Quality Products, Quality Systems

Quality must be demonstrated – not merely claimed – to be legitimate. It can be expensive. It requires deep commitment from leadership. It means accountability for every business unit.

Pursuing and maintaining International Organization for Standardization (ISO) registration is the demonstration of these values as operationalized and integrated throughout an organization. ISO registration recognizes the standards that go beyond a selling point: they’re real, they’re tested, and they’re a long-term strategic investment.

Interestingly, effective quality systems help avoid production and supply chain failures. While JetCo Federal initially decided to pursue ISO 9001:2015 registration for credibility, we found peace in the risk reduction and enhanced productivity it brought.

Here are a few observations for other small businesses contemplating their quality systems:

  1. The “operationalized and integrated” aspect of quality management is where quality pays off. When quality is a department, the system fails. When quality is a culture, it thrives and becomes viral. We have quality checks built into sales, compliance, fulfillment, and transportation.
  2. Yes, I said sales. Without an eye for quality in the initial discussions of potential new projects, a sales win can result in an operational failure – one that cuts into profits and damages company credibility.
  3. Like other small businesses, we’ve found process efficiencies and enhanced productivity through our quality management system. It allowed us to clearly articulate our requirements for software to support operations capabilities. We have documented systems and work instructions, leading us to know exactly where we wanted alerts for human intervention.

Our quality management system is demonstrated, operationalized, and integrated. We value our customers and uphold our commitment to supplying the highest quality products both now and in the future.

Woman-Owned Small Business Spotlight: Visual Workplace, Inc.

Welcome to the first edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series. This edition highlights the safety solution company Visual Workplace, Inc. The company’s CEO, Rhonda Kovera, shares her story and advice for other woman-owned small businesses.

What inspired you to start Visual Workplace?

I always had an inspiration for improvement and realized that there were not many product solutions in the marketplace for this [lean and safety solutions]. I tested the ideas with the company I had been currently working with and found there was a tremendous need. Using my industry experience, I built a sales organization to fill this need.

When working for others, it was sometimes difficult to see how others managed. I felt that if I ever had the opportunity to lead a company, I would make sure that I was objective, fair, and would not ask anyone to do something I would not do. Having the opportunity to start this company allowed me to fulfill a market need and run a business differently than I had ever witnessed.

What is your proudest moment for Visual Workplace?

Buying our facility was a very proud moment. It was a tremendous endeavor but provided a great return on our investment. It was similar to buying your first house – it can be very scary, but you adjust to the mortgage payment and begin to build equity.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with your company?

Determining when to take risks and when to hold tight has been my biggest challenge. Financing typically plays a role in risk, but when it does not and you have the opportunity to grow, expand, or invest it can be frightening. You should get the best advice you can and follow your instincts.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Build an advisory board! You need to have a strong team of people you can rely on when you have questions, ideas, or difficulty. It does not necessarily have to be a formal team, but find resources that you trust for advice and honest feedback. Include individuals from sales, human resources, operations, and finance.

Do you have any advice or resource suggestions for woman-owned small businesses?

Always keep your word! Be conservative if you have to and try to under-promise and over-deliver. This is important for your customers, employees, banks, and especially you.

To learn more about Visual Workplace, visit their website at https://www.visualworkplaceinc.com/.

The Benefits of Woman-Owned Small Business Certification

From the stamp of approval for the government contracting industry to the relationships built, becoming certified as a woman-owned small business (WOSB) has benefitted our company in many ways. Though JetCo Federal doesn’t rely on the certification to win new businesses, we know industry partners care that we have the certification. Here are some of the benefits we’ve experienced from getting certified as a woman-owned small business.

Stamp of Approval for Government Contracting

The women-owned small business (WOSB) program began in December of 2000 to help the federal government meet its goal of awarding at least 5% of all contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses. As a company that sells to the government, winning bids is an important part of our work, and as a woman-owned small business, we wanted to make sure we had access to these contracting dollars set aside for WOSBs.

Eligibility for these contracting dollars requires getting certified as a WOSB through a certification program. Our organization decided to go with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification and now we have the government’s stamp of approval to bid on those contracts set aside for WOSBs.

