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Courtney Fairchild from Global Services

Woman-Owned Business Spotlight: Global Services

In this edition of our woman-owned small business spotlight series, we feature Global Services, headed by President and CEO, Courtney Fairchild. In 23 years within the arena of federal proposals and GSA Schedules, Global Services has empowered clients with over 3,000 contract awards valuing more than 20 billion dollars.

Global Services Logo

Author’s note: Global Services doesn’t just empower clients – they generously share knowledge that builds stronger compliance systems, which enable scale for sales. Also, they’re fun.

Courtney Fairchild shares her story with us:

Can you give us some background on your start with Global Services?

I have been with Global Services since our inception, and I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase the company seventeen years ago. Since the beginning, I worked in and developed every aspect of our business allowing it to morph along the way guided by client demand. For me, the only logical step was to make it my own!

What is your proudest moment for the company?

My proudest moment for our company was crossing the $1,000,000 revenue threshold in our early years. I remembered a statistic in American Express Small Business Reports that less than 3% of Women-Owned Businesses had revenue in excess of $1,000,000 and I was thrilled to be a part of this elite group.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with Global Services?

Over seven years ago, just as I had poised Global Services to truly grow, it became clear to me that my business partner was not interested in taking this journey or risk any further.  Believing in myself, and what I had created over time, I decided to purchase the other half of our company. Since that time, I have been able to lead Global Services to over 66% revenue growth.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Embrace your fear. A lot of people think entrepreneurship is about not being afraid, but the truth is that it is more about acknowledging the fear. As you take risks, it is essential that you recognize, analyze, and experience your fear in order to be able to push past it.

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

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is a strong resource for all WOSBs who want to grow their businesses. WIPP 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. I am honored to serve on the WIPP Board of Directors.

Another author’s note: Courtney is a badass WOSB advocate. She demonstrates support of women entrepreneurs routinely – with her actions and her guidance. I met Courtney through WIPP. She was welcoming, and she’s encouraged me to increase my involvement with the organization.

To learn more about Global Services, please visit https://www.globalservicesinc.com/.

Breaking Down OTAs in Government Contracting

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 Details

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)

Why OTAs?

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.

Federal AI Efforts and NDAA 2021

On January 1, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of fiscal year 2021 (NDAA 2021) was passed. Among the information in NDAA 2021 were several legislative provisions that will shape the government’s approach to artificial intelligence (AI) over the next few years. Three of the key AI provisions in NDAA 2021 include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) establishing a voluntary risk management framework; the launching of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative; and the Department of Defense (DoD) assessing its ability to acquire AI responsibly and ethically.

NIST Voluntary Risk Management Framework

NDAA 2021 directs NIST to establish a voluntary risk management framework for the use of AI and assessing the trustworthiness of AI systems. It also instructs NIST to define measurable standards within that framework. Finally, NDAA 2021 also expands NIST’s mission to include:

  • Advancing collaborative frameworks, standards, and guidelines for AI;
  • Supporting the development of a risk-mitigation framework for AI systems;
  • And supporting the development of technical standards and guidelines to promote trustworthy AI systems.

National Artificial Intelligence Initiative

NDAA 2021 called for the creation of a government-wide AI initiative to coordinate AI research and development. The framework for this includes a new National AI Initiative Office based in the White House, under which the new Interagency AI Committee and external National AI Advisory Committee will be based. This new framework will ensure the U.S. is a leader in the development and use of trustworthy AI systems.

Department of Defense & Acquiring AI Responsibly

Lastly, NDAA 2021 called for the Secretary of Defense to determine if the DoD has the ability and expertise to ensure AI technology acquired is ethically and responsibly developed. Additionally, it provided the DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) the authority to acquire AI technologies in support of defense missions.

Overall, NDAA 2021 laid out several provisions that will shape the government’s approach to AI over the next few years. AI technology has recently come into focus and the new efforts from NDAA 2021 show that it will continue to be an area of focus for the government. To learn more about government contracting opportunities, contact our team.

Tech Transfer: Bridging the Gap Between the Abstract and Commercial Application

Ask most people to describe how their favorite app or gadget came to be, and you’ll get a version of the garage origin story, where a visionary genius and her team of misfits work all night, fueled by passion and coffee, to bring their idea to life. Sheer force of will and a lucky investor meeting is all it takes to make it, as long as you have the guts. A version like this story is told in the startup myths of tech giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook: daring startups that happened to make it big.

Reality, of course, never quite measures up to the hype.

