Building a Small Business from the Ground Up – Appealing to the Federal Government

Posted by Chelsea Hemphill on May 22, 2017 10:19:23 AM

Client Spotlight  - Avilar Technologies Inc, a Veteran Owned Small Business.

At the dawn of the Internet era, Tom Grobicki, CEO of Avilar Technologies began envisioning a world with technological advances that would eventually propel the software industry and subsequently help the tom.jpgarmed forces. After serving in the US Air Force and cultivating over 25 years of software development experience, Tom determined that the key to enterprise success was its people.

After being in the ROTC and then serving as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, Tom oversaw operations at the office of SYSCON Corporation, which provided software engineering support to the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. He regarded himself and his colleagues as futurists, which would accurately describe their efforts towards projects they worked on. While there, he interacted with the Department of Defense and other agencies.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Duke University and would later obtain his Master of Science in Business Administration from the University of Northern Colorado, as well as Master of Science degree in Computer Science from The Johns Hopkins University. He then joined AdaSoft, Inc. where he continued as a leader of several advanced technology assessment projects at the Applied Physics Laboratory. A true starting point was the innovations Tom developed for combat system training. From there, Tom ventured into competency management, workforce planning, and eLearning. Avilar Technologies was founded in 1997.

Avilar is known as the competency company ™ Tom believes that he is in the people business, meaning that for companies to achieve their best result they need to focus on their employees and help them to understand and build upon their skills. This kind of workforce optimization builds business value and helps employees understand their jobs, which provides them with more satisfaction. Insurance companies, hospitals and banks appreciate the help with competency management. 

Another aspect of the company is WebMentor LMS solution. This software delivers learning courses, tracked learning activities and certifications accessible by employees across the country. With over 350 skills clustered in more than 50 skill groups, LMS has been robustly built out to prepare employees with what they need to be successful in their positions. 

Tom has designed widely distributed software including full 3-D audio/video systems, and fault-tolerant combat systems. Because of his ongoing software development and experience with the military, Tom has successfully been awarded federal government contracts. He prides himself on making good products for a good price.  

As far as keys to success, Tom gave us some valuable insight into selling to the Federal government that could be helpful to not only VOSBs but a lot of small businesses.

Your differentiators are more important than your small business set-asides but you can still use them to your advantage.

  • Provide a good product or service that meets the agency’s needs.
  • Articulate what makes your products or services different and how they are a better value for the Government.
  • Utilize set asides, but don’t depend on them. Set-asides can be a good conversation starter or way to narrow the pool of qualified vendors, but they will not be the cause for award.
  • Know what set-asides are applicable to your company and understand how to get certified. You can learn more information about VOSB/SDVOSB certification process here.

The capabilities and competencies of what you’re selling are important.

  • Show that you understand the agency’s needs by highlighting the aspects of your product or service that apply to their requirements.

Be strategic and selective regarding the agencies you are targeting.

  • Try to start with a smaller agency so that you can research the agency’s buying patterns and previous purchases.
  • Trying to market to a large agency, such as all of DOD, is too general. You need to learn about your customer and tailor your message to them.

Know who your competition is and research what the Government has purchased from them.

Network when you can.

  • A lot of veterans are involved in government agency affairs.

While you can propel your business forward by winning a contract, it might take years for an agency to come to a decision, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

Tom said one of the most valuable resources to him as a VOSB was the Veteran Institute for Procurement, which offers a lot of information and programs for Veterans, to help jump start them in government contracting. Veteran focused groups and programs are one way that VOSBs can take advantage of their set-aside status and maximize the opportunities and resources available to them.

Avilar is a perfect example of building a federal practice from the ground up. Avilar has been successful by identifying government needs and creating custom solutions to meet an agency’s mission. Under Tom’s leadership, their ingenuity and success in the federal marketplace are the reasons Winvale wanted to Spotlight: Avilar Technologies Inc.

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As the Marketing Coordinator, Chelsea Hemphill develops and executes all marketing campaigns for Winvale. Targeting her audience, Chelsea enjoys creating information that will educate and resonate with Winvale Clients. She appreciates the opportunity to help Government Contracting hopefuls learn about the government marketplace and how to capitalize on their business differentiators. Her goal is to express the Wivnale common vision and team culture in written form. Prior to joining the Winvale team, she developed and implemented marketing and social media marketing strategies that target B2B & B2G, at Cyber Security and Microsoft technology companies such as Global Risk Advisors and Planet Technologies. Working at News Organizations, PR firms, and Advertising Agencies have helped her cultivate her approach to inbound marketing that increases the customer base and build brand awareness. Chelsea Hemphill has a BA in Journalism and Marketing.

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