Relationships Formed with Other WOSBs

Another benefit of getting certified as a WOSB is that it helps you find and form relationships with other woman-owned small businesses. The network of woman-owned small businesses is tight-knit. We’re thankful for those we’ve connected with and are even starting a quarterly WOSB highlight this month to shed a light on incredible WOSBs throughout the country.

Getting certified as a woman-owned small business may not be for everyone, but we’ve seen the benefits of certification help advance business goals. Here’s what our President, Sue Tellier, had to say about WOSB certification.

“WBENC certification gives a stamp of credibility to woman-owned small businesses, verifying the authenticity of the ‘woman-owned’ claim. This opens doors to new markets and new audiences within existing client relationships. We are proud of our proven capabilities and don’t rely on the WBENC logo to win business, yet we know savvy buyers and supplier diversity professionals care that we have it.”

Interested in learning more about how you can utilize our WOSB status as a supplier? Contact us for more information.

Big Impact from Small Businesses

This is a challenging time for small business owners. The unpredictable, ever-changing nature of our economy due to the global pandemic causes ambiguity for employers and employees. Many service providers are sending multiple alerts each day, flooding our inboxes with well-intentioned information.

So many of my close friends are other small business owners. We’ve been talking, commiserating, and sharing online about the horrible options in front of us. Some had to close in the early days of the pandemic because of the nature of their business – they are hospitality or salons or gyms. I’ve heard their pain in having to close or severely curtail operations. It’s heartbreaking to watch affected companies and their leaders make difficult decisions about shuttering or temporary layoffs.

Silver linings for small businesses will become more evident with time. A few have already jumped out.

  1. It becomes VERY obvious if a small business is working with the right partner for accounting and insurance. I’ve sent thank you emails to our CPA, Rehmann, and commercial insurance company, BHS. They’ve really killed it with timely information, giving it concisely and intuitively. Our banker at Macatawa Bank has also reached out proactively to ensure we have all the information we need and has calmly and quickly responded to any questions.
  2. Small businesses support other small businesses. This is demonstrated with our purchasing decisions and through information sharing and support. I’m having a weekly virtual happy hour with about a dozen women who own businesses in Michigan (Sheri Welsh, Welsh and Associates; Gina Thorson, Stormy Kromer; Rebecca Cox, Savant Group; Lorri Rishar, EDGE Partnerships; Ginny Sherrow, Fenton Winery and Brewery; Sassa Akervall, Akervall Technologies; Anita Abrol, Lewis Knopf CPAs; Sue LaBonville, Allis Information Management.) It’s therapeutic, and can make us all feel less lonely about the tough decisions.
  3. Standout employees show their stripes. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with my team. They are working tenaciously to support each other, step in where help is needed, and become even more intense. We have coffee mugs that say “No damn whining.” Their actions show these aren’t just words.
  4. Inspiration is EVERWHERE. Two very close friends, Gina Thorson of Stormy Kromer and Sassa Akervall of Akervall Technologies (who are part of my weekly virtual happy hour), retooled their manufacturing operations to make masks, gowns, and face shields. This kept their employees working, and flattened the impact of closures on their revenue streams.
  5. Sharing talent and time matters. Every text I’ve gotten from a business owner friend, I’ve responded quickly and helpfully. They’ve done the same. (Kim Bode, Jennifer Jurgens, Jason Dodge… the list goes ON.)Crisis breeds creativity.

Small business owners are creative as hell.

Leaning in During a Global Crisis: Steps Organizations Can Take

In his 1986 letter to shareholders, Warren Buffet wrote, “Occasional outbreaks of those two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community…The timing of these epidemics will be unpredictable…Therefore, we never try to anticipate the arrival or departure of either disease.” He then penned one of his most famous lines, “Our goal is more modest: We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”

Buffet was talking about diseases of mindset, but his advice has a wide application for businesses navigating their way through challenging economic environments. Greed is a universally pejorative term in the context of a global crisis, so it’s important to understand that the spirit of the advice is not that businesses should take advantage of vulnerable markets, but rather that they should temper responses based on general economic anxiety and continue to look for and make opportunities. In more updated terms: We need to lean in where others are leaning out.

