This is the third post in a series about managing a large general contractor’s small business program. Maintaining a vibrant and productive small business outreach program is a critical skill for a large business prime contractor’s or first tier subcontractor’s Small Business Liaison Officer (SBLO). The ability to meet the small business subcontracting goals for most projects requires a deep bench of quality small business subcontractors from a variety of socio-economic subcategories. Therefore, the outreach program is the tool to develop that roster of go-to subs. Since there is not a magic formula the objective of this post is to highlight several key considerations in the conduct of a successful outreach effort and management of a small business database.
- Establish realistic and achievable goals for the outreach effort based on your company’s objectives. The goals of the program should be reviewed annually to maintain their relevance and compatibility with the overall small business program. The goals should dovetail seamlessly with mission & vision of the company’s policy on the use of small business concerns.
- Planning. A successful start to outreach begins with planning and reduces headaches during execution. Ideally, the SBLO should develop an annual plan based on the company’s desired bid plan and integrated with the business development strategy. This will ensure a comprehensive plan is assembled maximizing efficiency of resources. Elements to consider in the planning process include how many networking events to host through the year, which small business events to attend (national & local), or professional groups and associations to become involved with.
- Networking. Connect with the extensive network of small business planning resources. Examples of resources available include Small Business Administration (Dynamic Small Business Search), Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, Chambers of Commerce, Society of American Military Engineers (Small Business Council), and DoD Small Business Regional Councils to name a few. In addition, Linked In and Twitter should be included in your tool kit of networking resources.
- Execution. Deploying the outreach plan is simplified with a well-developed and resourced plan. It is important to reflect throughout the year and adapt the current plan to address changes or targets of opportunity. Also, make notes during the year of changes to incorporate for the next year; build on the successes and avoid repeating the elements that did not work.
The second major objective to cover is database management, or capturing and managing the list of small businesses subcontractors to include in future bidding opportunities. The requirement for having a dynamic database tool becomes more critical for regional or national general contractors.
Currently there is not a perfect database tool that accurately and efficiently allows a SBLO to store, track, and sort small businesses that is fully integrated with a construction friendly purchasing system. Don’t give up yet though, with a little research there are several capable programs available. From the federal construction perspective, several key attributes that are helpful in a database are the ability to track subcontractors by type (small business, Small Disadvantaged Business, Woman Owned Small Business, HUBZone, and etc.), key contacts, primary NAICS codes (what do they do best), bonding, past projects, and geographic operating range.