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Doan Speaks at (MED) Week Conference

As prepared for delivery


Remarks By
 Lurita Alexis Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
National Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Conference
Washington, DC.
August 30, 2006


Thank you very much Ron (Langston).

Good morning, everyone. It’s terrific to be here with you at the annual MED Week conference. GSA is delighted to help sponsor this important event, and proud of the long and productive relationship that we enjoy with the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency.

Ron and I were recently on assignment together in my home town of New Orleans, which as you know is still very much on the mend. In fact, today is August 30th. It was pretty much one year ago to the day that we were just beginning to realize the extent of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

Ron and I went to New Orleans because we want to ensure that small businesses – including minority-owned small businesses – are full and active participants in the rebuilding of New Orleans and other areas hit by Katrina. We spent a whole day matching small businesses with the larger contractors involved in renovation, clean-up, and other work.

That effort was a small part of what GSA does every day throughout the country – through our Office of Small Business Utilization, headed by Felipe Mendoza – to help small, disadvantaged businesses -- including women-owned, HUBZone, and firms owned by service disabled veterans -- get better positioned to take advantage of federal contracting opportunities.

Some of you may know I was a small businesswoman before President Bush asked me to serve as GSA Administrator. I know how vital small businesses are to our economy. And I know the government needs the innovative products and services you can provide.

I also know that GSA has some work to do to make the process of obtaining a GSA Schedule and keeping it up to date much faster and more efficient for small and mid-sized companies. We’re working on that. One of the first pledges I made as Administrator was to look hard at the existing process and make substantial improvements.

I believe that the GSA Schedule is already a good example of best practices. My goal is to make it possible for a business to get on a basic GSA Schedule within 30 days.  We’re not there yet. It will take some work and it will take a little time, but we are going to get it done.

At the same time, following President Bush’s longstanding call to support and develop small businesses -- including the nation’s 4.1 million minority business enterprises -- we’re continuing to work to improve our numbers. Let me give you a quick overview.

For fiscal year 2005, GSA spent over $4.3 billion in procuring goods and services.  Of that amount, 35 percent – $1.5 billion – went to small businesses, with $468 million going to small disadvantaged businesses.  In addition, GSA awarded $269 million in contracting to small women-owned businesses, $176 million to HUBZone businesses, and $52 million to service-disabled-veteran-owned businesses.

That’s good, but we can do better. Our target for small business was 43 percent, so we came up a little short. Many steps are being taken to get the numbers back up.

Our co-sponsorship of today’s conference and ongoing partnership with Ron’s organization – as well as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and many other agencies – is one small example.

MED Week is the largest federally sponsored conference held on behalf of minority business development. All of you will have an excellent opportunity to network, discuss issues critical to your success, and gather information that you’ll be able to put to good use when you get back home. 

By the way, please make sure to visit the GSA booth in the exhibit hall. Our experts will be available tomorrow from 9 to 5 to work with you personally. Each is well-versed on the theme of this year’s conference: Minority Business Enterprises: Mastering the Supply Chain.

Again, GSA represents an important link in that supply chain.

GSA facilitates contracts that agencies use to acquire billions of dollars in products and services each year. We help our colleagues acquire workspace, furniture, tools, computers and telephones, travel and transportation services, motor vehicles and everything they need for the operation of their agencies. That’s our core mission – to provide goods and services at best value so they can concentrate on their core missions, be it protecting the homeland, exploring space, promoting international commerce, or however they serve our country.

Again, GSA’s advocate for small business is our Office of Small Business Utilization. Its job, in a nutshell, is to promote increased access to GSA’s nationwide, governmentwide procurement opportunities.

The office is responsible for a number of outreach activities that make it possible for the small business community to meet key contracting experts and to receive counseling on the procurement process.

These activities include:

  • Procurement networking sessions;
  • Marketing strategies and techniques workshops;
  • Electronic commerce-electronic data interchange training sessions;
  • Interagency networking breakfasts;
  • Trade missions;
  • Roundtables; and
  • Procurement conferences.

Some of you may have already taken advantage of these outreach activities. If not, I urge you to do so. Detailed information is available at the Small Business Utilization site.  For example, the national calendar you’ll find at the website shows more than 15 outreach events scheduled for September alone in many parts of the country, including Chicago, San Diego, New York, St. Petersburg, Lufkin, Texas, Spokane, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and Reno, Nevada.

GSA is a partner in this effort for several reasons.

