JetCo Federal’s President, Sue Tellier, chats with host, Ed Clemente, about small business, defense contracting, and more on The Michigan Opportunity podcast. Listen to the full podcast (episode 39) on the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) website.
Other Transaction Authority (OTA), also referred to as Other Transactions (OTs), are procurement methods other than contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements. They allow flexible business arrangements to obtain research and development to support technology advancement or to quickly develop a prototype outside of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). In other words, OTAs are a way for small businesses to work with the government without dealing with red tape.
OTA prototype contracts can be up to $250 million in value and can be fixed-price, expenditure-based, or hybrid. Additionally, they:
- Must use a nontraditional defense contractor,
- Have all participants be small businesses,
- Or, have at least a third of its total cost paid by parties other than the government.
Agencies must be authorized by Congress to use OTs and government Contracting Officers must have Agreement Officer authority to award OTs. The following federal agencies currently have Congressional authorization for OTs, but there are specific OT requirements, limitations, and restrictions for each agency:
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
- Department of Defense (DOD)
- Department of Energy (DOE)
- Human Health Services (HHS)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO)
- Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
OTAs have become a core element of the Department of Defense’s approach to technology and acquisition. DoD OTA obligations increased 75% in fiscal year 2019 and have increased 712% since fiscal year 2015. Why? Congress has been giving the Department of Defense OTAs to allow the Pentagon to take more risks in acquisition and fail before money is spent building a whole program.
Overall, OTAs are becoming more popular in government contracting and an increase in these opportunities could occur in the coming years.
Where can I find OTAs or Research and Development (R&D) opportunities?
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) R&D uses the Federal Contract Opportunities website at SAM.gov to post their opportunities using Broad Agency Announcements (BAA). More information on how to find these opportunities can be found on the DLA website.
JetCo Federal ranks No. 2960 on the Inc. 5000 with three-year revenue growth of 133 percent
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH (August 12, 2020) — Grand Rapids-based supply chain management and warehouse supply company, JetCo Federal, was recently ranked by Inc. magazine in its annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest growing private companies. The list represents the most successful organizations within the American economy’s most dynamic segment — independent small businesses.
JetCo Federal, a local woman-owned small business, was ranked no. 2960 with three-year revenue growth of 133 percent.
According to Sue Tellier, President at JetCo Federal, the growth is attributed to the niche they credibly hold with their customer base.
“Our successful and extensive experience with the Department of Defense earns respect from warehousing decision-makers,” said Tellier. “We embrace complex supply chain challenges, we deliver on time, and we offer blunt, creative ideas that resonate.”
Not only have the companies on the 2020 Inc. 5000 been very competitive within their markets, but the list as a whole shows staggering growth compared to prior years. The 2020 Inc. 5000 achieved a three-year average growth of over 500 percent, and a median growth rate of 165 percent. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue was $209 billion in 2019, accounting for over 1 million jobs over the past three years.
“Our significant growth doesn’t surprise me. We have tenacious employees and a scrappy, no-whining culture,” said Tellier. “We’re not done growing, either.”
Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.
Building a strong relationship with your current and future customers is a crucial step a company should take to be successful in their industry. At JetCo Federal, we take creating connections seriously. Transparent communication is ingrained into our company, and we establish and cultivate authentic relationships with our suppliers and customers.
To us, it’s not just a business relationship. Our interactions are human-to-human. They’re meaningful, personal, and transparent. We understand that when you cultivate strong relationships, it only brings benefits to both parties.
How does our team cultivate authentic relationships with our suppliers and customers? Our team:
- Listens to the needs of our end-user;
- Asks the right questions to ensure our customers are satisfied;
- Communicates consistently;
- Displays integrity with every interaction;
- Is respectful of our suppliers and customers’ time;
- And builds a trustworthy relationship with everyone we come in contact with.
We take these steps with every relationship we build. Our suppliers and customers appreciate the time we take to cultivate the relationship, and when our suppliers and customers are happy, we’re happy.
