Doing Business With The Smithsonian Institution: A Vendor’s Story
What would you do if the missing link between you and a federal contract win was a few conversations with somebody you care about?
For the most part, I serve people who want to win federal contracts. That’s been my profession for over 30 years. Thousands of my conversations with those who want to bring their best products, services, and expertise to federal buyers come down to one question: “How can I get in front of federal agencies who need what I do?”
Naturally, any time I’m in front of a federal buyer at conferences or events, I ask them their side of the story.
Imagine my surprise when a national leader in supplier diversity asked me, “How can we make it easier for small business owners to do business with us?” At the April 2012 Government Procurement Conference, Rudy Watley, Associate Director of the Supplier Diversity Programs for the Smithsonian Institution, was doing research.
The Smithsonian Institution wanted to do a better job of engaging potential suppliers and supporting current vendors. Rudy was intrigued to learn that I had more than the perspective of a single business owner: I had heard the frustrations of thousands of them. We shared a common passion: government contracts made easier. We had a couple more conversations, and ideas started flying. Rudy thought I could help him.
In July, with the clock ticking on fiscal year end, we met and had a detailed conversation about the problems he wanted to solve. I drafted some options that let him craft the ideal project scope. A small project would let him do three things: follow the rules, make it easy, and let him shine as a program manager.
The Smithsonian Institution’s procurement rules let him award my company a sole-source project worth up to $10,000. By keeping our project under that threshold, we followed the rules and made it easy. For him to award the work to my company before the fiscal year ended. I completed and delivered my report on time and on budget in December of 2012, and brought Rudy the final version in January 2013.
Now it was his turn to shine. The Smithsonian Institution’s team took up my recommendations. 70% of the changes I recommended were implemented, and supplier engagement rose the way Rudy had hoped.
Rudy and I have kept in touch in over the years since then. When he was looking for advice on how to take his program’s online presence to the next level, I’m the person he called first.
That’s the whole ball game.
How can you get in front of a federal buyer who needs what you do?
The answer is simple.
Pick a federal human. Then, keep showing up.
Sometimes, a small project is all there is. So sustained federal success takes conversations in a lot of places.
The best thing is not just that the win with this marquee-level federal agency built my business. It did more than open doors for me to new prospects and clients.
Rudy and I are also friends.
CEO, Summit Insight
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