If you had the opportunity to speak with VPs from Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing simultaneously, what would you say?
If you attended MED Week, you would have had the opportunity to figure out how your small businesses could align and even team with these primes. A panel discussion on supplier management -- moderated by the Director of the Army’s Office of Small Business Programs, Tracey Pinson -- included vice presidents of each company's respective supply chain division: David Wilkins of Raytheon Company, Susan Cote of Northrop Grumman, Dan Pleshko of Lockheed Martin and Kenneth Shaw of Boeing.
For those who missed out, here are the common themes the VPs expressed:
- Drive competitive costs by offering a cheaper solution.
- Produce products that not only meet a global need, but meet import/export regulations.
- Understand their company’s values, challenges and missions.
- Have a quality product and process that are repeatable.
- Be on top of the latest regulations (use their grants for research as needed).
- Show them how your product or services will improve their current methodology.
- Look for opportunities to partner with other minority businesses to expand your offering.
Supplying Demand in a Global Market
The acquisition environment is very different now from what it used to be even three years ago, Wilkins stated. New rules and regulations are constantly presented, and most recently, there have been large budget cuts to one of their most highly-funded markets: defense.
According to Shaw, now that the Department of Defense (DOD) is undergoing an extensive budget reduction process, these prime contractors are having to look outside the contracting market and convert their success to commercial markets.
Lockheed Martin’s Pleshko stated that the commercial markets the company is eyeing are cyber security and risk mitigation.
Small Businesses Continue to Play a Role
“We are looking for small businesses to drive innovation, not meet a number,” said Pleshko in response to a question on meeting small business goals.
Similar to how Lockheed Martin participates in the mentor-protege program, there are other mutual benefits that come from innovative small businesses joining the company's supply chain. In addition to training and assisting small businesses in expanding, Lockheed sets up strategic meetings so that they can meet global partners. During their outreach events, Lockheed invites both local and international suppliers to further networking inside the supply chain.
International Supply Chain Woes
Though each of these companies has a global presence, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to deliver products from other counties. According to Wilkins, there have been issues where suppliers were unable to complete their requirements because they were held up on import issues.
When seeking to do business with Raytheon, “We buy for competency, and small businesses must be able to keep up,” said Wilkins.
Overall, these companies are seeking small businesses that can bring something new to the table and assist in getting a competitive edge when it comes to pricing. Each representative said that networking and forming reliable relationships with them is the first step in the process, so make sure you are prepared to shake some hands and give elevator pitches. The contracting world is competitive, but not nearly as much as the global market.
Elliot Volkman is an expert in new media communications and the Community Manager of GovWin, a Deltek network that helps government contractors win new business every day. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.