Ideas come to market in a variety of different ways – genius entrepreneur included – but much of the innovation we interact with day-to-day started as a question in an institution. Some are abstract, “How do we measure the temperature of a star?” while some are very specific, “How do we create a camera that fits in a small spacecraft?” And some, as in the case of both of those questions, end up having applications beyond their original purpose. It turns out that measuring star temperature at a distance works well for infrared thermometers and small cameras are great for phones as well as spacecraft.

Bridging the gap between the abstract and specialized questions, and their commercial application is a process known as tech transfer. In addition to thermometers and cameras, tech transfer has also brought us the internet, LASIK, cordless vacuums, and solar power.

The tech transfer process is typically implemented in three parts: design, prototype, and commercialization. In most institutions and government agencies, there is a formalized process for at least some part of that chain. Researchers may have to provide practical justification for budgets, or there may be a liaison office specifically seeking commercial technology applications. The results can be licensing agreements, joint ventures, or even new companies capitalized by public-private partnerships or direct investment.

The practical implications of this process are not just for large organizations on the cutting edges of their field. The Federal government, as well as many state agencies, have established funding and goals to create a pipeline in (and out) for innovative products.

Through programs like SBIR and STTR, they solicit best-in-class technology to solve problems ranging from reducing single-use plastics to better missile telemetry. In 2018, the federal government spent over 71 billion dollars at universities alone, a significant portion of which passed through spin-offs, joint ventures, or other partnerships.

Medium and small businesses, working directly or through an experienced prime contractor, can leverage their specific expertise to identify these tech transfer opportunities and create new markets. Although many of these tech transfer stories start out in a garage, the long term effects allow for endless possibilities. If you would like to learn more about working with an experienced prime contractor, contact us.

3 Tips to Build Lasting Customer Relations

The key to establishing a relationship with our customers is to have a solid understanding of who they are. First, I do research on what their company offers, their products and/or services, and the industries they serve. This helps me understand what JetCo Federal can offer to each of our complex and unique customers. Also, I like to know what their mission statements and goals are so that I can align with them on a personal and professional level. My goal is always to build rapport quickly so that they see that we are responsive and attentive to their needs. There are three tips that I recommend for building productive customer relations:

  1. Treat others the way that you want to be treated. This is one of our core values, and we are intentional with how we communicate with our customers. I always try to put myself in their shoes before I respond via email, phone, or in person. In return they respect me, the company I represent, and ultimately, they appreciate the services that we offer their company.
  2. Smile through the phone. Display an infectious joy that they can feel over the phone, via email, and in person. Even when there are issues that need to be resolved, the goal is to always flood them with kindness and help in any productive way possible.
  3. Be Intentional. Put an effort into learning about your customers. Ask them questions about their family, weekend, vacations, etc. This allows for connections to develop, which ultimately helps with each interaction.

Customer Relations in the Government Contracting Industry

Keeping strong customer relations benefits our current business, as well as new business opportunities in the future.  As a customer service representative and accounts coordinator for JetCo Federal, my goal is to always be responsive, helpful, and productive. It is crucial to be open to learning more about our current order fulfillment processes, our current customers, and their products. In turn, productive customer service relations helps our sales, marketing, and operations teams achieve their goals in helping our customers win. Want to connect with our customer service? Contact our team today.

Three Reasons to Invest in Employee Training

Training is defined as teaching or developing oneself in any skills or knowledge with goals of improving one’s capability, capacity, productivity, and performance. There are two types of employee training: onboarding and continued. Onboarding training introduces the employee to their position, as well as company inner workings. Continued training is education that employees complete throughout their employment, which ensures they continue learning new skills throughout their career.

Both onboarding and continued training are worth investing in for employees. Here’s why:

  1. Continued employee training is an investment not only in the employee, but in the company as a whole. Continued education can help employees bring new ideas to their role, which further advances the company overall. When people have the skills and knowledge to do their jobs, they are more productive. They work independently, innovate, and meet challenges as they come up. In a global economy that continues to evolve, the most successful companies will be those that adapt quickly and effectively. This starts with training employees in new skills and furthering their market education.
  2. Both initial onboarding training and continued training are crucial in an employee’s success and allow employees to advance in their career. Continuous employee training increases agility by encouraging them to think and understand quickly. One of the key reasons for training employees is that it keeps their knowledge fresh, their skills sharp, and their confidence booming. When your existing employees see that you’re investing in their growth, they can become more engaged in their work.
  3. Employee training is good for company culture. When employees are continuing their education together, it fosters collaboration and engagement. Each employee comes into the company with different levels of experience. Collaborative education allows employees to brainstorm together and bring new education into the mix. A learning culture supports market adaptation, innovation, and boosts overall employee engagement.

