By Blair Bess, California Business Journal
During the last decade, the number of small businesses winning prime government contracts has declined by 25 percent. To level the playing field for companies seeking those contracts, OST Global Solutions partners Olessia Smotrova and David Huff launched GovCon Incubator.
“Fewer small businesses competing for prime federal contracts is unhealthy,” Smotrova says. “The better we can equip companies to enter and successfully compete in the federal market, the more the government and taxpayers benefit.”
The GovCon Incubator provides an environment of mentoring, training, and networking opportunities to both those entering the federal contract space as well as more experienced firms looking to step up their game. By law, 23 percent of all government contracts must be awarded to small businesses.
“Few incubators focus on government contractors,” says Smotrova, OST’s President and CEO. “GovCon takes small companies and shows them the ropes, not only in terms of winning business from government agencies, but also in developing their organization and positioning it for growth and success.”
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for vendors that haven’t fully explored the possibilities of working with the federal government,” Smotrova says. “In California, people automatically assume that means bidding on defense contracts. But there are other government agencies and departments that award a significant amount of business to smaller companies.”
Nearly 54 percent of the Defense Department’s dollars are awarded to small businesses. Other small business-friendly agencies like the Veterans Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security are as committed to routing as much work as possible to small companies.
“Knowledge is key,” Smotrova says. “If you understand how the process works, you improve your chances for success. You need to put yourself in the position of looking down the pike and being ready to bid on contracts before Request for Proposals (RFPs) even come out.”
The GovCon Incubator focuses on the full business development lifecycle. “It’s not just about learning to put together winning proposals but everything leading up to the actual writing, including preparation and research,” says Huff, OST’s Vice President.
“If you want to nail the final exam, you have to go to class and you have to study,” Smotrova adds. “Many companies come into this and they attempt to take the final exam – the writing of the proposal – without studying or going to school. Capturing contracts is a process that goes beyond responding to an RFP.”
The GovCon Incubator principals note that it is counter-productive for small businesses to take a scattershot, trial-and-error strategy for bidding, negotiating contracts/teaming agreements, and being prepared to overcome hurdles they may encounter in their earliest forays into the federal marketplace.
One of GovCon Incubator’s core missions is to immerse its members in the fundamentals of business development: how to apply best practices to win contracts, successfully fulfill them once awarded, and foster an environment where companies can develop ongoing relationships with federal agencies.
Smotrova and Huff attract businesses and entrepreneurs committed to meeting GovCon Incubator’s exacting standards. It is by no means a “sign on the dotted line” proposition. The application and screening process is rigorous. There are certain metrics required of members, once accepted, to remain a part of the Incubator. Chief among them is accountability and achieving results. Both principals are intent on making the government contracting process more accessible and organic. In return, benchmarks must be met and status reports need to be maintained.
While the GovCon Incubator is located at OST’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, members need not be onsite. There are two levels of virtual membership, Standard and Premium, as well as a Co-Working membership available in D.C. All options present an opportunity for ongoing continuing education through OST’s KNOW™ Portal, webinars, networking events, and use of conference rooms and facilities when working from the GovCon Incubator offices. That access makes virtual membership ideal for California-based businesses seeking a presence in Washington.
Both partners bring a broad range of experience to the GovCon Incubator. Smotrova has over two decades working in business development, including stints at Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, prior to starting OST. Huff joined the firm after serving two tours of duty with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. Both are committed to nurturing companies dedicated to making their mark in securing federal contracts.
“The industry is alive and well,” Smotrova says. “There’s plenty of opportunity. We created the GovCon Incubator to empower small businesses and make them competitive.”
Olessia Smotrova, CF.APMP, Fellow
President/CEO, OST Global Solutions, Inc.