Inspiration

I love this video.  Remember that anything is possible as long as you try.  Fail until you succeed!

Enjoy and remember to take action each and every day; this is how dreams become reality.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

Turning Dreams into Action

For me, writing down my goals appears to have an almost magical quality to it.  If I imagine something I would like to accomplish, I write down my thoughts and set a timeline on turning it into reality.

For example, when I write down the things I would like to accomplish for the day — usually no more than three or four items; if I don’t complete them all, I move them to the next day’s list.  I also review and revise my goals for the next 6-months and for the next year and beyond.  I place the date I wrote the goal and the date I expect to have it accomplished.

This is what my goals look like:

– Review and take steps to complete my goals

TODAY:  Immediate Goals:

  • Exercise!!!
  • Touch base with Michael concerning Insurance
  • Sketch out patent and forward on to legal zoom
  • Review RFP response for CBP opportunity
  • Complete teaming agreement and target rates
  • Start new blog (done)

6 Months: My goal for within 6 months is to

  • Start CVE application (04/15/14) (started)
  • Launch ConnectifySocial (04/15/14) (done)
  • Develop Social Media Tool (04/22/14) (done)
  • Apply for patent (04/25/14) (started)

This week

  • Set meeting with Connectify group for Thursday (done)

1 – 2 Years: My goal for within one to two years is to

  • Develop podcast for Veterans/SDVOSB (02/16/14)
  • Develop ideas for book based on blog and podcast (04/17/14)
  • Buy property in Slovenia (04/25/14)

If you have an idea, write it down and then take action every day to make it into reality.  This simple concept can be life changing.  You do not have to complete everything all at once.  Even if you only have 30 minutes to work toward a goal, as long as you do it consistently, by the end of a year you will have gone a long way to reaching your goals — persistence, persistence, persistence.

Please do not wait another day or even a second to live your dreams.  You are capable of doing more than you believe; you are capable of achieving your dreams.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

How to Obtain a Facility Clearance (FCL)

Ah, the great bane of many start up federal contractors is how does one obtain a Classified Facility Clearance (FCL)?  You cannot pursue classified contracts without one and you cannot obtain one without having a classified contract…a classic catch-22!  Hopefully, the process will be clearer by the time you finish reading this post.

Your company will need a facility clearance to pursue or team with another company for classified work and to have the ability to hold clearances for your employees.  As a Government Contractor, having a facility clearance is vital to growing your business and going after classified opportunities.  So how do you go about obtaining an FCL and having a classified Cage Code?

There are two way to obtain an FCL.  The first is to win a classified contract. The Government will issue an DD Form 254 which allows you to apply for a FCL through the Defense Security Service (DSS). http://www.dss.mil/  However, the actually ability to bid and win a classified contract without a FCL is difficult at best as many proposals require a company to already have one.

The best way forward is the second option which is to be sponsored as a subcontractor by a company holding a classified contract.  As part of the subcontract, the prime contractor will prepare a DD Form 254 allowing you to request an FCL from the Defense Security Service (DSS).

So how can you find a sponsor?  You will need to build relationships with larger primes that may be willing to bring you on.  There are many successful business owners that understand the difficulties of starting out and are often willing to provide a leg up.  As a business owner, you have to go out into the contracting community to establish yourself.  If you have set aside status as a SDVOSB, it can be beneficial for the prime to establish a working relationship with you as there are several small business set asides where larger companies cannot bid as a prime and must be a subcontractor under a small business.  The bottom line is you will need to prove that you will be a valuable partner and will bring value to the relationship. Other small companies have done and continue to do so and so can too.

For a start up business, subcontracting to other established contractor is not only a way to obtain past performance, but to also obtain a facility clearance.

Once you have found a company to sponsor your facility clearance, there are a slew of paperwork requirements through DSS.  I’ve posted about the about the process here http://wp.me/p4xkC1-2g.

Until then, go out and take action today!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

Building your Pipeline

If your business is looking to pursue Government contracts, you will need to find opportunities that match your NAICS Code.  What the heck is a NAICS Code you might be asking yourself.  NAICS stands for North American Industry Classification System.

The http://www.census.gov states, “The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.”

You can find the various NAICS codes here:  http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/

So what does all this mean?  The Federal government uses NAICS codes to categorize contracting opportunities.  For example, the primary NAICS codes used by Whetstone Security Group is 541611, Investigation Services.   This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing investigation and detective services.  We use the NAICS codes to search for opportunities in FebBizOpps.gov, https://www.fbo.gov/ the Government portal for Federal contracting opportunities.  However, you can also select other NAICS codes that match your business.  When you register in the System for Awards Management http://www.SAM.gov, https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/##11v  You will want to identify and list all the NAICS codes that apply to your business.

Once you register in FebBizOpps, you can watch opportunities, see other contractors who are interested in the opportunity and obtain automated email notifications when there has been an update or change to the opportunity.  When you see opportunities that you want to pursue, you add these opportunities to your pipeline.  Your pipeline is the lifeblood of a Federal Contractor.  It is the sole purpose of your business existence – to pursue and win contracts.

