Growing Your Small Business through Government Contracts: On the Scene at AmEx OPEN Forum’s VIP Event

Are you doing business with the world’s largest customer? If not, you may want to reconsider.

Are you doing business with the world’s largest customer? If not, you may want to reconsider.

Did you know that the federal government is poised to award approximately $416 billion dollars in government contracts this year? What’s more, 23 percent of those purchases must be fulfilled by small businesses. In 2010 alone, the government spent $98 billion on products and services supplied by small business owners.

Small business growth through government contracting and revelation of these eye opening statistics were the focus of discussion at this week’s “Grow Your Business through Government Contracting” event in Dallas, TX hosted by American Express OPEN®, the small business division of the financial services company.

At the event, active contractors and those looking to enter into a lucrative partnership with the government had direct access to government buyers – including the largest federal buyer, the Department of Defense – via VIP Contract Connections, buyer/seller meetings. Local buyers and prime contractors also met with entrepreneurs to discuss contract opportunities. Close to 30 procurement officials from the federal, state and prime contracting levels attended the event.


Why Your Small Business Should Sell to the Government

“There is a continued commitment to help small businesses grow,” said Karen-Michelle Mirko, director of customer advocacy at American Express OPEN. “Government contracting is a huge opportunity.”

The opportunity Mirko spoke of is larger than most entrepreneurs may have gathered. In reality, selling products and/or services to one or more national, state or local agency can provide a significant revenue stream to small business owners when private sector spending decreases.

The prospects became quite clear for those in attendance. “The American Express OPEN event gave me a whole new perspective on the possibility of doing business with the government,” said Michael Mankarious, CEO of einszett North America, Germany’s #1 maker of premium car wax and car care products.

“I went in with the idea that I was going to learn how to crack the ‘bureaucratic code.’ We learned how to navigate the system thanks to representatives from the agencies and veteran business owners who, for years, have done business with the government. But more than anything, I learned that there are some real people in the government who genuinely care about the success of small businesses. In a way, that made me feel more positive about the possibility of doing business with the government.”


Highlights: A Sales Pitch, Napkin and a Contract

As the day’s sessions came to a close, a government contract from the Department of Interior was awarded to a local small business owner. The unexpected business deal came by surprise, due in fact to the company spokesman’s impromptu display of ingenuity as he quickly pitched his company and summed it up on a napkin.

The local woman-owned small business, The Lyons Group, which provides advertising and various support services for small to emerging businesses, accomplished in 5 minutes what takes many businesses 9 – 24 months to achieve.


Highlights: Excellence in Government Contracting

This year’s award recipient’s were recognized for their work and success in government contracting. The following small business owners were acknowledged:

1. Randy Lebolo of Boynton Beach, FL-based Lebolo Construction Management, a construction management firm.
2. Hester Taylor Clark of Jacksonville, FL-headquartered, The Hester Group, a strategic communications and program management company.
3. Lisa Firestone of Bethesda, MD-based Managed Care Advisors Inc. (MCA), a woman-owned, small business specializing in workers’ compensation case management services, employee benefits and disability management consulting.


Poised to Capitalize on Opportunity

American Express OPEN’s Victory in Procurement™ (VIP) for Small Business initiative proved to be a tremendous resource for small business owners. Attendees were armed with action steps to help them capitalize on growth opportunities provided through government contracting.

“I’ve always tried to have diversity in revenue sources which I believe has helped my company succeed even in these tough economic times, said Michael Mankarious, a local entrepreneur. “By doing business with the government, I hope to make my business even more resilient despite what economic storm it faces in the future.”

To view additional event photos and coverage, visit YFS Magazine of Facebook. Gain access to government contracting resource guides at OPEN Insight Guides and learn more at openforum.com.

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Photo Caption: Pictured above, Mark Oliver Director at the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization of the U.S. Department of the Interior.



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