How does JetCo Federal incorporate training into our company culture?

At JetCo Federal, we recognize the importance of investing in our employees. We have implemented a strong training plan with a learning management platform and incorporate designated time for training.

We push our employees to be their best selves, both personally and professionally. We give them tools for personal financial sustainability, and we charge them with building professional development plans we can support. We believe our employees are the core of our success.

To read more about what we offer our employees, visit our career page.

 

The Benefits of a Selective Bid Process

When the government issues a solicitation, there are a few ways to decide if it should go into your proposal pipeline or be quickly dismissed. A thorough understanding of how the contracting officer will be evaluating the responses is one of the best ways to know if your company has a shot at a winning bid.

Reviewing solicitation text can be overwhelming but understanding the government’s evaluation methods can help your company select opportunities that give you a distinct competitive advantage.

Bid Evaluation Criteria

There are multiple ways the government decides which criteria are important. In federal solicitations, evaluation criteria are laid out in section M, and it describes exactly where you need to invest your efforts when creating a proposal. This section is typically found towards the end of the solicitation.

The two most common types of proposal evaluations seen are LPTA (Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable) and best value solicitations. Commodity and non-complex products are typically procured using the LPTA evaluation criteria described in FAR Part 15.101-2. They are awarded solely on if you are the lowest price, assuming your product matches what the agency is procuring.

When the government is procuring a less definitive, more complex requirement, or has a greater risk potential, the proposal will be evaluated under the best value criteria described in FAR 15.101. Under the best value criteria, proposals are scored based on weighted criteria, typically:

  • Technical Capability
  • Price
  • Past Performance

By knowing and understanding how the contracting officer or committee will weigh each of the listed criteria, you can place an equal amount of effort into your response.

It is important to note that if it is not listed in the evaluation criteria, it will not be reviewed. In fact, adding extra information makes it more difficult for the evaluating contracting officer or committee to review your response. If you are not granted the award and come to learn that the awardee was chosen based on criteria not listed, you have grounds for a post-award protest.

Being selective when it comes to deciding which solicitations to bid on is the best way to increase your win rate, spend less time writing proposals, and ultimately make more money.

If you know that your business has the lowest price on the product the government is procuring, then these may be good opportunities for you. However, we have found that most of the time these are a race to the bottom with small quantities and low margins.

If you place more of your efforts on being the best and not necessarily the lowest price option, review the evaluation criteria before anything else in the solicitation. Choose only the ones that allow you to explain to the contracting officer how your solution is the best option for their needs. By responding with a proposal that offers an exceptional or new solution, you may open a dialog with the purchaser for future opportunities.

At JetCo, we specialize in responding to unique and difficult opportunities with custom products, multiple shipping locations, and opportunities where our logistics and past performance can stand out.

Best value evaluation criteria allow us to pitch our solution as best-in-class, with much less risk to the buying agency. Our understanding of the FAR procurement rules allows us to select the opportunities that give us and our subcontractors a competitive advantage, and a better probability of bringing home an award.

If you are looking to sell to the government, but are concerned about wading through the endless FAR clauses, compliance, and payment structure, connect with our team today.

Business as a Force for Good

Employees enable our work, our community matters, and the earth sustains us.

Normal business at JetCo involves a continuous cycle of challenging ourselves to be better. After reflecting on ways to improve our impact on our employees, our community, and our industry, we decided to pursue B Corp certification.

What is a certified B Corp?

Certified B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. B Corps “Envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.” Members of the B Corp community are tackling some of the most pressing global challenges and building a new economy that benefits all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

What is B Corp certification?

B Corp Certification is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. It evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impacts its workers, community, environment, and customers. From supply chain and input materials to charitable giving and employee benefits, B Corp Certification proves a business is meeting the highest standards of verified performance.

Why is JetCo Federal getting B Corp certified?

  • It will make us better. What we like about B Corp Certification is that it will not just acknowledge what our company excels at now—it commits us to setting goals for improvement so that we create more positive social and environmental impact.
  • We win the right way, because our stakeholders deserve it. This is one of our value statements. We are passionate about doing things the right way. By doing things right—with all stakeholders in mind—we believe that certified businesses like ours can solve social and environmental problems.
  • We want to stand out. The B Corp seal instantly communicates that a company is a verified leader when it comes to positive impact and empowerment. The third-party validation that comes with B Corp Certification will be another feather in our cap to help JetCo Federal stand out in our industry.

How do we measure up?

Certified B Corporations must achieve a minimum verified score of 80 points on the B Impact Assessment. According to B Lab, which administers the program, the median score for “ordinary businesses” is 50.9. After completing our B Impact Assessment, JetCo Federal scored 54.4.

We have to say, when we read that our score was “ordinary” it felt like a compelling kick in the ass. Over the next several months we will be working as a team to achieve specific goals to earn those extra needed points. Because we don’t settle for ordinary. We want to be a force for good.

Volatility in The Freight Market

Of the major factors that make a logistics operation successful, managing volatility in freight markets is one of the most important. Volatility manifests as fluctuations in supply-side availability, or as customer demand, or as an external event (like a pandemic). It has immediate and substantial impacts on costs, and can be a major source of profit drag.

For logistics managers, mitigation isn’t straightforward. Simply pricing in the risk would make rates unsustainable, so organizations have to adopt more sophisticated strategies that adapt to market conditions. At JetCo, we have built our strategy on three pillars:

Organizational Resilience

When freight demand is strong, redundancy in the supply chain helps smooth spikes in pricing or dips in availability. Also, by actively developing multiple transportation options, opportunities to find efficiency naturally develop as demand eases.

Trusted Networks

Delivering to highly-secured or difficult-to-access locations demands a high level of trust and respect between companies and logistics partners, but organizations doing business commercially can benefit from developing trusted relationships as well. The freight market has an enormous amount of human capital, companies that recognize that as a place to invest real resources will find that it pays dividends in a volatile market.

Expert Resources

Resource diversity is key to active management of market uncertainty, and finding ways to multiply expertise internally and externally is a powerful way to mitigate risk. At JetCo, we utilize a mix of resources, including our own logisticians, brokers, and best-in-class technology platforms together to predict and mitigate market uncertainty.

In the past several years, the freight market has been severely tested by swings in demand due to general shifting industry in the United States, the ongoing pandemic, and technology. Through the application of these strategies JetCo has been able to maintain a 99% on-time rate for shipments. For more information on how we manage through volatility in the freight market, view our capabilities.

Transformation in Government Contracting

I think we can all agree that the year 2020 was fundamentally disruptive for both people and business. Much has been, and will continue to be written on it; I suggest this McKinsey survey for a wide view on the scope of the transformation. Even the typically circumspect Federal contracting industry has not escaped the acceleration into new modes of thinking. Beyond pandemic factors, a new administration and the implementation of long-term initiatives like the Cybersecurity Maturation Model Certification (CMMC) are also having a major effect on the contracting landscape. Below are a few of the changes to look out for in 2021 and beyond:

  1. The Executive Order on America’s Supply Chain

This is new as of late February, and I expect to have a deeper look in the coming months, but this has the potential to transform how the government purchases in fundamental ways. There are already several statutory preferences for acquiring domestic products like the Buy American and Buy America Acts, but those laws don’t extend to the production of those products. This executive order builds on several others by directing agencies to submit capability reports that detail current production capacity, gaps, and recommendations for building resilience in their supply chains. It is likely that those reports will be directive for both agency interpretation of the FAR in the short-term, and potentially for Congressional action in the long-term.

  1. The Rule of Two

While small businesses are eligible to bid on most open market solicitations, the government recognizes that the reality of unrestricted competition may reduce access for small business concerns. To protect the diversity of the contracting pool, set-aside programs mandate acquisitions from small or diverse businesses. These programs are balanced by exceptions that allow the government to make awards when small businesses cannot fulfill certain requirements, as determined by market research. One commonly used test in the research process is called the Rule of Two: For contracts under a certain threshold, the government must utilize a set-aside if there are at least two small businesses who could reasonably bid and offer a fair market price.

Recently, the discretion to apply the rule of two was litigated in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, with the COFC ruling that it is required when set-aside obligations apply. This decision provides significant clarity for small businesses, and is expected to have wide-ranging implications for contracts under $250,000.

  1. Adoption of Commercial Business Practices

Less visible is the general adoption of commercial business practices across government acquisition practices and operations. In the Department of Defense especially, public/private partnerships have resulted in significant efficiency increases and cost reductions via trial programs. The visible success of these efforts within DoD and other agencies will likely fuel further exploration of contractor integration “inside the fence”. In these scenarios, contractors often become responsible for performance goals rather than specific requirements, allowing the government more access to best-in-class commercial processes and technology. As these programs continue to develop, look for more opportunities through industry day connections and other networking events.

Separately, each of these have the potential to shape industry outlooks, combined with the underlying push toward a more digital economy they will have outsize impact on contracting for 2021 and beyond.