracts?

Ishaeik – This is a great way to get started – partnering with a prime contractor.  The opportunities are huge, but you have to bring something of value to the table.  Relevant past performance is the most valuable thing you can bring.  For example, if a large prime contractor is pursuing a contract with the Transportation Security Administration, the big company may seek small businesses that have experience at the agency to provide inside information and strong qualifications to their proposal.  Another option is to presenting resumes of individuals at your small business who have experience at the targeted agency and offer their support with proposal development.  If your small business pursues this option, make sure you get a legal review of the teaming and subcontractor agreements or you run the risk of putting significant resources into helping the large company win the contract without any guaranteed work.

DDB – Finally, what is the single most important piece of advice you think small business owners and executives need to know?

Ishaeik – Be patient, work smart, think positively and recognize the value that building relationships with government procurers can have for your business development units.

What do you think of Ishaeik’s advice? Have federal contracts been a valuable source of revenue for your small business? If not, does Ishaeik’s advice inspire you to try to capture a  federal contract or partner with a larger company on work for the federal government? Share your thoughts and comments below!

November 23, 2009   2 Comments