The ‘how’ of leaning in is a little different for companies facing the prospect of a remote workforce, shutdown, or reduced activity in their sector. Increasing investment in core business activity is an easy goal but not always an attainable one. However, there are still steps that every organization can take.

Sorry We're Closed Sign on Door

Marketing

Marketing is one of the first expenses cut in uncertain times, but studies have shown that on average, organizations that maintain their visibility and customer interaction during downturns realize greater gains in market share. Audiences rarely disappear, but marketers may find that they have gone online or reduced their exposure to more traditional channels. Redirecting, instead of cutting, ad spend and assets can help increase marketing efficiency while maintaining or increasing share of voice and exposure. It also provides an opportunity to test messaging, find new customers, and perform research.

Partnerships

In times of high activity, organizations tend to focus on their own businesses, preferring to directly address as much of the market as possible to control competition. As one sector slows, however, another may need additional services that aren’t accessible without investment in equipment, expertise, or technology. In the absence of time or liquidity to address those needs, a willingness to work with complementary product and service providers can fill the gap to win opportunities that would not have otherwise been available.

Networking

A big part of leaning in is helping others do the same. Crisis creates opportunities to bring disparate organizations together and is one of the most reliable sources of health in the small business community. Leveraging our connections to create new ones between companies helps everyone succeed.

Following these steps can help add resiliency to organizations in the face of uncertain business conditions. Now more than ever, leaning in and utilizing the assets, networks, and resources already in place is critical, even when it’s difficult to see the opportunity.

Women’s History Month – A Reflection on Impactful Organizations

March is Women’s History Month, intended to prompt reflection of the contributions and vital role women have played in history. JetCo Federal is a WBENC-certified woman-owned small business (WOSB), and two organizations that have helped us grow and strengthen our company are worthy of calling out during March.

Women in Defense (WID)

Women in Defense is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). JetCo became involved with NDIA and WID because we serve the military through our role as a Department of Defense contractor. These organizations give our employees a credible source of information and engagement opportunities. Importantly, WID “engages, cultivates and supports the advancement and recognition of women in all aspects of national security.”

WID membership is open to both men and women, and JetCo employees are individual members of both NDIA and WID. However, we are not just members – we are involved. We organize events, serve as mentors, and volunteer time to promote the defense industry. Through WID, our employees develop leadership skills, build and retain relationships, and learn. WID’s membership is ridiculously valuable.

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP)

Women Impacting Public Policy is a national nonpartisan organization advocating on behalf of women entrepreneurs—strengthening their impact on our nation’s public policy, creating economic opportunities, and forging alliances with other business organizations. We became an organizational member of WIPP in 2015, and we increased our involvement the following year through the Leadership Advisory Council. Through WIPP, we learn, connect, and advocate.

One of WIPP’s Policy Priorities is to “Create parity for WOSBs in federal contracting.” And these aren’t just words. This priority is achieved through the deliberate development and implementation of strategic tactics. In addition to making a difference in Washington, D.C., WIPP communicates their activities effectively to the membership, allowing us to become an educated extension for the talented Advocacy Team.

Advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. WIPP earned their positive reputation for advocacy. It’s evident that decision-makers on the Hill respect WIPP’s opinions and ability to mobilize WOSB contractors.

Women’s History Month celebrates the contributions of women throughout history. Through our involvement with WID and WIPP, we are building relationships with women who will keep making history.

CMMC and the Importance of Cybersecurity

In mid-2020, the Department of Defense will begin enforcing provisions of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) for all contractors, augmenting the NIST SP 800-171 recommendations that have been standard for governing protected information since the early 2000s. This change is already having major impacts on organizations working toward compliance. When the requirements begin appearing on contracts in June, it is expected that there will be immediate effects for the industries and companies that rely on government sales, even indirectly.

Not familiar with CMMC? Here’s a primer:

CMMC Certification Logo

What is CMMC?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is designed to combine best practices and standards from across the security industry, creating a uniform policy that reduces the risk of threats to Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) – data that is protected from public disclosure but not necessarily access-restricted by law or regulation.

How will CMMC be implemented?

