The State Department works with Buchanan & Edwards and more
The department is expanding the list of small and disadvantaged businesses it calls on to meet its needs
as it helps grow a roster of next-gen entrepreneurs
Shapleigh Drisko is director of the office of small and disadvantaged business utilization at the U.S. Department of State. He has been with the department since 1998 and director of the program since 2009.
Drisko serves as an advocate for all small and disadvantaged businesses, including minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs), women-owned business enterprises (WBEs), veteran-owned- and disabled-veteran-owned businesses and HUBZone businesses.
"The goals of this program are to expand the number of small businesses involved and increase their market penetration into areas in which they are qualified to work," he says. The Department of State has a large variety of needs, from operations, maintenance and construction to IT, training and security services.
Drisko explains that a small business may have as much talent as a larger one, but may not have the finances to handle some projects. To help the situation, "State has an ongoing mentoring program that encourages larger firms to help grow the next generation of entrepreneurs by mentoring smaller firms."
He notes that in fiscal 2009 some 33.94 percent of domestic prime contracts went to small businesses and in 2010 that percentage rose to 34.62 percent. When all figures are in he expects to have exceeded that slightly in fiscal 2011.
Combination of efforts
Disadvantaged businesses are located through a combination of outreach efforts, Drisko explains. "We attend matchmaking and trade events nationally, regionally and locally. We also get referrals from colleagues in other agencies as well as other offices within the department and large prime contractors. Trade organizations can be a valuable asset to help identify and refer their members who have particular skill sets.
"Firms can come in for one-on-one counseling, and if there is a match in capability and need, we arrange for them to give presentations to program officers. We are always available to answer questions regarding how to market to the program offices," Drisko notes.
As at other government agencies, only contractors who have up-to-date Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) records on file are eligible to do business with the federal government. "Self-certification is the standard." says Drisko.
Large subcontractors to State are also required to take advantage of the small/disadvantaged business pool. There's a 53.4 percent goal for American small businesses as a whole, with 5 percent each as the goal for women-owned and disadvantaged businesses, and 3 percent each for HUBZone and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.
"This is an extremely valuable program," says Drisko. "It facilitates access to a broad spectrum of talented firms and gets procurement dollars circulating in the American economy. It's a win-win situation for everyone."
Coming together to found Buchanan & Edwards
Department of State IT supplier Buchanan & Edwards, Inc (Arlington, VA) was founded in 1998 by Greg and Tony Parchment and Brian Karlisch. The three had worked together in IT at management consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Karlisch and Greg Parchment implemented insurance systems and workers' comp information systems, while Tony Parchment did federal IT consulting at the Department of the Treasury and deployed administrative systems at the United Nations. He also worked for Apple for several years.
Today Greg Parchment is CTO, Tony Parchment is COO and Karlisch is CEO of Buchanan & Edwards.
The Parchment brothers are African American, born in the U.S. to parents originally from Jamaica. Their father, a PhD, taught math and CS at Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), inspiring the boys to hit the technology track early in life. Both brothers went to the University of Virginia, where Tony completed a 1990 BSMIS and Greg got his BSCS in 1992. Greg also served in the Marine Corps.
Karlisch was born in the U.S.; his family is of German ancestry. He has a degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in political science. He's also a graduate of a three-month training program at PwC.
"The three of us got together in 1997 and started discussions," says Tony Parchment. "We wanted to create an IT consulting firm that would provide better solutions at better rates for federal clients."
Their first contract was a PeopleSoft implementation at the Department of State. "It was a bootstrap operation," Parchment recalls with a smile. "Coming from a consulting background we were able to do all the work ourselves until we got large enough to hire others."
With that first project successfully completed, State hired the group to set up a data warehouse with a business intelligence app to provide reports. And Buchanan & Edwards continued to grow through contacts the partners had made during their prior careers and some cold calling.
It was the era of Y2K, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms like PeopleSoft were in high demand. "We had the skill sets our clients needed at the right time," says Greg Parchment.
In the fourteen years Buchanan & Edwards has been in business it has grown substantially. The company now employs more than 110 techies and has multiple accounts, but State remains its largest client. Last year the company won the Department of State's small business of the year award.
"Because of the innovative solutions we've been able to deploy and support with State, we've secured work with other federal agencies as well," says Tony Parchment.
"Our long history and trusted relationship at State have made other federal agencies more trusting of our cutting-edge solutions," notes Greg Parchment. "We're seeing a lot more interest in mobile solutions now. The Department of State is an innovative customer that has been very active and engaged in the small-business program. When something that might be in our sweet spot comes along they let us know!"
ISO 9001 and more
Buchanan & Edwards is ISO 9001 and Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level II certified and a member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) and TechAmerica. Because of its focus on federal government work, most contacts are based on government agencies' small business programs. But when the company needed to improve its own telecom network the owners went through NMSDC to find a provider.
Greg Parchment speaks with deep appreciation of the company's relationship with the Department of State. "They are not only our main client, both through our incubation period and now, but their managers have been very open to brainstorming and innovative ideas, and they have mentored us on an individual basis.
"This has been a crucial relationship for Buchanan & Edwards."