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By Debbie Gregory.

Many veterans transition out of the military with the skills and attributes necessary to succeed as veteran business owners. Often times, the main roadblock for these entrepreneurs is financing their new mission: to become a veteran business owner or a service disabled veteran business owner.

Investing in your business operations doesn’t always have to come with a big price tag, as there are some cost-efficient ways to invest in your small business to get it going and growing.

Begin by identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Invest in personal growth, so that you can turn those weaknesses into strengths. Take classes. Do your research on the web. Seek out tutorials. Don’t overlook the value of a digital marketing platform. Make sure you have a website.  Utilize Facebook, LinkedIn, Google AdWords, Instagram, etc. There are plenty of free resources available to help you navigate these waters.

If there are skills that you can’t or don’t want to do, and you don’t have the staff to do them, outsource! Perhaps tax returns, web design and the like are best left in the hands of the experts. You might even be able to barter services. And for those occasions when the work load is on an upswing, don’t rule out freelancers or temporary workers.

But when it comes time to assemble a staff, your hiring strategy should be based on talent, not functions. If your team is versatile with diverse talents, they will be better positioned to grow with the business.

Identify your business’s core values and build a team aligned with them. Having your values in place will give your business purpose and direction, and will in turn provide a culture for your employees to be proud of. Along with values, don’t underestimate the value of a corporate identity. You want to be your own company, not just a “light’ version of another company.

Have a rainy-day reserve account. As a business owner you’re probably thinking, “How in the world can I save for this?” The key is to start small and build up. This safety net will get you through rough times, which are inevitable.

Invest the time in writing Standing Operating Procedures, a set of step-by-step instructions to make sure there is a “Bible” for routine operations. Answer what tasks need to done? Who needs to do them? What are the best ways to approach these tasks?

By Debbie Gregory.

If you’re ready to steer your company towards government contracting, there are a few important steps to make sure you follow to increase your chances of success.

Make sure you have registered on System for Award Management (SAM), the database used by the government to find qualified contractors, and where larger contract-holders, and small business teaming partners seek qualified subcontractors. To do so, you will need the following:

– Your DUNS Number, Legal Business Name, and Physical Address from your Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) record. (If you don’t already have one, you can request a DUNS Number for FREE from D&B.)

– Your Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and Taxpayer Name associated with your TIN. Review your tax documents from the IRS (such as a 1099 or W-2 form) to find your Taxpayer Name.

– Your bank’s routing number, your bank account number, and your bank account type, i.e. checking or savings, to set up Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).

Identify who will be buying your services and research your customer. You can research potential agency customers online to learn about what goods and services they are looking for so you’re able to narrow down which ones to target. Many agencies post their procurement forecasts, identifying what contract requirements they are seeking.

Check out www.fbo.gov, an online listing of government contracts that detail all contracts with a value exceeding $25,000. Another available resource is www.usaspending.gov, a site that details how government money is spent, what agency is issuing awards and who the federal government is buying from.

While it can feel overwhelming at times, securing a government contract can be very lucrative. Be ready to put in the time and energy, and stay persistent in your efforts. For companies aspiring to become government contractors, there’s a lot to learn. But the benefits of government contracting are worth the challenge, creating new customers and accelerating your business to the next level.

By Debbie Gregory.

Although a lot of work goes into winning a government contract, it can be very lucrative, making the hoops worth jumping through. If you’re wondering where to start, here are some tips to get you started.

All businesses can benefit from networking. No matter what stage your business is in, from just getting started up through well established, building relations and strategic alliances with mentors, other business owners and contractors can only help you. Check out networking events at veteran incubators, military bases, colleges, chambers of commerce, outreach centers, etc.

Make sure you have a team in place to handle what needs to be done. Go for quality, not quantity. Make sure that regardless of how many people you have, they know what their responsibilities are and can get them done correctly and in a timely manner.

If you were buying a house, you would want to begin the funding process before you put on offer in. In the same vein, you want to have your financing lined up before you make promises on deliverability. The SBA is a great resource, so make sure you check out how they might be able to assist you.

Build your performance history. Every company started with that first job, first order, first contract. Now is the time to start establishing your track record. Keep it on track by completing what you say you’ll do, and do it to the highest level.

Toot your own horn. Leverage the internet to showcase what you can do and what you have done. Make sure you keep your website up-to-date and post on your social media platforms.

If you don’t have many employees, remember that not every job has to be done by an in-house person. There are a number of ways to outsource the work on an “as-needed” basis.

If you do your homework ahead of time, you will be better positioned to bid on that government contract when the opportunity presents itself.

By Debbie Gregory.

Just because your company does not contract directly with the government does not mean you lose out on the opportunity. Large companies who are hired as the prime contractors more often than not use smaller companies as subcontractors to provide the services they don’t already have in place.

In order to make sure you are in a position to accept a subcontractor opportunities, here are some thing you should prepare in advance:

Have knowledge of your business’s processes, resources, staff and capital. The government is notorious for requiring a lot of paperwork, so having this information at the ready will give you the opportunity to jump in to the process quickly.

The companies working on government contracts also have diversity requirements to fulfill, so if you are a veteran owned business, a woman owned business, a minority owned business, etc., make sure you have the appropriate certification.

Keep current on what contracting/subcontracting opportunities are available. In addition to online sites that specialize in these searches, sign up for VAMBOA membership and you will receive emails whenever we receive requests for proposals from our corporate sponsors.

Reach out to the person in charge of the project to see if you can pre-qualify your services. There’s no point in filling out the paperwork and going through the application process if they require something you can’t comply with.

Speaking of paperwork, it is imperative to provide all information requested, whether it makes sense to you or not. Try to keep all information concise and to the point, and submit it as early as you can. This will give you some leeway to correct any errors or answer any questions prior to the deadline.

Hopefully, you have already reached out to the project manager before submitting your application, so a quick communication to check on the status of your bid helps to further build that relationship. It will also help you receive a status update.

If you don’t win the bid, your contact can possibly help you understand why. Rather than focusing on the defeat, think of it as an opportunity to better prepare for the next opportunity.

If you won, now’s the time to get busy and ramp up. Make sure everything is in place for you to deliver on your promise of performance.

By Debbie Gregory.

An effective marketing strategy is the most important tool in a small business owner’s toolbox. A marketing strategy looks at all of the areas of your business activities and helps each one support the next. Understanding how to create an integrated marketing strategy will help you make better individual decisions regarding specific marketing tactics.

To start, understand that it’s crucial to have a company name, logo, colors, imagery and other graphic elements that help communicate your strategic positioning to your customers.

Those marketing aspects can be displayed on your excellent website. Keep in mind that your website is the business card of today. And the first thing any potential customer will do is Google you and look for your site. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it count. Make sure your company website is attractive and easy to use. Keep movement, sounds and flashing graphics to a minimum.

Start thinking about content as the voice of strategy, so all the content that you produce, your web pages, social media articles, blog posts, newsletters and press releases, this is all content. You want to think about the intention that you have for every piece of content, because content today is used to create awareness.

Social media can be a good source of traffic and exposure for your business, but don’t just keep it limited to your company’s; also take advantage of your own personal social media.  Even if you only have 50 or 100 friends on a social media platform, each of them will know hundreds or even thousands of people.

Remember that there is a real world out there, separate from the cyberworld. Don’t miss the opportunity to network with real people offline. Join business groups that help promote each other, including county chamber groups, breakfast business groups, etc.

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for reviews, feedback, comments, likes, reposts, etc.

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