THE Social Network for the Diverse Business Community

Myra Cisse

Setting Scary Goals

34-canstockphoto21533253I made a 2015 plan for my business like I do at the end of every year. I set achievable goals and I broke them down into manageable pieces, I wrote the goal down and posted it where I could see it all year. The end of 2014 was no different, yet from the time I made the plan until this weekend, I felt like I wasn’t quite finished, like I hadn’t really done the planning. This weekend, I was finally able to pinpoint why I had so much reticence around my goal setting. The reason? I had set a fear based goal.

Last year in many blog post and articles, I talked about the audacious goal I set to triple my business. Sadly, I did not meet that goal; I did however, increase my business by 155% over the previous year. Not bad at all. This year however, I did not set the goal I hoped to achieve because I was fearful I couldn’t reach it. So, during my preplanning sessions, I set a mediocre goal that I thought was achievable instead of the scary goal I really wanted. The scary goal is also achievable; but I’ll have to work a little harder, I’ll have to put some things in place I’ve been talking about for over a year that I’ve yet to make happen, bottom line, I’ll have to step out of my comfort zone.

Goal setting isn’t about being safe. It’s about realistically stretching yourself. And that is the part that I didn’t do when I made my plan. I basically dusted off the plan I made last year and said “this should be good enough”. But no one ever built an empire by being “good enough”, and I finally realized that “good enough” isn’t enough for me.

So, this year’s audacious goal is to increase my business by 260%. That declaration makes my heart race, it makes me excited to proclaim and scares the bejesus outta me. And that reaction lets me know I have finally set the right goal.  Remember, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll land somewhere among the stars.

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How to do Business with Department of State

36-DepartmentofStateThe Department of State is the final department of the 15 executive departments of the federal government that I am covering. It is the mission of the State Department to sustain a peaceful, just and democratic world and to foster conditions for stability and progress for Americans and people worldwide.

In order to achieve this mission, the Department of State covers a wide range of policy issues including: Climate change; Cyber Issues; Democracy and Human Rights; Middle East transitions; and Human trafficking to name a few. There are also policy issues covering countries including: Afghanistan; China; Pakistan; Syria; Ukraine and others.

This is another one of those departments that has many different facets. They do, however, have an Office of Small Business Utilization (OSDBU) to help facilitate the participation of small businesses in the contracting process. The challenge is trying to find specific opportunities at the State Department.

Due to the scope and complexity of the work done by State, it isn’t easy to find a central procurement resource guide online. This is one of those departments where you will have to do your research. I recommend starting in the “About State” tab in the Plan, Performance, and Budgets section. Here you can find the most recently published planning and performance reports for the department.

The FY 2015 Congressional Budget Justification, for example, highlights funding required for State and USAID to carry out our missions worldwide. With this information, you can see where the department is focusing its efforts and find the programs or projects being funded to find subcontracting opportunities.

If the types of opportunities found at the Department of State are not in your wheelhouse, then don’t fret. Remember this is only 1 of 15 executive department of the federal government. These departments, collectively, represent hundreds of agencies in every sector of business that exists. So if State isn’t your department, then I encourage you to review the articles on the other departments to see where your sweet spot is.

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How to do Business with Department of Energy

40-DoELogoThe mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. The department came into existence in 1977, but can trace its lineage back to the Manhattan Project effort during World War II.

This is a very diverse department with 10 program offices ranging from the Loan Programs Office that enables DOE to work with private companies and lenders to mitigate the financing risks associated with clean energy projects in the hopes of encouraging innovative development to the Office of Legacy Management that is responsible for managing the radioactive and chemical waste, environmental contamination, and hazardous material at over 100 sites across the country as a result of World War II and the Cold War. In addition to the program offices, there are 21 Labs & Technology Centers; 10 Field Sites; 4 Power Marketing Administrations; the Energy Information Administration; and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The Labs & Technology Centers of the DOE are integral in the Office of Environmental Management’s cleanup efforts to treat nuclear and hazardous wastes left from the Cold War while the Field Offices act as stewards of the resources of the various Labs they support.

The Power Marketing Administrations are responsible for marketing electric power and energy generated at reservoirs operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers throughout the United States via public cooperatives and utilities known as “preference” customers. And the Energy Information Administration gathers, analyzes and shares impartial energy information to promote sound decision making and public understanding of energy.

The NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. The Department of Energy is unique in that it has two Senior Procurement Executives, one for the Department and the other for NNSA exclusively.

Because of the scientific nature of this department, most of the procurement opportunities have to do with Research and Development. Approximately 90% of the department’s budget is spent through a variety of contracts and financial assistance agreements. As a result, the Department of Energy is one of the largest civilian departments in the federal government.

The DOE Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is the best place to look for opportunity to do business with this diverse, research driven department. The OSDBU site has all of the DOE Funding Opportunities with links directly to the acquisition forecast, the offices, and the administrations within the Department that have needs.

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How to Do Business with Department of Homeland Security

38-dhsseal250The mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to keep our nation safe from the many threats facing us. More than 240,000 employees tackle that mission in jobs ranging from aviation and border security to emergency response. DHS came into being as a stand-alone cabinet level department with the passage of the Homeland Security Act by Congress in November 2002. When it opened its doors on March 1, 2003, it integrated 22 difference departments and federal agencies to create a strengthened homeland security enterprise and a more secure America.

DHS is an easily navigable department that makes it easy to find ways to work with them. Right from their site, you can easily find resources that can help you:

  • Get Started with DHS Contracting
  • Get Small Business Assistance
  • Find Contracting Opportunities
  • Find Business Contacts

If you are new to government contracting, start with the “Getting Started” resource. It is basically an overview of the basics – Getting a DUNS number, registering in SAM, etc. If you’ve done those basic steps, then you can skip to Small Business Assistance and find things like networking opportunities at Vendor Outreach Sessions; research options including: marketing tips and frequently asked questions regarding selling goods or services to DHS; and teaming through the department’s mentor-protégé program.

Finding contracting opportunities within DHS are easy with the link to the DHS Acquisition Planning Forecast System. The filter options are robust allowing you to pinpoint your search in just about any way you choose: Contract Vehicle – like GSA Schedule purchases or Contract purchases; Contract status – new or follow on; Dollar range; NAICS Code; and Set-Asides – like 8(a), WOSB, SDVOSB, etc.

If your business can help in disaster recovery situations or if you can offer services related to immigration, then you may want to take a look at the

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How to do Business with Department of Housing & Urban Development

44-DepartmentofHousingUrbanDevelopmentYou are probably familiar with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more commonly known as HUD.  This department is oversees homes owned by the government and ensures that renters and tenants are treated fairly under the law.  The mission of HUD is to provide quality affordable housing for all and to create strong inclusive and sustainable communities.

There are nine key organizations and several other organizations that support the department.  One of which is Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae).  You may be familiar with Fannie Mae as a national mortgage finance company, but Ginnie Mae has the only mortgage-backed security that enjoys the full faith and credit of the US Government.   FHA and VA loans are two of the most common loans that are backed by Ginnie Mae.

The Office of Public and Indian Housing ensures safe, affordable housing and creates opportunities for self-sufficiency and economic independence.  The Office of Multi-Family Housing is responsible for the overall management, development and direction of HUD’s multi-family housing programs; and the Office of Housing oversees the largest mortgage insurer in the world, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  The Office of Housing also regulates the housing industry business.   

The Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard control is responsible for eliminating the lead-based paint hazard in private homes and low income housing in America.  This organization also leads the nation in addressing and education vulnerable residents about housing-related health hazards.

The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity administers and enforces federal laws to ensure Americans have equal access to the housing of their choice.   The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight is now the Federal Housing Finance Agency.  This agency was born out in the wake of the mortgage collapse out of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.  The mission of the organization is to provide effective supervision, regulation and housing mission oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and 12 Home Loan Banks to promote their safety and soundness.  The organization also supports housing finance, affordable housing and a stable and liquid mortgage market.

The last two key organizations of HUD are the Office of Policy Development and Research and the Community Planning and Development.   Both have end goals of improving the lives of Americans and the communities in which they live, work and play.  The mission of Policy Development & Research is to move policy and improve American communities and lives by being the preeminent housing and research organization.  The Office of Community Planning and Development works toward that end by forming partnerships with all levels of government and private sector including both for profit and not-for-profit agencies.

