Small business partners are flourishing among defense & government contractors
"Our small business teammates bring innovation and competitive differentiators to our overall team." – Diane Marsden, Booz Allen Hamilton
"We research and vet appropriate businesses for potential engagements for materials and/or services." – Charanjeet S. Gill, Harris
By Angela M. Hutchinson
Facing the demands of today's economy, large defense contractors are embracing supplier diversity, and working to increase their participation in the broad small business community.
Corporate supplier diversity advocates are, for example, suggesting ways that small businesses can qualify for their companies' subcontracting opportunities. "Booz Allen Hamilton's small business program is not simply based on compliance, but embedded in the firm's strategic approach to the market," says Diane Marsden, senior associate and manager of Booz Allen's small business program.
Based on both research and her own extensive experience, Marsden thinks that supplier diversity will continue to be a core value of many defense contractors as they work to recruit and retain the best talent among suppliers as well as employees.
Small business is integral at Booz Allen Hamilton
A senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA) for the past seven years, Diane Marsden leads the company's small business office, which develops policies and implements the company's overall small business program. She's also the firm's small business liaison officer, approving subcontracting plans and overseeing compliance reporting of each plan upon contract award.
Less formally, Marsden also builds awareness of small business opportunities through outreach and the strong relationships she's built with the small business community.
"I have oversight of our company's participation in mentor-protégé programs," she says, adding that Booz Allen is an industry leader in implementing its small business program. The Defense Contract Management Agency, she notes, considers that program to be in the top 10 percent of all small business programs administered by large businesses.
The company approaches supplier diversity through marketing and outreach programs. "Our small business teammates bring innovation and competitive differentiators to our overall team," says Marsden. "For the past five years, Booz Allen's subcontracting trend demonstrates that we are committed to our relationships with small businesses. We have consistently subcontracted more to small businesses than we do to large businesses.
"We conduct business with suppliers that add value, deliver results and do so in an ethical manner," she stresses. Other differentiators may include technical certifications, security clearances, facility clearances, DCAA-approved accounting systems, earned-value management systems and quality programs.
Booz Allen believes diversity of thought contributes to more innovative ideas, which in turn drive better results not only for the company's clients, but also for the world. "We further believe in contributing to the communities in which we work and in helping their citizens obtain a fair share of available economic opportunities," says Marsden. "Small business concerns and minority institutions make important contributions to Booz Allen by enhancing our competitive edge, our performance on specific contracts, and our bottom line. They add value to our end solution."
WBE Information Management Resources is a Booz Allen supplier
In 1992 Martha Daniel founded Information Management Resources, Inc (IMRI, Aliso Viejo, CA), and is still its president and CEO. IMRI's original goal was to provide tech support for the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC), a United States government-owned asset management company charged with liquidating assets of savings and loan associations declared insolvent by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) as a consequence of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.
Today Daniel spends time managing IMRI's strategic vision, which has expanded into cybersecurity solutions and communications engineering. "IMRI delivers comprehensive technical and engineering capabilities and support services for the federal government and civilian agencies as well as the private sector," Daniel explains.
Daniel has many other responsibilities: monitoring IMRI's cash flow; reviewing financials; reviewing and approving contracts, proposals and business deals; coaching and mentoring; and representing the company at industry events and committees. She regularly meets with IMRI execs to discuss strategic teaming agreements and business engagements, review business results and plan the strategic direction of the company. "I also participate in monthly operations and business development meetings," Daniel adds.
Daniel is African American, originally from Memphis, TN. She graduated from California State Polytechnic University in 1981 with a BS in computer information systems and got her MBA from the University of LaVerne (LaVerne, CA) in 1984.
Before she started IMRI Daniel served in the U.S. Navy and went on to a corporate career with jobs ranging from mainframe programming to CIO, working for Bekins Transportation, ARCO, IBM, the FDIC and others. She has published two books and is a frequent speaker at IT and engineering events.
IMRI is a diverse supplier of program management, enterprise technology, cybersecurity and engineering services to a range of federal agencies from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center.
Daniel describes her company as a service-disabled-veteran-owned, economically disadvantaged, woman-owned, minority- owned and small disadvantaged business. The company's status has been verified by the Department of Veterans Affairs and it is certified as an MBE by the NMSDC and WBENC. It's also certified by the California Public Utilities Commission.