Small businesses make up nearly 50% of the U.S. gross domestic product. Two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. economy are created by a small business.  We know that small businesses are an important factor in U.S. exports and international trade.  And small businesses are the drivers of innovation and inventions.

So it simply follows: to develop and sustain a strong U.S. economy, we simply must nurture small businesses.

GSA is also eager to help other agencies meet their small business goals.

As President Bush has said:

The great thing about the entrepreneur in the small business sector of our economy is that you provide great steam and strength to the growth of our economy.

The president has rightly noted that minority businesses create opportunities for workers, provide goods and services to consumers, and strengthen our communities. Like the administration, GSA and all federal agencies are committed to creating an environment in which minority entrepreneurs can succeed.

I am personally committed to that goal as well.

GSA has been proud to support and participate –- through workshops, matchmaking sessions and one-on-one counseling - - in every MED Week conference since the first event more than 20 years ago. That applies to the national conferences, as well as events held throughout the country.

That is why we’re here today and why we’ll be back next year.

I don’t have to tell you there are many steps on the long road to doing business with the federal government.  The government is huge, has a tremendous range of needs, and also a complex acquisition process.  Consequently, it takes an investment of time and resources to go through the process and, of course, there is no up-front guarantee of success. 

On the other hand, the work a company invests to penetrate the federal marketplace can pay off and may be a good strategic fit for some of your companies.

Let me close by leaving you with a few tips that may prove helpful …

Peter Drucker said,

Management is not being brilliant. Management is being conscientious.

So first, know the pros and cons of being a federal contractor.

The pros first:

  • The government always pays its bills.
  • We buy almost everything—more than $350 billion in prime contracts were awarded in fiscal year 2005--approximately $60 billion by GSA, and
  • The government has congressionally mandated goals for using small businesses. 

Now the cons:

  • The federal government is a bureaucracy. There are over 2,000 pages in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, also known as the “FAR.”  
  • And there are thousands of individual agency specific rules and regulations. 

You will need to understand the relevant portions of these documents to succeed,

Deciding to be a federal contractor takes a commitment of time, energy, and hard work.  If you just dip your toe in the pool of federal contracts, all you’re likely to get is cold feet.  

Second tip:

Learn how GSA and the government buy and how we want to buy

  • While we purchase a lot of products, more and more of what we buy are services – 60 percent governmentwide, 80 percent if you exclude major weapons systems.  So consider packaging your business offering as services.  Even computer equipment can be purchased as “seated service”—meaning technical support is part of the package.
  • For service contracts, 40 percent of each agency’s services must be “performance based.”
  • In the case of major and complex IT systems, the government is moving to implement “earned value management.” 
  • Both of these requirements mean government service contracts are assessed according to specific and complex methodologies intended to quantify performance. 

Incorporating these requirements in your proposal shows you already understand one key government requirement and that your proposal, if implemented, would assist the agency in meeting its performance targets.

And a third tip:

Just because your company’s name is on the GSA Schedules, doesn’t mean federal agencies will be knocking at your door.   Getting on Schedules was the easy part!  Next you will need to market yourself .

  • Target the agencies you want to do business with - if you chase every piece of federal business, you’ll run yourself ragged. 
  • Start by figuring out which agencies buy what you sell.  Information on contracts that have been awarded is available online through the Federal Procurement Data System.  You can also check the archives of FedBizOpps to find out what agencies routinely buy.
  • What is “FedBizOpps?”  It’s the online site where all federal government procurement needs above $25,000 are posted.  This is where you’ll find a comprehensive listing of all open market solicitations.
  • Let’s say you’ve found a government agency solicitation that matches your firm’s expertise perfectly.  Here are some things the agency will want to know about you:
    - That you understand the agency’s needs and goals.
    - That you can provide them with a solution.  
    - That you can help them do this task better.
  • And by “them,” I mean program specialists, not contracting officers.  Meet the specialists and make them aware of your unique capabilities, whether or not there’s a relevant solicitation on the street.  Your input may assist them in structuring a solicitation when they have one.
  • If you can’t get in the door to see a program specialist, talk to someone in GSA’s “Office of Small Business Utilization” – they can help you open doors.

My last tip goes under the heading of common sense:

Find great people to work with – both customers and employees – and focus relentlessly on getting the job done – ahead of time and under budget.

With that, I’m going to again thank Ron Langston and all the other dedicated folks who put together this year’s MED Week conference.

I hope you take advantage of a great opportunity to move your business forward.

Thank you very much.