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How Amber Peebles Built Relationships Into Federal Contracts

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Amber Peebles of Athena Construction Group

Determination, Integrity and Relationships Were Building Blocks to over $7 Million in Federal Wins

I recently interviewed Amber Peebles for a special segment honoring veterans in the WBENC newsletter. Amber is the president of Athena Construction Group (http://athenaconstructiongroup.com), a leading service-disabled veteran-owned, woman-owned, HUBZone construction company.

I wanted to learn more about how her company has won over $7 million in federal prime contracts (see http://goo.gl/NYdNgM) since their first small contract in 2009, and the key to their success.

Where did you start to get subcontracts?

We got our big break when I was the chair of the Construction and Utility Council for Prince William Chamber of Commerce. We were hosting a small business conference. A contracting officer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who knew me from previous event was introducing me to someone, when Wes Stith at Clark Construction overhead and came over to introduce himself and invited us to the enter their 10-month Strategic Partnership Program.

Where do you look for opportunities and intelligence?

I ask everybody! My most recent source of intelligence: A colleague asked me to sponsor a table at the Navy Memorial Foundation's breakfast, where I ended up sitting next to the head of NAVFAC (Naval Facilities Engineering Command), who talked about what was on her mind and the future of navy facilities.

I’m also a huge fan of the Washington Business Journal where I can see up front opportunities and what secondary opportunities might be part of them. WBENC events and publications have also been hugely helpful.

When I’m working on a bid, I go hunting. In preparation for an upcoming one-on-one meeting with Capital One, I had two of my employees do some research, and so I already know about an 800-square-foot facility they have applied for a permit for.

What would you say is your number one business driver?

Our quality of work. After completing over 400 contracts over five years and jobs of various scope and complexity, our reputation as an honorable company became known. When people saw how much we applied ourselves in the Strategic Partnership program, and in having conversations with us, they could see our work ethic and integrity.

About six weeks ago, I was standing at my office administrator's desk when a call came in with the caller ID as Raytheon. I don’t know anyone there, and we’ve never worked for Raytheon. The gentleman on the line had a unique requirement with a very short lead time, and asked if I could help. He had found us on the Internet. he didn't go into FedBizOpps or the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE). He was just desperate to find a construction company. He chose us because I told him I could do it, and everybody else told them he couldn't do it.

We ran that thing like a military campaign the whole way, it was great. It was logistically complex, not tech complex. They knew that the marines were running that job! In less than four weeks, we mobilized and fulfilled his unique requirements. Raytheon's client was extremely satisfied with the result. After the work was successfully completed, I called up Raytheon and said, "We nailed this. I know you have more like this. Why don't we talk about a national contract so you don't have to go from state to state to find someone to do this." He said, "Okay!”

Aside from her inspirational and practical examples, Amber’s narrative also reflects how her experience as a military veteran gives her the determination, risk management, decision making skills, and leadership mindset that are essential for business success, especially in construction.

Wed, 12/04/2013 - 3:58pm

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