In 1994 IMRI received an 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration as a small minority- and woman-owned business. The company graduated from the program in 2004. "We secured our first federal contract in 1996 with the DISA, and we still have a presence there," says Daniel. "Our longevity is a testament to the quality of our work and the effectiveness of our relationships with clients." IMRI grew more than 25 percent in both staff and contracts during the past year, she reports.
IMRI has been one of Booz Allen's diverse suppliers for the last three years, and is now part of its formal mentor/protégé program. Even before that connection was made, Daniel participated in a variety of opportunities with Booz Allen. She's been introduced throughout the organization, and "Their capture managers, senior managers and business development folks are accessible to our SVPs," she says. "There is mutual respect. We are excited about our mentor/protégé relationship and its anticipated outcomes!"
Daniel has some good advice for business owners who would like to become diverse suppliers in the defense industry. Learn to do business with government, she says. Know about budgets, contracting vehicles, small business rules, diversity certifications, subcontracting and the bidding process. Make sure that when you're given an opportunity you establish realistic goals and put in a great performance. Her last word: "You must have plenty of patience!"
Harris RF Communications supports the small business community
Harris RF Communications Corp (Rochester, NY) has a policy of providing maximum practical opportunity to the small business supplier community, says Charanjeet S. Gill, global supply chain VP. Of course that includes small disadvantaged businesses, and particularly ultra-high-tech small businesses.
"Members of our Harris RF supply chain team attend local and regional small business events like trade shows and business matchmaker sessions," says Gill. "We research and vet appropriate businesses from this pool for potential engagements for materials and/or services."
For the past three years Gill has led the Harris RF Communications global supply chain team for strategic sourcing, materials management, product design/development, contract negotiations, supplier development and logistics. He's responsible for continuous improvement programs and global savings through prioritization, engineering design, operational efficiencies, effective sourcing strategies and material negotiations. He also oversees compliance with government procurement regulations, contracting and small business requirements.
"We want to be community partners," says Gill. "Obviously it's a government requirement, and also because a successful program helps us maintain good relationships with our customers and other government agencies."
A contractor that hopes to work with Harris needs a formal, documented quality system, evidence of financial stability, compliance with export control and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) registration requirements. Harris also looks for mature business systems and a savvy approach to business, Gill adds.
Tyrone Reaves is founder and president of Truform Manufacturing
Tyrone Reaves is president of Truform Manufacturing Corp (Rochester, NY). He founded the company nineteen years ago.
"As president, I am, of course, responsible for all aspects of operation: sales and marketing, finance and logistics, and much more," he says. He spends time developing customers, managing direct reports, working with bankers and setting and implementing corporate strategies.
Truform, Reeves says with pride, is a cost-effective single-source manufacturer with a range of capabilities in precision sheet-metal machining and mechanical assembly. Reaves believes his success began with his family, which stressed hard work and honoring your word. "My background gave me the patience and understanding to work with all people and races," says Reaves.
Reaves graduated from Alfred State College (Alfred, NY) in 1984 with an associate degree in banking. He went on to a 1988 BS in finance from Saint John Fisher College (Rochester, NY).
Truform is a Harris Corp diverse supplier of sheet-metal fabrications, machined components, shock-mount assemblies and kitting services. "We have been a diverse supplier in the defense industry for fifteen years and a supplier to Harris for more than ten years," says Reaves.
"One of the great things about Harris is that they don't treat you like a diverse supplier; they treat you like any supplier," Reaves notes. "In my opinion Harris is one of the better companies giving opportunities to all suppliers. Their buyers are fair; they reward you when you perform well and reduce your opportunities if you don't perform. That's all anyone should ask for: a fair chance to compete."
Truform was a small company when it started with Harris, Reaves notes. "All we made were sheet-metal brackets, but they were very good brackets! Today, of course, we are a fully integrated sheet-metal fabricator, precision machine shop and mechanical assembly company." Which backs up his advice to others: focus on performance and develop the capabilities your potential customers need.
TE Connectivity promotes diversity within its supply base
TE Connectivity (Schaffhausen, Switzerland) is a global company that designs and manufactures half a million items related to the flow of power and data in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products.
Karen Leggio joined TE Connectivity in 2010 as chief procurement officer, based in Berwyn, PA. She's on the TE operations and leadership councils, and chairs the TE procurement council.
TE actively promotes supplier diversity within its supply base, Leggio explains. "We embrace diverse suppliers and groups traditionally underrepresented in business, such as certain ethnic groups and women."