A Unique Team
At the core of our company is the drive to re-win every day. Whether it’s winning a large contract with the government, solving a simple sourcing problem, or completing fast turn-around times, our team wants to win. We’re also not afraid to take on complex projects, which makes us different than our competitors.
Our team is unique, and our connections are authentic. This is a powerful combination that leads to satisfied customers, a strong company culture, and a robust network. Without our authentic relationships, we wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do now. The government wouldn’t be buying, and our customers wouldn’t be satisfied. But they are buying, and they are satisfied. And that’s in part due to the power of our connections.
Establishing and maintaining authentic relationships is at the core of what we do. Connections are powerful, and when you have strong connections, you have trust and loyalty not only within your company but with your end-users as well.
Want to learn more about how our team thinks and operates? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the first edition of our “Behind the Scenes” blog post series. Today, we’ll be talking to Adam Lewak, Operations Manager at JetCo Federal, and will be diving into the details of how our logistics team operates.
Vanessa: Can you tell me a little bit about what you do in your role at JetCo Federal?
- Adam: As the Operations Manager, I monitor all orders in production and consolidate the shipments that go to the same area. Once I have a shipment consolidated and built, I generate government-specific labels, provide the required paperwork, and source a carrier to haul the shipment. Sourcing a carrier requires daily spot negotiations. Once a carrier is secured, I schedule and monitor the shipment, making sure it is picked up and delivered on time.
Vanessa: We often talk about our team tackling complex projects daily and how we don’t shy away from a challenge. Can you talk a little bit more about the approach the logistics team takes to their work?
- Adam: Our team keeps a daily watch on production and due dates. If there are multiple orders to one area, we typically wait to ship and consolidate those to ride together on the same truck. We utilize as much trailer space as possible, thus lowering freight costs. If due dates do not allow us to wait on production, we make sure to ship via the most effective cost option available. Our team performs in-transit check calls to verify that everything is going smoothly, and our team is always ready to jump into problem-solving mode as soon as we know of any issue.
Vanessa: There is a lot of planning, coordination, and attention to detail to make logistics run smoothly. Part of our logistics team’s role is to ensure our shipments won’t be rejected. Can you talk a little bit about why shipments are rejected, and about what happens when an order is rejected?
- Adam: Shipments are typically rejected when the primary carrier does not have capacity. This means that the primary carrier does not have any drivers available at that specific date and time, or that there has been a change in national rates and the carrier can get a better pay moving different freight out of the same area. When an order is rejected by the primary first, then it is tendered to the secondary. If the secondary rejects the order, it is offered to the backup carriers on the lane. If it is still rejected, then it will typically end up on a spot market board where approved carriers and brokers can then bid on the shipment. The spot market’s lowest bid wins the shipment.
Vanessa: Another integral part of ensuring our products are delivered on time, every time is the carriers we use. Can you go in-depth on the strict requirements we have for our carriers?
- Adam: Most of the freight JetCo Federal moves is delivered to U.S. military bases. For a driver to get onto a base to deliver, he must be a U.S. Citizen carrying a Real ID – a driver’s license with a star in the top right corner, signifying it is accepted as a federal form of identification. The driver must also have a clean background with no criminal history or warrants, a clean driving record, and must have strong attention to detail as delivering to U.S. military bases can have complicated paperwork. Most military bases perform a background check upon arrival, and all of these requirements are in place due to national security.
Since our inception, government agencies have relied on JetCo Federal for the distribution of critically timed, urgent product. To learn more about JetCo Federal’s logistics services, please visit our logistics and warehousing page.
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.
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.
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’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.
Burlingham, B. (2005). Small giants: Companies that choose to be great instead of big. Penguin Group. http://www.smallgiantsbook.com/
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- Solicitation Release. During this part of the process, we make sure to ask questions and get clarifications in order to formulate a strong response.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.