In the Department of Housing and Urban Development, contract opportunities abound.  Any contractors can find opportunities a plethora of opportunities among the five agencies focused of fair/safe housing.  In the Fair housing and Equal Opportunity section of the HUD site, , there is a section devoted to Section 3 Economic Opportunities.  For those non-profits, HUD provides grant opportunities as well via the research and development organizations of the department.   Just remember that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has opportunities for more than just housing, so happy hunting.

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How to do Business with Department of Education

dept-edThis department is one we are all familiar with.  The Department of Education is charged with establishing the policies for the nation’s schools and it coordinates most federal education assistance.  There are a dozen key agencies that support the Department of Education; some of which are familiar to us as well.  They include the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and Federal Student Aid.

The aforementioned agencies are the ones that we think of when we think of the public school systems.  Curriculum, assistive technology, textbooks, testing, accreditations and more, from Pre-K – Graduate levels, are all handled by these agencies.  If your business supports educating Americans, it’s likely to fall under the Department of Education.

With the Department of Education – and all of the departments, for that matter – I encourage you to think vertically.  Vertical integration is a big issue in corporate strategy, especially with firms reevaluating what parts of their value chain they want to keep and which parts to outsource.  For example, your company may perform binding services including spiral binding for workbooks.  A textbook publisher may outsource the binding portion of their business because it isn’t cost effective to have the equipment needed when that is such a small part of their overall business.  Your firm could be the partner to whom they outsource.

Continue thinking “outside the box” and look at grant opportunities for your business. We don’t often think about grants when we think of government contracts but those options are readily available as well.  The Office of Innovation and Improvement, for instance, makes strategic investments in innovative educational programs and they administer more than 25 grant programs, i.e. Charter schools.  In this agency, in particular, and the Department of Education in general, you’ll find a lot of grant opportunities.

The last few agencies that complete the 12 key agencies of the Department of Education are the Office for Civil Rights, the Institute for Education Sciences, the Office of English Language Acquisition, the National Assessment Governing Board and the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Institute for Education Sciences provides the evidence on which education policies and practices are based via four centers; the evaluation center, research center, statistics center and the special education research center.  If your company conducts research or develops analytical software or manufactures assistive technology for special needs kids, then there may be contracting opportunities in the Institute of Education Sciences for you to consider.

As I mentioned earlier, this series is to move you beyond the obvious needs you may think of when you consider some of these departments and see what actual niches may exist for your business.  The goal is to get you started down the right path so that you can truly see what opportunities await.  Good Luck.

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How to do Business with Department of Interior

You may be familiar with several different agencies within the government like the Department of Education, Department of Justice and Department of Defense; but what about those departments that are not so commonplace, like the Department of Interior.  I mean, what the heck do they do anyway?  By the way, it has nothing to do with interior design.  Not that I thought that or anything.

That got me thinking.  If I’m in this stuff every day and I am not familiar with some of it, surely you may have some questions.  I discovered there are 15 Executive Departments under the Federal Executive Branch of the government and a host of Independent Agencies and Government Corporations.[1]  I have decided to address one department every week for the next several weeks.  This way, you’ll learn about what the department does, what agencies provide support to that department and, most importantly, how you can position your company to the department and related agencies.  This should be able to shed some light on the recurring question, “What Agency is buying what I do/make/sell?”   

The first one up for discussion – in no particular order – is the Department of Interior.  This department is responsible for managing and conserving most federally owned land.  As an aside, I wonder why they don’t call themselves the department of exterior, wouldn’t that make more sense?  Come on, the Department of Education is about education, the Department of Labor is about the work force, but the Department of Interior preserves exterior spaces?  Really?  I can’t have been the only one confused, but I digress.

There are several key agencies that are associated with the Department of Interior.  They include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish & Wildlife Service, Geological Survey (USGS), Mineral Management Service, National Interagency Fire Center, National Park Service and Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation & Enforcement[2].  Although some of the agency names are self-explanatory; others, not so much.  The Bureau of Land Management, for example, not only manages recreation and conservation of federally owned lands, but also wild horses and burros – crazy right?  The Bureau of Reclamation manages water in the West and is the second largest producers of hydroelectric power.  The Mineral Management Service is charged with environmentally and economically responsible development of our offshore resources.

