Ben Hawksford

JetCo Federal Adds Account Coordinator to Team

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH (July 10, 2020) — JetCo Federal, a Grand Rapids-based supply chain management and warehouse supply company, added a full-time employee to their team this month.

Ben Hawksford

Ben Hawksford joins JetCo Federal as an Account Coordinator. In this role, he manages JetCo Federal’s current contracts, order fulfillment, compliance, and customer relations. Hawksford is a graduate of the University of Michigan – Dearborn and has extensive experience in the packaging industry.

Prior to joining the JetCo Federal team, Hawksford worked as an Inside Sales Account Manager at a West Michigan corrugated packaging company. Hawksford stated that he looks forward to, “learning how to successfully manage current and future supply chain business, and to playing a role in JetCo Federal’s growth.”

To learn more about the JetCo Federal team, visit our leadership page.

 

Reliability During Uncertain Times

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the government’s buying methods to shift significantly. Though the traditional buying process is still in place, the government has turned to quicker methods, such as single-sourced non-competed contracts, to help get resources to where they are needed. However, this buying method has its downfalls. The government is struggling to reliably secure critical supplies. Here’s an example.

FEMA and Unusable Testing Kits

In May of 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded a $10.2 million contract to Fillakit LLC, a company that was formed just six days before the contract was awarded. They also had no previous experience working with the government. Fillakit was formed by an ex-telemarketer who has been accused of fraudulent practices over the past two decades. Due to the hasty contract award, Fillakit supplied testing kits to the government. Now, the government has millions of testing kits that are unusable due to unsanitary manufacturing conditions.

Fillakit isn’t the only company that has been awarded a contract without having worked with the government before. A recent Government Executive article states that “federal agencies hastily awarded more than $2 billion in COVID-19 contracts to vendors who had no prior federal deals.” They also stated that “the federal government has committed more than $16 billion to more than 4,000 contractors in its attempt to address the spread of the novel coronavirus. More than 1,800 of those deals were given without competitive bidding.”

As traditional buying methods shift during COVID-19, it’s more important, now than ever, to ensure the government has access to and is working with highly qualified government contractors. Vetting processes need to stay in place to allow the government to reliably secure the critical supplies they need. It all comes back to working with a government contractor who is qualified. So, how do you identify a qualified government contractor?

How to Identify a Qualified Government Contractor

One quality of a highly qualified government contractor is strong past performance. Companies that show they have done similar work to the contract, and in a similar capacity, have the experience and expertise to meet the needs of a contract.

Another quality of a qualified government contractor is compliance processes. If a company is not compliant with their current contracts, the likely won’t be compliant with the upcoming contract. Make sure the contractor has compliance processes in place before awarding them the contract

These are just a few qualities of a qualified government contractor. Though COVID-19 has shifted the government’s buying methods, now more than ever, the government needs to work with highly qualified companies that bring trust and reliability to the table.

JetCo Federal is a supply chain management and warehouse supply company with a successful past performance managing diverse products for complex contracts. Compliance, trust, and efficiency are ingrained into our company, and we’re ready to embrace the challenges that come our way.

Carrie Jokiel of ChemTrack

Woman-Owned Small Business Spotlight: ChemTrack

Welcome to the second edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series. This edition highlights ChemTrack, an environmental engineering, remediation services, and construction company. The company’s President, Carrie Jokiel, shares her story and advice for other woman-owned small businesses.

Can you provide a brief overview of what ChemTrack does?

ChemTrack is an 8(a) Alaskan Woman-Owned Small Business, specializing in environmental engineering, remediation services, and construction. We combine geological, chemical, hydrological, and engineering expertise with a broad understanding of regulatory and risk frameworks to solve environmental assessment and regulatory compliance problems for our clients. ChemTrack tailors innovative methods and concepts to individual problems and provides environmental solutions, especially as they apply to arctic and subarctic conditions in Alaska.

What inspired you to start ChemTrack?

I’m a born and raised Alaskan woman and second-generation “ChemTrackian.” My mother grew up in bush Alaska, our remote areas, as my grandparents were teachers in the villages. My dad emigrated here from Germany to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks back in the ‘60s. He fell in love with my mom and the spirit of Alaska. Being raised with that same spirit led me to becoming partners with my father and eventually becoming majority owner. We both share the entrepreneurial spirit that comes from the beauty and opportunities this great State has to offer.