It is important to manage your pipeline closely to get ahead of opportunities before they are released.  There are other commercial tools available to companies and are used by all the bigger contracting firms. One of the most popular is Gov Win, http://www.deltek.com/products/govwin which offers a 30-day free trail.  However, you should stick with FBO.gov until your business is generating enough revenue to cover all your expenses.

There are also commercially available tools to track your pipeline opportunities, but for now you can used a spreadsheet.  Some basic information you will want to track is the Agency the procurement falls under, the NAICS code, if it is a set-aside, the estimated value, and your estimate of your chance of winning.  These numbers will go into how you develop your fiscal year budget for the next year and what your estimated revenue will look like.

You should also approach other companies that are pursing the opportunity and try to join their team.  This is the primary way that start ups gain enough past performance to pursue (prime) opportunities on the own.  Joining a larger prime has many advantages for a newly form SDVOSB, VOSB or other set aside category.

On my next post, I’ll talk about teaming and how one goes about obtaining the holy grail of many small businesses – a classified facility clearance (FCL) and a classified cage code.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

How to Compete for Federal Contracts

Congratulations!  You’ve taken the first steps to launch your first enterprise.  Now it is time to build the team that will support your business and to register online to conduct business with the Federal Government.  At a minimum, you will need to establish a relationship with a banker and legal counsel as well as obtain a DUNS number to register your company to do business for Federal contracts.  There may be other relationships you need to establish based on your needs such as an accountant, an insurance broker, or an Government Contracting specialist and etc.  It is important to develop a team that is available when you need them and are responsive.

1.  Establish a bank account for your business.  There are several banks that service small businesses.  There are several banks that cater to small businesses.  I am currently using two different banks.  They are Access National Bank https://www.accessnationalbank.com/home/home and Capital One http://www.capitalone.com/small-business-bank/.

I selected Access National Bank for Whetstone Security Group, Inc since WSG was established as primarily a Federal Contractor for Government proposals.  I also wanted a small business-friendly bank with Government Contracting experience.  To that end, Access National Bank is geared to small businesses and has solid experience in supporting Government contractors.

For Connectify Social, my partners and I chose Capital One.  I was impressed with Capital One as they hosted a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) forum at their offices in Tysons Corner, Virginia, explaining Capital One’s services to the SDVOSB community.

Whatever banking solution you chose, look for banks that make you feel like a valued customer and that can support and understand your business goals.

2.  Obtain a DUNS Number.  Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) provides a D-U-N-S Number for all businesses required to register with the US Federal government for contracts or grants; this is a free service. http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/displayHomePage.do;jsessionid=81407B1F03F2BDB123DD47D19158B75F

3. Register with SAM.  The System for Award Management (SAM) is the Official U.S. Government system that allows a Government Contracting Officer to find your business status, banking information, and your representations and certifications (I’ll get more into this on another post).  It is within SAM that you will self-certify your business as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, a Woman Owned Small Business, a Veteran Owned Small Business, and etc. https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/##11

Remember, you need to have a Veterans Administration disability rating to self-certify as an SDVOSB.  The minimum is a zero percent disability rating.  That’s right!  You can be rated with a zero percent rating to self-certify as a SDVOSB.  There is also an SDVOSB verification for doing business with the Veterans Administration (VA).  This certification is through the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) http://www.vetbiz.gov/, but CVE certification is not required (normally) to do business with the rest of the Federal Government.  I’ll post more about the CVE process with the VA in the future.  There are legal considerations that must be in detailed in your business to pass the CVE process.

You can validate your status or apply if you have a disability that arose during your military service at the VA’s website https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/

4.  Search for Government Contracting Opportunities.  You can now search the Government website www.fbo.gov to search for contracting opportunities and build your pipeline.

5. Find Like-Minded Entrepreneurs.  There are a plethora of resources available online and through local organizations.  There are blogs, podcasts, and websites specifically for entrepreneurs.  Build or find a community that will support you.  I highly recommend joining a Veteran’s organization such as The SDVOSB Counsel.  The counsel is there to help Veteran and SDVOSB’s achieve success through a host of activities and political action.  They have already been contacted by several Government organizations to find SDVOSBs for procurement activities.  https://www.sdvosb-council.org/

Do not wait another day to live the life you want.  You have everything you need to launch your business today!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

The Basics

What are the essential elements needed to start your business journey?

There are thousands of online sources available to you but a good starting point is the Small Business Administration. (Concerning writing a business plan, you may have to write one at some point, but do not let it stand in your way — take action today).  http://www.sba.gov/content/follow-these-steps-starting-business

Most of these steps can be completed in a manner of minutes (please perform your due diligence).

1.  What do you want to do?  If you have business experience, a hobby, or something that you have a passion for, use it as the base to determine the type of business you would like.

2. Name your business. Check to see if the name of your business is available – I believe all States provide this service.  In Virginia where I live, you can check for name distinguishability at https://sccefile.scc.virginia.gov/NameAvailability

3. Choose the Type of Entity. Determine what type of entity will work best for your business e.g. Limited Liability Corporation, Corporation, and etc.

