By Kristina Donzella, Assistant Director, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship
Now more than ever there are more opportunities to do business with other businesses; and with the ever-growing sea of available information and advice on this topic, it can be hard to tell if you and your business are “procurement ready.” A procurement-ready business is prepared and equipped to bid on, and maintain, contracts with larger companies for business-related goods and/or services.
You will know if your business is procurement ready when:
- You know and can explain your business’ value proposition
- You have a strong capability statement
- You can demonstrate your ability to fulfill contracts
- If required, you have obtained necessary certification
- Your website and marketing collateral effectively tell your story
- You have made yourself findable in other business portals
- You are networking with other veteran owned businesses and building contacts
- You have done your research on business prospects
- Do you have a clear value proposition?
A value proposition is a clearly written, persuasive statement that a business (you) uses to convey why its product or service is the best option for its targeted market. It is not the same as a slogan, and it should concisely (less than five sentences) yet convincingly state the benefits your business can deliver to prospective customers. Make sure to express your value proposition in language that is understood by your industry and displayed clearly on all marketing collateral.
- Do you have a strong capability statement?
In addition to your past performance record, make sure you have a strong capability statement. Think of this as another version of your business resume – it will set forth what your business is capable of doing for a particular audience (yes…just like a resume, it must be tailored to your audience). The capability statement should be no more than two pages and clearly articulate and reflect the strengths of your business; it should parallel your sales pitch.
Critical components to include in your capability statement are: business overview and core competencies/capabilities, past performance and/or partners, differentiators, web address, contact information and business data essentials (NAICS Code, or CAGE Code to identify the business registration, any credentials or certifications and vehicles used for contracting).
If you are looking for a more hands on workshop to help with your capability statement, visit your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)  for further assistance.
- Can you demonstrate that you are capable of fulfilling the contract you are hoping to secure?
A businesses’ past performance record is used as a key indicator of how they will perform in the future. Companies use this as a determining factor to decide if a contractor is ready to do business with them. One way to demonstrate this is by compiling a ‘business resume,’ which can include a record of past performance as well as testimonials of those you have worked with.
- Certification – Do you need it?
Certifications are one of the strongest marketing tools small businesses can have. During your research, make sure you take note of what certifications the company you are looking to do business with accepts. Some companies accept self-certifications while others look for you to go through the process with an external certifying body. Popular certifications include: Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) WBE Certification, Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) SDVOSBs/VOSB certification, US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) DOBE/V-DOBE/ SD-DOBE certifications, and National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) MBE certification. Many of these programs offer a ‘fast track’ option that makes it easier for you to obtain multiple certifications. Make sure to take the time to figure out which one is best for you and your business.
- Website & marketing strategy – Do they tell your story?
Your website will be among the first places a prospective customer will go to check out you and your business. This is a part of your marketing strategy and a way to put your best foot forward. You must ensure that like your value proposition, and capability statement, the website persuasively tells your story – to include who you are, what you can do, how you can do it, why/how you are different than the rest, and how/where you have been successful. The website and marketing strategy are essential to helping you increase your businesses’ visibility.
- Have you made yourself findable?
Many companies use a portal (like Ariba) to find potential suppliers. They may also host special events just for those who are interested in doing business with them. Make sure you have researched the companies you are wanting to do business with and register on their system so that you can make sure to get notification of RFPs and events they may be hosting. You will need to make sure that you have your Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal System (DUNS) number, your list of certifications, as well as your capability statement ready when filling out your profile.
- Are you networking with local VOBs and attending events?
It is often said it is not what you know, it is who you know. Although it may seem unusual to network with what may be considered your ‘competition’, knowing other small businesses can be a huge help in becoming procurement ready. These businesses may have been through the same process you are preparing for, they may also have opportunities where you can team together for a contract to increase your chances for success. You should attend events held locally in your community, as well we industry specific events.
- Have you done your research on the companies and industries you want to do business with?
Always do your homework before going to an event — find out what companies and industries have signed up for the events you are attending. Make sure you research those companies and business before starting a conversation about possible business opportunities.
For example, just as you would prepare and research for a job interview, you would want to do that same for a networking opportunity. Some tips to keep in mind while researching: do you know the business or organization’s mission and vision? Are you aware of the organization’s achievements and news? The community of both location and of employees within the business; do you know the community in which your product will be serving, or what organizations you’ll engage with while doing business? Lastly, make sure you’ve researched what you can bring to the table and how you can best do business with those companies.
While these tips and recommendation may be helpful as you get your business ready to pursue a procurement opportunity, we recommend that you seek advice from an accountant and/or legal professionals as well.
Want more information? On September 20, in Norfolk, VA the Institute for Veterans and Military Families is launching VetSource – a new program, sponsored by Walmart and run by the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business. VetSource will help educate established VOBs, both procurement ready and ready to grow, and connect them to Fortune500 procurement opportunities. There will be lesson tracks for businesses both procurement ready and ready to grow companies, and will cover topics including supplier capacity management, inventory management, and subcontracting/supplier collaboration.
Interested in registering? Head to VetSource for more information.
We hope you found this information helpful and look forward to seeing you in September for VetSource!