Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stimulating...and The Stimulus...

I was fortunate to be asked to sit on a panel at today's Stimulus Opportunities for Small Business program, hosted by the Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center. Until recently, I wasn't familiar with the Small Business Development Center network, but wow...what a great resource for small businesses. SBA partially funds the 1,000 or so SBDCs, working closely with local colleges and state economic agencies, all to help entrepreneurs achieve success--and all for free or at very low cost.

My panel was composed of representatives from private sector entities...
  • Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, formerly of the U.S. Department of Transportation, who now runs her own consultancy focused on federal and state procurement
  • Don Gonneville, who runs his own service-disabled veteran-owned business
  • Dorothy Davis, who runs her own business, providing software QA and CD/DVD duplication
  • Carol Bowyer from The Federal Technology Center, which works throughout California to help small businesses sell to federal, state, and local governments
  • Yours truly, providing the perspective of a guy who sold to federal and state governments for years, and worked closely with federal agencies on wireless information assurance policies such as DoDD 8100.2
Brian Burch from HP set the stage, and Brian Tippens from HP moderated.

The reason that I mention all seven of us and what we currently do is that we come from wildly different backgrounds, but to a person, each of us commented on the tremendous value of the professional network, the value of teaming, and the need to cooperate (sometimes even with your competitors) to advance your own agenda. As a guy who has cultivated a professional and personal network across a very broad spectrum of interests and expertise, I can absolutely vouch for the value of developing and maintaining a network of folks to whom you can turn when you need advice, support, or cooperation.

Each speaker contributed salient points in his or her own way. Hopefully, the key points that I got across are:
  • the need to establish credibility with customers, prospects, and partners--the work I did in the federal space had much less to do with a hard sell than it did with educating stakeholders on wireless information assurance threat vectors, but the end result was significant customer revenue
  • the need to educate yourself on your market, your competitors, and your potential teaming partners (even, or perhaps especially, if they're in markets outside your core competence), as well as the fact that many free or low-cost options exist to do so, ranging from local IEEE chapter meetings, to SBDC classes, to SD Forum meetings, and much more
  • the need to find a champion in an organization who can be your flag bearer, who will go to bat for you in internal battles, and who will provide off-the-record commentary to assist in your success
  • the need to attack via the flank on every deal, regardless of deal size; large or small, too many vendors deal with a single point of customer contact, which provides a horrendously incomplete picture of the opportunity
Regarding flanking, I related the story of how long the cycle was to earn a particular piece of multi-million dollar business with one of the uniform services, and how we as a team had to evangelize policy makers at the customer, at the prime contractor, and at related agencies, as well as educating end users, network managers, security architects, and many, many more folks on both coasts. But, we established credibility over the course of more than a year, because we were passionate about earning the customer's business, which we ultimately did, to the dismay of some very large companies who were left on the outside looking in.

I think that the ~400 attendees received tremendous value from the day's discussions, which also included presentations from Mark Quinn of the San Francisco SBA, Marty Keller of the State of California's Small Business Advocate office, and a public sector panel composed of city, state, and federal procurement officials--all told, an awesome lineup of folks at a half-day session which cost exactly $0.00 to attend.

Kudos (and thanks) to Patrick Cook and the team at SVSBDC for putting on a great event. Thanks also to Joanne Vliet, the director of the Department of Commerce's Silicon Valley Export Assistance Center, who recommended me for the panel. I enjoyed the event immensely, and came away with a number of valuable new contacts.

I'm not sure what the Latin would be for "I learned, I shared, I networked", but that'd be a good recap of the day.

Until then, Veni, Vidi, Vici.

No comments:

Post a Comment