It's not just for start-ups

Founded: April 2004.

Headquarters: Columbia, Md.

Leadership: Margaret Timberlake, president
and chief operating officer; Guy Timberlake,
chief visionary and chief executive officer.

Mission: To be a resource that fosters relationships
between large and small
businesses and between businesses and
government agencies.

Advisory board co-chairs: Allegra McCullough, former deputy associate administrator,
Office of Government Contracting and
Business Development, Small Business
Administration; Jerry Tuttle, Navy retired vice
admiral and former deputy director for
intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency.

Members: 408.

Membership classes:

  • General: Open to all individual professionals
    and organizations.
  • Core: Available to eligible companies offering
    goods and services to government agencies
    and government contractors.
  • Government: Open to any representative
    of a federal, state, local, municipal or tribal
    organization.

Web: http://www.theasbc.org

Since its founding in 2004, the
American Small Business Coalition
has grown from a loose networking
group whose members exchanged tips on
winning government contracts to a membership
organization that includes contracting
professionals and even some large
organizations.

Members include Cisco Systems Inc.,
Concurrent Technologies Corp. (CTC), the
Center for Naval Analysis and MasterCard.

"Each of those companies is working
with us specifically because of their
involvement in providing products and
services to government agencies," said Guy
Timberlake, founder and chief executive
officer of ASBC. They view the Columbia,
Md.-based group as an opportunity to
increase business for themselves and the
small-business members, he added.

Arrow Electronics Inc. came up with the
idea of buying memberships for its small-business
partners in 2007, Timberlake
said. "They came on board and paid for 10
of their companies at the time to work
with us."

Chris Marin, manager of channel operations
and advanced technology and small-business
strategy at Cisco, met Timberlake
at a trade show last year.

Cisco was seeking to expand its small-business
strategy and provide the tools
and resources its partners needed, Marin
said. "We wanted to ensure that we had an
alliance with someone who could provide
additional advisory services to a core
group of our small- and disadvantaged-business
partners."

"Unlike some of our prime contracting
partners, within our federal organization
we do not have a small-business staff,"
Marin said. So he convinced his superiors
at Cisco of the merits of joining ASBC.
Managers saw the value of the coalition,
and the Blue Bell, Pa.-based company
joined ASBC in January.

As a member of the coalition's Prime
Connection Program, Cisco's government
division can use ASBC to identify new
small-business partners.

MORE THAN TECHNOLOGY

Marin's team also looked for businesses
that already had government contracts,
were well known within the federal community
or had the small-business credentials
Cisco's partners and government
customers wanted, such as 8(a) certification
or ownership by a woman or service-disabled
veteran.

As a result, 20 small-business partners
can now take advantage of ASBC's services
to expand their market share. "And that
obviously benefits Cisco because that
means their people are selling more products,"
Timberlake said.

The coalition has provided a venue for
small businesses to meet government contracting
professionals, Marin said.

ASBC also provides the kind of go-to-market
strategies and advice that senior
business developers provide within their
companies. "The process involves the vetting
of a company's strategy by some people
who have a lot of experience within the federal
market, specifically the ASBC board,
which is made up of former generals and
admirals and the like," Marin said.

UNDERSTAND THE CUSTOMER

Stacy Trammell, president of Zavda
Technologies LLC, of Glenn Dale, Md.,
joined ASBC two years ago because she
wanted to better understand federal contracting
and find ways to grow her disabled-veteran,
woman-owned small business.

"They actually helped me understand
and set up my [human resources], and
they have members who are able to provide
legal advice and accounting advice,"
she said. "They told me about some of the
things they did to get their businesses
established."

Trammell said she learned how to focus
on those government agencies that would
be most likely to contract for her information
technology services. "That helped
keep me from running all over the place
and stretching myself too thin," she said. "Soon after joining, I got my first contract."

Trammell said she also discovered that
other small-businesses
were experiencing
the same
problems she was,
such as finding contracts
they could
win, getting a fair
share of the work
from their partners
and sometimes feeling
they were being
taken advantage of
by their prime contractors
because of
their small-business
set-aside status.
CTC, a nonprofit,
applied scientific
research and development organization
in Johnstown, Pa., has been an ASBC
member for three years. CTC had
$160 million in government contracts
in 2007.

One of CTC's business objectives is to
help small businesses and socioeconomically
disadvantaged companies partner
with large government contractors. So it
has been a key sponsor of ASBC's Small
Business Intelligence Community
Working Group.

"CTC provides free space for those folks
to work out of, and we host a lot of their
meetings so they can collaborate," said
Chris Strasser, executive director of
national intelligence solutions at CTC.
The company also has helped ASBC
members with security clearance issues,
marketing strategies and recruiting qualified
employees.

Last year, with ASBC's help, CTC pursued
and won one of eight Solutions for
Intelligence Analysis contracts from the
Defense Intelligence Agency, which were
awarded in April. The five-year awards
are worth a total of $1 billion.

"We worked with [CTC] for about six
months prior to that contract win specifically
to assemble a small-business team,"
Timberlake said.

The idea was for CTC and ASBC to act
as a clearinghouse that would form a
coalition of small
businesses capable
of competing with
some of the larger
systems integrators,
Strausser said.

"It can be very
challenging to work
with small businesses
sometimes
because you don't
know what you're
getting," he said.
"There are a lot of
them, and they vary
from a mom-and-pop
[shop] that just
wants [a contract]
handed to them to very competitive, very
aggressive entrepreneurial folks who are
going to make a tremendous difference in
your projects and programs."

Timberlake helped CTC build a small-business
team of more than 30 partners
by personally vetting many of them,
including some that were not ASBC
members. In the end, 10 nonmember
small businesses were selected. "They
specifically had capabilities we were looking
at under the proposals we had
worked up," Strasser said.

ASBC's greatest asset is that it offers
small businesses "completely independent
feedback that tells them where they fit
in the [government] spectrum and what
the value of their offering really is," he
added. "So they can either hone their
skills and improve their offering or target
their offering at the right place so they get
the full benefit of it."

David Hubler (dhubler@1105govinfo.com) is
associate editor at Washington Technology.

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