Diane Dempsey, director of small business relationships for BAE Systems North America (Rockville, MD), can't say for sure when the huge defense contractor actually began its supplier diversity program.
"BAE Systems has experienced tremendous growth through our long history as a result of acquisition, and almost every company we acquired had its own well-established supplier diversity program," she notes. As these programs matured they became part of the overall corporate strategy.
"We now view small and diverse suppliers as an integral part of our business. They provide complementary and niche skills that we do not possess."
SBLOs at work
The company locates likely M/WBEs and others through its network of more than twenty-five small business liaison officers (SBLOs) across the U.S. The SBLOs attend conferences, outreach sessions and more, looking for small and diverse suppliers with the products and services BAE Systems typically outsources.
Of course, Dempsey explains, BAE Systems' small business program staff members are very active in Washington Metro organizations that
advocate for small and diverse suppliers. And later this year the company expects to introduce www.baesystems.com cssmallbusiness, which will allow small businesses to upload their capabilities into a database to be consulted by BAE acquisition personnel. SBLO addresses will be posted there, too.
Seeking niche services
Dempsey notes that BAE Systems is especially seeking suppliers offering innovative and niche services who can show excellent past performance and financial stability. It's a special bonus if they already have CMMI levels. Security clearances and PMP certifications are often required by specific customers.
BAE Systems is a corporate member of the Women Presidents Educational Organization, a WBENC affiliate, and the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, a regional NMSDC affiliate. It prefers, but does not require, their certifications. Small disadvantaged and HUB zone businesses need to be certified by the SBA to be considered for work with BAE.
BAE Systems' formal mentor/protégé program currently includes three small businesses: Sayres & Associates, a Native American small disadvantaged business (SDB) that is also veteran-owned; North Wind, an SDB, 8(a) and WBE; and TechGuard Security LLC, an SDB, 8(a) and WBE.
The company mentors other small businesses on a less formal basis. BAE Systems' IT group in Herndon, VA, for example, sponsors a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "trusted forum" that meets monthly to review defense opportunities.
Every month the BAE Systems IT folks invite a number of small-business partners to get together. They discuss issues and trends, swap ideas and identify opportunities. This prepares the group to form teams and pursue a project.
Recently, for example, one of the group shared word of a quick-turnaround $20-million opportunity at DHS. Within two weeks BAE Systems had recruited four partners from the forum and submitted a bid.
TechGuard Security LLC: MBE with a mission
Other recent BAE projects have employed TechGuard Security LLC (Chesterfield, MO), a company that specializes in network security.
TechGuard Security was founded in February 2000 with the mission of helping to protect the nation's critical infrastructure and promote national cyber defense. "This was in direct response to Presidential Decision Directive 63," explains president and CEO Suzanne Magee Joyce. "We knew that the nation was vulnerable to cyber attack and that security was going to be essential to Internet communications and commerce."
The company's offerings include the Great Walls of Fire line of firewall products, security R&D, and consulting solutions for cyber security, e-com related privacy and network concerns, global Internet connections and cyber terrorism.
TechGuard's fifty-plus employees are headquartered in Baltimore, MD, with other ops and a development lab in St. Louis, MO. There's another office in Grand Rapids, MI.
Suzanne Magee Joyce: technology and management"I love science and math," says TechGuard president and CEO Suzanne Magee Joyce. "I was an avid science fair project doer. I loved creating experiments, observing and analyzing."
Joyce attended Kansas University as a biology major in the '70s, but instead of graduating she married a medical student. When the marriage broke up she returned to college at Maryville University (St. Louis, MO) "as a single mom with kids in tow." She completed a degree in communications with a minor in international studies and a technology emphasis in 1995, graduating with honors.
She had thought of a PhD, "but I had been working and going to school, and I just decided to spend some time with my children instead of continuing on." In 2003 Maryville honored Joyce with its alumni of the year award.
Before co-founding TechGuard, Joyce worked for Barnes & Noble (St. Louis, MO) on the management track, sold real estate for two years, and spent a year directing business development for Asynchrony.com (St. Louis, MO), a startup focused on collaborative software development projects.
TechGuard started up in February 2000. Its principals were Suzanne Magee Joyce; her new husband James Joyce, a computer engineer with a rich background in network engineering and security with Deutche Financial Services and Sun Microsystems; and computer engineer Andrea Johnson, formerly with the Boeing Co. "We are still together as a team and still focused on our national security mission," Joyce says.
Joyce claims to be "the risk-taker and entrepreneur of the founding trio." She took the roles of president, CEO and board chair from the start, "because Andrea and James didn't want those roles."
James, the CTO, "is our technical visionary and author of our first patent on the use of artificial intelligence in firewall technology." Johnson is the COO.
"It has taken all three of us with our varied skills and talents to make TechGuard a success," Joyce notes.
Opportunities and mentoring
The company is certified by WBENC as a WBE, and also certified as an SDB and SBA (8a). Its first federal government work was a 2002 subcontract from User Technology Associates (UTA), which was later acquired by BAE Systems.
UTA, Joyce says, had decided to give up its in-house security group. "So we became their security services partner, first on a Department of Justice contract and then at the Department of Labor."
UTA was a graduate of the SBA (8a) development program, and suggested that TechGuard get into the program. UTA VP Tom Seckler, along with BAE's Diane Dempsey, "gave us a chance for government security service work."
As UTA was purchased by Digitalnet in 2004 and Digitalnet was purchased by BAE Systems in 2005, "they continued to offer us opportunities, and recommended us for the three-year DHS mentor-protégé program as a protégé to BAE.
"Through informal mentoring we were introduced to the GSA (8a) STARS contracting opportunity. This contract alone has resulted in about 30 percent of our revenue over the past year," Joyce says.
"BAE gave us our start, and the subcontracts gave us a chance to prove ourselves in the federal contracting space. We have attained the flexibility and reputation that support BAE Systems' needs and customers.
"We've achieved triple digit growth every year we've been in business," Joyce concludes.