The implementation of CMMC includes standards for physical system access, operations and maintenance, documentation, and digital system access. A key difference between CMMC and earlier frameworks is the certification requirement: companies can no longer self-certify their compliance. An independent 3rd party must now audit the implementation. Additionally, subcontractors are also required to adhere to CMMC, even if they do not handle CUI directly.

Luckily for companies trying to navigate the often-muddy waters of government contracts, CMMC uses a tiered system. Not all companies need to apply the strictest standard, so there are five levels of compliance, ranging from “Basic Cyber Hygiene” to “Advanced/Progressive”.

The basic levels are designed to result in a uniform minimum level of protection, without being cost-prohibitive for most organizations. In some cases, the implementation may be eligible for reimbursement by the Department of Defense. Check for the CMMC certification required to bid in sections L & M of government RFPs.

Why cybersecurity?

According to the Council of Economic Advisors, it’s estimated that malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016. Cybersecurity is not only important for keeping federal contract information and data secure, but it’s also important for companies wanting to keep their own confidential data secure.

JetCo Federal has achieved Level 1 CMMC compliance and is working with our partners to become Level 2 certified. We have always believed in data security as a core component of managing complexity successfully, and that strong access and documentation protocols protect us as well as our customers. For our commercial clients, suppliers, and partners, this means that when we transmit, store, or manage their confidential data, it’s subject to those same restrictions and protection. For some organizations, the extra compliance might be frustrating, for JetCo Federal, it’s just another part of how we re-win our business every day.

JetCo Federal coffee mug that says win contracts with the office in the background

What is it Like to Work With Us?

When working with government agency clients, we’re provided with honest feedback on our performance through a Contractor Performance Assessment Report (CPAR).  A CPAR can be considered a “report card” on how well a contractor is performing or has performed on a contract. After feedback is given from the person awarding the contract (the Contracting Officer), it is put into a system where other Contracting Officers can refer to it when making decisions on which company to award a contract to. Each evaluation must be based on objective data supported by program and contract/order management records. This includes:

JetCo Federal coffee mug that says win contracts with the office in the background
  • Cost performance reports
  • Customer comments
  • Quality reviews
  • Technical interchange meetings
  • Financial solvency assessment
  • Construction/production management reviews
  • Contractor operations reviews
  • Functional performance evaluations
  • Earned contract incentives

A CPAR evaluation is prepared by the Assessing Official every 12 months throughout the life of a contract. Once the report is processed and reviewed, the contractor may review and comment on the assessment within 30 calendar days of the evaluation. There’s a lot that goes into a CPAR. But, in simple, terms, CPARS matter. A lot. So, if you’re wondering what it’s like to work JetCo Federal, here’s the answer – straight from our government CPARS.

We deliver products on-time.

Delivering the incorrect product or delivering a late order can delay the government’s process. For example, the government uses our boxes to supply items to troops overseas. If the government didn’t have these boxes, it would mess with their entire process. That’s why we understand that every product delivery needs to be made on-time, every time. Here’s what our CPARS said about our product deliveries.

“[JetCo Federal] has set scheduling as a top priority… [they] reduced their allotted delivery time of 45 days, on average, to 25 to 35 days.” – DLA CPARS 2019

 “JetCo’s management is very responsive to the Government’s needs. They are proactive and have reached out to the Government several times through meetings, emails, and phone calls to provide updates on their business operations regarding boxes, recommendations on box requirements, process improvements, shipping issues, etc. The management and staff are very professional in their communications with the Government.” – DLA CPARS 2016

We’re customer oriented.

JetCo Federal isn’t a company that goes through the motions. We’re in constant communication with our Contracting Officers throughout the entire bid process, which is outlined below.

  1. Solicitation Release. During this part of the process, we make sure to ask questions and get clarifications in order to formulate a strong response.
  2. Bid Submission. Once our bid is submitted, we follow up to ensure the Contracting Officer doesn’t need additional information from us until the time of the award.
  3. Contract Award. If we are awarded a contract, our operations team takes over to coordinate a successful delivery and ensures the government receives the correct, undamaged product.
  4. Future Solicitations. The JetCo Federal team also communicates with Contracting Officers regarding future solicitations, such as when they will be released and if we can have any influence on set-asides.