So let’s think of the possibilities.  Veterinarians, Firefighters, Drilling experts (both offshore and surface), Engineers, Geological experts, Landscape Design firms, and any company that provides the equipment needed in any of these fields.  These are all needs that the aforementioned agencies and this department would have, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

I know you’ve heard it before and you’ve probably read it from me a few times in the past.  The federal government buys EVERYTHING!  Peering into this one department and its nine key agencies has proven how true that statement is.  Tune in next week as we dive into another department and see what contracting opportunities may be waiting for you.

[1] – Federal Executive Branch

[2] – Department of Interior information with link to the 9 associated agencies

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How to do Business with Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA as it’s often referred to, develops and implements policies on farming, food and agriculture. Because of the breadth and scope of this department, there are 17 key agencies that support the USDA.  The link below will take you to the USDA Agencies and Offices page where you can see all of the agencies and offices that support the Department of Agriculture[1]. These agencies cover a broad array of services including agricultural marketing and research services, farm services, food and nutrition services, food safety & inspection services, foreign agricultural service, forest service, resource conservation service and rural development, just to name a few. The scope of the USDA is so big that this is a Department you want to have in your sights

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is one of the 17 agencies in the USDA and it runs programs that foster the efficient, fair marketing of food, fiber and specialty crops.  The AMS has five commodity programs, an organic program, a science and technology program and a transportation and marketing program.  With these programs, the AMS, in effect, trades food commodities, administers organic standards, researches quality assurance standards and manages logistics for the food supply in the US and around the world.  And this is just ONE agency.

Another key agency of the US Department of Agriculture is the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  This agency administers programs for farmers and ranchers including farm commodity, credit, crop insurance, environmental and emergency assistance programs.  Key programs for the FSA fall under the categories of conservation, energy, farm loans and disaster assistance.  The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) is one of the FSA’s energy programs created under the 2008 Farm Bill.  BCAP is a primary component in the strategy to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, improve energy security, reduce carbon pollution and foster rural economic development and job creation.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is the agency that administers nutrition assistance programs in the USDA.  They provide food, a healthy diet and nutrition information to children and low-income individuals in America. Programs like WIC, National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service, Food Distribution and Farmers Market Nutrition all fall under the FNS.

 Another primary agency of the Department of Agriculture is the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS).  FSIS is the public health agency of the USDA and they are responsible for ensuring the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is packaged correctly and is safe as per regulations.  The programs under this agency include the food recall program, food defense and emergency response and food safety education.

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FSA) links US agriculture to the rest of the world market to enhance export opportunities and global food security.  Its major programs and services focus on trade policy, market development, export assistance, data and analysis and international development.

The Forest Service manages public lands in national forests and grasslands and encompasses 193 acres of land while the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is the primary agency that works with private landowners.  Seventy percent of land in the US is privately owned, so the NRCS ensures the health of our Nation’s environment by working with landowners through conservation planning and assistance to benefit soil, water, air plants and animals.

The Rural Development agency is committed to the future of rural communities by improving the quality of life of rural residents via increased economic opportunities.  The Rural Development agency provides assistance to the communities it serves with business programs, cooperative programs, rural utilities programs and community development programs.  The agency has a portfolio of $155 billion in loans and will administer $20 billion in loans, grants and loan guarantees through their programs in the current fiscal year.

I’ve just touched on eight of the 17 key agencies that support the Department of Agriculture.  I encourage you to use the link provided to review the others offices and agencies that support the USDA. The depth and breadth of this department make for tons of opportunities for businesses in many different sectors.  As we progress through each of the 15 departments I trust you’ll discover s niche for your business.

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How to do Business with Department of Transportation

42-PlanestrainscarsboatsThe Department of Transportation is another familiar department.  It establishes the nation’s transportation policy.  The Department of Transportation oversees aviation, highways, mass transit, railroads, ports, pipelines and more

There are 12 key agencies that support the DOT in its mission to oversee the movement of products and people across the United States. There is a separate agency that handles each of the modes of transportation.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handles aviation; the Federal Highway Administration is responsible for highways; the Federal Transit Administration monitors all public transit systems; the Federal Railroad Administration is in charge of railroads; the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is responsible for pipelines; and the Maritime Administration promotes the seamless integration of waterborne transportation with other segments of the transportation system.