Inclusion of U.S.-based minority- and women-owned business enterprises is a formal program at TE. "The goal is to increase the number and variety of diverse suppliers we do business with. We integrate these suppliers into our supply base and provide them with opportunities for growth," says Leggio.
For government-related projects TE has specific processes related to licensing and order-management requirements. "We see our suppliers as an extension of ourselves, and of course we hold them to the same high standards of ethics and integrity we demand of our own employees," says Leggio.
Kenzie Ferguson is the company's director of corporate responsibility. She coordinates environmental, safety, workplace, governance, philanthropic and community-related programs, and advises the company's business units and functions about social responsibility and sustainability. "At TE, diversity provides an opportunity for employees to reach out and discover commonalities beneath the surface differences," she says.
Leggio sees a lot of merit in working with small businesses. She says they tend to be quick to respond to changing business conditions. And, "By supporting and encouraging small enterprises, TE is strengthening the local economies of the communities where we do business."
Sandy Abel's MicroFacture LLC supplies TE Connectivity
Sandy Abel has been owner and chair of MicroFacture LLC (Mountville, PA) for ten years. MicroFacture is a full-service contract manufacturer; its wide range of services includes precision machining, fabrication and assembly. The company specializes in small, complex parts that require the strictest standards of quality and tolerance.
For TE Connectivity, Micro supplies machined products for aerospace, defense and marine applications, as well as services like heat treating, plating, assembly and more. Micro has supplied a number of TE divisions since the diverse supplier was started up in 1965. "The current management team purchased MicroFacture in 2001 and has continued to serve TE Connectivity as a diverse supplier," says Abel.
Abel's primary responsibility as chair is to oversee the company's financial aspects. "I also lead the marketing and customer service efforts, like website development, social media initiatives to support customer service and client acquisition, and new business development," she explains.
Born in Houston, TX, Abel is married with three children. She studied business admin at Millersville University (Millersville, PA). "The broad range of my experience, including raising a family, has given me a well-rounded perspective that is invaluable to my management of the company's financial, marketing and customer service initiatives," says Abel.
A key challenge she's faced as a diverse supplier is the perception that defense is a "man's industry." But that doesn't bother her. "We have learned that OEMs and defense contractors are open to doing business with a diverse base. Knowing the right people and building relationships is critical to success," says Abel.
MicroFacture has built an excellent reputation for high quality, good customer service and the ability to process difficult parts that others can't manage, Abel says. "We are working hard to build awareness about our core capabilities and competitive differential."
TE's policy of supporting a diverse supplier base has been valuable to MicroFacture's growth. As Abel puts it, "We enjoy the partnership mindset that exists between MicroFacture and TE. We have a shared point of view that we are working together to help each other succeed and compete in today's global market."
Abel encourages diverse suppliers to do their research and attend industry and government procurement buying fairs. "Contact the SBA and tap into their vast resources," she says. "Learn how to navigate the DOD websites." That's a complex task and one she herself is still working on, she admits.
Northrop Grumman meets and exceeds requirements
Northrop Grumman's supplier diversity program is designed to ensure that the company meets and exceeds its customer and internal requirements. "To that end we maintain an aggressive supplier outreach program," says Gloria Pualani, corporate director of socioeconomic business programs and government relations at the company.
Pualani takes great pride in her thirty years of service at Northrop Grumman. She's responsible for corporate direction and management of all socioeconomic business program issues, and uses her expertise to increase business opportunities for small-, women- and minority-owned businesses in the aerospace industry.
The company's supplier outreach program helps it identify capable suppliers while giving the suppliers the opportunity to learn more about Northrop Grumman, Pualani explains. Suppliers are sorted by commodity, location, program and customer.
"We also engage potential suppliers through our active involvement in the mentor-protégé program and small business innovative research and technology transfer programs," she explains. Another important aspect of Northrop Grummans's outreach is its website, where potential suppliers can learn more about the company and the process of starting a business relationship.
Northrop Grumman sees a diverse supplier base as a business imperative, Pualani says. "It helps us develop and produce the best products to support our most important customers: our warfighters."
Northrop Grumman finds its small and diverse suppliers to be creative and innovative. "They easily adapt to our evolving requirements and we find that they're cost-effective team members. They typically do not possess the large management structure that major companies have, which can potentially prolong critical decisions," says Pualani.
Diversity in all its forms strengthens every aspect of Northrop Grumman's business, Pualani concludes.