Communicating clearly with our government agency clients is an important customer service aspect that we’re proud of. But don’t just take it from us, here’s what our CPARS said about our communication and customer relationship.

“JetCo management is forward thinking and continually strives to improve its business relationship with the Government.” – DLA CPARS 2016

“Management is very knowledgeable of their product, extremely attentive to the customer’s need and exceptionally accommodating to providing information, when requested, in a timely and expedient manner. Given what I know today about the contractor’s ability to perform in accordance with this contract or order’s most significant requirements, I would recommend them to similar requirements in the future.” – DLA CPARS 2019

We’re compliant.

We follow the rules. It’s ingrained into everything we do. From flowdowns to compliance matrices, our team ensures we’re compliant in every aspect of our process. Overall, maintaining federal compliance is important to ensure federal contracting business. Here’s what our CPAR said about our ability to be compliant.

“[JetCo Federal] complies with all FAR, DFAR, DLAD regulations according to contract specifications.” – DLA CPARS 2019

So, if you’re looking to work with a reliable supplier to help meet your warehouse and packaging needs, look no further. We’re ready to tackle your challenges.

Embracing the Challenge

You might have heard it before: selling to the government can be complex. It takes time, dedication, patience, and persistence. You can know how to navigate the industry, but selling to the government also requires embracing the challenges that come your way.

 

That’s why at JetCo Federal, we ask the question, “How hard can it be?” Why What We Do Matters: Re-Winning Every DayAs a company that focuses on solving complex warehouse sourcing challenges, our team is always prepared and welcomes complex delivery requirements. From transparent communication with multiple manufacturers to our in-house logisticians conducting detailed load planning, we’re ready to embrace your sourcing challenge.

But, why do we do it? Many companies would look at a complex sourcing problem and walk away. But not us. So, why? It comes down to two simple points:

1. Challenge drives us.

We can do simple sourcing, but it’s the nitty-gritty and the tough problems that make our team intrigued. Our team is intense, innovative, and doesn’t back down from a problem. We dive deep, take the “challenge accepted” approach, and find the solution every time. For example, one of our contracts requires us to deliver 110 different line items to 86 locations across the county with no predictability in the ordering cycle, and at a 5 unit minimum. We’re killing it and impressing the client with every interaction.

2. We want to win, every single day.

Whether it’s winning a large contract with the government or solving a simple sourcing problem, we want to win, consistently. Our team wants to win, and we want our federal agency clients to win.

So, if you have a complex sourcing challenge, give us a call. We’ll embrace your challenge and won’t back down. We promise.

Person Welding a Metal Product

Why Do We Vet Our Suppliers?

At JetCo Federal, our supply chain is composed of highly-qualified small manufacturers who are committed to providing the best quality products. Our manufacturers are badass at their jobs, but before they can work with us, they must be vetted. Why? It’s simple:

Quality and diversity.

Let’s start with quality. Our suppliers make high-quality products in the United States. Yes, that’s right, only in the United States. Because our products are sold to the government, where they are made is extremely important. The products our suppliers make must also be made in-house (not products that are purchased and distributed). When we bid on government contracts, we need to ensure our pricing remains competitive so that we can win contracts.

Next is diversity. As JetCo Federal grows, so does our capabilities and our need to have the correct suppliers in place to help us fulfill orders. A variety of products means a variety of manufacturers in our supply chain. Did you know our company has grown more than 1,400% from 2015 to 2018? We’re positioned for growth, and in return, our supply chain is growing.

So, why work with us?

We’ll skip the formal sales pitch. We get it – you want your products picked up quickly and you want to be paid promptly. If you can expand your sales too, that’s a plus.

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

  • We pay suppliers in an average of 3.4 days;
  • Our on-time delivery rate is 98.21%;
  • And you can leverage our contracts to expand your sales.

What does leverage our contracts mean? JetCo Federal holds multiple contract vehicles, allowing suppliers to focus on their operations while we do the government sales portion. Want more information on this? We wrote a blog post on the benefits of leveraging one of our contracts.

It’s not complicated. We’re looking for highly-qualified U.S. manufacturers, and you may be the right fit. Interested in working with us? Fill out our supplier form or give us a call. You’ll be glad you did.