Although the responsibilities of the aforementioned agencies appear obvious, some agencies are charged with much broader tasks.  The Maritime Administration for example works in a wide array of areas involving ships, shipping, shipbuilding, ship disposal, port and vessel operations, and national security.  The agency maintains a fleet of cargo ships in reserve in cases of war and national emergencies and also maintains the viability of the U.S merchant marine.  The Maritime Administration also administers the America’s Marine Highway program and is responsible for the 25,000+ miles of coastal, intercostal and inland waterways.  If you are in the transportation industry and can make use of these underutilized Marine Highways, there may be federal grant money available for you.  Check out this link  for details on the America’s Marine Highway Grant Notice of Funds Availability.

Other key agencies of the Department of Transportation are the Bureau of Transportation Statistics – a statistical agency that administers data collection, analysis and reporting and ensures the most cost effective use of transportation monitoring resources; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – that directs highway safety programs; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – who’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle related fatalities and injuries;  the Research and Innovative Technology Administration – charged with deploying cutting edge technologies to improve the nation’s transportation systems; the Surface Transportation Board – an economic regulatory agency charged by Congress with resolving railroad rate and service disputes; and Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation – that operates constructs and maintains that part of the St Lawrence  Seaway between Port of Montreal, Canada and Lake Erie that lies within the US. 

Most people only of the usual planes, trains and automobiles when they think of DOT contracting opportunities.  They don’t realize that research companies that are pioneering cars that drive themselves or cars that hover and fly have a place in the DOT in the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.  Nor do they think about the arbitrators and mediators who settle disputes in the Surface Transportation Board.

So whether you are a trucker, a pilot, a merchant marine or a railway engineer, the Department of Transportation has got you covered.  And if your business supports these folks or the adjacent industries, there are probably contracting opportunities awaiting you at the DOT.

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How to do Business with Department of Labor

The Department of Labor supports the work force by improving working conditions and protecting employee benefits.  Business owners often look upon this department with the same distain that police officers regard Internal Affairs.  They are the administrator and enforcer of employment policies and their interest is, in fact, to the wage-earner, retiree and job seeker (the employee) and not the employer.

That doesn’t mean that the Department of Labor offers neither grant nor contracting opportunities for your business, however.  Two of the nine key agencies that support the department, the Employment and Training Administration and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), are focused on today’s hot topic: Getting Americans back to work.  Because this is such a pressing issue, contracts and grants abound for those companies who train or retrain employees.  In 2013 alone, the US Department of Labor allocated 6% of its total spend of $1,622,141,239 on Vocational/Technical training and another 1% on Other Education & Training Services

Two other agencies are focused on safety.  The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or OSHA as it’s commonly called, is charged with assuring a safe and healthy working environment by setting and enforcing safety standards.  The Mine Safety & Health Administration is charged with the same tasks as OSHA but specifically relating to prevention of death, disease and injury in the Nation’s mines.  An integral component required for each of these agencies to meet their objectives is training and education.

Another two agencies are dedicated to employment issues relating to specific groups of individuals.  The Women’s Bureau develops policies and standards to protect the interests of women in the workforce.  The agency advocates for women’s equality and the economic security of women and their families.  The Office of Disability Employment Services’ mission is to develop disability employment-related policies and practices with the goal of affecting an increase in the employment of individuals with disabilities.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration is charged with the daunting task of educating and assisting the 150 million Americans covered by over 718,000 private retirement plans, 2.6 million health plans and other plans totaling over$6.5 Trillion in assets.  And the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and publishes all of the data and statistics about the labor force and makes that information available to the general public.

The last key agency in the US Department of Labor is the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.  This agency is tasked with ensuring workers around the globe are treated fairly and can share in the benefit of the global economy.  By using all available international channels, this agency improves working conditions, raises living standards and addresses the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations.

There is a common thread that links almost every agency in this department together; and that commonality is training & education.  Whether that’s actual job training for those individuals who wish to get back into the workforce, benefits training and education for the active and retired workforce, safety training to make for a safer work environment or workplace training to expand opportunities for equality in the workforce for women and the disabled; companies who are in the training sector or are vertically aligned with this industry can benefit from the grant and contacting opportunities in the Department of Labor.

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