That combination of respect and entrepreneurship has created a workforce culture that truly enjoys what we do to prevent negative environmental impacts, restore our remote areas to their original pristine conditions, and work together with our clients that share our passion for the State of Alaska.

What is your proudest moment for ChemTrack?

This summer season is already kicking off to be my proudest moment. I feel like we have arrived.  We have worked incredibly hard to be prepared to have a good season and I see the fruit of that labor happening. We were coming off a tough, stressful season last year, and the resilience my team has shown along with the can-do spirit, has been incredible to witness.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with ChemTrack?

We had a project go sideways two seasons ago that had a ripple effect into last year’s season as well.  It stressed our company at every level; it pulled my focus away from our strategic plan into survival mode; it affected the crew involved on the project, from the project manager to each laborer.  Amazingly, it also bonded us together. We were all in the trenches together, backs against a wall, and we survived. I wouldn’t wish tough days on any business owner, but the grit my crew showed and what we learned from our challenge has made us a much better company and now, we are poised to thrive.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Listen to the nudges you feel when leading. Realize you are a master of your trade and how you lead may seem unique to the mainstream we are often surrounded by. Know that your intuitiveness matters, and is at its core, how YOU run your company. Basically, you know what you’re doing – keep crushin’ it.

Do you have any suggestions on resources that women-owned small businesses should use?

To keep up on what our government is doing to help women-owned small businesses, get involved in Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).  If starting out, get to know your PTAC office.  If a federal contractor, get to know your local SBA office personnel.  If you’re a federal contractor and can budget it, use a service like FEDMINE to track and monitor RFPs, competitors, and contracts. Good luck!

To learn more about ChemTrack, visit their website at http://chemtrack.net/.

The Computers Can’t Save Us: To Solve Process Problems, Think Like a Baker

Business processes are a lot like cakes: good ones come from quality ingredients and are made by planning and proven recipes. If you have the wrong ingredients and little understanding of how to achieve the right result, it produces a bad cake. This analogy can be extended: If you’re working with poor ingredients and recipes, an industrial kitchen stocked with the latest tools won’t improve the result. You end up with more bad cakes, but faster.

Enter process automation.

We have asked computers to automate nearly every task-based element of our workday. Email is automated letter delivery. Cloud storage is automated file cabinets. Excel is an automated calculator. We’ve become so much faster and more efficient at low-level tasks that organizations are now handing more complex processes over. Relationship management, order fulfillment, and even human resources are increasingly mediated through software, but many organizations are finding that the investment in these systems hasn’t had a corresponding return.

Business process development has an analogy in computer science: GIGO, or Garbage In, Garbage Out. Many organizations are finding that weaknesses in their processes, the ‘Garbage In’, aren’t being solved by implementing new tools. Instead, they’re still getting ‘Garbage Out’. Worse, many problems are amplified by technology. While automation doesn’t necessarily help you do things better, it can almost always help you do them faster. More bad cakes.

“I’m living this right now. People are frustrated. What do I do?’

1. Recognize that CRM, ERP, or other tools won’t magically solve process issues.

This can be a hard conclusion to reach, especially where there has been (sometimes large) investment in systems on the implicit promise of solving the very thing they can’t fix. Process is just another way of saying ‘how people do things’. Even assisted by technology, people are the key factor in every process equation, which brings us to the next point.

2. Solve the root cause.

Teams that work together may have metrics that don’t align or lack shared buy-in on goals for the organization. Often, the causes are simple – communication, information sharing, measurement – but the solutions are complex. Each company will have unique challenges, but it’s critical that they’re addressed before operationalizing them into an automation tool.

3. Build feedback loops to identify and address new issues in your process.

This will help combat efficiency drift. As external variables change, the process and systems must change with them to stay relevant. Regular check-ins with each stakeholder group, external audits, and intentionally designed benchmarks or metrics, used together, are a powerful combination to measure performance and guide changes to prepare for the future.

System problems are hard to overcome if you don’t know where to start. By following the steps above and recognizing the weakness in your processes, you’ll be on-track to helping your organization maximize the benefits of automation.

WOSB Program Self-Certification Changes

To participate in the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) or Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) Program, a company must either self-certify through the Small Business Administration (SBA) website or through a third-party organization. However, the program is making some changes in the near future. Effective October 15, 2020, WOSBs will no longer be able to self-certify.