Travis Mack is president and CEO of Saalex Solutions
Saalex Solutions (San Diego, CA) provides engineering and tech support services for space, missile and IT systems. President and CEO Travis Mack says his company is currently teaming with Northrop Grumman to provide electronic warfare engineering support. Saalex has a prime contract to provide weapon-impact scoring operations for Northrop's bombing and gunnery ranges.
"Because of our range expertise, and because we're the premier service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) in the range-support field, we hope to provide engineers and subject matter experts for Northrop Grumman at Fallon, Yuma, Miramar, El Centro, Oceana, Cherry Point and its other range locations," says Mack.
Mack has been president and CEO of Saalex Solutions for thirteen years. He provides overall leadership and direction and establishes priorities, as well as executive oversight and guidance, for the company's growth and tactical operation initiatives. His day-to-day work includes continued business development in government contracts for range, land and sea, space and other defense projects.
Saalex is a technical assistance company focused on systems engineering, test and evaluation, integrated logistics support and software integration for space and combat-weapon systems.
Mack, an African American, is originally from Texas. He's married with five children. As a kid, his background involved constant challenge, he says. That took him into the Navy, and the knowledge and skills he got there prepared him for where he is today. "I've learned the value of training, education, proper planning and taking a disciplined approach to life's challenges," he proclaims. His service-related disability is a result of service in the first Gulf War.
Mack earned a 2000 BS in business management from the University of Phoenix and is currently working on an MBA at California Lutheran University. He's also completed a whole range of business courses: the senior executive management program at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, Clark Atlanta University's junior executive management program and USC's Marshall School of Business executive leadership program. He's a certified Six Sigma green belt and has an honorary doctorate in business from Webber International University (Babson Park, FL).
"A strategic and disciplined approach to overcoming challenges is paramount to the success of any small business," says Mack. He thinks of Northrop Grumman as family.
"A loyal and supportive partner, they have been with us during the best of times and also the worst of times. We've worked together for numerous years and the relationship has always been positive," says Mack.
"They helped us build our infrastructure through the mentor-protégé program, and we will forever be grateful for their support. As we grow, we hope to become a large business ourselves."
Quality and performance are vital at Lockheed Martin
"From fighter jets to spacecraft, from precision weapons to systems that safely guide the nation's air traffic, we know that lives depend on the reliable performance of our products and services," says Nancy Deskins, director of supplier diversity for Lockheed Martin Corp (Bethesda, MD).
Deskins has been with the company for seventeen years. "As the corporation's primary advocate for supplier diversity, I am responsible for establishing corporate policy, goals and objectives to maximize our utilization of small businesses through subcontracting and partnering initiatives," she says. She focuses on internal corporate initiatives as well as outreach efforts with small and minority business organizations and government entities.
Lockheed Martin is always searching for suppliers who show a commitment to improvement and can help the company deliver a product that's better, faster and smarter. "Because quality and performance are vital, we invest a great deal in identifying, qualifying and working with our suppliers," says Deskins. "Our corporate supplier database lets us source for potential suppliers when there's a procurement opportunity."
Lockheed also uses the government's Central Contractor Registration system, the private GovWin network and Twitter to search for potential suppliers as well as promote procurement opportunities.
Most of Lockheed's contracts are in defense, so it's important for potential suppliers to understand the defense procurement process and timeframe. "The defense industry is a competitive business environment," says Deskins. "Supplier requirements for defense-related work can vary significantly depending on the type of contract and work performed. It's essential to understand the industry and the certifications and clearances required. And if you are doing work with Lockheed Martin or other prime contractors, chances are you are doing work internationally."
With the shift in the market to pursuing new customers overseas, Deskins feels it's imperative for even small businesses to position themselves to compete in the global marketplace.
She also recommends that small businesses just breaking into the defense market "seek strategic partnership opportunities with other large and small businesses in the industry. A great way to make yourself more competitive and break through into a difficult market is by partnering with a business with a good track record of doing business with a prime contractor."
DEFENSE CONTRACTORS WITH ACTIVE SUPPLIER DIVERSITY PROGRAMS
Check websites for supplier information and registration.
|Company and location
|Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA)
|Technology consulting for defense, intelligence and civilian government
|Harris Corporation (Melbourne, FL)
|Broadband wireless access products and secure communications systems
|Lockheed Martin Corp (Bethesda, MD)
|Research and development of advanced technology systems, products and services
|Northrop Grumman Corp (Los Angeles, CA)
|Global solutions for government and commercial customers
|TE Connectivity (Schaffhausen, Switzerland)
|Products that connect and protect the flow of power and data in consumer and industrial products
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