PTAC at IRSC helps regional business owner successfully navigate the government contracting maze
BY NANCY DAHLBERG
In a typical week, you could find Management Marine Service helping the U.S. Coast Guard with nine or 10 training events at three locations. The small business may also be preparing a boat to logistically support a Department of Defense exercise or finishing up work for the Royal Canadian Air Force. And then, of course, there is general maintenance of its 12-boat fleet to do and paperwork, always paperwork.
“You just move from one project to another, managing the surges,” business owner George A. Adams said.
Management Marine Service is a maritime logistical support company based in Indiantown.
“We own boats and have crews and we support various government agencies with their training and role-play operations,” Adams explained.
For example, the company supports air stations for the Coast Guard for training of pilots, flight mechanics and rescue swimmers in Miami, St. Petersburg and Houston. The air stations use Management Marine Service’s boat as the role-play vessel so their own vessels are available when duty calls.
The company also works with various units of the Department of Defense, supplying boats and sometimes crews for its logistical support exercises. It also is called upon for search and rescue support for FEMA.
Management Marine Service is an SBA HUBZone Certified Small Business and holds a GSA MAS Schedule. The majority of its work is government contracts although it sometimes takes on commercial work. Adams described his company’s growth as slow but steady.
“We have put a retail customer service model into the servicing of government, contracts,”
Adams said, adding that its services are value priced, and the company offers good customer service with quality equipment and professional crews.
Adams started his first business in 1975 to support the aviation industry. He flew corporate jets and managed the aviation department for AstraZeneca for 30 years. As that career was winding down, he changed the focus of the company to support operations in the marine industry starting in about 2009. Adams believes the key to success is to specialize and do it well.
Adams has three employees and hires contractors, such as captains and deckhands, as needed.
“My people are my best success — they make or break it,” he said.
Marketing the marine business is a challenge because of the confidentiality requirements around what Management Marine Services does. Also it costs money to prepare bids and acquire equipment for a potential contract. When a contract’s request for quotation is canceled with no explanation, it’s almost impossible to recover, he said.
Adams found help at the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center [PTAC] and the Florida Small Business Development Center [SBDC] at Indian River State College. Scotty Wilson, a consultant for PTAC and the SBDC who specializes in government contracting, helped Adams with market positioning and making key connections. Wilson also connected him to other resources and opportunities, such as SBDC at IRSC’s loan team, who helped Adams secure a loan after Hurricane Wilma.
“Scotty has provided SBA internal contact information, which helped me secure HUBZone contracts,” Adams said. “He also keeps track of potential opportunities and makes me aware of them. There is no such thing as an inside track, but if you know the opportunity exists you are in a better position to respond.”
TIPS ON GOVERNMENT CONSULTING
For other companies interested in government contracting, Adams said making relationships within the industry is important. If you are trying to sell a product or service to the government, you need to understand where the contracts come from, how they are generated and supported and who the competition is. That’s all in the public records and you have to learn to do a lot of research, Adams said. “Learn how to get in and keep at it as best you can.”
If you want to learn more about government contracting, the Small Business Administration offers a resource page at www.sba.gov/federal-contracting. The Florida SBDC and Florida PTAC offices can help with in-person consulting.
PTAC offers high-value confidential one-on-one consulting, at no cost, to help Florida businesses prepare, research and bid on government contracts. Local PTACs can be located at the Association for Procurement Technical Assistance Center’s website: www.aptac-us.org/contracting-assistance/
PTAC consultants work with a small business on researching opportunities — including through its BidMatch service — as well as provide feedback on the business’ capability statement, proposal and overall strategy. PTAC and SBDC consultants can help businesses work smarter and come up with a tailored strategy for pursuing government contracts.
“Small businesses have to do their research and they have to strategize,” said Althea Harris, the SBA’s assistant district director for marketing and Outreach Area 1, in an earlier interview with Florida SBDC at Florida International University. “It’s very important to be ready and part of that means being financially ready. You have to be able to afford the contract you want, you have to make payroll before the government or a prime contractor pays you. It means you have the right employees in place or you know how to employ them quickly.
“Being ready also means understanding what value you bring to the proposition, and not everyone is able to articulate that in a way that is compelling,” Harris continued. “In what way are you distinctly different and better than your competitors? Be very targeted about the contracts you are going after. Understand what it will cost you to pursue the contract. It is a business proposition to pursue the federal money that will cost you time and money, which is money and money.”
Being ready is important. Wilson performs what he calls a readiness overview, a report for his clients that identifies the companies’ readiness to pursue government contracting.
“The report will generate the strong and weak aspects of the business and give suggestions on how to improve the weaknesses,” Wilson said. “This report gives them a resource to reflect back on and identify how/what they have done to improve in weak areas.”
Once his clients are ready, Wilson assists them in navigating the administrative requirements/regulations, including qualifying for and completing various certifications. He conducts marketing research and shares opportunities, as well as keeps his clients apprised of changes in processes, registration updates and new requirements such as cybersecurity.
Florida SBDC consultants can help small businesses seeking government contracting in a variety of ways, such as if the small business needs working capital until it receives payment or if it needs help with the operations side of HR as businesses ramp up to service a big contract.
PTAC and SBDC work hand in hand to help out business owners like Adams.
Looking ahead, Adams would like to work on succession leadership planning and would like to seek SBDC help with that, including training new management within the company.
“I would like to take part in consulting services to help mentor a successor,” he said.
To other small business owners who are thinking about seeking out the support of the SBDC, Adams said, “Go for it. SBDC supports you well. If you listen, you will find the path to success.”
Scotty Wilson served 28 years as an Indiana Conservation Officer, eventually becoming the Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. During his time in state government, Wilson served as a District Commander, State Logistics Officer, Division Executive Officer and finally as the Director of Law Enforcement. Wilson is a graduate of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, the FBI National Academy, the FBI LEEDS (leadership academy), and served a six month fellowship at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. While serving at the executive level, his duties included involvement and oversight of procurement, service contracts, state and federal grant administration, emergency operations, human resources, budgeting, payroll, continuity of operations, local, state, and federal agency liaison, and Homeland Security. Wilson is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a graduate of Oakland City University with a bachelor’s degree in human resources Wilson currently serves as the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) consultant with the Florida SBDC at IRSC helping regional businesses examine their readiness for government contracting.
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