Small Businesses Working and Succeeding in Government

This week I attended a workshop at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY sponsored by the Palisades Institute of Dominican College. The title was, How to Make Government Your Customer.

Business educational workshops are always good for networking but even better if you can learn a few things along the way. In this one, I received a double payoff for attending and listening. The format of the session was two panels of speakers. One represented Rockland County Government and the other was successful small businesses serving the county.

Paul Brennan Director of Purchasing for Rockland County gave a compelling overview of Doing Business with Rockland County, Local Governments and School Districts by sharing engagement approaches and taking the mystery out of engaging public entities. He explained the national state and local government marketplace is very large and represented over $6 trillion dollars and there are over 90,000 local governments nationwide. He suggested this is a perfect place for small businesses of any type to build their top and bottom lines.

With him were Paul Piperato, Rockland County Clerk, who discussed the engagement and contractual process. There was a surprise for me when Lin Simeti, Program Director, of the REDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PATC) shared the free services of her organization to help small businesses wade through the myriad of steps to effectively engage government agencies. She provided some straight forward strategies for those in attendance.

A key message from the government panel was that it is great for small businesses to gain business from government markets but they should not depend on it. They recommended that no more than 50% of their total revenue should come from the public sector to assure a less risky mix of customers.

For the small business panel, Harry Campbell, President, Biofeedback Resources International, Ellie Kassner, President, W.H. Kassner, Inc., Marcelo Reggiardo, Principal, Alianza Services shared their processes, successes and recommendations to compete and succeed in this market. There were also some great tips on how to succeed as a Minority Supplier.

Getting out there and spending the time in events like this is a great way to gain valuable information and insights. There is no substitute for listening, learning and interacting in person.  If you are alert, you will find many of these networking and learning opportunities by colleges, trade associations, community groups and networking groups.

Joe Rickard is the President of Intellective Solutions which is a training and consulting company for the Graphic Communications Industry. He serves as an advisory Board Member of the Palisades Institute of Dominican College.