For WSG, we chose to be incorporated as an S corporation; for Connectify Social, we chose an Limited Liability Corporation.  You need to decide what will work best for you.  http://www.sba.gov/content/business-structure-and-tax-implications

4.  Register with Your State. Register your business through your State Corporation Commission.   http://www.scc.virginia.gov/clk/formfee.aspx

5. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Apply-for-an-Employer-Identification-Number-%28EIN%29-Online

6.  Obtain a Business License. Check with your local Government to obtain a business license.  Local Governments generally have resources available to help you launch your business.

Obviously these are just the initial steps to start your journey, but your business will soon be growing and evolving in remarkable ways and directions you might not have expected.

Here’s to you and your new business venture!

Gary

Business Partners

Developing and making your business profitable can be an overwhelming task, but you needn’t take the journey on alone.  The right partner or partners can help the business develop momentum and velocity to move forward.

For example, I am now engaged with two businesses — crazy, right?  One is Whetstone Security Group where I serve as president and CEO and am the majority shareholder and the other is Connectify Social where I own 30 percent of the company and … am president of the company (I have reservations about overextending myself and do not plan on retaining this title for the long-term).

For WSG, the company was founded by two other partners and myself.  My partners are absolutely great people and I trust them completely.  We all come from the intelligence world and have similar visions on how we want WSG to evolve – placing integrity, innovation, and people first.  Each of the partners enhance the company by bringing different skill sets and strengths that help balance out the areas where we each have individual weaknesses – a win/win situation.  However, we recently transferred some ownership shares to bring aboard two new partners.  Our new partners have added new energy and are providing great ideas on how WSG can evolve.  I truly believe it is better to add partners/teammates to reach your goals and generate momentum rather than try to hold all the company.  Of course, there is a point where adding addition partners might not make sense financially or operationally, but do be open to the possibility.

For Connectify Social, it was an idea I had and wanted to bring partners aboard to push the business vision forward.  I knew I could not launch the business alone; I simply did not have the time or brain cells to bring it to reality.  I chose my partners based on trust, drive, personality, and to be truthful — because I like and respect them.  It was an easy decision to give away 66 percent of the company because I know they will drive the company forward.  This leaves me time to primarily focus on WSG while launching another business!

So, if you are having trouble launching and need to put your goals back on track, considering bringing the right people onto your team.  It is much better to launch the company with partners who can move you forward than let your vision lay fallow!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

Getting Started

With any new challenge, just getting started is the hard part.  So how do you turn your business idea into reality?  My advice is to not over think it.  Over thinking or waiting until you have the perfect solution, plan, partners, and etc. is a prescription for inaction and unrealized dreams.

Step 1.  Write down your vision of how your business will look, feel, smell like (especially useful if you are opening a bakery), the culture you wish to establish and your financial goals.

Step 2.  Working backwards, mark out milestones for your business over the next 12 months.

Step 3.  Take action – launch the business and get started.  Trust me, you will work out the details as you build out your business.

Step 4.  Take action each and every day.  Action will keep your dreams alive; inaction leads to the death of dreams.

Step 5.  Do not let resistance defeat you.  Resistance is your enemy.  Keep step 4 alive by doing something for your business each and everyday.

Starting a business really is easy as that.  Really.

I’ll go into more detail on further posts.

You can do this and succeed.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

 

Entrepreneurs – Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) (SDVOSB)

My name is Gary and I am a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Owner and entrepreneur.

My passion is helping others live their dreams.

This blog is for anyone who is ready to take action to pursue their dreams.  Although, I will be focusing on veteran entrepreneurs, this community will be for all those who thinking about or have already launched their own business.

This blog will be partly about how to establish your business and my person journey as a business owner.   The first several posts will be about how to start.  Doing anything worthwhile takes time and commitment and launching a business will certainly take persistence.  My motto is take action every day!  No matter how big the project, as long as you stay consistent and persevere, you will eventually succeed.  I was recently listening to James Altucher’s audiobook “Choose Yourself.”  He said that you should keep failing until your accidentally succeed; I love that. http://www.jamesaltucher.com/

In July of 2012, my two partners and I launched a Service Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business.  It wasn’t until late in 2013 that we finally had enough structure in place to pursue our first proposal and have just won a contract.  We also have several bids outs and are awaiting the results. One is where we had to hustled to pursue a Department of Homeland Security Customs (DHS) and Border Protection (CBP) opportunity after our prime decided to no bid at the last minute.  We contacted another company 1000 miles away and found a new partner with enough past performance to make a credible bid.  Our new partner would not have gone after the bid if we had not contacted them.  Sometimes things go wrong and you have to hustle to pursue your goals.

In April of this year, I formed another company with two partners that will engaged in Social Media Marketing.  I will share with you lessons I’ve learned and the challenges faced in launching a start up.

For veterans, your military service will benefit you starting and managing your business. Regardless if you have spent time in military or not, the time to begin is right now!  Please believe me, you have everything you need to succeed and live your dream.  I hope this blog can help in some small way on your journey to success.

Very Respectfully,

Gary