The federal government has its own commitments to America's veterans as government contractors. What can we do in the contracting community – especially small businesses – to honor our veterans not just on Veterans Day, but all year long?
Here are some ideas to think about:
Mentor a veteran-owned business
Your experience could be invaluable to a veteran business owner who wants to win government contracts. This can be as simple as meeting for coffee from time to time to answer questions and share your expertise.
To find someone who needs your help, look up veteran-owned businesses in the dynamic small business search. Research in SAM for veteran-owned businesses who might or might not have won their first contracts.
Consider a subcontracting arrangement. They can subcontract to you, or you can subcontract to them, but all of this works best when partners get to know each other a long time before the RFP drops. Speed dating is usually not a recipe for a successful marriage.
Ask federal agency small business specialists and Procurement Technical Assistance Center counselors to introduce you to veteran entrepreneurs who could use a hand -- or a partner -- in developing their new federal business.
Another way to connect with veteran entrepreneurs is by attending federal agency outreach events that are advertised as having a special focus on veteran business owners. Most such events are open to all business owners, not just veterans, as the agencies recognize that the veterans want to partner with other companies both large and small.
Gather a group
Don't wait for somebody else's initiative; start your own! Consider hosting an event over breakfast or lunch and invite veteran business owners in your community who might want to meet each other as well as potential partners.
Breakfast at a local diner café can be a convenient and inexpensive option. This will enhance your reputation in the community and is great for building your contacts as well.
Try it once, see how it goes, ask people what they thought, and it could even turn into a regular monthly thing. Who knows, you could be the center of the next hot new community!
Share success stories
Do you blog, write columns or articles, or work with associations that are looking for speakers? Start looking for success stories from veteran business owners, and make some introductions that will get them publicity, raise their visibility, and inspire others who will hear their stories. Success breeds more success.
This Veterans Day, make the commitment to take a veteran business owner under your wing, and consider other ways you can raise the profile of veteran-owned businesses in your community.
- Reach out to offer teaming opportunities. If you are a civilian non-veteran owner of a company that does federal work and you know an about an opportunity, reach out to an SDVOSB to team. And remember that several thousand business owners, veteran and non-veteran, attend the National Veterans Business Conference.
- Actively seek vets for your workforce. One great resource to connect with talented veterans is the Marine Executive Association.
- Introduce them to your network! Amber Peebles, President of Athena Construction, explains: “I had a civilian contractor a couple years ago introduce me to, and ask me to join, the Associated Builders and Contractors. Without that introduction, it probably would have taken me years to discover that association. Being part of that association opened a lot of doors.”
Photo courtesy of: Veteran Women Igniting The Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE)