At the USAID Annual Small Business Conference, Jackie Robinson-Burnette, the deputy associate administrator of government contracting and business development at the Small Business Administration, stated, “Successful leadership is an inclusive leadership. In other words, getting the right people on the bus.” Jackie was emphasizing that you have to include the right people to your team, by bringing along partners who add value.
This is exactly what Chemonics tries to do when engaging small business partners on projects and proposals. We look for partners that are the right fit to complement our capabilities and bring our projects to the next level. Chemonics looks for small businesses that bring an innovative solution, have specialized technical expertise, or have a local footprint (because an innovative solution is hard to implement without an understanding of the cultural context in which the solution would be applied).
Chemonics strives to build lasting relationships with small business partners that extend beyond the life of a single project. We actively seek to develop working relationships with women-owned, disadvantaged, historically-underutilized-business-zone (HUBZone), veteran-owned, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses with proven experience in diverse geographic regions and technical sectors in the international development arena. We view our relationships with small business subcontractors as true partnerships, not just as a contractual relationships. Therefore, we are very strategic about the small business partners we bring aboard our bus.
Below are tips to be prepared for a partnership with Chemonics.
1. Do research! Know what Chemonics is good at and what we are lacking. This allows a small business to tailor their technical expertise to add value to our project or proposal.
2. Share relevant corporate capabilities. The firm’s corporate capabilities should be personalized to the project or proposal they are seeking a partnership opportunity on, but should also be flexible to adapt to the needs of the project or proposal.
3. Have the house in order. Make sure your firm has all the financial documents and representations and certifications completed by pre-registering the company online. Please visit the USAID Best Practices Guide for Indirect Costing for more information on preparing financials for U.S. government contracts.
In addition to having the above prepared, monitor opportunities. Chemonics is a large company with many business units, and each unit has a dedicated business development team. Therefore, in order for a company to not be lost in the decentralized structure, stay on top of the business forecasts and federal business opportunities for upcoming and live solicitations. If an opportunity is identified via these sites or heard through the grapevine, please reach out to Chemonics and share the interest directly with Chemonics’ Small Business Department. It’s never too early! Also, monitor current project opportunities on Chemonics’ "Our Procurements" page and SBA SubNet. Monitor these pages for live subcontracting opportunities for services or procurement of commodities.
Additional resources that may be helpful are the business forecast quarterly calls and questions and answers, as well as the "Ask the Procurement Executive" calls and transcripts. Joining the Small Business Association for International Companies (SBAIC) may also be beneficial. SBAIC is a membership forum established to promote the meaningful utilization of U.S. small businesses at USAID and other U.S. government agencies providing foreign assistance.This membership organization is comprised of companies that have international experience. They share best practices and advocate for continuous utilization of small business companies.
Without the right people on the bus, we are not able to implement our projects to deliver results to beneficiaries. So if a small business has an innovative solution, specialized technical expertise, or a local footprint, come board our bus!
Doan Ly Nguyen is the small business liaison officer in Chemonics' Risk Management Division.