As part of the 2015 The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress eliminated self-certification for WOSB set asides and sole source. Despite the change, the SBA insisted that WOSB self-certification remain a viable option while they figured out how to address the change. Now, that change is coming.

According to reports by the SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG), 89% of all WOSB sole source contracts were awarded improperly. It was determined that federal agencies, contracting officers, and firms did not comply with the federal regulations for 50 out of a total 56 sole source contracts, which are valued at a total of $52.2 million.

Before awarding a WOSB or EDWOSB contract, the contracting officer is required to confirm that WOSBs/EDWOSBs have provided supporting certification documentation in the SBA system. Yet, SBA OIG found that contracting officers awarded 18 contracts valued at $11.7 million on a sole source base to companies with no documentation in the system. Additionally, 32 sole source contracts were awarded to companies with incomplete documentation in the system.

SBA OIG pointed out that the 2015 NDAA, which allowed WOSBs to receive sole source contracts, also required the SBA to implement a certification program for these businesses. Though the SBA implemented the sole source authority in October 2015, they have not issued regulations pertaining to a certification process for the program. The SBA estimated another year of implementing a certification process. This is not the first time that an oversight body has questioned whether WOSB self-certification may be causing ineligible companies to win set asides and sole source contracts.

With self-certification going away, WOSBs must turn to third-party organizations for certification. There are currently four organizations approved by the SBA to provide third-party certification:

  • The National Women’s Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC);
  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC);
  • The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce;
  • And the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (EPHCC).

Companies certifying for the first time must either certify through one of the third-party organizations mentioned above or through https://certify.sba.gov/, which will be offering a free online certification program. SBA will also allow participation from firms certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center of Verification and Evaluations, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

JetCo Federal Unveils New Website, Expanded Services

JetCo Federal, a supply chain management and warehouse supply company, has unveiled a new website that showcases the company’s expanded products and services.

“For more than 13 years, government and commercial customers have trusted JetCo Federal to reliably deliver high-quality products,” said Sue Tellier, President of JetCo Federal. “The expansion of our capabilities, as showcased on our new website, will allow us to serve a larger customer base while still upholding our commitment to supplying the highest quality products both now and in the future.”

JetCo Federal’s expanded products and services include warehousing, storage, packaging design, kitting, and a larger selection of warehouse consumables. The new website can be viewed at www.jetcofederal.com.

JetCo Federal President to Speak about Contracting Compliance

JetCo Federal’s President, Sue Tellier, will be speaking about government contracting compliance at a Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) Education Platform webinar on Tuesday, June 30 at 2 PM ET.

The webinar, titled “Compliance Begins Before the Win”, will outline the structure of compliance JetCo Federal has built for federal contracting, which has allowed us to diversify with confidence in a manner that decreases risk. Effective compliance begins before the win, and small size status is not an obstacle to building a culture of compliance.

The webinar is free to WIPP members and is $25 for non-members. You can register for the webinar on the WIPP website.

 

Magnifying Glass

Complex Forecasts and Targeted Capture

Forecasts hold a vast amount of information on what federal agencies will be buying in the future, and there’s no denying the importance that forecast information plays in guiding the direction of government contractors. The United States Code Title 15, Section 637(A) (12) (C) requires that federal agencies prepare a forecast of expected contracting opportunities and make it available to small businesses. But with over 400 government agencies, how does our team get through all that data?

Our capture team uses forecast data to narrow the scope of our work and to target specific agencies. We review past contracts and determine agencies we have already built relationships with. Then, we determine the agencies who are purchasing the products that we are selling. With mutually beneficial agencies in mind, we focus on winning contracts with these agencies instead of data mining over 400 forecast reports. Forecasts are complex pieces of information that can require time and dedicated resources. However, they are integral to being a successful government contractor.

Targeted Capture

After narrowing down the specific agencies we want to work with, our team takes a strategic approach and strives to build meaningful relationships with each agency. Too often while wading through the depths of FAR clauses and the formalities that come with working in the government sector, it can be forgotten that procurement professionals and contracting officers have other important things going on outside of the proposal that is in the forefront of our minds. Our team recognizes this and takes a personal approach when communicating with government personnel. We build a relationship beyond the initial opportunity so that when the next one arises, we already know what the agency needs and can steer our company into a position that can provide accordingly.

The expression, “jack of all trades, master of none,” holds true in government contracting. Agencies are looking for partners that are masters in what they do, not a risky, albeit, low-priced jack of all trades. Using agency forecasts and targeted capture in our processes, JetCo Federal is equipped to be the expert partner that agencies are looking for. Government contracting is not for the faint of heart. It’s for driven companies with a strong past performance who manage complexity daily. We do just that.

Balancing Risk

In the freight markets, ‘expect the unexpected’ has always been sound advice, and especially so over the last few years. From driver shortages and skyrocketing rates to trucking companies constantly looking for freight, unpredictability has become the norm. As an experienced shipper, it’s my job to balance these risks while still delivering products on time, every time. To achieve that level of performance, we have three goals for every shipment: a trustworthy and transparent relationship with our clients and carrier partners; an intentional outlook to confront challenges with creativity; and the enforcement of strict standards for our carriers.

Trustworthy and Transparent Relationships.

JetCo Federal books trucks direct and uses experienced freight brokers when necessary. Because of market overcapacity, trucking companies are constantly looking for freight. This can make it a tough environment for brokers and carriers who are trying to maintain high levels of service at competitive rates. JetCo Federal does business with brokers and carriers that we trust, and have developed both transparent relationships and lines of communication with. This ensures better overall resiliency in our supply chain.

An Innovative Team.

Our team is mighty. Many companies see complexity as a risk, but we have a different approach. We embrace challenges and want to win every, single day. Whether it’s a demanding contract or thorny sourcing problem, our team delivers on time, every time. We apply this same mindset to our logistics operations.

Strict Standards for Carriers.

Fulfilling government orders requires strict government access standards within our transportation department. Agencies such as the Department of Defense have complex rules and regulations when it comes to receiving products from federal government contractors.

Our logistics team takes on these complex requirements, and we have strict standards for our carriers. Carriers play a critical role in these high-security deliveries, and in order to work with us, they must have:

  • U.S. citizenship;
  • No criminal history;
  • A clean driving record;
  • And strong attention to detail as paperwork can be complicated.

Meeting these goals for every shipment allows us to manage risk and create competitive advantages for our customers with on time deliveries, even in unpredictable environments. Our team is dedicated, mighty, and is ready to help your business succeed.

JetCo Federal Office

Our First Government Contract and Where We Are Now

JetCo Federal’s first government client was the Michigan Department of Corrections. They didn’t just need packaging and industrial supplies – they needed a contractor to deliver these supplies correctly. Delivering to a correctional facility is exceptional. The driver must be cleared by law enforcement and may not carry tobacco, a cell phone, or any type of weapon – this includes a multi-functional tool like a Leatherman. The delivery hours are very limited, and every delivery can be postponed or canceled if a lock-down or other security breach requires it. Delivery rules are strict as well. Every truck must leave empty for security purposes, and there are multiple steps in the delivery schedule.

This first client was not an accident. Neither was the second, a complex packaging solution for critical items for the Army. From day one, we didn’t want the easy projects.

In those early days, the company had two stubborn, hard-working, scrappy employees. (It was my husband Jon and I.) Today, we have 12. And I’ve been fortunate to hire in accordance with our values. Every employee we have wants a challenge and takes them on with diligence and scrappiness.

Our clients today are remarkably similar to the original ones in 2007. (Actually, some are the same clients. We earn repeat business. Bragging and proud.) The projects are bigger because we can handle much more scale and our supply chain is deeper and wider.

It’s interesting to me how much the government experience matters across the board. Most of our non-government clients chose us because of our government success. They assume that if the Department of Defense (DoD) trusts us, they can as well. This is a safe assumption, as the DoD expects extreme quality and delivery capabilities.

Recently, I had a proud moment. We were gathering some metrics for our new website, and I saw how many secure deliveries we’ve made in our 13 years of operations. (And we maintained a 98% on-time delivery rating.) We’re still a small business, with the mindset that we’d rather be great at our niche than ginormous. (Check out Small Giants by Bo Burlingham to dive into this topic.)

A small business with mighty capabilities. That’s how I want our customers to regard us. We didn’t want the easy projects then, and we don’t want the easy projects now. Complex is what we do best, and we’ll keep doing just that.

 

References

Burlingham, B. (2005). Small giants: Companies that choose to be great instead of big. Penguin Group. http://www.smallgiantsbook.com/